Ah-Choo! Listening in on a read aloud

Cover Ah-Choo! Ah-Choo! Listening in on a read aloud

I am delighted to share this rhyming ABC story about the search for the perfect pet – one that doesn’t cause a little sister to sneeze endlessly. A perfect story time title!

I had intended to have my students write reviews of this book but June got ahead of us and we ran out of time. So, next best thing? I recorded our read aloud experience and am sharing the highlights here. Listen in!

Kids: “The end pages are cool! Do you know who all of those footprints belong to?”

Text: “I asked my mom if I could have a pet, or even two. But every time I brought one home, my sister went . . .

Kids: “A-Choo! I know it’s A-Choo! Can we do all of the sneezes if there are lots of them?”

Kids: “Is the sneezing going to be loud? My Dad sneezes really loud.”

Kids: “Some people squeak when they sneeze.”

Kids: “Read more!”

Text  “ . . . . I tried a feathered Emu, plus a Ferret, Goose, and Hen. . . “

Kids: “Hey,  I know what the text is doing! It’s in order! Like the alphabet! ABC order.”

Kids: “And it rhymes. On every page.”

Kids: “Let’s guess the next animals. But what starts with an I . . . ”

Kids: “Igloo!”

Kids: “That’s not an animal! I don’t even know any . . .

Note: The authors introduce us to an Ibis which is a gorgeous long beaked black and white bird. We looked it up!

Kids: “Is the sister allergic? Is that why she sneezes?”

Kids: “Yes, that’s what the book is about.”

Kids: “Maybe she is just sick?

Kids: “No she’s allergic. But can you be allergic to everything like fur? hair? feathers? claws?”

Kids: “Not claws!”

Our conversation then took us on a tangent about what kids are allergic to with animals. Scales? Spit? Snot? Fleas? Sweat? A fascinating topic for 7 and 8 year olds!

Kids: “Can we read?”

Text: ” . . . . . . . Umbrellabirds, and Vultures’ wings caused one big . . . “

Kids: “There are so many birds! Hold on if there are vultures did something die?”

Kids: “Gross! What?”

Kids: “Just read!”

Text: “A Warthog, Weasel, and a Wolf, a Xantis I named Jack, a Yaffle and a Zebra too, I had to take them back.”

Kids: “I don’t even know what a Yaffle is! What is a yaffle?”

Note: A yaffle is a green European woodpecker. We looked that up too! And if you also didn’t know ( as we didn’t) a Xantis is a kind of yak!

We won’t spoil how this ends but suffice it to say this title has huge kid appeal – lots of joining in, lots of guessing and lots to talk about. I imagine this book would have been very popular for buddy reading if we had had extra time in the year! It will go in the buddy reading bin for September!

Ah-Choo! is written by Lana Wayne Koeler and Gloria G. Adams with illustrations by Ken Min (Sterling Children’s Books 2016)

Ah-Choo! Listening in on a read aloud

Thank you to Ardi from Sterling Publishing for a review copy of this title.

Looking for more pet books to share? Some books that would love to be read along side this title.

One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck and Yasmeen Ismail

One Word from Sophia

Prudence Wants a Pet written by Cathleen Daly and illustrated by Stephen Michael King


Spare Dog Parts written by Alison Hughes and illustrated by Ashley Spires

Spare Dog Parts

A Pet for Petunia by Paul Schmid

pet for petunia

If I Had a Gryphon written by Vicki VanSickle and illustrated by Cale Atkinson

If I Had a Gryphon

The Pet Project Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses written by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by Zachoriah Ohora

The Pet Project Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses

Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

Normal Norman written by Tara Lazar with illustrations by S. britt (published by Sterling Children’s Books on March 1st, 2016) 

Norman is a normal (not!) purple orangutan, an ideal specimen to highlight all things normal . . . Of course, our young narrator scientist does not have an easy time in this in depth research process. Norman teaches her a thing or two about self-expression in this delightful, humorous story!

Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

My students adored this book and found Norman to be quite amusing and inspiring. We spent an afternoon sketching him and our favourite little scientist.

In the lab . .  .

Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

A study of research scientists.

Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

Norman in the lab.

Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

One student issued a challenge:  Did you spot the 5 vines?

Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

Pizza anyone?

Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

Norman, the dancer.

Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

Little artist with her inspired drawing.

Normal Norman: Questions and Answers with Tara Lazar

Tara Lazar & Norman - Author Pic

My students had many questions for Tara!

Story questions.

Writing questions.

Personal questions.

She was game to respond to all of them!

Thank you Tara!

Student questions are in bold and Tara’s answers are below.


Part way through, she should have switched him (Norman) for a tiger, don’t you think?

Tiger? You mean a double-headed donkey, right?

Is your message that all animals don’t need to do the same thing?

If that’s what you think, sure.

Or is your message “You don’t have to be normal”? That would be good because you don’t have to be like other people. Or other orangutans.

Another wonderful interpretation. We should not all be like other orangutans.

Did you give the illustrator the idea to have all the animals riding and driving things?

No, that was totally Stephan (which is the full first name of “S.britt.” Although I’m not sure if I’m supposed to divulge that top-secret information. I hope the book police don’t come after me.)

At the end, when the narrator wasn’t normal, she seemed happier. Was that your plan the whole time?

I don’t know. WAS IT?

Do you feel really protective about fruit? 

Not particularly. I’m far more protective of vegetables. Hey, watch it with those carrots!

What kind of not normal things do you do? Are they fun?

I write books for kids—while wearing my pyjamas. That is most certainly not normal. And also tons of fun.

Did you look at different animals and think what’s the opposite?

I looked at Norman and wanted him to NOT do what everyone expected him to do.

Do you write on a computer or with a pencil first?

Well, it really depends upon where you believe the story started. Most new ideas I jot down on paper very quickly. And usually with a pen. (Writing with a pencil gives me the chills.) But when I sit down to really write the story, to get past that initial spark, I do so on a computer. When I get stuck, that’s when I’ll pull out a notebook and start doodling and writing questions I have to answer and drawing arrows to possible solutions.

Do you write in the afternoon?

You can find me writing just about any time of day. I’m an equal-clockortunity writer.

When you can’t think of something to write do you go outside to look for ideas?

No, I usually take a shower. That is, if I’m dirty and out of ideas. If I’m clean and out of ideas, then I might go for a walk.

Check out the other amazing posts about Normal Norman – some still to come and some already published!

Normal Norman Blog Schedule

**Thank you to Josh from Sterling books for providing a copy for review!!

The Mock Sibert 2015 Award Winner

Mock Sibert The Mock Sibert 2015 Award Winner

We are days away from learning which nonfiction book will be awarded the actual Sibert Award for 2015 but today is the day where we learn – here, on Kid Lit Fenzy and on Unleashing Readers which title won our Mock Sibert Award!

And . . .


 The Right Word The Mock Sibert 2015 Award Winner

The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Such a spectacular choice!

Now we must wait until Monday to find out if the Sibert committee agrees.

We are also happy to announce our giveaway winner. Congratulations to Cathy Ballou Mealey who has chosen Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey written by Loree Griffin Burns with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz  (one of our Mock Sibert titles) as her prize.

It was so much fun discussing and celebrating the fantastic nonfiction titles of 2014 with Alyson and Kellee. Hosting the Mock Sibert allowed us to highlight our favourites. Check out our original Mock Sibert choices here if you missed them:

On Kid Lit Frenzy

On There’s a Book for That

On Unleashing Readers

Thank you to all who participated! We cannot wait to see who wins on Monday!

Mock Sibert: 2015 The top picks by There’s a Book for That, Kid Lit Frenzy and Unleashing Readers

Mock Sibert Mock Sibert: 2015 The top picks by There's a Book for That, Kid Lit Frenzy and Unleashing Readers

Over the past three years, Alyson (of Kid Lit Frenzy) has hosted, and Kellee (of Unleashing Readers) and I have participated in a book challenge pushing ourselves to read more nonfiction picture books. Since we read many of the best nonfiction picture books published each year, in 2014 we decided to start hosting a Mock Sibert Award.

The Sibert Award is given annually to the most distinguished informational book published during the preceding year. Although the Sibert Award is not just for picture books, we are going to focus on the nonfiction picture books we feel would be honored or win this year. To be honored/win the Sibert Award, the book must include these important elements and qualities:

  • Excellent, engaging, and distinctive use of language.
  • Excellent, engaging, and distinctive visual presentation.
  • Appropriate organization and documentation.
  • Clear, accurate, and stimulating presentation of facts, concepts, and ideas.
  • Appropriate style of presentation for subject and for intended audience.
  • Supportive features (index, table of contents, maps, timelines, etc).
  • Respectful and of interest to children.

After reviewing the qualities and elements needed to win the Sibert Award, I chose these five titles as my Mock Sibert Finalists. On February 2nd when the winners are announced, I am hoping some of these picks will be on the list!

This was not an easy task! There were many nonfiction titles I treasured in 2014.

Check out Kid Lit Frenzy and Unleashing Readers to see what Alyson and Kellee chose as their picks.

In making my final choices, I thought carefully about which titles would be particularly appealing to young readers – which books would inspire wonder, would be engaging and easy to navigate?  Each of these titles stands out to me as ideal nonfiction reading for children.

Listed in order of publishing date

Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey written by Loree Griffin Burns with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz (March 2014)

This is one of the last nonfiction titles I read in 2014 and the first nonfiction read aloud I brought in to share with my class in January. I love what one child said very early on in our reading: “This book gives us questions but lets us find the answers.” The most special thing about this title is that it answers a question that few children might have imagined: How exactly do butterflies get to live exhibits in the north? Many children have been to Science Centres and Natural History Museums that might house live exhibits. Where do those butterflies come from? How do they get there? This title tells that story. It describes how the important work on a butterfly farm in Costa Rica allows the farm workers to collect and ship butterfly pupae around the world, while at the same time, respecting and protecting the forest around the farm. A pupa, it turns out, is the perfect package! Incredible photographs of the butterflies at all stages of life are included, as well as photographs of El Bosque Nuevo, the butterfly farm featured in this book.

Not only was this an amazing story, but the learning continues in the final pages of the book. More information is provided about insects and their life cycles and additional details on insect words are explained. There is a detailed glossary, suggestions for further reading and stunning end pages with more photographs of both various pupae and also adult butterflies. Of particular interest to children? A section on helpful hints if you do get to visit a live butterfly exhibit.

 Handle with Care Mock Sibert: 2015 The top picks by There's a Book for That, Kid Lit Frenzy and Unleashing Readers

Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cats written by Sy Montgomery with photographs by Nic Bishop (April 2014)

I adore reading Scientist in the Field titles in general but have a special affinity for titles by Montgomery and Bishop. Their relationship with each other, the connection they form with the scientist, the prose, the photographs – all lend themselves to such incredible and engaging stories. I purchased this title as soon as it was published. Cheetahs are so frequently “nominated” by children as a favourite animal. But what is the story of their endangered status and what is being done about it? That is the story that this title showcases – in particular the story of  Laurie Marker and the work she does at the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF)‘s African headquarters in Nambia. This title is a wonderful blend of information about conservation efforts, facts about cheetahs, the story of the science behind the research and most delightful – an introduction to the various cheetah ambassadors who live at CCF in Nambia. The rescues, the orphaned babies, the rehabilitation, the releases back to the wild – such stories pull the reader strong and fast into the important work of the CCF.

Perfect for older readers, this title would also make a great read aloud for younger students who are learning about endangered animals and efforts being made to protect them. The final chapter of the book actually features the story of Marker’s visits to Rogate Primary School to speak to school children about the work of the Cheetah Conservation Fund and how farmers and cheetahs can coexist in Nambia.

 Chasing Cheetahs Mock Sibert: 2015 The top picks by There's a Book for That, Kid Lit Frenzy and Unleashing Readers

The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (September 2014)

This book is like a piece of art. Layer upon layer of history, personal story, word joy and fascinating details – this is how a biography should arrive: all wrapped up to be peeled away piece by piece. Of course it is fitting that the man who imagined the thesaurus was enamoured by lists, language and the perfect word for each occasion. Enchanted by words and compelled to share, Roget dedicated his life to sharing knowledge and his passion for words.

This book is rich in supportive details beyond all of the creative collage elements shared by Sweet and the interesting text and lists by Bryant. I love the two page spread entitled: List of Principal Events. This is a timeline of important events in history happening at the same time as key events in Peter Mark Roget‘s life. What a wonderful way to show children that our personal histories are influenced and shaped by the world we live in. Author and illustrator notes are also full of additional reading pleasure!

The Right Word Mock Sibert: 2015 The top picks by There's a Book for That, Kid Lit Frenzy and Unleashing Readers

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands by Katherine Roy (September 2014)

I know how popular shark books are with children. I often buy books about sharks. I seldom read them. It’s fear factor avoidance. I freely admit that I think sharks are one of the most truly terrifying creatures. But this book captivated me. Its mixture of gorgeously painted illustrations, detailed relevant diagrams and the story of how the great whites who hunt in the Farallon Islands hunt so successfully, kept me reading and interested to the final pages. This book illustrates how sharks are perfectly adept hunters, at the top of the food chain. Katherine Roy shares specific information about body shape and function, the heat exchange system that gives the shark a warmer brain, its vision, its teeth and those projectile jaws. Against its prey, the shark clearly has many advantages. It is built to be an “absolute predator.”

The factual pages are embedded within a story of shark migration and hunting habits. I can see children studying the diagrams carefully in order to understand exactly why the shark is such a perfect killer. The paintings in this story don’t shy away from depicting the realities of the hunt: swirling waters, a stream of red, jaws full of teeth . . . Images that allow children to feel like they are getting a close up look at the hunt but not so gruesome to make anyone want to hide their eyes. Strangely, I think these paintings are superior to photographs in the sense that they pull the reader in rather than turn anyone away.

 Neigborhood Sharks Mock Sibert: 2015 The top picks by There's a Book for That, Kid Lit Frenzy and Unleashing Readers

Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen (November 2014)

My childhood was all about snow. Living now on the milder West Coast, I often think about those long winter seasons of snow covered ground that seemed to be endless. Snow days here are all about a fleeting time. Snow balls, snow men and the swish of seldom worn snow pants racing up the toboggan hill before it all melts away. But what about the animals who must survive long winters where snow is not a novelty but a part of life? Is the snow a burden? A hardship? How do they survive? How do they adapt to the long winter months? These are questions that children will find answers to in this stunning collection of poems, lino cut prints and informative paragraphs.

The poems are beautiful and convey details and images that simple text might not. Sidman’s words invite all of our senses into the visualization process. She writes of squishy damp leaf litter where springtails (snow fleas) live, of the ripped chips and thrashing twigs of the beaver’s lodge, and how the baby moose shrugs off the cold and sneezes at the wind. Lured by these images, the reader wants to know more. The descriptive paragraphs about each creature and detailed glossary provide lots of additional information. Allen’s prints layer colour and texture and suggest movement in their details. So appealing!

 Winter Bees Mock Sibert: 2015 The top picks by There's a Book for That, Kid Lit Frenzy and Unleashing Readers

After checking out these titles I have featured and Alyson and Kellee’s choices, which book do you think should win the Sibert?

Enter our Rafflecopter (follow the link) to win a copy of one of our picks (your choice!) as well as to vote for which book you think will win.

Please share any additional comments in the comment sections on any of our blogs!


Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary Blog Tour & Giveaway


The Schneider Family Book Award honours an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. As so many of us are trying to include more diverse titles in our classroom libraries and read aloud selections, these award winners are an important resource for teachers and parents.

When Alyson Beecher from KidLit Frenzy asked if I would be willing to talk about a favourite Schneider Family Book award winner, many titles came instantly to mind. I chose to share Sarah Lean‘s touching middle grade novel A Dog Called Homeless (a 2013 winner) because this is a title that both my daughter Beatrice (now eleven) and I adored. I am also planning to read this book with my Junior Student Book Club this fall.

 A dog Called Homeless Schneider Family Book Award Blog Tour There's a Book for That

This is a precious and poignant read – one that you can sit down and finish in one emotional sitting and then carry it with you for ages. Lean takes on a tragic topic – losing a parent and explores the complexity of carrying on. We meet Cally Fisher and experience her grief and the healing process she goes through which involves new friends, visions of her mother and a very special dog called Homeless.

Cally needs to talk about her feelings and about missing her Mom but lives in a home with a brother who buries himself in his room and a father who covers himself in work and detective dramas on television and works hard to desperately avoid any memories of his wife. After Cally participates in a “sponsored silence” at school, she stops talking altogether. Without words, she begins to learn there are many ways to listen and to be heard. Sam, a new neighbour and friend who is blind and mostly deaf teaches her some of the most important lessons about communication. He gives Cally space, trust, faith and the companionship that she really needs.

“Sam is the best friend anyone could have. He’s like an angel from another world, and as he held my arm while we walked away, he was reading my heart, guiding me.”

This book is about many things, but at its core is a relationship between daughter and mother. So I asked my daughter to help me write this post. We both reread the novel and wrote up some questions for each other to answer. I asked Bea to write three questions and she gave me ten. An incredible, thoughtful ten! Proud Mama that I am, I’ve included all of them below. We each responded to three questions posed by the other.

Bea’s questions and my answers:

1. Do you think Jed is one of the most important characters in the story?

Jed is the link to both Homeless and Cally’s Mom. But he is also one of the characters that helps us measure the hearts and compassion of the other characters in terms of how they interact with him and the respect that they do or don’t show him.

2. Was there a character in the story that you felt close to? (other than Cally)

Surprise, surprise that I identified with Sam’s Mom, Mrs. Cooper. I loved how she adored her son and was very protective but yet, she had lots of room in her heart to care about others too (like Cally). She was a fun Mom who interacted with children in a natural and encouraging way. 

3. Other than her mother, what do you think Cally needed most in the story. Do you think she got it?   

I think what Cally needs most is a way to go on and be happy without her Mom being physically there with her. Do I think she got that? I think by the end of the story, there is a promise of how that can be possible

My questions and Bea’s answers:

1. Cally’s Dad says to her midway through the book: “You know sooner or later you’re going to have to speak. How else are you going to get what you want.” What do you think about this? 

That wasn’t fair to Cally – her mom just died and her dad should realize that is is so hard on her and maybe he should have asked her to write stuff down rather than pressure her into it. It seems like her Dad doesn’t understand her or try to understand her.

2. All of the characters handle grief in such different ways. How do you think you would handle grief? 

If you died, I would always be crying. I would probably shut off from the world for a while. It makes me want to cry just thinking about it.

3. What made Sam such a good friend to Cally? 

I think Sam knew that Cally was going through something rough and he understood the rules of friendship and knew how to not make her sad but instead make her SHINE. He let her feel like he understood her. And he was also kind of an inspiration to Cally. He had all these disabilities but he got through it and was a better person because of it!

Beatrice’s ten questions:

  • What did you think about how Cally’s friend Mia treated Cally?
  • Do you think Cally’s dad payed more attention to Cally when her mom was alive?
  • Do you think it was proving something to Mia and her teacher that made Cally stop talking for longer than needed?
  • Would you run away from Sam like Cally did? And do you think Sam felt bad when that happened?
  • Do you think Jed is one of the most important characters in the story?
  • What do you think was the role of Homeless in the story?
  • Was there a character in the story that you felt close to? (other than Cally)
  • Do you think that Cally’s dad should have let her keep Homeless in the beginning?What effect do you think that would have on the story?
  • Do you think that Cally’s mother was really there as a ghost at the beginning of the story or do you think Cally just wanted her to be so badly?
  • Other than her mother what do you think Cally needed most in the story? Do you think she got it?

I found a tweet in author Sarah Lean’s twitter feed tweeted the day her Schneider award arrived in the mail. Thank you Sarah, for sharing A Dog Called Homeless with your readers!

Check out all of the blogs participating in the Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary Blog Tour & Giveaway:

To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award, readers have an opportunity to win a set of all three 2014 Schneider Family Book Award winning titles. Participants must be 13 years or older and have a US or Canadian mailing address. There will be one winner but you can enter from any of the blogs as part of this celebration.

image of books for giveaway

Click on the link below to enter the giveaway.

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