Picture Books that model perseverance

It’s Picture Book Month and I have picture books on my mind. I am beginning to think in lists. Often. It may be a syndrome. Picturebooklistitis? Something like that.

On Friday, I had some parent meetings in the a.m. It was lovely to talk about students who have demonstrated improvement in goal areas due to persistence, determination and creative approaches to problems. Heading home, after school, I started thinking about picture books on this theme of persistence.

What exactly was I thinking about? All of the synonyms for perseverance: persistence, tenacity, determination . . . But also being able to solve problems with creativity or a different/unique approach. A lot of it has to do with being able to focus but also being able to think outside of the box. Sometimes it is just about, simple but tough, hard work and diligence.

I think all of these picture books highlight a particular aspect of this theme and in their own way, model perseverance.

Twenty favourite titles:

These ten beauties:

Picture Books that model perseverance

And ten more:

Picture Books that model perseverance There's a Book for That

Twenty picture book titles that model perseverance:

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Rosie Revere, Engineer written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

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

Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley

Papa’s Mechanical Fish written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Boris Kulikov

If You Want to See a Whale written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Rosyln Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth by Marie-Louise Gay

Ice by Arthur Geisert

Flight School by Lita Judge

A House in the Woods by Inga Moore

The Mighty Lalouche written by Matthew Olshan and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds 

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires 

A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead

Oscar and Hoo written by Theo and illustrated by Michael Dudok De Wit

Queen of the Falls by Chris VanAllsburg 

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

Ten Birds by Cybèle Young

In case you’ve missed them, I have been making more lists:

Picture Books that celebrate courage

Picture Books to make you giggle

Happy Picture Book Month!

pb month logoAs always, please share your favourite titles on this theme!

Bear Has a Story to Tell

Magnus, our BLG reader this week shared the gorgeous Bear Has a Story to Tell with our class. Written and illustrated by the extremely talented team of author Phillip C. Stead and illustrator Erin E. Stead, this book was an instant favourite. It brought quiet smiles and laugh out loud giggles as we experienced this gentle story about patience and the change of seasons.

Bear Has a Story to Tell - There's a Book for That!

I have highlighted this book before on this blog:

“Text and illustrations that match perfectly to create a quiet and calm book about the change of seasons and a small group of friends. There is so much space in this book to question and reflect. It begs to have its pages turned slowly and to just revel in each scene. On some pages it was the phrasing, others the muted colours of a forest sky that asked to be enjoyed before moving on.  It isn’t possible to move quickly through this book just as we have no power over the pace the seasons come at us. Beautiful.”

I am a huge fan of both of the Steads. When they tell a story together, it is even more powerful! It was wonderful to have this book read aloud to my students and be able to sit amongst them and watch as the story was experienced. This book cast a gentle kind of spell over us. A quiet calm crept up as Magnus read. And then when all of the anticipation kind of went poof . . . the laughing and chatter began in earnest. A simply delightful book!

Student reviewers respond:

Kelvin: To the author and ilustrator: How did you make the spine and cover so shiny? Was that story the bear had really really important? I loved the book. It is so beautiful and exquisite and generous. It makes me happy.

Andrew: My favourite part was when the bear forgot his story. To the author: What story was the bear going to tell? To the illustrator: I like all the pictures so much.

Arianne: To the author: Why do bears hibernate? I love the pages in the book where the illustrator turned the book sideways for the mole’s house underground.

Vicky: My favourite part is when the bear asked mouse, duck, frog and mole if they had time to hear a story. I felt happy when Magnus read the book. I think in the story a bear tells a story, he’s telling the story we were reading.

Brian: My favourite part was when the bear was in a deep sleep just like Cinderella. When the bear forgot his story, it was pretty silly.

Heman: My favourite part is when the bear tried to tell the story to his friends. I liked the pictures. They were so colourful. It was funny when the bear forgot the story at the end.

Gracie: My favourite part is when the bear starts to tell a story. I think  . . . in the story a bear tells a story and the story he’s telling is the story! It makes a circle! I like this book!

Monday May 20th, 2013

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

Join Jen and Kellee’s meme and share all of your reading from picture books to young adult reads! Such a fantastic way to learn about “new to you” titles by exploring all of the blog posts shared! Share your own reading on twitter via the hashtag #IMWAYR

This week has been a lot about books! A LOT of books! A lot of reading. Early morning reading. Reading over coffee. Reading while folding the laundry (I have this down to an art) Much browsing, some (well, a little more than some :-)) buying and many bookstore hours passed surrounded by . . . books! Is there any better way to spend one’s time?

For the second week in a row, I have narrowed my picture books down to my ten favourites of the week to share here:

If You Want to See a Whale written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin E. Stead I spent a week one summer in a house by the sea, wanting to see a whale. I never did. I think I needed this book to help me out. It reveals the ins and outs of waiting. And wondering. And hoping. And wow, is it gorgeous! This is my new go to gift book because adults and children alike will love it. (I might add that the first person I gifted it to was me!)

If you want to see a whale

Wilfred written and illustrated by Ryan Higgins Last week on my #IMWAYR journey through blog posts I happened upon this title on Nicole’s blog Bluestocking Thinking She called this book a “keeper” and I must agree. It is absolutely odd. Wilfred is a big hairy monster in a land of bald beings. But odd is wonderful. And this book is so much more – a story of kindness and friendship and of being compassionate. I loved this little story and cannot wait to share it with my students.


Line 135 written by Germano Zullo and illustrated by Albertine The previous book by these two – Little Bird was one of my favourite titles of 2012. In fact, it will likely be a favourite of all time. Line 135 has a very different feel. But it shares something that I love with Little Bird: it celebrates a beautiful sense of self and human connection. A picture book adults will love – themes of travel, wonder, being who you are. But, if shared right with a group of children – this could be magic.

Line 135

How to by Julie Morstad Morstad is a picture perfect picture book illustrator. She sends memories, dreams, wonder and magic from the page to her reader. Find this book. Buy it. Treasure it. Read it often and believe in everything.


Ben Rides On written and illustrated by Matt Davies I want to say everything about this book because I found it so wonderfully fun! And sweet. And funny . . . But I am going to try and say nothing more. This book needs to be experienced. Read it without expectation or bias and enjoy . . . 

ben rides on

Fantastic review of this book on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

A Stick is an Excellent Thing written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by LeUyen Pham A celebration of the outdoors and playful encounters! Should be read while lounging under a tree or marching through meadows.

A Stick is anExcellent Thing

The Secret Message written by Mina Javaherbin and illustrated by Bruce Whatley Mina Javaherbin, with her wonderfully generous spirit, sent us this beautiful story and it was such a pleasure to share it with my class! We are currently creating art pieces in response and I hope to be able to share them later this week! A story about how precious freedom is! Shared by Mina from her childhood memories of being told this story (based on a poem by Rumi) by her father.

The Secret message

Kumak’s Fish written and illustrated by Michael Bania Some might know that fishing is a lot about patience and definitely something about luck. But how about cooperation? And hooking sticks? And an entire village? Much fun in this delightful story set in the Arctic.

Kumak's Fish

Lilly’s Chocolate Heart written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes I bought this in board book version for our buddy reading with the Ks. Lilly has the best ideas about chocolate. Enough said.


Dutch Sneakers and Flea Keepers written and illustrated by Calef Brown My class adored the humour in so many of these poems! Fun things to do? Count the cavities (and promise to be better about brushing!), debate the merits of raising fleas for income and explain how quickly you could catch that runaway waffle and gobble it up! With all Brown’s books, it is the illustrations that make them especially amazing!

dutch sneakers

This was a special week for our class because Calef Brown (the real guy) came to visit our school! Kala, who has been a super fan of Brown’s whimsical words and quirky art kept a countdown sign outside of our classroom. Finally, it was zero more sleeps and truly – Calef Brown Day!


Students were thrilled to show Calef the art we had done inspired by his book Pirateria! It doesn’t get any more special than being able to invite an author/illustrator to come and check out a bulletin board he inspired! Thank you Calef Brown!


In other reading, I finished four novels: 

Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff Mystery. Fantasy. Magic. This book had it all! Requires the reader to remain completely alert to follow this story through its multiple narrators. Fun, certainly. Wonderful for middle grade readers.

A Tangle of Knots

Stolen written by Lucy Christopher This is the book that had the biggest impact on me this week. I started it early Friday morning and resented my errands of the day for intruding into my reading time. Don’t begin this book without some hours of uninterrupted reading time ahead. And be prepared for a tough read. This is a story of kidnapping and it has much good, bad and ugly yet by the end, nothing is clear. We know for certain that Gemma has been taken. We know she is in the middle of nowhere. We watch her attempts at escape, her terrifying interactions with the middle of the Australian desert (full of nothing and camels and red sand and poisonous everything) and settle into her memories and confusion. Her interactions with her abductor are psychologically intimate and raw. Yet her kidnapper is also the one who rescues her often. Is it care or control? Love or obsession? Nothing is black or white. Beautifully written. Haunting.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky Yes, I am a Charlie fan. Yes, this is a must read book. Sad and funny and vulnerable and worrisome. Fantastic characters. Addictive.


Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu This novel touched on a theme I have never read about in a middle grade or young adult novel – hoarding. Lucy is the youngest of three children and the only one still living with her mother, until she is old enough to move out. Her mother’s hoarding makes her home life basically unbearable and a desperate secret. The conditions she lives in are truly disgusting. She keeps going by holding on to dreams of a “normal” life two years away when she is old enough to leave home. But then something happens that changes all of her plans.

dirty little secrets


Next up? I borrowed Bigger than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder from my daughter’s collection. And I plan on jumping in to a number of fairytales that I will then share with my reading group. We currently believe that fairy tales are the ultimate in drama and can’t get enough of them!

Monday December 10th, 2012

It’s Monday! What are you Reading?

trip inside

Join Jen and Kellee’s meme on Teach Mentor Texts to share your weekly reads from picture books to young adult novels. Especially with the holidays approaching, reading all of these blogs and book lists will help to build your lists of fantastic must read titles!

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

I did a LOT of reading this week and had a hard time narrowing it down to which books I would share. So many fantastic titles – some brand new and others that have been around for some time. Finally, I picked my ten favourite picture book titles of the week and here they are . . .

Picture books I loved:

hello! hello! by Matthew Cordell A fantastic little book that highlights the wonder of nature and all that it has to offer if we can drag ourselves away from our devices . . . I think this is an ideal companion book to Blackout by John Rocco – another title that reminds us to be in the moment with our families. I loved that book as well and wrote a Picture Book Love post about it here.

hello! hello!

I saw A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse by Frank Viva on a best of 2012 list somewhere. Having a kind of thing for Antartica, I was intrigued. I ordered it on a whim thinking my class would enjoy it as we are learning about continents and they are fascinated by the thought of exploring that frozen land down at the bottom of the globe. This is a Toon Book and so comes in a lovely tiny size. Great colours, graphics and relevant images (my favourite is the spread of four types of penguins). Perfect for younger readers to read independently and for more accomplished readers just to savour.

Trip to the Bottom of the World

I realized I hadn’t explored Frank Viva’s other title Along a Long Road and picked it up at my public library. Again, wow! I love the colours with large amounts of solid black on a page. I kind of wish I was at school and could grab one of our little K buddies to share this with. I would love to watch a young child follow this tempting yellow road as it winds through the pages. Only problem with this book? Now I want to own it too.


Millie Fierce by Jane Manning This book explores finding an inner strength in a very honest way. It is not a simple thing to go from quiet to confident and the transformation is not always smooth. I have had students who when they finally shed their shy personas need some guidance about being polite and not hurtful with their words. Sometimes the words come before the social filters kick in. I thought of those children as I read this book about Millie. Millie doesn’t want to be ignored, she is tired of being “barely there” and unnoticed. So she becomes fierce. As she tries on this new found ferocity, she certainly gets noticed. But nobody wants to be with a Millie that puts getting noticed above being considerate or properly behaved. She even realizes that being fierce can be cruel. Finally Millie understands that she can be noticed for her kindness and consideration. This kind of attention is what feels right to her. I think this book could be quite powerful shared with a class and I look forward to the discussions that it might prompt.

Millie Fierce

A Balloon for Isabel written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Laura Rankin I have seen this on many Monday reads posts in the last few weeks and so was delighted when I found it in my school library. How can little Isabel the porcupine get a balloon for graduation? Obviously giving a balloon to a prickly porcupine is just asking for trouble. And so the rule at her school is no balloons for porcupines. But Isabel demonstrates some extremely creative problem solving and we all celebrate her perseverance and optimistic spirit. A sweet little book.


Z is for Moose written by Kelly Bingham and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky I have seen this book on so many latest and greatest lists and have just not sat down and read it. This week I did and also shared it with my class. Sometimes a book’s gift is just that it can’t help but make you laugh. This is one of those books. I now see the reason for all of the hype. A book to share with children (and adults) of all ages when you need a smile and a tiny dose of kind.


Black Dog by Levi Pinfold Wow! What an amazing title to help explore fear and courage. A black dog is spotted outside the window of the Hope family residence. As it is described and worried about, it “becomes” larger than life – the size of a tiger. . . no, an elephant . . . maybe a T-rex? These illustrations are beautifully odd. But in the best of ways. From the full page spreads with the huge menacing dog to the little sepia coloured boxes surrounding the text that reveal close ups and clues from the story. I am nowhere near finished exploring these images and I have read this book countless times. But back to the storyline . . . Small (the littlest Hope) finally braves the outdoors to confront this creature. What ensues is absolutely delightful – a visual treat to tickle our imaginations. Small becomes large and large, small. Fear and courage intermix into teasing and challenge and joy. This is a book to gift to adults who may have forgotten the magic of the picture book. The wonder of this book seems impossible to resist.

black dog

Atlantic written by G. Brian Karas I found this book at my children’s school library while I was waiting for my daughter to finish her library monitor shift. Lyrical text, and narrated by the ocean itself, it gives the reader an interesting perspective on the ocean’s vastness. A book to use in a lesson about oceans. Not sure if children would pick up everything independently but as a read aloud with discussion, this is a wonderful way to add wonder to a geography lesson.


A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead What a wonderful story about friendship, persistance and devotion. Vernon, the toad never gives up trying to find his new strange friend, Bird, a home. Yet, all along the way, there is no guidance or help from Bird himself. When he finally discovers where Bird belongs it is . . . just as it should be :-)This would be great to share along with Mem Fox‘s Hunwick’s Egg (one of my favourites that I rave about in this post) – another story of faith and commitment to a silent friend.

home for bird

Bear has a Story to Tell written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin Stead. Text and illustrations that match perfectly to create a quiet and calm book about the change of seasons and a small group of friends. There is so much space in this book to question and reflect. It begs to have its pages turned slowly and to just revel in each scene. On some pages it was the phrasing, others the muted colours of a forest sky that asked to be enjoyed before moving on.  It isn’t possible to move quickly through this book just as we have no power over the pace the seasons come at us. Beautiful.

Bear has a story to tell

An exciting accomplishment this week – I met my personal reading goal of 75 new to me novels (not including adult reads which I do occasionally fit in) for 2012. My list, with covers and ratings, is here. Last week I met my Goodreads goal of 500 books so I am on a bit of a roll!

Novel #75 was Sparrow Road by Sheila O’Connor

An emotional read. I always love books with friendships that span generations and this books delivers relationships in a big way. Raine and her mother, her grandfather, the new people she meets at Sparrow Road, someone she was meant to meet . . . Love and sorrow and art and long summer days all tangle up into a story that had me in tears through the last few chapters. But peaceful tears.


My next read? Ask the Passengers by A. S. King.  And of course a towering pile of picture books that I plan to dive into!

More fabulous picture books with a Garden theme

As we continue to learn about plants, seeds and gardens, it feels like there are garden themed books blooming everywhere we look.

See our first list here which includes many more titles.

Ava’s Poppy by Marcus Pfister

We read this book today and students were inspired to create a list of all the great reasons this book should be shared: we can learn how to grow a flower, it teaches us about life cycles, we learn how to take care of a flower, there is lots of information about seeds,  and it has important themes of kindness and friendship. Lovely little Ava makes friends with a gorgeous red poppy in a field of green and cares for it in changing weather and over time. When she buries a seed capsule, she has no idea that the next spring her poppy will return to her!

 Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine written by Allison Wortche and illustrated by Patrice Barton

Students loved this story about a little girl who learns about friendship, kindness and surviving competition while tending pea plants in her classroom. Shared in our classroom here.

The Giant Seed by Arthur Geisert

Another wordless book by the brilliant Geisert and a follow up to the equally wonderful Ice (reviewed here) Explore the concept of seed dispersal and how seeds travel in this fantasy story. How the pigs happen to be saved from volcanic disaster is a reason to share this story many times.

And then it’s Spring written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin E. Stead 

Explore the magic of the transformation from brown and boring to the wonder of green that comes in spring. What treasures lay buried deep waiting for the sun, warm temperatures and the power of spring showers?

Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms written by Julia Rawlinson and illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke

Is that snow in the middle of spring? Fletcher certainly thinks so. But he learns that blossoms can cover the earth in a blanket during the spring just like snow does in the winter. A beautiful celebration of spring.