Gift Books 2015: 25 picture books to give this season

Making a picture book list to give is becoming one of my favourite holiday traditions. I started with 12 in 2013 and moved to 20 in 2014. This year 25 made the list. Why not? There are a lot of books to love!

Gift Books 2015: 25 books to give this season

Of course, I have not read every book out there. But I believe in picture books for every reason and so, I have read a lot! A lot, a lot. Some have stood out. Some I must insist upon. Going picture book shopping? Here is my list of 25 titles that I think are absolutely worth owning and therefore, worth gifting. Fantastic titles in both fiction and nonfiction. My criteria? Is it a book that can be shared multiple times? Does it inspire creativity, thinking, inspiration? Does it make its readers think differently? Does it celebrate something important? Does it freeze time? Is it a book that brings joy? Or does it simply make you laugh? Laughing, I always think, is very underrated.

With those questions in mind, here is my list:

Listed alphabetically by author.

Out of the Woods: A True Story of an Unforgettable Event by Rebecca Bond

I was smitten just with the end pages. Based on a true story, this title goes back to Ontario forests of 1914. It is a memory, a story. And what a story. How incredible to think about this experience where a fire caused humans and animals to connect in an incredibly quiet, necessary way. The illustrations here are stunning.

Out of the Woods 2015 Gift Books

Something Extraordinary by Ben Clanton

This book. It speaks to wild wishes, big possibility and the amazing of the simple and natural. Love, love, love.

Something Extraordinary 2015 Gift Books

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson

A wise nana. A regular bus ride. The importance of neighbourhood and noticing.

Last Stop on Market Street 2015 Gift Books

Wolfie the Bunnie written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

Charming, humorous and sweet This book has much to offer. Sibling dynamics. The brilliance of children. Humour, giggles, and wows.

Wolfie the Bunny 2015 Gift Books

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López

Gorgeous. Inspiring. Saturated colours and beautiful art. The true story of one girl’s dream to drum.

Drum Girl Dreaming

Elwood Bigfoot: Wanted: Birdie Friends by Jill Esbaum and illustrated by Nate Wragg

One sweet book. About the quest to belong and have friends. Some serious perseverance here.

Elwood Bigfoot 2015 Gift Books

The Bear Report by Thyra Heder

I don’t even have words. A must own. Really, truly beautiful. This title makes me cry and sigh and sit in absolute awe. I refuse to even write about the plot. Just trust me and go buy this book.

The Bear Report 2015 Gift Books

The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes

It’s lush and moody and at the same time sweet and hopeful. I had all kinds of wishes. I wanted to shrink down and wander about this little garden. I wanted the book to be quilted so I could gift it as a “stuffie” type treasure to little ones to snuggle with. I wanted each image, framed, to hang on my wall. This is a book to love.

The Little Gardener 2015 Gift books

Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking written by Elin Kelsey and illustrated by Soyeon Kim

This book is magical. The text suggests all kinds of connections between ours and the animal world. Talk about perseverance, creativity and inspiration. Or, just get lost in the illustrations.

Wild Ideas 2015 Gift Books

Marilyn’s Monster written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Matt Phelan

What do you do when everyone gets a monster and yours never arrives? Marilyn grows impatient with the endless waiting. So she ventures out to make her own difference.

Marilyn's Monster

Bright Sky Starry City written by Uma Krishnaswami and illustrated by Aimée Sicuro

A beautiful story of father and daughter, of a curious girl wondering about space and astronomy, of a glorious sky full of stars and constellations.

Bright Sky, Starry City 2015 Gift Books

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith

Wordless perfection. I love everything about this book. How it is about little things, being in the moment, noticing, kindness . . .

Sidewalk Flowers 2015 Gift Books

Pool by JiHyeon Lee

Gorgeous. Wordless. Two children dive deep and meet under a bunch of swimmers and floaters in a busy pool. What do they find there? A fantastical world. The colours, the negative space, the whimsy.

Pool 2015 Gift Books

Night Animals by Gianna Marino

This book is absolutely adorable. The perfect book for reading aloud at a story time for younger listeners. The perfect bedtime book to remind all soon to be sleepers that they are brave.

Night Animals 2015 Gift Books

Toad Weather written by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez

Rich messages beyond a fascinating story. I love that it reminds us to notice and experience the natural world no matter what the weather, no matter what our mood.

Toad Weather Gift Books 2015

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

For inspiring gardeners. For nature explorers. Spans generations and seasons.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt 2015 gift Books

The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi

This is a wonderful title. Such creative twists on Little Red Riding Hood – crafted into quite a different tale. Mysterious. Unusual. Magical. The perfect read aloud for a cozy winter’s day.

The Tea Party in the Woods

Float by Daniel Miyares

Children approach rain in the best of ways. All in. Rubber boots, puddle jumping, sailing of boats! And after the rain, there is sunshine and new possibilities. Wordless and wonderful.

Float 2015 Gift Books

My Pen by Christopher Myers 

I always say there is power in the pencil (or pen, or marker, etc) – this book celebrates the creativity on the page. But on the page is so much more. I want to share it with each group of children I teach for forever . . .

My Pen 2015 Gift Books

This is Sadie written by Sara O’Leary and illustrated by Julie Morstad

Sadie is enchanting. She embraces life – both the real and the imagined parts with gusto. Creative, inspired, endearing. Her story is a delight to read aloud. Morstad’s images are “ooh” and “ahh” and “wow” inducing. The combination is pure read aloud perfection.

This is Sadie 2015 Gift Books

Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Jason Chin

Lyrical and lovely. And illustrations to knock you over. Takes you through the seasons, the water cycle, childhood experiences. A must own.

Water is Water 2015 Gift Books

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova written by Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Julie Morstad

Beautiful. Special. And inspirational. For little dancers to be. For those with big hearts who know what it is to share.

swan the life and dance of anna pavlova 2015 Gift Books

Lenny and Lucy written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Moody. Lonely. Emotional. Sweet. Lovely. A favourite in my room. Children responded to this gentle story of needing to feel secure.

Lenny & Lucy 2015 Gift Books

Sonya’s Chickens by Phoebe Wahl

Try and get past the cover with the greens, the lush, the rich and deep. Sigh. A story about nature, responsibility and hope.

Sonya's Chickens 2015 Gift Books

The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski

I am not sure I have words for just how breathtaking I find this title. It is a book lover’s dream. Seriously. Stop dead illustrations. Of course, I had to own this one. And ahem, you should too . . .

The Whisper 2015 Gift Books

Happy Reading. Happy Shopping. Happy Giving.

Wrapped up in shades of black and grey

It is November and that means it is Picture Book Month!

Here in B.C. we have been experiencing some dark, rainy days. Daylight savings means we just found an extra hour of light in the morning but our afternoons disappear into evening black far too soon. Yet darkness is not all about doom and gloom. It also means cozy, long stretches to read or bustle about inside. Darkness can pull us together for seasons of celebration and special events or provide us with solitude for introspection and calm. Bright is beautiful but so is dark. Whether we seek out the mystery and unexpected or the opportunity to settle into the quiet.

All of the dark has got me thinking about picture book covers. I started a list to see if I could come up with a number of titles that come specially wrapped in blacks and greys. My list ran off the page and I realized that many of my favourite books reside here. Is it just me or is there a certain elegance to these titles?

When you need a break from the bright, pick up one of these beautiful books.

25 titles to swoon over.

Wrapped up in Shades of Black and Grey There's a Book for That

Listed alphabetically by author.

Leo a Ghost Story written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

Gleam and Glow written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Peter Sylvada

A Good Night Walk by Elisha Cooper

The Black Book of Colors written by Menana Cottin and illustrated by Rosana Faría

Nighttime Ninja written by Barbara DaCosta and illustrated by Ed Young

Willaboughy and the Moon by Greg Foley

The Night World by Mordicai Gerstein

The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett

Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett

I Know a Bear by Mariana Ruiz Johnson

This is not my Hat by Jon Klassen

In the Tree House written by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Dušan Petričić 

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith

Night Animals by Gianna Marino

Zero by Kathryn Otoshi

Our King has Horns! written by Richard Pevear and illustrated by Robert Rayevsky

Big Bad Bubble written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

The Dark written by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Swan written by Laurel Synder and illustrated by Julie Morstad

Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise written by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Jean Jullien

Friends by Mies van Hout 

Happy by Mies van Hout

Surprise by Mies van Hout 

Ten Birds by Cybele Young

How I love sharing picture book lists during this month of picture book love!

Happy Picture Book Reading!

pb month logo

Monday August 17th, 2015

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

I have been sharing a reading photo of the week each week. Now that it is summer, I am not surrounded every day with little readers so . . . I am choosing moments from the year not previously shared. Always my favourite? Buddy reading laughter!

From the classroom 2014/2015 archives:

Monday August 17th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.

imwayr

On the blog:

For Top Ten Tuesday: Ten MG and YA authors I read the most

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Natural Mysteries, Solved

A special Celebration post about updated allergy testing

Sunday Reflections: The power of observation

Books I read and loved:

Night Animals by Gianna Marino

This book is absolutely adorable. The perfect book for reading aloud at a story time for younger listeners. The perfect bedtime book to remind all soon to be sleepers that they are brave. A wonderful read aloud for any classroom to appreciate how clever and beautiful picture books can be.

Night Animals Monday August 17th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Bad Bye, Good Bye written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Jonathan Bean

Oh how I was impressed with this book. The illustrations were incredible. Maybe my favourite so far from Bean. And the sparse text – full and powerful and conveying so much emotion. Moving is hard. Plain and simple. For kids, it’s a different kind of hard. As a child who moved 9 times before my 7th birthday, I get it. Would pair beautifully with Neville written by Norman Juster and illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Bad Bye, Good Bye Monday August 17th, 2015 There's a Book for That

It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee

Odd, quirky and “rhyme”y.

It's Only Stanley Monday August 17th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Ben Draws Trouble by Matt Davies

I LOVED Ben Rides On when it first came out. So I have been waiting for this title. And it didn’t disappoint. It captures the joy of drawing, the dynamics of worry and the power of being noticed.

Ben Draws Trouble Monday August 17th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Piper Green and the Fairy Tree written by Ellen Potter and illustrated by Qin Leng

Well, I would like to start by saying that I want to go back in time and be Piper Green. I want to ride a boat to school. I want to eagerly anticipate fresh baking each morning. Quirky little brothers? Yes, please. And a teeny school, absolutely! And I could write paragraphs on how much I want a fairy tree. I am SO excited to share this title with my new class. I predict it will get a lot of love. The perfect early chapter book series. Well written with dynamic characters, gorgeous illustrations and just the right amount of text.

Piper Green

Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller with Susan Kelley

I have actually been reading this book for over a year. I have read many parts multiple times. Finally, this summer, I sat down and read it cover it cover. Of course, there is much here that I celebrate. I also really appreciate how Donalyn is so honest about her journey as a teacher. I know there is more figuring things out to come and that we will all benefit. But what she has figured out already? So wise, so wonderful and so full of celebration of books and readers.

reading in the wild Monday August 17th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I can’t believe I had never read this book. Now, I see why so many insist it is an absolute must read title for high school classrooms. Brave. Upsetting. Necessary.

Speak Monday August 17th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Updates on my 2015 Reading Goals:

2015 Chapter Book Challenge: 46/80 complete

Goodreads Challenge: 286/415 books read

#MustReadin2015: 15/24 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 54/100 titles

Diverse Books in 2015: 31/50 books read

Up next? I am reading Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I wanted to see a whale

One of my very favourite picture books of all time is If You Want to See a Whale written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin E. Stead When I first read this book, I had just spent a week at a summer house waiting to see a whale. I never did. But this book reminded me of how very much I longed for one to pass through the ocean as I gazed out ever so patiently at the water.If you want to see a whale I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for ThatHow I adore this book. I love it because it’s beautiful. It is gentle and calm. It reads like I imagined a whale might move – softly, smoothly and ever so gracefully. But I mostly love it because I really do want to see a whale. It tempts me with the possibility. It lures me with the one day . . . The maybe . . .

Now, I love this book for another most perfect reason. Finally, I have seen my whale. We just spent over a week in Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast of B.C and we saw a gray whale just off the beach close to where we were staying. Honestly, I got teary. It was one of the most beautiful experiences in nature I have ever had.

 I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for That

Of course we were not the only ones enamoured with this whale. While we watched from shore, a few small boats watched from closer by.

 I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for That

Two kayakers stopped as well.

 I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for That

Here are my children watching the water for sightings of “our” whale. Every few minutes it would surface to exhale.

 I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for That

I was lucky enough to see this whale on three different occasions and each time I watched it for at least thirty minutes. Once, we saw it in the evening. It was so quiet and the sound of the whale exhaling is something I won’t ever forget.

If you are like me and have had dreams of seeing a whale, here are some more picture books – both fiction and nonfiction that will make you long for the experience even more. I have always been “swoony” about whale illustrations. I suspect this sighting will make me more so.

The Blue Whale by Jenni Desmond

The Blue Whale  I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for That

Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue written by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Wendell Minor
Trapped! A Whale's Rescue  I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for That

The Eye of the Whale: A Rescue Story by Jennifer O’Connell

The Eye of the Whale  I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for ThatBig Blue Whale written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Nick Maland
big blue whale  I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for ThatHere Come the Humpbacks written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Jamie Hogan
here come the humpbacks  I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for That Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman Three Bears in a Boat  I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for That Flotsam by David WiesnerFlotsam  I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for ThatJumping Penguins illustrated by Marije Tolman with text by Jesse Goossens
Jumping Penguins  I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for ThatFollowing Papa’s Song by Gianna Marino 
 Following Papa's Song  I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for ThatThe Storm Whale by Benji Davies

 The Storm Whale  I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for ThatWater Sings Blue: Ocean Poems by Kate Coombs illustrated by Meilo So
Water Sings Blue  I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for ThatThe Mermaid and the Shoe by K. G. Campbell
mermaid and the shoe  I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for ThatBilly Twitters and his Blue Whale Problem written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex
 Billy Twitters  I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for ThatWild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking written by Elin Kelsey and illustrated by Soyeon Kim
Wild Ideas  I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for That

To the Sea by Cale Atkinson

To the Sea I wanted to see a whale There's a Book for That

Have you seen a whale in the wild?  I would love to hear about it!

Monday August 4th, 2014

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

imwayr

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. You are guaranteed to find something new to add to your list.

I didn’t get as much reading finished this week, but books were certainly on my mind. Over the last week and a half, I have published a blog series about using more nonfiction books in the classroom called Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction books. It is a four part series. This link takes you to the fourth post and if you are interested, you can follow the rest of the links there to visit the other posts. I teach a Grade 2/3/4 class so the book suggestions and strategies are geared toward a late primary classroom. If you are looking to add more nonfiction titles in your teaching, some of the ideas might be helpful. I welcome any feedback.

My favourite picture books of the week are a mixture of fiction and nonfiction titles.

Mogie: The heart of the house written by Kathi Appelt and illustrated by Marc Rosenthal 

A very special book about a dog that is perfectly placed to connect to the children who need him most. This book is based on the real-life Mogie, a Labradoodle who lives at the Ronald McDonald House in Houston.

Mogie The heart of the house #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Naked! written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

If this book had existed when my children were younger, we would have had to read it over and over and over! Running around naked is pure joy for toddlers and this book perfectly captures the enthusiasm for the sensation of racing about the house without a thing on!. Delightful.

Naked!  #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Following Papa’s Song by Gianna Marino 

Gorgeous whales. And I have a thing for beautifully done whales in picture books. Dreamy illustrations and a sweet story for younger listeners. I was so lost in the pictures, I had to go back and reread the story.

 Following Papa's Song  #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

One World, One Day by Barbara Kerley

I really like all of the titles Barbara Kerley has published through National Geographic – the photographs of people around the world are always spectacular. But I think this book is my absolute favourite. Maybe it is the simple aspect of showcasing the daily routines that many of us share – all a little different in different places but yet, so much the same. The back pages have additional information about each photograph. I can see sharing a photo a day with students. It would spark so much discussion and reflection.

One World, One Day  #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Hello World! Greetings in 43 Languages by Manja Stojic

Illustrations with big kid appeal. Literally how to say “hello” in 43 languages – each page a smiling child and a greeting with a pronunciation guide. Of course, I tried them all!

Hello World  #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Be My Neighbor by Maya Ajmera and John D Ivanko with words of wisdom from Fred Rogers

Another fascinating book full of photographs of children all over the world. This one focuses on the concept of neighbourhood and community. A map in the back lets children locate all of the places mentioned in the book.

Be-My-Neighbor  #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Worm by Elise Gravel 

Another title in the Disgusting Critters series. Really silly. Very amusing. And full of information. Will lead children off to find out even more and then back to read and reread. And giggle.

The Worm  #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Look Up! Bird Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate

I read this book by the river after a long hike through the forest. All I could hear were shouts from my children and their friends as they played in the water and the sound of birds. Could it have been more perfect? Don’t think so. So much to learn in this book. Written in conversational, humorous style.

Look up! Bird Watching in Your Own Backyard  #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

I also finished

Winger written by Andrew Smith (YA)

This book was just so very good. Although, I finished it and couldn’t function properly for hours. Raw. Funny. Honest. Beautiful. Made me numb. Buying a copy for my son to read when he is a little older because I want him to meet Ryan Dean West. If this character instantly materialized in front of me, I would adopt him. What a kid. Such a story.

Winger #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Up Next? I am reading Circa Now by Amber McRee Turner

Reading Goal updates:

2014 Chapter Book Challenge: 54/100 novels complete

Goodeads Challenge: 374/650 books read

#MustReadin2014: 20/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 92/65 complete

Monday October 29th, 2012

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Join in with Kellee and Jen’s meme and share all the pages you have been turning in the past week in picture books through to young adult reads!

Fantastic Read alouds this week:

Too Tall Houses by Gianna Marino This is probably my favourite discovery of the week, I read this at our primary gathering to fifty plus little listeners and we were all delighted with it. The pictures are stunning and do things that illustrations typically don’t do like . . . suggest that they are leaving the Earth. Amazing. And fun to twist and turn the book around to see what is happening. Owl and Rabbit live next to each other atop a hill. Rabbit enjoys the sun to grow fresh vegetables. Owl likes the view to watch the forest. When rabbit’s vegetables begin to obstruct Owl’s view, their relationship gets inconsiderate and competitive as they race to build their houses ever taller than the other. Eventually they discover that when alone, they have nothing but together . . . Well read and find out but I bet you get the idea 🙂 Highly recommended!

The Runaway Pumpkin written by Kevin Lewis and illustrated by S.D. Schindler This was one of my leading up to Halloween reads. It isn’t new for me but I haven’t read it to a class for quite a few years. I love the rhythm of the story and can’t read it aloud without tapping my feet and getting very hungry for all of the imagined pumpkin treats that Granny might bake!

The Teeny Tiny Ghost written by Kay Winters and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger Another Halloween read with some great repetitive language for a “join in” feel to the read aloud. We also had an active discussion about whether it was possible for ghosts to really be scared. Since I don’t know any ghosts. . .

Little Beaver and the Big Front Tooth written by Sarah Fox and illustrated bySarah Fox-Davies The class really enjoyed this book read by our BLG reading volunteer this week. I will be sharing the student’s reactions on the blog this week. Poor little beaver has a loose tooth and begins to doubt he really is a beaver because isn’t it those big teeth that make a beaver a beaver? As he searches for his answer we meet many other forest animals. Adorable.

Other picture books I enjoyed this week:

Don’t Worry Bear by Greg Foley Bear worries as caterpillar builds a cocoon. He worries at night, in the wind, in the rain and when it snows. He especially worries when caterpillar seems to be gone. But a beautiful silk moth flutters by and lets Bear know that his friend is right there with him. Simple text and illustrations leave lots of room for questions and discussion.

The Butterfly House by Eve Bunting, illustrations by Greg Shed. I love the lyrical text and the glowing illustrations in this book. Most of all I love how it asks us to mix up science and what seems to be magic, to suspend our disbelief and trust that a butterflies’ migratory instinct might extend to an individual person. As I love to plant flowers in my garden that are supposed to attract butterflies, I am very intrigued by the suggestions in this story. Every time a monarch lands on a flower, I believe in magic and wonder and the beauty of nature. This book celebrates just that. Now I want my own copy!

And speaking of magic . . . 

I finished The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater This is definitely a young adult read. This book was so full of magic and mystery, I kind of believe that it conjured up a bad flu to send me to bed to make sure I would have hours to just read and fall into the world of prophecy, desperate searches for magic, a place of real and unreal and twists and turns every few pages. And the characters. . . Wow. So happy this is a trilogy so I don’t have to say goodbye to these characters yet. Adding myself to the impatient group waiting for Book 2.

Last night I started Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys So far? Unputdownable