Monday October 26th, 2015

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

I have been sharing a reading photo of the week each week. Here are some of my students (and new friends) from last year who came by for a recess reading of Josh Funk‘s Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast. It was lots and lots of fun to share with them. One little one missed it and came by for her own reading the next day. Also, delightful!

Monday October 26th, 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.


l have continued to be kind of missing in action from the book and blogging world. Hoping that will change in the next month. Really hoping, This is my second post in two days so looking a little promising . . . I have fallen back into the reading often and always habit so another good sign.

Books I loved:

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 Monday October 26th, 2015 There's a Book for That

I Really Like Slop! by Mo Willems

Always highly entertaining. I am not sure if these are more fun to read alone or read aloud but I can never resist multiple reads both ways! This is quite hilarious. Gerald has some seriously entertaining reactions to Piggie’s slop concoctions.

I really Like Slop! Monday October 26th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Rhinos Don’t Eat Pancakes written by Anna Kemp and illustrated by Sara Oglivie

So what if you have very busy parents and then a rhino comes to stay? Are your parents going to listen? Isn’t is a little obvious? Rhinos are big and not exactly suited to living in a house! This is highly amusing and there are some definite enthusiastic pancake eating scenes.

Rhinos Don't Eat Pancakes Monday October 26th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Ten Flashing Fireflies written by Philemon Sturges and illustrated by Anna Vojtech

A beautiful counting book filled with light and surprises.

Ten flashing Fireflies Monday October 26th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Elephant in the Dark (Based on a poem by Rumi) written by Mina Javaherbin and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

I cannot wait to share this book with my class and hear their reactions. So I will save my words about this lovely book until then. 🙂

 Elephant in the Dark Monday October 26th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Monster Trouble! written by Lane Fredrickson and illustrated by Michael Robertson

Rhyming and adorable. Winifred Schnitzel discovers what makes monsters run for the hills!

Monster Trouble! Monday October 26th, 2015 There's a Book for That

We did some beautiful art to accompany this title. I will share more photos soon. But this little striped tight monster was a particular favourite of mine.


Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

A powerful, engrossing read about 17 year old Naila who finds herself trapped into a forced marriage when her family brings her back to Pakistan. I couldn’t put this book down and immediately began recommending it to everyone. Definitely a young adult, not to be missed, title.

 Written in the Stars Monday October 26th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

This book is about many things – a young girl whose rare disease traps her in her home away from the outside world, first love, huge risks and secrets that you never saw coming. I look forward to reading more from this author.

everything, everything Monday October 26th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Updates on my 2015 Reading Goals:

2015 Chapter Book Challenge: 57/80 complete

Goodreads Challenge: 350/415 books read

#MustReadin2015: 16/24 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 64/100 titles

Diverse Books in 2015: 42/50 books read

Up next? I am reading I’ll be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Picture Books that celebrate courage

To celebrate Picture Book Month I have been sharing a variety of picture books and the conversations I am having about them with my students, my children and others. This post is a kind of conversation with my self. I am reading the novel Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt to my own children and it often comes up that Doug, the main character, has to be brave in so many ways.

How do picture books depict bravery? Courage? Conviction? Strength?

In, oh, so many ways . . .

Each of these titles features a character who comes face to face with fear, who takes a risk, who stands up or stands out. Each book is full of inspiration.

Ten of my favourites:

Picture Books that celebrate courage Twenty titles There's a Book for That

And ten more:

Picture Books that celebrate courage Twenty titles There's a Book for That

Twenty Picture Books that celebrate courage:

Those Shoes written by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

Pete and Pickles by Berkeley Breathed

Ruby’s Wish written by Shirin Yim Bridges and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

Willow Finds a Way written by Lana Button illustrated by Tania Howells

Bird Child written by Nan Forler and illustrated by François Thisdale

The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman

Sheila Rae, the Brave written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes

Spuds written by Karen Hesse and illustrated by Wendy Watson

Soccer Star written by Mina Javaherbin and illustrated by Renato Alarcão 

Across the Alley written by Richard Michelson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Black Dog by Levi Pinfold

The Lion & The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

Creepy Carrots written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown

The Dark written by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Hello, my Name is Ruby by Phillip C Stead 

Desmond and the Very Mean Word written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams and illustrated by A.G. Ford

Suki’s Kimono written by Chieri Uegaki and illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch

Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles and illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue

Singing Away the Dark written by Caroline Woodward and illustrated by Julie Morstad

What picture book titles on this theme would you share? I would love to hear your favourites!

Happy Picture Book Month!

pb month logo

Monday March 24th, 2014

It’s Monday! What are you reading?


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. One of the very best ways to discover what to read next!

I read some wonderful picture books this week. Here are my ten favourites:

Sparky! written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans

Okay, Wow. This book is so absolutely charming. And wonderfully slow – yes, like a sloth. There are giggle worthy images – like the sloth in a box having just arrived by Express Mail. Or when we see that Sparky (the sloth) can win at a game – if it is Statue where you need to stand very still.  It is about our desires and vulnerabilities. Why else post a sign about a Trained Sloth Extravaganza where you plan to prove that your pet sloth is really quite amazing? And spend days teaching him tricks . . . ? If you make it through the book and aren’t sold, the last page will get you. And then you like me, will have to buy this book or . . . send away for it to be delivered by Express Mail.

Sparky! #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Promise written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Laura Carlin

When I saw that Nicola Davies – my go to author for nonfiction titles had written a fiction title, I had to find it. And read it. And own it. I plan to read this book to my students along with The Curious Garden by Peter Brown and The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering. All three titles share similar messages – nature is essential, being part of a growing landscape is transformative and filling the world with more green can enrich our lives and build our communities. Only criticism – I love all of the images in the book, except the cover. Wish they had chosen a different illustration to feature. But peek under the book jacket for another gorgeous image.

The Promise #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Boy and the Airplane by Mark Pett

I really wasn’t prepared for how funny I found this book. Funny as in completely amusing – it caught me off guard in the best of the ways. A little boy loses his airplane on the rooftop. He tries in vain to get it down. His eventual strategy works – but it might not be what we all might choose. Another title I now want to own for my wordless collection.

 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Soccer Star written by Mina Javaherbin and illustrated by Renato Alarcão 

This book is set in Brazil and tells the story of young children living in poverty. Their days are full of work while their heads are full of dreams. Maybe they will be future soccer stars like Garrincha, Pelé and Ronaldo and find a way to lift their families out of poverty. The dreams give light and energy to the hardships of everyday and the evening soccer game is a treasured, shared time daily. I reviewed this book with my students responses in more detail here.

Soccer Star  #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Lila and the Secret of Rain written by David Conway and illustrated by Jude Daly

I am always on the lookout for folktales and stories set in other places. I am excited to add this to my classroom collection. Lila’s village in Kenya is experiencing drought. Her grandfather whispers the secret of rain to her. Lila sets out on a quest to bring rain to her village. She does this by sharing her sadness with the sky. A beautiful book.

Lila and the Secret of the Rain  #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Letter Lunch by Elisa Gutierrez

Love the stores full of letters, letters scattered in plants, the bottles of vowels and the Z on the top of the mountain. The fact that it is wordless makes it even more powerful. Perfect for a reader who loves to get lost in the details. So much to explore in this book.

Letter Lunch #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Cave Baby written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Emily Gravett

A celebration of children’s art and colourful pictures. A rhyming read aloud title with the talented Gravett as illustrator. Can see this being a read and reread aloud for persistent toddlers who will be delighted by it!

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Friends by Eric Carle

Lovely for story time. Reminiscent about a lost childhood friend, Carle celebrates a best friend and his imaginative search for her over time and distance after she moved away.

 Friends #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Eric the Boy who Lost his Gravity by Jenni Desmond

What happens when we get really angry? An interesting take on how it feels. Highlights the sibling wars of early childhood and the blame game of the parents. Interesting. Pair it with When Sophie gets Angry- Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang. Anger and managing our emotions are things we should be talking about with children. These books give us a jumping off point.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Running with the Horses by Alison Lester

What a book. This is a longer picture book set in WWII. Nina and her father must rescue Lipizzaner stallions that they look after at the Royal Academy of Dancing Horses in Vienna. Nina rides Zelda, an older mare, who her father suspects is not up for the journey into the safety of the countryside. Courage. Adventure. History. Alison Lester has written and illustrated a beautiful book. She does note that while the story was inspired by the rescue of the Lipizzaner stallions, it is not meant to be a historically accurate account of the actual events.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Novels I finished (all on my #MustReadin2014 list):

Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle

Add me to the long list of readers who has been utterly charmed by the character Nate Foster. I loved his small town inexperience. His candor. His charm. The fact that he talks about his parent’s marriage problems, personal problems and parenting problems. I love that he talks about not knowing who he might like in the future and that he hasn’t got a gender all picked out yet. I love his friendship with his best friend. And then there is his audition. Okay, I basically just loved all of it.

Better Nate than Ever #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech

I sat down to read this book one evening during a “family read in” (fireplace on, everyone grab a book and snuggle on the couch) and I didn’t put it down until I finished it. Beautiful writing. Touching story. My heart ached and soared. I have been thinking about this book for days. For many reasons. One of which is that I have a student that would so benefit by being “found” and loved by John and Marta.

 The Boy on the Porch #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Allegiant by Veroncia Roth

I really hate writing negative reviews and I shouldn’t be because I should have abandoned the book but I didn’t for a few reasons 1) at about 200 pages in, I was getting into it 2) it was on my #MustReadin2014 list 3) I had to get to the controversial ending

But . . . Here is what irked me 1) Characters were constantly fiddling with the hem of their shirts. Huh? But everyone doing this often. 2) The writing just wasn’t good.  Biggest issue? The dual narration and not being able to remember who was telling the story at certain points. Don’t think Roth really delivered in Tobias’ voice 3) Reading should never feel like a chore and I had to force myself to sit and read both at the beginning and after about page 250.

Still I did finish. In the end, I enjoyed Divergent and should have just stopped there. Much preferred the Legend trilogy if anyone is in the mood for YA dystopia.

 Allegiant #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Reading Goal updates:

2014 Chapter Book Challenge: 23/100 novels complete

Goodeads Challenge: 147/650 books read

#MustReadin2014: 12/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 42/65 complete

Speaking of #MustReadin2014 – for anyone participating in this challenge, we talked about sharing our progress at the end of March. I am planning to do a post for April 1st. Anyone else in? Doesn’t have to be huge and full of reviews, unless you want it to be. Maybe just a list of titles you’ve read so far. Highlighting some favourites? Ratings? I know this community will bring their own style and signature to it! I will start tweeting some reminders using the hashtag #MustReadin2014 over the next week.

Celebration: Stories, Special Days and Spring cleaning (no, not windows)

Celebration honoured. This is the loveliest of reasons to share. Join Ruth Ayres who shares a Celebration Link up on her blog each week.

celebrate link up


I can’t think of a week where I don’t celebrate the power of stories and connections through stories.

This week I celebrate sharing my student’s comments and responses to Soccer Star written by Mina Javaherbin and illustrated by Renato Alarcão (to be released in April of 2014). Such a special title – my students’ reactions reveal how wonderful this title is to share in the classroom. Thank you to Mina for making sure I got a copy of this book to have in my classroom. It is already treasured.

Soccer Star Celebration: Stories, Special Days and Spring Cleaning There's a Book for That

I also celebrate being mentioned here with such a lovely compliment by one of my favourite authors Deborah Heiligman on the INK blog this week. Thank you to Deborah for honouring my love of nonfiction and my love of my students. I especially love connecting the two! This post reveals exactly how magical Deborah’s book The Boy who Loved Math was in my classroom.

Celebration: Stories, Special Days and Spring Cleaning There's a Book for That

Special Days

Don’t ask my husband because he will not be able to tell you but . . . it was in fact 17 years ago today that I walked down the aisle in a green dress carrying a bouquet of white tulips to the song The Girl from Ipanema and married this man I share my life with. Two beautiful children, lots of strong cups of morning coffee and many memories later, I am happy to celebrate this day! Here he is below (casting for hours) when we celebrated our anniversary last year at our favourite place to rent in the San Juan Islands.

Celebration: Stories, Special Days and Spring Cleaning There's a Book for That

Spring Cleaning (not windows and baseboards but gardens and blogs)

In the garden . . . A few years ago we renovated our house and my lovely garden survived but just barely. Life has been busy (working full time doesn’t lend itself to morning coffee and gardening mid week!) and it is only now that I am truly trying to revive the spaces I love so much. This transformation has no budget so it is basically going like this: Has it survived? Split it, move it, celebrate it. Right now, this involves a lot of cutting back, weeding and contemplating.

Celebration: Stories, Special Days and Spring Cleaning There's a Book for That

On the blog . . .

I have finally had time to deal with all of my little notes to myself to add to certain lists, update posts, etc. on this blog.

In the last few days, I updated these lists with new titles.

Big issue Titles

The appeal of a series: Hook some young readers!

Death & Bereavement

I also had a chance to post this post: Make the Time: 15 things that matter It was something that has been rolling around in my head for a while and with all of the gardening, it came together. I would love if anyone in the Celebration community would like to add a comment on the post. I have the feeling many of you would have much to share. Many thanks!

Celebration: Stories, Special Days and Spring Cleaning There's a Book for That

Soccer Star

My class was thrilled to be some of the first kids out there to listen to this new title by beloved author Mina Javaherbin. Last year we read her books Goal and The Secret Message.

Soccer Star written by Mina Javaherbin and illustrated by Renato Alarcão is published by Candlewick Press and will be released in April of 2014.

Soccer Star  There's a Book for That

Having a classroom full of soccer enthusiasts and children who come from many different countries, I was very curious as to what the children would notice as we read. What would stand out? What would they talk about? What would they question?

This book is set in Brazil and tells the story of young children living in poverty. Their days are full of work while their heads are full of dreams. Maybe they will be future soccer stars like Garrincha, Pelé and Ronaldo and find a way to lift their families out of poverty. The dreams give light and energy to the hardships of everyday and the evening soccer game is a treasured, shared time daily.

Renato Alarcão‘s illustrations are stunning and had the children talking right from the cover image:

“I noticed that they are playing soccer in water with bare feet. I wonder if it hurts to kick the ball?”

“The sand and ocean look so beautiful. It must be amazing to run through the waves.”

Our main character is Paulo Marcelo Feliciano (“His name is so long – he sounds like he’s famous,” one child observed). He dreams of becoming a soccer star one day and changing the future for his family. In the meantime, he looks after getting his little sister to school as his Mom heads off to work. We learn that Paulo and Maria play soccer together every night and that she teaches Paulo math from school. This page prompted lots of discussion from the students.

“Why can’t he do math?”

“Doesn’t he go to school?”

“Maybe the family only has enough money to send one child to school?”

“Hold on, what? You have to pay to go to school?”

“Maybe you don’t have to pay money. Maybe he needs to work for money.”

“But doesn’t his Mom work?”

We explored the idea through more discussion. Could it be that Paulo was not able to go to school because he had to help the family earn enough money to survive? The children were saddened by this idea. Some just couldn’t believe it.

The walk to school for Paulo and Maria is special. They dribble a soccer ball the whole way and talk about Paulo’s team. When we find out that she can’t be on the team because of the rule “No girls” there is again much discussion. One of our keen soccer players, Brian, brought up a very good point:

“They said the rule is no girls allowed. But it says that Maria can do a bicycle kick and they are very hard. She should be on the team because she is very talented.”

Brian stood up to demonstrate the concept of a bicycle kick and the comments continued.

“Whoa! does her brother even know how to do that?”

“Just because she is a girl doesn’t mean she can’t play.”

The next few pages of this story are brilliantly done. Each depicts different boys at work, always with their heads full of soccer. The children wrestled with this whole idea of children working. Could they really be working? Or was it that they were just goofing around waiting until game time? By the final boy, it had sunk in. This work was necessary for these boys and their families.

“None of them are in school.”

“Some even have to take care of their little sisters and they aren’t at school either.”

“That’s a lot of work for an older brother.”

“I don’t see any girls working here. I wonder what they would have to do?”

By the time we meet Pedro climbing coconut trees, the children don’t think this is play time.

“He’s getting the coconuts to eat!”

“To share!”

“To sell!”

Paulo heads out to the fishing boats with Senhor da Silva. The children wondered what they talked about on the ocean. Did he think about soccer or did he have to concentrate on his tasks? Some worried about the small boat on the water with the dark clouds all around.

When the boat is finished for the day, all of the team helps pull it to shore and it is time for the soccer game!  All the students smiled at the energy of the boys who had been working all day, all together now on the beach.

“All day they have been at work thinking and dreaming and now they get the fun of playing soccer!”

“They are running on the beach thinking they are soccer super stars like Ronaldo!”

“They look so free!”

“And excited.”


When one of Paulo’s teammates is hurt, the students immediately began to shout that Maria should get to play. The outcome of this decision and the game is worth much celebration.

The day at the beach ends and the page is lit up with lights from all of the homes lining the hills next to the shore. I asked the children what they were thinking.

“This is my favourite page. It is so peaceful and beautiful.”

“I like that there was change. Kind of like a riddle – the change was to make no silly rules about girls and boys. Just everyone together.”

“This is a book about believing in yourself.”

“Follow your dreams.”

“Listen to your heart. Follow where it is going.”

My favourite comment might have been this one that came a few minutes later.

“Remember before when we were talking about the colours of skin in books. This is a book that does it. It shows lots of different and mixed skin colours. It seems real.”

Joyous. Uplifting. Rich material for discussion. Highly recommended.

Fly Free

We love making art in our classroom. It seems always to be more powerful when it is a response to a book we have read. I don’t think it is hard to figure out why – books inspire us to think and feel and reflect and respond. Art is all about responding creatively to what we are thinking about. So the picture book/art connection is a powerful one.

There is a bit of a story to how my Grade 2/3s happened to create these pictures:

 Fly Free! There is a Book for That

It started with the wonderful book The Secret Message that author Mina Javaherbin sent to our class after we had made a connection with her when we reviewed her book Goal! This book, based on an ancient  Persian poem by Rumi, tells the story of a wealthy  merchant and his parrot. The beautiful bird sings of longing and dreams of freedom and yet, his only reward is a larger cage. When the merchant travels to India, the parrot asks him to tell his wild parrot friends of his captivity and how he misses flying in the forest. The birds manage to send a secret message back to their parrot friend in Persia, ensuring his route to freedom. This story inspired many questions and lots of discussion. Big themes of course involved freedom and the merchant’s right to keep a wild bird captive.

The Secret message

Students were not impressed by the larger cage that the merchant bought the parrot. They felt it didn’t come close to measuring up to the beautiful forest where wild birds flew free. This got me thinking about an art project I had pinned to my art boards on Pinterest. It was from the wonderful art blog Mrs. Picasso’s Art Room. This project also looked at birds and cages and questioned captivity. Inspired by this project, I decided to have the students draw their own bird cages that they could have birds perch upon. We also incorporated the message from Mina when she signed her book for us: Fly Free!

Students began by drawing an elaborate bird cage with black crayon and oil pastel. We thought about a door to the cage and making it stand out as firmly closed. Some students began with mock up sketches to think about shape and design.

 Fly Free! There's a Book for That

Finished cages were elaborate and beautiful. We talked about how we liked the idea of these cages for decoration but not for keeping a bird inside!

 Fly Free! There's a Book for That

We then made our birds after looking at many picture books and nonfiction books that featured parrots but also other exotic and beautiful birds with interesting colouring and decorative bills. A favourite was a book that celebrated being observant about the details of different birds: Puffin Peter by Petr Horacek. Simply gorgeous! The striped beak of this little puffin made its way onto many finished birds! We loved the layered colours and the loose lines that outlined this beautiful bird.

 Fly Free! There's a Book for That

Drawings started with crayon. Some looked very puffinesque (thanks Petr!)

 Fly Free! There's a Book for That

Other birds came in different shapes.

 Fly Free! There's a Book for That

Some students were very excited to make their birds multicoloured using layers of crayon and oil pastels.

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Two colours on the beaks were very popular

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Big theme? Pride!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

And smiles!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Students then cut out their birds and the signs they had made that expressed either: Freedom of Fly Free. They positioned them on the page so it was clear that the birds were perched outside the cages and voila – beautiful art projects with a message!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

The great thing about this project? As we worked on it over multiple days, our discussions continued. As students worked, they talked about blending colours, interesting birds and what it means to be free. What could be better?

Thanks to Mina Javaherbin for such an important 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 February 25th, 2013

It’s Monday! What are you Reading?

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

I love Sunday nights when I reflect on my reading over the week and join Kelle and Jen’s meme to share books read from picture books to young adult novels.

Because I am really supposed to be writing report cards, my book descriptions will be shorter than usual. Report card writing has also interfered with my reading time. This week I only finished one novel: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, a Printz title by Benjamin Alire Saenz. But, oh, what a novel it was . . . So much I loved about this book. It was a truly beautiful read. Loved the relationship between mothers and sons. The respect for family. The search for who exactly one might be. I love the contemplative narration. The vulnerability revealed. Oh, did I adore this book . . .

Aristotle and Dante- It's monday What are you reading?

Picture books I read:

Ten Birds by Cybele Young A great book to spark discussion! I personally love the illustrations. They are wonderfully quirky and odd. A counting theme but much more . . .

Ten Birds - It's Monday!

The Little Red Fish by Taeeun Yoo Library love and mixed up feelings of real and unreal as one travels literally, and not, through the pages of a book. Stunning!

littleredfish It's Monday!

These Hands written by Margaret H. Mason and illustrated by Floyd Cooper Such voice in the Grandfather teaching his little grandson what “these hands” can do. And then . . . what “these” hands cannot do because of racist ideas. Beautiful book. I need to own it.

these hands It's Monday!

Goal! written by Mina Javaherbin illustrated by A.G. Ford My students adored this book and wrote fantastic reviews. The illustrations are so full of life, the text beautiful to read aloud. I loved the celebration of play. These words in the text were my favourite: “When we play, we forget to worry. When we run, we are not afraid.”

Goal! by Mina Javaherbin

The Monster Returns by Peter McCarty A sequel to Jeremy Draws a Monster – don’t think it would be as cute if read as a stand alone. But as a sequel, charming.

The Monster Returns - It's Monday!

Looking for a Moose written by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Randy Cecil Wonderful combination of energetic playful language and sweet images.

Have you ever seen a moose — a long-leggy moose– a branchy-antler, dinner-diving, bulgy-nose moose?”

Looking for a moose - It's Monday

Kite Day: A Bear and Mole Story by Will Hillenbrand Hillenbrand writes such whimsical, sweet stories. Adventure shared by two friends. Adorable.

Kite Day - It's Monday

Nonfiction titles:

Queen of the Falls by Chris VanAllsburg This was a fantastic read aloud that held my Grade 2 reading group on the edge of their seats. How could a 62 year old woman plan and execute a stunt such as going over Niagara Falls in a barrel? Here is the story of Annie Edson Taylor, determined to make her fortune by being the first person to go over the falls.  A compelling and sad story.

QueenofFalls - It's Monday!

Watch this video of VanAllsburg discussing creating the book:

Oscar and the Frog by Geoff Waring A cute little book that introduces concepts of growing and how different living things begin, grow and develop. I liked the connections between plants and animals.

Oscar and the Frog

I discovered that this book is part of an entire collection of Oscar books to introduce science/nature concepts to young readers. Would love to get all of the titles for my nonfiction collection.

Oscar Collection


Goal! written by Mina Javaherbin illustrated by A.G. Ford was our BLG read aloud this week. Thanks to Harpreet for sharing it with us!

Goal! by Mina Javaherbin


Set in South Africa, this book tells the story of good friends, a new soccer ball and the bullies that threaten their freedom to play. Ajani has won a brand new federations sized ball for being the best reader in class. He brings this ball to play with his friends. How thrilled all of the boys are to not have to play with their old plastic ball! However, the streets where they play are not safe and one boy at a time must take a turn standing guard on the roof. When bullies show up, the boys are able to outsmart them, concealing their new ball. Their old ball is taken but when the bullies are gone, the game can continue!

This book is universally appealing because of the celebration of play and, of course, of a favourite sport played all across the world: soccer/football. Kids were instantly connecting to make-shift goals, scoring, racing after the ball and playing with friends.

The illustrations are gorgeous. You can feel the bright African sun, the dusty streets and the joy and concentration as the boys play.

My favourite lines of the book:

When we play, we forget to worry.

When we run, we are not afraid.

Student reviewers respond:

Shereese: I thought it was smart when they hid the football in the bucket so the bullies wouldn’t break the ball. He was pretending to cry but why did they pretend to cry? For the author: Do you like your book?

Kevin: Why do the bullies want to steal the ball? Why do they need to use the buckets as goals? Where did the bullies come from? Some boys have flip flops and some have shoes. My favourite is scoring the goal!

Pheonix: Bullies are so mean.

Andrew: Why did the bullies steal the ball? Why did the bullies didn’t want them to play football? I connected because I play soccer with my friends. In the story the boys use buckets for goals and I use a sweater for goals.

Kala: How come you didn’t make the kid fall down? Is this story true? Why did you make them pretend to cry?

Kassidy: Why did the boy carry a bucket? Why did the bullies steal the balls? Why is the street bad for the boys? I like when the boy pretends to cry. Why did the bullies take the old ball? How did the illustrator make the boys so real? How did you come up with this story

Ashley: My favourite part was that the bully boys were taking the old ball and the good nice boys were happy because they had a new ball with them. I do not like the mean boys. I like that the nice boys were so happy that they can play soccer now. The pictures are so so nice. I am feeling happy that the nice boys can feel happy. I am feeling happy because they can be playing soccer and they still have a soccer ball.

Giovanni: Football is soccer. The kids had fun playing football. They had a new ball.

Heman: My favourite part is when the boys hide the new ball from the bullies. The bullies was riding bikes. The boys were playing football. They used upside down buckets for the net. Some of the boys were wearing flipflips. Why did the bullies steal the ball from the boys?

Arianne: In Africa they play football. We call it soccer. The boy won the new ball for being the best reader.

Kelvin: My favourite part was the kids trick the bullies and take the ball. The kids faked cry. They wait for the bullies to get far far away to play football again.

Vicky: When I listened, I was thinking about the boys playing soccer. In Africa, they call it football. My favourite part was the boy got first prize for reading. I did not like the bullies. Harpreet, did you like this book so you picked this book?

Brian: My favourite part was when the kid scored a goal. Why did the big bullies take their old ball away. My Dad taught me that football means soccer.