…storytime, books, apps, and ideas

Oh, Canada!

A huge stack of books is sitting on my living room floor. At least half of them are from Canadian publishers, authors, or illustrators. I bet you can guess what this post is going to focus on. So, here we go!

darkestI’ve been waiting to get my hands on The Darkest Dark, by Chris Hadfield, illustrated by the Fan Brothers (Tundra Books).  Hadfield wowed me from space with his photos and songs, and the Fan Brothers wowed me with their book The Night Gardener , so I was really looking forward to this one. I was not disappointed. It is the story of a boy who loves everything about the moon, but is afraid of the dark. His love for outer-space helps him overcome his fear, and gives hope to all young dreamers. Based on Hadfield’s own life, this story will be a hit in classrooms and storytimes. And the illustrations! Oh, those pictures will grab the reader and have them looking at every detail. It is a beauty, so don’t miss it. Smells nice, too.

From Canadian publisher Second Story Press and Plan International comes As A Boy. We know that around the world, boys are treated differently than girls. This book explores that, and gives boys solutions to helping create equality for any gender. Full of beautiful photographs, this is an interesting way to explore gender.

Two new books from Sara O’Leary is cause to celebrate. First off is You are Two, illustrated by Karen Klassen. The bright collage and paint pictures will appeal to the newly two-year olds at your toddler storytimes, and they will relate to the gentle text that we expect from O’Leary’s child-view books. I’m really excited about A Family is a Family is a Family, illustrated by Qin Leng. The title says it all– O’Leary explores so many types of families – this book is geared to be uber-inclusive. Leng’s cartoon drawings are just right for the book’s tone. family

Go really local with Doretta Groenendyk’s new book, A Harbour Seal in Halifax, from Nimbus Publishing.  Based on a true story about a lost seal pup, and filled with the cool blues and whites of a winter night, this book by Valley resident Groenendyk will be a fun one to share.

Staying with the night theme, pick up Turn on the Night by Geraldo Valerio (Groundwood Books). A wordless night-time romp bounds across the pages as a little girl’s imagination is brought to life with acrylic paint.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not the sportsy type. I will admit it here in public: I’ve never been to a hockey gamturn-nighte (but I have watched curling, so that has to count for something, eh?) So it may surprise you to see me recommend The Hockey Song, a book based on the Stompin’ Tom Connors song, illustrated by Gary Clement (Greystone Books). Everyone is playing hockey in this book – boys, girls, moms, dads, all ages, all races. The illustrations made me look again and again. kulu

Sweetest Kulu, written by Celina Kalluk and illustrated by Alexandra Neonakis (Inhabit Media) is not new — it was published in 2014. But is is new to us, and it is time we owned this lovely little ode to a newborn. Set in the Arctic, it is filled with animals and plants that bring the region right into the lap you are sharing with this book. The paintings are full of light and movement, and fit the words just right.

For Teachers:

Staying with the First Nations theme, I have two longer books to recommend for teachers. First up is The Spirit of the Sea by Rebecca Hainnu, illustrated by Hwei Lim (Inhabit Media, 2014). This is an Inuktitut story of a proud girl who becomes a sea spirit. I would recommend it for orcaolder readers, maybe grades 3-5, as the story deals with deception, cowardice, and other issues that need maturity in order to appreciate. Full of lovely watercolour illustrations, and it even includes a helpful pronunciation guide.


And last, but not least, is Orca Chief by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd (Harbour Publishing, 2015). This British Columbia tale is illustrated with iconic paintings that evoke aboriginal art from the northwest. The story is one that teaches respect for nature and for our food sources. These two books would be perfect for a First Nations study.

I saw thjazz dayis list from Huffington Post and was really hoping for a big pile of books with diverse characters. Now, some of the books are, I’m sure. But the stack I brought home was not as diverse as I had hoped. Ooh! I just discovered this blog– EveryDay Diversity.  It will help in my quest for diverse books.

First up is Jazz Day by Roxanne Orgill, illustrated by Francis Vallejo, published  by Candlewick. I love it when a picture book introduces me to a bit of history that I had not heard of. This famous photograph of jazz musicians, taken in Harlem in 1958, is explored by Orgill in poetry form. Some of the poems really sing, and the artwork does swing, like a good jazz album should. My favourite page is the “Click” on a black background that opens out to the actual photograph. This book is great for classroom poetry or music lessons. surfs

Kwame Alexander’s Surf’s Up is next in my pile of books. Illustrated by Daniel Miyares, published by North South. This is a boogie-board of a poem featuring Bro and Dude – two pals (who Miyares depicts as frogs) spending a day at the beach.Bro is completely engrossed in reading Moby Dick, much to the chagrin of Dude. All this happens in a very few choice words, which Alexander excels at. The story is added to by Miyares’ froggy buddies, with a large white whale looking on in the backdrop.

ottersOtters Love to Play by Jonathan London is a fun one for nature lovers. I really enjoyed the illustrations by Meilo So in this one — her watercolour otters swoosh through the pages in swirly paint strokes.

This one isn’t going to appear on anyone’s list of great diverse books of the year, but I have to add littleredLittle Red by Bethan Woollvin into the mix. I love a good absurd book, and this one fits right into that category. This British import is almost your typical Red Riding Hood story, until Little Red makes the most of the wolf and ends up in a wolf suit by the end. And granny? No rescue in this version. Eaten by the wolf in one big gulp and one grand spread. For kids who love the scary books and can handle a bit of dark humour.

I’m looking forward to reading more picture books from this list, and definitely will be looking for more books with diverse characters.

Honestly, my summer has been so busy that I’ve had very little time to look at picture books. But I found three that Istoryteller really must share with you.

First up is The Storyteller by Evan Turk, published by Atheneum. I loved Turk’s illustrations in Grandfather Gandhi, so I was really looking forward to this new book. And I am not disappointed. Turk’s illustrations, created with “water-soluble crayon, colored drawing pencils, inks, indigo, sugared green tea, a heat gun, and fire” are appropriately desert-toned, as the setting is Morocco. The story is about drought, but also about the lack of stories. Stories represent water, and lively blue swirls are visual metaphors for words and water. The striking page layouts and bold lines make this art that one can return to again and again. I love this book, and I think it would make a good choice for listeners who like a longer story and who can appreciate the lovely artwork. I am going to read it again and again.

ookoBefore I share this next book, I have a confession. I am a Book Sniffer. Yes, I love the way books smell. And some books smell better than others. Some have that old-book smell, some just have an abundance of ink. This one smells woody, like a fresh forest hidden inside the pages, which is appropriate, as it is a book about a fox named Ooko. Written by Esme Shaprio and published by Tundra, this is a story of a little fox who wants a friend. the watercolor and colored pencil illustrations create a whimsical world for Ooko. The pages are lovely and the story is just right for a young child.

And finally, there’s a soft spot in my heart for anything that Tomie DePaola illustrates, and so of course I moonsapprove of this collaboration with Patricia MacLachlan,  The Moon’s Almost Here.This book features a very simple poem just right for bedtime sharing, and DePaola’s signature illustrations beckon the reader into a twilight blue world.

Enjoy the rest of summer, and I will try to be back soon with more books!

Storywalk 003As part of the ALA session, Early Literacy beyond the Library, I am talking about our success with StoryWalks and StoryMobs. This blog post has the links to all the info I referenced in the session, plus a link to the Wiki for our session. Most of your questions about creating a StoryWalk or hosting a StoryMob, will be found on these links.  Here we go!

ALSC blog post about StoryWalk HERE

StoryWalk permissions and history: http://www.kellogghubbard.org/storywalk

StoryWalk easy version blog post on Valley Storytime

StoryWalk Video: Live action video  and photos

StoryWalk blog post from Curious City

StoryMobs website: http://storymobs.ca/               pp storymob 019

ALSC blog post about Green Eggs & Ham StoryMob

StoryMob Video: Live action Green Eggs & Ham

Still photos Wild Things

Pumpkin People StoryMob (photos)

StoryMob on ValleyStorytime blog


Here’s another group of picture books to keep your summer reading basket full!

Little Butterfly by Laura Logan, Balzer + Braybutterfly

This is a wordless book, so unless you are an expert in sharing those at storytime, this one is probably best one-on-one. But it is a lovely little story about a girl who helps a butterfly. Peek under the dust jacket for a nice little surprise. Share with kids who have big imaginations.

The Ugly Dumpling by Stephanie Campisi, illustrated by Shahar Kober, Mighty Media

A modern twist on an old tale, this little dumpling feels ugly until it sees others just like it. The twist comes not with the play-on-words of “dumpling”, but in the fact that dumpling, aided by a friendly cockroach, discovers that being different is actually quite OK. Add a bit of diversity into your storytimes with this one. Fun illustrations, lots of good vocabulary, and it will make your listeners think.dumpling

A Fire Truck Named Red by Randall de Seve, Illustratd by Bob Staake, Farrar Strauss Giroux

I have to admit—I have never really been a fan of digital illustrations. But Bob Staake has changed the way I feel about that. His book, Bluebird, changed it for me. The story told in that wordless book made me really dig deeper and look at what he had done with digital art. I still struggle with some digital art, but when Staake illustrates a book, I know I am going to be wowed, even if it takes me several readings to get there. This one is like that. It is a seemingly simplestaake story of a boy who wants a flashy fire truck but gets an old one. Grandpa tells him stories, which then ignite his imagination. Good story. But Staake makes the magic happen. In a  spread where the boy is drawn, literally, into the story – into a sepia-toned world where the story is the magic, Staake hooked me. Share it with kids, who will love the story, and look deeper at the illustrations, which might make you, too, into a believer.

I Love You More and More by Nicky Benson, illustrated by Jonny Lambert., Tiger Tales

While a bit saccharine for my personal tastes, I am including this one becsuperheroause it will make a good choice for baby storytimes. Parents with newborns will enjoy the sentiment and any time I can convince someone to read to a baby, I’ll do it. Sweet book.

Arctic White by Danna Smith, illustrated by Lee White, Henry Holt & Co.

Those of us in the North know that there are so many colours of white. This book celebrates those colours, and gives us a glimpse into the frosty world of the Arctic. But it is the other colours—those of the Northern Lights – that make this book shine. I’m a sucker for books about the Northern Lights, which I am fascinated by and hope to see one day. Pair with Painted Skies by Carolyn Mallory.

Ten Rules of Being a Superhero by Deb Pilutti, Henry Holt & Co.

Superheroes never seem to go out of style, and this romp with Captain Magma and Lava Boy will delight the action-figure lovers in us all. The bright gouache paintings fit perfectly with the tone of the story, and a follow mefitting end page, with our two superheroes covered up and asleep, is just right.

Follow Me by Ellie Sandaff, Margaret K. McElderry

This is a good choice for toddler storytimes for several reasons. There’s a nice refrain of Follow Me, follow me, follow me. There’s some fun vocabulary. And those striped tails—they are so much fun, on each page. Could be a great introduction to patterns, too. And lemur—that’s a fun word to say. This one is just plain fun.

moreigamiMore-igami by Dori Kleber, illustrated by G.Brian Karas, Candlewick Press

This little guy, Joey, loves things that are folded. Like tacos, maps, accordions. When he is introduced to origami, his little mind is obsessed. He begins to fold everything, and that starts to annoy his family. Resolution comes when a restaurant owner lets him fold napkins. I love this one for the diversity depicted in the illustrations— the child, the community, and the introduction of culture to a young reader – all are a perfect fit.  It even includes instructions for a beginner origami fold. 

Summer Reading

We have some new books, just in time for summer reading. Picture books are NOT just for little kids, you know. Everyone should rdollhouseead a stack of picture books now and then. Here are some suggestions.

This is my doll house by Giselle Potter;  Schwartz & Wade Books

Imagination is the key in this story. A little girl makes her house from cardboard, and uses her imagination to create the family and their daily activities. Her friend has a fancy store-bought dollhouse – quite sterile and not much fun. When the two girls play with the fancy one, they are bored, When they play with the hand-made one, stories happen. The lovely primitive-styled illustrations bring forth the imagination message. A great one to pair with Sara O’Leary’s This is Sadie.

hectorHector and Hummingbird by Nicholas John Frith;  Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., 2016.

Storywise, there’s not much new here: one friend is annoyed by another, until that friend goes away, then is missed. There’s a little communication problem going on between Hector Bear and Hummingbird. The retro-inspired illustrations, with their turquoise, pink, brown, and green palette, are fun and fresh, and reinforce a simple message that kids can learn a gentle lesson from.

Hare and Tortoise by Alison Murray;  Candlewick Press,

A fresh version of the story for a new generation of young listeners. Digital illustrations that have the feel of cut-paper collage and paint are bright and will attract kids. Slow and steady wins the race, once again.

chimps for tea
Chimpanzees for Tea by Jo Empson;  Philomel Books

Another in the “Forgetful Boy” line of stories, Vincent is sent to the store with a list, runs into a circus, and of course, forgets to bring home the things on the list. He does, however, bring home animals and other characters from the circus, so it is a big party at the end. Exuberant watercolors make this a fun one, with repeated readings guaranteed.

The Perfect Dog, by Kevin O’Malley, Crown Books for Young Readers

Youngsters hoping to get a dog will love this book—and parent will appreciate that the perfect dog—is one that is happy. A fun addition to storytimes with cartoon-like ink & digital illustrations, and lots of good vocabulary.


Only a few to recommend this week, but they are all winners.

Picture booksthunder boy

Thunder Boy Jr. By Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales. Little, Brown Kids

What a power combo for a picture book! Alexie has a pitch-perfect voice for the main character, and Morales has a gorgeous palette & joyful line to match the tone. In this story of a boy who wants his own name, Alexie gives us a peek into a father-son relationship that just happens to be from a Native viewpoint. (Alexie is from the Spokane tribe, and so we may intuit that their naming traditions are portrayed here.) This book is a lovely look at how a child feels about his own selfhood; it just happens to contain a cast of diverse characters, beautifully portrayed in Morales’ cartoon-realism style. If you use it in a classroom, read this link.


gardenerThe Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers, Simon & Schuster

Terry & Eric Fan are Canadians – so if you are looking for some Canadian content, shout hooray, because this book is a real looker. I am hooked on the art- shades of green and blue and grey alternating with sepia-toned pages move the story along. And the story is a fine as the pictures. A sad, grubby street is suddenly brought to life by a man who creates topiary during the night. A young boy follows him, and learns the trade. The transformation lasts as the Night Gardener passes his secrets along to this small, lonely boy. A gorgeous book, at storytime or one-on-one.

For teachers….pinny

Pinny in Summer, by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant, Groundwood

In four short chapters, this little charmer follows Pinny and her three friends as they pick berries on a summer’s day. They meet a seagull, and Pinny teaches them (and the reader) a lesson in patience. Teachers could use this as a writing example—the whole book takes place in one day, with several events that tie together. Child-like illustrations add ambiance to the text, but do little to advance the story. Put it on your suggested Summer Reading list.