Archive for September, 2014

Meet Author Neil McFarlane

Posted on September 25th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Author Neil McFarlaneNeil Roy McFarlane is from the UK. He lived in Asia for over ten years and speaks passable Chinese. He writes in his spare time.

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

When You Were a Worm by Neil McFarlaneWhen You Were a Worm is a collection of short stories written in the second person (as is my previous book A Month of Bedtime Stories). Both books are aimed at parents who enjoy reading to/with their children. In each story of When You Were a Worm, ‘you’ (i.e. the listening child) change into an animal and embark on a rather silly and fantastical adventure. For example, in one story you change into a flea and become the star performer in Professor Heckler’s World Famous Flea Circus; in another you change into a caterpillar and go back in time to teach prehistoric caterpillars how to change into butterflies. As to what I’m most proud of, the question tempts me to be serious and claim it’s educational – the kids are going to learn some zoology and get an insight into the lives of these creatures. It’s true that was something I kept in mind when I wrote the stories, but I have to admit that was secondary. What I really wanted to do was entertain and delight.

When You Were a Worm (and Other Stories and Creepy Crawlies!): Funny, Creepy Crawly Short Stories for Parents to Read to/with Children Aged 6 to 11 at

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favourite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

I graduated through three authors as my childhood progressed: Enid Blyton (The Faraway Tree series), Tolkien (Lord of the Rings), and Ray Bradbury (The Illustrated Man). The Faraway Tree series and The Illustrated Man (and the Narnia series which I also loved) all involve traveling through a magic portal into other worlds. Lord of the Rings just was another world, no portal required. The common thread – of fantasy and escapism – is obvious, but I’m not sure why I was so desperate to escape. Maybe my childhood was worse than I remember it, but I think I just enjoyed such wild flights of imagination.

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?A Month of Bedtime Stories Thirty-One Bite-Sized Tales of Wackiness and Wonder for the Retiring Child

Hmmm. Well, I don’t consider myself as having been published. I have signed a deal with a ‘proper’ publisher, but the book (a language learning textbook) isn’t finished yet. So far, with these storybooks, I’m ‘only’ self-published and have sold very few copies to boot. At which point some people might wonder: “Why are they interviewing this nobody?” Well, maybe I’ll end up becoming the new Dickens, but if on the other (more likely) hand I remain rather obscure and unknown, it still wouldn’t be a great tragedy for me personally, because writing is something I love to do. Fame or obscurity, I just really enjoy the experience of writing and being creative. So in terms of offering encouragement to other aspiring writers, I’d just say: do it if you love it.

When did you realize that you would be a writer/illustrator? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?

I realized I wanted to be a writer when I was about 8 years old. I just fell in love with reading and thereby living in other worlds. It was a way to have a(n admittedly one-sided) conversation with the greatest minds both living and dead. I admired writers more than anyone. I quickly realized that when I was watching a movie, the actor was just mouthing the words, and the director was just directing the story, that the writer had written. The writer was the great puppeteer who pulled the strings. It’s kind of like being God. An engineer can make a vacuum cleaner; a builder can make a house; but as a writer, you can make a whole world. Wow wow wow!

If we were watching over your shoulder as you work on a book, what would we see? Where do you work? What does your writing / illustrating process look like?

With A Month of Bedtime Stories, I would usually wake at 5am on weekdays to write for a couple of hours before going to work. Then I would write some more on the train to and from work, usually on scraps of paper, sometimes even on train tickets and till receipts if I’d run out of paper. Then at weekends I’d go out walking on the coast path and have more ideas and stop to jot them down on more scraps of paper. Everything would then be typed out at night. Writing this way, it took me two months to complete at the rate of about one story every two days or so. If you were to look at all those bits of paper, it would be pretty indecipherable owing to my terrible handwriting, edits, deletions, insertions, and a multitude of geometric symbols which would be meaningless to anyone but me.

I thought the title A Month of Bedtime Stories was catchy, but really thirty-one stories was a bit ambitious. The hardest part was clawing my way across the finish line without losing focus or feeling my standards were slipping.

Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with children. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?

The first person to read A Month of Bedtime Stories was a lady at work. The next day after reading the first couple of stories to her 7-year-old daughter, she came up to me at work and proceeded to tell me about how much they both enjoyed it. It was such a big effort writing that book and therefore such a relief to know it wasn’t all some vain exercise in self-delusion, that tears welled up in my eyes. So I was trying to turn away and pretend to scratch my cheek to wipe away a tear without her noticing. It was kind of embarrassing. I am British, after all. (Stiff upper lip and all that jazz.)

Does music play a part in your writing/illustrating? If so, what sort of music do you connect with your work?

Several characters sing songs in A Month of Bedtime Stories. At one point a red Indian hedgehog sings this song while communing with the spirit world to discover a way to steal caster sugar from a herd of evil deer witches:

Ho yay hicky yicky
Ho yay hakka chakka
Yanna wanna holy no
Hi yay ho yay

Hicky chicky cha cha
Yanna wanna ha ha
A-tishoo a-tishoo
We all fall down!

And in another story, a platoon of marching crabs, who act like a kind of Greek chorus presaging the events to come, sing this song:

Yo ho ho and a bucket of suds
Ethel wait no baby go slow mo
Ring-a-ding nocerouse, sparrow, bee, eek-a-mouse
Chop like a chop chop, crow like a crow!

And in another story an old lady called Mrs Teasel has a finger which sings a magic song, but I can’t reveal the lyrics because it would be a total plot spoiler.

Classic Picture Book: Go Away Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley

Posted on September 23rd, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts shares classic picture book Go Away Big Green Monster! by Ed EmberleyGo Away Big Green Monster! written and illustrated by Ed Emberley
Die Cut Classic picture book published by Hachette Book Group

Bold colors and clever die cuts highlight this simple, classic picture book for children aged three years and up. When we first meet Big Green Monster, we see only his large yellow eyes. A turn-of-the-page later and we are staring at his large nose and his eyes. Enthusiastic children will “read” along as white teeth, small ears, purple hair, and green face are added to the monster’s visage.

So, GO AWAY, scraggly purple hair…

A happy conclusion allows youngsters to ensure the monster disappears as quickly as he arrived. Great fun for all and a good opportunity to extend the learning by exploring colors and descriptive words.

Lesson plan from UNC School of Education – Describing Words

Read Write Think lesson plan

Scholastic Reading Club lesson plan

SMART Exchange lesson

Go Away, Big Green Monster! at

Go Away, Big Green Monster! at

Check our Pinterest Board for Teaching Ideas and Ways to Extend Learning for Go Away, Big Green Monster!

Ahoy Me Hearties – Come Discover Pirate Picture Books!

Posted on September 19th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts - Say Ahoy to Pirate Picture Books

Ahoy Me Hearties – We invite you to keep readin’ on these fun pirate picture books and download our free pirate theme printables!

Pirate Picture Books

Storytime Standouts Looks at Pirate Theme Picture Books Including How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long and David ShannonHow I Became a Pirate written by Melinda Long and illustrated by David Shannon
Pirate picture book published by Harcourt, Inc.

Jeremy Jacob is enjoying a day at the beach when he notices a pirate ship at anchor just off shore. His adventure begins when the pirates enlist his help as a digger. Before long he squeezes into a rowboat that is filled with unsavory characters. When Jeremy Jacob joins the crew on the ship, pirate life seems ideal – no need for “pleases” and “thank-yous”, vegetable-free meals, late nights are all great until Jeremy hopes to enjoy a bedtime story, a “tuck-in” and a kiss goodnight.

David Shannon’s distinctive illustrations lend themselves well to pirates with ruddy complexions, missing teeth, whiskers, gold earrings and scars but could be too intense for some very young children.

Adults will want to caution children that Jeremy’s decision to go with strangers is not appropriate.

How I Became a Pirate at

How I Became a Pirate at

Storytime Standouts Looks at Pirate Theme Picture Books Including Pirate Pearl by Phoebe GilmanPirate Pearl written and illustrated by Phoebe Gilman
Pirate picture book published by North Winds Press a Division of Scholastic Canada

Precious Pearl grows up on board a pirate ship and she seems to bring good fortune. Bold and unconventional, she would rather give treasure away than bury it. When she boards Prince Basil’s ship she is in for a surprise. She discovers that she is a long lost princess. Before long, Pearl, Prince Basil and a crew of pirates invade her family’s castle and expose the villain who is living there.

Pearl is one of a kind – neither a typical princess nor a standard pirate. Exuberant illustrations match the tone of this fun read aloud for children aged four and up.

Pirate Pearl at

Pirate Pearl at

Storytime Standouts Looks at Pirate Theme Picture Books Including The Pirates of Captain McKeeThe Pirates of Captain McKee! written by Julie Lawson and illustrated by Werner Zimmermann
Pirate picture book published by Scholastic Canada

The Pirates of Captain McKee is a rollicking adventure story that was a nominee for The 1996 Canada Council for the Arts Governor General’s Literacy Award for illustration.

When two children are warned not to go near a canoe, the warning is accompanied by a wink so they put on life jackets and climb aboard.

Through fast-running currents, through slow-rolling tides,
Far into the fading light,
Through sun flecks and sunset, through dusk’s purple haze,
The canoe sped into the night.

The magical canoe takes the two children to an anchored pirate ship. The pirates nearby are intimidating and the children are frightened until they smell roasting marshmallows.

Beautiful illustrations and appealing rhyming text make this a great choice for children aged four and up.

Storytime Standouts Looks at Pirate Theme Picture Books Including Small Saul by Ashley SpiresSmall Saul Written and illustrated by Ashley Spires
Pirate picture book published by Kids Can Press

Saul is not quite tall enough to be a sailor but he knows that he is meant to sail the seven seas. He is undeterred and decided to become a pirate. He attends pirate training and earns his diploma but he has difficulty finding a pirate crew to join. Eventually he joinsThe Rusty Squid and he can’t wait to find ways to contribute. Unfortunately, his unconventional ways come to light quickly. “It didn’t take long for the other pirates to notice that something was different about Small Saul.”

A great pick for pirate fans and also a happy exploration of self acceptance.

Kids Can Press’ Storytime Activities for Small Saul

Small Saul at

Small Saul at

Pirate Map Interlined Paper from Storytime Standouts

Storytime Standouts’ Free Pirate Theme Printables

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Pirate

Pirate theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Pirate Map

Pirate theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

Meet Author Lisa Manzione

Posted on September 18th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts interviews author Lisa Manzione

Author Website

Author Twitter account @BellaAndHarryGo

Author Facebook page

Book Series Website

The Adventures of Bella and Harry Lets Visit Maui by Lisa ManzioneTell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

The latest book published is Let’s Visit Maui!. The book series is perfectly suited for ages 5-10. I am most proud of the fact the series has been very well received by parents, librarians, teachers, but most of all, children!

Let’s Visit Maui!: Adventures of Bella & Harry (The Adventures of Bella & Harry) at

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?

It was extremely difficult to get the first book in the series published. As a matter of fact, I had one publisher tell me the books were “too educational” for US children. Once I heard that comment, I was even more determined! I found a small publisher in South Florida and the first book was published. After attending Book Expo America, I realized I could publish the books on my own. I created my own company, hired a staff, and 14 books later, we are very pleased with our success.

As far as words of encouragement…Don’t give up! If you truly believe in our product, the right opportunity will come along. It just takes time and persistence.Bella and Harry Lets Visit Athens by Lisa Manzione

What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

I think the greatest joy is seeing how much children enjoy reading and learning about the world. I am just thrilled every time I speak to a youngster and they can tell me what Bella & Harry have taught them. I really love it when the child tells me they know even MORE about the cities/countries than Bella and Harry because they have done research on their own or with their classroom.

What are the biggest challenges of being an author / illustrator?

I believe the biggest challenge is keeping a child’s interest in a story. In the Bella and Harry series, the stories are educational. I think it is necessary to keep the story fun (which holds their attention), but to also have a significant amount of educational content which can be a huge challenge because I don’t want the book to feel like a history book.

Have any of your books been published electronically? If so, what was that process like? What sort of feedback have you had from readers?

Yes, the books have been published electronically through Reading Rainbow Kidz. There is an option with RRKidz…the book can be read aloud to you or you can turn that option off and read the book yourself.

The process with RR Kidz was a lot of fun! We have received tremendous feedback from readers, especially early readers who enjoy the narration option initially.

We plan to have additional e-books available in the fall, 2014.

If you could dine with any author/illustrator (alive or dead), who would you choose and why?

If I could dine with anyone it would be James Patterson. I love his “women’s murder club”series!

Additionally, James Patterson lives in South FL and is very active in children’s literacy programs, which I just LOVE!

Do you do school or library presentations? If so, please briefly describe topics/ geographical limitations.

I love to do library and school presentations! Generally, I read one book during the presentation, followed by a question and answer session. Those that answer the questions correctly are given a prize…sometimes another book, a Bella plush stuffed animal, back pack, etc. At the end of the presentation I give each child a book from the series that we did not read. Depending on the age of the children, sometimes I autograph the books individually as well.

As far as limitations, if I have advanced notice, there really are no limitations. If advance notice is limited, I can always Skype. In this instance, I would send the book ahead, so we can still do most of the above.

Classic Picture Book: Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola

Posted on September 16th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts features classic picture book Strega Nona by Tomie de PaolaStrega Nona written and illustrated by Tomie de Paola
Classic Picture Book originally published by Prentice-Hall, now Simon and Schuster

Everybody, soon or late, sits down to a banquet of consequences.

– Robert Louis Stevenson

When I reflect on the picture books we shared with our young sons, Strega Nona is one that I recall with special affection. It is a story that can be enjoyed by a wide range of children (and their adult caregivers). Preschoolers who are accustomed to hearing stories read aloud will enjoy the humor, kindergarten-age and primary grade students will also be engaged by the matronly and generous “Grandma Witch” and her well-meaning but accident-prone assistant. Storytime Standouts features Strega Nona including this illustration by Tomie de Paola

Strega Nona was getting old, and she needed someone to help her keep her little house and garden, so she put up a sign in the town square.

And Big Anthony, who didn’t pay attention, went to see her.

“Anthony,” said Strega Nona, “you must sweep the house and wash the dishes. You must weed the garden and pick the vegetables. You must feed the goat and milk her. And you must fetch the water….

The one thing you must never do… is touch the pasta pot. It is very valuable and I don’t let anyone touch it!”

Adapted from Sweet Porridge (also known as The Magic Porridge Pot), children who are familiar with foreshadowing will correctly predict Big Anthony’s ‘mistake’ and will relish the problem he creates and Strega Nona’s fitting solution to it.

Highly recommended for children aged four years and up.

The story of how Strega Nona came to be – on Mr. de Paola’s website

Bright Hub Education Lesson Plan Suggestions for First Grade

Scholastic lesson plan for Strega Nona

Teacher Vision ‘Predicting’ lesson plan

White Swan Theatre study guide

Caldecott Honor Book in 1976
School Library Journal “Top 100 Picture Books”

Strega Nona at

Strega Nona at

Strega Nona Pinterest Board

Follow Storytime Standouts’s board Strega Nona an old tale retold and illustrated by Tomie de Paola on Pinterest.

Embracing Differences: Little Jimmy Says, “Same Is Lame”

Posted on September 15th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts looks at antibullying picture book Little Jimmy Says,  Same is LameLittle Jimmy Says, “Same Is Lame” written by Jimmy Vee and illustrated by Mike Motz
Antibullying picture book about embracing differences published by Atlas Press

“What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity.”
― J. Sidlow Baxter

in this semi-autobiographical new picture book, marketing expert, magician, author and ventriloquist Jimmy Vee explains why being different is much more interesting than living an ordinary existence.

Because I am different, it makes me feel proud. I’d rather stand out than blend in with the crowd.

Citing many examples of physical features, Vee encourages young readers to celebrate their appearance and abilities while acknowledging the fact that they are not like everybody else.

Upbeat, rhyming text and bright, colorful cartoonish illustrations depict wearing glasses, baldness, wearing braces, having a large nose, freckles, an unusual voice, being a different height than your peers and having a facial scar. Young readers, especially with encouragement from adults, are invited to think about ways differences can be exploited and can ultimately be perceived as assets.

Little Jimmy Says, “Same Is Lame” at

Classic Picture Book: The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Posted on September 10th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts recommends Classic Picture Book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

In honor of International Dot Day (September 15th), this week we are highlighting classic picture book, The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Storytime Standouts Features Classic Picture Book The Dot by Peter H. ReynoldsThe Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
Classic Picture Book published by Candlewick Press

One of my favorite picture books, The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds will strike a chord with children, teens and adults who lack confidence in their ability to ‘make art.’ Vashti doesn’t believe she can draw or does not want to draw. She sits through an entire art class but does not make a mark on her sheet of paper. Vashti’s teacher is understanding and she encourage’s Vashti,

“Just make a mark and see where it takes you.”

Vashti grabbed a marker and gave the paper a good, strong jab. “There!”

Undeterred by Vashti’s reluctance, her teacher asks her to sign the page. She does sign the paper and leaves the classroom. When she returns a week later, her ‘artwork’ has been framed and is hanging near to her teacher’s desk. Upon reflection, Vashti decides that she is quite capable of improving on her first dot.

Before long, she is confidently experimenting with watercolors and larger sheets of paper. She creates an entire collection of artistic dots – every size and color.

A wonderful resource for children and adults who are reluctant to “make their mark.” The Dot and Mr. Reynold’s inspiring illustrations should not be missed.

Dot activities – from Peter H. Reynold’s website

The Dot at

The Dot at

Our Pinterest Board for The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Follow Storytime Standouts’s board The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds on Pinterest.

International Dot Day

International Dot Day is September 15

Fireflies A Writer’s Notebook

Posted on September 5th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Fireflies A Writer's Notebook by Coleen Murtagh ParatoreFireflies A Writer’s Notebook by Coleen Murtagh Paratore
Journal for writers published by Little Pickle Press

Ideas can surprise you like fireflies on a dark summer night, but sometimes it seems like all of the fireflies are hiding…

From beginning to end, Coleen Murtagh Paratore’s Fireflies A Writer’s Notebook shares a lovely message with writers: I respect you and I believe in you and your ability to write something special.

Inspiring quotes, helpful writing tips, intriguing prompts and though-provoking questions are sure to captivate young writers and encourage them to think and write with confidence. Lined and blank pages, in pastel colors offer plenty of space to brainstorm, outline, list, write, explain, recall or doodle. We especially enjoyed the quotes from (children’s book authors) Jane Yolen, Karen Cushman, Jacqueline Woodson, Kate DiCamillo and Stephen King.

For a preteen or older child who loves to write, Fireflies A Writer’s Notebook would be a lovely gift. It will become a treasured place to express thoughts, ideas, memories, reflections and stories.

It is interesting to note Little Pickle Press prints and distributes their materials in an environmentally-friendly manner, using recycled paper, soy inks, and green packaging.

Read our review of Coleen Murtagh Paratore’s The Funeral Director’s Son

Fireflies A Writer’s Notebook at

Fireflies A Writer’s Notebook at

Meet Author Illustrator Ruth Ohi

Posted on September 4th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Meet Author illustrator Ruth Ohi (photo by AnnieT)Ruth Ohi is the illustrator of over 50 children’s picture books (17 of which she is also the author). She lives in Toronto, Canada and is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design.

Her books have been selected for the Pennsylvania Centre for the Book’s “Bakers’ Dozen”, the Canadian Toy Testing Council’s “Great Books”, the Ontario Library Association’s “Best Bets” and the Toronto Public Library’s “First & Best”. They have been shortlisted for awards such as the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book, Amelia Francis Howard-Gibbons, Shining Willow, Blue Spruce and Rainforest of Reading awards.

Ruth Ohi’s Facebook page
Ruth Ohi’s website URL
Instagram: @RuthOhi

Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend created by Ruth OhiMs. Ohi’s latest published children’s book is Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend (Scholastic Canada/Sept 2014)
Social Issues/Friendship
Social Issues/Emotions and Feelings

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it?

My hope would be that “Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend”(Fall 2014/Scholastic Canada) could be enjoyed by anyone who is a friend, would like a friend or wishes to be a friend. Fox and Squirrel’s first story, Fox and Squirrel (Scholastic Canada, Fall 2013) showed that despite their differences, the two could find enough in common to be friends. Their second story came from looking out my studio window and admiring how squirrels could hang out in the highest, teeniest tree branches and thinking, “Hm, Fox couldn’t go there.” And I wondered what if Squirrel met someone else way up high and forgot all about Fox for awhile and how that would make Fox feel.

Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend at

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favourite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

For chapter books it was Lois Darling of the Beverley Cleary original releases. She drew Ramona and Beezus in a way that was so satisfying for me. I very much empathized with Ramona about apples and marshmallows. For picture books, there are too many to list. I think the combination of artists like Leo Lionni, Maurice Sendak, Ezra Jack Keats, Dr. Suess and Robert McCloskey resonated with me because their words and pictures made me want to linger on the pages. They made me care about their characters.

When did you realize that you would be a writer/illustrator? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?Storytime Standouts looks at Shh! My Brother's Napping by Ruth Ohi

Making stories with pictures has always been incredibly satisfying and I’ve always loved picture books, but it wasn’t until university that I seriously considered art as a career. It just took a little while for me to realize it could be an actual full time job! My family was amazingly supportive and that was huge for me. It still is. My sister, Deb (who writes and illustrates under the name of Debbie Ridpath-Ohi) is my guru for all things internet. Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend is dedicated to my first Great Nephew, Ian who is truly a bundle of joy.

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries or bookstores?

I do have a website where I post preliminary work sketches, my portfolio, and news that made me happy. It’s also where you can find a listing of my upcoming public events, info about booking visits, activity sheets and everything you will ever need to know about my books. Hm, except where to buy them, what their ISBNs are…okay, my website needs work! I’ve also just joined Instagram where I’ll be posting personal illustration and story projects.

Oh, and I’ve made two booktrailers for “Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend”! The first is only 21 seconds and is the result of my experimenting with stop motion photography. The Second is 56 seconds and includes a snippet of a live drawing demo. I’m the one filming the live demo—it’s truly tricky drawing and taping at the same time! Both trailers can be found on my website and YouTube.

What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

Just doing the work—writing, revising, scribbling, painting. Finding the perfect balance between the words and the drawings. But I honestly don’t think a picture book really comes into being until a reader finds it. Seeing or hearing about someone who enjoys the book—that’s an incredible source of pleasure for me.

Seeing students use my books or brainstorming tips for their own stories and pictures is super awesome. One of the greatest letters I’ve ever received was after a presentation from a young child, which read:
“Now I love to right.”

Clara and the Bossy by Ruth OhiIf you weren’t an author / illustrator, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?

In the summers, as a teen, I’ve worked as a florist, a daycamp counselor, a city special events co-ordinator. As an adult I’ve been fortunate enough to illustrate and write full time. If I wasn’t an author/illustrator, I’d very much love to work with young people in the creative arts.

Do you do school or library presentations? If so, please briefly describe topics/ geographical limitations.

I have enjoyed presenting to many schools, libraries, conferences and family festivals across Canada. It’s definitely one of my favourite aspects of this job—sharing words and pictures with adults and kids. And my presentations are easily adapted to suit any age group.I'd Know You Anywhere

Presentations typically include a digital slideshow demonstrating where I get my ideas from. I show character sketches, storyboards and how I draw to brainstorm new ideas. Also included are Q&A, some original artwork and an interactive drawing demonstration. The last 10-15 minutes may be a hands on workshop where participants are very keen to try a brainstorming activity that I tailor especially for that audience. I enjoy speaking one on one to as many as possible about their work during this time. Typically a school or library visit is 45-60 minutes. A maximum audience size of 120 works well for JK/SK through Grade 8. Numbers may increase for older audiences.

Shh! My Brother’s Napping is a highlight of 2014

Posted on September 2nd, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts looks at Shh! My Brother's Napping by Ruth OhiShh! My Brother’s Napping written and illustrated by Ruth Ohi
Picture book published by North Winds Press An Imprint of Scholastic Canada

Read our interview with Ruth Ohi

My two children were born about 2 1/2 years apart. My older boy was always a great sleeper – he slept through the night from six weeks and had very regular naps. My second son was a completely different story. It took months and months before he slept through the night and naps were never easy and rarely of a predictable duration. Sometimes he slept for thirty minutes, sometimes he slept for two hours. Sleep was an on-going challenge and source of frustration to his weary parents. Given my experience with children napping, I was intrigued to read Shh! My Brother’s Napping.

Ruth Ohi’s picture book Shh! My Brother’s Napping is a highlight of 2014.

From cover to cover the characters ooze personality. Poor mama, she struggles through a rainstorm, carrying groceries and pushing a stroller. She holds her umbrella so it will protect her youngest child. Her older child is walking ahead, filled with energy and enthusiasm for the day. By the time the family arrives home, the baby is asleep in the stroller and his older brother warns readers that it is time to be quiet.Shh! My Brother's Napping spread

Shh! My brother’s napping.
He really needs his sleep.
He was grumbly as a grouch,
and now lies in a heap.

What follows is a charming tale of mama’s wish to prolong the nap as long as possible despite older brother’s play. Children and adults will be charmed by the illustrations and will laugh at the older brother’s lack of sensitivity – he’d like to play some makeshift drums and paint his brother’s face.

Featuring many great opportunities for youngsters to inference and make predictions, Shh! My Brother’s Napping, will be thoroughly enjoyed by parents. It would be a great gift for those who are celebrating the arrival of a second, third or fourth child.

Free Shh! My Brother’s Napping printables from Scholastic Canada

Shh! My Brother’s Napping at

Shh! My Brother’s Napping at

Time to Reestablish the Bedtime Reading Ritual

Posted on September 1st, 2014 by Jody


Back to School Means Its Time to Reestablish the Bedtime Reading RitualMost teachers and parents are glued to the news and various forms of social media, hoping to hear the news that public schools will be back in session on Tuesday, or at the very least, next week. It’s been a longer summer than we’re used to and it started under less than ideal conditions. I don’t know one teacher who isn’t sad about the quick way we had to say goodbye to our classes in June. But alas, all this stuff makes us stronger, right? We’ll see.

In a typical summer, your child’s reading level will probably lower. This summer, because of it’s length, this is even more likely. It happens: later bedtimes, fun activities, and vacations change the routine that many of us have established through the school year. When we get back to school, we spend those first weeks reestablishing routines, both at school and at home. I can’t honestly put into words how very much I want (NEED) school to go back next week, but while we’re waiting, we can slowly start pushing ourselves and our children back into those old habits.

Getting to bed earlier, what used to be “on time”, is important. I’m not very good at this one, myself. I figure that the first week of having to get up at six thirty will curb my tendency to stay up until one a.m. For our kids though, it’s nice to ease them into it. This last week or so, we’ve been getting home earlier if we’re out, sending the kids to get ready closer to their usual time. The main reason for this is to reestablish the bedtime reading ritual.

Throughout the school year, this is one we try to hold onto tightly. The fifteen to thirty minutes with each of the girls at the end of the night is just as important to my husband and I as it is to them. Somehow, being told that it’s time to go up and read causes less confrontation that it’s time to go up to bed. One of the best things you can do for your child, regardless of whether school goes back, is get this routine going again. Get them excited about books, about reading. Maybe pick out a special book at the library or bookstore to get you back into things.

Students reading every night plays a huge role in their fluency and comprehension. Whether you’re reading to them or they are reading to you, this is a time that can result in great conversations with your kids. Why would the main character do that? Would YOU do that? What might you have done? My youngest likes to read to us but my oldest likes to be read to. Children (okay, people) are never too old to be read to. Just because your child is going into an upper grade, doesn’t mean that quality reading time has to stop. In fact, it might even be more important.

When they’re little, children are your shadow. But when they get older, they start to turn into themselves more, or to friends. That reading time at the end of the day is your chance to connect. We know how busy the days are, with school, work, activities, more activities. Building that constant into your schedule, keeping it that way, will allow for a time when your child can open up to you, if they want. They’ll know that at the end of every day, you’re checking in with them. Maybe they don’t want to open up about what boy they like or the mean girl at school, but they’ll know that you’ll be there and they can listen to your voice or that you’ll listen to them. There’s comfort in that. Our children take comfort in routine and whether school is back or not, it’s time for us to get back to it. Good luck with the first day, whenever it is.

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