Author Archive

Tremendous Trees! We Recommend Picture Books Celebrating Trees

Posted on September 20th, 2018 by Carolyn Hart

Picture books highlighting trees recommended by Storytime Standouts

Sharing a selection of picture books about trees has led to some wonderful discoveries. The books we write about are ones that were respectful of trees, some using them metaphorically. Often, they include references to the seasons and to the cycle of life.

Elsewhere on this site ~
Children’s books about the environment
Gardening Fun with Kids

Storytime Standouts highlights picture books about trees including The Alphabet Tree by Leo Lionnithe alphabet tree written and illustrated by Leo Lionni
Picture book about letters, words and a remarkable tree published by Dragonfly Books

A lovely tribute to the idea that there is strength in numbers. the alphabet tree opens with individual letters living happily in a large tree. When a very strong windstorm hits, some letters are blown out of the tree. The remaining letters retreat and huddle together. It is a word-bug that encourages the letters to work together to form words. Feeling stronger and more confident together, a caterpillar suggests forming phrases and, eventually, creating an important message for the president. An outstanding resource for encouraging print awareness, this picture book could also be interpreted as encouraging social or political activism.

The Alphabet Tree at Amazon.com

The Alphabet Tree at Amazon.ca


Leo's Tree by Debora Pearson and Nora HilbLeo’s Tree written by Debora Pearson and illustrated by Nora Hilb
Picture book about trees, seasons and family published by Annick Press

A lovely picture book to share with preschool-age children, Leo’s Tree begins when Leo’s parents plant a tree just after Leo is born. We watch as both the tree and the baby grow, changing through the seasons. Lovely watercolor illustrations follow Baby Leo, Toddler Leo and, eventually Big Brother Leo, playing nearby as the tree grows tall and strong. Gentle rhymes, repetitive text, and alliteration all contribute to a rich text that will appeal to young children.

Leo’s Tree at Amazon.com

Leo’s Tree at Amazon.ca

Storytime Standouts highlights picture books about trees including The Magnificent Tree by Nick Bland and Stephen Michael KingThe Magnificent Tree written by Nick Bland and illustrated by Stephen Michael King
Picture book about problem solving and creativity published by Scholastic

Bonny and Pop love creating things. Bonny takes a simple, straightforward approach. Pop is less conventional. they would both love to have birds stop and stay for a while but, instead, they just fly past. Bonny and Pop agree that the solution is to make a tree. In keeping with their personalities, Bonny approaches the tree problem simply. By contrast, Pop makes an elaborate plan and works day and night. Finally, Pop’s creation is ready and, on the first day of Spring, dozens of birds check it out before landing in Bonny’s project.

An exuberant tribute to finding more than one way to approach a challenge. Fun illustrations have lots of details that will have a special appeal for tinkerers.

The Magnificent Tree at Amazon.com

The Magnificent Tree at Amazon.ca

Storytime Standouts highlights picture books about trees including The Man Who Lived in a Hollow Tree by Anne Shelby and Cor HavelaarThe Man Who Lived in a Hollow Tree by Anne Shelby and Cor Hazelaar
Tall Tale about a man who decides to live in a tree published by Simon Says Kids

Beautifully illustrated and richly told in a storyteller’s voice, it is easy to imagine hearing this tall tale while sitting fireside on a winter evening. Harlan Burch lived in Appalachia long ago. He worked as a carpenter and spent time in the woods, choosing trees for his projects. Apart from cutting trees down, he also planted them – replacing each one that he cut with two saplings. One day, he came across a sycamore that was so large, there was room enough inside for Harlan to create a comfortable home.

Not long after moving into the sycamore, something strange happened. It was as though time had stopped and reversed. Harlan became more and more youthful. He soon married and had a family. The family thrived and grew, eventually populating all of Appalachia.

The Man Who Lived in a Hollow Tree at Amazon.com

The Man Who Lived in a Hollow Tree at Amazon.ca

Storytime Standouts shares a selection of picture books about trees including Red Leaf, Yellow LeafRed Leaf, Yellow Leaf created by Lois Ehlert
Picture book about a Sugar Maple Tree published by HMH Books for Young Readers

Featuring dazzling collage illustrations, great for a group setting/read-aloud, Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf shows readers real maple tree seeds (samaras), burlap, twine, wire, plant tags, and tree roots. Beautiful Fall colors are highlighted in the cover art and elsewhere in the book. The main text is large and tells the story of the origins of a maple tree, from the moment a seed falls in a forest through transfer to a garden center and eventual planting in a garden. In addition to showing readers the tree growing from seed to sprout to sapling, the illustrations also include unobtrusively labeled creatures that might live in and around a tree (squirrels, birds, earthworms) as well as other details that will promote learning.

A four-page appendix provides background information that will be helpful to young scientists and inquisitive researchers. An outstanding resource for kindergarten and primary-grade classrooms or for homeschool.

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf at Amazon.com

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf at Amazon.ca

Storytime Standouts highlights picture books about trees including Tess's Tree by Jess M. Brallier, pictures by Peter H. ReynoldsTess’s Tree written by Jess M. Brallier and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Children’s book about coming to terms with loss published by Harper Collins Children’s Books

Tess loves the tree in her yard. She loves to sit under it and read, she swings from it and, in Fall, she plays in the leaves beneath it. On dark, blowy night, two of the large branches are damaged and fall to the ground. There is no choice, the old tree must be taken down.

Tess’s emotions are strong. She is angry and sad. She knows that she must do something to honor the tree. She plans a funeral service to celebrate the life of her tree.

It is not long before Tess learns that the tree is not just hers. There are others for whom the tree was important.

Tess’s Tree provides an opportunity to explore important themes of love and loss with children. I have read some reviews that suggest that the story ought to have ended with Tess planting another tree. My personal perspective is that might be an obvious “solution” to Tess’s grief, in some ways, this particular tree was irreplaceable. Much like the loss of a friend, family member or pet, dealing with loss is not always as simple as finding a replacement.

Tess’s appears to be part of a single parent family.

Tess’s Tree at Amazon.com

Tess’s Tree at Amazon.ca


Free, Printable Tree-Theme Writing Paper for Home and Classroom

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Tree with bluebird

Tree theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Tree including roots

Tree theme interlined paper for beginning writers.


Picture Books About Worries and Fears

Posted on June 24th, 2018 by Carolyn Hart

Explore these picture books with children who have worries and fears.

Help your child learn to manage worries and fears with these picture books

Some children deal with new experiences and people with relative ease. For other children, there are reasons to worry about meeting new people, trying unfamiliar activities and beginning school. Anxious children may anticipate all sorts of dreadful outcomes that parents, caregivers and teachers don’t even consider. They may anticipate problems and focus on them, certain that outcomes will be unpleasant or even dangerous.

Enjoying these picture books together will provide opportunities for children to watch as a picture book character successfully overcomes fear and worry and manages a first day in a new classroom, sleeping in a dark room or listening to a thunderstorm.

Picture books for children who have worries and fears including David and the Worry BeastDavid and the Worry Beast written by Anne Marie Guanci and illustrated by Caroline Attia
Bibliotherapy about anxiety published by New Horizon Press

David and the Worry Beast was written especially to help children cope with anxiety. David’s worry beast causes him to worry when he plays basketball, when he’s at home and when he is at school. His anxiety grows and grows until he learns specific steps to cope with his worries. In addition to providing tips for children, the authors also have suggestions for parents.

David and the Worry Beast: Helping Children Cope with Anxiety at Amazon.com

David and the Worry Beast: Helping Children Cope With Anxiety at Amazon.ca

Franklin's Blanket is a picture book about a child's security objectFranklin’s Blanket written by Paulette Bourgeois and illustrated by Brenda Clark
Picture book about a security object published by Kids Can Press

When Franklin’s favorite blue blanket goes missing just before bedtime, he is distressed and has trouble settling down to sleep. Franklin tries to remember where it might be. The following day, Franklin visits his friends and discovers that they also have comfort objects that help them to manage challenging situations.

Franklin’s Blanket features familiar characters and offers gentle reassurance about managing emotions, including fear, with a Teddy Bear or a cozy blanket.

Franklin’s Blanket at Amazon.com

Franklin’s Blanket at Amazon.ca

Storytime Standouts looks at Noni is Nervous, a picture book about dealing with fears and worries surrounding starting school.Noni Is Nervous Written by Heather Hartt-Sussman and illustrated by Genevieve Cote
Picture book about managing fears, especially with starting school published by Tundra Books

There are things that make Noni feel anxious, including her relationship with a friend and world events. When we meet Noni, she is particularly concerned about starting school. Her family members reassure her that all will be well but Noni likes the comfort of home and being near to her mama.

Noni imagines all sorts of things that could go wrong at school and is relieved when she doesn’t get lost, her teacher isn’t a monster and she is able to open her juice box.

Noni Is Nervous will comfort children who are contemplating a new experience. Suitable for boys and girls aged four and up, the cheerful illustrations depict a racially diverse classroom and enhance readers’ understanding of the emotions that Noni is experiencing.

Noni Is Nervous at Amazon.com

Noni Is Nervous At Amazon.ca

The I'M NOT SCARED Book can help children deal with fears and worries.The I’m Not Scared Book written and illustrated by Todd Parr
Picture book about dealing with worries and fears published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Todd Parr writes about and illustrates several typical childhood fears including fear of the dark, of dogs, of starting school and of getting lost. Illustrations show both boys and girls (and a bear) in a state of being afraid, encouraging readers to take a closer look and gain understanding.

Bright, bold illustrations are well-suited to a small group read aloud. Children are shown with a variety of skin colors including blue and purple.

A good choice for a preschool or kindergarten classroom.

The I’M NOT SCARED Book at Amazon.com

The I’M NOT SCARED Book at Amazon.ca

Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears is a story that can be used to explore themes of worries and fearsLittle Mouse’s Big Book of Fears written and illustrated by Emily Gravett
Award-Winning picture book about fears published by Macmillan Children’s Books

Little Mouse draws, writes and creates collages to express fear. A fascinating and engaging format that includes cutouts, a foldout, a flap to lift and nibbled pages, Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears is a relatively dark picture book that is best-suited to older children (aged 5 or 6 and up). Winner of the 2008 Kate Greenaway Medal for distinguished illustration, this is an inspiring book that could be used to encourage young readers to express emotions through artwork and writing.

Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears at Amazon.com

Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears at Amazon.ca

Wemberly Worried is a picture book that can help children deal with fears and worries.Wemberly Worried written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Picture book about worries and fears published by Greenwillow Books

Wemberly is a little mouse with big worries. All day long, she finds reasons to worry at home and away from home. Her family tells her not to worry but that is easier said than done. When it is time to start school, Wemberly’s fears seem to multiply. She worries all the way to school.

Fortunately, Wemberly’s new teacher introduces her to Jewel. Jewel has not joined all the other mice, she is standing off to one side, observing. Before too long, Wemberly and Jewel are sitting together and Wemberly’s worries have subsided.

Wemberly Worried is a thoughtful, reassuring story that will provide reassurance to young mice (and children!) who are concerned about starting school. illustrated thoughtfully, not only are skin tones (hair color) diverse, Mr. Henkes also includes a young mouse who uses a wheelchair.

Wemberly Worried at Amazon.com

Wemberly Worried at Amazon.ca

Picture Books About Worries and Fears are a great resource at home and in classrooms.


Make Your Child’s Read Aloud Experience Magical- Like a Trip to a Theme Park

Posted on January 8th, 2018 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts shares 7 tips to create Read Aloud magic

Use our 7 tips to make your child’s read aloud experience enjoyable and magical for both of you!

  • Disneyland refers to itself as, “The Happiest Place on Earth!” We think that your daily read aloud experience should be the happiest part of your day. This is an opportunity to forget about work, forget about chores, forget about whatever is distracting you and make storytime an opportunity to focus just on your child. Read aloud is a time to escape into great picture books or chapter books and create wonderful memories and learning opportunities for your child.
  • Just as you might count down the days ’til you visit a theme park, create some excitement about the read aloud experience. “What shall we read tonight?” “I can’t wait for our storytime!”, “Let’s borrow a HUGE pile of books from the library this weekend!”, “What kind of book would you like for your birthday?”, “Which books shall we take on our holiday?”
  • It’s fun to go on the same ride more than once, it also completely fine to read the same book more than once! Each time you read aloud, children are learning new vocabulary, they are gaining phonemic awareness and exploring new ideas and new themes. Don’t worry if they want to hear the same book over and over again. They are still benefiting from the experience and enjoying the time with you!
  • The best theme park rides immerse the riders in the experience! We want to do the same when we read aloud. Use silly, giggling voices, stern, authoritative voices. Use high-pitched squeaky voices and low-pitched growls. Act out part of the story along with your child! Build a special fort and read inside it! Turn out the lights and read with a flashlight or read while stretched out on a picnic blanket. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t want to sit still for a story. It is completely fine to have your child play with Lego or draw a picture while you read.
  • Interrupt the story occasionally and be playful and engage your child. Encourage your child to make a prediction or tell you which farm animal he likes best or make a comparison to another story. Play I Spy with the illustrations or the text. When children make predictions and comparisons, they are flexing their comprehension muscles!
  • Just as you would choose age-appropriate rides at a theme-park, look for books that match your child’s maturity and interests. When she is ready, move past baby or toddler books and discover great picture books and chapter books. Every now and then, be brave and give something challenging a try – don’t be afraid to climb aboard that roller coaster!
  • Make time for you and your child to enjoy this simple yet rewarding escape every single day. It will be good for both of you – sort of like a trip to a magic kingdom!
  • Local Girl Missing – intriguing adult fiction for a change!

    Posted on July 25th, 2017 by Carolyn Hart

    Local Girl Missing by Claire DouglasLocal Girl Missing writting by Claire Douglas
    Adult fiction published by Harper Collins

    It is almost six years to the day since I wrote about adult fiction! These days, my volunteer work absorbs so much time and energy, I rarely take the time to write reviews of the books I make time to read.

    I do want to let you know about Local Girl Missing. It was exactly the sort of book that I was ready to discover. Interesting characters and a good mystery kept me awake late and guessing right til the end.

    Sophie disappeared off a dilapidated pier nearly twenty years ago under mysterious circumstances. When human remains wash up on a local beach, it seems almost impossible that they could belong to Sophie. The fact that the remains are in a trainer (track shoe), could mean that they could be identified as belonging to her and the family will be able to experience some closure.

    In light of the gruesome discovery, Sophie’s brother Daniel convinces Frankie to spend a week in their hometown, investigating Sophie’s disappearance with him. Visiting old friends and locations and being near to the decrepit pier is, at times, alarming and creepy for Frankie.

    Ms Douglas skillfully intertwines Sophie’s thoughts and experiences with those of Frankie by alternating the chapters. The book begins with Frankie’s thoughts in February 2016. The next chapter is set in 1997 and is narrated by Sophie.

    Well-paced and intriguing, Local Girl Missing is the sort of book I really enjoy. Entertaining and suspenseful, it kept me guessing until the pieces came together and the mystery was solved.

    Let me know about your favorite escapes! This is a book that reminded me of the pleasures of reading. Thank you to Harper Collins for providing me with the proof copy.

    Local Girl Missing at Amazon.com

    Local Girl Missing at Amazon.ca


    Books for Bedtime! Special Stories to Share with Children

    Posted on May 20th, 2017 by Carolyn Hart

    Great picture books for bedtime recommended by Storytime Standouts



    Finding the perfect bedtime story can make all the difference as toddlers and preschoolers settle down for the night. In this post, we have a look at some delightful picture books that will set the tone for a good night’s sleep. In the comments, we hope you’ll let us know about your favorite books for bedtime!







    A picture book about going to bed, 10 Minutes to Bedtime written and illustrated by Peggy Rathmann10 Minutes till Bedtime written and illustrated by Peggy Rathmann
    Mostly wordless picture book published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers an imprint of Penguin

    In this classic, fun picture book, Dad cautions his son that it is 10 minutes till bedtime. Within a moment, a pet hamster has summoned other neighborhood hamsters to stop by for ten minutes of fun. Preschool-aged (and older) children will enjoy the detailed and engaging illustrations that tell most of the story. Of course, the joke is on Dad as he has no idea what is happening behind his back, as his son gets ready for bed. Good fun and a great opportunity for language and comprehension development. Carefully ‘reading’ the illustrations and talking about what is happening is a big part of this bedtime story.

    10 Minutes till Bedtime at Amazon.com

    10 Minutes till Bedtime at Amazon.ca

    Storytime Standouts shares picture books about going to bed including Baby Bedtime Baby Bedtime written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Emma Quay
    Rhyming toddler picture book about bedtime published by Simon and Schuster

    Soft tones and sparse, rhyming text are hallmarks of this gentle picture book about a baby elephant’s bedtime. Cuddling and smiling, an adult elephant takes a baby elephant through a bedtime routine (including a story!) before finally saying goodnight.

    One of the really lovely aspects of this picture book is that the gender and age of the adult elephant is not specific. This could be a mom, dad, grandparent, aunt or uncle putting the youngster to bed.

    Baby Bedtime at Amazon.com

    Baby Bedtime at Amazon.ca

    Rhyming picture book about bedtime Steam Train, Dream TrainSteam Train, Dream Train written by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
    Rhyming picture book about bedtime published by Chronicle Books

    Wonderful rich vocabulary and onomatopoeia make this a wonderful bedtime story for preschool-age and older children. Children who are interested in trains, will enjoy hearing the names of the various cars (hopper, tender, reefer, gondolas etc.) and will hear the rhythmic text that echos the sounds we associate with stream trains.

    Set in moonlight, Mr. Lichtenheld’s illustrations, created with wax oil pastel are beautifully atmospheric. We especially liked the train’s arrival and the child’s moonlit bedroom.

    Steam Train, Dream Train at Amazon.com

    Steam Train, Dream Train at Amazon.ca

    A picture book about bedtime How to Put Your Parents to BedHow to Put Your Parents to Bed written by Mylisa Larsen and illustrated by Babette Cole
    Fun picture book about Bedtime published by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers

    Preschool-age and older children will enjoy the humor as a young girls tries to get her parents to go to bed. Chores, a computer, games, television and even cell phones are delaying mom and dad’s bedtime but, with determination, it is possible for her to get them settled and off to sleep.

    Older children, especially those who resist shut-eye, will see themselves in this fun role-reversal tale.

    How to Put Your Parents to Bed at Amazon.com

    How to Put Your Parents to Bed at Amazon.ca

    Princess Baby Night-Night written and illustrated by Karen KatzPrincess Baby Night-Night written and illustrated by Karen Katz
    Picture book about getting ready for bed published by Schwartz and Wade, an imprint of Random House

    Getting ready for bed can be an exhausting proposition. Princess Baby has lots to do. She not only puts her own pajamas on, she dresses her six special friends for bed too. She also helps with washing up, brushing teeth and selecting stories.

    Bright, beautiful collage illustrations make this a great story to share in a group setting. Fans of Princess Baby will want to explore Princess Baby and Princess Baby on the Go.

    Princess Baby, Night-Night at Amazon.com

    Princess Baby, Night-Night at Amazon.ca


    Introducing children’s book illustrator François Thisdale

    Posted on January 26th, 2017 by Carolyn Hart


    Storytime Standouts interviews illustrator François Thisdale For nearly thirty years, François Thisdale’s has worked as an award-winning illustrator creating images for children’s books, news magazines, annual corporate reports, and book covers for several clients in Canada, United States, Korea, China, Colombia, Spain and France. His trademark multi-textured images are the product of a unique blend of traditional drawing, photography and richly textured painting techniques interwoven with digital imagery that creates particular atmospheres. He is the illustrator of Missing Nimama which recently won the TD Award and The Stamp Collector, which is on the International Board on Books for Young People’s Honor List. He has also won a Notable Books for a Global Society Award and the Crystal Kite Award; been a TD Children’s Book Award Finalist; an OLA Best Bet; an Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award finalist; and a Willow Awards finalist. François lives near Montreal, Quebec.

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

    French Toast written by Kari-Lynn Winters and illustrated by François ThisdaleMy latest release is a picture book for age 4-7 entitled French Toast, a text from Kari-Lynn Winters published by Pajama Press.
    This is a great story about difference, about color of skin, about identity. Phoebe—half Jamaican, half French-Canadian—hates her school nickname of “French Toast.” Her grandmother uses descriptions of favorite foods from both of Phoebe’s cultures to celebrate the varied skin tones of her family. This is a great book for all ages and all colors.

    For that book, the challenge was inspiring. I’ve worked around different atmospheres to match color of food described in the story. I wanted to create poetic moods and incorporate food elements, like banana bread, tea, maple syrup or peach yogurt to build special images. I think I’ve succeeded to create a surreal world that helps to dive into this dialog between Phoebe and her grandmom. Each spread becomes a special place to observe these characters. I’m very proud of the result. I particularly like the tenderness of this little girl and the natural tones of the illustrations.

    French Toast at Amazon.com

    French Toast at Amazon.ca

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

    As far as I remember, I’ve always been attracted by drawing and art in general. At the age of 4 or 5, my favorite series of books was Tintin and Snowy, by Hergé. I’ve been moved deeply by one of these books, Tintin and the Blue Lotus. All Tintin and Snowy books were very special to me but this specific book haunted me by the beauty of images, the strange architecture, its colourful exoticism. It was great to be able to follow the story without knowing how to read. I had the impression of traveling far, far away.This is the moment where I have started to draw for the rest of my life.Later on, I saw a photography of Hergé’s studio in a magazine for kids. I’ve been very impressed by that shot. I wanted to do that, to draw all day long!

    When I left for China in 2003 to adopt our daughter, I admit that I’ve thought about my childhood, about that precious book and remembered how it inspired me as a kid. I didn’t know that China would give me the chance to become a father. I did lots of sketches in China and The Blue Lotus was still resonating inside of me.

    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? THISDALE Studio

    I’m working from home, an antique farmhouse, my studio is a luminous space with two large windows. Every single day starts almost the same, a good teapot of Oolong tea. I need lots of music and life is good!

    When I work on a picture book or on a book cover, I’m very passionate.

    A picture book project starts with the reading of the manuscript. That’s the moment where everything is possible. Each text brings different challenges to face. I need to understand characters, to learn from their stories and to find a link with my own life. I’m very grateful about authors, this is a real gift to share the world of other creators during months.

    The work begins with pencil and watercolour sketches, far from a final illustration but enough to give a direction to the book. I love to work on a sketchbook. I feel the same as when I’m traveling.

    From there, with comments from my editor, I start to work on images. First off, I build the skeleton of my illustrations with photographic references, part of painting textures, different details taken here and there, and I create a collage of photographies and paintings details, in Photoshop. I print that proof on my wide format printer and I paint over with acrylic and different mediums. Then, I scan this image to work it again in the computer. I add textures, collage, elements painted aside like skies, painted textures and adjust contrasts, levels, saturation. This is a long process, a kind of alchemy. And I love it!

    Thisdale Bike Riding I usually take an hour or so during the day to keep the shape and get my head cleaned. From April to November, I’m cycling around 35 kilometers a day. I love the sensation of the wind and the contemplation of landscapes. I alway carry my cell phone to take pictures that could improve the quality of my illustrations.

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

    My work, as a freelance illustrator, asks me to be well organized and disciplined. I see illustration as a language where I need to “say” things differently, regarding the text. When I’m doing a picture book, I want to create a dance between words and images and to enhanced some parts of the story by creating specific moods. This is a link, a bridge between the text and the reader. An illustrator must dive into the story and search to understand characters, to feel the story from his guts. Obviously, this is a great way to express myself and I think that I became an illustrator for that reason: the easiness to communicate that way, to “tell” things differently without having to say a single word, to understand and share someone’s world.

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

    Yes! I’m listening to music all day long. This is a great part of my inspiration. Music is something essential for me, something natural. As long as I remember, music has always been present in my life. My father was a pianist, I’ve played guitar a lot and composed music for shortfilms in a period of my life, music is an extension of my sensitivity. I like a wide variety of styles, depending of the moment. Today’ I’ve listened to Andy Stott, a londonian DJ, Yussef Kamaal, Ray Lamontagne and Radiohead and ended my working day with John Dowland solo lute music. Music is a great chance to discover different cultures and to admire creativity.

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

    Hard to choose… Let me give you three names.

    First, Eugene Delacroix simply for talking with him about his Moroccan sketchbooks. These sketches are still moving me. I visited Delacroix’ studio in Paris on place Furtenberg and had the chance to see some of these drawings.

    I would have liked to meet Carl Beam, who died in 2005, an Ojibway painter who worked on large format paintings that incorporates photo-imagery. I love his work and his attachment to his roots. I would have liked, for sure, to discuss about his technique of blending photo and painting as well as knowing more about the true meaning of some pieces of art I love.

    And finally Binette Schroeder, this wonderful German illustrator, to hear from this woman about her great career and to learn about this passionate person.


    Meet Author Kelly Santana-Banks

    Posted on October 27th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart


    Storytime Standouts interviews Kelly Santana-BanksKelly Santana-Banks is a writer of nonfiction and children’s books, and a former early childhood teacher and caregiver. When she was young, she loved to play teacher with her sister, cousins, and neighbors. As a young adult, she never considered teaching as a career, but little did she know that her childhood make-believe would pave the way to what would become her passion. With more than ten years of experience working with children—five of those years were dedicated to research in the area of child development as well as implementing best practices inside and outside of the classroom and a strong background in child development, she is an advocate for education, especially in early childhood. She writes fun stories to entertain and teach children as well as help parents find simple solutions for their little ones’ lives.

    You can find more about her or connect on her website

    You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter @ksantanabanks, Instagram and Pinterest.

    Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?Dinosaur Adventure a Field Trip to Remember by Kelly Santana Banks

    My latest release is called Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember, the second book in the series Let’s Learn while Playing. Different from my first book, which was a short nursery rhyme geared towards two, threes, and fours, Dinosaur Adventure targets more the older group of children (3–7)—given its amount of text and the vocabulary explored. This book is a product of my working experiences with children inside and outside of the classroom, including fun field trips. And I’m happy to bring to life a subject that children love (dinosaurs) in an entertaining and educational way.

    Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember at Amazon.com

    Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember at Amazon.ca

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

    Growing up, I loved the stories of Mauricio de Souza, a famous Brazilian cartoonist and creator of the children’s comic series, Turma da Monica. But at that point, writing or even thinking of becoming an author was never on my radar. Throughout my teenage years, I became an avid reader, devouring my mom’s library of books, including Sidney Sheldon’s novel, of whom I became a big fan. And later on, I also added Danielle Steele and Jenifer Weiner to my list. Every one of those authors left an impression on me. Either it is in the way I create the characters in my mind and get them to paper or how I develop the plot. This is only my second children’s book, so I cannot measure precisely their impact on my writing, but I can tell for sure that their work let me see my characters with more of a critical eye.

    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 have worked with children for more than ten years now. Here in the US, I started as a caregiver, but not too long, I realized my love and enjoyment working with the little ones. I went back to graduate school for early childhood education (I previously received a graduate degree in hospitality) and started working as a teacher. My desire for writing started to naturally blossom. The more engaged with children, their experiences, and teaching I became, the idea of writing children’s books emerged. But at that point, it seemed far fetched to me. Life went on with many surprises and changes of scenario, including professional ones. Three years ago, I saw an opportunity to help authors with their craft, at the same time learning about it myself, and I started writing reviews for Reader’s Favorite. From reviews, I moved to resume writing, content writing, and now, books. I need to add, though, that I’m thankful for the support from my parents, dear sister, and husband, as well as some close friends, who have been strong supporters of my work.

    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 connect with my readers through social media, especially Twitter and Instagram, and my website. I have been planning some book tours, but I haven’t started that yet. As you know, it requires a lot of preparation with book release dates, websites logistics, and the readers’ needs as well. But I’m excited to start with this one. The same goes with libraries, schools, and bookstores. I haven’t explored those venues yet, but I would sure consider a children’s read aloud session.

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

    There is no better satisfaction than to really bring your character to life. The creating process is one of my favorites. Besides having the pleasure of getting the character onto the paper, I love the back and forth with the illustrator, the discussion of ideas and experimenting with colors, materials, and senses to make the character relatable and loved by children.

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

    To me, as an indie author—and I imagine that some fellow indies might relate—the real challenge comes with the marketing. In order for us to reach a broader readership, we need to put a lot of effort into marketing.

    I constantly see myself on a tightrope trying to balance out writing with the marketing aspect. And for the most part, this is not easy.

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

    This is a no-brainer: Sidney Sheldon. As I mentioned previously, I grew up reading his novels and became a super fan. I would love to learn about the thought process for his plots, his writing habits, and where he gets inspiration for his characters.

    Halloween-Theme Picture Books and Free Printables for Kids!

    Posted on October 23rd, 2016 by Carolyn Hart


    Celebrate Halloween with our free homeschool, preschool and kindergarten printables and book suggestions

    Halloween-Theme Stories and Printables for Homeschool and Classroom

    As the days grow shorter and cooler weather arrives in the Northern Hemisphere, October is a wonderful month to share a variety of Halloween-theme picture books with children. Halloween is also a great time to enjoy concept books with children and more than one of our featured books highlights counting.

    Here are some of our favorite stories exxploring themes of friendship, tolerance, learning about others while trick or treating, wearing costumes and enjoying the fun of Halloween.

    Scroll down for our free Halloween-theme printables for children

    Storytime Standouts recommends Halloween picture book A Very Brave WitchA Very Brave Witch written by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Harry Bliss
    Halloween-theme picture book published by Simon & Schuster / Paula Wiseman Books

    A Very Brave Witch is the tale of a green-skinned, broomstick-flying, costume-loving witch. She thinks she knows all about humans and decides that Halloween night is the perfect opportunity to take a closer look. After a flying mishap, she meets three, costumed human trick-or-treaters including one girl who is dressed up as a witch. Together, the pair manages to shatter stereotypes as they discover friendship and celebrate Halloween together.

    Young readers will enjoy investigating a recently-decorated haunted house and collection of costumes. The witches’ fear of humans is good fun.

    Well-suited for a group read-aloud, the colorful watercolor illustrations nicely match the tone of the story.

    Suitable for preschool and older

    Scare Factor = 1

    A Very Brave Witch at Amazon.com

    A Very Brave Witch at Amazon.ca

    Storytime Standouts recommends Halloween picture book A Creepy Countdown by Charlotte Huck and Jos. A. SmithA Creepy Countdown written by Charlotte Huck and Jos. A. Smith
    Halloween-theme picture book published by Harper Trophy

    Beautifully detailed, dark and creepy illustrations are a highlight of this Halloween-theme counting book. The rhyming text includes alliteration and guides readers as they count from one to ten and back down to one.

    Five furry bats hanging upside down
    Six skinny witches flying through the town

    Recommended for children aged 5 and up. Illustrations are well-suited to a group setting and could be used to inspire young artists to work primarily in black.

    Scare Factor = 2

    A Creepy Countdown at Amazon.com

    A Creepy Countdown at Amazon.ca

    Storytime Standouts recommends Halloween picture book Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for HalloweenScaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt
    Halloween-theme picture book published by Kids Can Press

    Scaredy Squirrel is a fun series of picture books written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt. In Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween, Scaredy has put together eight short chapters featuring panels with maps, lists, illustrations and diagrams intended to keep trick or treaters safe and happy. Best-suited to independent readers or a one-on-one read aloud, this is a fun book with rich vocabulary and detailed, engaging illustrations. Not great for a large group setting, this will be a very satisfying “chapter book” for a child in grade one or two and will produce lots of giggles when read by a parent to a child.

    Scare Factor = 1

    Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween: A Safety Guide for Scaredies at Amazon.com

    Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween: A Safety Guide for Scaredies at Amazon.ca

    Storytime Standouts looks at Halloween-theme picture books including Ten Timid Ghosts by Jennifer O'ConnellTen Timid Ghosts written and illustrated by Jennifer O’Connell
    Halloween-theme counting book published by Cartwheel Books, an imprint of Scholastic

    When a moving truck pulls up to a haunted house, the ten resident ghosts watch nervously. Before too long, a green-skinned witch is scaring the ghosts with a skeleton, a bat and various costumes. Ms. O’Connell provides fun clues for readers to notice including buttons that look like eyes, white face powder and a roll of toilet paper.

    Repetitive, rhyming text adds to the fun in this counting book. Young children will love finding the ghosts in each of the illustrations.

    Scare Factor = 1

    Ten Timid Ghosts at Amazon.com

    Ten Timid Ghosts at Amazon.ca

    Storytime Standouts looks at Halloween-theme picture books including Trick or Treat by Bill Martin and Michael Sampson, illustrated by Paul MeiselTrick or Treat written by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson, illustrated by Paul Meisel
    Halloween-theme picture book published by Aladdin Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster

    It’s Halloween night and time to trick or treat in a ten-story apartment building. A young, wide-eyed boy goes from floor to floor, meeting all sorts of costumed neighbors with wonderful names like Wiggle Waggle and Limbler Lamber. When the boy reaches the top floor, Merlin answers the door and waves his magic wand and tells the boy that everything is “WackBards“, sending the boy back to each apartment for Belly Jeans and “Twicorice Lists

    Great use of alliteration and wordplay along with colorful, fun illustrations make this an excellent read aloud for kindergarten and older children. In a classroom setting, children could have fun illustrating a favorite candy WackBards.

    Scare Factor = 1

    Trick or Treat? at Amazon.com

    Trick or Treat? at Amazon.ca

    Storytime Standouts shares free Halloween printables including pumpkin-theme interlined printing paper

    Halloween Theme Printables for Kids

    image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Witch Hat

    Halloween, Witch theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

    image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Pumpkin

    Fall theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

    image of PDF icon  Halloween Picture Dictionary

    Free printable Halloween picture dictionary for readers and writers in kindergarten and grade one.

    Storytime Standouts shares free Halloween printables including a picture dictionary, chants, writing paper and song

    image of PDF icon  Five Little Ghosts

    Use as an action chant or a felt board story

    image of PDF icon  Five Little Pumpkins

    Use as a action chant or a felt board story

    image of PDF icon  The Wheels on the Halloween Bus

    image of PDF icon  Halloween Crossword Puzzle

    image of PDF icon  Halloween Word Search


    Meet Author Darla Woodley

    Posted on October 13th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

    Storytime Standouts interviews children’s book author Kelly Santana-Banks
    Storytime Standouts interviews D Woodley author of  Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything is Darla Woodley’s first book. Darla is a self-proclaimed shutterbug, with her camera never far from arm’s reach and a goal of capturing the many activities of her two boys, she is always on the lookout for how to capture magical moments. Many of these special moments are recorded in this book.

    AuthorTwitter account @RedAnything

    Instagram redsockswithanything

    Facebook page www.facebook.com/RedSocksGoWithAbsolutelyAnything

    Author Website

    Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?
    My book is entitled Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything. It is a Children’s Picture Book but I actually think it is a good read for all ages. Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything is based around our family tradition of wearing red socks as an unspoken method of support and encouragement for friends, family or anyone that may just need a lift in spirit. The story sees the character going through a number of “firsts” and intimidating moments and shows the reader that sometimes words are just not needed to show that someone is thinking of you or cheering you on. The main character’s gender is ambiguous on purpose so as to allow the reader to develop a more personal connection to the story. Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything

    I am most proud of the impact that the story has on its readers. I love hearing how someone is heading out to purchase a pair of red socks for themselves and/or their family members. I am especially thrilled when a reader tells me that they are looking forward to initiating their own unspoken method of support and tradition based around the idea of red socks.

    Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything at Amazon.com

    Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything at Amazon.ca

    Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?
    I am not sure if I would say it was difficult to publish my first book. Challenging? Yes, definitely challenging. I chose the self-published route and being new to the book industry I found myself constantly on the computer or my phone doing research. I cannot tell you how many links I emailed myself to read and check on and how many tabs were open on my desktop at once on a regular basis. I was extremely fortunate to have a few connections that I could contact, bounce questions off of and verify information that I had found through research. The entire process can be a rather lengthy one when opting the self-published route as there are many services, options and research that should be done to ensure that you end up with an end product suitable to your standards.

    To aspiring authors/illustrators I would suggest that they do their research regarding the publishing process and what it takes to ensure that you end up with a polished and very professional book. I would also explain how it is a never-ending process of promotion and self-promotion. For a new author it is a constant challenge to get your name out there in the literary world.

    Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with children. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?
    I have such great memories and experiences of sharing Red Socks with children. They are such a wonderful and inspiring group to share the story with!

    I have shared the story with children in grades 1 through to grade 6 and was very pleasantly surprised at the comments and discussions with the grade 6 individuals. I wasn’t sure if they were going to be too “big” for the story but they were an awesome group of kids with insightful questions and comments. With that particular group I have great memories:
    – I had a couple of girls approach me and tell me about a book they are writing together and how they were inspired to keep their project going and not give up.
    – One child came up and told me how great he thought the story was and then secretly handed me a piece of his favorite gum by way of a handshake. He then gave me a wink to confirm the passing of the forbidden gum. (we were all sitting in the library)
    – Another child was so inspired by the story that he suggested that they have a wall in the school dedicated to Red Socks displaying the book’s lines “I feel strong. I am ready. I can do anything.” I am so proud of him as he later inspired so many others at a local track competition with his determination to run and finish in a relay match.

    I always have fond memories of visiting and reading with the younger grades. I experienced my first “heckler” when I was reading to a grade 2 class and she was in the front row asking me why the socks were not blue. I love the little discussions (that sometimes turn into battles) when I ask the class if they think the protagonist is a boy or a girl. I enjoy the fact that we get off course during the reading as our discussions take a different direction at times when they all want to share their version of the character’s experience.

    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 use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a website) in an effort to stay connected with readers and those who might be interested in learning more about Red Socks. I have done a few book signings and look forward to doing more. (The book signings are something that I need to push myself to do as I am usually very much a “behind-the-scenes” type of person.) I do thoroughly enjoy visiting classrooms and look forward to those in the coming school year.

    What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?
    I am a first time author so it is so very thrilling to see the book displayed in a bookstore or to hear from someone else that they spotted Red Socks in a bookstore. My greatest pleasure is having someone tell me that they enjoyed the story and are looking forward to initiating their own tradition based on the idea of Red Socks. I have it set up so that when books are purchased an additional copy is printed and then donated to a local school, charity and/or organization that can benefit from the message within the story. I am so happy to say that books have been sent to Australia, Maui, England, Northern Ireland, Toronto, various States, Saskatchewan, BC and throughout Alberta so far.

    What are the biggest challenges of being an author / illustrator?
    Being a first time author and one that is self-published, the biggest challenge is actually getting the word out about the story. The entire experience is new to me and full of challenges and unknowns and I find myself constantly having to do research regarding the industry and push myself out of my comfort level at times in an effort to bring Red Socks to new readers. I am thankful though as this challenge offers me an opportunity to be an example to my two boys of how one should never give up and always be willing to put themselves out there.

    Storytime Standouts Looks at a New Picture Book: The Hockey Song

    Posted on October 9th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

    Storytime Standouts looks at The Hockey Song by Stompin' Tom Connors, published by Greystone BooksThe Hockey Song written by Stompin’ Tom Connors and illustrated by Gary Clement
    Hockey-Theme Picture Book published by Greystone Books

    OH! The good ol’ Hockey game, is the best game you can name.
    And the best game you can name, is the good ol’ Hockey game.

    An outdoor game of pick up hockey is the setting for this fun, energetic tribute to Stompin’ Tom Connors’ widely known anthem. The well-lit rink is in a city and it glistens beneath the stars on a wintry evening. It feels as though it would be the centerpiece of a community, drawing players from far and wide for a casual, drop in game.

    Engaging illustrations show us the game from ice level and above, depicting players from various races who are young and old, petite and burly and male and female. It is fun to see more than one multi-generational family group; moms and dads enjoying the game with their children.

    The game begins with just two players on the ice but soon swells and, by the end of the song, the rink is crowded with enthusiastic hockey players. Some wear familiar NHL-style jerseys while others are dressed less traditionally. Some wear hockey helmets and others have toques, headphones, pony tales and stocking caps. Young readers will enjoy playing eye spy and noticing all sorts of interesting details about the dozens of players who finish the game.

    Very good fun for children aged four and up. The Hockey Song would be a great gift for a hockey-loving grandparent to share with a newcomer to the game.

    The Hockey Song at Amazon.com

    The Hockey Song at Amazon.ca

    Meet Children’s Book Author Rebecca Lynn Morales

    Posted on October 6th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

    Storytime Standouts interviews Rebecca  Lynn MoralesRebecca Lynn Morales grew up in Northern California. She graduated college with a degree in theatre arts from California State University, Northridge. She now pens the theatrics in her mind to paper. Rebecca recently moved to Texas. She loves living there with her supportive husband, Gabriel, and spunky Jack Russell terrier, Carson. She gives glory to God for all that is good in her life.

    Twitter account: @ArtisanRebeccaM
    Facebook page: www.facebook.com/RebeccaLynnMorales
    Instagram:@rebeccalynnmorales

    Website URL: Walter Plume and the Dehydrated Imagination
    Rebecca Lynn Morales

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

    Walter Plume and the Dehydrated Imagination is a fun adventure through a dried-out, rule-bound land. The lead character, Walter Plume, is the wittiest, most imaginative, and just plain real kid you will ever meet. He is an eleven year old foodie, with taste buds that like both cranberry-glazed salmon and a plain ol’ corn dog. I know kids (and probably a lot of adults, too) will relate to Walter and his desire to use his imagination. (Middle grade novel, 7-12 years) Over the years, I have battled people and situations determined to dehydrate my imagination. But, I’m fully re-hydrated now!
    I am most proud of the creative imagery and world building. It takes a big imagination to bring other people’s imaginations back to life.Walter Plume and the Dehydrated Imagination
    Walter Plume was newly released last February and is available in paperback and as an eBook.

    Walter Plume and the Dehydrated Imagination at Amazon.com

    Walter Plume and the Dehydrated Imagination at Amazon.ca

    Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?
    Miraculously, my first novel was accepted by the first publisher I sent it to. It was meant to be. However, I took the time to read about numerous publishers and what they were looking for, in order to make the best match. Not everything comes so easily, of course. I encourage any aspiring author to persevere no matter what and continue to grow as a writer.

    When did you realize that you would be a writer? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?
    I knew I wanted to be a writer from childhood. My dad gave me a thick (in size and language) classic novels to read. I plowed my way through those books page by page, not fully understanding all the words. However, the characters in those novels and the drama of their lives led me to attempt my first novel in the seventh grade. I only wrote three pages. But that was the start of an idea for my life that has never left me.

    I knew I would be a writer after I was married because I finally had the support and encouragement I needed. My husband has a good editorial eye. He is the first person to read my work and give me feedback. And I chat his ear off every time I have a new idea or element for a story. He also helps me with the technical side of things: my website, marketing materials. He is my greatest support!

    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 process look like?
    I need to write in a quiet place, which is usually my office. Sometimes I sit at my desk, but mostly I write sitting in my favorite blue chair. It’s comfortable without being too cozy. I used to write sitting up in bed, but no matter how wonderfully my tale was unfolding I would eventually slide down in the bed, my head resting on the soft pillow and doze off. My brilliant writing tip: Write sitting up. I’ve also found that a cup of coffee or tea is inspiring somehow. They sit on the desk next to me for quick sipping access. The writing process itself varies. I have tried and tried to make a complete chapter-by-chapter outline before I begin a book and follow it closely with only a few detours. This doesn’t work for me. The things I know before I begin writing are: 1) How the book will end 2) My characters 3) I’ve created about ¾ of my world. The rest unfolds from there. I outline a few chapters at a time and then write them out. I get super excited about the ideas I come up with while typing. I also set daily word count goals to keep me motivated. (Usually, one thousand words per today).

    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 enjoy staying connected with readers. I did a Barnes and Noble book tour last spring, where I did author signings at six stores. I love being able to answer young readers’ questions and encouraging kids to read and write themselves. When kids have the courage to come up and talk to me, I’m so proud of them because I was so shy as a child and I know how difficult it can be. I am active on social media and have two websites. You are welcome to contact me there if you have any questions. I also make weekly encouraging vlogs that I post on Facebook.

    If you weren’t an author, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?
    If I wasn’t an author I think I would be a counselor of some kind. I’m a developer at heart and I see great potential in people. Whatever I can do to help someone realize and live out their potential is a joy to me.

    Do you do school or library presentations?

    I speak at schools and libraries. With encouragement and fun games, I teach kids about various techniques I use to develop characters and write stories. My overall message is that we are all truly unique people with dreams, and those dreams will become reality if we remain true to ourselves.

    Areas: Central Texas

    Storytime Standouts interviews author Michael Samulak

    Posted on September 29th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

    Storytime Standouts interviews Michael SamulakMichael Samulak has almost twenty years of experience teaching, mentoring, and engaging youth both in and outside of the classroom. Mr. Samulak visits schools, learning centers, and daycares to read and present his stories and world adventures. His goal is to inspire youth to dream big. Michael’s teaching and classroom experience help him to fill his award-winning picture books with fun opportunities for learning.

    Michael resides in the City of Cleveland, Ohio with his wife and four children.

    He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Michigan State University (’96) and finished his Master’s in Education at Cleveland State University (’12). He has been working as a full-time youth minister and educator for close to 20 years.

    Author Facebook Page

    Author website

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

    A Wonderful Day! is my latest picture book about going to the zoo. This is actually my first traditionally published title and I am so excited to be able to share it with everyone! It is an early reader, great for emerging readers, or those who are working toward fluency and need that extra support from a fun book that can reinforce those early sight words and phonics skills that they have been working on.A Wonderful Day! by Michael Samulak

    I generally recommend a target audience to be 3-6 years old, but as many of the educators and parents will tell you, this totally depends on your reader. My nephew is 2 and he loves to make all the animal sounds as he flips excitedly through the pages. My brother sent me a picture of him sneaking a read after he had “thought” he put him to bed. He was “reading” under the covers, flashlight and all. I couldn’t have been more happy to see someone getting that kind of joy from one of my books.

    I am probably most proud of the way the book has been put together with little learning moments laced throughout the manuscript. Besides being written with a gender-neutral text, you also have a good amount of questions and statements that can be thought-provoking and interactive. This kind of anticipatory exercise is very important for young readers as they are learning and beginning to understand that text has meaning. I love that the book helps young readers make text-to-self-reflections; putting their own experiences and prior knowledge front and center while reading in order to develop and expand the whole experience of reading. We all do this as accomplished readers, and generally forget that somewhere along the line we were helped to understand and realize that reading is so much more than decoding and applying the known rules of phonics.

    A Wonderful Day! was recently Awarded the Gold Medal for Children’s Picture Books (Animals) by the Mom’s Choice Awards.

    A Wonderful Day! at Amazon.com

    A Wonderful Day! at Amazon.ca

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

    This would have to be when I would ask my mom if I could stay home from Jr. High school, maybe about 6th or 7th grade so I could keep working on my first chapter book.

    I think that it is safe to say that I still consider myself to be a work-in-progress, and so it is crazy to think that my books can now be found in libraries, schools, and peoples’ homes.

    For those still-aspiring writers I always have the same words, “Don’t ever give up!” That choice has a guaranteed outcome. Don’t stop. Keep going, keep writing, keep up the inquiring: There is story that you have that the world needs to read. Keep putting yourself and your work out there and it will happen, even if it seems that things are tough or impossible, as long as you are moving and working on your dream, something can happen.

    A is for Africa by Michael Samulak

    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 process look like?

    Generally speaking, one of my five children climbing on my back or sitting in my lap. Don’t get me wrong; I love all of the kids. They are a big source of inspirations for many of my books, so I can’t complain, but finding that quality, uninterrupted time is tough.

    I am always writing, or at least thinking about writing. My note app on my phone is filled with bits and pieces, lines, thoughts: unpublished titles, I’m always trying to think of what may be a good title for a book. I think that has replaced a lot of my early days of notebooks, scrap paper, napkins from a dinner table, whatever was there really: Crayon, pencil, that piece of fruit my daughter had finished with…whatever worked to get that word down before it was gone. I’m sure some out there can relate.

    I suppose once it is time put all of those bits and pieces into something “final” that I then print out or send to an actual human being, my laptop and a local coffee shop are where I land. But, the process, yeah, that’s a lot messy for me.

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

    What hasn’t happened? Tears, fears, in appropriate laughing; farting, burping, teasing, and a lot of smiles and wide-eye stares that keep me coming back for more.

    I love reading my work and interacting with the children at schools and learning centers the most. I think it is the father and educator parts of me. I have come to expect the unexpected and it is this color and variety of the trip that make it so worthwhile.

    If I had to pick one particular event I am particularly found of, it would be that one I often remember this one time when I visited one schools and one of the students in the sea of faces piped up matter-of-factly after I held up my book, “Hey! I have that book at home! I love that book! Oh Boy!, this is gonna be awesome.” I had to take a moment to hold back the tears on that one. It was one of the first times that I really felt accomplished as an author: Like my dreams of being able to write for children were coming true.

    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?

    Everything goes when it comes to connecting, networking, and staying engaged with readers. So, yes to all!

    I love to network and feel that it is so important to staying relevant to my audience. I often will bring “finished” works to the schools and classrooms that I visit to get fresh feed back from the audience that I feel matters most – the one that I am writing for. I try to stay active on social media platforms, but since I write for a younger audience, like, they aren’t quite there yet when it comes to literacy fluency, let alone responding to a FaceBook post; I generally am reaching out and interacting with parents, other writers, educators, etc. on those platforms. With that in mind, I am generally looking for opportunities related to a visit or to network, or generally showing off my beautiful family and our recent life adventures together.

    What are the biggest challenges of being an author?

    Juggling work, family, wife, kids — oh yeah, and then there is writing. I would have to say time – quality time to get to the end part of that process of writing in order to cross that finished line where an actual tangible piece is produced that then can be reworked, critiqued, rejected, reworked again…really, do I need to go on.

    I know others may have other struggles, and I’m not at all saying that those aren’t real or deep, but for myself it would have to be finding the time to “gett’er done”.

    “Just keep swimming” often does become my own encouraging theme song on those days when I feel like throwing in the towel. And so I try to just keep moving, even if it is just one sentence or phrase that I can work on; not even finish per say, but to mark progress. Yes, seeing progress helps to keep me going and eventually cross that finish line.

    When I go to schools or libraries I love to read my picture books and share my inspirations and experiences that they are based on. Generally speaking, this makes for great laughs as I share my adventures with my children. I also have brought back some native items from Africa and do a sort of “Show and Tell”. The kids love to see and feel these native artifacts. The African Drum is usually the biggest “hit”.

    Wordless Picture Book Fun with Flora the Flamingo

    Posted on August 14th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

    Flora the Flamingo - wordless picture book by Molly IdleFlora the Flamingo created by Molly Idle
    Wordless Picture Book published by Chronicle Kids

    From my perspective, wordless picture books are an under-appreciated genre. “Readable” in any language (or multiple languages), they help children to develop comprehension skills and they can be used to prompt discussion and encourage language development.

    Last week, I had the pleasure to read two wordless picture books by Molly Idle. Floral and the Flamingo was published in 2013. Flora and the Peacocks was published this year. Flora and the Penguin was published in between.Illustration from Flora and the Flamingo

    Floral and the Flamingo begins when a young girl approaches a statuesque flamingo and takes her cues from the bird. Soon it appears that the flamingo is challenging the girl to match her posture and form. Floral is up to the task. She stands on one leg, she arches her back, she stretches and poses. Before too long, the flamingo and Flora are dancing together and loving every moment of the experience.

    A truly lovely picture book that uses flaps beautifully, this will have special appeal for fans of ballet. Delightful illustrations are wonderfully expressive and will create an opportunity to talk about Flora’s emotions as she does her best to match the graceful flamingo’s movements.

    Flora the Flamingo was a 2014 Caldecott Honor Book

    Flora and the Flamingo at Amazon.com

    Flora and the Flamingo at Amazon.ca

    Flora and the PeacocksFlora and the Peacockscreated by Molly Idle
    Wordless Picture Book published by Chronicle Kids

    The third book in Ms. Idle’s series, Flora and the Peacocks adds another dimension to her storytelling. In this wordless picture book, Flora introduces herself to two peacocks. One of the peacocks appears quite happy to have a new friend but the other is not keen at all. The trio struggles to find a way to find harmony and to be friends.

    Dramatic illustrations highlight gorgeous blue, green and gold peacock feathers and the especially the facial expressions of the three characters. Young readers will want to talk about why it was difficult for Flora to join the two peacocks and how their behavior changed over the course of the story.

    An excellent choice for classroom and home use.

    Flora and the Peacocks at Amazon.com

    Flora and the Peacocks at Amazon.ca


    First Day of School Jitters? Try Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton

    Posted on July 22nd, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

    Storytime Standouts reviews Splat the Cat by Rob ScottonSplat the Cat written and illustrated by Rob Scotton
    Picture book about starting school published by Harper Collins Publishers

    There’s no doubt about it, going to school for the very first time can be nerve-wracking. It is no wonder that Splat is wide awake bright and early.

    When mom opens his bedroom door, his first instinct is to pull the covers over his head. When that doesn’t work, Splat tries all sorts of tactics to delay leaving for school. He can’t find socks and his hair is a mess. One thing he knows for sure, having a friend in his lunchbox is certain to help. Splat pops Seymour the Mouse into his lunchbox and sets out to meet his new teacher and classmates.Splat the Cat spread

    Mrs. Wimpydimple and Splat’s new classmates are very welcoming and soon Splat is full of questions. He is especially curious to know why cats chase mice! (A definite opportunity to introduce the concept of foreshadowing) When it is finally lunchtime, Splat opens his lunchbox and his small rodent friend, Seymour is suddenly the centre of attention – and not in a good way. Splat’s new classmates do exactly what readers will predict – the chase is on!

    Engaging, playful illustrations provide many details for young children to notice and enjoy. A mostly grey and black color palette is highlighted with vibrant yellow and red details that pop off the page. Those who are able to read will love the signs in the storefront windows and Mrs. Wimpydimple’s blackboard illustrations.


    Harper Collins has some terrific Splat the Cat printables for children to enjoy.

    Splat the Cat at Amazon.com

    Splat the Cat at Amazon.ca


    I wanted to love this book – The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

    Posted on July 18th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

    The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade written by Justin Roberts and illustrated by Christian RobinsonThe Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade written by Justin Roberts and illustrated by Christian Robinson
    Antibullying Picture Book published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons: An Imprint of Penguin Group (USA)

    You’ve really got to love a recording artist who has a very popular kids’ CD titled, Meltdown! and another called Not Naptime. The album titles alone are enough to bring a smile to a weary parent’s face. So, I wanted to think that The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade was terrific.

    And, I do think it is a good book but, there are ways it could have been better.

    Sally McCabe is both young and small. She is in the lowest grade at her school and she is the smallest child in the class. Kudos to the illustrator for depicting a racially diverse group of children in the classroom and at the playground. It would have been excellent to see similar diversity in terms of mobility (perhaps one child in a wheelchair or using crutches, for example).Illustration from The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

    Sally is unusually observant. She notices a kite that is tangled in a tree and she notices that the janitor’s ring has twenty-seven keys. Unfortunately, this is where my evaluation of the book begins to drop: one illustration of the janitor’s ring only shows seven keys and another shows five keys. I completely understand that twenty seven may have been essential to the rhyme BUT the illustrations should be true to the story. If the ring has twenty seven keys – the illustration of the ring should show us each one of them! Young children will pick up on this sort of disparity. They will want to know where the other twenty or twenty two keys are and the omission will detract from the important antibullying message the author is attempting to share.

    When a bully pushes Sally’s classmate, the story tells us that he begins to cry but in the illustration, he is dry-eyed. These seemingly minor disparities really do make a difference and discerning young readers will notice them.

    Adults may understand the (metaphorical) significance of wildflowers tipping toward light and cats meeting together in a parking lot but I doubt that, without guidance, young children will see any connection between the cats or the flowers and Sally’s story.

    Essentially, Sally, observes bullying on the playground, in the hallway at school, in the classroom and in the school cafeteria. Eventually, she speaks up. She announces, “I’m tired of seeing this terrible stuff. Stop hurting each other! This is enough!”

    This prompts all of Sally’s classmates and school staff members to point their fingers in the air in solidarity. Soon the school is a much more harmonious place. A somewhat “magical solution” to bullying? Yes, but, this is story that could be used to initiate discussions about bullying and social responsibility.

    The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade at Amazon.com

    The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade at Amazon.ca


    Fun with Shh! We Have a Plan written and illustrated by Chris Haughton

    Posted on July 4th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

    Shh! We Have a Plan written and illustrated by Chris HaughtonShh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton
    Picture book published by Candlewick Press

    When four friends, armed with three nets, set out to capture a beautiful, red-plumed bird, all goes well until the smallest friend alerts the the ruby bird that something is afoot. Giggles and laughter will accompany a read-aloud session of Shh! We Have a Plan. This is a book that will appeal to children – especially “youngest” children – as well as adults. The repetitive text will have youngsters ‘reading along’ quickly and repeated building of suspense will encourage children to make predictions about whats will happen next and the final outcome.

    Bright, bold, dramatic illustrations are a highlight of this captivating, humorous picture book. A key to the storytelling, observant readers will note the eyes and the posture of the smallest friend in the cover art – he is definitely up to something!

    Shh! We Have a Plan is the sort of story that parents and teachers will quite happily read again and again. It is great fun!

    Chris Haughton won the 2015 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award for new illustrator with this picture book. The Ezra Jack Keats Book Award for Illustration was established in 2001 to recognize and encourage emerging talent in the field of children’s book illustration.

    Shh! We Have a Plan at Amazon.com

    Shh! We Have a Plan at Amazon.ca


    Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers! by Melanie Walsh

    Posted on May 21st, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

    Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers! by Melanie WalshIsaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers! written and illustrated by Melanie Walsh
    Picture book about a child with Asperger’s Syndrome published by Candlewick Press

    Written from the perspective of a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome, Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! is a cheerful, positive and reassuring picture book that explains how Isaac’s thoughts and behavior sometimes differ from those of his friends. Well-suited to preschool-age children or early primary classroom use, bright, bold illustrations are visually appealing and will be easily seen and interpreted in a group or classroom setting.

    Friends, family members and classmates will discover that children with Asperger’s Syndrome may have different interests, energy levels and ways of interacting than others do. For example, they may like to bounce rather than play team sports or they may fidget with a toy in order to relax and listen in class. They may have difficulty understanding jokes or some in social situations. Insights are shared matter-of-factly, with respect for both the Asperger’s child and a child who does not have Asperger’s.

    Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers! spreadUsing meaningful examples and fun illustrations, Walsh helps young readers to understand that children with Asperger’s Syndrome have strengths including a great memory for facts, curiosity and a heightened awareness of sounds. She also shows the special relationship an Asperger’s child can have with pets and family members.

    A great addition to a personal or professional library, end papers include a list of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome links.

    Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! at Amazon.com

    Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! at Amazon.ca

    Read our reviews of other picture books about Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome

    Storytime Standouts Shares Asperger Syndrome and Autism Picture Books












    Awake Beautiful Child by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Gracia Lam

    Posted on April 30th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

    Awake Beautiful Child written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal illustrated by Garcia LamAwake Beautiful Child written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Gracia Lam
    Alphabet picture book published by McSweeny’s

    In this fascinating picture book, Amy Krouse Rosenthal uses only words that begin with A, B or C to tell her story. The day begins as a young boy awakens and enjoys Apples, Bananas and Cantaloupe for breakfast before heading outside and finding Ants, Butterflies and Caterpillars. He later celebrates at a birthday party, explores a city and appreciates an artist. Older children will enjoy scouring debut picture book illustrator Gracia Lam’s detailed digital illustrations for an apron, bowling pins, binoculars, a castle, a cape, a church (and more!) that serve to broaden the appeal of the story and support the development of phonemic awareness and alphabet recognition.Awake Beautiful Child spread

    It is worth mentioning that Ms. Rosenthal and Ms. Lam do not limit the story or illustrations to the phoneme /K/, they also challenge readers to recognize the use of ‘C’ in words beginning with the /ch/ and soft ‘C’ sounds, as in church and city. the ‘A’ words that we detected use the short vowel sound.

    We envision this picture book as a wonderful inspiration to young illustrators and writers. Great for classroom use, the clever take on the alphabet book genre could certainly be a jumping off point for children to create their own stories and illustrations using only two or three letters.

    This is a picture book that will be enjoyed by children aged 3 and up but that has great potential for exciting older children and adults.

    Awake Beautiful Child at Amazon.com

    Awake Beautiful Child at Amazon.ca


    One Two That’s My Shoe by Alison Murray

    Posted on January 17th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

    One Two That's My Shoe by Alison Murray, reviewed by Storytime StandoutsOne Two That’s My Shoe written and illustrated by Alison Murray
    Counting Picture Book published by Disney Hyperion Books

    A delightful, cheery picture book, One Two That’s My Shoe by Alison Murray will have tremendous appeal for toddlers, preschoolers and older children. Beautiful illustrations feature a lovely palette and direct readers to notice numbers and what is to be counted in each two-page spread. Very well-suited to a classroom or a library read aloud session, the illustrations are bold and large enough for a group to enjoy.

    One Two That's My Shoe spread

    Georgie Dog picks up one of Grace’s shoes and within minutes a chase ensues. Georgie jumps over three teddy bears and races past four wooden blocks. Soon after, he rushes outside and into the garden. Grace chases after him. This is a playful pup with a winning personality. He is clearly having fun until he encounters ten upset chickens.

    One Two That’s My Shoe is a special delight and highly recommended.

    Young readers may recognize Georgie Dog and Grace from Apple Pie ABC

    Cut and Colour Georgie Dog from Ms. Murray’s website

    One Two That’s My Shoe! at Amazon.com

    One, Two, That’s My Shoe! at Amazon.ca


    Itty Bitty Wouldn’t Budge created by Victoria Martin and Caitlyn Knepka

    Posted on November 22nd, 2015 by Carolyn Hart

    Itty Bitty Wouldn't Budge a picture book written by Victoria Martin and illustrated by Caitlyn KnepkaItty Bitty Wouldn’t Budge written by Victoria Martin and illustrated by Caitlyn Knepka
    Picture book published by Mascot Books



    At the front of my suburban house, I have a Little Free Library. With an emphasis on children’s books, at any given time, the library has three or four board books, a dozen or so easy readers, twenty chapter books for middle grade readers and twenty five picture books. This is our second year in existence and the library has been a wonderful way to meet neighbors and celebrate community. Many people speak to my husband and me about the library and we have received many generous donations. Throughout the week, I rotate books in and out of the library as I try to keep the selection fresh.

    This week, while my husband was working in our garden, someone stopped by to donate a new picture book to the library. She explained that her friend, who is an author, had sent it along and asked her to drop it off. This is a “first” for the library – an author-autographed picture book!

    Itty Bitty Wouldn’t Budge

    is a perfect match to the community spirit of a Little Free Library. Nana is a well-known and very popular elementary school teacher. She and her Newfoundland dog often walk through Maplewood Village. They pass local landmarks including a church, a park and the railroad station. Along the route, they see familiar faces and speak to friends.

    One day, Itty Bitty decides stop partway along the route. She simply does not want to move. Nana does her best to persuade Itty Bitty to finish their walk but she’s a very large dog and quite stubborn. Passersby and community helpers ask Nana if she needs help but Nana knows her best and eventually solves the challenge.

    I want to thank Victoria Martin and her friend (who lives not far from me) for this donation to our neighborhood library. I know it will be appreciated and enjoyed by many children.

    Read about the author and the inspiration for this picture book here.

    Itty Bitty Wouldn’t Budge at Amazon.com

    Itty Bitty Wouldn’t Budge at Amazon.ca

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