Posts Tagged ‘Canadian author’

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen – A Surprisingly Dark Picture Book

Posted on November 29th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts looks at I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen - A Surprisingly Dark Picture BookI Want My Hat Back written and illustrated by Jon Klassen
Picture book published by Candlewick Press



Poor Bear, he has lost his pointy, red hat. He searches the forest, politely asking, “Have you seen my hat?” He meets Fox, Frog, Rabbit, Turtle, and Snake. None has seen his hat. Bear is bereft and despondent. He frets that his hat is gone forever.

When Deer finally asks, “What does your hat look like?” Bear remembers something important.

Picture book, I Want My Hat Back is a breath of fresh air with a hint of mystery and a touch of revenge.

Best suited to older readers, adults and children (aged five and up) will thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to “read between the lines” and enjoy Klassen’s gallows humor.

Would I read it to a group of three year olds? “Maybe not.” Would I read it to a group of jaded six year olds who think they know all there is to know about picture books? “You betcha!”

Storytime kit from Candlewick Press – includes I Want My Hat Back activities.

I Want My Hat Back at Amazon.com

I Want My Hat Back at Amazon.ca


Also check out my comments about Jon Klassen’s Cat’s Night Out


Secret World of Og

Posted on November 24th, 2011 by Jody

Storytime Standouts' guest contributor recommends middle grade fiction,  The Secret World of Og by Pierre BertonThe Secret World of Og written by Pierre Berton
Middle grade fiction published by McClelland & Stewart





Many of you might remember this tale as one of your own childhood favorites; I do. It’s been delightful to learn that this fun adventure story continues to entertain and engage audiences.

It’s the tale of four children, Penny, Pamela, Peter, and Paul who they affectionately call Pollywog. They love to make believe and a trip through the floor of their playhouse leads them on an amazing journey to a place called Og.

Between the adorable humor and the endearing characters, the tale stays with you. When I read it to my daughter this summer, I had fond memories of reading it when I was only a bit older than her. My student teacher asked if she could read it aloud to our class because it had been a favourite of hers. The students are loving it and creating vivid comic strips that highlight the best parts of the book. We decided to do a bulletin board to display the comics and many of the adults at our school commented on how much they loved the book when they were little. It is simply one of those classics that any generation can relate to and enjoy.

The four children, each with their own unique personality traits, discover a hidden world under their playhouse, filled with all of the toys, clothes, and random items they thought they had lost over the years. They find themselves surrounded by small green people who only speak one word: “Og”.

The children soon find out that the people of Og can use real words, but their style of speech resembles the comic books that the kids love. Somewhere along the way, the kids have left books out in the yard that have made their way down to Og. The result is a bunch of Og people living a parallel life to the four children. They all enjoy comics, make believe, and dressing up.

Some of my favourite parts of the book include the Pollywog’s continuous jailbreaks, Earless Osdick (the cat that thinks it’s a dog) being mistaken at the Og market as a rabbit, and Peter disguising himself as a little green man.

Published in 1961, it represents the meaning of “timeless tale”. If you haven’t read it before, or even if you have, it is worth the read.

The Secret World of Og at Amazon.com

The Secret World of Og at Amazon.ca

Check out this 1991 Front Page Challenge episode with Pierre Berton and his daughter, Patsy talking about the 30th anniversary of the book. Patsy illustrated the original version of The Secret World of Og.

A Fresh Look at a Frog Prince – Kiss Me! (I’m a Prince)

Posted on November 13th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Kiss Me I'm a Prince written by Heather McLeod and illustrated by Brooke KerriganKiss Me! (I’m and Prince!) written by Heather McLeod and illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan
Picture book published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside





When young Ella chances upon a talking frog, she is not altogether sure that kissing his puckered froggy lips is a good idea. For Ella, the idea of a talking frog is much more appealing than the prospect of kissing him and turning him into a boring frog prince. Ella is a fan of play – she likes basketball, swimming and Simon Says. Ella’s reluctance to kiss her new froggy friend means that he has a chance to enjoy traditional childhood games and to behave in some ways that are not at all royal. Eventually, representatives of the palace arrive. The royal frog is returned to a life of fencing and studying but not before Ella’s ideas have made a lasting impression. The frog negotiates with his parents for more playtime before returning to ask Ella for a magical kiss so he can join the neighbourhood baseball team.

An enjoyable read aloud for children aged four and up, Kiss Me! (I’m and Prince!) provides many opportunities for children to make predictions and also invites comparisons with other versions of The Frog Prince.

Kiss Me! (I’m a Prince) at Amazon.com

Kiss Me! (I’m a Prince!) at Amazon.ca

Two Delightful Picture Books: Guess Again and Violet

Posted on November 10th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Guess Again written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex
Guess Again written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex
Picture Book published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers





Phonemic awareness is a key to early reading success for young children. It is the understanding that words are made up of sounds and the ability to pick out and manipulate those sounds. When we read rhyming books to young children, we help to develop their phonemic awareness.

Guess Again is nothing at all like a “typical’ rhyming book – there are far too many surprises in store – especially if you listen carefully to the clues. Really good fun!

Guess Again! at Amazon.com

Guess Again! at Amazon.ca

Violet written by Tania Duprey Stehlik, illustrated by Vanja Vuleta JovanovicViolet – written by Tania Duprey Stehlik, illustrated by Vanja Vuleta Jovanovic
Picture book about an interracial family published by Second Story Press




When Violet attends her first day at a new school, she meets red, yellow and blue children but she doesn’t see any purple children. Upon returning home, her mother explains, “I am red and daddy is blue and you, my beauty, are a bit of us both.” Together, they play with paints and discover that many beautiful colours are created through mixing. Simply told, Violet is a lovely story about an interracial family. It reminds us of the richness and splendor of a diverse community.

Violet at Amazon.com

Violet at Amazon.ca

You may also be interested in our page titled “Diversity.” We highlight picture books and chapter books that celebrate and inform us about human diversity including learning disabilities, physical disabilities, allergies, single parent families, interracial families, same sex parents, aging, death and more.

Don’t miss our page of quotes about diversity.



World War I Historical Fiction for Youth – I Am Canada: Shot at Dawn

Posted on November 5th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Shot at Dawn by John Wilson Historical Fiction for YouthShot at Dawn by John Wilson
Published by Scholastic Canada



I Am Canada: Shot at Dawn is the intense, thrilling and tragic story of Allan McBride, a young Canadian who, during World War I, wanted to follow in the footsteps of his childhood hero and friend, Ken Harrison. Whilst growing up together on Vancouver Island, McBride and Harrison had enjoyed many childhood adventures. Just seventeen and very naive, McBride is certain that joining his friend on a World War I battlefield in France will lead to further pleasurable escapades. Harrison, who has already experienced the horrors of combat, is not at all enthusiastic about McBride’s enlistment and subsequent arrival in France. Eventually, at McBride’s insistence, the two go to battle together. The horrors of World War I trench warfare are too much for both men. Harrison is shot and presumed to have been killed. McBride suffers shell-shock and, while confused and delusional, leaves his unit. He intends to walk home. Eventually, after finding other fugitives in a forested area, he hides until he is taken into custody by his childhood friend. Clearly unwell, McBride is accused of desertion. While awaiting dawn arrival of an the executioner, Allan McBride describes his horrifying experiences in the trenches near Amiens, France.

Although the I Am Canada series is suggested for nine to twelve year olds, be advised that Shot at Dawn depicts the grim reality of trench warfare. Although fascinating, it may be disturbing to some readers.

Update June 18, 2012, Shot at Dawn is nominated for the Geoffrey Bilson Award For Historical Fiction For Young People

The I Am Canada series website includes discussion guides, book excerpts, activities and video clips.

Shot at Dawn: World War I at Amazon.com

Shot at Dawn: World War I at Amazon.ca



Giving Voice to Willow’s Whispers

Posted on November 5th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts recommends Willow's WhispersWillow’s Whispers by Lana Button, illustrated by Tania Howells
Picture book about finding one’s voice published by Kids Can Press



Willow is a lovely soft spoken girl with ideas, opinions and dreams. Unfortunately, her quiet voice is so soft that it is often overlooked. As a result, her teacher and her classmates miss hearing Willow’s thoughts and choices. For Willow, this means lost opportunities for companionship at lunchtime, being fiven orange juice instead of applie juice, disappointment at playtime and standing at the end of the line once again.

Dad has very good advice for Willow. He tells her, “Your big, strong voice got stuck way inside you, Willow. That happens sometimes. But one day your voice will wiggle its way out.”Lana Button picture book Willow's Whispers

Thinking about Dad’s words gives Willow an opportunity to devise a plan. The following morning, Willow gathers some materials together and designs her very own magic microphone. Initially, the microphone helps Willow to express herself but before long she must manage without it and does so very successfully.

Willow’s Whispers is a charming story that will be enjoyed by boys and girls ages four and up.

Note, although Willow’s Whispers invites discussion of finding one’s voice and having confidence when speaking, it does so very sensitively and without reference to “shyness.”

Willow’s Whispers Facebook page

Willow’s Whispers at Amazon.com

Willow’s Whispers at Amazon.ca

You may also be interested in our page titled “Diversity.” We highlight picture books and chapter books that celebrate and inform us about human diversity including learning disabilities, physical disabilities, allergies, single parent families, interracial families, same sex parents, aging, death and more.



Canada’s Highway of Heroes – a picture book tribute by Kathy Stinson

Posted on November 4th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts looks at Kathy Stinson's Highway of Heroes picture book.Highway of Heroes by Kathy Stinson
Picture book published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside



A solemn forward by the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Walter Natynczyk affirms that Kathy Stinson’s Highway of Heroes is a fitting tribute to Canada’s fallen heroes and the route they travel from Canadian Forces Base Trenton to Toronto, Ontario.

Highway of Heroes is a fictional account of one young boy’s trip as he and his mom accompany his father’s remains from the CFB Trenton tarmac to the coroner’s office in Toronto. The boy is surprised to discover, All the people – on all the bridges – are there because of his dad. A hero.

Dramatic photos depict the journey of the convoy and the crowds standing and waiting to honour a fallen soldier.

While dealing with a solemn topic, the text encourages young readers to appreciate and echo the respect shown by Canadians who choose to go to the Highway of Heroes and and honour those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

32 pages, suitable for children aged five and up

Endnotes include The Story of the Highway, Canadian Soldiers in Afghanistan, Ways to Honour Those Who Are Killed or Wounded In Service to Their Country.

Highway of Heroes Teachers’ Guide in PDF form

Highway of Heroes at Amazon.com

Highway of Heroes at Amazon.ca



Remembrance Day for Young Children – A Poppy Is to Remember

Posted on November 3rd, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Remembrance Day is observed annually in Canada, on November 11th. In the days leading up to November 11th, it is particularly important for adults to find ways to make Remembrance Day meaningful to young children so that they can join with all Canadians in honouring our Veterans, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Storytime Standouts looks at a Remembrance Day resource for young children, A Poppy Is to Remember by Heather Patterson and Ron LightburnA Poppy Is to Remember written by Heather Patterson and illustrated by Ron Lightburn



A Poppy Is to Remember is a wonderful picture book resource for Canadian families, classrooms and libraries.

A Poppy Is to Remember explains, Once there was a long and terrible war – a war some called the Great War. Many young men went off to fight, and many did not return home to their families. As the battle raged, poppies grew in the battlefield and were seen by a Canadian army doctor, John McCrae. McCrae was inspired to write In Flanders Fields, a poem often read at Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Beautifully illustrated, A Poppy Is to Remember salutes John McCrae and shows readers how poppies are used today when remembering the contributions of present day members of the armed forces as well as veterans, those who care for them and those who mourn their loss.

32 pages, suitable for children aged four and up. Additional materials for older children or adults include The Story of the Poppy and Remembrance Day in Canada.

Remembrance Day writing paper for children

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Remembrance Day Poppy

Remembrance Day theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

A Poppy Is to Remember at Amazon.com

A Poppy is to Remember at Amazon.ca

Follow Remembrance Day – November 11th by Storytime Standouts on Pinterest




No Pets Allowed – Matthew and Fred Will Win You Over

Posted on November 2nd, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

.Storytime Standouts write about No Pets AllowedNo Pets Allowed
Written by Irene N. Watts and illustrated by Kathryn E. Shoemaker
Generously illustrated chapter book published by Tradewind Books



When eight-year-old Matthew and his mom move from their rural home to the West End neighborhood of Vancouver, Matthew is forced to leave his beloved dog behind. Matthew’s grandparents will care for Lucky as he and his mom establish themselves in a downtown apartment building that does not allow pets. Matthew begins school and tries to adjust to city life but he misses his pet terribly. He is hopeful that, before long, they will move again and be reunited with Lucky.

One night, after settling for sleep, Matthew hears a familiar sound; he is sure there is something under his bed. Moments later, he feels a rough tongue, licking his cheek. Some refer to ‘Fred’ as an imaginary dog but, for Matthew, he is very real indeed. It is not long before the apartment landlord is convinced that Matthew is hiding a pet in the apartment.

This generously illustrated, eleven chapter book will be thoroughly enjoyed by boys and girls aged seven to nine. I particularly appreciated the realistic portrayal of the relationship between Matthew and his mother; Matthew wanting Lucky to live with the family, his mother unable to find an apartment that will allow the dog. Her nervousness in dealing with an wary apartment manager and the compassion of neighbors all contribute to making No Pets Allowed a good choice for young readers.

No Pets Allowed at Amazon.com

No Pets Allowed at Amazon.ca


Storytelling Around the World

Posted on November 2nd, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

This five-book series is written is written by Veronika Martenova Charles‘ and illustrated by David Parkins. Generously illustrated, each book includes three versions of a familiar story and was written with newly independent readers in mind. The books are each 56 pages and contain five chapters. Suited to readers aged five to eight, the series could be used effectively in a classroom with children exploring similarities and differences the ways Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Red Riding Hood and other stories are told.

It’s Not about the Apple!: Easy-to-Read Wonder Tales at Amazon.com

It’s Not about the Apple!: Easy-to-Read Wonder Tales at Amazon.ca

It’s Not about the Crumbs!: Easy-to-Read Wonder Tales at Amazon.com

It’s Not about the Crumbs!: Easy-to-Read Wonder Tales at Amazon.ca

It’s Not about the Hunter!: Easy-to-Read Wonder Tales at Amazon.com

It’s Not about the Hunter!: Easy-to-Read Wonder Tales at Amazon.ca


Timmerman Was Here, 2010 Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award Winner

Posted on November 1st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Timmerman Was Here written by Colleen Sydor and illustrated by Nicolas Debon
Picture book highlighting social responsibility published by Tundra Books



Tuesday evening, November 9th, 2010, the winner of the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award was announced at The Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s gala. Jury members’ comments about Timmerman Was Here were as follows, “This is a sublimely humanistic and memorable story about the way we discover the difference between truth and appearances… Dramatic pictures equally involve the reader, while the artistic use of dark and light further affect our emotional response… This intriguing tale with a twist delves exceptionally well into values and perceptions, the rational and the irrational, achieving a conclusion that is profoundly self-affirming for the child… This emotionally rich and suspenseful story is capped by an uplifting ending that will stir hearts from 8 to 80… A perfect pairing of text and illustration.”

Timmerman Was Here is written from the perspective of a young girl. We share her nervousness as a stranger arrives at her home. The stranger moves into a bedroom, recently vacated by the girl’s grandfather who has gone to live in a residence for seniors. The young girl is not happy about the stranger’s arrival but as she watches and interacts with him, she discovers a gentle heart. When the stranger is discovered walking the neighbourhood at night (with a spade and a burlap sack), gossip abounds. The neighbours speculate that he could be a bank robber or responsible for the death of a cat.

Timmerman Was Here is a lovely, thought-provoking picture book that encourages the reader to rethink assumptions and stereotypes. Highly recommended.

Suggested for children 4 – 8

Timmerman Was Here at Amazon.com

Timmerman Was Here at Amazon.ca


Splinters is an Icy, Hard-Hitting Take on Cinderella

Posted on October 31st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts looks at Splinters, a picture book with a modern day hockey take on the Cinderella storySplinters – written and illustrated by Kevin Sylvester
Picture book published by Tundra Books



Be sure to check out our page about anti-bullying picture books for children, our page about anti bullying chapter books, graphic novels and novels for children , and our Pinterest anti bullying board

Cindy loves to play hockey but it is an expensive sport to play and her family is poor.   Showing great determination and resourcefulness, Cindy is excited to finally earn enough money to join a neighbourhood team.  Unfortunately, at the rink, Cindy encounters three nasty Blister Sisters who make playing hockey very unpleasant. 

At her very first practice, she met the Blister Sisters. They could tell she was one good hockey player, and they were jealous.

They insulted her old equipment… Then they made her look bad on the ice… They could do this because their mom was the coach

Thank goodness Cindy has a fairy goaltender watching out for her. The fairy’s magic provides Cindy with a dazzling new uniform, gleaming skates and a Zamboni – to transport her to the all-star team tryouts. Cindy rushes to the rink and does not disappoint – she is a star.

Knowing that the magic spell will end once the final buzzer has sounded, Cindy rushes away from the rink, leaving a shiny skate behind.

Coach Prince is determined to match the shiny skate to the player who wore it during the tryouts.

Coach Prince went from locker room to locker room, trying the skate on every girl she could find. Finally she arrived at Cindy’s rink ensuring a happy ending for Cindy and her new team.

Splinters will have greatest appeal for children who are familiar with Cinderella. We love the idea of taking a familiar story, like Cinderella and retelling it with new characters and a contemporary setting. In a primary classroom, we suggest using Splinters as a jumping off point, inspiring young writers to imagine other situations for Cinderella to encounter.

Splinters at Amazon.com

Splinters at Amazon.ca


A Look at How Paul Gauguin Discovered His Magic

Posted on October 20th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Mr. Gauguin’s Heart written by Marie-Danielle Croteau, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault and translated by Susan Ouriou

This thought-provoking picture book introduces a young Paul Gauguin. As a child, he sails with his family from Denmark to Peru. While onboard ship, his father dies and Paul feels lost. He does not mourn like his mother and sister do. He watches as the giant sun sinks below the horizon and imagines his father’s heart. When his ship arrives in Peru, Paul, with the help of an elderly man, discovers that one can bring things to life with a paintbrush.

Best suited to children aged 6 to 9, Mr. Gauguin’s Heart in an insightful and reflective look at grief and passion.

Mr. Gauguin’s Heart at Amazon.com

Mr Gauguin’s Heart at Amazon.ca


The Painted Chest – Share this picture book for older children and let it speak to your heart

Posted on September 21st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Adults and young readers will enjoy this thought-provoking fable, The Painted Chest, a picture book for older children

The Painted Chest - Share this picture book for older children and let it speak to your heart
The Painted Chest written and illustrated by Judith Christine Mills
Picture book about the value of music and art published by Key Porter Books



The Painted Chest is a lovely fable that has an important message for both children and adults… In this picture book for older children, stars twinkle above and wildflowers bloom in the fields but life in Maddie’s village is barren and grey. A distant memory of famine casts a worrying shadow. The villagers toil day after day, focussed only on growing food.

One day, while clearing rocks from the fields, the villagers unearth a large object caked in mud.

The long-lost painted wooden chest has an important message for the townsfolk:

Days will all be long and cold, If you nourish body but not soul.

Once opened, the musical instruments and dancing shoes from the painted chest bring renewed joy to the small community.

Share this lovely, thought provoking story with a child and let it speak to your heart.

The Painted Chest at Amazon.com

The Painted Chest at Amazon.ca

Recommended Chapter Books – What to Read After E.B. White and Roald Dahl

Posted on September 15th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

What to Read After E.B. White and Roald Dahl Chapter Book Suggestions for Preteens

When you’ve read all the best-known novels for preteens, here are some lesser-known recommended chapter books








I work with a grade three girl who is a very good reader. She has read almost all of Roald Dahl’s books (James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The B.F.G., etc.) and also E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan. The question posed Wednesday was, “What shall I read next? What are your recommended chapter books for kids like me?”

Let’s take a look at some possibilities…

Tuck Everlasting
by Natalie Babbitt
A great pick for summertime reading, this adventure is set in the 1880s and tells the story of a family who has found a source of eternal life. Very difficult decisions lie ahead as one of the boys falls in love with Winnie. She must decide between eternal life with him and a life that will come to an end.

Tuck Everlasting at Amazon.com

Tuck Everlasting at Amazon.ca


Frindle (plus The Landry News, The Report Card)
by Andrew Clements
Nick has loads of ideas – he’s always trying to liven things up. His grade five teacher, known as The Lone Granger, is all business and unlikely to appreciate Nick’s antics. However, an early assignment to look up word definitions may just have potential: why not call a pen something else? How about using frindle instead?

Frindle at Amazon.com

Frindle at Amazon.ca


Owls in the Family
by Farley Mowat
I love this depiction of Mr. Mowat’s boyhood. He lived in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and had all manner of pets. His parents must have been amazing – imagine managing a household with a dog, gophers, snakes, owls and more. The chapter that describes the new minister’s tumultuous visit is one I will never forget.

Owl in the Family at Amazon.com

Owls in the Family at Amazon.ca


The Nose from Jupiter (plus A Nose for Adventure & Noses Are Red)
by Richard Scrimger
Leave your scepticism at the door and enjoy the fun. Poor Alan is a mess, there is something not quite right. His nose is stuffy, considerably stuffier than usual. Norbert, an alien from Jupiter, is an unexpected, uninvited guest in Alan’s nose.

The Nose from Jupiter at Amazon.com

The Nose from Jupiter at Amazon.ca


Canadian Flyer Adventures Time Travel Series for Grade Two

Posted on September 13th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

image of cover art for Canadian Flyer Adentures Beware, Pirates

The exciting Canadian Flyer Adventures time travel series for grade two has all the elements needed for success – action, adventure and fun. Generously illustrated, readers will be captivated while learning history






Canadian Flyer Adventures series written by Frieda Wishinsky and illustrated by Dean Griffiths
Time Travel Series published by Owlkids Books



When young friends Emily and Matt climb a rickety spiral staircase, they discover an intriguing room filled with wonderful treasures. They are excited to imagine where and when each originated. When they sit on an old red Canadian Flyer sled, their time travel adventures begin.

In Book One of the Canadian Flyer Adventure series, they are transported to the Far North circa 1577. They find themselves aboard Martin Frobisher’s pirate ship and later help to rescue an Inuit man.

In Book Two, they face dangers during the time of dinosaurs.

image of cover art for Canadian Flyer Adventures Danger, DinorsaursI read and enjoyed both books. Likely intended for children who are reading at about a grade two to three level, the series is generously illustrated and quite exciting. Extra features include additional facts, an interview with the author and a preview of the next book in the series for grade two. It is great to see a series like this. The Canadian Flyer Adventure series will be enjoyed by young readers everywhere but will have a special appeal for Canadian children and those who gravitate toward history or time travel.

OwlKids Books’ Canadian Flyer Adventures website includes teacher resources and a map

Beware, Pirates! at Amazon.com

Danger, Dinosaurs! at Amazon.com

Beware, Pirates! at Amazon.ca

Danger, Dinosaurs! at Amazon.ca


Jeffrey and Sloth – Why not try doodling your way to a fun tale?

Posted on September 5th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Jeffrey and Sloth - Why not try doodling your way to a fun tale? Jeffrey and Sloth written by Kari-Lynn Winters and illustrated by Ben Hodson
Picture book about writing and drawing published by Orca Book Publishers



Staring at a blank sheet of paper (or computer screen) can be awfully daunting when you can’t find anything to write about (or blog about). For Jeffrey, the solution is to draw a shining sun, snow-capped mountains, space aliens and a round-bellied, long-armed sloth. Jeffrey’s sloth suggests that Jeffrey should make himself useful and sketch a chair. Before long, Jeffrey discovers that his drawing and words are magical – with them, he sends his creation digging, swimming, climbing and trekking.

A fun picture book – especially for a young writer seeking inspiration. Why not try doodling your way to your next tale?

Kari-Lynn Winters’ Website

Lesson plan for Jeffrey and Sloth (in PDF format) based on six traits of writing.

Jeffrey and Sloth at Amazon.com

Jeffrey and Sloth at Amazon.ca


Establishing a sense of community in my split grade classroom, I will try something different this year

Posted on September 4th, 2011 by Jody

One of my favourite parts of the school year is the first few weeks. I love mapping things out and getting to know my students. I love choosing my first read aloud and getting them hooked. In the past I have done Tuck Everlasting (I just love this story), Zebra Wall, and Sixth Grade Secrets (one of the funniest books). This year I have decided, thanks to a great workshop I attended, to try something different.

I generally start with a novel as a way of introducing reading strategies, such as predicting, questioning, and summarizing. However, instead of a novel, I am going to start with a book called,  Shi-shi-etko by Nicola I. Campbell and  illustrated by Kim LaFave. It is actually a picture book recommended for ages 4-7. I am teaching grade 4/5 this year but I think that in addition to being able to introduce reading strategies, this story will allow me to establish a stronger sense of community right from the start.

Shi-shi-etko tells about a child’s experience with residential schools. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful. It will give me the opportunity to introduce themes of community, diversity, anxiety, family, and inclusion. These are all topics that need to be present in any classroom, but more so in a split grade classroom I think. In general, split classes are viewed negatively. Parents don’t want their child working below or beyond their capabilities and kids who have waited to experience certain things offered to their grade (like field trips) resent having to share these adventures. These thoughts seem at odds with the growing awareness of the need for differentiation in the classroom. Split grade or straight, more than one level of need is being met in all classrooms. It is important for teachers to find a way to motivate all learners and to do this, a community of acceptance needs to be established as quickly as possible. A classroom that students feel accepted, trusted, and safe in will promote positive learning experiences.

When my students come to my class this year, I want them to worry less about whether or not the work is really grade four work or grade five work. I want them to focus on contributing to a positive community atmosphere. I want them to feel safe to explore what kind of learning best suits them. I want them to accept the ideas, feelings, and beliefs of others and have this reciprocated. While I have grade level curriculum to teach, my hope is that we will go beyond that. I want them to be able to achieve academic success, but more importantly, I want them to acquire the tools that will help them become lifelong learners that accept and appreciate the unique backgrounds of others. I hope that in addition to powerful reading strategies, Shi-shi-etko will pave the way to a safe, strong sense of community in our class, built on trust, tolerance, and acceptance.

Shi-shi-etko at Amazon.com

Shi-shi-etko at Amazon.ca

Storytime Standouts recommends picture books that celebrate diversity

Special Picture Books to Watch For

Posted on August 20th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Today we’ll look at three special picture books to enjoy with young children


image of cover art for A Sack Full of FeathersA Sack Full of Feathers
Written by Debby Waldman and illustrated by Cindy Revell
Picture book that explores social responsibility published by Orca Book Publishers

Young Yankel is a storyteller. He overhears bits of news at his father’s store and excitedly shares the gossip throughout the village.

One day a wise rabbi gives Yankel a job; he is to put one feather on each doorstep in the village. Puzzled, Yankel willingly distributes the feathers even as gusts of wind send some flying.

When the rabbi subsequently asks Yankel to collect all the feathers and return them to the sack, Yankel comes to understand the danger of gossip.

A delightful folktale is retold in A Sack Full of Feathers with engaging illustrations and warmth.

A Sack Full of Feathers at Amazon.com

Sack Full of Feathers at Amazon.ca

Heave Ho!
Written by Heinz Janisch and illustrated by Carola Holland
Imagine, a refreshing and surprising story told in just twelve sentences! Engaging illustrations introduce a cat, a dog and a trio of mice. Together, they take on a tricky job and discover they are ‘up’ to the challenge. Good fun.

Heave Ho! at Amazon.com

Heave Ho! at Amazon.ca

Dooby Dooby Moo
Written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin

I hope you have discovered the not-to-be missed Caldecott Honor book, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type. In Dooby Dooby Moo we once again encounter Farmer Brown and his irrepressible animals. With good cause, Farmer Brown is suspicious that something is going on behind the barn door. In fact, Duck is determined to win a trampoline in the upcoming Talent Show. He is busy organizing rehearsals of “Home on the Range” and “Born to be Wild.” This book’s a sure ‘winner.’

Dooby Dooby Moo at Amazon.com

Dooby Dooby Moo at Amazon.ca


Laughter is the best medicine…even for writer’s block: Chester’s Masterpiece by Mélanie Watt

Posted on August 16th, 2011 by Jody

Storytime Standout's review of Chester's Masterpiece by Mélanie WattI don’t know if it’s typical for adults to love picture books as much as I do. Many of the adults in my life; my husband, best friend, and co-workers, love them, but we’re all teachers, so maybe it’s just us. However, I think that children’s books are one of the best stress releases ever. The best ones are those that literally make you laugh out loud.

Chester’s Masterpiece written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt
Picture book published by Kids Can Press






For me, this week, that laugh out loud book was Chester’s Masterpiece by Mélanie Watt. I’ve had writers block all week and just happened to read this to my girls and their two friends. I had read Chester, but not his Masterpiece. If you haven’t read either, Chester is a cat that thinks he is much more capable of writing a great book than his creator, Mélanie Watt.

In this particular book, Chester appears to be struggling with some writer’s block as well! His was much funnier than mine. He hides Mélanie’s writing tools so she cannot do her work. They have a witty back and forth through post it notes and sketches. Chester tries hard to create a Masterpiece with Mélanie trying to offer him helpful hints and strongly suggesting he return her tools so she can actually get to work.

This book is truly funny. I am in awe of authors that can create such rich characters without a lot of back story. I am working on a couple of children’s books myself and I always find myself adding in details that don’t need to be shared. Mélanie’s talent for jumping into the story and attracting you to the larger than life characters is inspiring. You can’t help but love Chester, or Scaredy Squirrel, another of her awesome characters. You jump into these books, laugh out loud, and feel better just for having read them.

So, if you need to laugh out loud this week, or just distract yourself from your own writer’s block, pick up a Mélanie Watt book and you won’t be disappointed.

Kids Can Press Chester’s Masterpiece Free PDF Download learn how to draw Chester plus storytime ideas and a wordsearch

Chester’s Masterpiece at Amazon.com

Chester’s Masterpiece at Amazon.ca


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