Posts Tagged ‘series’

Wordless Picture Book Fun with Flora

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

Flora and the Flamingo at

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

Flora and the Peacocks at

Beach Fun! Beach theme picture books and printables for kids

Posted on June 30th, 2015 by Carolyn Hart


Extend your child's learning with Beach Theme picture books and printables from StorytimeStandouts

Whether planning a day at the beach or just back from some fun in the sun, these beach-theme picture books will be a wonderful addition to your summertime fun. Suitable for toddlers, preschool age children, kindergarten and older, these stories address important themes like fear of the water and getting outside one’s comfort zone. Whenever possible, it is very valuable to have children read books that match their experiences. These stories are perfect for introducing new concepts and extending learning. Have fun!

All You Need for a Beach written by Alice Shertle and illustrated by Barbara LavalleeAll You Need for a Beach written by Alice Shertle and illustrated by Barbara Lavallee
Picture book about a day at the beach published by Harcourt, Inc.

A companion book to All You Need for a Snowman, this is an exuberant celebration of a group of children, playing together in sand and water. Bright, cheerful colours and a happy theme of exploration and cooperation highlight this picture book for toddlers and preschool-age children. Illustrations depict a racially diverse group of children.

All You Need for a Beach at

All You Need for a Beach at

At the Beach by Anne and Harlow RockwellAt the Beach by Anne and Harlow Rockwell
Toddler book about a day at the beach published by Aladdin

Best suited to very young children, At the Beach is a lovely introduction to the joys of spending a day picnicking, playing in the sand, looking for treasures and swimming. Simple, clear text matches the colorful illustrations and creates an opportunity for learning new vocabulary.

The main characters are a Caucasian girl and her mother however the illustrations depict diverse skin tones among those playing at the shoreline.

At the Beach at

At the Beach at

Curious George Goes to the BeachCurious George Goes to the Beach based on the original character created by Margaret and H.A. Rey, illustrated in the style of H.A. Rey by Vipah Interactive
Picture book about a day at the beach published by HMH Books for Young Readers

Fans of Curious George will not be disappointed with this fun story about a day at the beach. George and his friend Betsy enjoy playing at the sandy beach, making friends and feeding the sea gulls. Betsy’s reluctance to go into the water could be an opportunity to talk about fear of new experiences.

Betsy, her grandmother and the man with the yellow hat Caucasian however the illustrations depict diverse skin tones among those at the beach.

Curious George Goes to the Beach at

Curious George Goes to the Beach at

Duck and Goose Go to the Beach written and illustrated by Tad HillsDuck and Goose Go to the Beach written and illustrated by Tad Hills
Picture book about friends who visit the beach published by Schwartz & Wade Books

Duck is keen for adventure while Goose would much rather stay in familiar surroundings so it is only not surprising that Goose is not keen to go for a hike. The two friends leave their familiar meadow and eventually arrive at the beach. It is loud and wet and very, very sandy. Vibrant illustrations are a highlight of this engaging story about two friends leaving their comfort zone, enjoying a day out together and then returning to the comfort of home. Duck and Goose Go to the Beach is highly recommended for preschool- age children.

Duck & Goose Go to the Beach at

Duck & Goose Go to the Beach at

Beach Theme Picture Books including Flotsam Flotsam created by David Wiesner
Wordless beach-theme picture book published by Clarion Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A wonderful follow-up to a day at the seashore.

In this wordless picture book, we join a boy and his family as they spend a day at the beach. Clearly an enthusiastic scientist, he arrives equipped with binoculars, a magnifying glass and a microscope. As he searches for interesting ‘flotsam’, a huge wave crashes over him and leaves an old underwater camera just above the waterline. The boy races to a nearby shop and waits as the film is developed. When handed the photos, he can’t believe what they reveal. Flotsam is truly a ‘treasure chest’ of visual delights.

Flotsam at

Flotsam at

Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach by Melanie WattScaredy Squirrel at the Beach written and illustrated by Melanie Watt
Beach theme picture book published by Kids Can Press

Scaredy Orville Squirrel whose initials are S.O.S. is an immensely popular character in an equally popular series of picture books.

In Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach Scaredy the worrywart is very careful to avoid any sort of real or imagined danger. Rather than encounter pirates, jellyfish, seagulls and sea monsters, he decides to create his very own private backyard beach paradise. After carefully constructing his safe haven, Scaredy realizes that, although his beach “look” is great – his backyard just doesn’t sound like the real thing. The only solution is “Operation Seashell” – a carefully planned and executed mission in search of a seashell that will provide crystal clear ocean sound. Featuring detailed descriptions of Scaredy’s beachware and plans for his mission, Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach will be enjoyed best independently or in a small group or one-on-one read-aloud setting. Best-suited to children five and up.

Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach at

Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach at

Stella Star of the Sea written and illustrated by Marie-Louise GayStella Star of the Sea written and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
Picture book about a summer day at the seashore published by Groundwood Books

In this endearing series of picture books, we meet confident and worldly Stella and her much less self-assured younger brother Sam. When the two children visit the seaside on a shimmery summer day, Sam is filled with questions that suggest not only curiosity but also a bit of fear,

Do you think there are sharks in the sea?” asked Sam.
“Have you ever seen one?”
“Just a little one,” said Stella, “with an eyepatch.
Are you coming, Sam?”
“Not just this minute,” said Sam.

Gorgeous illustrations together with text that beautifully depicts the two siblings will have young children longing to visit the seashore and discover all the wonders of a leisurely summer day filled with digging in the sand, fishing, beach combing and, eventually, a swim.

Winner of the 2000 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award

Stella, Star of the Sea at

Stella, Star of the Sea at

Tip Tap Went the Crab written and illustrated by Tim HopgoodTip Tap Went the Crab written and illustrated by Tim Hopgood
Counting book about sea creatures

Tip Tap Went the Crab features bright and colorful illustrations along with repetitious text that includes alliteration and onomatopoeia. When a crab decides to leave her small rock pool to explore the ocean she encounters one seagull, two sea lions and three starfish.

A great choice for toddlers and preschoolers, Tip Tap Went the Crab provides a great reminder that books for this age group can (and should) include rich language and fun, detailed and appealing illustrations. It is well-suited for a classroom or library read-aloud session.

Nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal 2010

Tip Tap Went the Crab at

Tip Tap Went The Crab at

Summer, Camping and Beach Theme Picture Books including Wave Wordless picture book by Suzy LeeWave – created by Suzy Lee
Beach-theme wordless picture book published by Chronicle Books

When a young girl arrives at a beach, she is filled with enthusiasm and dashes forward, stopping just short of the beautiful, frothy blue water. She hesitates on the sand, pausing, leaning as she is drawn toward the ocean. Suddenly, the character of the water changes. Worried, she tentatively shifts backward, her steps mirrored by a group of friendly gulls. As the waves reverse and retreat, our young heroine stands on her tip toes and challenges the salty water. Before long, she leaps into the dancing waves, joyfully kicking and splashing until an enormous wave erupts. The powerful crest leaves her sodden but excited when it deposits a bounty of shells on the sandy beach.

Children and adults will revel in this playful, wordless celebration of a day at the beach.

Gorgeous illustrations were created with charcoal and watercolours. Suitable for all ages.

Wave was selected New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book 2008

Wave at

Wave at

Beach Theme Early Learning Printables from Storytime Standouts

Free Beach Theme Printables for Preschool and Kindergarten

image of PDF icon  Beach Picture Dictionary

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

image of PDF icon  A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea

Fun action chant

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Sandcastle

Beach theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

Discover Classic Picture Book: No, David!

Posted on August 26th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts shares classic picture book No, David! by David ShannonNo, David! written and illustrated by David Shannon
Classic picture book published by Blue Sky Press, an imprint of Scholastic

I have shared No, David! with dozens of preschool age children and, without exception, this is a picture book that they understand, appreciate and relate to. David is a child who can’t seem to do anything right. Whether reaching for a cookie jar, eating dinner, taking a bath or practicing his baseball swing, David finds himself in trouble. Parenting this boy must be quite a challenge for his ever-patient mom.

For a child who has had a rough day, David is the perfect antidote – another child who gets into trouble more often than he does. For parents, there is a reminder that mistakes happen and forgiveness is divine.

A wonderful starting point for discussions about rules and good behavior, No, David! is also an opportunity for young readers to make inferences and predictions. Most children will benefit from the opportunity to witness David making poor choices and yet still sharing an affectionate hug with his mom at the end of a tough day. Beginning readers will enjoy the predictable text and the repetition.

1999 Caldecott Honor Book
National Education Association Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children
SLJ’s Top 100 Picture Books

No, David! at

No, David! at

Our No, David! Pinterest Board

Follow Storytime Standouts’s board No, David! written and illustrated by David Shannon on Pinterest.

More Books from the No, David! series

Meet Young Adult Lit Author Catherine Egan

Posted on August 21st, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Author Catherine EganCatherine Egan grew up in Vancouver, Canada. She thinks it is a glorious city and there is no good reason ever to leave but, she left anyway. Since then she has lived on a wee volcanic Japanese island (which erupted during her time there and sent her hurtling straight into the arms of her now-husband), Tokyo, Kyoto, Beijing, an oil rig in the middle of the Bohai Bay (she still misses her little bedroom there), New Jersey, and now Connecticut, where she writes books and hangs out with her kids.

Shade and Sorceress won a 2013 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award (Gold) in the Pre-Teen Fiction – Fantasy. It was also named an Ontario Library Association Best Bet for 2012 in the Young Adult Fiction category.

Author website

Author Facebook page

Author Twitter @byCatherineEgan

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

Bone, Fog, Ash & Star by Catherine EganBone, Fog, Ash & Star is the third and final book in The Last Days of Tian Di series. It will be published by Coteau Books on September 1, 2014. The trilogy follows my hero Eliza from the age of twelve in the first book, when she is kidnapped by magical beings who want to train her to be a Sorceress, to the age of sixteen, when she sets out on an impossible quest to gather four ancient objects in the hope of saving her loved ones and changing the world.

As for who should read it: certainly anyone who has read the first two books – you want to know how it all ends, don’t you? It is a fast-paced adventure that should appeal to fantasy-readers from the age of around ten and up. I am most proud of my villain, the mostly-evil-but-sometimes-not Sorceress Nia – and perhaps more generally the ambiguity surrounding the ideas of villain and hero in the story.

Bone, Fog, Ash & Star: The Last Days of Tian Di Book 3 at

Bone, Fog, Ash & Star: The Last Days of Tian Di Book 3 at

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

There are too many favourites and resonances to name here, but I think the first time I was really aware of an author’s writing and how the style, the descriptions, the insights and turns-of-phrase could draw me in as much as the plot was when I read Louise Fitzhugh’s The Long Secret. I was eleven, and it changed my idea of how I wanted to write, or what it might mean to write a book. I wouldn’t have used the word genius then, but I think I was experiencing a brush with it, and it gave me shivers. It was also a very unsettling, uncomfortable read for me, because I recognized so much of my own childhood anger and self-absorption in Beth Ellen and Harriet.

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?

Once I knew that books were written by human beings, that was the sort of human I wanted to be. I wrote my first novel when I was six years old. It was about a bunch of kids who lived on a farm (I had never been to a farm) and ran races. The heroine was called Cathy, and every chapter ended thusly: “Cathy won the race again!” I showed my book to my grandmother, who had been married to a writer. She read it very seriously, and told me it was a good first draft.

What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?The Unmaking by Catherine Egan

The writing itself is a tremendous joy. I have occasionally felt a bit insecure about how much I enjoy it, having come across so many quotations by famous, brilliant writers describing writing as torturous. I wondered if my enjoyment of it might be an indication of my mediocrity, but now that I am a little older, I don’t care. It is frustrating when a story isn’t clicking, or when I feel that I am writing badly or stupidly, but all the same, there is nothing I like better than thinking of stories and writing them down.

If you weren’t an author / illustrator, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?

Shade and Soceress by Catherine EganI have no talent at all for anything else, and no real desire to do anything else, but I have of course had a number of jobs. I taught ESL for many years. I don’t think I was a very good teacher, but I really enjoyed meeting so many interesting people from all walks of life, and it was a great way to support myself while living abroad. The job I think of the most fondly, however, was my stint as a waitress in a sushi restaurant. Waitressing goes very well with writing. You sit at a desk alone and write during the day, and then in the evening you are up on your feet, rushing around and talking with people. It gives you the human interaction that I think writers really need so that they don’t go crazy. I miss the people, and I miss the sushi.

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

Nancy Mitford. Or maybe Oscar Wilde. Imagine dinner with Oscar Wilde! That’s probably a very unoriginal answer, but both of them had a reputation for social brilliance as well as literary genius, and if I’m going to have dinner with someone, I want to laugh a lot.

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

I am open to doing school or library presentations but I live in New Haven, CT with small children and so my availability is limited.

Meet Author Elizabeth MacLeod

Posted on July 3rd, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Author Elizabeth MacLeodElizabeth MacLeod is one nosy author, which is why she loves writing non-fiction. She’s very curious about why people do what they do, and she likes sharing with kids the amazing facts and secrets she uncovers.

As a kid in Thornhill, Ontario, the idea of being a writer never crossed her mind — she figured most authors were already dead and they definitely weren’t Canadian. Besides, it was science that interested her.

But writing was already part of her life. After dinner on school nights, she and her two brothers would trudge up to their rooms, close their doors and start to do their homework — or so their parents thought. A few minutes later, a piece of paper would come sliding under her door. One of her brothers had drawn a picture, usually of some weird creature.

She really couldn’t draw (she still can’t!), so the only way she could respond was to write a short story, often about a mad scientist or space alien. she’d slip the story under her brother’s door and — well, not a lot of homework got done.

At university, she studied sciences — there was hardly any writing involved at all. After she graduated she had a number of jobs, but none of them had anything to do with writing. She wanted to be an author but she was too scared to admit it to anyone, especially herself. However, one day she gathered up her courage, phoned a newspaper and sold an article she’d written. Wow!

Soon after this she attended a publishing workshop in Banff, Alberta, which led her to a job as an editor at OWL magazine. After a few years she switched to book publishing and became an editor at Kids Can Press. Meanwhile, in her spare time she began writing non-fiction books for kids. Then she became a part-time editor and writer. Now she’s a full-time writer, working for a number of different publishers.

One of the things she especially likes about writing for kids is that she gets to investigate so many interesting topics. She’s written articles or books on subjects such as weird breeds of dogs, Marie Curie, hoaxes, the northern lights and many, many more. Did you know that some dinosaurs were as small as chickens? Or that Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, got tired of having his work interrupted by his invention?

She’s written many biographies about such people as Helen Keller, Albert Einstein and Samuel de Champlain. One of her favourite things is discovering how inventors and writers come up with their ideas. She’s written a series of biographies for readers ages 6 to 8, and one for kids aged 8 to 12.

More recently she’s written about royalty, and the mysteries and crimes that surround them. Monarchy has always fascinated her. She loves going behind the scenes with monarchs from Cleopatra to Dracula to find out just what they would do to hold onto power or protect their families. These books have also let her research forensic techniques, ranging from DNA testing to crime-scene procedures.

Secrets Underground North Americas Buried Past written by Elizabeth MacLeodTell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

Secrets Underground: North America’s Buried Past is for readers age 10 and up. This is a great book for anyone who likes spine-tingling mysteries and eerie surprises! I think kids will be amazed to read about these buried secrets, including the top-secret equipment that lies deep below Grand Central Terminal in New York City and the network of abandoned tunnels below Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

The book also tells about the ships that were abandoned in San Francisco harbor during the Gold Rush. I travelled to the city and found numerous plaques and displays about the forgotten, buried ships. Many people who lived in San Francisco knew nothing about the ships but I’m proud of the fact that I was able to track them down.

Secrets Underground: North America’s Buried Past at Amazon,com

Secrets Underground: North America’s Buried Past at

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

I’ve had a different writing career from most other writers. I started as an editor at OWL Magazine, so I was on the inside of the publishing world from the beginning. The first few books I published were books that publishers asked me to write.

It can be really tough to get a publisher to accept a book proposal so I’d suggest aspiring authors prepare themselves as much as possible. Colleges and universities offer great writing courses, and so do organizations such as CANSCAIP and SCBWI. These are wonderful opportunities to meet other writers, have your proposal assessed by an expert and improve your writing.

I think it’s important for all authors, aspiring and published, to remember to never give up. If you really believe in a book idea but a publisher turns it down, revise the proposal as necessary, then send it out to another publisher. From being on the inside of the publishing world, I know there are lots of reasons why one publisher will turn down a book idea that will work very well for another publisher.

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?

I work at a large desk with a keyboard and good-sized computer monitor. I’ve got piles of papers and books, as well as a ceramic vase full of pens, a pewter pot holding paper clips, a grapefruit-scented candle (I read somewhere it helps with creativity) and a few other bits and pieces.

But you probably wouldn’t notice any of these things because you’d likely be focusing on our cat Cosimo. While I work, he’s usually stretched out under my desk lamp. Even on the hottest summer day, he seems to like the warmth!

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

In my presentations, I ask a lot of questions, so you’d think I’d be used to receiving some amazing answers, but kids always surprise me. I was talking once about the biographies I’ve written and telling kids about magician Harry Houdini. One boy shot up his hand and offered to share a magic trick with the group. How could I say no?The Kids Book of Canada at War by Elizabeth MacLeod

I also wrote The Kids Book of Canada at War, so I talk to students about John McCrae (author of the poem In Flanders Fields) and other brave Canadians who served in World War I and II (including my dad). I often get teary-eyed when I think of their courage and kids usually notice this. I wish I weren’t quite so emotional, but then the kids always want to share their stories about relatives who served in wartime. I guess I help them form a connection that makes them proud.

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’ve taken part in a number of book tours, in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and throughout the Maritimes. I write about such interesting people and topics, so I love sharing the incredible facts I’ve uncovered. I visit classrooms, libraries and bookstores and have also done interviews on radio and television.

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

I’d choose Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables books. I still re-read those books and I’ve written two biographies about her. Maud (as she liked to be called) had a tough life, so I’d ask her where she found her inspiration. I’d also like to know if she’s surprised that Anne is still so popular, what Maud thinks of all the books written about her and how she feels about Anne’s incredible fame in Japan.

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

I’ve written a series of biographies for first readers as well as a series for 8 to 12 year olds. So I can bring some of the world’s most incredible people to life for kids of many different ages. Kids are drawn into the wonderful stories about these well-known personalities with the many photos and artifacts that I use to illustrate my talks. I ask questions, request opinions, involve students in activities, etc.

Bunny the Brave War Horse by Elizabeth MacLeodFor students up to grade 2 or 3, I can also speak about my latest picture book, Bunny the Brave War Horse (Kids Can Press). This is a World War I story and is based on a real horse and rider. I can talk about the war as well as about horses; I also discuss World War II and show artifacts that belong to my father, who was a navigator with Bomber Command in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

As well, for older students I can look at the mysteries of history and how we’ve used modern technology to solve many of them. Using images and artifacts from my books Secrets Underground, Bones Never Lie and Royal Murder, I look at historic events and show why they matter, how they affect us today and how we can learn more about them. I also explore the forensic techniques used to solve crimes and mysteries and encourage kids to consider how to use deductive reasoning and other investigative methods in their own lives.

I’ve worked as an in-house editor, so as part of my presentation, I can also talk about the publishing process, from initial idea to final book. I discuss the team of people needed to produce a book, and again show artifacts to illustrate the various steps and to involve the audience.

As well, I have given many presentations to adults. One of my most popular talks is about how to get your children’s book published, including writing the best query letters, avoiding first-timers’ mistakes, etc. Since I have worked as an in-house editor, I can provide the view point of both an insider and a freelancer. I’ve also given presentations to many teachers and librarians about why biographies are important (for instance, they’re fun, they make history come alive, they can boost self-esteem and more) and how to interest children in biographies. I can provide handouts to participants for both of these talks.

I live in Toronto and I’m very willing to discuss travelling with anyone who would like me to speak in their classroom or library.

Meet Author Frieda Wishinsky

Posted on May 29th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Frieda Wishinsky AuthorFrieda Wishinsky is the author of over sixty books. She writes picture books, chapter books, novels and non-fiction and is the author of the popular Canadian Flyer Adventures. Her books have been translated into many languages and have been nominated or won many awards internationally. JENNIFER JONES WON’T LEAVE ME ALONE won three English Children’s Choice awards and PLEASE, LOUISE! won the prestigious Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. EACH ONE SPECIAL was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award (Text) in 1998. Frieda loves speaking to kids and adults about the writing process and the joy of reading.

Author website
Author Facebook page

Ms. Wishinky’s latest book is A HISTORY OF JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING, non-fiction for grades 3 and up. She co-wrote it with Elizabeth MacLeod.
Published by Kids Can Press

A History of Just About Everything by Frieda Wishinsky and Elizabeth MacLeodTell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

My latest book, A HISTORY OF JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING was the biggest project I ever worked on and I didn’t even write it alone. Elizabeth MacLeod and I co-wrote the book and luckily we had an excellent editor, Val Wyatt who helped us organize our huge topic. I think our approach is a dynamic way of presenting history. We show how everything is linked and how events from the past ripple forward. We wrote the book in a conversational, easy-to-understand and fast-paced style. Both kids and adults tell us they enjoy the book (and learn a lot along the way).

A History of Just About Everything at

A History of Just About Everything at

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?

I love writing in coffee shops. Maybe that’s because I grew up in New York City and like the hum and buzz behind me as I write. I also write at home in my office overlooking tall evergreens but I’m most creative when I’m out. I write by hand with a pencil (hooray for erasers) and then transfer the text to the computer. I revise by hand and then it’s back to the computer. I like to get feedback for my work and ask wise, honest yet supportive readers for their comments. Then I listen to what they say. I may not use everything, or change everything but I listen.Please, Louise! written by Frieda Wishinsky and illustrated by Marie Louise Gay

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

I love hearing, reading and making up stories. Stories keep us connected to each other, help us through tough times and let us know that we’re not alone. I enjoy writing in many genres, although I especially love picture books. It’s an exciting challenge to say so much in so few words. I believe that the best picture books are for readers of any age. (I read picture books all the time)

I also believe that non-fiction should be presented as a story. After all, history is the story of everyone’s past.

I have fun visiting schools, meeting teachers and librarians and my fellow authors. Book people are wonderful!

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

You're Mean, Lily Jean written by Frieda Wishinsky and illustrated by Kady MacDonald DentonA bunch of my books have been published electronically, especially my Orca titles. I find I still sell way more books the old fashioned paper way. Maybe it’s the genre I write in. I don’t know.

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

Top of my list would be my dear friend, Phoebe Gilman. I wish she were here to talk to and share work with again. I miss her. She always had insightful yet supportive comments. And I would have loved to meet William Steig. I love that he began writing kids books late in life. His writing and art are funny and so “true”.

Our reviews of some of Ms. Wishinky’s books:
Canadian Flyer Adventure Series
You’re Mean, Lily JeanCanadian Flyer -  Beware Pirates Frieda Wishinsky

Do you do school or library presentations?

I do many school, library and conference presentations all over Canada and beyond. I love sharing writing ideas and books with kids and adults. My background in teaching and educational writing has been invaluable in connecting with kids, teachers and the curriculum. My talks are lively, interactive and curriculum-linked.
I’ve also taught writing workshops and courses for kids and adults and offer one-to-one manuscript evaluations.

Good Things Come In Threes; The Ascendance Trilogy

Posted on April 22nd, 2014 by Jody


Good Things Come In Threes; The Ascendance Trilogy

The False Prince,  Book One of the Ascendance TrilogyThis isn’t a scientific fact but it is a completely accurate statement when applied to Jennifer Nielson’s Ascendance trilogy. After Carolyn recommended The False Prince, I wrote a post (okay, gushed shamelessly) about the book. I have never, in thirteen years of teaching, read an entire trilogy or series of books to a class. For one thing, there’s the time factor. I tend to read, at least, one book per term for read aloud. I try to do a selection of books, based on student interest. This year, we started the year with One for the Murphy’s and I planned another book for after The False Prince. I didn’t plan to finish four full novels before Spring Break. I also didn’t plan to fall head over heels for Jaron or for my class to be so captivated by his story that even my most reluctant reader, the one who claimed he would rather do anything before read, that we couldn’t focus until we knew how it all played out.
The Runaway King,   Book Two of the Ascendance TrilogyWe read through the second book, The Runaway King, even more engaged. More action unfolded and we knew Jaron now, cared about him. We read every single day, without fail. If I had a substitute teacher in for me, I wouldn’t let them read to my class. I would tuck the books away so the kids didn’t say, “Oh, she reads that to us every day.” I’ve never done that. I also made a promise to my class because they love that I hadn’t already read the books- I told them I would not read ahead. I would learn Jaron’s story along with them. Perhaps that is part of what made them connect to the story. My reactions were real and in the moment and the kids like that- they like seeing their teacher as a real person- one who gets outraged when the main character is suffering or maybe sheds a few tears when something heartbreaking happens. It gives them the freedom to attach strongly to the books as well. While we are reading, we are part of that world. Which is why, when Runaway King finished with a cliff hanger, we had no other option. We had to know. So we moved on to Shadow Throne and as much as I loved the first two, this one was my favorite. I loved watching who Jaron became, how my students reacted to what was happening, learning how it all unfolded and came together. My reluctant reader? He bought all three books and told me that he “didn’t make the same silly promise to not read ahead”. He brought them in to show me. As much as I loved these books, connected with them, the fact that they reached so many students, even the ones that did not want to be reached, made me love them more.
The Shadow Throne, Book Three of the Ascendance TrilogyI have posted before about how important I think sequels and trilogies are for reluctant readers. If you can find something they can latch onto, get immersed in, then you want to know there’s more waiting for them. Though there are no more in this series we loved, the students are now looking around the library differently. They’re looking for the next book that they will fall for the way we did these three. And while they’re looking, they’re reading. Reading is a gift. No matter how many times I tell my students this, the ones who just haven’t found the book that pulls them all the way in will never fully believe it without proof. This trilogy was proof for some of the students in my class. It spurred discussions, connections, and debates. Each book made us want more and the most important thing is, they delivered. There are many series where you read the first, love it, and then move on and the second one just doesn’t have the same draw as the original. One of the things that continuously got to me during the readings, was how far Ms. Nielsen pushed her characters and her readers. These stories are amazing tales of courage and redemption. Of making something out of nothing and of finding the way out of even the most harrowing situations. When the students look back, when I look back, these three books will be a large piece of what made this year special.

The False Prince at

The Runaway King at

The Shadow Throne at

The False Prince at

The Runaway King at

The Shadow Throne at

Spring Themed Picture Books Will Help Young Readers ‘Blossom’

Posted on March 26th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Spring theme picture books recommended by StorytimeStandouts

Engaging and fun, these three Spring themed picture books feature gorgeous illustrations and delightful wordplay. It is no wonder that each is part of a popular series of children’s books.

Bear Wants More - Spring Themed Picture BooksBear Wants More written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman
Spring Themed Picture Book published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster

Fans of Bear and his forest animal friends will enjoy reading about his springtime awakening. He is hungry and thin – eager for fresh berries, clover and fish but nothing seems to satisfy his enormous appetite. Bear Wants More is a read-aloud delight and features alliteration, onomatopoeia, rhyming and repetition.

They nibble on their lunch,
with a crunch, crunch, crunch!
But the bear wants more!

Rich, vibrant illustrations make this an ideal read aloud for groups. The story will be enjoyed by children aged three years and up.

Winner, 2003 National Parenting Publications Honors Award (NAPPA)
An ABC Best Book for Children and a New York Times Bestseller

Bear Wants More (Classic Board Books) at

Bear Wants More at

Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms Spring Themed Picture BooksFletcher and the Springtime Blossoms written by Julia Rawlinson and illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke
Spring Themed Picture Book published by Greenwillow Books, an Imprint of Harper Collins

Fletcher is relishing the sights and sounds of spring until he arrives in the orchard. When he sees the flakes falling amongst the fruit trees, he worries for his friends. He knows that the birds, Porcupine, Squirrel and the rabbits are ill-prepared for cold weather. He rushes to warn them. It is only when all of the friends are assembled that they realize that the ‘snowflakes’ are actually blossoms.

So the rabbits hoppity-roly-poly-plopped down the hill, through the woods.
They were chased by Squirrel, Porcupine,
the birds, and a bouncy, full-of-importance fox, all the way to the orchard,
where the ground was white with…

A sunny celebration of friendship and the seasons,Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms features onomatopoeia, alliteration and repetition. Delightful illustrations will engage readers, including in group situations. Great for children aged four years and up.

Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms at

Fletcher And The Springtime Blossoms at

Mouse's First Spring - Spring Themed Picture BooksMouse’s first Spring written by Lauren Thompson and illustrated by Buket Erdogan
Spring Themed Picture Book published by Simon and Schuster

Rich with rhyming, onomatopoeia, alliteration and predictable text, Mouse’s First Spring is a happy look at the sights and sounds of springtime. Young Mouse and Momma venture outdoors on a windy spring day. Together they discover a butterfly, a snail, a bird, a frog, a flower and their love for each other.

There under a leaf,
Mouse found something
slithery and slimy.
What can it be?
wondered Mouse.

Luminous illustrations highlight the wonders waiting to be discovered in the out-of-doors. An excellent choice for babies and toddlers.

Mouse’s First Spring (Classic Board Books) at

Mouse’s First Spring at

Follow this link to our Spring and Easter theme printables for preschool and kindergarten

Free Spring and Easter Theme Printables for Preschool and Kindergarten

The Runaway King

Posted on February 8th, 2014 by Jody


The Runaway KingThe Runaway King written by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Chapter book for middle grade readers published by Scholastic

There are some books that change you. Some books that no matter how many books you read after, they will always stand out. The False Prince was one of these. When an artist– song writer, author, movie maker– puts out something incredible, there’s always the skepticism that the follow up cannot possibly surpass the greatness of the original. That’s why Oceans 11 is awesome and Oceans 13…not so much. This is completely not the case with Jennifer A Nielsen’s series. I read the False Prince because Carolyn recommended it so highly and I always want books that will engage the students, especially those reluctant readers. It was every bit as good as Carolyn had said. The students decided that we absolutely must read The Runaway King immediately after. I gave them other choices (all the while wanting them to choose The Runaway King) but it was a unanimous decision–we needed to know what happened to Sage/Jaron.

We fell into The Runaway King so far that we may or may not have skipped a few math lessons. When students are telling you: “We will work extra hard if you just read us one more chapter”, it is really difficult to say no. So I didn’t. And today we finished the book. We were all excited because yesterday we looked at the Scholastic order and saw that The Shadow Throne (the third in the trilogy) is now out. When we finished today, I immediately said, I will order the next one today. One of the students, who can often be hard to engage, said, “Can you order it right now so you don’t forget?” That– is what a book should do. It should make you forget that other things exist, keep you on the edge of your seat, root for, cry with, and grieve with the characters as though they are your friends.That’s what The Runaway King does.

At the end of The False Prince, Jaron has accepted his title as King of Carthya. We know more is coming but it was a good wrap up to the wonderful story of how Jaron made it back to the throne. The Runaway King not only showed a maturing of our main character, it expected the reader to mature as well. The stakes, the intrigue, the deception, the pace, and the connection deepened in this book to an amazing degree. I am always in complete awe of writers that can pull you this far into a story, write in a way that makes you think there is absolutely no way for the character to come out of the hole they are in, but then, in the most unexpected and beautiful ways, the story goes where it obviously meant to. Nielsen is an incredibly gifted story teller. She manages to show an understanding of the insecurity and uncertainty that a normal fourteen year old boy would feel after losing his family and compounds it with the immense weight that is put on Jaron’s shoulders. He must fight not only the people that want to take Carthya from him, but people that are supposed to be his loyal supporters and subjects. The very interesting thing to me is that the kids are usually wary of any love interest at this age (you get a lot of ‘ews’ from grade fives if there are any mushy scenes) but the friendship that forms between Imogen and Jaron is so much more than just your typical boy likes girl, girl likes boy, they can’t be together story. Imogen is Jaron’s person. So you root for him to be with her (or I did- the students probably enjoyed the dueling with pirates more than anything) but then there’s Araminda, the betrothed princess. In many stories, it’s easy to choose: I want the character to choose X. It’s not cut and dry for Jaron though because Nielsen does such a wonderful job creating likable characters that we can’t dislike Araminda any more than we can help like Imogen. She has the rare ability to make you like a character you were sure you hated.

This story has everything: friendship, heartbreak, action, bravery, suspense, love, betrayal. Sage/Jaron is one of the best characters I’ve ever known. He is funny, humble, frustrating, and honorable. He is the flawed protagonist that anyone who is a writer wishes they could write. He is a King but the kids can see themselves in him– in his choices and his hardships, in the loyalty he has to his friends and the loneliness that often swamps him. There are no dragons or wizards, underworlds, demigods, or alternate universes, but still, this book was completely magical.

The Runaway King: Book 2 of the Ascendance Trilogy at

The Runaway King: Book 2 of the Ascendance Trilogy

SPOILER ALERT – do not watch unless you have already read The False Prince

Celebrate the Holidays with a Christmas Picture Book

Posted on December 23rd, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

Christmas is just a couple of days away. In this post we look at two Christmas picture books that feature characters from popular picture book series

Pete the Cat Saves Christmas picture bookPete the Cat Saves Christmas written by Eric Litwin and illustrated by James Dean
Christmas Picture Book published by Harper Collins Children’s Books

Pete the Cat website

The first Pete the Cat’s picture book was (self) published in 2008. Now, there are several best-selling picture books about Pete and more will be arriving in early 2014.

In Pete the Cat Saves Christmas Santa is sick and in bed. He doesn’t want to cancel Christmas so he calls Pete the Cat and asks him to take care of his Christmas Eve toy delivery. Pete decides that despite his small stature, he can take care of the monumental job. Pete climbs into his mini bus and heads for the North Pole. With the help of some very cat-like elves, Pete loads up his minibus, he hitches up Santa’s reindeer and takes off.

Fans of Pete the Cat will enjoy his can-do attitude, his signature song and his enthusiasm for getting an important job done right!

Pete the Cat Saves Christmas at

Pete The Cat Saves Christmas at

Llama Llama Holiday Drama Christmas picture bookLlama Llama Holiday Drama written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney
Christmas Picture Book published by Viking a Division of Penguin Young Readers Group

Llama Llama website

Poor Llama Llama. December seems to be all about waiting. The days just don’t pass quickly enough. There is shopping to do and there are choices to make. There are cookies to bake and presents to wrap. It is just too much!

To much music, too much fluff
Too much making, too much stuff!
Too much everything for Llama…”

Thankfully Mama Llama stops everything and reminds LLama that the best gift of all is spending time with someone we love.

Readers will infer that Llama Llama is excited about Christmas given the references to a December calendar and gift giving along with a tree, Santa and a Christmas stocking in the illustrations but the story itself does not refer to Christmas. In addition to Christmas references, we see a Menorah and Challah bread and Llama plays with a dreidel.

Young children and their parents will recognize that any celebration can be stress-inducing for adults and children. Llama Llama Holiday Drama is a reminder to slow things down and make lots of time for snuggles.

Llama Llama Holiday Drama at

Llama Llama Holiday Drama at

Cozy Picture Book about Generosity and Gratitude – Bear Says Thanks

Posted on November 20th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart


Bear Says Thanks picture book about generosity and gratitudeBear Says Thanks written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman
Picture book about generosity and gratitude published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster

Bear is bored. He misses his pals. He decides to hold a feast for his friends but when he looks in his cupboard, he finds that it is empty. When Mouse arrives with a delicious pie, Bear is happy to see his friend and he expresses thanks for the delicious treat. Moments later, Hare arrives with muffins and Badger brings fish. Soon all the forest friends are celebrating in Bear’s cozy den.
picture book about generosity and gratitude Bear Says Thanks spread
Bear mutters and he stutters and he wears a big frown. Bear sighs and he moans and he plops himself down.
“You have brought yummy treats! You are so nice to share. But me, I have nothing. My cupboards are bare!”

Bear’s many friends are not at all troubled by the fact he can’t contribute food to the meal, they know there are other ways he can share.

Part of a series of Bear books (Bear Feels Sick, Bear Stays Up for Christmas….) Bear Says Thanks is a lovely celebration of friendship, generosity and gratitude, well suited to preschool age children. Gorgeous illustrations beautifully depict Bear’s emotions and the animals’ sense of community.

Bear Says Thanks at

Bear Says Thanks at

Interlined paper for Thanksgiving

image of PDF icon  Today I am Thankful for...

"Today I am Thankful for..." interlined writing paper - great for Thanksgiving.

The False Prince – Delivers Adventure, Mystery and Suspense

Posted on August 21st, 2013 by Carolyn Hart


The False Prince by Jennifer A Nielsen - terrific middle grade fiction

Storytime Standouts recommends terrific middle grade fiction including The False Prince

The False Prince written by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Juvenile fantasy/adventure novel, the first book in The Ascendance Trilogy published by Scholastic

There’s nothing better than enjoying a terrific book while on holidays and I had the good fortune to tuck The False Prince into my bag when we went away last month. We were headed camping and our beach site was gorgeous. It wasn’t long before I sat down on and entered the captivating world of The False Prince.

King Eckbert, Queen Erin and Crown Prince Darius all die under very mysterious circumstances and one of their noblemen initiates devious plan. His intention is to substitute an orphan for the king’s long lost son and only remaining heir. Conner envisions the orphan will impersonate Prince Jaron, return “home” and ascend to the throne. Once installed, he imagines the orphan will have no choice but to do his bidding.

Conner scoops up four orphans from the streets and takes them to his vast residence. Once there, they share a room as they learn to sword fight and ride horses. The boys are schooled in King Eckbert’s family history and are taught to read. In short, Conner will not be satisfied until each of the boys learns to behave as a prince should.

Sage is the most outspoken and defiant of the orphans. He challenges and annoys Conner whilst outwitting the other potential impostors. Sage moves about secret passageways while his rivals are sleeping and he is punished repeatedly for his misdeeds.

Connor lifted my face and inspected it for cuts and bruises. “You’re none the worse after a stay in my dungeons. I hope the experience humbled you.”

He took the blank expression on my face as an answer and continued, “You’re a difficult young man, Sage, but I suspect that comes from your lack of discipline and supervision, which means I can train it out of you.”

Well suited to middle grade readers, including reluctant readers, The False Prince is an exciting, accessible fantasy/adventure that will have special appeal for boys. Highly recommended.

The False Prince is available in hardcover, paperback, audiobook and ebook formats.

The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy at

The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy at

The False Prince won a 2012 Cybil Award in the Fantasy & Science Fiction Category

Summer Reading List – for middle grade students and adults

Posted on June 30th, 2013 by Jody


As usual, I have piles of books waiting to be read in my house. I have too many to count on my Kindle, along with a stack of paperbacks and hardcovers. Being a writer and reader of various genres is both a blessing and a curse. My brain gets a little overwhelmed with all of the different things I want to read and write. So, it’s good to have a goal or a focus. Along with visiting the new library in my city, I have some books that are on my To Be Read Summer Reading list:

As Simple As it Seems by Sarah Weeks

When Verbie discovers some harsh truths about her parents, she wonders who she really is inside. She meets a boy, Pooch, who thinks she is a ghost. Since she’s uncertain of her real self anyway, she goes along with his belief. This book looks and sounds fantastic. It deals with coming of age, friendship, and finding yourself.

Pie by Sarah Weeks

Alice inherits a secret pie recipe which puts her in the middle of a tug of war between people who covet the world-famous recipe. A story about friendship and discovery, I look forward to getting into this one.

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

I’m drawn to stories about attachment and when I read the back of this one at the book fair, I couldn’t put it down. Carly is used to foster homes and moving on, which makes becoming attached to the Murphy family even harder when her real mom decides she wants her back. A story of struggle, fitting in, and family, this one is probably going to make me cry.

image of cover art for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceThe Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

The beginning of the end in a series of seven, I’m reading this one because I promised my ten year old daughter we could read it together this summer. I’m worried though because I know the darkness that it reveals and the sadness. Are we ever really ready to say goodbye to our favourite characters? We’ll wait until closer to the end of the summer.

Persephone the Daring by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams (not out until August 10th)

If I haven’t done a post on the Goddess Girl series, I should. I love it. Yes, it’s meant for children and I read it with my ten year old, but I think they’re adorable. They incorporate the mythical with the real. Real friendship and boy struggles mixed into life at Mount Olympus Academy, where Athena’s father, Zeus, is principal. I look forward to this one.

I read a quote by C.S. Lewis the other day:

C.S. Lewis

A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

And it’s true. Picture books, children’s books, and middle to youth books are extremely enjoyable and as an avid reader, should be part of your list. All of the themes that we relate to in life: friendship, relationships, fitting in, and acceptance play huge roles. These things never stop mattering to us, so to not read these books because they are meant for children is a shame. Some of the best books I’ve read this year have been aimed at an audience in the 9-14 age range. Maybe that says something about me, but I think that if a book hooks you and pulls you in, makes you connect to the characters and the story, it actually says more about the book.

What are you reading this summer?

Pet-loving friends highlight generously illustrated chapter book: The Great Dog Disaster

Posted on June 24th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart


image of cover art for generously illustrated chapter book, The Great Dog DisasterThe Great Dog Disaster written by Katie Davies and illustrated by Hannah Shaw
Generously illustrated chapter book published by Simon and Schuster

Suzanne and Anna are great friends who live next door to each other. The wall between their two homes is so thin that, if they try, they can hear each other’s family discussions. When Suzanne’s mom inherits Great-Aunt Deidra’s dog, the two girls are thrilled until they actually meet Beatrice. It seems Great-Aunt Deidra’s dog is old and slow and smelly. Undaunted, the girls are determined to make Beatrice behave like they believe a proper dog should before medical bills and incontinence cause Suzanne’s dad to do something drastic.image of a spread from The Great Dog Disaster, a generously illustrated chapter book

This generously illustrated chapter book will appeal to both boys and girls (aged 8-12), especially those with a fondness for dogs. At times, poignent, The Great Dog Disaster will encourage readers to consider the relationship between Great-Aunt Deidra and Beatrice, how neighbours and community can be important and how the girls’ determination to make a difference has far-reaching implications. Ms. Shaw’s charming illustrations and amply-spaced text will appeal to reluctant readers.

Note: Throughout the book, Anna refers to “Me and Suzanne.” If grammar mistakes are a problem for you, The Great Dog Disaster will not be a good choice.

Website for the Great Critter Capers series of generously illustrated chapter books.

The Great Dog Disaster at

The Great Dog Disaster at

Allergies in Picture Books

Posted on May 26th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart


image of cover art for Aaron's Awful Allergies Aaron’s Awful Allergies written by Troon Harrison and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Picture book about allergies published by Kids Can Press

Aaron is an animal lover, through and through. He loves to sleep with Clancy curled up next to him on the bed. He loves Calico and her six kittens. He loves looking after the guinea pigs from his classroom and celebrates when four babies are born. Unfortunately, over the summer, Aaron starts to feel miserable. His head aches and his eyes are itchy. Sometimes he sneezes and he has trouble breathing.

Aaron is diagnosed with allergies and his doctor says that he should not play with cats, dogs or guinea pigs. Aaron is devastated to know that they will have to find new homes for his pets. He is very reluctant to show any enthusiasm for his new fish until…

One morning Aaron noticed how the fish’s scales flashed in the sunlight and how its tail fluttered through the water.

Aaron’s Awful Allergies deals sensitively with a difficult subject. Aaron’s parents make the tough decision to disperse the various pets and Aaron is lonely and sad as a result of their decision. It is difficult to know if the arrival of a fish could really help to resolve Aaron’s heartache but Aaron’s Awful Allergies will certainly prompt discussion and encourage problem solving.

Aaron’s Awful Allergies at

Aaron’s Awful Allergies at

image of cover art for Horace and Morris Say Cheese a picture book about allergies
Horace and Morris Say Cheese (which makes Dolores sneeze!) written by James Howe and illustrated by Amy Walrod
Picture book about allergies published by Simon and Schuster Kids

Horace, Morris and Dolores love to eat cheese. Hardly a day goes by without them emjoying one cheese or another. One day, after trying a new recipe, Dolores develops itchy spots and she starts to sneeze. Dr. Ricotta does a thorough examination before she declares that Dolores is allergic to cheese. The very idea of giving up her favourite food is almost impossible to imagine especially because The 1st Annual Everything Cheese Festival is just around the corner. Suddenly Dolores is craving cheese more than ever. She dreams of cheese and finally decides that nothing else will do. She gives into temptation and shortly thereafter regrets her decision…

Horace and Morris Say Cheese (which makes Dolores sneeze!) is a fun look at cravings and food allergies. Young readers will share Dolores’ horror when she learns that cheese is the source of her problems and will cheer when she discovers life after cheese.

Horace and Morris Say Cheese (Which Makes Dolores Sneeze!) at

Horace and Morris Say Cheese (Which Makes Dolores Sneeze!) at

Is there such a thing as too much reading?

Posted on April 1st, 2013 by Jody


Storytime Standouts' guest contributor asks Is there such a thing as too much reading?  We all want to see our children reading. Even parents who don’t love to read, (such as my own dad who refuses to) like to see their children enjoying reading. We know that it’s part of what makes us successful in life. Reading and comprehension open not only figurative doors, but literal ones as well. Having your child be able to read and understand what they are reading is a necessity. However, having your child read just for pleasure and the magic it provides, is a gift. As much as we try or don’t try, we can’t always determine whether our children will love the act of reading; of falling so far into a story that you feel like you’re part of it.

What if, however, your child is falling so far into the story that they refuse to come out of it. For those of you that struggle to get your children to read their 15 minutes a night, this might not sound like a problem. However, I’m facing a dilemna that I don’t know how to solve. My husband, myself, and our children LOVE to read. We read constantly. Both of our children read far above their grade level and while I would love to say that’s our influence, (and, in part, it might be) I don’t think that’s the only factor. I say that because I know parents who foster a love of reading and it’s still a chore to get their kids to read. So, I’m very grateful that my children love their books. They are more likely to choose a book for a long car ride than their iPods. They’d like the iPods too, but are content with a pile of books. So how can this become a problem?

This morning, my oldest daughter, who is caught deep in the trenches of Percy Jackson and the Olympians Lightning Thief saga, came downstairs, hugged me, went straight to the couch and crawled back into her book. When we spoke to her, she didn’t hear us (most likely because of how loud the cyclops and strange animals in the book are), when her sister asked her to play, Polly Pockets seemed a ridiculous choice over the half man-half dog that she was reading about. When we made her put down the book, she was less than impressed, in the way only a preteen, emotional girl can be.

Cover art for The Lightning Thief

Now I’m hovering between pride, that she loves this book so much, and irritation because she won’t do anything else. I felt absolutely ridiculous telling her to put down her book and spend time with her family. I told my husband that I felt like I was punishing her for reading, which is the very last thing I want to do. How can I be irritated that she’s reading?

Then I started to think about the books that I have on the go; several, as always because I can’t read one thing at a time. Also, I currently have two manuscripts I’m working on open on my computer. I’ve got cleaner on the table because my plan is to spend some, much needed time cleaning. There are waffles on the counter because my youngest was desperate to have them. It would have been nice to stayed tucked up on the couch reading my own book, but the youngest is rather persistent. The point is, even though we want them to love reading and know that it will give them so much pleasure as they get older, balance is still the key. We have to still be able to attend to our lives, even in the midst of a great book.Reading and Comprehension open not only figurative doors but literal ones as well.

I understand my daughter’s obsession very well; she gets it from me. When I get into a book, reading or writing, it can consume me. If my characters are unhappy, my mood is affected. Likewise, if they are happy, so am I. It’s wonderful to feel this much a part of a book and a great cudos to an author that they brought you into their world so completely. Still, we cannot forget the world around us that inspires and creates these stories. We cannot lose ourselves so completely that we miss out on what is right in front of us. It bothers me to tell my kids to put down a book but I have to sometimes, the same way I’d tell them to put down their DS or iPod. Okay, maybe not the same way; I’m far more likely to let hours go by just reading than I would be to let hours go by on the electronics. All the same, the world is still going on around us and it is very easy to forget when we aren’t paying attention.

I don’t think I’ve solved my quandry because I still feel both guilty and justified over making her put down the book. Plus, now I have to see what’s got her so hooked. She has not loved a set of books like this since Harry Potter. Anyone who knows how obsessed my daughter has been with Harry Potter knows: that is saying something. She has decided that Rick Riordin is her favourite author and is reading anything she can get her hands on by him. She talks about his characters as though I’ve read every page with her; she starts telling me about something and only when she mentions half-animal bodies do I realize she’s not telling me something about her friends at school. She is IN those books. I love that; more than I can possibly say. But I still need her to be IN our life; playing with her sister, helping around the house, laughing and talking with us, and being a part of our day.

I suppose, like anything else, we have to teach her how to employ that balance. If the author didn’t come up for air sometimes, hadn’t had the experiences he did, if he hadn’t loved mythology, or had a desire to share stories with his own kids, she wouldn’t be reading these books that have her so captivated. Living our lives is what makes for great stories. While it’s an amazing treasure to get lost in the stories that someone else has created, we have to remind ourselves that real life is pretty cool too.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians website

The Lightning Thief at

The Lightning Thief at

Lilly’s Chocolate Heart – A Sweet Treat for Valentine’s Day

Posted on January 13th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts looks at Lilly’s Chocolate Heart, a sweet story about Lilly (of Purple Plastic Purse fame) and her one remaining foil-wrapped Valentine’s Day chocolate heart.

image of cover art for Lilly's Chocolate HeartLilly’s Chocolate Heart written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes

Lilly is a beloved picturebook character. Best known for Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse , she also appears in Lilly’s Big Day, Chester’s Day, Wemberly Worried and Julius The Baby of the World.

Before going to bed on Valentine’s Day, Lilly must decide what to do with her one remaining foil-wrapped Valentine’s Day chocolate.

image of foil wrapped chocolate hearts“Lilly wanted to find the perfect place to keep the heart. She looked under her bed, but it was too dusty. She looked inside her dresser, but it was too messy.

Those who know Lilly, will agree that she is exhuberant and sometimes just a little bit impulsive so finding the perfect place for the precious chocolate is quite a challenge.

Lilly’s Chocolate Heart will be a delicious treat for Lilly fans who will no doubt notice her purple plastic purse hanging from a dresser drawer handle and a painting of the purse that hangs on a wall.

Lilly’s Chocolate Heart at

Lilly’s Chocolate Heart at

You will also be interested in our Valentine’s Day printables. Storytime Standouts is on Pinterest – Check out our Valentine’s Day Board

Interviews with Two Reluctant Readers

Posted on December 10th, 2012 by Jody


Storytime Standouts' Guest Contributor Conducts Interviews with Reluctant ReadersThis year, I have a few students who don’t love to read. They and their parents have been honest about this. Of course, when a nine or ten year old tells me they don’t like to read, I wonder “How is that possible?” For those of us who love to read, or find it easy, it seems impossible. It’s not; if reading is difficult for you, it becomes a chore. For parents, it becomes an argument with your kids because you know they need to be reading, but it’s hard to make them. Over the years, the students in my class that haven’t enjoyed reading are not being denied the opportunity to read. They have access to books, loving parents (who enjoy reading and model it), they live in print rich environments, and have capable oral language skills. So, it is not for any of these reasons, necessarily, that they have become reluctant readers.

Engaging students in conversation is a very simple and easy way to learn more about them. They like conversing with their teacher; telling stories and sharing information. I asked two of my reluctant readers ten questions on Friday.

1. Did you like reading when you started the school year?

2. Why or why not?

3. Do you like reading now, at least more than you did? Why or why not?

4. What makes you not like a book?

5. What makes you like a book?

6. Do you think reading is important?

7. Why or why not?

8. What makes you stop reading a book?

9. What makes you not want to put a book down?

10. Do you have any particular books you enjoy?

I asked this of one boy and one girl who I knew had some reading struggles but in the past month have increased their time spent reading considerably.

The answers were surprisingly similar. Obviously, the sample size is small and the conditions are not “test worthy” but I found the results made me wonder “Are they really reluctant?”Storytime Standouts' Guest Contributor Interviews Reluctant Readers

1. They both admitted to not liking reading in September. It wasn’t something they wanted to do when they had free time.

2. Answers ranged from it wasn’t fun to it was boring.

3. In the last month, they have both started to enjoy reading and said it was because they’d found books that they liked and enjoyed.

4. A book disengages them when the story isn’t good or it’s hard to follow. If they aren’t interested in the topic, they don’t want to read it.

5. Much like myself, one of the first things that draws them is the cover. Then the story and what’s inside. Are there graphics? Is it fast paced? Is it funny?

6/7. They both agreed that reading is important because you learn things and need to do it for school. Sadly, neither of them said that it’s important because it can transport you to a new world or because it can change the way you look at someone or something. Or because it is important to do things you enjoy. We’ll get there.

8. A boring plot line and a lot of words are enough to make them silent stare rather than silent read.

9. They both found books that appealed to them individually, which revealed a bit about who they are. The boy loves hockey and has recently discovered books like Rink Rats. The girl is a curious sort (though she’ll admit to the term ‘snoopy’) and has begun reading through Carolyn Keen’s graphic novel version of Nancy Drew. She has read seven in the last two months. This is proof that we read what appeals to us as people; what compels us personally.

10. As mentioned, books on hockey, mysteries, and graphic novels are on the list. Books that are long can be intimidating. A series, such as Nancy Drew, keeps them hooked because they know there’s more on a character they’ve already connected with.

It’s not exactly a research-based understanding of what makes kids turn away from or toward reading, but it gave me valuable information. I don’t want to overwhelm them. I gauge their reactions and am honest about it being okay to not have a book appeal to you. I share my own reading struggles (I read painfully slowly) and tell them what makes me want to read. I know, now, that I’ve opened a doorway and we need to go through it now, while they’re engaged.

How does this transfer to reading the science text book and getting valuable information? If they’re reading for their enjoyment, they’re reading! They’re practicing and decoding and comprehending. This is powerful and will eventually transfer. In addition, the skills we learn as readers (to question, predict and connect) will hopefully transfer too. Once they are not stalled at the actual process of reading, they are free to move forward, enjoy, and learn.




Anti Bullying Chapter Book – Song Lee and the “I Hate You Notes”

Posted on November 7th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart


Song Lee and the “I Hate You” Notes written by Suzy Kline and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
Anti bullying chapter book (reprint) published by Puffin

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

Suzy Kline has written many books for young readers. She writes about school life, family life and social situations in chapter book series that feature Horrible Harry, Song Lee and
Herbie Jones.

In Song Lee and the “I Hate You” Notes, Mary has been staying up late. She is tired when she arrives at school and she is grumpy for most of the day.

Everyone laughed but Mary. She was too busy biting and chewing on her braid. Her rotten mood was as mean and angry as the dark clouds gathering outside our classroom window.

I could tell something bad was going to happen.

I hoped it was just a storm.

Doug’s intuition is correct. Not only is a storm brewing outside, there is one developing inside Miss Mackle’s classroom. Mary is upset with Song Lee and leaves two notes on her desk. Harry and Doug see Song Lee open the notes. They quietly retrieve the notes from a garbage can and read them. They are reluctant to “tattle” but they can see that Song Lee is upset. Harry speaks quietly to Miss Mackle and she is grateful for the information he provides. She has the perfect solution: she reaches for a picture book. Lovable Lyle by Bernard Waber has just the right message for Mary and her classmates.

Best suited to children in grades two and three, Song Lee and the “I Hate You” Notes realistically depicts both the bully and her victim and encourages bystanders to get involved and enlist the assistance of an adult.

Song Lee and the I Hate You Notes at

Song Lee and the I Hate You Notes at

Lovable Lyle at

Lovable Lyle at

Remembering Harry Potter’s Magic

Posted on August 13th, 2012 by Jody


Remembering Harry Potters Magic A Guest Post by @1prncs

Storytime Standouts’ guest contributor takes another look at Harry Potter and the magic delivered in J.K. Rowling’s wonderful series.

I am reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to my oldest daughter this summer. I have read the series once after a friend, who has read it, literally, dozens of times, insisted that I could not put it off any longer; I had to read it. So I did. And I absolutely loved it. I’m not sure why I didn’t read it when it originally came out. I remember listening to how much everyone loved it and the movies are among my favourites. Waiting did have one advantage, however; by the time I read the books, they were all published so I could read them all back to back.

Now, as I reread Harry Potter with my daughter, I’m remembering all of the things I loved about the books. I am completely absorbed in the story once again and so is she. Lately, all of her playing is geared around wizards and wizardry. All of their dolls are currently attending Hogwarts. As I’ve watched her get wrapped up in the story of Harry and his friends, I realized that only one of my students was reading Harry Potter this year. This could be because the kids have read it when they were younger, but it seems unlikely that they have read all seven books by grade four or five. I am hoping that with series such as Twilight, The Hunger Games, Warriors, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter is not being forgotten in this age group. I think grade four is a great age for the first book. I think I will have to poll my class in September to see how many have read the series or at least some of them.

Harry Potter came out 12 years ago. The Deathly Hallows came out in 2007. It’s entirely possible that with the hype of so many new books over the years, that Harry is not the most sought after character at the library. It would be a shame to forget how magical and amazing JK Rowling’s books are. Unlike the Twilight series or The Hunger Games, children get to grow and mature with Harry. As he becomes older, the conflicts and challenges he faces become more involved and difficult. The intensity builds with each book. Not that the intensity doesn’t increase with each of the books in the other series, but the intensity is there from the beginning. Katniss* is fighting for her life from chapter one. Bella and Edward** are drawn to each other immediately.

In Harry Potter, we meet a young boy poorly treated by relatives that do not want him. The first story captures our hearts and interest by letting us connect to him and feel the same amazement that he does as he learns about his wizarding background and accepts his future at Hogwarts. Harry has an innocence that Bella and Katniss do not. Of course, they are entirely different books, but I know that they were the central focus of my grade five classroom not that many years ago. Now, based on what I’ve seen my students borrowing from the library, that focus has shifted.

I don’t actually read Harry Potter in the classroom. But this year, I think I will make an effort to see how many kids have read it on their own or with their families. It will be interesting to see how many of this year’s class, who would have been born in between Goblet of Fire and Order of the Pheonix, are familiar with the novels. Since they became readers, the “Harry Potter Hype” has lessened, as all hype does. Regardless of which books are grabbing the most attention today, we need to remember that there are some books (many) that should always be on a person’s “Must Read” or “Have Read” list. The Harry Potter series should definitely on those lists.

*The Hunger Games

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