Posts Tagged ‘family life’

Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers! by Melanie Walsh

Posted on May 21st, 2016 by Carolyn Hart


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

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

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

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

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

Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! at

Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! at

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

Storytime Standouts Shares Asperger Syndrome and Autism Picture Books

Awake Beautiful Child by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Gracia Lam

Posted on April 30th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart


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

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

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

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

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

Awake Beautiful Child at

Awake Beautiful Child at

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

Posted on September 2nd, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


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

Read our interview with Ruth Ohi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shh! My Brother’s Napping at

Shh! My Brother’s Napping at

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

Classic Picture Book – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Posted on July 22nd, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts looks at Classic Picture Book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad DayAlexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz
Classic Picture Book published by Simon & Schuster

Written in 1972, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is available in several formats (including board book). The copy that I have is a special limited edition that includes some color.

From the moment Alexander awakens until he finally falls asleep, things go wrong for him.

At home, before school, carpooling to school and while at school, it seems as though there is a conspiracy afoot: Make Alexander’s day as unpleasant as possible. Whether squished into the middle of the backseat enroute to school or comparing his lunch with those of his classmates, Alexander feels awful. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, a classic picture book

On the way downstairs the elevator door closed on my foot and while we were waiting for my mom to go get the car Anthony made me fall where it was muddy and then when I started crying because of the mud Nick said I was a crybaby and while I was punching Nick for saying crybaby my mom came back with the car and scolded me for being muddy and fighting.

I am having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, I told everybody. No one even answered.

A great choice for older children, this is a classic picture book that will encourage reflection. Some of Alexander’s problems can be blamed on bad luck, others are due to poor choices. In any event, it is an opportunity for children and adults to reflect on the fact that we all experience some days that are terrible and horrible.

ALA Notable Children’s Book
George G. Stone Center Recognition of Merit
Georgia Children’s Book Award
Reading Rainbow book

Classroom activities from the Professional Development Institute

Lesson plan from Teaching Children Philosophy

Live Oak Media Activity Guide

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day at

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day at

Quote from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, a Classic Picture Book

Posted on June 17th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts Presents We're Going on a Bear Hunt a Classic Picture BookWe’re Going on a Bear Hunt written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Classic Picture Book published by Walker Books

Dad and four children head out for adventure in this classic picture book for preschool-age children. Based on a traditional campers’ chant, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is simply wonderful. Ms. Oxenbury’s illustrations alternate between black and white drawings and gorgeous watercolor paintings. The effect is spectacular, highlighting the repetitive text and onomatopoeia.

Tension builds as the young explorers encounter a grassy field, a river, mud, a forest and snow before they arrive at a cave.We’re Going on a Bear Hunt spread

“Uh-oh! A cave!
A narrow gloomy cave.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!”

Winner of the 1989 Smarties Book Prize, this is a classic picture book that will be enjoyed by children aged three years and up. It is available in many formats including Board Book, Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook, Big Book and Jigsaw Book.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt at

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt at

Free Printable traditional campers’ chant

image of PDF icon  We're Going on a Bear Hunt

Predictable text, rhyming and opportunities for dramatic play make this chant a favorite with children.

Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan from Scholastic

Lesson Plan from Teaching Ideas

Lesson plan from Walker Books

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Terrific Picture Books About Fathers and Fatherhood

Posted on May 23rd, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts Recommends Picture Books About Fathers and Fatherhood

Some of our favorite picture books about fathers and fatherhood together with free printables and a link to our Father’s Day board on Pinterest.

Dad and Pop: An Ode to Fathers and StepfathersDad and Pop: An Ode to Fathers and Stepfathers written by Kelly Bennett and illustrated by Paul Meisel
Picture book about fathers published by Candlewick Press

Dad and Pop: An Ode to Fathers and Stepfathers is the story of the two special men in a young girl’s life. Outwardly they are very different. They wear different clothes and they have different hobbies but, there are also similarities between the two men. Both teach the girl to how to cook and both enjoy music.

Pop is bald. Dad is not.
Dad is tall. Pop is not.
Dad wears suits. Pop wears boots.
Pop takes pictures. Dad takes naps.

This breezy, happy look at a family that includes both a ‘Dad’ and a ‘Pop’ celebrates differences and commonalities. A good choice for children aged four years and up.

Dad and Pop: An Ode to Fathers and Stepfathers at

Dad and Pop: An Ode to Fathers and Stepfathers at

Daddy Hugs 123 is included in Storytime Standouts Terrific Picture Books About Fathers and FatherhoodDaddy Hugs 123 written and illustrated by Karen Katz
Counting book about an infant and her father published by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Bright, cheery illustrations depict a baby girl and her father. As the day unfolds, they share all sorts of affectionate, happy moments.

One “I’m so glad you’re my baby!” hug. Two teeny, tiny finger hugs. Three pat and burp the baby hugs.”

A great choice for infants and toddlers, Daddy Hugs 1 2 3 is all the more special because it shows a dad who takes responsibility for all aspects of his daughter’s care.

Daddy Hugs 123 at

Daddy Hugs 123 at

Every Friday is included in Storytime Standouts Terrific Picture Books About Fathers and FatherhoodEvery Friday written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
Picture book about a boy’s relationship with his father published by Henry Holt and Company

Such a lovely story – an excellent choice for preschool storytime or a bedtime story. Each Friday, a young boy and his dad leave their city apartment and walk through the bustling streets. They walk past shops and building sites, people rushing to work and people who are already going about their business.

Everyone is rushing, but we’re taking our time. We get friendly waves and we give them right back.”

Eventually they arrive at a familiar diner. They sit together in a booth, enjoy breakfast, chat and watch the world go by. Their happy relationship and joy in being each other’s company is clear and very endearing.

Every Friday at

Every Friday at

I’d Know You AnywhereI’d Know You Anywhere written by Hazel Hutchins and illustrated by Ruth Ohi
Picture book about a child’s relationship with his father published by Annick Press Ltd

This story is especially suitable for a Dad’s Day at preschool or for celebrating Father’s Day. Young Jeremy attempts to hide amongst the toys in his bedroom. Daddy finds Jeremy and reassures him that he would know him anywhere and in any form. The father-son game continues as Jeremy imagines wonderful hiding places and disguises. He could disguise himself and hide near a creek or in the ocean or up in the sky…

If I became a sheep
upon a mountainside,
one of many thousand sheep,
a woolly, moving tide-
If I became a sheep,
would you know me then?

Daddy reassures his son that no matter where Jeremy might hide, he would find him.

Reminiscent of The Runaway Bunny, I’d Know You Anywhere concludes with Daddy and Jeremy disguising themselves and sneeking up on mom.

Ruth Ohi’s illustrations do a lovely job of depicting the playful relationship between father and son. The story is best suited to very young children, aged two and up.

I’d Know You Anywhere at

I’d Know You Anywhere at

Little Boy written by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Peter H. ReynoldsLittle Boy written by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Picture book about a father and his appreciation for his son published by Simon Says Kids

A lovely picture book, Little Boy is a celebration of play and a reminder – especially for adults – that small moments can have great meaning and impact. We watch from morning until night as a young boy plays with his dog, enjoys time in the out-of-doors, has fun with a large cardboard box, helps with cooking, plays with his toys and spends time with his dad.

Little boy, so much depends on a blue mixing bowl,
a ball in the goal,
the tree that fell,
that wet-dog smell, and…
your big cardboard box.

Note,although the adult male in the illustrations is not specifically named, we assume he is the boy’s father.

Little Boy is a great gift book for expectant parents and also dads. Do take time to enjoy Peter H. Reynolds’ illustrations. Each page tells a story and children will enjoy watching for the boy’s toy robot and his yellow cup as they accompany him throughout the day.

Little Boy at

Little Boy at

My Father Knows the Names of Things written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Stephane JorischMy Father Knows the Names of Things written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
Picture book about a boy’s relationship with his father published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

A happy celebration of the relationship between a boy and his father. It is clear that the pair enjoys spending time together and they have fun adventures – flying in a small airplane, snorkeling, riding bikes, painting and studying insects. All the while, the boy is learning from his father.

My father knows the names of things,
Each different sort of bell that rings,
And stones,
And knows the names of planets,
And even human bones.

Mr. Jorisch’s joyful illustrations capture emotions and the the pair’s close relationship. Will be enjoyed by children aged four years and up.

My Father Knows the Names of Things at

My Father Knows the Names of Things at

Owl Moon is included in Storytime Standouts Terrific Picture Books About Fathers and Fatherhood
Owl Moon – written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr
Picture book published by Philomel

In 1988 the Caldecott Medal was awarded to Owl Moon. A special 20th anniversary edition is now available and provides an opportunity to discover the picture book’s wonderful, timeless magic.

It is very late at night when a father and his young daughter venture into the cold. They are seeking a glimpse of a great horned owl. The companions walk together silently and eagerly under an Owl Moon.

Beautifully illustrated, this is a remarkable book that will be enjoyed by the entire family. The depiction of the young girl’s excitement will no doubt inspire parents to bend their bedtime rules and enjoy a moonlit, late night walk.

Owl Moon at

Owl Moon at

Some Dads... written and illustrated by Nick BlandSome Dads… written and illustrated by Nick Bland
Picture book about fathers published by Scholastic

In his cheery tribute to fathers, Nick Bland depicts all sorts of animal parents exuberantly interacting with their offspring. We laugh at an over-protective elephant papa who fills a swimming pool with life rings and a mischievous sheep who can’t resist throwing a water balloon at his child.

Readers, both young and old, will enjoy the playful rhyming and the jubilant illustrations. Some Dads… is an excellent choice for Father’s Day or Dads’ Day at preschool, delivering a fun and affectionate message about diversity and unconditional love.

Some dads like strolling.
And some dads rock ‘n rolling.
And some dads just love the outdoors.

Well suited to children aged two and up.

Some Dads… at

Some Dads… at

The Very Best Daddy of All written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Leslie WuThe Very Best Daddy of All written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Leslie Wu
Picture book about fathers published by Aladdin Paperbacks, Simon & Schuster

Beautiful pastel illustrations are the highlight of this tribute to animal fathers and their offspring. Children will enjoy looking at a variety of male mammals, amphibians and birds as they feed, groom, house, protect and play with their offspring.

Some tuck you in, safe and warm, when the sun’s about to go.
And my daddy… haven’t you guessed? From all of the daddies, tall or small, mine is the best, the very best, the very best daddy of all.

Great for children aged two years and up.

The Very Best Daddy of All (Classic Board Books) at

The Very Best Daddy of All at

What Does Daddy Do? written and illustrated by Rachel BrightWhat Does Daddy Do? written and illustrated by Rachel Bright
Picture book about a girl’s questions about her father published by Puffin

An energetic, colorful and imaginative look at what Daisy’s dad does when he is at work and she is at school and playing with her friends.

“My daddy is an explorer!” said Daisy.
“Is he?” said Evie.
“Yes, he is!” said Daisy. “He climbs to highest of high-up places because he has mountains of paperwork to get on top of.”

Best suited to children aged four and up, older children will have fun with the author/illustrator’s treatment of Daisy’s interpretation of Daddy’s job description.

Note, onomatopoeia (Nee Nar, Nee Nar, Nee Nar / Boom Boom) is featured.

What Does Daddy Do? at

What Does Daddy Do? at

Free printable Father's Day Writing Paper for Kids

Free Father’s Day Printables for Children

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Step 3 – Choose from any of our 250 free downloads, including these free Father’s Day printables.

image of PDF icon  Father's Day Word Search

image of PDF icon  Father's Day Interlined Paper

image of PDF icon  Father's Day Golf Interlined Paper

image of PDF icon  Father's Day #1 Dad Interlined Paper

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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

In the Tree House – Andrew Larsen and Dušan Petričić

Posted on January 1st, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


In the Tree HouseIn the Tree House written by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Dušan Petričić
Picture Book published by Kids Can Press

One of my favorite parenting memories involves snuggling with my sons and watching the Perseid Meteor Showers. When they were young, we scheduled an annual camping trip with friends so that we would be away from city lights and able to watch for shooting stars. I will never forget the experience of sitting beachside in a folding chair with one of my sons on my lap. We would wrap a blanket around us and wait. Most years there were eight of us searching for the dramatic streaks of light across the night sky. Each time a meteor appeared, there would be squeals of delight, “Oh, did you see THAT one?”

Andrew Larsen’s In the Tree House tells of a young boy who is feeling the changes that time brings. He and his family move into a new house and, instead of sharing with an older brother, he has his own room. He misses having his brother in his room and he has trouble falling asleep. He uses his wakefulness to plan treehouses. He’s excited when his brother starts drawing treehouses and he’s thrilled when his dad agrees to make his dream a reality. It is not long before Dad and sons are perched up high, gazing at the night sky.Storytime Standouts looks at In the Tree House

“Why arent there any stars?” I asked between gulps of lemonade.

“They’re up there,” Dad said. “We just can’t see them,”

He explained how the lights from the city make the sky too bright for us to see the stars shine.

They boys love spending their summer in the tree house. They play cards and read comics and watch their neighborhood.

The following year, circumstances have changed. The older brother has new friends and they keep him busy. The tree house that was once magical now seems empty until a chance power outage transforms the neighborhood. In the darkness, the older brother returns to the tree house and the boys’ special relationship is revealed once again – just as the utter darkness reveals a sparkling night sky.

In the Tree House is a shining tribute to the special relationship between siblings and the small, meaningful moments that make a world of difference.

Nominated for a (Ontario Library Association) 2014 Blue Spruce Forest of Reading Award

In the Tree House has also been nominated for a 2013 Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Award.

In the Tree House at

In the Tree House at

Andrew Larsen on Reading and Writing Picture Book Dads from 49th Shelf

One for the Murphys – an outstanding chapter book

Posted on December 8th, 2013 by Jody


One for the Murphys outstanding chapter bookOne for the Murphys written by Lynda Hunt
Outstanding chapter book published by Nancy Paulsen Books, a division of Penguin

There have been two books in my teaching career that have made me cry in front of my students. The first is Tuck Everlasting. At the end, I got a little teary; nothing major. One for the Murphys, however, got me more than a little teary. I had to stop reading it. Not because it isn’t excellent, but because it is so well written and so authentic, that I was completely immersed in the lives of these characters. I was the torn and scarred foster child, I was the foster parent who just wanted to connect, I was one of the children who didn’t quite understand why my parents brought a new child to our home. It is an amazing feat for an author to make you connect to each of the characters. This book had the unique ability to place me in the shoes of any character at any time. There is nothing forced in any of these relationships, not with the reader and not between the characters. In fact, each of the relationships is hard earned.

Carly’s mother let her down in a way no mother should ever let their child down. She’s placed with the Murphys while her mom recovers in the hospital. She has a gigantic rock on her shoulder, no self-esteem, and a jaded view of people. Mrs. Murphy changes the dynamic in her home, where she and her husband are raising three boys, to foster Carly. After a very bumpy start, Carly starts to learn things about family, friendships, and forgiveness that she’s never been exposed to. She starts to learn the subtle nuances that exist between people that care about each other. Much to her devastation, she begins to truly care back. This makes her feel divided in her loyalties because, eventually, her mother will come for her. While she didn’t want to be placed in this home, she becomes uncertain about whether she ever wants to leave.

This book is funny, sweet, and yes, emotional. It captures the feelings of each of the characters in a meaningful, powerful way. A way that had me stopping a few times and taking a deep breath before I could continue reading out loud. In the end, one of my students read the last few pages because I couldn’t do it without tears. That might be the mom in me or my empathetic nature, but truthfully, I think it’s because of the author’s strength in making this book come to life. While the students didn’t cry, they enjoyed it, rooted for Carly, and felt sad when it was over.

I would definitely recommend this book. Just keep some tissues nearby or a kid that can read without becoming emotional in case you need them to take over.

One for the Murphys at
One for the Murphys at

Video trailer posted by the author

Celebrating Grandparents – Picture Books Featuring Grandpa and Grandma

Posted on October 7th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart


picture books about grandparents and family diversity

Families come in all shapes and sizes and are more diverse than ever before. Taking a look at a variety of picture books that celebrate grandparents, we discover stories that depict wonderful relationships between grandchildren and their elders. We also find picture books that provide insight into mixed race families, second marriages, coping with aging and inter-generational conflict.

cover art An Alien in my HouseAn Alien in My House written by Shenaaz G. Nanji and ilustrated by Chum McLeod
Picture book about a boy and his grandfather as they adjust to living in the same house published by Second Story Press

When his grandfather moves into Ben’s house, it is as though an alien has invaded. Grandfather’s body comes apart like Lego; he wears a hearing aid and dentures. Conversely, Grandfather is appalled that Ben has hidden springs in his feet and his room is filled with stinky socks. Fortunately, the two gain admiration for each other and become best buddies. Humorous and lively while conveying a message of acceptance and respect.

An Alien In My House at

An Alien In My House at

cover art for Bagels from BennyBagels from Benny written by Aubrey Davis and illustrated by Dusan Petricic
Picture book about a boy learning from his grandfather published by Kids Can Press

Benny delights in helping at grandfather’s busy bakery. When grandfather encourages Benny to thank God for the mouth-watering treats, Benny decides to leave a big bag of warm, delicious bagels in the synagogue each Friday. Much to Benny’s dismay, it is not God who is eating the bagels, but a poor unemployed man. Benny is heartbroken until he understands that his gift to the poor man is also a ‘thank you’ to God. Bagels from Benny shares an excellent message about social responsibility. It is both gentle and heartwarming.

Bagels from Benny at

Bagels from Benny at

cover art for Emma's Story a picture book about families and international adoptionEmma’s Story written by Deborah Hodge and illustrated by Song Nan Zhang
Picture book about families and international adoption published by Tundra Books

Emma and her brother are baking cookies at Grandma’s house. They use cookie cutters to make a sweet cookie family and then decorate the tasty treats with candies and dried fruit. When Grandma lifts the cookie tray out of the oven, she admires the cookie family but Emma is surprised to see the cookie that Sam has decorated.

Sam had used raisins and strings of licorice to decorate the Emma cookie. Big tears rolled down Emma’s cheeks. “I want to look like everyone else,” she said. Emma’s sadness prompts Grandma to cuddle with her in a comfortable chair. She opens a photo album and tells her granddaughter’s story.

This is a story that Emma has heard before. In fact, she helps Grandma to tell the story properly. It seems that Mommy, Daddy, Sam and their dog Marley were very happy but they longed for a baby girl. They waited and waited for a little girl to arrive. Finally, they heard about a baby girl in China who needed a family.

Emma’s Story tells of the family’s excited preparations folowed by Mommy and Daddy’s long trip to meet Emma. We witness the new family’s first night and day together and their trip home to Canada. A large crowd meets the threesome at the airport and joyfully celebrate’s Emma’s arrival.

Emma has heard her story “a million times” and she is reassured by Grandma’s words, It’s not how we look that makes us a family, Emma. It’s how we love each other,” said Grandma.
“And we love each other a lot!” said Emma.

While perhaps not meant for every bookshelf, Emma’s Story offers a very reassuring message and one that bears repeating. Just as Emma likes to hear her story and be comforted by it, children who share the international adoption experience will be similarly reassured by this book.

Emma’s Story at

Emma’s Story at

Grand photos of children with grandparentsGrand written by Marla Stewart Konrad
Picture book featuring photos of children and their grandparents from around the world published by Tundra Books

The World Vision Early Readers series features minimal text and striking photographs from Romania, Uganda, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Pakistan, Cambodia, Vietnam. Grand depicts children and their grandparents enjoying quiet moments together, working in gardens, doing chores, playing games. The message is clear: the special inter-generational bond is universal.

Grand at

Grand at

cover art Grandads Prayers of the Earth
Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth – written by Douglas Wood, illustrated by P.J. Lynch
Picture book that highlights the relationship between a boy and his grandfather published by Candlewick Press

This lovely, award-winning book is a tribute to the natural world, the special relationship between a boy and his grandfather and the comfort of prayer.

While on a forest walk together, a young boy asks his grandfather about prayer. His grandfather pauses and then encourages the boy to look at the natural beauty around him and observe carefully, “These are all ways to pray, ” said Grandad, “but there are more…The tall grass prays as it waves its arms beneath the sky,and flowers pray as they breathe their sweetness into the air.”

A moving tribute to the love between a child and his grandparent, Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth is a book that can be enjoyed on many levels. Best suited to children five and up.

Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth at

Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth at

cover art Here Comes HortenseHere Comes Hortense! written by Heather Hartt-Sussman and illustrated by Georgia Graham
Picture book about jealousy, emotions and blended families, published by Tundra Books

When a six year old boy, his grandmother and her new husband go on vacation to a theme park, all is well until Hortense arrives. Hortense is Bob’s granddaughter and she is suddenly a threat. Nana shares her hotel room with Hortense, she sings “Lavender’s Blue” to her and she sits next to her for all the scary rides. To add insult to injury, Hortense even devises a special name for Nana!

Nana’s grandson is despondent. He can’t believe that Hortense has taken his special place with his grandmother.

It is not until Nana and Gramps take a ride in the Tunnel of Love that the two children are able to gain perspective and learn to like each other.

Note: Here Comes Hortense! is a follow up to Heather Hartt-Sussman and Georgia Graham’s picture book titled Nana’s Getting Married

Here Comes Hortense! at

Here Comes Hortense! at

cover art The Imaginary GardenThe Imaginary Garden by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Irene Luxbacher
Picture book about a girl and her relationship with her grandfather published by Kids Can Press

Theo is blessed to have a very special relationship with her grandfather, Poppa. When Poppa moves into an apartment, they decide to create an imaginary garden on his balcony. The first Saturday of spring is marked by the arrival of a giant, blank canvas. Before long, Poppa and Theo have created a long stone wall and beautiful blue sky. Soon they have added beautiful spring flowers to their masterpiece. When Poppa leaves for a holiday, Theo worries about tending their special garden by herself. With gentleness and love, Poppa assures her that she will know what will nurture their imaginary garden. This lovely picture book would be a great gift for a special Grandpa.

The Imaginary Garden at

The Imaginary Garden at

cover art Lessons from Mother EarthLessons From Mother Earth written by Elaine McLeod and illustrated by Colleen Wood
Picture book about foods available in the wild published by Groundwood Books

Lessons from Mother Earth tells the story of a young girl who learns from her grandmother. They leave a small cabin and, with her grandmother’s guidance, the young girl discovers the bounty of fresh food provided by Mother Earth. Lamb’s-quarters, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, rosehips, dandelions and mushrooms are all part of the bounty.

Appropriate for children aged four and up, Lessons from Mother Earth encourages appreciation of our natural world and of the wisdom shared by our elders.

Lessons from Mother Earth at

Lessons from Mother Earth at

cover art The Little Word CatcherThe Little Word Catcher Written by Danielle Simard, illustrated by Geneviève Côté
Picture book about a young girl and her relationship with her grandmother published by Second Story Press

Originally published in French, The Little Word Catcher won a Governor General’s Award for Illustration. It was written with Alzheimer patients and their families in mind but also illustrates the impact of aphasia (an acquired communication disorder that is often due to stroke). Elise’s grandmother is losing her words. When in conversation, she has difficulty coming up with the right word to use. The affliction is terribly difficult for her young granddaughter to understand. Eventually, Elise takes comfort in the thought that perhaps Grandma has given her the words to use. A lovely story about the special relationship between a grandparent and a child, The Little Word Catcher will have special poignancy for families dealing with aging and loss.

The Little Word Catcher at

The Little Word Catcher at

My Two Grannies story about two very different grandmothersMy Two Grannies written by Floelle Benjamin and illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain
Picture book about diversity within families published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Alvina’s two grandmas come from very different backgrounds. Her Granny Vero was born in Trinidad whereas Granny Rose was born in England. The grandmas both live nearby now and Alvina loves to spend time with each of them, listening to stories. She learns that Granny Vero loved swimming in the warm waters of the Caribbean while Granny Rose visited the beach near Blackpool but avoided the cold water. When Alvina’s parents take a trip to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary, Alvina works out a creative way for the three of them to enjoy time together and learn more about each grandma’s cultural traditions.

My Two Grannies at

My Two Grannies at

Old Dog a picture book about Grandpa Old Dog written by Jeanne Willis and illustrated by Tony Ross
Picture book about a grandpa who has some fun tricks up his sleeve published by Andersen Press

When the young pups are told that they will be visiting Grandpa, they whine, “He’s so boring. All he ever does is talk about the olden days.” “And he has dog breath,” they whimpered. “And he keeps scratching himself.” Mom insists and, before long, they arrive at Rose Kennel for a visit. After a chance remark by one of the pups, Grandpa disappears into the house. His grandkids are convinced that he’s gone for a nap. Moments later, Grandpa re-emerges in a clown costume. He’s more than ready for his detractors, ““Stand back!” he said. “Watch this, you young whippersnappers. You might learn something.”

Clever wordplay and delicious illustrations make Old Dog a delight for readers aged four and up.

Old Dog at

Old Dog at

image of cover art for Oma's QuiltOma’s Quilt written by Paulette Bourgeois and illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
Picture book about loss and problem solving published by Kids Can Press

It is time for Emily’s grandmother to move into a retirement home. This will be a difficult transition for Oma, Emily and Emily’s mom. Many happy memories are left behind as Oma’s possessions are boxed up and she moves away. As Emily and her mom sort through Oma’s belongings, Emily comes up with a wonderful idea. She and her mom will create a quilt stitched from the fabrics of Oma’s life. Highly recommended for children and their parents. This gentle picture book deals with a difficult life transition beautifully.

Oma’s Quilt at

Oma’s Quilt at

Silas' Seven Grandparents picture book that depicts family diversitySilas’ Seven Grandparents written by Anita Horrocks and illustrated by Helen Flook
Picture book about family diversity published by Orca Book Publishers

Silas loves his seven grandparents and their enthusiasm for his activities and interests. Silas enjoys going on fun outings with his grandparents and appreciates their gifts. When his mom and dad go away on a business trip, Silas is invited to stay with his grandparents. His mom wants him to choose where to stay but it is not an easy decision. Lying awake on a moonlit night, Silas reaches a decision: he invites each of his grandparents to come and stay with him. Acrylic ink illustrations nicely match this happy story of life with seven grandparents.

Silas’ Seven Grandparents at

Silas’ Seven Grandparents at

image of cover art for You Can't Rush a CatYou Can’t Rush a Cat written by Karleen Bradford and illustrated by Leslie Elizabeth Watts
Picture book about a girl and her grandfather assisting a stray cat published by Orca Book Publishers

Jessica and her grandfather have a special project during her visit; they hope to tame a stray cat. Jessica is patient and respectful of the cat and assures her grandfather that, ‘You can’t rush a cat.’ Early one morning, Jessica sits quietly on the kitchen floor and waits for the little cat to approach her. By day’s end, her plan succeeds and Grandfather has a new furry friend.

You Can’t Rush A Cat at

You Can’t Rush a Cat at

cover art for 38 Ways to Entertain Your Grandparents38 Ways to Entertain Your Grandparents written by Dette Hunter and illustrated by Deirdre Betteridge
Published by Annick Press

Sarah, Violet and Joe spend a busy weekend with Grandma and Grandpa. Together they enjoy many fun activities – everything from playing traditional card games to cooking Belly Button Soup. Written as a storybook, 38 Ways to Entertain Your Grandparents includes child-friendly recipes as well as step-by step instructions for crafts and games.

38 Ways to Entertain Your Grandparents at

38 Ways to Entertain Your Grandparents at

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

Child Trying out for Rep Hockey? Tips for Hockey Parents

Posted on May 11th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart


Child Trying Out For Rep Hockey - Storytime Standouts Shares 13 Tips

My youngest son has tried out for rep hockey for the past seven seasons. Here are my suggestions for families who are already thinking ahead to rep hockey tryouts…

  • Believe in your child and his ability to go through the rep hockey tryout process, accept the coaches’ decisions and keep working to improve (whether he makes the team or not). Your steadfast confidence in his resiliency will make a difference.
  • Will yourself to remain outwardly positive throughout the process. Notice your child’s effort, a great pass, his ability to do crossovers. You do not need to critique his tryout. Your job is to be a support team for your child.
  • The player who excels in Atom is not necessarily the player who will excel in Midget. Whether your child makes Atom A1 team or not, believe it. It is true and the same applies to PeeWee. The success a child enjoys initially may be fleeting and the disappointed child may one day be a 6’2″ star.
  • Keep in mind that the tryout process is stressful for the players, the parents and the coaches. No one likes to tell a nervous, possibly tearful ten year old that he won’t be on the team. No one likes to face the stares of annoyed parents. Encourage your child to understand this is difficult for everyone.
  • Check and double check your child’s hockey bag and make sure that everything that should be in there, is. We once arrived at the rink and discovered that my (very) young son’s undershirt was missing from the hockey bag. He refused to go on the ice without it. Don’t let missing garments or equipment add to an already stressful situation.
  • If at all possible, avoid using brand new equipment for the tryout. Check that your child’s skates are the right size and that they are sharpened. If he is wearing new gear, get him used to it in a preseason conditioning camp or save the new elbow pads for mid September
  • image of hockey player

  • Remember water
  • Understand that there are many factors that go into a coach’s decision. The A1 coach does not necessary keep all of the best players. In minor hockey it is not unusual for some younger players to ‘make’ the team while an older (possibly more skilled player) gets ‘cut.’
  • ‘Cut’ players can be called back up and players who think they have ‘made the team’ can be cut. Don’t assume anything, just encourage your child to continue doing his best.
  • Playing on an A2 or A3 team or going to ‘House’ is not necessarily a bad thing. Unless equal playing time is mandated, a third line player on the A1 team can see much less ice time than a first line player on an A2 team.
  • Be careful what you wish for. It is great to ‘make’ an A1 team but often there is more ‘drama’ on A1 teams and frequently the demands in terms of expense, travel and time commitment are much greater on an A1 team. On more than one occasion we have encountered situations where parents were thrilled to have their son make the A1 team and later wished he hadn’t.
  • Allow plenty of time for traffic and getting into gear. Remind your child, never be the last one onto the ice or the first one off.
  • Remember that your child is having an opportunity to tryout because of a huge team of dedicated volunteers. Be sure to take time to thank the folks who make minor hockey happen in your community. They are probably living at the rink during tryouts.

  • After reading my Tips for Hockey Parents, it may not surprise you to know, the first year of ‘rep’ hockey, my son played on an Atom A3 team. In his second year, he made it to the Atom A2 team. First year PeeWee, he made the A3 team and first year Bantam, he made the A2 team. Last season, he was a first year Midget player and he played on the Midget A1 team. He is determined, he has never given up and he works every day to become a better hockey player. My husband and I believe in him and we believe that all of his hard work and determination will be rewarded.

    It is a long road. Best of luck to you and your child.

    Picture book about Acceptance: My Princess Boy

    Posted on April 3rd, 2013 by Carolyn Hart


    A picture book about acceptance My Princess BoyMy Princess boy written by Cheryl Kilodavis and illustrated by Suzanne DeSimone
    Picture book about acceptance, tolerance, bullying and gender identity published by Aladdin, an imprint of Simon and Schuster

    Please have a look at 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

    My Princess Boy is a non fiction picture book about acceptance, written by Dyson Kildavis’ mom, Cheryl. Dyson is a young boy who likes to wear pink, sparkly clothing including dresses. He also likes to dance like a ballerina. Dyson’s mom worried that her four year old son would be teased and bullied by classmates and that he would encounter intolerant people who would not respect his preferences, so she wrote this book in an effort to encourage acceptance and compassion.
    spread from My Princess Boy, a picture book about acceptance
    After introducing us to “My Princess Boy” and his preference for pretty pink clothing, we meet his brother and his father. Both are very accepting of Princess Boy. We also learn that Princess Boy has playdates with both boys and girls. We discover that he especially enjoys playing dress up and he wears a tiera when he climbs a tree.

    Not everything is rosy for Princess Boy, however. When he shops with his mom, if he buys something that would typically be worn by a girl, people around them notice and laugh. When Princess Boy dresses up for Halloween, a lady reacts badly to the princess dress he is wearing.

    My Princess Boy shares a message of acceptance and encourages tolerance. The reader is reassured that if Princess Boy wears a dress to school, his classmates won’t laugh. Friends will play with him even when he wears “girl clothes.”

    The book then encourages readers to consider their own behaviour -

    If you see a Princess Boy…
    Will you laugh at him?
    Will you call him a name?
    Will you play with him?
    Will you like him for who he is?
    Our Princess Boy is happy because we love him for who he is.

    I must admit to having somewhat mixed emotions about My Princess Boy. At one time, my nephew wanted to dress up at preschool. He preferred the “feminine” costumes. He wanted to wear high heels. My sister was quite disappointed that the preschool teachers did not want him to put on the “feminine” clothes. They wanted him to choose “male” costumes – fire fighter jackets and police officer helmets. My nephew is now eighteen and, as far as I know, has outgrown his desire to wear “feminine” clothes. I don’t think it was just societal pressure that did this, my sense is that some things that are very appealing at age four, lose their luster as a child grows older. I can’t help but wonder, what might have happened if my sister had written a book about my nephew’s fondness for “feminine” clothing. How would he feel about it ten or fifteen years later? Might it seem to be an invasion of privacy? I support Cheryl Kilodavis’ unconditional love for her son but I wonder how he will feel about being a poster child for gender identity (possibly for the rest of his life) based on his preferences at age four.

    As a picture book about acceptance, My Princess Boy “works” to some extent. It most certainly will encourage discussion about individuality and respecting differences. Having said that, when Princess Boy is laughed at, there is no attempt to problem solve or deal with the issue head on. Princess Boy is not provided any means of coping when people laugh at him other than asking, “Why did she laugh at me?My Princess Boy will only work as an antibullying resource if readers are encouraged to problem solve ways he might cope with the bullying that he is sure to encounter.

    Finally, as evidenced by both the cover art and the spread from My Princess Boy, the illustrations for this book are somewhat unusual in that they are devoid of facial features. There are no eyes, noses, mouths or ears on any of the faces in the book. Some readers find this problematic, even creepy. It seems to me that seeing Princess Boy’s happiness ought to be a goal of the illustrator. Body language is one thing but, My Princess Boy is a book about emotions (happiness, contentedness, disappointment, hurt, joy and love), one would think that showing us those emotions would serve to enhance the message conveyed by the text.

    My Princess Boy at

    My Princess Boy at

    You may also be interested in our post about (chapter book) The Boy in the Dress.

    Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur

    Posted on March 22nd, 2013 by Jody


    Storytime Standouts' Guest Contributor Looks at Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur
    Young adult fiction published by Yearling, an imprint of Random House

    I swear, I’m not the Paula Abdul of book reviews; I do not think that every book I read is amazing and moving and captivating. It just so happens that, this year, I have been incredibly fortunate to choose book after book that is amazing, moving, and captivating. Eight Keys, by Suzanne LaFleur, is beautiful. It weaves together the themes of finding yourself, knowing yourself, experiencing loss, friendship, bullying, acceptance, and family. Elise is a young girl who lost both her parents. She lives with her aunt and uncle, who I wish I lived with because they’re real and tangible characters. She has a best friend who she thinks she may have outgrown. She gets bullied mercilessly by the popular girl at school.

    In the midst of all this, she is turning 12, which in itself can be life changing. She discovers a key and eight doors in her uncle’s workshop. The key opens one of the doors. The book follows her journey, as she unlocks each of the doors and discovers something about who she was, who she is, and who she could be. Each room also gives her insight into where she comes from. The most touching and heartwrenching part, for me from my parenting perspective, was that, knowing he was going to die, her father spent his final days putting each of these rooms together for her. As she explores all of them, she gets to know the mother and father she doesn’t remember. She also gets to learn about the people who have raised her.

    Elise is such an honest and real character. There are parts of the book where we didn’t like her very much (my class and I) but the honest part comes from the fact that we know Elise doesn’t like herself very much at those moments either. The class had great discussions around different topics, such as: what do you do if you think a friendship is over? Do you always have to get along with a friend? What do you do when you are bullied? Has a friend ever changed on you so that you felt like you didn’t know them anymore? These are real things that I can remember dealing with in my teen years and I think they are things we still deal with as adults. Life is about change and it isn’t easy. People come into your life for different periods of time. We don’t always know if they’re in our lives for the long term. Even as adults, we can struggle to make and keep friends because we change.

    I love how Elise came to her own conclusions. Her aunt and uncle guided her and supported her. They didn’t like some of her choices, but they were firm and fair with her and, as a result, she saw herself more clearly.

    Eight Keys is a beautiful book. It is the kind of book that an author should aspire to write. It held the audience captive, created discussion, allowed for introspection, and connected us to the main characters. At the end of the book, I found myself wanting to know Elise ten years from now. I didn’t want to say goodbye to her and neither did the kids. When I read the last line of the book, one of the students said, “What? There’s no more?” I felt exactly the same.

    Eight Keys at

    Eight Keys at

    Crouching Tiger highlights Tai Chi, Chinese New Year and Family

    Posted on January 22nd, 2013 by Carolyn Hart


    image of cover art for Crouching TigerCrouching Tiger written by Ying Chang Compestine and illustrated by Yan Nascimbene
    Picture book about Tai Chi, Chinese New Year and a child’s relationship with his grandfather published by Candlewick Press

    Link to Chinese New Year writing paper for kids

    When Vinson’s grandfather leaves China and arrives in America for a visit, Vinson is excited. But, from the moment his grandfather arrives, Vinson is surprised and confused. His grandfather persists in calling him “Ming Da” and he dances in the garden slowly and quietly. Vinson is familiar with kung fu and, curious about the new moves, he asks his grandfather to teach him tai chi.

    Vinson and his grandfather meet in the yard after school and Grandpa teaches Vinson. The young boy is impatient, he prefers kung fu’s kicks and punches. Tai chi leaves his knees tired and his arms heavy. Vinson wonders why his grandfather insists on speaking Chinese with him despite the fact that he knows how to speak English well.

    When Vinson’s mom says that Grandpa is going to accompany Vinson to school, he is embarrassed. He chooses to read while on the bus. He and his grandfather sit together, each stealing glances at the other. Similarly, Vinson chooses to wear his headphones rather than talk with his grandpa. It is only when Grandpa’s surprising and athletic intervention prevents a serious accident that Vinson pauses to reevaluate his perceptions.

    As time passes, Vinson becomes more adept at tai chi and soon Grandpa adds a new twist to their work. Vinson carries a long bamboo pole and learns the cat walk.

    On Chinese New Year’s Eve, Vinson’s hair is cut, the family cleans the house and enjoys a traditional meal. When Grandpa gives Vinson an embroidered red silk jacket, he asks him to wear it for the upcoming parade. Vinson is embarrassed. He worries that his friends will see him and he feels self conscious about the new jacket.

    As Vinson and his grandfather approach the parade route, Vinson gains appreciation for how his grandfather is regarded in the community and the tremendous pride he has for his grandson. When the two of them arrive at the start of the parade, Vinson discovers that he will be responsible for carrying a long bamboo pole, teasing the parade lions by waving a dangling cabbage.

    An Author’s Note at the conclusion of Crouching Tiger includes notes about tai chi and Chinese New Year as well as a small glossary.

    Beautifully illustrated with pen and ink as well as watercolors, readers will notice small details such as Vinson’s untied shoelace and his body language when his father cuts his hair.

    Crouching Tiger invites discussion about family relationships and respect for one’s heritage. In a classroom, it could be used as a Chinese New Year resource and will be particularly interesting to children who are learning about martial arts. On each two page spread there is a small illustration of a tai chi stance.

    Best suited to children aged five years and up.

    The Chinese American Librarians Association Best Book of 2011 and Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices List for 2012

    Crouching Tiger at

    Crouching Tiger at

    Spring Break and Winter Break – An opportunity for homework?

    Posted on January 10th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart


    Spring Break and Winter Break - An opportunity for homework

    Last year we visited the Mohave Desert on Spring Break

    My sons’ school district is currently conducting a survey about Spring Break and whether it should be two weeks (or one). This year and last, the students have been afforded a two week Spring Break. When the change to the school calendar was initially approved, it was subject to review every two years.

    I completed the school district survey. I love spending time with my kids and I feel that we usually manage to use these breaks well. I am solidly in favour of a two week Spring Break.

    After answering three “yes” and “no” questions, I was asked if I wanted to share any comments. Those who know me well, will understand that I could not let an opportunity to express my opinion pass. This is what I said about homework assignments while high school students are on Winter Break and Spring Break:

    I would like to point out that “Winter Break” and “Spring Break” should be considered “breaks” for students as well as for administrative and teaching staff. I do not expect my children’s teachers to be working during these breaks. Having said that, I feel strongly that these breaks ought to actually be breaks from school work for my children. My eldest works (almost full time) when he is not in school and my younger son is involved in Rep hockey. Neither boy benefits from homework assignments over so-called breaks. “Winter Break” and “Spring Break” homework assignments create pressure and defeat the purpose of taking a break.

    It is one thing to ask students to do reading while on holiday – mine would do that anyway – but asking for lengthy reading responses is ridiculous and counter-productive. One does not instill a love of reading by forcing students to write responses after every chapter they read. For goodness sake, just let them read for pleasure and have a break from “making connections” and analysing everything they read.

    My eldest son had a group project to work on over Winter Break. Fortunately for him and his group, we had not planned an out of town holiday. I do, however, wonder what might have happened if we had gone away for two weeks. Would he have lost marks? Or, would his group have had to do his share of the work?

    We never “waste” breaks from school. We travel to interesting places, we like to go to the theatre or sporting events and we enjoy family time together. Teachers do not need to add onerous homework assignments to the mix.

    I would be interested to know your thoughts on whether students should be given homework assignments to complete on Winter Break and/or Spring Break.

    My Brother is Autistic, A Picture book about Autism

    Posted on December 13th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart


    image of  a picture book about autismMy Brother is Autistic written by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos and illustrated by Marta Fabrega

    Picture book about autism

    part of the Let’s Talk About It! series published by Barron’s

    You will also be interested in our page featuring picture books about Autism and Asperger Syndrome

    Written from the perspective of an older sibling, My Brother is Autistic looks at the realities and challenges of being the brother or sister of a child with autism. Usually Billy and his brother get along reasonably well but, when a classmate frustrates Billy and makes him angry, his older brother is embarrassed by Billy’s reaction. He runs away from the scene in the school cafeteria. Help is not far away as he encounters his teacher in a hallway. She listens to him explain what happened and she has empathy for the frustration he feels.

    I told my teacher that I wished more kids understood autism, because if they did, then maybe they’d give kids like Billy a chance!

    With a consderable amount of text, this picture book is best suited to children kindergarten age and up. A Note to Parents provides general information about autism, characteristics typical of people who are autistic and suggestions for helping siblings of children with autism.

    My Brother is Autistic at

    My Brother is Autistic at

    Ian’s Walk, Autism Picture Book by Laurie Lears and Karen Ritz

    Posted on November 27th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart


    cover art for Autism picture book Ian's WalkIan’s Walk: A Story About Autism Written by Laurie Lears and illustrated by Karen Ritz
    Autism picture book published by Albert Whitman & Company

    You will also be interested in our page featuring picture books about Autism and Asperger Syndrome

    Ian’s mom is reluctant to have him go to the park with his sisters. She warns the two girls to keep a close eye on him. Enroute to the park, the children pass a diner. Ian is fascinated by the circling ceiling fan. He hardly notices the siren of a passing fire truck but seems to hear something else. Not interested in fragrant lilacs, Ian would rather put his face up to a brick wall.

    Ian feels things differently … while Tara and I toss cereal to the ducks, Ian lies on the ground with his cheeks pressed against the hard stones.

    Ian is non verbal and sometimes waves his hands. Aware of how Ian is different and conscious that other people watch him, his sister acknowledges that she sometimes feels angry.

    When Ian wanders away while they are all at the park, his frantic sisters race to find him. Finally, Julie tries to think like her brother does. She remembers he likes a bell and, sure enough, finds him underneath it.

    As the three siblings return home, they pause to enjoy the walk and especially the sights, sounds and smells that matter to Ian.

    Ian’s Walk acknowledges the frustrations of loving a sibling who is autistic and encourages young readers to consider a different perspective.

    Beautiful watercolour illustrations enhance the narrative and lovingly depict the children’s facial expressions.

    Ian’s Walk is written from the perspective of a sibling.

    Ian’s Walk: A Story about Autism at

    Ian’s Walk: A Story About Autism at

    Autism Picture Book – Waiting for Benjamin A Story About Autism

    Posted on November 6th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart


    Waiting for Benjamin A Story about Autism written by Alexandra Jessup Altman and illustrated by Susan Keeter
    Autism picture book published by Albert Whitman & Company

    You will also be interested in our page featuring picture books about Autism and Asperger Syndrome

    Written from the perspective of a sibling, Waiting for Benjamin A Story about Autism deals with several issues that are important to brothers and sisters of children who are diagnosed with Autism. Alexander is frustrated. His younger brother doesn’t play with him. Instead, Benjamin wiggles his fingers and stares at the wall. Alexander can’t wait for Benjamin to grow up and take an interest in the same things he likes. Benjamin’s older brother has other worries, too. He worries that his friends will tease him about his brother’s unusual behaviour and he feels jealous. He doesn’t understand why Benjamin is rewarded for seemingly easy behaviours like saying, ‘ball.’ Alexander would love to be praised and to share in the special treats.

    I wanted it to be my turn. Then I would say everything perfectly, and Julie would smile and give me a special reward.

    Waiting for Benjamin follows Benjamin from before his diagnosis until he learns a few words and begins to respond to his older brother. Best suited as a family resource, this Autism picture book focusses on the relationship between the two brothers and ends on a somewhat positive note with Alexander gaining understanding about his brother’s challenges and Benjamin showing some interest in playing with his brother and attempting some words.

    Waiting For Benjamin: A Story about Autism at

    Waiting for Benjamin: A Story about Autism at

    Note: Author Alexandra Jessup Altma was a Senior Interventionist, Autism Spectrum Program, Howard Center for Human Services

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