Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

A Middle Grade Teacher’s To Be Read List

Posted on October 14th, 2014 by Jody

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A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List by a Guest Post by @1prncsIt’s been a while since I did a top ten list of….well, anything. So, here’s what is on my To be Read list this year. Mostly for school, but I love reading middle grade and young adult fiction even if it’s just for me. So here it goes:






A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Hook's Revenge by Heidi SchulzHook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz
Middle grade fiction published by Disney-Hyperion

I’ve already started this funny tale about the Captain Hook’s thirteen year old daughter, Jocelyn. She’s sent away to boarding school by her grandfather so she can learn to be a lady. All she really wants is to be a swash-buckling, sword-wielding pirate. When she learns of her father’s death, she sets off on a quest to avenge it.

I have started this book in my classroom and I love it. The kids laugh out loud and so do I. Jocelyn is a great character, as is her ally, Roger. It’s a pleasure to read a book with a girl main character that the boys enjoy as well. It’s got great pirate speak, a longing for adventure that kids will connect with, and memorable characters.

Hook’s Revenge, Book 1 Hook’s Revenge at Amazon.com

Hook’s Revenge, Book 1 Hook’s Revenge at Amazon.ca

A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Swindle by Gordon KormanSwindle by Gordon Korman
Middle grade fiction published by Scholastic Press

Korman is always on my recommendation list during our library visits. When my eight year old brought Swindle home, I told her that I’d like to read it with her because I know a lot of kids who enjoyed it. During a sick day last week, she found the movie on Netflix. First, I didn’t know there was a movie. Second, normally we would read the book first. But, we were feeling lazy so we decided to watch. The movie was very well done– it made my daughter laugh and it made me want to read the book even more.

When the character finds a vintage baseball card, he doesn’t know the value and gets swindled by a pawn shop owner. The quest to get his card back is entertaining and funny. This book is on my list as a possible read aloud.

Swindle at Amazon.com

Swindle at Amazon.ca

A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly HuntFish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Middle grade fiction published by Nancy Paulsen Books

There are several things that make me want to read this book. The author wrote one of my favourite books that I read last year: One for the Murphys. That alone makes me want to read more by her. When checking out the title on Goodreads, one of my favourite quotes was included in the write up: “Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”

Then, when I read the summary, I thought: YES. Great topic. Ally has hidden the fact that she can’t read from the people in her life and has successfully moved from one school to the next without anyone knowing. But when her newest teacher looks closer, past the trouble making side she presents, he finds her secret and helps her. We all learn in different ways and it’s essential that we have books that show kids that it is okay to be different. It’s okay to need help and not everyone learns in the same fashion. It’s up to us, as the adults in their lives, to help them find their own road to success. I can’t wait to read this one.

Fish in a Tree at Amazon.com

Fish In A Tree at Amazon.ca

A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Smile by Raina TelgemeierSmile and Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
Middle grade fiction published by Graphix

I can’t read every single book I see my students or daughters enjoy, though I try to read a good portion of them. I’ve seen enough students go through Smile to know that it hooks readers. When one student saw Sisters in my TBR pile, she was thrilled because she was re-reading Smile for the third time. I told her she could read Sisters and she said, “Just let me finish re-reading Smile first.” She started Sisters later that day and finished it the next. That’s enough of a recommendation for me.

Smile‘s main character (Raina) wants to fit in, like any other grade six girl. An accident that leads to fake teeth makes that harder than she thought. A variety of other game changing issues present themselves while she’s dealing with full headgear. It sounds like exactly the kind of book that pre-teens would connect with.

Sisters offers another connectable theme for kids: sibling rivalry and confrontation. Raina isn’t close to her sister Amara, even though she wanted to be, but when family strife and a new baby brother enter the picture, they have to learn how to depend on each other.

I often recommend Telgemeier to students who are unsure about what to read. She offers real issues that kids can relate to and the graphic novel aspect takes away some of the fear or uncertainty for reluctant readers. She also does the Baby Sitters Club graphics, which students love.

Smile at Amazon.com

Smile at Amazon.ca

A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Escape from Mr. Lemoncellos's Library by Chris GrabensteinEscape from Mr. Lemoncellos’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
Middle grade fiction published by Yearling

This book has been on my list for a while and I already started it twice. It’s like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Night at the Museum. The first time I started it was in class but there was a hold on the book and it didn’t seem fair to hang onto it when a kid was waiting for it (I’m exceptionally fair like that). The second time was the same thing, only at home with my own kids. I loved the beginning both times but often start too many books at once and am forced to choose. Since last year was the year of Jaron and Sage because I was addicted to the Jennifer Nielsen’s trilogy, I had to put this one aside. But it’s remained on my list because I know it is going to be fantastic.

Kyle, surprisingly, wins a chance to spend the night in a brand new library, unlike any library ever known. Mr. Lemoncello is a game maker who develops a number of twists and turns in a real life game that Kyle must find a way to escape.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library at Amazon.com

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library at Amazon.ca

A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List The Invisible Boy by Trudy LudwigThe Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
Middle grade fiction published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

If Adrienne Gear recommends it, I’m likely going to read it at some point. I warn my students every year that you are never too old for picture books. They offer some of the best morals and insights we can find. Picture books also offer students a chance to really utilize the strategies we teach them such as connecting, making pictures in their head, and predicting. The fact that it is a picture book sometimes lessens the anxiety during reading lessons, allowing them to learn and connect in greater ways.

Brian is a boy that no one notices. He never gets included in games, birthday invites, or activities. When Justin comes to his school, Brian is noticed for the first time. Even if the story didn’t sound so wonderful and so connectable, the beautiful pictures would pull me in.

The Invisible Boy at Amazon.com

The Invisible Boy at Amazon.ca

A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Grimmtastic Girls by Joan Holub and Suzanne WilliamsGrimmtastic Girls by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Middle grade fiction published by Scholastic

Two more authors that I love (the write the Goddess Girl Series and Heroes in Training) have another series, The Grimmtastic Girls. I might be bias because my eleven year old loves these two authors so much and the Goddess Girl series is one of her (and my) absolute favourites. They have a great writing style and their characters are loveable, even when flawed. Obviously, I’m a little behind because when I saw one in Scholastic, I found out there are four so far.

Grimmtastic Girls #1: Cinderella Stays Late at Amazon.com

Grimmtastic Girls #1: Cinderella Stays Late at Amazon.ca

A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Treasure Hunters by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Middle grade fiction published by Little, Brown and Company

A few things make me want to read this one: James Patterson. Chris Grabenstein. And my enjoyment of Hook. Patterson has several books for kids that I see being enjoyed in the classroom. His middle school series is entertaining and my recent venture into the world of swaggering pirates makes me want to take a look at this book.

Diving is part of the Kidd siblings lives. But when their parents going missing, they face the biggest treasure hunt ever: finding them.

Treasure Hunters at Amazon.com

Treasure Hunters at Amazon.ca

A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Stranded by Jeff ProbstStranded by Jeff Probst
Middle grade fiction published by Puffin

Another one that I ordered long ago, I need to finally read this one. I try to find books for the classroom that both the boys and girls will be drawn toward. I want them to see the fun in reading, to see that it just takes one book, the right book, to pull you in and make you a reader. The fact that students know who Jeff Probst is and watch Survivor, intrigues them. We need to find ways to invest them in reading and all it has to offer.

When four new siblings (blended family) get stranded on an island, they must get to know each other, and trust each other, fast. If they want to get home, they need to find a way to work together.

Stranded at Amazon.com

So there you have my TBR pile for the 2014-2015 school year. I should probably get off of the computer and get started. I’m certain I will get distracted by other books that peak my interest, but my goal is to get all of these done by June. What is on your to be read list this year?

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

Posted on October 1st, 2014 by Jody

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Storytime Standouts guest contributor @1prncs writes about Bone, Fog, Ash & Star: The Last Days of Tian Di, Book 3Bone, Fog, Ash & Star: The Last Days of Tian Di, Book 3 written by Catherine Egan
Young Adult fiction published by Coteau Books





Read our interview with Catherine Egan

The lengthy title of Catherine Egan’s third book, The Last Days of Tian Di: Bone, Fog, Ash, and Star, alludes to the depth and complexity that is wrapped up within the story. Like the characters of this book, I felt myself immersed in unfamiliar, amazing worlds, pulled back and forth between them by the common thread: Eliza. A story of friendship, loyalty, strength, and finding the truth, Egan isn’t afraid to make her characters suffer to reach reward. In fact, it is understood and stated that “there is loss and gain with every act”. I think what was most powerful, for me, was the way this book echos life. There are consequences to every action and we do the very best we can at the time, but then we must go from there, from the result of our decisions. It is a heavy burden on the main character’s shoulders, knowing that the choices she makes will lead to her own heavy heart. But I think it is an important message for readers, particularly the young adult ones who are, in some ways, facing a similar journey. At the age of sixteen, they are making choices that feel right at the time, but have long term consequences that need to be weighed and judged. Sometimes, life really is choosing the lesser of two evils and this is a lesson that Eliza faces constantly.

In this third book of her series, Catherine Egan pulls the reader in with intense action right from the start. When Eliza’s friend, Charlie, becomes the victim of an assassination attempt, just as she’s trying to tell him she has feelings for him that go beyond friendship, the reader is immediately hooked. Aside from the action, the magical realism, the vivid imagery that drops you right inside of the book, the characters are connectable.

I realized within the first chapter that I was drawn in because when the first major event happens, I literally gasped out loud. At that point I thought, wow, I already care about the characters and I can totally see the scene. As a writer and a reader, I know that this is not an easy combination to present on the page. From there, Egan takes us on a journey to save her friend that is met with seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Like the title, the story seemed to always have one more tangent. Whether you’re thinking that they cannot possibly escape the next vicious attack or they are finally safe, the reader is constantly surprised. The term magical realism is an interesting one to me: if done poorly, you can distance yourself from the book because it’s fantasy and you know that everything is okay. If done properly, as Egan has done, you can forget that transforming, shape-shifting, and spell-binding aren’t a possibility. I saw the characters as regular teenagers– Eliza with too much responsibility on her young shoulders, Nell with the exam she desperately wanted to ace, and Charlie with the youthful irritation of someone stuck in a situation they cannot control.

Even in the magical, there is a sense of the real: the faeries’ overall disdain of humans, the faery mother who can’t abide by her son, Jalo helping a human because he’s in love with her, the oracle grandmother, saved by the ancients, who shares her knowledge in riddles, the fight for power between the Mancers, and each character trying to choose between good and evil, trying to find their way out of a situation that is bigger than themselves.Through it all, we are reminded, as are the characters, that best laid plans often go astray and the things we truly believe we want and need in life are not necessarily what we end up getting. Accepting that and moving forward anyway is not easy, but it can be done, as Eliza shows us.

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

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

Ahoy Me Hearties – Come Discover Pirate Picture Books!

Posted on September 19th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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Storytime Standouts - Say Ahoy to Pirate Picture Books

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






Pirate Picture Books

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

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

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

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

How I Became a Pirate at Amazon.com

How I Became a Pirate at Amazon.ca

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

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

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

Pirate Pearl at Amazon.com

Pirate Pearl at Amazon.ca

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kids Can Press’ Storytime Activities for Small Saul

Small Saul at Amazon.com

Small Saul at Amazon.ca

Pirate Map Interlined Paper from Storytime Standouts

Storytime Standouts’ Free Pirate Theme Printables

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Pirate

Pirate theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Pirate Map

Pirate theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

Meet Young Adult Lit Author Catherine Egan

Posted on August 21st, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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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 Amazon.com

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

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.

St. Patrick’s Day Picture Books

Posted on March 3rd, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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For each petal on the shamrock this brings a wish your way -
Good health, good luck, and happiness for today and every day.

~Author Unknown

Link to our free St. Patrick’s Day Free Printables for Children ~

Explore all St. Patrick's Day Theme Printables and Picture Books



A Fine St. Patrick’s Day written by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by Tom Curry
St. Patrick’s Day fable published by Dragonfly Books,Random House Kids



Each St. Patrick’s Day, rival towns, Trala and Tralee compete, and year after year Tralah wins the competition and is declared “Best Decorated.” When one young resident of Tralee proposes a way to win the upcoming event, her suggestion is embraced by the residents of the town. Everyone gets involved in the project until a small man arrives in the town and asks for help.

He crossed the field into Tralee. At the first house he came upon, he asked, “Beggin your pardon, can you help me? I was leading my cows across the river and, sure and begorra, they are stuck in the mud.”

Folk art style illustrations beautifully enhance a terrific story that explores themes of social responsibility, community and kindness. A Fine St. Patrick’s Day is highly recommended for children aged four years and up.

A Fine St. Patrick’s Day at Amazon.com

A Fine St. Patrick’s Day at Amazon.ca

Hooray for St. Patrick’s Day written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Paul Meisel
Rhyming lift-the-flap book published by Penguin Putnam



Best for very young children, Hooray for St Patrick’s Day shows a racially diverse group of children trying on costumes, playing with puppets, doing crafts, dancing, parading and snacking as they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day together. Just fifteen pages plus a glossary, it is a suitable introduction for children aged two years and up.

Hooray for St. Patrick’s Day! at Amazon.com

Hooray for St. Patrick’s Day! at Amazon.ca

Let’s Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day written by Peter and Connie Roop, illustrated by Gwen Connelly
Non fiction picture book about St. Patrick’s Day published by Millbrook Press



Part of a series of “Let’s Celebrate” books, Let’s Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day answers questions children in the primary grades might ask. Who was Saint Patrick? Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in America? Why is everything green on St. Patrick’s Day? Young readers will have fun with the Irish-theme riddles featured on the end papers.

Lets Celebrate St Patrick’s Day at Amazon.com

Let’s Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at Amazon.ca

May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you wherever you go.

~Irish Blessing

St. Patrick’s Day written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons
Non fiction picture book about St. Patrick’s Day published by Holiday House



As one might expect from Gail Gibbons, St. Patrick’s Day is thorough look at traditions associated with Saint Patrick and ways people celebrate March 17th. Clear, bold illustrations are well suited to a read aloud setting and compliment the text nicely. The treatment of Saint Patrick and his life is more complete than in other comparable non fiction titles and legends association with him are briefly touched on.

Suitable for children aged four years and up.

St. Patrick’s Day at Amazon.com

St. Patrick’s Day at Amazon.ca

St. Patrick’s Day written by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell



Part of a series of “Mrs. Madoff” books, St. Patrick’s Day follows a young boy as he goes to school on St. Patrick’s Day. He and his racially diverse classmates are working on reports and they present their discoveries dramatically, musically, pictorially and in written form. Once the school day ends, Delicious soda bread awaits at home where the family’s Irish heritage is celebrated. Suggested for children aged five years and up.

St. Patrick’s Day at Amazon.com

St. Patrick’s Day at Amazon.ca

St Patrick’s Day in the Morning written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Jan Brett
St. Patrick’s Day picture book published by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin



When Jamie is told that he is too young to walk in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, he takes matters into his own hands. He starts out before the rest of his family awakens. He dresses in his mother’s raincoat and his father’s hat. He takes his brother’s flute and the family sheepdog and, with great determination, heads to Acorn Hill.

They marched down the street. None of the chimneys was smoking yet. Milk bottles stood on front steps, waiting to be let in.

Encounters with neighbors are just one highlight of this gentle story of independence and growing up. Highly recommended for children aged four years and older.

St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning at Amazon.com

St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning at Amazon.ca

May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light, May good luck pursue you each morning and night.
~Irish Blessing

That’s What Leprechauns Do written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
Picture book published by Sandpiper Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt



Boys and Girls will delight in this look at St. Patrick’s Day from the perspective of a trio of playful leprechauns. Boo, Col and Ari have important work to do but it is fun to make mischief and they can’t resist temptation.

Och, sure, but I couldn’t help myself. Mischief’s what leprechauns do,” Ari said. “Along with our more important duties.” He glanced up at the tatters of clouds in the sky. “And we better not delay, for we’ve delayed enough already.”

As rain clouds gather above gorgeous green fields, the leprechauns rush to place a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Great fun, That’s What Leprechauns Do includes some repetitive text and will appeal to children aged four years and up

That’s What Leprechauns Do at Amazon.com

That’s What Leprechauns Do at Amazon.ca


Very glad to be part of this week’s Kid Lit Blog Hop ~

Kid Lit Blog Hop

The Runaway King

Posted on February 8th, 2014 by Jody

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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 Amazon.com

The Runaway King: Book 2 of the Ascendance Trilogy Amazon.ca

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

Discovering Diversity – Princesses in Picture Books

Posted on October 21st, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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Discovering Diversity and Examining Stereotypes - a Look at Princesses in Picture BooksIf you asked children in a preschool or kindergarten, ‘How does a princess behave?’ or ‘What does a princess look like?’ what sort of answers would you get? Would perceptions extend beyond Disney’s version of Cinderella, Ariel and Rapunzel?


How might children describe or draw a princess?

Is she helpless or is she capable?
Is she in danger and waiting for a brave prince to rescue her or is she resourceful and able to take care of herself?
Is she always physically beautiful? What is her hair color?
What sort of clothing does she wear?
Is she intelligent, quick-witted, wise, bold, courageous?
Is she kind to others?

Thoughts of a grade five student ~

A princess is a girl who has a dress and she’s very pretty. She’s the king’s daughter and he can choose someone to be the prince to marry her. Some books have princesses and some don’t have princesses. You might have seen movies about one or maybe you haven’t. Princesses often appear in fairy tales.

Here are some terrific picture books that depict princesses in unconventional ways

Discovering Diversity through Picture Books An African Princess An African Princess written by Lyra Edmonds and illustrated by Anne Wilson
Picture book about heritage and identity published by Random House Children’s House

Lyra’s mama tells her that she is an African Princess but she is not convinced. She and her family in a big city and she has freckles. Her schoolmates tease her and prompt her to question the story she has been told by her mama. One wintry day she learns that she and her family are going to travel to meet Taunte May, an African Princess. Lyra counts the days until the family boards a plane to the Caribbean. Once there, Lyra discovers and embraces her very rich heritage.

An African Princess at Amazon.com

An African Princess at Amazon.ca

Discovering Diversity Picture Books Not All Princesses Dress in PinkNot All Princesses Dress in Pink written by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple, illustrated by Anne-Sophie Lanquetin
Rhyming picture book about individuality, stereotyping, gender roles published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Vivid illustrations and cheerful text highlight Not All Princesses Dress in Pink, a look at the many ways young princesses express themselves. Perhaps they play baseball or soccer or they roll on the ground. Whether working on a construction site, riding a bike or planting a large garden, these princesses challenge stereotypes and wear sparkly crowns.

Not All Princesses Dress in Pink at Amazon.com

Not All Princesses Dress in Pink at Amazon.ca

Discovering Diversity through Picture Books The Paper Bag PrincessThe Paper Bag Princess written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
Picture book about problem solving, courage, self esteem, and gratitude published by Annick Press

When a nasty dragon smashes her castle, burns her clothes and carries away her betrothed, Princess Elizabeth decides she must rescue him. Elizabeth’s wardrobe is in ruins so wears a paper bag as she follows the path of destruction to the dragon’s cave. Once there, Elizabeth uses a series of clever tricks to rescue Ronald. He is not at all grateful for her efforts on his behalf and gets exactly what he deserves.

- Read America! Classic
- NEA’s Cat-a-List for Reading
- Greatest Canadian Books of the Century List, Vancouver Public Library
- 100 Best Books List, Toronto Public Library

The Paper Bag Princess at Amazon.com

The Paper Bag Princess at Amazon.ca

Discovering Diversity through Picture Books The Princess and the Pea The Princess and the Pea written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora
Traditional story set in Africa published by Puffin Books

The Princess and the Pea was originally published by Hans Christian Andersen in the nineteenth century. Rachel Isadora sets this version of the traditional story in Africa. A prince wants to meet and marry a ‘real’ princess. His travels take him all over the world but he fails to meet ‘the one.’

One evening there was a terrible storm. Suddenly a knocking was heard at the gate, and the old king went to open it. Sure enough, there is a sodden young woman outside the gate. She claims to be a princess but her appearance suggests otherwise. The queen decides to test her by putting a pea into her bed.

Beautiful collage illustrations nicely match the exotic African setting and costumes.

The Princess and the Pea at Amazon.com

The Princess and the Pea at Amazon.ca

Discovering Diversity The Silk PrincessThe Silk Princess written and illustrated by Charles Santore
The legend of the discovery of silk in ancient China published by Random House

Emperor Huang-Ti is very fond of his two sons but never speaks with his daughter, Princess Hsi-Ling Chi. One afternoon, she and her mother visit the royal gardens. When a cocoon falls from a tree and lands in her mother’s teacup, Hsi-Ling Chi notices the cocoon unraveling in the hot liquid and soon sees a long strand of thread. Not realizing the length of the thread, her mother agrees to let her attach one end of the thread to her waist and walk away. Hsi-Ling Chi is astonished as the long, silky thread permits her to travel through the royal gardens, leave the grounds of the royal palace and explore the world beyond its gates. She travels into the mountains, knowing that she must be cautious because there is a dangerous dragon lurking nearby. Despite being careful to cross a bridge quietly, the dragon awakens and frightens Hsi-Ling Chi. The thread is broken and Hsi-Ling Chi is lost. While searching for the thread, she meets an old man. He is weaving thread from silkworm cocoons into beautiful, shimmering fabric. Hsi-Ling Chi learns from him and eventually returns home to share her discovery with her mother. Her mother instructs the royal weavers to create a new robe using the new material. The Emperor is captivated by Hsi-Ling Chi’s discovery and she becomes known as the Silk Princess.

Painterly illustrations are a wonderful match for this story of adventure and discovery. Best suited to kindergarten age (and older) children, there is considerable text – some in white and some in black. The font choice may make this a difficult read-aloud in a large group setting.

The Silk Princess at Amazon.com

The Silk Princess at Amazon.ca

Free Printables – Crown Writing Paper and Royalty Picture Dictionary

image of PDF icon  Royalty / Fairy Tale Picture Dictionary

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

image of PDF icon  Crown interlined paper

picture books about grandparents and family diversityYou will also be interested in our post about grandparents and family diversity.




The False Prince – Delivers Adventure, Mystery and Suspense

Posted on August 21st, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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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 Amazon.com

The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy at Amazon.ca

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

Walrus’s Gift – Anti Bullying Picture Book

Posted on February 23rd, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

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Storytime Standouts looks at a picture book with an important anti bullying message…

Storytime Standouts looks at an anti bullying picture book, Walrus's Gift by H.E. StewartWalrus’s Gift written and illustrated by H.E. Stewart
Antibullying picture book published by Tudor House



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

When a young walrus notices a sad child sitting and looking out at the ocean, the walrus wonders why the boy is unhappy. He turns, first to his mother and then to his grandfather, for help. His grandfather gives the little walrus an important and unusual present… The gift allows the curious walrus to discover why the human boy is alone and unhappy.

The young walrus discovers that the boy is not like his peers; his hair is different and he is not interested in their games. The boy is being teased and bullied by the children around him. Armed with information about the problem facing the boy, Grandfather Walrus calls many sea creatures together, seeking their assistance and suggestions. Before long, a plan is made and the young walrus steps forward to help the boy. Over time, the young walrus suggests four possible ways the young boy could deal with bullying.

The Walrus’s Gift anti bullying suggestions match those recommended by the WITS program: Walk Away, Ignore, Talk it Out, Seek Help.

It is important to note that the young walrus’s actions to help the boy are not only successful, they are celebrated by the sea creatures. This exploration of what it means to notice a problem with another person, be concerned and to take action should encourage young readers to consider how, in a similar situation, they might help child in difficulty.

Gentle, soothing illustrations match the thoughtful, caring tone of Walrus’s Gift.

Best suited to children aged five and up, additional content outlines ways Walrus’s Gift is a story that echos the animal characters and wisdom typical of native legends.

Walrus’s Gift at Amazon.com

Walrus’s Gift at Amazon.ca

At the Heart of things… Engagement and Capturing Attention

Posted on February 15th, 2012 by Jody

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Storytime Standouts contributor writes about Middle Grade Readers - Engagement and Capturing Attention

Storytime Standouts’ guest contributor looks at engagement and capturing attention – two keys when working with middle grade readers.



After Christmas break, I started reading Inkheart by Cornelia Funke to my class. My book club had not gone well in the first term and I was determined to recapture their attention. I keep going back to the ideas of engagement and capturing attention because I believe that those things are essential for helping kids pick their paths. My goal with Inkheart was to read the kids an interesting novel while teaching them different reading response strategies so that in third term, they could work independently on novel studies. A few of the kids had read the book, but not many. It’s quite a big book, which almost made me change my mind. But the world the author creates within her book is so fascinating and enthralling, that it didn’t seem to matter.

Storytime Standouts guest contributor shares Inkheart with her classWe are now almost half way through the book. There are wonderful characters; Meggie, her father Mo, the quiet and strange Dustfinger, book loving Aunt Elinor, and the malicious villain Capricorn. I knew there was a movie of the book but did not want to watch it until we had finished. The kids did NOT feel the same and so, when they played it on television two weeks ago, most of my class watched it.

Upon learning they watched it, I wondered: would this ruin it? Would their interest drop because they had seen it? Would they use their imaginations now that they knew what the characters looked like? Would they engage? Question? Predict? I admit, I didn’t pick up the book for a couple days because I thought, well, they’re done with that. But I was wrong. It seems that seeing the movie only enhanced their interest. Instead of being “finished” they started discussing how their images of Capricorn and Dustfinger were different from the movie portrayals. For some of them, it’s even strengthened the read aloud because they can picture someone in the role with no effort. Yes, they know how it ends, but I was so pleased to see that when they were read a chapter this week and we ran out of time, they expressed great disappointment.

They are invested in the characters and the book contains things (as always) that the movie does not. They love being read to and they love hearing about characters that matter to them. So while I wouldn’t have recommended that they watch the movie so soon, it doesn’t seem to have deterred them from staying connected to the story.

This story tells about how Dustfinger and Capricorn came to exist. Funke does an amazing job setting the stage and making you fall in love with her characters. My favorite part of the book is that at the beginning of every chapter, she has included a quote from another book or story. This has been very powerful for the students as well because they may have read the story she quotes. Though we are a ways from being done, the kids are already excited about reading the next books in the series as well: Inkspell and Inkdeath .

Definitely worth the read.

Inkheart at Amazon.com

Inkheart at Amazon.ca

Secret World of Og

Posted on November 24th, 2011 by Jody

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Secret World of Og at Amazon.com

The Secret World of Og at Amazon.ca

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

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

Posted on November 13th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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





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

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

Kiss Me! (I’m a Prince) at Amazon.com

Kiss Me! (I’m a Prince!) at Amazon.ca

Unexpected Twists and Turns in Measle and the Wrathmonk Will Engage Reluctant Readers

Posted on October 27th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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Measle and the Wrathmonk will appeal to reluctant readersMeasle and the Wrathmonk written by Ian Ogilvy
Chapter book for middle grade and reluctant readers published by Oxford University Press





Measle and the Wrathmonk is one of my new favourite chapter book series for middle grade readers. Ten year old Measle lives a deplorable life. He is hungry most of the time, he is fifthy and lives in a wretched house with a menacing guardian. He has been told that his parents were killed by a snake but Measle is unconvinced and hopes he will be reunited one day.

Although the set up of Measle and the Wrathmonk seems all too familiar (orphaned child, deplorable conditions), Ogilvy creates unexpected and exciting twists and turns that are sure to engage young readers. Measle is a winner and well worth trying with reluctant readers. Additional books in the series include Measle and the Dragodon, Measle and the Mallockee.

Measle and the Wrathmonk at Amazon.com

Measle and the Wrathmonk at Amazon.ca

Visit our page about reluctant readers for more information.

The Wave Walkers – This Series Will Draw Middle Grade Readers Like Pirates to Treasure

Posted on October 21st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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Storytime Standouts Recommends Middle Grade Fiction The Wave Runners, book one of the Wave Walkers seriesThe Wave Runners by Kai Meyer
Teen fiction published by Egmont UK Ltd.





The Wave Runner is the first book in an exciting, fantasy-adventure trilogy for middle grade readers. Mr. Meyer meshes an exotic Caribbean setting, dangerous, swash-buckling pirates and intriguing fantastical creatures to create an exciting tale.

We follow the story of Jolly, a 14 year old polliwiggle (someone who can walk on water). Jolly could be the last surviving polliwiggle and is certainly a key to to defeating evil forces that threaten the Caribbean.

Be warned, the ending of this book leaves many questions unanswered and will draw readers to (Part 2) The Shell Magicians like pirates to treasure.

Pirate Curse (The Wave Walkers Book One)
The Wave Runners at Amazon.ca


Tea, Chocolate Chip Cookies and Reading Aloud to Preteens

Posted on September 15th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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Storytime Standouts shares ideas about reading aloud to preteens and a great chocolate chip cookie recipe.Summer holidays have come to an end. This morning I am reflecting on how we spent our summers in the past and especially the years we spent reading aloud to preteens.





Often my summer days were filled with work, household chores and trying to keep my two sons reasonably happy. (Somehow the order of that list came out totally backwards!) My eldest boy has always been quite content reading and rereading books like Harry Potter. During the summer, he also enjoys swimming (with some computer time thrown in here and there). He’s an easy-going guy and always enjoys summer vacation. Basically, he is relaxed and happy in almost any situation.

My younger boy prefers activity. In past summers he has done woodworking, painted a birdhouse, worked on a crazy quilt, perfected his slap shot, gone to a basketball camp, gone to soccer camp, taken tennis lessons and played Wii games. He wants to be with his friends and to be kept busy with fun stuff ALL DAY LONG. Some days, it is enough to drive me up the wall. Storytime Standouts bakes chocolate chip books to enjoy while reading aloud to preteens

Anyhow, during our summers, we went to the library every week end exchanged one week’s books for new ones. When choosing books, I often selected books with a movie tie-in. These are perfect for reading aloud to preteens.

Sometimes we were in a situation where each of us was reading a book independently and my husband and I were each reading a book aloud. It doesn’t bother any of us to have so many different books on the go at the same time. As long as the books are engaging, we love it! Books are a huge part of our family life and we often talk about the fun of snuggling into our sleeping bags and sharing a story while in our tent.

Storytime Standouts bakes chocolate chip books to enjoy while reading aloud to preteensIt is wonderful to think back to previous summers and the pleasure of sharing a shaded picnic blanket and a huge stack of picture books or sitting under the stars and listening to spooky ghost stories. We enjoy good books together and the boys still love to hear us read aloud.



Some favorite titles for reading aloud to preteens

  • Michelle Paver‘s series: Chronicles of Ancient Darkness. This is a particularly good series to share with reluctant readers. The chapters are short and exciting. Since sharing this with my own sons, I have recommended to several other moms and some middle grade teachers. Read more about this series here.
  • Wolf Brother at Amazon.com

    Wolf Brother at Amazon.ca

    Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel, an excellent read aloud for preteens

  • The Silverwing Trilogy by Kenneth Oppel – simply magical! I will never forget sharing this fantasy-adventure series with our boys. Highly recommended
  • The Silverwing Trilogy (Boxed Set): Silverwing; Sunwing; Firewing at Amazon.com

    The Silverwing Trilogy (Boxed Set): Silverwing; Sunwing; Firewing at Amazon.ca

    Artemis Fowl - good fun for preteen readers

  • The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, a science fiction fantasy that has great appeal for this age group.
  • Artemis Fowl at Amazon.com

    Artemis Fowl at Amazon.ca

    Do not miss the opportunity to read Harry Potter to your children

  • Do not miss the experience of sharing Harry Potter‘s magic with your children. Both of my sons have read the entire series. My husband and I read the first two or three books to them and they did the rest.
  • Harry Potter at Amazon.com

    Harry Potter at Amazon.ca


    Yummy Chocolate Chip Cookies

    – makes about four dozen cookies

    1 C softened butter or margarine
    1 C golden sugar
    1/2 C white sugar
    2 eggs
    1 1/2 Tsp vanilla
    2 1/2 C (all purpose) flour
    1/2 Tsp baking soda
    2 C semi sweet (or other) chocolate chips

    Using an electric mixer, cream together (both) sugars, butter, eggs and vanilla. Add the flour and the baking soda. Mix again. Add chocolate chips and stir by hand. Use a large spoon to drop unto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 or 325 (if convection) for about 12 minutes.

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

    Posted on September 15th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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

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








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

    Let’s take a look at some possibilities…

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

    Tuck Everlasting at Amazon.com

    Tuck Everlasting at Amazon.ca


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

    Frindle at Amazon.com

    Frindle at Amazon.ca


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

    Owl in the Family at Amazon.com

    Owls in the Family at Amazon.ca


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

    The Nose from Jupiter at Amazon.com

    The Nose from Jupiter at Amazon.ca


    Barnstormers’ Baseball, Will this Author Hit a Home Run Yet?

    Posted on September 12th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    A while back, I had an opportunity to read and listen to the first book in a new historical fiction series for 7 -10 year olds. Game 1 (Barnstormers) introduces three siblings who travel with a barnstorming baseball team, The Travelin’ Nine.

    Set in 1899, the first book in the series leaves us with more questions than answers: we know the children’s father died in the war and that he possessed a mysterious baseball but it unclear why the ball is significant. We also hear their uncle’s warning that great danger lies ahead but so far have only encountered mysterious visions and sounds.

    For children who are fascinated with baseball and how it was played 100+ years ago,this series may yet prove very appealing. Personally, I was frustrated that the author left me stranded on second base – with many, many unanswered questions.

    Game 1 (Barnstormers) at Amazon.com

    Game 1: #1 in The Barnstormers: Tales of the Travelin’ Nine Series at Amazon.ca

    Middle Grade Readers Travel Through Time to the London Blitz

    Posted on September 10th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve put aside the picture books and early chapter books and read two interesting books for middle grade readers that feature time travel. Suggested for children in grades six through nine, also referred to as middle grade readers, I have some reservations about the age range but enjoyed each of the books thoroughly.

    Storytime Standouts looks at London Calling by Edward BloorLondon Calling written by Edward Bloor
    Middle Grade Fiction published by Alfred A. Knopf





    In London Calling by Edward Bloor, the central character is a seventh grade student at a private school in New Jersey. Hating school and disconnected from his family, Martin is sleeping his life away. When his grandmother dies, he is bequeathed a beautiful Philco Deluxe Art Deco radio. After he “started sleeping with the radio on … A boy – small,thin, dressed in mud-brown clothes – leaned out from behind the radio and whispered, “Johnny, will you help me?”.

    At first fearful of the recurrent dream, through research, Martin confirms that his nighttime visitor is transporting him to 1940 London. Soon his directionless days become purposeful as he works to research dates, places and identities. Repeated visits to the wartorn city help him to understand how he can “help.”

    I thoroughly enjoyed the book and particularly the portions set in the London Blitz. Having said that, I was disappointed by the following exchange,

    I keep it hidden under my bed.” she smiled devilishly. “Perhaps you should check under there.”
    The General stared at her dumbly. Then he smiled back, slowly, acknowledging the joke. “Uh-huh. Sounds like I’d better.”

    As much as I enjoyed the book, I’m just not sure some of the nuances will have meaning for middle grade readers aged 12, 13, 14. Is an allusion like this appropriate or necessary for a book intended for children in grades six through nine?

    London Calling at Amazon.com

    London Calling at Amazon.ca


    Grade Two Chapter Books – Mermaids Everywhere

    Posted on September 9th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    Mermaids Make a Splash Storytime Standouts Shares Grade Two Chapter BooksThe long weekend meant travel for our family. It was a perfect opportunity for me to check out a number of new titles for young readers. I chose to read six books intended for children who are between the ages of six and nine and are reading grade two chapter books. At this reading level, we find many series for newly independent readers to enjoy. Most grade two chapter books are generously illustrated. Series like Mermaid Rock and Mermaid S.O.S. are great because they draw children into reading multiple books. Keep in mind, at this stage, our priority is to have children to gain confidence and experience reading independently and to want to read.





    Grade Two Chapter Books - Mermaids Everywhere including Spooky Shipwreck Mermaid RockMermaid Rock Spooky Shipwreck is one of four Mermaid Rock undersea adventures that will appeal to young, female readers. Generously illustrated (in colour) the book is divided into three chapters. Most of the text is easily decodable. There are a few challenging words. ‘Skulked‘, ‘chiselling‘ & ‘daydreaming‘ add to a pleasant adventure tale.

    Mermaid Rock at Amazon.com

    Mermaid Rock at Amazon.ca

    Grade Two Chapter Books - Mermaids Everywhere including Misty to the RescueS.O.S. Misty to the Rescue is part of a six-book grade two chapter book series. Beautiful Coral Kingdom is protected by magic crystals. Six courageous young mermaids have taken on an important challenge; they must locate six replacement crystals and deliver them to Queen Neptuna before the Merfolk loose strength.

    The Mermaid S.O.S. website includes downloads and other extras for fans to enjoy.

    Mermaid S.O.S. – Misty to the Rescue at Amazon.com

    Mermaid S.O.S. – Misty to the Rescue at Amazon.ca



    Terrific Series For Middle Grade Readers – Chronicles of Ancient Darkness

    Posted on September 9th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    Need to find a new series for middle grade readers?

    Storytime Standouts looks at a Terrific Series For Middle Grade Readers - Chronicles of Ancient Darkness







    Michelle Paver’s books: Wolf Brother, Spirit Walker and Soul Eater sat unread on my bookshelf for far too long. These days, they are rarely in my office. These are the first three titles in a terrific series for middle grade readers. I have loaned each of them to many, many kids and, without exception, the books are devoured and the series is completed.

    Wolf Brother is captivating, it has the perfect combination of tension and excitement. Set in primitive times, Wolf Brother begins when young Torak’s father is killed by a terrible demon – a huge bear that has been possessed by a creature from the Other World. Now, orphaned, Torak adopts a wolf cub and discovers he can communicate with this new ally. Together, they begin a seemingly impossible quest; to reach the Mountain of the World Spirit.

    The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness is a terrific series for middle grade readers. I strongly recommend it – especially for boys. Relatively short chapters, a fascinating setting and terrific tension make for a series that appeals to many reluctant readers.

    Web Resource: The Clan

    Wolf Brother at Amazon.com

    Wolf Brother at Amazon.ca


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