Posts Tagged ‘picture books’

Storytime Standouts interviews author Michael Samulak

Posted on September 29th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

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

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

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

Author Facebook Page

Author website

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

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

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

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

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

A Wonderful Day! at Amazon.com

A Wonderful Day! at Amazon.ca

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

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

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

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

A is for Africa by Michael Samulak

If we were watching over your shoulder as you work on a book, what would we see? Where do you work? What does your writing process look like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries or bookstores?

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

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

What are the biggest challenges of being an author?

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

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

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

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

Wordless Picture Book Fun with Flora the Flamingo

Posted on August 14th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

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

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

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

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

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

Flora the Flamingo was a 2014 Caldecott Honor Book

Flora and the Flamingo at Amazon.com

Flora and the Flamingo at Amazon.ca

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

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

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

An excellent choice for classroom and home use.

Flora and the Peacocks at Amazon.com

Flora and the Peacocks at Amazon.ca


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

Posted on July 22nd, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

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

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

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

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

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


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

Splat the Cat at Amazon.com

Splat the Cat at Amazon.ca


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

Posted on July 18th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade at Amazon.com

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade at Amazon.ca


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

Posted on July 4th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

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

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

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

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

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

Shh! We Have a Plan at Amazon.com

Shh! We Have a Plan at Amazon.ca


Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers! by Melanie Walsh

Posted on May 21st, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

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

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

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

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

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

Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! at Amazon.com

Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! at Amazon.ca

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

Storytime Standouts Shares Asperger Syndrome and Autism Picture Books












Awake Beautiful Child by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Gracia Lam

Posted on April 30th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

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

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

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

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

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

Awake Beautiful Child at Amazon.com

Awake Beautiful Child at Amazon.ca


One Two That’s My Shoe by Alison Murray

Posted on January 17th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

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

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

One Two That's My Shoe spread

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

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

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

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

One Two That’s My Shoe! at Amazon.com

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


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

Posted on November 22nd, 2015 by Carolyn Hart

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



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

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

Itty Bitty Wouldn’t Budge

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

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

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

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

Itty Bitty Wouldn’t Budge at Amazon.com

Itty Bitty Wouldn’t Budge at Amazon.ca

9 Outstanding Beach Theme Picture Books (Incl Free Printables, Video)

Posted on June 30th, 2015 by Carolyn Hart


9 Picture Books about visiting the beach and shoreline creatures from Storytime Standouts

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

We hope you’ll also want to check out our post about summer fun – it includes free summer-theme printables.



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

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

All You Need for a Beach at Amazon.com

All You Need for a Beach at Amazon.ca




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

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

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

At the Beach at Amazon.com

At the Beach at Amazon.ca


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

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

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

Curious George Goes to the Beach at Amazon.com

Curious George Goes to the Beach at Amazon.ca


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

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

Duck & Goose Go to the Beach at Amazon.com

Duck & Goose Go to the Beach at Amazon.ca




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

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

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

Flotsam at Amazon.com

Flotsam at Amazon.ca


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

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

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

Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach at Amazon.com

Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach at Amazon.ca


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

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

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

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

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

Stella, Star of the Sea at Amazon.com

Stella, Star of the Sea at Amazon.ca


Beach theme picture books including Tip Tap Went the Crab written and illustrated by Tim HopgoodTip Tap Went the Crab written and illustrated by Tim Hopgood
Counting book about sea creatures

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

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

Nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal 2010

Tip Tap Went the Crab at Amazon.com

Tip Tap Went The Crab at Amazon.ca


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

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

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

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

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

Wave at Amazon.com

Wave at Amazon.ca

 Free Printable Beach Theme Early Learning Resources from Storytime Standouts



Free Beach Theme Printables for Preschool and Kindergarten

image of PDF icon  Beach Picture Dictionary

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

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

Free printable, fun action chant for preschool and kindergarten: A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Sandcastle

Beach theme interlined paper for beginning writers.


Wrapping up the year… best books for middle grades

Posted on December 26th, 2014 by Jody

Best Books for middle grade readers

I always say this but I can’t believe it’s the end of another year. How? Especially since so many of the days seemed so very, very long. Trying to remember what I did yesterday is painful, but I’m going to attempt to recap the best books I’ve read in 2014.






Best books for Middle Grade/ Young Adult

best books for middle grades including The Shadow ThroneThe Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The final book in a trilogy that captivated not only my whole class, but me. A book I’ve recommended countless times. The main character is one that everyone can identify with in some way. The action is gripping as Sage/Jaron shows readers what being courageous really means.

The Shadow Throne: Book 3 of The Ascendance Trilogy at Amazon.com

The Shadow Throne: Book 3 of The Ascendance Trilogy at Amazon.ca

Middle grade books including My True Love Gave to MeMidnights by Rainbow Rowell

I should be honest and tell you that this author could write a to-do list on a paper towel and I would love it. There is something about every one of her books that grabs me so strongly, I have to remind myself that, she doesn’t actually know me, but somehow, she gets me. And then I remind myself that she doesn’t actually write her books just for me. Elenor and Park is in our elementary library but I think the subject matter is above grade six. However, this is one of those reads that would delight an early middle school reader as much as it did me. It’s a beautiful and sweet short story.

It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins

A new author for me that I discovered because she edited the collection of short holiday stories in which Midnight was the first. Aimed at teens and up, it was just absolutely delightful to read.

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories at Amazon.com

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories at Amazon,ca

 best books for middle grades including Will Grayson, Will GraysonWill Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green

I can’t read Fault in Our Stars. I know my limits, I read within them. However, I’ve read just about everything else he’s published. This one is my favourite by him. It’s an excellent teen read that speaks to acceptance, diversity, adversity, and the amazing relationships that can stem from being in the same place at the same time.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson at Amazon.com

Will Grayson, Will Grayson at Amazon.ca

best books for middle grades Including Are You There God? It's Me MargaretAre you there God, it’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume

I re read this for the first time in many, many years. I wanted to read it with my daughter and I was so pleased she enjoyed it as much as I did, both then and now. If there was a “what’s it like to become a teenage girl” book award, this would be it.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret at Amazon.com

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret at Amazon.ca

best books for middle grades including Hook’s Revenge by Heidi SchulzHook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz

This is a fun book with quirky characters that made the students laugh. Determined to avenge her father’s death, Jocelyn sets out on an adventure that teaches her as much about herself as it does about her past.

Hook’s Revenge, Book 1 at Amazon.com

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

best books for middle grades including Dork DiariesDork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell

I started reading these with my daughter this last year. They are laugh out loud funny and so easy to connect with. Nikki is a great character and the teen drama she faces, and how she deals with it, is authentic.

Dork Diaries Box Set (Book 1-3) at Amazon.com

Dork Diaries Box Set (Book 1-3): Dork Diaries at Amazon.ca

best books for middle grades Including Sisters by Raina TelgemeierSisters by Raina Telgemeier

My 11 year old read this first and then I read it with my 8 year old. It’s funny and cute and true to life in that, it’s not always easy being a family. But, when you need them, they’re there.

Sisters at Amazon.com

Sisters at Amazon.ca

best books for middle grades Including FrindleFrindle by Andrew Clements

This is an awesome book. I read it with my 8 year old and it made me laugh even as it opened the door to great conversations with her. The main character makes up a new word for what we call a “pen”. A great read about the power of words and how they impact our actions.

Frindle at Amazon.com

Frindle at Amazon.ca

best books for middle grades Including Wonder Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I haven’t even finished this book but I can tell you without one tiny hint of doubt that it will be one of the best reads ever. Not just this year.

Wonder at Amazon.com

Wonder at Amazon.ca

Picture Books

(contrary to some beliefs, these are not only for small children)

best books for middle grades including This Plus ThatThis plus That: Life’s little equations by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace

A sweet and fun read with adorable pictures that highlights math vocabulary even as it shows kids how things are connected. Me+ Writing= Happy.

This Plus That: Life’s Little Equations at Amazon.com

best books for middle grades Including Those ShoesThose Shoes by Maribeth Beolts

This one was read to me and I have to say, I still love being read to. This is a great one to open kids eyes to the power of empathy and giving.

Those Shoes at Amazon.com

Those Shoes at Amazon.ca

The Invisible Boy by Trudy LudwigThe Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton

This story is a little bittersweet. You feel bad for the little boy with no friends, but love the fact that he’s okay in his own little world. Also worth noting, the color comes as friendship brightens his life which is beautiful, literally and figuratively.

The Invisible Boy at Amazon.com

The Invisible Boy at Amazon.ca

Storytime Standouts suggests The Very Inappropriate Word written by Jim Tobin and illustrated by Dave CoverlyThe very inappropriate word by Jim Tobin and Dave Coverly

Full of great vocabulary, this book is funny. I’ve read it several times and it’s a great way to get kids to look at the power of words and language.

The Very Inappropriate Word at Amazon.com

The Very Inappropriate Word at Amazon.ca

What Do You Do with an Idea?What do you do with an idea? by Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom

My school librarian shared this book with me and it is such a tangible idea to show how when your brain gets locked on an idea, sometimes you have to go with it.

What Do You Do With an Idea? at Amazon.com

What Do You Do with an Idea? at Amazon.ca

Books I can’t wait to read next

Fish in a TreeFish in a Tree – Linda Mullaly Hunt

The name is part of one of my favourite quotes so of course I’m drawn to it. That and the fact that her book One for the Murphys was one of my favourite reads of 2013.

Mark of the ThiefMark of the Thief – Jennifer A. Nielsen

I think I need to read this one on my own before with my class. When I read the Ascendance Trilogy, I got so hooked that we might have missed some math lessons.

 

What are some of your favorite kids reads this year? Anything you’re looking forward to? Also, in an openly shameless bid for self-promotion, I hope to one day make it onto one of your favorite lists. Either with the adult books I have coming out in 2015 or with the picture book, SWEET DREAM SISTERS, that will be available in 2016. Have a very, Happy well-read 2015.

 

Extra Yarn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Posted on December 2nd, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

Extra Yarn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen is the first in our series of posts looking at the 2013 Caldecott Medal and Honor Books

Storytime Standouts Reviews Extra Yarn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon KlassenExtra Yarn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen
2013 Caldecott Honor Book published by Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers





When young Annabelle finds a box of yarn and knitting needles, she begins by knitting herself a colorful sweater. Once the sweater is finished, she looks for friends and neighbors to outfit in warm wool creations. It is not long before she transforms her dreary, wintry grey town into a cheery, cozy world using the apparently endless supply of yarn. When an archduke arrives and offers to buy the magical box and its contents, Annabelle refuses him. He decides that he must have it and sends robbers to get the box from her. Extra Yarn spread

A fascinating fairy tale that explores generosity and community, Extra Yarn is best suited to children aged four years and up. Fans of Jon Klassen will enjoy spotting some of his trademark characters wearing Annabelle’s cozy gifts.

2012 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award

Extra Yarn at Amazon.com

Extra Yarn at Amazon.ca

A Look at the 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal Award Winner and Honor Books

Posted on October 16th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts Shares Wonderful Choices for Beginning Readers







The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli 2014  Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal Award WinnerThe Watermelon Seed written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
Picture book for beginning readers published by Disney Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group



When a charming and exuberant crocodile explains that he loves watermelon, we are utterly convinced,

Ever since I was a teeny, tiny baby cocodile, it’s been my favorite.
CHOMP! SLURP! CHOMP!

While enthusiastically devouring his favorite fruit, the crocodile accidentally ingests a seed, his imagination runs wild and he assumes a variety of terrible outcomes.

Repetitive text, limited use of long vowel words and very good supporting illustrations make this a great choice for beginning readers.

The Watermelon Seed at Amazon.com

The Watermelon Seed at Amazon.ca



Ball by Mary Sullivan a 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Honor BookBall written and illustrated by Mary Sullivan
Picture book for beginning readers published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children



There is little doubt that this dog loves his small, red ball. From the moment he wakes up, he is focused on only one thing: playing with the ball. He especially loves when the ball is thrown by a young girl but when she leaves for school there is no one available to throw it.

This is a terrific picture book that relies heavily on the illustrations for the narrative. Apart from one repeated word (ball) it could be classified as a wordless picture book.

It will be thoroughly enjoyed by dog lovers and young children – especially those who are eager for an opportunity to read independently.

Ball at Amazon.com

Ball at Amazon.ca



A Big Guy Took My Ball by Mo Willems a 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Honor BookA Big Guy Took My Ball written and illustrated by Mo Willems
Series for beginning readers published by Hyperion Books for Children



This charming story will remind readers that appearances can be deceiving and perspective is everything! Gerald and Piggie’s friendship is solid and Gerald is more than willing to stand up for Piggie when her ball is taken by a big guy.

Delightful illustrations will appeal to young readers as they effectively portray a range of emotions. The text is perfect for children who are beginning to read – lots of repetition and very few long vowel words.

A Big Guy Took My Ball! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) at Amazon.com

A Big Guy Took My Ball! at Amazon.ca

Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes a 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Honor BookPenny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes
Generously illustrated chapter book series for beginning readers published by Greenwillow Books An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers



It truly is a treat to read such a beautifully-written chapter book for beginning readers. Kevin Henkes has created a new character: Penny. She is a young mouse with a sense of right and wrong. In this book, she is out with her sister when she “finds” a beautiful blue marble. She excitedly puts it into her pocket and later wonders if she did the right thing.

Lovely, full color illustrations and a thought-provoking dilemma make this a great choice for newly independent readers.

Penny and Her Marble at Amazon.com

Penny And Her Marble at Amazon.ca


Classic Picture Book: Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes

Posted on October 15th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts looks at Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes created and illustrated by James Dean, story by Eric LitwinPete the Cat I Love My White Shoes created and illustrated by James Dean, story by Eric Litwin
Picture book published by Harper Collins Children’s Books




Light, breezy, rhythmic and upbeat, Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes shares a message of resilience that will appeal to children and adults. Pete begins his day with bright, white new shoes. When he steps onto a pile of strawberries, his shoes turn red and, when he encounters blueberries, his shoes turn blue. Regardless of what poor Pete has to walk through, he maintains his happy outlook. Very popular with young children who enjoy learning and singing about colors, Pete also has a message for older children and adults:

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” Helen Keller

An excellent choice for young readers who will benefit from the repetitive and predictable text, Pete’s coolness is oh so groovy!

Harper Collins Publishers’ Pete the Cat downloads (including songs)

I Can Read Pete the Cat (free downloads)

School Library Journal’s Top 100 Picture Books
2013 Morning Calm Award Medal, International Schools of South Korea
2013 Best Picture Book, Colorado Children’s Book Award
2013 Best Picture Book, North Carolina Children’s Book Award
2012 Center for the Book at the New Hampshire State Library – Ladybug Picture Book Award
2011 ReadKiddoRead award for Best Illustrated Books
2011 Missouri Building Block Picture Book Award
2010 25 Books All Young Georgians Should Read

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes at Amazon.com

Pete The Cat: I Love My White Shoes at Amazon.ca

Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes on YouTube

Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes Pinterest Board

Follow Storytime Standouts’s board Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes created and illustrated by James Dean, story by Eric Litwin on Pinterest.


Come Discover Pirate-Theme Picture Books!

Posted on September 19th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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!




Terrific Pirate-Theme 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 Children’s Book Author Lisa Manzione

Posted on September 18th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts interviews author Lisa Manzione





Author Website

Author Twitter account @BellaAndHarryGo

Author Facebook page

Book Series Website

The Adventures of Bella and Harry Lets Visit Maui by Lisa ManzioneTell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

The latest book published is Let’s Visit Maui!. The book series is perfectly suited for ages 5-10. I am most proud of the fact the series has been very well received by parents, librarians, teachers, but most of all, children!

Let’s Visit Maui!: Adventures of Bella & Harry (The Adventures of Bella & Harry) at Amazon.com

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

It was extremely difficult to get the first book in the series published. As a matter of fact, I had one publisher tell me the books were “too educational” for US children. Once I heard that comment, I was even more determined! I found a small publisher in South Florida and the first book was published. After attending Book Expo America, I realized I could publish the books on my own. I created my own company, hired a staff, and 14 books later, we are very pleased with our success.

As far as words of encouragement…Don’t give up! If you truly believe in our product, the right opportunity will come along. It just takes time and persistence.Bella and Harry Lets Visit Athens by Lisa Manzione

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

I think the greatest joy is seeing how much children enjoy reading and learning about the world. I am just thrilled every time I speak to a youngster and they can tell me what Bella & Harry have taught them. I really love it when the child tells me they know even MORE about the cities/countries than Bella and Harry because they have done research on their own or with their classroom.

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

I believe the biggest challenge is keeping a child’s interest in a story. In the Bella and Harry series, the stories are educational. I think it is necessary to keep the story fun (which holds their attention), but to also have a significant amount of educational content which can be a huge challenge because I don’t want the book to feel like a history book.

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

Yes, the books have been published electronically through Reading Rainbow Kidz. There is an option with RRKidz…the book can be read aloud to you or you can turn that option off and read the book yourself.

The process with RR Kidz was a lot of fun! We have received tremendous feedback from readers, especially early readers who enjoy the narration option initially.

We plan to have additional e-books available in the fall, 2014.

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

If I could dine with anyone it would be James Patterson. I love his “women’s murder club”series!

Additionally, James Patterson lives in South FL and is very active in children’s literacy programs, which I just LOVE!

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

I love to do library and school presentations! Generally, I read one book during the presentation, followed by a question and answer session. Those that answer the questions correctly are given a prize…sometimes another book, a Bella plush stuffed animal, back pack, etc. At the end of the presentation I give each child a book from the series that we did not read. Depending on the age of the children, sometimes I autograph the books individually as well.

As far as limitations, if I have advanced notice, there really are no limitations. If advance notice is limited, I can always Skype. In this instance, I would send the book ahead, so we can still do most of the above.

Classic Picture Book: Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola

Posted on September 16th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts features classic picture book Strega Nona by Tomie de PaolaStrega Nona written and illustrated by Tomie de Paola
Classic Picture Book originally published by Prentice-Hall, now Simon and Schuster





Everybody, soon or late, sits down to a banquet of consequences.

– Robert Louis Stevenson

When I reflect on the picture books we shared with our young sons, Strega Nona is one that I recall with special affection. It is a story that can be enjoyed by a wide range of children (and their adult caregivers). Preschoolers who are accustomed to hearing stories read aloud will enjoy the humor, kindergarten-age and primary grade students will also be engaged by the matronly and generous “Grandma Witch” and her well-meaning but accident-prone assistant. Storytime Standouts features Strega Nona including this illustration by Tomie de Paola

Strega Nona was getting old, and she needed someone to help her keep her little house and garden, so she put up a sign in the town square.

And Big Anthony, who didn’t pay attention, went to see her.

“Anthony,” said Strega Nona, “you must sweep the house and wash the dishes. You must weed the garden and pick the vegetables. You must feed the goat and milk her. And you must fetch the water….

The one thing you must never do… is touch the pasta pot. It is very valuable and I don’t let anyone touch it!”

Adapted from Sweet Porridge (also known as The Magic Porridge Pot), children who are familiar with foreshadowing will correctly predict Big Anthony’s ‘mistake’ and will relish the problem he creates and Strega Nona’s fitting solution to it.

Highly recommended for children aged four years and up.

The story of how Strega Nona came to be – on Mr. de Paola’s website

Bright Hub Education Lesson Plan Suggestions for First Grade

Scholastic lesson plan for Strega Nona

Teacher Vision ‘Predicting’ lesson plan

White Swan Theatre study guide

Caldecott Honor Book in 1976
School Library Journal “Top 100 Picture Books”

Strega Nona at Amazon.com

Strega Nona at Amazon.ca

Strega Nona Pinterest Board

Follow Storytime Standouts’s board Strega Nona an old tale retold and illustrated by Tomie de Paola on Pinterest.


Embracing Differences: Little Jimmy Says, “Same Is Lame”

Posted on September 15th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts looks at antibullying picture book Little Jimmy Says,  Same is LameLittle Jimmy Says, “Same Is Lame” written by Jimmy Vee and illustrated by Mike Motz
Antibullying picture book about embracing differences published by Atlas Press





“What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity.”
― J. Sidlow Baxter

in this semi-autobiographical new picture book, marketing expert, magician, author and ventriloquist Jimmy Vee explains why being different is much more interesting than living an ordinary existence.

Because I am different, it makes me feel proud. I’d rather stand out than blend in with the crowd.

Citing many examples of physical features, Vee encourages young readers to celebrate their appearance and abilities while acknowledging the fact that they are not like everybody else.

Upbeat, rhyming text and bright, colorful cartoonish illustrations depict wearing glasses, baldness, wearing braces, having a large nose, freckles, an unusual voice, being a different height than your peers and having a facial scar. Young readers, especially with encouragement from adults, are invited to think about ways differences can be exploited and can ultimately be perceived as assets.

Little Jimmy Says, “Same Is Lame” at Amazon.com

Classic Picture Book: The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Posted on September 10th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts recommends Classic Picture Book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

In honor of International Dot Day (September 15th), this week we are highlighting classic picture book, The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds









Storytime Standouts Features Classic Picture Book The Dot by Peter H. ReynoldsThe Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
Classic Picture Book published by Candlewick Press

One of my favorite picture books, The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds will strike a chord with children, teens and adults who lack confidence in their ability to ‘make art.’ Vashti doesn’t believe she can draw or does not want to draw. She sits through an entire art class but does not make a mark on her sheet of paper. Vashti’s teacher is understanding and she encourage’s Vashti,

“Just make a mark and see where it takes you.”


Vashti grabbed a marker and gave the paper a good, strong jab. “There!”

Undeterred by Vashti’s reluctance, her teacher asks her to sign the page. She does sign the paper and leaves the classroom. When she returns a week later, her ‘artwork’ has been framed and is hanging near to her teacher’s desk. Upon reflection, Vashti decides that she is quite capable of improving on her first dot.

Before long, she is confidently experimenting with watercolors and larger sheets of paper. She creates an entire collection of artistic dots – every size and color.

A wonderful resource for children and adults who are reluctant to “make their mark.” The Dot and Mr. Reynold’s inspiring illustrations should not be missed.

Dot activities – from Peter H. Reynold’s website

The Dot at Amazon.com

The Dot at Amazon.ca

Our Pinterest Board for The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Follow Storytime Standouts’s board The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds on Pinterest.


International Dot Day

International Dot Day is September 15

Meet Children’s Book Author and Illustrator Ruth Ohi

Posted on September 4th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Meet Author illustrator Ruth Ohi (photo by AnnieT)Ruth Ohi is the illustrator of over 50 children’s picture books (17 of which she is also the author). She lives in Toronto, Canada and is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design.

Her books have been selected for the Pennsylvania Centre for the Book’s “Bakers’ Dozen”, the Canadian Toy Testing Council’s “Great Books”, the Ontario Library Association’s “Best Bets” and the Toronto Public Library’s “First & Best”. They have been shortlisted for awards such as the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book, Amelia Francis Howard-Gibbons, Shining Willow, Blue Spruce and Rainforest of Reading awards.





Ruth Ohi’s Facebook page
Ruth Ohi’s website URL
Instagram: @RuthOhi
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/ruthohi/

Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend created by Ruth OhiMs. Ohi’s latest published children’s book is Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend (Scholastic Canada/Sept 2014)
Genres:
Social Issues/Friendship
Social Issues/Emotions and Feelings

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it?

My hope would be that “Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend”(Fall 2014/Scholastic Canada) could be enjoyed by anyone who is a friend, would like a friend or wishes to be a friend. Fox and Squirrel’s first story, Fox and Squirrel (Scholastic Canada, Fall 2013) showed that despite their differences, the two could find enough in common to be friends. Their second story came from looking out my studio window and admiring how squirrels could hang out in the highest, teeniest tree branches and thinking, “Hm, Fox couldn’t go there.” And I wondered what if Squirrel met someone else way up high and forgot all about Fox for awhile and how that would make Fox feel.

Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend 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?

For chapter books it was Lois Darling of the Beverley Cleary original releases. She drew Ramona and Beezus in a way that was so satisfying for me. I very much empathized with Ramona about apples and marshmallows. For picture books, there are too many to list. I think the combination of artists like Leo Lionni, Maurice Sendak, Ezra Jack Keats, Dr. Suess and Robert McCloskey resonated with me because their words and pictures made me want to linger on the pages. They made me care about their characters.

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?Storytime Standouts looks at Shh! My Brother's Napping by Ruth Ohi

Making stories with pictures has always been incredibly satisfying and I’ve always loved picture books, but it wasn’t until university that I seriously considered art as a career. It just took a little while for me to realize it could be an actual full time job! My family was amazingly supportive and that was huge for me. It still is. My sister, Deb (who writes and illustrates under the name of Debbie Ridpath-Ohi) is my guru for all things internet. Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend is dedicated to my first Great Nephew, Ian who is truly a bundle of joy.

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries or bookstores?

I do have a website where I post preliminary work sketches, my portfolio, and news that made me happy. It’s also where you can find a listing of my upcoming public events, info about booking visits, activity sheets and everything you will ever need to know about my books. Hm, except where to buy them, what their ISBNs are…okay, my website needs work! I’ve also just joined Instagram where I’ll be posting personal illustration and story projects.

Oh, and I’ve made two booktrailers for “Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend”! The first is only 21 seconds and is the result of my experimenting with stop motion photography. The Second is 56 seconds and includes a snippet of a live drawing demo. I’m the one filming the live demo—it’s truly tricky drawing and taping at the same time! Both trailers can be found on my website and YouTube.


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

Just doing the work—writing, revising, scribbling, painting. Finding the perfect balance between the words and the drawings. But I honestly don’t think a picture book really comes into being until a reader finds it. Seeing or hearing about someone who enjoys the book—that’s an incredible source of pleasure for me.

Seeing students use my books or brainstorming tips for their own stories and pictures is super awesome. One of the greatest letters I’ve ever received was after a presentation from a young child, which read:
“Now I love to right.”

Clara and the Bossy by Ruth OhiIf 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?

In the summers, as a teen, I’ve worked as a florist, a daycamp counselor, a city special events co-ordinator. As an adult I’ve been fortunate enough to illustrate and write full time. If I wasn’t an author/illustrator, I’d very much love to work with young people in the creative arts.

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

I have enjoyed presenting to many schools, libraries, conferences and family festivals across Canada. It’s definitely one of my favourite aspects of this job—sharing words and pictures with adults and kids. And my presentations are easily adapted to suit any age group.I'd Know You Anywhere

Presentations typically include a digital slideshow demonstrating where I get my ideas from. I show character sketches, storyboards and how I draw to brainstorm new ideas. Also included are Q&A, some original artwork and an interactive drawing demonstration. The last 10-15 minutes may be a hands on workshop where participants are very keen to try a brainstorming activity that I tailor especially for that audience. I enjoy speaking one on one to as many as possible about their work during this time. Typically a school or library visit is 45-60 minutes. A maximum audience size of 120 works well for JK/SK through Grade 8. Numbers may increase for older audiences.

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