Tag Archives: children’s literature

The “Books For Refugees” project

A recent article in The Atlantic highlighted an initiative spearheaded by Dr. Rachel McCormack, a professor of literacy education at Roger Williams University, to provide Arabic-language books to refugee shelters across the Netherlands. McCormack emphasized that “returning to school, particularly when it’s in a new language, is a huge adjustment for many Syrian children” and “maintaining their birth language and culture is key to every child’s identity.” She hopes providing access to Arabic-language texts will help Syrian children and their families integrate into Dutch society while maintaining their own culture and language.

Link to the article: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/05/balancing-integration-and-assimilation-during-the-refugee-crisis/482757/


Butterfly Books: An amazing resource

It is common to find educators and parents in search of good books for children.  What makes a book good? What is a worthwhile read? What kinds of books do we want children to read? Why?  I have discovered a resource for thinking about and finding children’s books and am excited to share it with you.

Helen Antoniades, founder and operator of Butterfly Books, has embarked on a most inspiring journey in search of great books for children.

A front line social worker in Toronto, Ontario Canada, Helen has spent her adult life counselling children and adults from all walks of life. The  last 4 years of her practice was at the Hospital for Sick Children.  After 17 years of social work Helen, feeling burned out,  decided to start something new and explore her passion for healing others in an alternative way. Always passionate about books, she chose to share her knowledge of and experience with using books to help children understand and deal with issues in their lives.

Helen began her search by asking a lot of social worker colleagues for their go to books. Then she began asking friends in related fields. This interest grew into the blog, where she alternated “regular” pictures books with therapeutic books as suggested readings for children. As her journey continued Helen began exploring the “regular” books she was coming across and has broadened her scope to quality books that are reflective of diversity.  You can find Helen’s website at:


Butterfly Book’s mission statement:

Butterfly Books is a children’s book subscription service whose goal is to make receiving a new book an eagerly anticipated, joyful event with an aim to foster and sustain a love of reading in children.
In addition to creating excitement about reading, the service will give children the opportunity to explore other worlds and experiences through books.  Part of the focus will therefore be on ensuring diversity of characters and topics within the books chosen.
This service is also a way to make giving books as a gift more inviting.  This personalized approach will connect families through the love of books and the satisfaction of a quality gift given and received. 
There is also a handy Facebook page with wall postings that share a book per week. It is an efficient and helpful way to access interesting books and gain insight to how they can be explored with children, often including book reviews.
Check out the website, like the FB page, and get connected with Butterfly Books!

Ode to Children’s Writers

I (Cathy) finished my third Kate Morton novel yesterday, The Forgotten Garden. Intriguing style. Here is the synopsis shared on http://www.austcrimefiction.org

When thirty-eight year old Cassandra Ryan discovers her grandmother Nell’s secret – that she was not the biological child of her parents, but a foundling – she is intrigued. Inside the suitcase found with the abandoned child at the Port of Brisbane in 1913 Cassandra finds a package of letters, a children’s storybook, and a coded manuscript belonging to Eliza Makepeace Rutherford: the Victorian authoress of dark fairy-tales who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century. And so begins the quest to solve a century-old literary mystery.

I found the story line more interesting than some of Morton’s other books, partly because it was about a woman- Eliza Makpeace (Authoress)- who wrote fairy tale stories for children. The stories were included in the novel as chapters: The Cuckoo’s Flight, The Crone’s Eyes, and The Golden Egg. I particularly enjoyed the Crones Eyes. Deliciously dark!

As a collector and teller of traditional folk lore (I love the collections of Lang, Grimm and particularly, Jacobs), I found her stories strikingly similar to the old folk tales of Europe- frightening and heroic. People often died in those, not like in the Disney versions of today (e.g., in the original Andersen version of The Little Mermaid, the mermaid dies). As I was mulling this over, I happened to come across Morton’s acknowledgements:

I would also like to pay tribute here to authors who write for children. To discover early that behind the black marks on white pages lurk worlds of incomparable terror, joy, and excitement is one of life’s great gifts. I am enormously grateful to those authors who’s works fired my childhood imagination and inspired in me a love of books and reading that has been a constant companion. The Forgotten Garden is in part an ode to them.                                               Kate Morton

I was warmed by this acknowledgement. I think the stories of our youth live in us forever. If you enjoy traditional lore as much as I, I highly recommend reading The Forgotten Garden. For my part, I plan to write to Kate Morton’s publisher to obtain permission to tell them. They would make a delightful set at a festival and would hopefully fire the imaginations of the children (and adults) who listen.


The Children’s Books That Took Our Breath Away in 2015 by Devon Corneal

I (Clare) was reading the Huffington Post education section and it listed some of the top books of 2015. I want to read them all! Here is the link: http://www.readbrightly.com/best-childrens-books-2015/?ref=72E6CF384C67


by Kevin Henkes

It seems funny to choose Kevin Henkes’s Waiting as the book that blew me away in 2015. Waiting is a quiet, gentle picture book about a group of toys on a windowsill looking at the window, each one waiting for something to happen. Henkes’s pastel illustrations and crystalline prose are enchanting. This is the perfect before-bedtime book. I can’t wait to read it to my 6-month-old niece.

Polar Bear’s Underwear

by Tupera Tupera

Image_PolarBearUnderwearPolar Bear’s Underwear shocked me by being a book about underwear I was actually willing to read to my children. It was so cute, clever, and fun without being crass or gross. I didn’t even know it was possible!

All the Lost Things

by Kelly Canby

A young girl follows her heart and changes the world she lives in. The gorgeous illustrations and hope-filled message are what make this one of my favorite books of 2015.

The Penderwicks in Spring

by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks in Spring is the fourth book in Jeanne Birdsall’s charming series about the adventures of four sisters. Nana gave my Penderwick-crazy 8-year-old a copy, and she promptly disappeared until she devoured the whole thing. My daughter bubbled over with desire to tell me what’s happening to all her favorite characters, and I shushed her right back, because I love them too, and I want my own turn to sit back and get my Penderwick fix.


Lockwood & Co.: The Hollow Boy

by Jonathan Stroud

Jonathan Stroud books make me happy. I hoard them like a miser, waiting, just waiting until I can share them with my daughter and slowly but surely blow her mind. Stroud’s best works fall into the category of “supernatural YA,” which might be one of the most over-saturated genres in literary history, but his stories are so good, his worldbuilding so confident, his characters so vivid that they stand above the rest. In Stroud’s latest series, we follow a group of pre-teen ghost hunters trying to make a difference in a spirit-plagued London and, with the newest volume, The Hollow Boy, I have become as invested in this story as I have been for any beloved TV series that I’ve ever binged on Netflix or Hulu. I can’t wait for the next one.

The Jumbies

by Tracey Baptiste

My daughter was thrilled when Baptiste held a reading at a local bookshop — meeting a Black woman writer reminds her that she has the power to tell the stories she wants to tell. Then she heard an excerpt from this book about a courageous girl who takes on supernatural forces with flair, and that was it! She dove into the story (to the point where I was saying that “Put that book down NOW and eat/do your homework/go to bed” type of thing I’d thought I’d never say) and devoured it in what seemed like minutes. Then she hounded me to read it too — she wanted to talk about the chills and magic, yes, but was especially intrigued by the nuanced story of power, culture, and ownership that Baptiste tells. I loved that my daughter wanted to talk about the book with me; I picked it up, and yep, could NOT put it down. Left me breathless for sure, and thinking … and left both of us absolutely itching for a sequel!

The War That Saved My Life

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Image_WarThatSavedThis wonderful historical fiction novel is a page-turning adventure set in England in World War II. The story centers on Ada, a 10-year-old girl born with a clubfoot who has been hidden away in a cupboard her whole life and led to believe she is worthless. When she escapes her apartment in London with other children being sent to the countryside due to the impending attacks from Hitler’s German army, a new world unfolds to her. There are so many important themes that come alive in this story — from what’s it like to live with a disability to what defines a family to the impact of war on our society. The many layers of this story, coupled with the intriguing characters and perfectly paced plot, took my breath away. I’ve been recommending this book to mature fourth graders and up who loved Number the Stars or other historical adventure stories.

Every Last Word

by Tamara Ireland Stone

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone is a beautifully written story of a girl struggling to find herself and her own voice (literally and figuratively) while working through her OCD. Stone’s empathy toward the subject of OCD comes shining through in this gem of contemporary young adult literature.

Orbiting Jupiter

by Gary D. Schmidt

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt is a heartbreaking story that still lingers with me months after reading it. It made me weep. It made me think. It made me see love in a new way. It also reminded me that each of us have a story, even a 14-year-old foster boy on a dairy farm, desperate to see the child he fathered by the only love he ever knew, a love that is now gone.

The Thing About Jellyfish

by Ali Benjamin

And me? I’m having a hard time choosing between The Thing About Jellyfish and The Marvels and since I get to compile the list this year, I don’t have to! The Thing About Jellyfish is a rare middle grade novel that realistically captures the emotional conflict of late elementary school and provides readers with a protagonist they can really relate to. Handling death and survivor’s guilt in a developmentally appropriate and compassionate way is no small feat, but Ali Benjamin manages it beautifully.

The Marvels

by Brian Selznick

In The Marvels, Brian Selznick continues to highlight his talents as both an author and an illustrator in a tale that covers generations of a single family and their adventures on sea and on the stage. The illustrations alone are extraordinary, but the story is equally engaging.



Treasuring Picture Books

Like many literacy teacher educators, I (Cathy) sometimes tasked my student teachers with bringing in, or finding pictures of (if possible), their favourite picture book from childhood. My student teachers loved this task, and were excited when someone else brought in the same book.  I often saw Mr. Muggs books; Robert Munch books (especially I Love You Forever); Amelia Badelia; Madeline, and; super hero comics!  But I never saw mine.

As late as grade five, I would sneak the book home, terrified of being teased or bullied for taking it out of the library.  It was a book for little children after all, but I loved it so. It was worth the risk.   It was called, When the Root Children Wake Up.  I have searched for a hard copy to own, but have never found one.  I have discovered many newer versions (Helen Dean Fish’s, Audrey Wood’s) and as lovely as these illustrations are, they simply don’t touch me the same way. 

            Recently, however, I discovered my treasured version posted in the International Digital Children’s Library. ( http://www.childrenslibrary.org/ )  The author is listed as Sibylle von Olfers (1881–1916), and the text is in German.  I suppose the book was originally in German. I had no idea the book was so old.  The title is different than I remember, but I actually held my breath when I saw the illustrations again.  Those were the pictures I held dear: so simple, so precious.  I still love them.

What’s your favorite picture book form childhood?

wake up the root childrenroot mother


A New Dr. Seuss Book

I am looking forward to reading the recently released Dr. Seuss book entitled What Pet Should I Get? His widow Audrey discovered the manuscript and illustrations a few years ago, however, it is believed that Seuss originally created the work between 1958 and 1962. A New York Times review describes the book as “short and Seuss-ish” and “filled with creatures both real and zany.”  Another book to share with the student teachers in the primary division.

Link to the review:


What is your Munsch favorite?

Yesterday, Robert Munsch turned 70.  If you are not familiar with Robert’s work, he is one of the most famous children’s authors in North America.  Most of his books are delightfully lively and humorous.  Much like a comedian, he likes to take a simple, truthful situation in a child’s life and show the funny side to it. A delightful example of this is his book I Have to Go Pee, which depicts a child getting bundled into a snow suit and then announcing “I have to go pee!”.  His books usually unfold in a pattern that children love to anticipate and participation in.

Beyond his writing style, I love his telling style, as he is a storyteller in the true sense of the word.  He tells stories (like a performance)  and he is very good at it.  I (Cathy) have had the privilege of working with Bob (Robert is his “author” name) several times as I am also a storyteller.  He is a delight to work with. Bob’s background has always intrigued me.  He studied to become a Jesuit priest, but after working in orpahanages and daycare centers, he decided he would rather work with children. After graduating with his Masters in Education, he moved to Canada (he is American) and worked in the preschool at the university of Guelph.  That was where he started telling stories.  People encouraged him to submit the stories he told and he eventually got one published.  The rest, as they say, is history.

One of Munsch’s best-known books Love You Forever, was listed fourth on the 2001 Publishers Weekly All-Time Best selling Children’s Books selling 6,970,000 copies (not including the 1,049,000 hardcover copies).  In celebration of Bob’s birthday, the cbc  hosted a web page for Bob (link below) on which you can vote for your favorite Munsch book.  I suspect  Love You Forever  will win, as  I personally meet parent and educators worldwide that love that book.  I will also vote for Love You Forever but it is not the American version I love.  It is the Japanese version.  I once hosted an event in my home honoring a group of storytellers that came over from Japan.  Many Canadian storytellers and authors came to the event and, of course, Bob came too.  Graciously, these people gave away copies of their books as welcome gifts to Canada.  As there were about 15 Canadian tellers and authors, Bob just kind of blended in with the crowd, and I knew my foreign guests had no idea who he was or how well known he is.  That is-until they got home and Love You Forever was released in Japan, and became an enormous hit.  One of my guests sent me a copy of the Japanese version and a picture of her and two of her friends taken with Bob.  She was so excited and grateful to have met such an amazing/famous storyteller in person.  Bob, being Bob, would not have thought anything of it. He’s just that kind of person. Below are pictures of the book my guest sent me. I find the illustrations in this version tender and beautiful.  As Bob wrote this story in memory of one of his own children that passed away, I think the illustrations are most appropriate.   That’s my Munsch  favorite.  What’s yours? http://www.cbc.ca/books/munsch70/index.html !cid_E57F0443-35EB-47C7-8284-7385C00597B7!cid_B3FC11F1-450A-4314-8935-0DDC2310E39C!cid_8749C332-F0B7-4526-84F5-FB766894EA18!cid_B5F4DDF3-3F8F-48DE-81B7-B9F779472828

Honouring Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss fans will be happy to know the museum honouring the author’s work is scheduled to open June 2016, in the his hometown of Springfield Massachusetts. Organizers say the museum will be an “interactive, bilingual showcase” of the author’s work, which will include “three-dimensional book scenes, reading areas, and a re-creation of his studio.” Sounds fun!


Dr. Seuss

Heather Has Two Mommies

Heather Has Two Mommies, Lesléa Newman’s trailblazing picture book is celebrating a 25-year milestone. Many years ago advice from an acquaintance motivated Newman to write the book. She explained, “an acquaintance, who happened to be a lesbian mom, had stopped me on the street and as we were talking she said, ‘There are no books that show a family like ours. You should write one.’ ” Newman recalled. “I decided to take it seriously. I knew how those kids felt. When I grew up in the 1950s there were no books about a Jewish girl eating matzoh ball soup with her bubbe on Shabbat. I definitely felt like an outsider. It struck a chord with me.” Publisher Candlewick is celebrating by publishing an all-new illustrated edition of the book. See the link below to read more about how the book was initially received and some of the controversy surrounding the picture book: http://www.publishersweekly.com


Guest Blog: Monica McGlynn-Stewart

Hungry Caterpillar

Dual Language Texts

In my (Monica) preservice ECE class this week I had the most amazing experience. The Monica McGlynn-Stewartclass had been given the task of finding a dual language picture book for young children that was inviting and enticing and would support the language and literacy learning of children whose home language was not English. My students were encouraged to choose books that represented their own home languages. We have a wonderfully diverse class and they took up the challenge with enthusiasm. If they couldn’t find a dual language picture book in their home language, they translated a text and added it alongside the English text. For those (like me!) who only speak English, they were encouraged to choose a text that represented the language of children in their placement. They needed to develop six pedagogical strategies that they would employ when using the book with young children. I gave them a fabulous article by Gillanders and Castro (2011) the journal Young Children entitled “Storybook Reading for Young Dual Language Learners” as inspiration.


On Tuesday, they came with their picture books and their strategies, eager to begin. In small groups they took turns sharing their books, props they had made, teaching each other words in other languages, and practicing their strategies such as doing a “picture walk” through the text and pre-teaching key words or phrases that the children could chime in with during the reading. I had never seen the class so alive and so engaged. There were a dozen languages in the air. My students who were English Language Learners themselves, who were generally quiet and shy, were confidently sharing their expertise in their home languages. What I learned was the use of dual language texts can benefit not only young learners, but can also be an opportunity for dual language preservice students to value their home languages as a rich resource that they bring to their teaching.