Tag Archives: picture books

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!

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

“Goodnight Moon” revisited

Many are familiar with the picture book Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise.


In case you are not familiar or need a refresher, here is a link to the story:

It is a lovely bedtime story, rhythmical and calming.  Originally published in the late 1940s, and still selling strong today, millions of children have enjoyed the simple tale. It is a classic.

And then came a parody, Goodnight iPad.  Amusingly written by “Ann Droyd” the book is awesome.


When I (Yiola) first read the book I laughed and laughed and laughed. It is witty and clever while successfully maintaining the rhythm of the original.  It is a powerful message for 21st century learners: know when to unplug!  

Here is a link to the book.

Or for a flashier, more techy version, check out this link:

From the 1940s to today… the images and ideas that need a ‘good night’ have changed  drastically but a child’s wonder and desire to stay up has stayed the same.

I like how the traditional genre of the picture book captures the power of technology in our society so beautifully. A classic communication tool.

I plan to use this text as a closure piece on Technology Day next term.

“Goodnight gadgets everywhere”

Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of True Story of the Three Little Pigs

As the 25th anniversary of the picture book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs approaches author Jon Scieszka and illustrator Lane Smith recount the origins of their collaboration and the challenges of securing a publisher for the sophisticated parody. As Smith recalls, “some editors liked it but were a little confused and not sure if there was a market for it. Back at that time, children’s books were either serious, earnest books, or really funny books. But the sense of parody and irony that is rampant now didn’t really exist then…Viking put the book out very tentatively. They weren’t convinced of anything and did a small run that immediately sold out. It was all word-of-mouth from teachers, librarians and booksellers. They didn’t run ads or do a publicity push. Finally by the fourth or fifth printing the runs were more like 50,000.”

Follow the link below to read the full interview with Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith:



A Few Words From Oliver Jeffers

Clare and I (Lydia) have enjoyed sharing the creative and clever picture books of Oliver Jeffers with the student teachers in our literacy methods courses. Jeffers, an artist, illustrator and writer, notes, “my books are all about telling stories, and a lot of my art is about asking questions…They’re an excellent platform,” he says of picture books, “With novels, things are spelled out for you. And films, things are spelled out for you a lot more. Whereas picture books, it’s up to you how much you sit on a page, sit on an image, move at your own pace. And then you’ve got two distinct and varying sets of tools at your disposal, that weave in and out of each other to create this middle ground. That’s the secret ingredient, I think, that’s what makes them such a fantastic vehicle for storytelling.” (National Post Feb 2013). OliverJeffers

“Pete the Cat” takes our home by storm!

Have you heard of Pete the Cat?  This children’s book series is a favourite in our (Yiola) Pete the Cathome. My 4 year-old daughter and my 2 year-old son love reading/singing along to the stories.

What I like about Pete the Cat ( by Eric Litwin) is its simplicity – the language is simple and the rhythm of the language is catchy. My son is able to connect to the repetition and sings along with joy.

I also like the messages in the stories – they call to issues of mental health and wellness. Pete the cat is calm and does not worry about some of life’s potential anxiety ridden experiences. For example, in “Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes”, Pete is confronted with unfamiliar spatial settings, noisy lunchrooms and bustling playgrounds; common childhood circumstances that can cause anxiety. Yet Pete handles each situation with grace and confidence because, “it’s all good”.

In “Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons” Pete’s buttons keep popping off of his shirt, but Pete does not get upset because “it goes to show that stuff will come and stuff will go. But do we cry? Goodness no! We keep on singing”.

When reading “Pete the Cat: I love my white shoes”, Pete steps in a variety of ‘stuff’ that cause his white shoes, which he LOVES, to change colour but Pete does not get upset.

The moral of the story is: “no matter what you step in keep walking along singing your song because its all good.”

Check out a Pete the Cat story here:



Picture Books

arrival_02Clare and I (Lydia) routinely integrate picture books into our pre-service literacy methods courses. We often begin each class with a read aloud from a picture book. The feedback we have received from student teachers suggests they appreciate this practice because it introduces them to a variety of texts they can use in the classroom, and it models storytelling and read aloud techniques. We have often used the creative and compelling picture books of author Shaun Tan in our literacy courses. I wanted to share a quote from Shaun Tan in which he comments on the “visual language of illustrations”.

“the word illustration is a little misleading, because the best illustrations do not actually illustrate anything, in the sense of describing or illuminating. My own narrative images, and those of my favourite artists, are actually far more concerned with deepening the uncertainty of language, enjoying its ambiguous references, exploiting its slipperiness, and at times, confessing its inadequacy.  My own aspirations as an illustrator – using that term advisedly – is to simply present the reader with ideas that are essentially silent, unexplained, and open to very broad interpretation”.— Shaun Tan

(Quote taken from an essay originally written for ABC Radio National’s Lingua Franca.)