K. Bolger, author. B. Hodson, illustrator. Harper, 2016.

Fun with Ed and FredWith his trademark humour throughout and a hilarious, surprise ending, Bolger continues to prove that learning to read can be fun. Make that a hoot. Early readers join Ed and Fred’s adventures on land, sea and sky, sneakily learning the fifty-three most common sight words along the way (yes, 53!).

Coupled with Hodson’s clean, expressive illustrations, FUN WITH ED AND FRED is a very welcome addition to my 6 year-old’s home reading program. Repetition is key to building her confidence at this stage, and repeat we do. With Ed and Fred, I am certain we will still be discovering new nuggets of entertainment at our tenth read . . . the same cannot be said for the pony books we have thus far been suffering through!

You can look for this book at the library (yup, there are 7 sight words in this sentence). Imagine your child’s confidence when they learn all 53.



Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. 60 different illustrators. Timbuktu Labs, 2016.

Rebel Girls100 different women. 100 original portraits. 100 quotes. Endless questions from my girls, ages 6 and 10.

My eldest seeks out the pirate stories. My youngest leafs through the pages, flagging portraits she is particularly fascinated by. We all delight in learning about nearly unknown rebel women like Hatshepsut, the first female pharaoh who men attempted to erase from history, and those that we know, like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jane Goodall.Rebel Girls_Coco Chanel

The author’s are rebels themselves, who show that perseverance and believing in your project pays off. GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR REBEL GIRLS is the largest *ever* crowdfunded original book.

The dedication is to all the rebel girls of the world: “Dream bigger. Aim higher. Fight harder. And, when in doubt, remember. You are right.”

Look also GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR REBEL GIRLS 2 (Timbuktu Labs, 2017) and the audio book, narrated by additional fearless women including Alicia Keys and Ashley Judd.



Aree Chung, author/illustrator. Henry Holt and Company, 2018.

MixedHow didn’t anyone think of this before? I asked myself after reading this deceptively meaningful picture book about the diversity of colours that result from primary colours mixing. The characters, dots of colour, all have limbs, planting the seed from the start that the story is more than just a lesson in colour theory.

The loud Reds, bright Yellows and cool Blues (I love the convertible and sunglasses) cannot get along and decide to live separately. Eventually, a Yellow notices a Blue and they create Green. The other colours are intrigued, and soon Lavender, Jade and Amber arrive on the scene. The colours ultimately intermix harmoniously in a new city full of all types of colour.

The messages of tolerance and inclusiveness are clear and easy to grasp in this picture book that would serve to introduce these themes to the youngest of readers. This book will also appeal to budding artists–have their paint sets handy if you bring MIXED home from the bookstore.

DOLL-E 1.0


Doll-E 1.0Shanda McCloskey.  Little, Brown and Company, 2018.

In this debut STEM-themed picture book, Charlotte is technology savvy–and obsessed. She and her canine sidekick, Bluetooth, pass the days coding, downloading and fixing her parents’ gadgets. When her mom buys her a doll in an attempt to round out Charlotte’s interests, Charlotte is at a loss with what to do with it–it didn’t come with any instructions! When Charlotte discovers that her new doll has a battery pack, she reprograms it to create DOLL-E 1.0. Soon their friendship becomes fully charged.

McCloskey’s pencil and watercolour drawings are filled with movement and emotion. They more than pull their weight in this adorable picture book.

DOLL-E 1.0 and HOW TO CODE A SANDCASTLE (J. Funk, 2018) are two recent pictureCode a Sandcastle books that promote coding to girls in clever, entertaining ways. They are both sure to appeal to techy and more traditional kids.

I Love Sharks, Too!


I Love Sharks, Too! Leanne Shirtliffe, author. Lorenzo Montatore, illustrator. Sky Pony Press, 2017.

SteviI Love Sharks, Too!e can’t seem to do anything right. Throughout the day Mom barks at her energetic, shark-loving son: “Stevie, what did you do with your lost tooth?” “Will you quit squirming?” “Have you listened to anything I’ve said all day?” Stevie is part shark–at least he wants to be. So naturally, he responds to each of his mother’s quips with a true shark fact. Did you know that cookie cutter sharks eat their own teeth, whale sharks can’t stop moving and reef sharks can hear from miles away? Stevie’s constant rebuttals eventually wear his mom down. Check out this fict-informational picture book to find out what Mom sneaks off to do once Stevie is finally tucked into bed for the night. Endings don’t get any more satisfying.

Back matter includes more entertaining illustrations and cool information about specific species of sharks.

Animal Bodies Up Close series


Melissa Stewart. Enslow Publishers, Inc. 2012.

Animals Up Close seriesDiscover how a variety of different animals, from the horse to the blue-footed booby, use certain parts of their bodies to survive. All of the animal features have incredible capabilities, and some even a truly unbelievable look. The four-eyed fish can see above and below the water line at the same time. The camel’s feet are as big as a dinner plate but only have two toes! Photos of each animal as well as a close-up of  its featured body part allows for an examination of the eyes, ears, feet, nose, tails and tongues under study. My girls delighted in proving to themselves, countless times, that the star-nosed mole has twenty-two tentacles on its pink nose. Terrific Tongues

The concise text about each animal part is clear and child-friendly. My five year-old flips first to the quiz at the back of each book, where teachers will also find a list of additional resources. This series would be a well-loved addition to any kindergarten to grade four classroom.



Superhero SchoolAaron Reynolds, author. Andy Rash, illustrator.                Bloomsbury, 2009

Behold another favourite picture book of my precocious five year-old. She loves the illustrations of the monsters attacking the city outside the classroom window and the numerous comic-like characters. But more so, she wants to show anyone within earshot that she understands math beyond the counting and patterning she is doing in kindergarten (i.e. she likes to show off). The math in this book is cleverly disguised as a special mission for Leonard and the other students at superhero school. The math lessons that have been forced upon them suddenly become useful when ice zombies kidnap the teachers. To save them, the students must calculate the heat vision needed to blast through the fifteen foot ice wall, divvy up the ice zombies between them in order to attack, and more! When Mr. Tornado gives everyone an A+ on the math quiz, Leonard realizes he’s been duped. SUPERHERO SCHOOL runs a bit on the long side at 833 words, but is an energetic and entertaining read. There are even a few lines written in for adult entertainment. This picture book will inspire parents and educators to stealthily integrate math into the lives of their own budding superheroes, cooks, artists, athletes and ninjas.



Pirate's Perfect PetBeth Ferry, author. Matt Myers, Illustrator. Candlewick, 2016

My 5 year-old has chosen PIRATE’S PERFECT PET as her bedtime story every night for the last week. The pirate lingo is lost on her, and she doesn’t laugh at the line “shiver me Shih Tzus”, but she loves the bossy goose that makes Captain Crave walk a plank and the repeating line throughout. All ages will enjoy the clever language and detailed, hilarious illustrations in this rollicking read aloud about a pirate in search of the perfect pet. Although you may guess the pet that Captain Crave ends up with, the journey to find it is well worth the read (seven times over . . . and counting!).

My family loved Ferry’s picture book, LAND SHARK (Chronicle, 2015) and are now eagerly awaiting her future publications– according to her website, we have many to look forward to.



LifeCynthia Rylant, author. Brendan Wenzel, illustrator. Beach Lane Books, 2017

Life begins small . . . and grows. In much the same way this small picture book–it’s only 189 words–stirs then swells inside the reader. Animals of all types tell us that there is much to love about life, especially the day-to-day: I love the line: “. . . the turtle loves life. How could it not, with so much rain on its back?”

The various animals used to tell this tale of life’s joys, sorrows and perseverance through the wilderness to the Life_Whalescertain, happier times ahead add lightness and create child appeal. This poetic, meditative picture book will also resonate with adults facing challenges and bringing new life into the world.



Valentiny Writing Context


Valentine ContestI have entered Susanna Leonard Hill’s Annual Valentiny Contest. The rules were to create a story in which someone is hopeful, using a maximum of 214 words. Here goes!



Hazel’s mom loved chocolate. Hazel loved Mom.

Hazel took secret notes when they baked chocolate cake together.

On Valentine’s Day, Hazel awoke early to cook up Mom’s surprise.

One cup milk. One cup warm water. Halfway with oil.

Crack, plunk. Crack, plunk.

Sniff. Sni-i-i-f.


Drip, drip.

Whisk, whisk, whisk.

Two scoops flour. Two scoops sugar. One scoop cocoa powder.

Mix, mix, mix.

Hmmm, was something missing . . .?

A dash of salt!

Hazel stirred until the ribbons of white disappeared.

Buttering the pan was Hazel’s job. But using the oven was not.

Knock, knock, knock.

“Hello, Hazel,” said Mrs. Wilson.

“Can I bake a cake in your apartment? It’s a surprise for Mom.”

Baking required a large serving of patience.

Between a bowl of porridge and a game of Go Fish, Hazel dashed to the oven window.

“It must need to cook longer.”

“Is the oven hot enough?”

“It’s still flat!” said Hazel. “Rise, cake. Rise!”

Eventually, the timer sounded: beep, beep, be-e-e-p.

“Mom’s cake is a flop!”

Knock, knock, knock.

“Is Hazel here?” said Mom.

“Yes. Come in, the coffee is on,” said Mrs. Wilson.

“Something smells good,” said Mom.

“I wanted to surprise you with a chocolate cake. But instead, we’re having . . . brownies. Happy Valentine’s Day!”