2015 Favourite Storytime Picture Books

The tradition continues!  One of my favourite Jbrary posts to write all year is my round-up of favourite storytime books published in the last 12 months.  Missed the past two years and more recent posts? Check them out here:

I do storytimes primarily for children ages 0 -5, but I also serve school-age children on occassion.  This list includes books for them all.  Please let me know your favourites in the comments, espeically if it’s a book I missed.  Without further ado, I present my favourite picture books from 2015 that work well in a storytime setting!

15 things not to do with a baby15 Things Not to do With a Baby by Margaret McAllister; illustrated by Holly Sterling.  Perfect for a storytime about babies, families, or siblings. A little girl lists the Do’s and Don’ts of having a baby in the home.  The family is interracial though they only appear on one page.

baby love

Baby Love by Angela DiTerlizzi; illustrated by Brooke Boynton Hughes.   I really enjoyed reading this one at babyime.  I had the caregivers point to baby’s nose, toes, etc. as we read and we said the refrain together.  Super sweet and encourages a loving relationship.

baby partyBaby Party by Rebecca O’Connell; illustrated by Susie Poole.  One of my babytime favourites this year.  On each page we practiced the social skill of clapping.  Happy to see more and more books coming out with a diverse cast of babies and this one joins the ranks.  Shapes are another theme of the book which you can point out to caregivers for 1-1 reading time.

the bear ate your sandwhichThe Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach.  Recommended for preschool – Grade 2. An unnamed narrator recounts the exciting story of what happened to your sandwich. A surprise ending is what makes it a storytime winner. If I worked with older children more it’d be a great choice for leading into a writing exercise about tall tales or unreliable narrators.

bear countsBear Counts by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman.  Bear and Mouse observe the natural world around them and learn to count to five. I like how the text invites the reader to count with them which is helpful in storytime. Because it’s only to five, the counting is not overwhelming and makes it a great choice for toddlers.

beep beep go to sleepBeep! Beep! Go to Sleep! by Todd Tarpley; illustrated by John Rocco.  Three adorable robots refuse to let a little boy go to sleep in this pyjama time keeper.  I loved the refrain of “beep! beep!” – you can definitely get kids to do it with you.  Try giving each robot its own voice to help the kids distinguish who is speaking.

boats goBoats Go by Steve Light.  The newest addition to Light’s board book series on things that go. Lots of great noises to make in storytime.  It’s a large, long board book that works with small to medium sized groups.

bookobeardsBook-O-Beards by Donald Lemke; illustrated by Bob Lentz.  Buy the whole dang series! My friend Angela alerted me to these storytime gems.  Read the page and then “wear” the book.  Only a picture will do it justice.

book of beards

bulldozers big dayBulldozer’s Big Day by Candace Fleming; illustrated by Eric Rohmann.  Did everyone on the construction site forget its Bulldozer’s birthday?  Lots of great verbs fill this construction and birthday themed book that is a perfect read aloud for preschoolers.

bunny rooBunny Roo, I Love You by Melissa Marr; illustrated by Teagan White. My colleague Jane tipped me off to this one.  I agree with her assessment that it’s a gentle bedtime book to share with caregivers at babytime. White’s illustrations stole my heart.

the bus is for usThe Bus is for Us by Michael Rosen; illustrated by Gillian Tyler.  A transportation-filled gem.  I loved the rhyming text and the repetitive chant.  The pages are nice and big, working well for a large group.  Hooray for public transportation!

butterfly parkmaple-leafButterfly Park by Elly MacKay.  A lovely story of a girl who transforms the neighbourhood park into a butterfly garden.  MacKay’s paper-cut illustrations are outstanding though smaller groups will get the chance to study them better. Great for preschool to Grade 2.

the duck saysmaple-leafThe Ducks Says by Troy Wilson; illustrated by Mike Boldt.  Preschoolers will get a kick out of all the sounds duck makes as he roams around the farm and interacts with the other animals. I had the kids make the sounds with me after reading each sentence.

everythingEverything by Emma Dodd.  A babytime standout! Short, sweet sentences illustrate everything about a baby koala that the parent koala loves. When I read it at storytime, we mimicked the actions of the book.  Some of the pages have a metallic sheen that catches baby’s eye. Perfect for a small group.  Don’t miss the companion book, When You Were Born.

families families familiesFamilies, Families, Families! by Suzanne Lang and Max Lang.  The message here is that if you love one another, you’re family. This book means so much to me because my niece Sophie is my adopted family and this book reflects all the diversity in the world. Read it to my toddlers and they loved it.

fire engine no. 9Fire Engine No. 9 by Mike Austin. Told almost entirely in sounds, follow firefighters over the course of their action-packed day.  Use in babytime to talk about phonological awareness or introduce to your transportation-loving toddlers and preschoolers.

fish jamFish Jam by Kylie Howarth.  Reminiscent of I’m The Biggest Thing in the Ocean, this book follows a scat-loving fish who just wants to jam. A great addition to a music themed storytime.  Toddlers on up will enjoy the rhythm and surprise ending.

the flyThe Fly by Petr Horacek.  Betsy Bird called this book “the best readaloud picture book of 2015.” I love the creative use of flaps and the fly’s personality. A great choice for preschoolers to school-age kids.

get out of my bathGet Out of My Bath! by Britta Teckentrup.  Ellie the elephant enjoys a good bathtime splash, but other animals try to join in the fun. This one reminded me of other interactive books where you have to tilt and shake the pages.  The pages have a sheen to them which I loved to touch.

hoot owlHoot Owl, Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor; illustrated by Jean Jullien.  I love the language in this book; it’s almost poetic. Hoot Owl puts on various disguises in order to catch some prey, but a pizza filled ending ensures no animals are harmed. Preschool to Grade 2 students will thoroughly enjoy.

how to draw a dragonHow to Draw a Dragon by Douglas Florian. This book combines art and imagination.  It leads very well into a post-storytime art activity involving dragons.  With just one sentence per page and big pages, it’s perfect for those wiggly toddlers.

i can roarI Can Roar! by Frank Asch.  Using a circle cut out, Asch invites the reader to take on the characteristics and sounds of different kinds of animals.  If you have a small group, try going around and having each baby or child put their face behind the book and make the animal noises together.

if you plant a seedIf You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson. This one’s all about kindness. I like how Nelson first shows the destructive power of greed before ending on a happy note. A great addition to a storytime about gardening, plants, or friendship.

if youre a robotIf You’re a Robot and You Know It by David A. Carter.  The only new pop-up book that caught me attention this year.  It includes the classics like clap your hands and stomp your feet alongside some silly robot actions such as jump and beep and shoot laser beams out of your eyes.  Sure to get your audience up and moving.

inIn by Nikki McClure.  McClure’s signature high contrast images help tell the story of a child who goes from playing inside to outside.  You could read at babytime and talk about about babies’ developing vision or use in a toddler storytime and point out the owl guide at the back of the book.

ina cloud of dustmaple-leafIn a Cloud of Dust by Alma Fullerton; illustrated by Brian Deines.  Great for a K-3 audience, this story, set in Tanzania, shows how one little girl helps her friends explore the world on bicycles. Only 1-2 sentences per page make it a good read aloud length.

little bird takes a bathLittle Bird Takes a Bath by Marisabina Russo.  This one works for so many themes – the city, bath time, rain, birds. Little bird searches for the perfect puddle.  I loved the sound effects, the repetition, and the inclusion of singing.  Use with preschoolers on up.

love always everywhereLove Always Everywhere by Sarah Massini.  Big, bright colourful pages showcase a diverse group of children as they express all the ways they love – quietly, loudly, with a kiss, with a tickle, etc. Each page only has two words – perfect for toddlers or for a storytime about love or emotions.  Published in late 2014 so sneaking this one in!

my bokeMy Bike by Byron Barton.  I almost didn’t include this one because CLOWNS, but my toddlers loved it and I read it to a preschool group studying the circus and the teacher was overjoyed.  It’s got all of Barton’s trademarks – simple sentence structure, bright, bold colours, and toddler concepts.

my cousin momoMy Cousin Momo by Zacharian OHara.  One of two appearances OHara makes on my list.  A great story for preschoolers about how being different isn’t a bad thing. Plus, flying squirrels!

night animalsNight Animals by Gianna Marino.  This one made me LOL.  Perfect for a pyjama storytime, this book features a cast of animals scared of “night animals” which bat informs them they are.  The bold illustrations work well.

nose to toesNose to Toes, You are Yummy! by Tim Harrington.  A perfect choice for babies and toddlers as this book encourages movement and interaction.  Very brightly illustrated pages are eye catching and there’s a song version available on their website.

no, sillyNo, Silly! by Ken Krug.  This fun title shows lots of giggle worthy scenarious like sleeping on a pile of cookies that are met with the refrain, “No, silly!” It kind of reminds me of Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready for Bed?  Great for toddlers or preschoolers. I love the repetition of sentence structure and catch phrase.

one familyOne Family by George Shannon; illustrated by Blanca Gomez.  Books about families were on point this year. This one includes a counting element up to ten while noting all the different elements of the city.  A beautifully diverse landscape also lends itself well to solo reading.

otto the owlOtto the Owl Who Loved Poetry by Vern Kousky.  If you’re looking for a way to introduce poetry into storytime, look no further! Great for preschoolers – Grade 3 students.  A little owl struggles to fit in because he’d rather recite poetry than hunt mice.  Lovely book from a debut author.

pepper and poePepper and Poe by Fran Preston-Gannon.  A sibling tale featuring two adorable cats.  This one works great in a mixed age storytime because the sentences are short but the older kids will get the comic relief.  And the cats really are super cute.

please mr pandaPlease, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony.  A super adorbs panda fills the pages of this lesson in manners. Panda would like to give away doughnuts but no one remembers to say please. Funny without being preachy. My toddlers and preschoolers loved it.

polar bears underwearPolar Bear’s Underwear by Tupera Tupera.  Underwear stories never get old with kids, do they?  This one had my storytimers in a hoot. A Japanese design firm brings us the story of Polar Bear in search for his underwear.  Clever design cutouts work well. It would make a great felt story too!  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and had multiple holds placed after storytime.

the princess and the ponyThe Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton.  Warrior princess? Check. Farting pony? Check. An all-star choice for preschoolers to grade schoolers. Princess Pinecone didn’t get the horse of her dreams for her birthday, but she finds an unlikely ally in her new pony friend.  My niece demanded multiple readings of this book when I brought it home.

raindrops rollRaindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre. Sayre is a non-fiction queen and this new one explores rain and the water cycle. I read it during a fall themed outreach storytime and the kids were fascinated with the real-life photographs. Text is poetic and rich with new vocabulary.

say helloSay Hello! by Linda Davick.  The perfect book to use at the beginning of baby or toddler storytimes. Bright, colourful pictures depict a group of racially diverse children saying hello with different gestures and actions. After reading practice saying hello in sign language.

sea nd rexSea and Rex by Molly Idle.  This is a perfect book for summer storytimes. Cordelia and her friend dinosaur spend a memorable day at the beach.  Recommended for toddler or preschool storytime.

sometimes we think you are a monkeymaple-leafSometimes We Think You are a Monkey by Johanna Skibsrud and Sarah Blacker; illustrated by Julie Morstad.  A super sweet story for babytime or toddler time.  The narrator makes comparisons between a newborn and all sorts of animals. I like the repeating sentence starters and Morstad’s stunning illustrations.

spectacular spotsSpectacular Spots by Susan Stockdale.  Big pages with animal spreads fill this toddler storytime hit.  Minimal text and bold illustrations accompany lots of new vocabulary such as grazing, dozing, dashing, scouting, clinging.  The end pages are good to point out to caregivers.

supertruckSupertruck by Stephen Savage.  A truck book with a superhero theme = storytime gold! I used this with my toddlers and they all wanted to take home a copy. Perfect for the winter too as the little garbage truck transforms into a snowplow to save the city.

ten pigsTen Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure by Derek Anderson.  So funny. One little pig just wants to take a relaxing bath when more pigs decide to join in.  A cute ending that preschoolers will enjoy.  Perfect for storytimes about pigs, baths, or bedtime.

touch the brightest starTouch the Brightest Star by Christie Matheson.  Matheson is back with another wonderfully interactive book.  I’ve been taking this one to all my outreach storytimes and we practice taking turns and watching the nighttime sky transform.  Magical.

up in the gardenUp in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner; illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal.  Longer text makes this a better school-age storytime choice, but you could also just read a few of the pages to younger children.  I love the long, tall pages and Neal’s stunning illustrations.  Great for a spring, garden, or plant themed storytime.

vegetables in underwearVegetables in Underwear by Jared Chapman.  Works best with smaller groups due to the size of the pages, but it truly capitalizes on the silliness of this article of clothing. Rhyming text works well in this case.  Giggles will abound.

welcome home bearWelcome Home, Bear: A Book of Animal Habitats by Il Sung Na.  My love of Il Sung Na has been well documented, so I was so stoked to see a new one come down the line this year.  Bear decides to search for a new home but finds the other habitats out of sorts. An absolute gem that works for toddlers and older.

the whale in my swimming poolThe Whale in My Swimming Pool by Joyce Wan.  I busted this one out for a summer storytime and it was great for the mixed aged group of kids I had. The older kids got the humour while the younger kids were engaged with the shorter text.  Bright, big pages bring this silly story to life. Based on the last page, I also smell a sequel!

who wants a hugWho Wants a Hug? by Jeff Mack.  I read this to a kindergarten class and they thought it was hilarious. Skunk tries various different methods to keep bear from giving away hugs.  A happy ending included.  Colourful pictures and animated animals draw in the audience.

wolfie the bunnyWolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman; illustrated by Zachariah OHara.  I loved this story of a paranoid bunny who suspects her adopted wolf brother is up to no good.  The kindergarten class I shared it with enjoyed the build up to the end when the bunny and wolf siblings stick together.  The art is different but it works well to convey the characters’ emotions.

you nest here with meYou Nest Here With Me by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple; illustrated by Melissa Sweet.  I know Yolen from her How Do Dinosaurs series, and I’m continually impressed. This rhyming book is a sweet bedtime story that would work great in a pyjama storytime.  All the different bird names included is a real triumph in vocabulary building.  End pages with additional bird information is nice to point out to caregivers.

Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Bibliothèque Publique de Westmount

This year we’ve hosted a variety of guest posts from library staff around Canada.  For the last post of the year we are delighted to feature the Westmount Public Library, also known as Bibliothèque Publique de Westmount.  Our guest blogger is Children’s Librarian Wendy Wayling who is here to tell us all about a very special Summer Reading Club in Quebec!


Just when the rest of the library is winding down and looking forward to those lazy, hazy days of summer, children’s departments all across the country are gearing up for their busiest time of year – the season of the summer reading club! And the Westmount Public Library is no exception.

We have been hosting a summer reading club in our library for decades, but in 2011 we joined the TD Summer Reading Club to share ideas with librarians across Canada. Over the past years we have enjoyed successful summer reading clubs using such themes as science, mystery and fantasy, to name a few. This year our theme focused on play.  Choosing a theme as versatile as play left the door open for so many possibilities allowing our staff to brainstorm and come up with some terrific ideas. I had been playing with the idea of transforming our department into a giant Candyland game when another idea hit me: What is the quintessential children’s book about play and imagination?:  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll of course! The choice was no coincidence, however, as the classic children’s book is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. This year’s theme was of particular interest to me as Alice has always been one of my all-time favourite books, as a child, as a teen and even now as an adult.

Our new library mascot, Findlay Featherton, joins the TD SRC!
TD SRC Launch at Family Day in Westmount Park
TD SRC Launch at Family Day in Westmount Park

What better way to celebrate play and imagination than through the discovery, rediscovery and sharing of Alice and her wonderful adventures down under! Our team got busy preparing reading-incentive games and activities based on play and Alice.

Asking children to keep track of the time they spend reading can be a challenge and understandably so, as not many of us want to set a timer each time we sit down to enjoy a book. Over the years, we have tried to make this aspect more enjoyable for the children by creating some fun reading-incentive games, giving out small weekly prizes throughout the summer and carefully selecting a gift book to give to each child who reached his or her reading goal.

Tech-free day at the library!
Tech-free day at the library!

This summer we developed a game that would teach some basic library skills, while still being fun and at times quite silly, in keeping with the spirit of Alice. Of course, the whole point of the games is to pique the curiosity of the children. For example, once the children had read for one or two hours (depending on their reading level), they were given a clue or a challenge. Here is one example:

In Wonderland, Alice met a Mock turtle – a character named after soup!
Look up books about making soup!

Once the children found a cookbook, they were asked to come up with their own silly soup recipe and share it with the staff. Here is but one creative recipe that a member came up with:

1 teacup of ice
1/2 bowl of unwashed potato skins
1 diget (sic) of pi
5/3 eggs
7 cups of water
9/5 toad’s feet
Boil it in a cauldron for 3 leap years until it is the colour of mud and serve it with dragonfly wings.

Some clues required a bit more research. For example:

Find a biography about our very own Queen Elizabeth II who, by the way, is nothing like the nasty Queen of Hearts!

Hidden in the book was the following question:

How old was Queen Elizabeth when she was crowned Queen? Did you know that she visited Westmount in 1959!

Besides the games and clues, we have also tried to transform the entire department each summer according to the theme. We do this with the amazing talents of the library staff and our local teen volunteers. I have been consistently blown away by the enthusiasm and artistic talents demonstrated by the teens. It is a treat to see how proud they are when they drop by the library to see their artwork on display. Partnering with local teens is a fantastic way to keep this busy age group engaged at the library.

The desk murals painted by a staff member and local teen volunteers.
The desk murals painted by a staff member and local teen volunteers.

Of course, we wanted to highlight other aspects of play: we invited the children to learn how to lawn bowl with the staff and the local lawn bowling club; we hired a local Irish musician to perform in our storytelling garden; we created birdhouses based on the TD SRC illustrations; we offered two Minecraft sessions; we played croquet in our local park dressed as the characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; and perhaps the most shocking activity of all this summer was Tech-Free Day when we took away all the computers on one Friday each month over the summer! Jaws dropped, but no tears were shed and parents enjoyed some quality time with their children playing board games and reading together.

Alice playing croquet
Alice playing croquet
Croquet and a Mad Hatter Tea Party in Westmount Park next to the library.
Croquet and a Mad Hatter Tea Party in Westmount Park next to the library.

So why do children’s librarians go through all this work every summer? Because we know that it makes a difference to the children in our communities. We put the extra time and effort into developing a fun summer reading club because we want to foster a love a reading that will last a lifetime. We want the children to feel comfortable in our libraries and to experience that magic moment when a story transports us to a different world, full of possibilities. We also want to reach out to those children who might think that they don’t like reading, but we all know that they just haven’t found the right book yet. The children’s staff love to book talk and recommend great reads to the children and summer is the perfect time to try out new books and share titles!

Our TD SRC closing party - 250 kids and parents participated!
Our TD SRC closing party – 250 kids and parents participated!

Even though it is autumn, I am already thinking about next year’s summer reading club and I am sure that most other children’s librarians are doing the same. Maybe it is time for our adult department to get into the summer spirit and develop a summer reading club designed just for adults!

Happy reading and don’t forget to celebrate Alice’s 150th anniversary this year!

Winter Storytime

We’re all about honouring the season AND our community here at Jbrary and so this week we bring you a wonderfully winter storytime! For the full run down of all of our winter songs and rhymes be sure to check out our Winter Storytime playlist and our Winter Storytime board on Pinterest for books, felts and craft ideas. Now, let’s get started before your hot chocolate cools!

Songs and Rhymes

This is a perfect storytime song because it work beautifully for babies (have parents bounce them gently on their knees) or big kids (tell them to put their legs out in front of them and hang on) or both! To extend the song ask for ideas of what else could happen on their little blue sled.

Often underrated, the Calm Down song is a crucial tool in your storytime toolkit and why not have one that fits your theme? This version of Twinkle, Twinkle could be done with scarves or just voices but is guaranteed to tame the wildest crew.

We love this version of We Wish You a Merry Christmas because it allows you to ask your storytimers what they are celebrating and sing about just that. Feel free to spread winter,  presents and rainbow kitten cheer!

I may have shared this in every post since we recorded it but I simply cannot get enough of this song. Use scarves or just your hands as the sun, rain, leaves and *fingers crossed* snow!


A couple new books which came out in 2015 and would be perfect in a storytime at this time of year are  First Snow by Peter McCarty which is about cousin Pedro visiting and experiencing snow for the first time and Supertruck by Stephen Savage which is one part super hero book one part truck book resulting in one great wintery rescue! And then I have my old favourites including Jingle Jingle by Nicola Smee, A Hat for Minerva Louise by Janet Morgan Stoeke, Waiting for Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser and Ten on the Sled by Kim Norman

snowjinglesupertruck minerva  waiting  ten

For more Winter Storytime ideas  check out Erin’s brrrrilliant Polar Animals Storytime, Animals in Winter and Winter Toddler Time posts. At Reading with Red Brooke’s got a fantastic Make a Snowman play and learn centre to check out. For more book ideas Katie Fitzgerald at Story Time Secrets collected 10 Picture Books About Winter Clothing plus some awesome activities linked at the bottom. And because she’s the bestest Rebecca at Sturdy for Common Things has put together another definitive seasonal booklist Favourite Children’s Books About Winter! So there you have it folks, lots of great wintery storytime ideas and of course please share your favourites down below.