2017 CLEL Bell Award Suggestions

November is Picture Book Month! It’s also the last month to suggest a picture a book for a CLEL Bell Award. Colorado is doing some super cool stuff around early literacy. The Bell Awards are their “annual recognition of five high-quality picture books that provide excellent support of early literacy development in young children.”  These awards are a great reader’s advisory tool as well as providing ideas for storytime sharing.  Check out the 2016 winners and the early literacy activity sheets that go with them!

When the Bell Awards first launched, we participated in a blog tour highlighting books that support the early literacy skill singing.  This year I wanted to share some of my suggestions for each early literacy practice for the 2017 award.  You can suggest titles until November 30th, 2016 so it’s not too late to get yours in too! Here is a list of selection criteria to follow.  Many of my favourites have already been nominated this year!


goodbye-summerGoodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak
In this beautifully illustrated autumn tale, a child walks through forest and town greeting parts of the natural world and learning how they change with the seasons. This book models conversation skills and has worked the best for me when I take on a distinct voice for the child and different voices for the things that respond to her. After reading it with my niece we took a fall walk and imagined what all the plants and critters would say to us. An excellent choice for promoting the early literacy practice of talking!



Two of my other favourites for this category are Return by Aaron Becker (who doesn’t love a good wordless picture book to get kids storytelling!) and Tell Me a Tattoo Story by Alison McGhee; illustrated by Eliza Wheeler.



City Shapes by Diana Murray; illustrated by Bryan Collier
Follow a young girl as she walks through her neighbourhood noticing all sorts of shapes hidden in the city landscape.  This book goes way beyond a simple concept book, inviting readers to search for shapes in everyday objects and in the world around them. I suggest this title for the “Write” category because learning shapes is the very first step in learning letters.  When kids can distinguish between a circle, square, and rectangle, they apply that knowledge to the lines and arcs that make up our alphabet. This book models to caregivers an easy way to practice identifying shapes which not only strengthens this early literacy practice but also contributes to a sense of community pride.




Another book I would suggest for this category is Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run!: An Alphabet Caper by Mike Twohy featuring a dog and mouse chase game that promotes letter awareness.



The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read by Curtis Manley; illustrated by Kate Berube
Cats, books, pirates – what’s not to love! A young boy decides to teach his cats to read only to find they aren’t as interested as he’d hoped. Super funny and engaging, this book gets to to the heart of print motivation – finding something you love to read about! I also love that the cat gets its own library card and the book depicts Nick and his dad borrowing library books to take home. All the right ingredients to promote the early literacy practice of reading!






I would also recommend Let Me Finish! by Minh Le; illustrated by Isabel Roxas for a silly tale of a boy who keeps getting his book interrupted.



Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz, illustrated by Eda Kaban
A vehicle-themed version of the classic children’s song.  Nominating this one for obvious reasons – it’s so fun to sing! I like singable books that are a twist on traditional songs because they show caregivers you can play with music and create your own verses.  I also love that Ms. MacDonald is right there by her partner’s side repairing and driving. In addition to the song there is a story that progresses through the pictures as all the characters – humans and animals – help to build a race track for a race truck.




I also recommend Sing With Me! by Naoko Stoop for a lovely collection of nursery rhymes and songs that include suggestions for hand motions.



Dig In! by Cindy Jenson-Elliott; illustrated by Mary Peterson
A child explores the garden by playing in the dirt. So simple and so brilliant!  This one is perfect for toddlers and encourages outside play that isn’t afraid to get messy. I suggest this book because it sends the message that play doesn’t have to involve expensive toys. Just step outside and get your hands dirty. We also know that children learn with all five senses and this book does a great job of showing how to learn by using your sense of touch.  After reading this book I could see many little ones anxious to go out and play in backyards, parks, and gardens.





Two of my other favourites for this category have already been nominated – the toddlerific title Blocks by Irene Dickson and the perfect preschool pick This is My Dollhouse by Giselle Potter.

Have you read any picture books published in the past 12 months that exemplify one of the five early literacy practices? I’d love to hear about them and see them suggested for the 2017 CLEL Bell Awards!

Talking to Kids about Race

About a year ago I read a book called NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.  It’s a thought-provoking book.  Many of the chapters hit home but none quite as much as the one called “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race.”  It had a concrete impact on the way I talk and read to my 5-year-old niece Sophie about race.  It made me think about the ways my white parents did or didn’t talk to me about race as a kid.  This blog post is informed by my experiences as a white person and a children’s librarian.

Let me start by recapping what the chapter is all about.  It starts by describing a study done in 2006 by a doctoral student at the University of Texas named Birgitte Vittrup .  She investigated whether children’s videos featuring multicultural characters improve white, kindergartener-aged children’s racial attitudes.  What she found surprised her – families starting dropping out when asked to also talk about skin colour with their children.  Though the families may have said things like, “everybody’s equal,” very few of them felt comfortable talking to kids about race openly and directly. The 6 families that did saw greatly improved racial attitudes.

From there, Bronson and Merryman look at child development. They talk about how young children are “developmentally prone to in-group favoritism.” Kids are visual learners and rely on what they see – hair colour, height, weight, and yes, skin colour. Babies as young as 6 months will stare longer at photographs of faces that are a different race than their parents because they are trying to make sense of them.  Even if no one talks to kids about race, they notice. And when we don’t talk to kids about race they are left to make their own assumptions and judgments.

The authors also coin the phrase Diverse Environment Theory which means, “if you raise a child with a fair amount of exposure to people of other races and cultures, the environment becomes the message.”  So basically, we white people don’t have to talk about race with our kids because they will learn about equality just from seeing all these diverse people!  It’s one of the leading arguments behind school desegregation (which they talk about at length).  But the authors also come to the conclusion that just being in a racially diverse environment is not enough for kids to have better racial attitudes. We still have to talk to them.

Here are some of their key messages for caregivers when talking to kids about race:

  • Treat it the same way you do boy-girl stereotypes. Just like we point out women who are doctors, astronauts, construction workers, we can tell children that people of any skin colour can be those things too.  Enforce this message often.
  • Don’t shush kids when they say embarrassing or racist things. Their brains are prone to categorization.  When we shush them or shut down the conversation, we are telling them that race is a scary topic.  Instead, engage them in a conversation and directly explain their fallacy.
  • Help children of colour develop a sense of ethnic pride.  Studies have found improved self-confidence when this occurs. White children will “naturally decipher that they belong to the race that has more power, wealth, and control in society…so a pride message would not just be abhorrent – it’d be redundant.”

Since reading this book, I make a point to talk about race with Sophie on a regular basis.  Of course, it is a privilege for me as a white person that I haven’t had to have these conversations with her since she was born, and an even bigger privilege that our conversations can focus on the positive.  We are lucky to live in a racially diverse city like Vancouver so that we can have those conversations about people we know and people in our neighbourhood.  When we read books together, I point out the skin colour of the characters and relate it to something positive. For example, we read Double Trouble for Anna Habiscus! the other day and we talked about how the mommy’s skin is white and the daddy’s skin is brown and how they have a beautiful loving family.  I believe these conversations are crucial to being an anti-racist advocate and to raising an anti-racist child.

So now here I am, wondering if I can take what I’ve learned and practiced into my job as a children’s librarian.  The folks at Reading While White have started this conversation in a variety of ways already.  My questions are storytime specific.  Is storytime a space where we can start to have conversations about race with kids and caregivers?  Are you already using anti-racist practices in storytime?

Let’s talk.

LGBTQ Booklists

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it here before, but in addition to running Jbrary and being a children’s librarian I’m also the co-chair of the British Columbia Library Association’s LGBTQ Interest Group.  Since taking the position in 2015, one of the things I’ve coordinated and helped to create are LGBTQ booklists for children, teens, and adults. We update them every year and have them available at the British Columbia Library Conference.

My goal is to feature recent releases and upcoming publications that libraries across British Columbia should purchase for their collections. The lists are also a great reader’s advisory tool and can be downloaded directly from our website (hint, hint!).  They come in a tri-fold brochure format and include beautiful colour photo images.

This year I selected the books for the children’s list and my fellow group members selected the books for the teen books, adult books, and adult DVDs list.  Here are the cover images for the books on our 2016 Children’s Book list. I was hoping to be able to fill it with books published in 2016, but alas the publishing world still lags when it comes to LGBTQ children’s material. So these titles date back to 2013.  I do hope you visit the website to see the complete lists in all their glory.

Picture Books

this day in juneMorris Micklewhitethe purim superheroI am jazzjacob's new dressworm loves wormred a crayons storyone familystella brings the familyheather has two mommiesfamilies families familiespeacock among pigeons



Chapter Books

lily and dunkingeorgemarco-Bomb-mock-1Pgracefully graysonfive six seven natemisadventures of family fletcher




Any titles, especially those published in 2016, that I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Reading Picture Books With Children by Megan Dowd Lambert

Holy hairballs, folks!  Do you ever read a book that gives you so many a-ha! moments that you’re just bursting to share it with others? Well that’s what happened when I read Reading Picture Books with Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See by Megan Dowd Lambert.


I was first alerted to Megan and her work by the great folks at Storytime Underground.  Then I got a hold of her book and I read the entire thing in one sitting (and read it a second time the next day!).  Lightbulbs were going off left and right!

Megan writes about the Whole Book Approach in which “children’s active participation in making meaning of all they see and hear during a picture book reading takes precedence over moving through the pages at the pace of the adult’s oral reading of the text.” She talks about reading the whole book with children – the illustrations, the design, the pacing, the cover, the end papers, all of it.  Reading her book truly made me consider the picture book as a piece of art, not just a container of stories.  Her approach shifts storytime from a performance to leading “co-constructive storytimes” where kids are engaged and talking during the reading of the book, not just before and after.

I think one of the reasons Megan’s approach hit home for me is that she respects kids.  Plain and simple.  The focus of her storytimes aren’t the songs, rhymes, or books – it’s the kids who attend them and their ideas, opinions, and observations.  She even says – “the child’s voice is crucial to the success of a dynamic and, yes, playful storytime experience.” I feel like that’s a philosophy I’ve been trying to put into practice for a long time now, and Megan’s book has given me some great ideas for how to make it happen.

One of the biggest things I took away from this book is to SLOW DOWN.  Like, a lot.  Sometimes I think back on storytimes where I tried to squeeze in 4 or 5 picture books to a group of preschoolers in 30 minutes.  Looking back, I see so many missed opportunities to listen.  In fact, one of my favourite quotes from Megan is: “I rededicated myself to listening – really listening – to what children had to say about the books I read with them instead of just listening for them to say things that I’d already considered.”  WHOA. Now that’s keeping it real, folks.

I admire how Megan’s Whole Book Approach also seeks to keep the tone of storytime playful.  She shares numerous examples of the hilarious and insightful things kids have said during a reading with her.  During one of my recent preschool visits, a 3-year-old girl told me, “you need rain clouds to make frozen yogurt.”  I eventually realized this had to do with her understanding of temperature and ice cream, but this little nugget would have never come about if I hadn’t spent time talking about the front matter which was covered in clouds.  At the end of Reading Picture Books with Children, Megan provides an array of prompts and questions you can use in your own storytimes to elicit these types of discussions.

This is one of those professional development books that I’ll read again and again as I try out the strategies of the Whole Book Approach.  Megan’s model positions “the picture book as a meeting space for child and adult,” and that’s a message that rings true to me in both my personal and professional lives.

For More Information:

Kirkus Review

School Library Journal: An Interview with Megan Dowd Lambert

Megan Dowd Lambert on Twitter

Full Disclosure: I received no payment, no ARCs, no monetary reimbursement of any kind for writing this review.  I simply read the book, loved it, and wanted to share it with others. I received Megan’s permission to include the quotations from her book.

2016 Picture Book Preview, Part 2

Oh picture books, oh picture books, how lovely are your pages!

Today I am in the picture book spirit.  I recently attended another Library Bound book preview event where they showcased children’s books coming out this spring, summer and fall.  So I thought I’d highlight some of the titles that I’m especially looking forward to.  Want more? Make sure to check out Part 1!


sing with meSing With Me! by Naoko Stoop. A lovely collection of nursery rhymes featuring a diverse cast of babies and suggestions for actions in the margin. From the author of the Red Knit Cap Girl series.

one littleOne Little, Two Little, Three Little Children by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by Mary Lundquist.  Sing this book to the tune of the classic children’s song. A celebration of a diverse group of children and families that would be perfect for storytime.

ten little fingersTen Little Fingers, Two Small Hands by Kristy Dempsey; illustrated by Jane Massey.  All about the things you can do with your hands featuring a diverse cast of toddlers. Putting this one on my storytime list.

rosco vs the babyRosco vs. the Baby by Lindsay Ward.  A cute rivalry between a dog and a baby that ends in friendship.

can i tell you a secretCan I Tell You a Secret? by Anna Kang; illustrated by Christopher Weyant. From the team behind You are (Not) Small comes this tale of a frog who is scared of swimming. Great for helping preschoolers overcome their fears.

daddies are awesomeDaddies are Awesome by Meredith Costain; illustrated by Polona Lovsin.  A gentle rhyming story about how cool dads are featuring an array of pups. Look for the sequel Mommies are Lovely.

be glad your dadBe Glad Your Dad….Is Not an Octopus! by Matthew Logelin and Sara Jensen; illustrated by Jared Chapman. Debut authors bring us this silly yet informative book about animals. Back matter includes additional facts.

grumpy pantsGrumpy Pants by Claire Messer.  Mark for storytime! A repetitive phrase frames this story of a penguin in a bad mood who needs to wash away his grumpiness. Traditional print making illustrations stand out.

splashdanceSplashdance by Liz Starin. Bear is told he can’t compete in the water ballet championship, but a group of friends make his dream come true. A lovely story of social justice and inclusion.

miles of smilesMiles of Smiles by Karen Kaufman Orloff; illustrated by Luciano Lozano. Retro illustrations fill this delightful story of why and when we smile.

it came in the mailIt Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton. Perfect for encouraging writing, this friendship story tells what happens when a little boy writes a letter asking for something in return.

a unicorn named sparkleA Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young. A little girl gets a unicorn that looks suspiciously like a goat when she replies to an ad in the newspaper. Funny and endearing.

ookoOoko by Esme Shapiro. Ooko is a fox that has everything it needs except a friend. A charming and funny story about being true to yourself.

lucy ladybugLucy Ladybug by Sharon King-Chai. Lucy gets made fun of for having no spots so she decides to find some of her own. Teaches colours, numbers, and would make a great felt story.

schools first day of schoolSchool’s First Day of School by Adam Rex; illustrated by Christian Robinson. Pictures by Newberry winner Robinson. Told from the point of view of the school as it awaits the first day with students and teachers. Try spotting school’s face in each picture.

barnacle is boredBarnacle is Bored by Jonathan Fenske. Oh, this is a funny one that will be great for storytime. Barnacle bemoans his boring existence but learns the grass (kelp?) may only appear to be greener on the other side of the ocean.

blobfish bookThe Blobfish Book by Jessica Olien. A non-fiction/story hybrid about blobfish that is refreshingly funny.  Blobfish may just be the new trend!

are we there yetAre We There Yet? by Dan Santat. Caldecott Medal winner Santat is back with this boredom busting tale of a summer adventure that takes the reader through different time periods.

blue boatBlue Boat by Kersten Hamilton; illustrated by Valeria Petrone. Part of a vehicle trilogy that features bold illustrations and rhymes perfect for toddlers.

mixed up truckThe Mixed-Up Truck by Stephen Savage. If you loved Supertruck then this is a must read! A funny tale of a truck that builds a birthday cake. Marking for storytime.

fire truck named redA Fire Truck Named Red by Randall de Seve; illustrated by Bob Staake.  An intergenerational tale where a grandpa passes down his toy truck and tells his grandson the stories behind it.

I love cakeI Love Cake!: Starring Rabbit, Porcupine, and Moose by Tammi Sauer; illustrated by Angie Rozelaar. A laugh out loud tale of friendship and forgiveness. Three friends prepare for Rabbit’s birthday party when the cake goes missing.

make way for readersMake Way for Readers by Judy Sierra; illustratd by G. Brian Karas. A rhyming tale from master storyteller Judy Sierra about the joys of storytime in a preschool classroom.

wally does not want a haircutWally Does Not Want a Haircut by Amanda Driscoll.  A tale of overcoming fears. Wally will do almost anything to avoid a pair of shears touching his wool.

on bird hillOn Bird Hill by Jane Yolen; illustrated by Bob Marstall. This book is loosely based on the song “The Green Grass Grows All Around.”

hello summerGoodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak. A brown-skinnmed girl takes a journey through her town and forest to note the passing of the seasons. Parts of nature respond back to her as she says hello and goodbye.

explorers of the wildmaple-leafExplorers of the Wild by Cale Atkinson. A boy and a bear both take off an adventure only to have an unexpected run-in with each other other. A British Columbian author and illustrator!

good night owlGood Night Owl by Greg Pizzoli. I loved The Watermelon Seed and Number One Sam, so I am super excited to get this one about an owl who is ready to fall asleep until a mysterious noise keeps him up.

chicken in spaceChicken in Space by Adam Lehrhaupt; illustrated by Shahar Kober. Go on a funny adventure with the courageous and brave Zoey the Chicken as she and her friend Sam the pig venture into outer space.

dragon was terribleDragon Was Terrible by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by Greg Pizzoli. A misbehaving dragon has a village in near shambles when an unlikely hero uses the power of storytelling to tame it.

playtimePlaytime? by Jeff Mack. Following his one-word trend, Mack brings us this story of a gorilla who isn’t quite ready for bedtime.

1 big salad1 Big Salad: A Delicious Counting Book by Juana Medina. Medina adds to photographs of fruits and veggies with her innovative drawings. Count up to ten to make a big, healthy salad.

some petsSome Pets by Angela DiTerlizzi; illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. A companion to Some Bugs. Great for a storytime that celebrates pets of all shapes and sizes.

summer nickThe Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read by Curtis Manley; illustrated by Kate Berube. Debut author Manley combines cats, reading, and the library for a sure fire hit.  Really looking forward to this one!

lion lessonsLion Lessons by Jon Agee.  Agee brings his trademark humour to this tale of a boy who signs up for lion school and learns about looking out for friends.

hill and holeHill & Hole Are Best Friends by Kyle Mewburn; illustrated by Vasanti Unka.  An import from New Zealand, this book sets geometric opposites as best friends.  The ending was a bit dark.

lion insideThe Lion Inside by Rachel Bright; illustrated by Jim Field.  A mouse who yearns to be brave decides to ask Lion for help only to find Lion is scared of mice.  From the author of the Love Monster series.

little redLittle Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith.  This spin-off of Little Red Riding Hood ends in friendship and features a cast of safari animals.  I’m in love with the little girl’s ponytails!

ten hungry pigsTen Hungry Pigs: An Epic Lunch Adventure by Derek Anderson.  I loved Anderson’s first pig book, so I’m really looking forward to this food-themed one which stars a pig who wants a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I’ve got a hunch it will make a great felt story for storytime.

excellent edExcellent Ed by Stacy McAnulty; illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach.  Ed wants to be good at something just like the rest of his African American family.  Perfect for dog lovers.

tortoiseWho Wants a Tortoise? by Dave Keane; illustrated by K.G. Campbell.  When a little girl gets a tortoise for her birthday instead of a longed-for puppy, she learns that friendship comes when you least expect it.

finding wildFinding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd; illustrated by Abigail Halpin.  Two children go off an adventure to discover the beauty of nature in the wild and in their own backyard.  Illustrations are top-notch.

city shapesCity Shapes by Diana Murray; illustrated by Bryan Collier.  Not just a concept book! Explore city life and discover the shapes that are hidden there. Collier modeled his illustrations on his own daughter – adorable!

darioDario and the Whale by Cheryl Lawton Malone; illustrated by Bistra Masseva.  One of the only books I’ve seen about an immigrant family coming out this year.  When Dario and his mom move to Cape Cod from Brazil, Dario finds a friend in a creature who also doesn’t speak English.

hooray for todayHooray for Today! by Brian Won.  Super excited for this one by the author of Hooray for Hat! Owl is ready for fun, but all the other animals are ready for bed.  A tale of patience and friendship.

it is not time for sleepingIt is Not Time for Sleeping by Lisa Graff; illustrated by Lauren Castillo.  A cumulative tale of getting ready for bed even though the little boy is sure it’s not time just yet.

ada twistAda Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty; illustrated by David Roberts.  Girls and science, heck yes! Ada loves asking why and embarks on a scientific adventure.  Love seeing girls and STEAM together.

duck on a tractorDuck on a Tractor by David Shannon.  Duck on a Bike remains one of my favourite preschool storytime books, so I can’t wait to see what mischief Duck gets up to on a tractor!

ill waitI’ll Wait, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony.  The animals all want to know what Panda is making, but only one little penguin has the patience to wait.  Sequel to Please, Mr. Panda.

hungry-birdmaple-leafHungry Bird by Jeremy Tankard.  One of our local authors is back with another story about Bird. Looks like someone’s stomach is rumbling!

is that wiseIs That Wise, Pig? by Jan Thomas.  Thomas’s books are laugh-out-loud funny and storytime gold. In this upcoming title, Pig keeps adding silly ingredients to a soup he is helping Mouse make.

returnReturn by Aaron Becker. Another wordless wonder that appears to complete the story told in Journey and Quest.

2015: A Year in Review

It’s our first post of the new year!  We thought it’d be nice to take a look back at all we accomplished in 2015.  I’m of the opinion that we, as children’s library staff, could do with a little more tooting of our own horns. We’re a pretty awesome group and we should take time to celebrate it.

2015 in Review

We had a great year blogging at Jbrary.  We managed to publish a blog post every single week which I’m absurdly proud of, even if some of them were guest posts. Seriously folks, partner blogging is amazing.  Here are the posts that standout to me as highlights of 2015.

Early Literacy Messages in Action Blog Tour

How do you incorporate early literacy “sprinkles” into storytime?  It’s one of the most common and important questions we get asked.   So I wrote up my answer and hosted a blog tour featuring 13 other bloggers sharing their methods of getting those talking points into storytime.  This all developed organically out of conversations on Twitter and Facebook, and it was really cool to see so many people share their wisdom.

Canadian Libraries Spotlight

Dana and I worked really hard in 2015 to connect with children’s library staff across Canada in order to showcase the work being done to serve Canadian children and families. We featured 16 guest posts from libraries in British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, Manitoba, and Prince Edward Island.  I loved learning about the services, programs, and communities that make up our country.

Babytime Series

As more libraries introduce baby storytime, we thought it would be helpful to write a series of posts about the key elements that make up storytime for our youngest patrons.  We talked about the songs and rhymes we sing, the books we read, the play activities we incorporate, and the overall organization of a babytime.  I’m really proud of us for completing the series before the end of the year.

2016 Picture Books Preview

This post is probably one of my personal bests. As someone who works in a large library system and is disconnected from the book ordering process, I was so enthused to learn about picture books coming out this year.  The positive response from the authors and illustrators floored me, and it was one of our most-viewed posts in 2015.

Flannel Friday Contributions

We only participated in Flannel Friday three times in 2015, but I am really proud of all three!  First, I shared a mega-round up of all the different variations of Little Mouse, Little Mouse I could find on the internet. I still go back and add to it when I find new ones.  Then we participated in the Guest Post Palooza and featured Julie’s amazing STEAMY Flannel in Outer Space.  Lastly, I added a ladybug version of Little Mouse to my repertoire.

Spring Scavenger Hunt

Cutest bunnies on the interweb if you ask me! One of my colleagues helped me create this super fun, super adorable spring bunnies scavenger hunt.  If you missed it last year, definitely give it a try in a few months!  It’s one of those things people can print and do in 10 minutes which is always appreciated.

We’ll Link to That!

Dana and I continued to write our quarterly column for our province’s Young Adult and Children’s Section (YAACS).  In 2015 we wrote about new blog discoveries, innovative summer reading club ideas, STEAM resources, and collection development websites.  It’s really fun to shine the spotlight on others and this is one of the ways we do it.

2015 Favourite Storytime Books

We ended the year with a round-up of over 50 picture books published in 2015 that work well in storytime.  This post continues our end-of-the-year tradition, and it’s one of my favourite to write. I hope it stands as a resource for those of us looking to refresh our storytime collections.

What a year!  Thank you to our PLN for being awesome and joining us for this ride.

2016 Picture Books Preview!

Holy guacamole, folks. You all know I love writing book round-up posts. Evidence can be seen here, here, here, and here. But this is the first time I’ve been able to write a post about books that haven’t even been published yet in Canada! A few weeks ago I attended a Library Bound book preview event where I learned all about 2016 picture book releases.  I’ve also been avidly scouting Twitter for news of upcoming publications.  Put the two together and presto!

Because I work in a large library system with centralized purchasing it can be hard to stay on top of forthcoming titles. If you’re like me, I hope this post is a collection development resource for you.  I’ve chosen to highlight fiction.  The maple leaves indicate a Canadian author, illustrator, or publisher.

I’ve organized them into (very scientific) categories.  I hope you enjoy!  Please leave a comment with any I missed or don’t know about yet.


the bear and the pianoThe Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield. A British import from a debut author/illustrator. Stunning illustrations and a touching story of a bear who travels to New York to play the piano.

Bears in a bandBears in a Band by Shirley Parenteau; illustrated by David Walker. Part of a lively series including Bears on Chairs and Bears in the Bath. Super adorbs bears form a noisy orchestra that threatens to wake up Big Brown Bear.

A beginner's guide to bear spottingThe Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting by Michelle Robinson; illustrated by David Roberts. Author of Rosie Revere, Engineer is back with what Kirkus calls a quirky, appealing title about a child who braves the great outdoors to find some bears. The child has brown skin and is of ambiguous gender.

horrible bearHorrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman; illustrated by Zachariah OHora.  The duo behind Wolfie the Bunny brings us a tale of the power of words and the nature of forgiveness.

Bedtime and Sleeping

Cat NapCat Nap by Toni Yuly. This one will be great for storytime. Cat is ready for a nap, but Kitten has other ideas! Lots of opposites and a mouse that hides on every page. A definite buy if you like Yuly’s other books.

cricket songCricket Song by Anne Hunter. I loved the illustrations in this bedtime story that incorporates the sounds and animals of the night. There is a bottom panel showing how children all over the world are connected.

good night like this

Good Night Like This by Mary Murphy.  Another hit from Murphy, author of A Kiss Like This!  Perfect for a pyjama storytime, different animals tuck their little ones in to bed.

rock a bye romp

Rock-A-Bye Romp by Linda Ashman; illustrated by Simona Mulazzani. Kirkus says, “A fine addition to the nursery bookshelf for baby and all” about this extension of the classic nursery rhyme Rock-a-Bye Baby. I’m excited to share it in baby storytime!

twenty yawnsTwenty Yawns by Jane Smiley; illustrated by Lauren Castillo.  An award winning duo created this bedtime tale with twenty yawns sprinkled in for children to discover and count.

Board Books

Beach babymaple-leafBeach Baby by Laurie Elmquist; illustrated by Elly MacKay. Elmquist is a fellow British Columbian and this is a sweet lullaby about the perfect day at the beach. MacKay’s beautiful paper cut collages caught my eye in Butterfly Park and she continues to dazzle.

cars go Cars Go by Steve Light.  I love Light’s other transportation books because of the sound effects – perfect for baby and toddler storytimes.  Pumped to add the newest addition to the shelves.

duck and goose let's danceDuck and Goose, Let’s Dance! by Tad Hills. Duck and Goose are back with a quack-filled song and dance. You can download the song on their website.

hamsters on the gomaple-leafHamsters on the Go by Kass Reich. Another book in the Hamsters series by Canadian author and illustrator Reich. In this board book, the hamsters show all the different ways they travel from here to there.

my heart fills with happinessmaple-leafMy Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith; illustrated by Julie Flett. Oh boy, am I excited for this one! Both Smith and Flett are from B.C. and I love everything Flett illustrates. This beauty of a board book is a wonderful reflection on the joyful moments of our lives.


Books That Didn’t Fit Into Any Of the Other Categories

a-hungry-lion-or-a-dwindling-assortment-of-animalsmaple-leafA Hungry Lion, Or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins. This is a debut picture book that is reminiscent of I Want My Hat Back and other darkly funny tales. A hungry lion is ready for a fun day with friends until they all start disappearing.

Frank and LAvernemaple-leafFrank and Laverne by Dave Whamond. What caught me about this one was the interesting format. You can read the book from either end and get two perspectives – one from Frank and one from Laverne – about what really happened. A cat vs. dog tale with a twist.

peep and eggPeep and Egg: I’m Not Hatching by Laura Gehl; illustrated by Joyce Wan. A new series for toddlers that is cute and funny. Egg overcomes her fears and hatches just in time for the fun to start. I’m marking this as storytime potential. The second book is already set to come out in August and it’s about Halloween!

snappsy the alligatorSnappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to be in the Book) by Julie Falatko; illustrated by Tim J. Miller. Reminiscent of Mo Willems’ Pigeon, Snapsy is a funny story of an alligator whose day is interrupted by a pesky Narrator who tries to make the story more interesting by adding in some giggle worthy claims.

Community Celebrations

Malaikas costumemaple-leafMalaika’s Costume by Nadia Hohn; illustrated by Irene Luxbacher.  Malaika’s mother has moved to Canada to find a good job and provide for the family, but Carnival season is here and Malaika needs money for a new dress.  A story of family and the power of community.

maybe something beautifulMaybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy; illustrated by Rafael Lopez. Gorgeous illustrations help tell this true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California. Inspiring and transformative.


duck duck dinosaurmaple-leafDuck, Duck, Dinosaur by Kallie George; illustrated by Oriol Vidal. George is a fellow Vancouverite so this one immediately caught my attention. Three eggs hatch revealing a duck, a duck, and a dinosaur! A cute story about sibling rivalry with a diverse animal family.

field guide to grumpasaurusField Guide to the Grumpasaurus by Edward Hemingway. Huge parent appeal in this field guide format picture book about dealing with the moodiest of little ones.

Exploration and Adventure

an armadillo in new yorkmaple-leafAn Armadillo in New York by Julie Kraulis.  A follow up to An Armadillo in Paris.  This time Arlo uses his grandfather’s travel journal to visit famous landmarks throughout the Big Apple.

buddy and earlmaple-leafBuddy and Earl Go Exploring by Maureen Fergus; illustrated by Carey Sookocheff.  This is a sequel to Buddy and Earl which earned a starred review from Kirkus in 2015.  Two unlikely friends show that you don’t have to go far to have an epic adventure.

scribblemaple-leafScribble by Ruth Ohi. Circle, Square, and Triangle always know which way to go.  But along comes Scribble who takes them on a new adventure!  Earmarking this one for storytime.

Friendship and Love

be a friendBe a Friend by Salina Yoon. Yoon is no stranger to friendship books, and this one features a unique character – a mime! It’s being praised for its acceptance of difference and expression of self-acceptance.

hoot and peepHoot and Peep by Lita Judge. A loving sibling relationship between two owls set against a Parisian background. The little sister, Peep, makes lots of funny sounds that remind me of the book Froodle.


worm loves wormWorm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian; illustrated by Mike Curato. The only book I saw with any LGBTQ themes. Two worms defy tradition and what’s expected in their marriage ceremony. A celebration of love.


If I had a gryphon

maple-leafIf I Had a Gryphon by Vikki VanSickle; illustrated by Cale Atkinson. The brown skinned main character, Sam, yearns for an exciting pet like the ones in her book of mythological creatures. There’s a drooling hamster that sold me.

spare dog partsmaple-leafSpare Dog Parts by Alison Hughes; illustrated by Ashley Spires.  A Canadian duo bring us this story of a a dark-skinned child with dark, curly hair who wonders what odd collection of parts made her beloved canine companion.

violet and victormaple-leafViolet and Victor Write the Most Fabulous Fairy Tales by Alice Kuipers; illustrated by Bethanie Deeney.  A celebration of storytelling is the heart of this sibling story.  Kirkus says, ‘” jam-packed view of the creative process of two imaginative siblings.”

Libraries and Literacy

daniel finds a poemDaniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer. If you follow me on Twitter you know how much I love poetry so I was ecstatic to see this story of a young African American boy who discovers poetry in nature. Kirkus agrees.

froggy goes to the library Froggy Goes to the Library by Jonathan London.  It’s the 28th Froggy title!  Froggy shows off his excitement to borrow books and learns a dance as well.

the lending zooThe Lending Zoo by Frank Asch. Known for his Moonbear series, Asch brings us a story about a zoo-brarian and the hunt for a missing tiger. A diverse cast of characters included.

library dayLibrary Day by Anne Rockwelll; illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell. Part of a series called My First Experience, this book shows an up-to-date visit to the library. There are male and female librarians and a child who uses a wheelchair using a computer. Score!

mom dad our books and memaple-leafMom, Dad, Our Books, and Me by Danielle Marcotte; illustrated by Josee Bisaillon. The love of reading is celebrated to the max in this book from Montrealers. A young boy encounters family and neighbours who all read what they like.

oops pounce quick runOops, Pounce, Quick, Run!: An Alphabet Caper by Mike Twohy.  What a unique alphabet book. Each letter stands for a word that helps the story of a mouse and a dog progress. Lot of opportunities for encouraging talking with children as you read.


yaks yakYaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park; illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt. I’ve loved Park since my niece was obsessed with Bee-Bim Bop! In this new one animals act out the verbs made from their names. Funny, clever, and I see teachers asking for this one a lot.

Loss and Leaving

always rememberAlways Remember by Cece Meng; illustrated by Jago. An elegant, for-sure-will-make-you-cry book about a group of ocean friends who remember Turtle after he dies. No religious messaging, just gorgeous illustrations and a lyrical story of death. See the Kirkus review.

before i leaveBefore I Leave by Jessixa Bagley. Bagley wrote the critically acclaimed Boats for Papa and is back with this tale of a hedgehog who has to move away from her anteater best friend. A friendship story that hits home.

harry and waltermaple-leafHarry and Walter by Kathy Stinson; illustrated by Qin Leng. Four-year-old Harry and ninety-two-year-old Walter are best friends, but can their friendship last when Harry has to move away? So happy to see more intergenerational stories being published!

how to mend a heartmaple-leafHow to Mend a Heart by Sara Gillingham. A diverse cast of characters lead us through many instances of a broken heart and how to heal in this beautifully illustrated book from a B.C. author.

ida alwaysIda, Always by Caron Levis; illustrated by Charles Santoso. Another tear jerker about a pair of polar bears who live in a zoo and what happens when one of them dies. I loved the large pages and bright colours used to depict a solemn topic.

mayamaple-leafMaya by Mahak Jain; illustrated by Elly MacKay. MacKay has been busy! But this is Toronto’s Mahak Jain’s first picture book about the power of story in helping a young girl deal with the death of her father.


bringing the outside inmaple-leafBringing the Outside In by Mary McKenna Siddals; illustrated by Patrice Barton. I’m not surprised the author is from B.C. because this book is all about getting outside! A celebration of dirt, nature, and play that gets kids up and moving featuring a diverse cast of children.

when spring comesWhen Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes; illustrated by Laura Dronzek. Big, bright pages showcase the joy and language associated with spring. Henkes and Dronzek deliver another nature title that would be great for storytime.


gator dadGator Dad by Brian Lies.  Author of the Bats series, Lies shows us how a gator dad and his kids have a fun-filled day doing every day things like grocery shopping and trip to the park.  Looks like a lovely male caregiver depiction.

mamasaurusMamasaurus by Stephan Lomp.  I’m eyeing this one for storytime. A baby dinosaur gets lost and has to find his mama with the help of his prehistoric friends. Reminiscent of Are You My Mother?

monster and sonMonster and Son by David LaRochelle; illustrated by Joey Chou. LaRochelle’s Moo! and It’s a Tiger! are storytime staples, so I’m excited to try out this new one featuring a slew of monsters and how they love their children.

my new mom and meMy New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo.  A picture book debut by Galindo who lives in Mexico City. Told from the perspective of a puppy adopted by a cat, this sweet story of adoption is an honest and heartwarming take on the topic.

tell me a tattoo storyTell Me a Tattoo Story by Alison McGhee; illustrated by Eliza Wheeler.  It’s about time someone wrote a picture book about tattoos! This one is framed as a modern father-son love story. “The father tells his little son the story behind each of his tattoos, and together they go on a beautiful journey through family history. ”

thunder boy jrThunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexi; illustrated by Yuyi Morales. An award-winning duo pair up in this touching father-son book that a young boy searching for a name of his own. So happy to see this book get published!



go little green truckGo, Little Green Truck! by Roni Schotter; illustrated by Julia Kuo.  This one was tagged with storytime potential. It stars Little Green Truck who loves to help out on the farm and deliver food to the farmer’s market.

josephs big ridemaple-leafJoseph’s Big Ride by Terry Farish; illustrated by Ken Daley.  Inspired by the author’s interviews with refugee children from Sudan, this story highlights one boy’s journey to finding a bike after moving to America.

maxi the little taxiMaxi the Little Taxi by Elizabeth Upton; illustrated by Henry Cole.  A sound effect infused ride through the city. Maxi gets all dirty riding through the city which leads to a tickly bath in the car wash. Cole illustrated And Tango Makes Three.

mighty truckMighty Truck by Chris Barton.  Author of Shark vs. Train brings this Cinderella tale of a truck who is transformed through a mysterious car wash.

the wheels on the tuk tukThe Wheels on the Tuk Tuk by Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal, illustrated by Jess Golden. Roam through the streets of India in a three-wheeled taxi on this rendition of the popular children’s song. I can’t wait to sing this one in storytime.


Well-Known Authors and Illustrators (That Aren’t Already on this List)

frankencrayonFrankencrayon by Michael Hall.  Though it got a just okay Kirkus review, kids who liked Red will be drawn to another crayon saga this time about some mysterious scribbling that threatens to end the story.

hooray for kidsHooray for Kids! by Suzanne Lang; illustrated by Max Lang.  Described as an “ode to diversity” this book follows up the Lang’s 2015 Families, Families, Families!  A celebration of children at its best.

hopHop by Jorey Hurley.  Author Nest and Fetch brings us another one-word wonder that tells the story of a rabbit family.  Lots of great interactive verbs that would work well in a toddler storytime.

i want a monstermaple-leafI Want a Monster by Elise Gravel.  I love Gravel’s Disgusting Critters series and am glad to see her enter the picture book market. This story features a girl named Winnie who buys a baby Oogly Wump from the Monsterium and watches him grow.

let's playLet’s Play! by Herve Tullet.  Tullet is back with another interactive winner this time focused on emotions.  A book that supports social emotional learning in addition to covering topics such as colour, motion, and shape.

listen to our worldListen to our World by Bill Martin; illustrated by Melissa Sweet.  A variety of animals – whales, lions, kangaroos – are featured in this celebration of sound. Another great storytime choice illustrated by a Caldecott Honour illustrator.

maggie and michael get dressedMaggie and Michael Get Dressed by Denise Fleming. Fleming is back with a clothing themed story that introduces toddlers to colours as well. Based on the cover there’s a cute dog included.

my houseMy House by Byron Barton.  Toddlers rejoice! Barton has got another book filled with bold colours and simple sentences. Follow Jim the cat through all the rooms of a house.

a book of opppositesThe Opposite Zoo by Il Sung Na. I may be biased because Il Sung Na is one of my favourite writers and illustrators, but this opposite-filled book is going to be a great addition to storytime shelves. Monkey visits all the animals in the zoo describing them along the way.

rain fishRain Fish by Lois Ehlert.  Mixed media collage illustrations fill this story about the collections of materials that float on rain water during storms. There is an author’s note about recycling. A great jump off for creating art using found objects.

ten kisses for sophieTen Kisses for Sophie by Rosemary Wells.  Two-year-old Sophie gets ready for a party and practices her counting in this new book from Wells featuring her cute toddler.

you are onemaple-leafYou are One by Sara O’Leary; illustrated by Karen Klassen. O’Leary wrote This is Sadie, my favourite picture book of 2015, so I am looking forward to this new book series which speaks directly to the child. It showcases common milestones of a baby’s first year and includes a diverse cast of babies to boot.

Wordless Or Nearly Wordless

skunk on a stringmaple-leafSkunk on a String by Thao Lam.  In this wordless wonder, a skunk has been tied to the tail of a balloon.  As he soars, he takes in a diverse city and eventually figures out how to help himself.

spot the cat

Spot, the Cat by Henry Cole. Detailed and intricate illustrations. Follow Spot as he travels around the city while his owner tries to hunt him down.

treatTreat by Mary Sullivan. This is a companion book to Sullivan’s Ball. Using just one word, a little dog does everything in his power to find a delicious treat. An interesting picture book/graphic novel hybrid with a diverse family.

YouTube: A User’s Guide to Creating Storytime Videos

There are lots of things we get asked: can I link to your content? What are your storytime tips for someone just getting started? Who are Glasses and Dimples?! But the one question we get asked which is near and dear to our hearts is how do I get started on YouTube. As two freshly pressed Children’s Librarians we set out on the rocky seas of online videos without any navigational training. Now, over two years of creating and posting content under our belts we thought it was high time to share our best practices.

Check out our first blooper reel for maximum appreciation of how much time has passed! Then vow never to watch another one of our blooper reels.

Setting up your channel and making things findable

  • You don’t need all the gizmos and gadgets: YouTube’s Creator Studio has easy to navigate tabs which help you manage your videos and grow your channel. When it comes to uploading, YouTube Help has useful FAQ’s and there’s even a video editor within the Creator Studio to make it that much easier!
  • Make and maintain playlists: Many of us work in libraries and like being able to find stuff, right? Well the same goes for your YouTube channel (and blog too!) Creating and maintaining playlists allows people to easily browse your content which becomes more important with each new video you add. These serve as access points for older content and are super useful for us busy-multi-tasking-letmejustthrowthiscrafttogether-types who like to have videos playing while they do other things.
  • Include as much information as possible: Not to sound like a broken wheel but we library folk know that the more information you can include in a record the easier it will be to find. So, include the words to the song or rhyme in the video, include who taught you the song or where it comes from, include a link to your blog, include EVERYTHING! Not only does this mean a higher quality video for your viewer, because you’ve included the words but you’ve also just increased the video’s searchability. Yay!  This goes for your “About” section as well. Remember that people from all over the world will be viewing your channel, not just your local patrons, so include the province or state you’re in or heck even the country. Can you be found on other social media platforms? Include those too- make it easy! Ok, rant over.

sepiaMe asking my Lindsey if we really need to add the words to every video. Her laughing at me.

Being a Responsible YouTube Citizen

  • Update content regularly: Remember library school when you had to do an assignment on libraries and social media? It was all the rage! The trouble is many folks get off to a great start on YouTube and upload a truckload (say it ten times fast!) of videos and then find it difficult to keep up. When you’re getting set up add a solid handful and then have an honest conversation with your Lindsey (oh, I’m the only one with a Lindsey?!) or yourself about how often you’ll be able to create. We film 10-20 videos every couple of months and then upload a new one each week. This means our channel always has new content without either of us feeling overwhelmed.
  • Be respectful of copyright and content: Because we deal in children’s music (most of which is in the public domain) and have cultivated relationships with other professionals in the field we’ve never gotten in any serious copyright trouble. As long as you do your absolute best to credit the song and/or share who you learned it from this should be sufficient when it comes to songs for children. We’ve had artists claim songs we’ve done and we simply ask their permission, add that information to the box below the video and thank them profusely. If someone asked us to take down a song we absolutely would. YouTube is a very participative space and while it lacks the formal, written copyright rules we might be used to in print following these best practices has been successful for us thus far. We swear this post is not sponsored by Youtube (in fact it was inspired by a question about copyright!) but their Copyright Centre is a great place to start if you’re recording music which is not your own and for information specific to Canadian copyright and materials within the public domain we found UBC’s Copyright Centre to be quite helpful.
  • Subscribe, show love! The strength in our professional community is in our numbers: the more people using this medium to share video content, the better we all get. And even if you’re not ready to start uploading just yet challenge yourself to check out new channels, give the old thumbs up to videos you like and share, share, share.
  • For some examples of folks we love on YouTube scroll all the way down to Other People Making Videos.

We’re looking forward to a post in the Fall from Belleville Public Library all about their newly minted library YouTube channel and the lessons they’ve learned, so as they say in the business STAY TUNED! In the meantime please leave questions, your own best practices or resources you’ve found helpful when it comes to creating and sharing video content in the comment box below.