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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Bird Books

Book Cover That Chickadee Feeling

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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Once when I was young, on a family hike through the ravine, I spotted a man in the bushes with his arms out, a flurry of grey and white, black-capped birds fluttering round him. He put his finger to his lips as we approached. We stopped dead in our tracks, watching the chickadees swoop from nearby branches to peck at seed in the crown of his hat and upturned palms.

I remembered this magical moment when I read That Chickadee Feeling, by Frank Glew, illustrated by the Marna Twins. It begins with a kid who’s really, really bored, so their mom invites them on an outing with some seed and advice to be patient. When a bird lands on the child’s hand, the kid experiences “that chickadee feeling.” It’s the same feeling that comes from riding a bike for the first time, or winning a race (or encountering the Chickadee man in the forest). This tale challenges the reader to find a way out of boredom, with birding as a definite option.

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Over the Rooftop …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Texts on Textiles

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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Exploring the art of sewing? Here are some tales to comfort and inspire.

Book Cover Cloth Lullaby

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois, by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, follows the life of the sculpture artist who grew up restoring old tapestries with her mother. Textured fabrics come to life through Arsenault’s illustrations alongside Novesky’s beautiful language. Louise’s mother “loved to work in the warm sun, her needle rising and falling beside the lilting river, perfect, delicate spiderwebs glinting with caught drops of water above her.” Louise learned about warp and weft, spindles and needles, and how to dye wool from plants. The image of the spider takes on symbolic meaning throughout, i.e. “Her mother, like a spider whose web is torn, didn’t get angry, she just got on with the fixing of it.” After her beloved mother died, Louise harnessed her grief—cutting up bed linens, handkerchiefs, dresses, and wedding napkins for sculptures and cloth books.

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: What I Miss About the Library

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month. This month she, like many of us, is working from home—and missing the library. 

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Book Cover Franklin

“My” library, where I spend each morning, is a long room with bookshelves all around the perimeter, beneath sky blue walls. Meeting tables are hexagonal and fit together like a beehive. A spinning holder of graphic novels stands as a leaning tower. Someone, long ago, built castle turret bookshelves, which punctuate the picture book area. They house popular series such as Arthur, and Elephant and Piggie, with small stuffies as clues to favourite authors. Various tiny Franklins cluster near Paulette Bourgeois’ books. A jumbo-sized Madeline slumps next to an ever-smiling Curious George, cotton poking through his midriff. A grey and white chickadee is perched near Frank Glew’s That Chickadee Feeling. More characters used to live here but I came in one morning to find Captain Underpants without underpants, Angelina Ballerina disrobed and Stuart Little with his tail between his legs.

In the corner is a den—a set of three carpeted stairs and a sloppy green couch donated by a family that couldn’t bear to set it out for garbage. Read-alouds are performed smack in the middle of t …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Books That Make the List

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

*****

Book Cover Today

Lists are used in different contexts. The Writing curriculum for Grades 1-6 asks students to identify different purposes for writing, to generate ideas, and to write short texts using simple forms. Lists are one of these forms. Similarly, in the Reading curriculum, students are asked to understand the use of different text features, such as lists. The following picture books are useful mentor texts.

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Today, by Julie Morstad, is packed full of choices and to-do lists. The illustrations are detailed and child-like, laid out like a pictorial menu. (Even the book’s large size resembles a menu.) It begins: “What should I do today? Where should I go? Should I stay close to home or go far away? But first, what’ll I wear?” There are hairstyles for the day, breakfast choices, possible activities, ways of travel, flowers to pick. The text is full of quiet surprises. i.e. a page is devoted to a single choice: “…maybe you’d like to be in the middle of a quiet, heavenly nowhere, talking with the minnows?”

About the book: Every day is full of endless possibilities— especially TODAY!

The simplest moment has the potential to become extraordinary in this beautif …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Procedural Writing

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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The language curriculum asks students to understand and create a variety of writing forms, including the procedural form, involving "how to" text, and also pictures and symbols showing steps in a procedure.

Great examples of procedural text can be found in Melanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel series. Watt’s telltale humour is ever-present as the squirrel’s neurotic need for a plan triggers unexpected (and serendipitous) results.

The original Scaredy Squirrel showcases Scaredy making arrangements to leave the safety of his tree. The “What to do in case of an emergency” scheme includes “Step 1: Panic, Step 2: Run.” His daily routines are also in the form of a program, i.e. “6:45 Wake up. 7:00 Eat a nut.” Scaredy loves making lists—of his fears, emergency items, pros and cons—which could lead to a discussion about the ways that lists are different than procedural writing.

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In Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, the squirrel writes, “How to …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Descriptive Language

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

*****

These beautiful books exemplify descriptive language for Grades 1–6.

Once Upon a Northern Night, by Jean E. Pendziwol, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, is the perfect mentor text for descriptive language. While a little boy sleeps, a snowy night scene is painted for both the boy and the reader.

“Once upon a northern night/pine trees held out prickly hands/to catch the falling flakes/that gathered into puffs of creamy white,/settling like balls of cotton,/waiting.” Check out Pendziwol’s description of deer: “They nuzzled the sleeping garden/with memories of summer.” And “... a great gray owl gazed down/with his great yellow eyes/on the milky-white bowl of your yard.” There are also some beautiful examples of alliteration.

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Another go-to text for vivid language, When the Moon Comes, by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Matt James, captures a nighttime hockey game in the woods.

“End to end and around we fly, the long black stripes of our …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Text to Text

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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Bird Child, by Nan Forler, illustrated by Francois Thisdale, is a poignant story of a girl who witnesses bullying. Eliza is like a bird—tiny and able to “fly.” From her vantage point, she can clearly see all that goes on around her. She can also look up and see possibility. When she witnesses the new girl, Lainey, being teased because of her straw hair and frayed coat, Eliza does nothing. She watches Lainey’s excitement about school waning with each passing day and still she does nothing. One day Lainey doesn’t show up for school and Eliza realizes what she needs to do—show her classmate how she too can fly.  

Lucy M. Falcone’s I Didn’t Stand Up, illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon, addresses a similar topic. A boy regrets not standing up to all different types of bullying (including against gay and trans classmates) and finally finds strength in numbers. 

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: For the Love of Snail Mail

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

*****

Letter writing is one form of writing covered in the language curriculum. These picture books address the epistolary form in different ways—and might inspire some writing from holiday destinations this summer or to penpals. 

Postcards are the chosen form of communication in Flock of Shoes, by Sarah Tsiang, art by Qin Leng. Abby loves her sandals that “invited the wind to come kiss her toes,” but when they fly off her feet, mid-swing, and continue flying south, Abby is sad. She receives postcards from her sandals, proclaiming, “We miss you to the bottom of our soles.” Sarah is forced to transition to snow boots, which she eventually comes to love as much as sandals, until they, too, leave on a train in spring, and send her a postcard showing the Northern Lights.

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Away, by Emil Sher, illustrated by Qin Leng, is told entirely through post-it notes (and sweet illustrations), which makes for a great text to teach inferencing. The reader sees not …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Text to Text

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

*****

As part of the Language curriculum, primary readers are asked to make connections between books, identifying similarities. The following titles are paired through like-minded themes.

In Jack the Bear, by Christina Leist, prime ministers, philosophers, and scientists try to make the world a better place, while Jack the Bear sits with his honey pot, doing the simplest, yet arguably the most important job of all—smiling.

Similarly, in The Little Hummingbird, by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Hummingbird tries to put out a forest fire with single drops of water from his beak. Both texts highlight the following messages: you can only do what you can do, and simple acts can bring about change.

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Two nonfiction tales by Monica Kulling share the bi …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books About Math

As the school year winds down, teachers are already thinking ahead to resources for the year ahead—and parents are taking stock of ways to prevent the summer slide. Our Children's Librarian Julie Booker recommends great books that complement the Primary Math curriculum and make for entertaining reads at the same time. 

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Looking for a great introduction to many math objectives? Look no further than the "Math Is CATegorical" series by Brian P. Cleary and Canadian cartoonist Brian Gable. These books are fun, with short, rhyming text and great illustrations to help kids not only understand mathematical concepts, but remember them.

In A Second, A Minute, A Week with Days in it: A Book About Time, Cleary writes, “1 second is short, like the time that it takes to clap twice or hiccup or sneeze. It’s the time that you need to recite ‘one, one thousand.’ A minute has 60 of these.” The book touches on minutes in an hour, hours in a day, weeks in a year, etc. There is a reference to the American Pledge of Allegiance, but the other books in the series about measurement mention both metric and imperial units.

Titles include: The Action of Subtraction (“Whatever you are counting, it will take away a part, and leave you then with not as much as you had at the sta …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Earth Hour Books

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

*****

Here are a few gems to read by flashlight….

In the Tree House, by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Dusan Petricic, is a perfect story for Earth Hour. A little boy dreams of having a tree house. So does his brother. They draw up plans and show them to their dad, whose own childhood dreams are ignited. Together, they construct their treehouse, but the following summer the little boy's brother is older, off with his friends. The protagonist finds himself alone in the summer heat, listening to the neighbourhood air conditioners, unable to see the night sky because of all the city lights. Then boom, there’s a blackout. “The melting ice crackles in the bowl. Something sparkles overhead. The night sky is filled with stars, more than I can count.” His brother returns to the treehouse where they play card games and read comics long after the city lights come back on.

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Picture the Sky, by Barbara Reid, will inspire a focus for Earth Hour—to go outside a …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Books on Health and Wellness

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

*****

The Health curriculum in the Junior Division focuses on self-awareness—understanding personal strengths, recognizing sources of stress, making decisions, and evaluating choices—as students acquire knowledge and skills related to healthy living. Sometimes picture books can be overlooked for Juniors as a way to open up discussion of these vital concepts—but in this list, we take advantage of them. 

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Whimsy’s Heavy Things, by Julie Kraulis, with its beautiful dream-like illustrations, is the story of Whimsy and all that weighs her down. The heavy things look like black balls (the size of bowling balls). She tries sweeping them under the carpet, ignoring them, sinking them, but they always come back, causing even greater problems. Finally, she thinks of breaking them into smaller pieces—i.e. into marbles with her friend—thus, making her heavy things lighter.

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Book Cover Max's Treasure

Max’s Treasure, by Michelle Persyko, photography by Jessica Newman, illustrated by …

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