What We’re Reading Kids

Here are our recommendations for some great reads over the March Break and beyond.

From Beth-Anne


Don’t Let the Pigeon Finish This Activity Book by Mo Willems

My middle son received this book as a Christmas gift, and hasn’t put it down since. Every night I hear him giggling in his room reading the latest funnies that this Pigeon is up to, and in the morning he emerges from his bunk-bed fort with a newly completed activity. If you have a Mo Willems fan on your hands, this is a sure-fire best bet. I can’t help but think if you’re about to jet off somewhere this book would make for a welcome addition to the carry-on.


This is the Greatest Place: The Forbidden City and the World of Small Animals by Brian Tse, Illustrated by Alice Mak, Translated by Ben Wang

This beautifully illustrated book teaches children about ancient Chinese culture and customs. Through a series of adventures, the children learn about how delicate the balance is between humanity, animals and nature. If a trip to China is not anywhere in your near future, this book is the next best thing.


I Love You Near and Far by Marjorie Blain Parker, Illustrated by Jed Henry

Sometimes, the people we love the most are not an arm’s length away. I often think of friends whose families are separated by an ocean
and I wonder if I would ever have the fortitude to parent my boys while my husband is on a months long military mission, like my good friend. That’s what makes I Love You Near and Far such a special book, it reminds us that cousins, uncles, aunts, friends, grandparents and even moms and dads can love each other regardless of where they call home.


The Possible Police by Wylde Scott, Illustrations by Hannah K. Shuping

Along the lines of The Little Engine That Could, The Possible Police encourages children to be true to themselves and follow their dreams regardless of the naysayers. The rhyme is catchy and the text flowery but it’s the whimsical illustrations that are simply captivating.

imgres-5Recipe for Adventure: Paris! by Giada De Laurentiis

My oldest one is a bit of a reluctant reader when it comes to fiction. Give him a sports magazine or a baseball stats book and he’s set, but ask him to choose a novel to read, and that’s when the excuses start. He had some success with the Canadian Flyer series (a Canadian spin on the popular Magic Treehouse series), Jake Maddox and his sports tales are a favourite and now we can officially add celebrity chef turned children’s author Giada De Laurentiis’s Recipe for Adventure series to the “approved” list. With the first adventure to Naples behind him, he’s moved on to Paris. The stories are engaging and light-hearted without any of the silliness that I loathe to find in books marketed to emerging readers. Emilia and Alfie are in the City of Lights and have discovered pain au chocolat, crepes and escargot. My son is adventurous when it comes to food and I’ve made him a deal to follow up each book with a cooking session (recipes are included) and a date night at an aptly themed restaurant.

From Nathalie

Charlie’s Dirt Day

written by Andrew Larsen

illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli

See You Next Year

written by Andrew Larsen

illustrated by Todd Stewart

Two new picture books from Andrew Larsen should top your March Break reading list: Charlies’s Dirt Day is a perfect springtime read, and if you spend any part of this break planning the summer break, the wonderful See You Next Year will remind you of all that there is to look forward to with a summer escape.


Charlie’s Dirt Day begins with an informal parade, a parade to a massive pile of dirt that the mayor is giving away.  (Do you have a city councillor or local official who does this?  I love our annual neighbourhood dirt days!  Everyone rolls up to fill a bucket or a barrow to nourish their young gardens with free compost from the city.)  Charlie is given his very own seed to grow, and he and his neighbour turn the tomatoes that he grows into a delicious spaghetti sauce.  This is a wonderful read-aloud, as the rhythm of the story carries you along trippety trip tripping with Charlie to the park and then back home to await the magic borne of sun and water and care.  The book ends with a two-page spread of science about dirt and compost, city gardens grown on balconies and community gardens that let city-dwellers grow their own food.  Pair this book with an outing to Canada Blooms, and your littlest gardeners will be raring to go.


See You Next Year is all about the joy of summer holidays and their predictable routines and rituals.  It’s got a lovely lyrical quality to it, and there’s a comforting and wistful tone to the narrator’s recounting of her annual summer holidays at the beach.  Each year, she returns to the same motel by the beach, and she delights in recounting all of the sights and sounds of the summer season.  The illustrations are stunning, and Todd Stewart’s particular gift is with light: the light of a bonfire, of the bandstand, of the setting city sun.  If you are aching for the summer season, this is a great book to bring it just that wee bit closer.


For middle grade readers, Middlest is on his second reading of the Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins, who later wrote The Hunger Games.  There are five books in the series that features a boy from New York who discovers an entire civilization deep underground.  The Underlanders, in turn, discover that he is the key to many of the prophesies their founder made, and Gregor finds himself in peril and adventure at every turn.  The action is very fast-paced, and each chapter ends with a cliffhanger, which makes it very hard to put down the book and has kept my boy up way, way past bedtime on many a night.  These books are not for the faint of heart, as there is a fair amount of gore and a lot of suspense.  But if your middle grade reader is looking for a truly addictive read, we recommend these highly.


My Book About Me

imgres-1Spending time outdoors is a must during the fleeting summer months so when the rains come being stuck indoors with three boys can try the patience of a saint.

Much to the chagrin of my oldest son, I am not a craft mom.  Our craft cupboard is a sad collection of things I have picked up from the dollar store and anything that has been gifted to him over the years from his more creative aunts.  So crafting in our house only lasts so long.

Much to my chagrin, the boys don’t want to spend rainy days curled up with books for hours on end, reading silently.  In fact the only way for me to enjoy solitary, daytime reading is relaxing my “no Wii” during the weekdays rule and that is a slippery slope.

My Book About Me has proven to be this summer’s favourite rainy day past time.

My Book About Me is written by Me, Myself with some help from my friends Dr. Seuss and Roy Mc Kie.

That’s right.  Written my Me, Myself.  Or in most cases, by your child, about themselves.

The book starts off fairly benign.

First of all there is one thing you should know.

Am I a boy?

Or am I a girl?

Well, I’ll tell you.

I am a __________________ (write your answer here).

I weigh ____________ pounds.

How tall am I?  I am ______ feet, _________ inches tall.

Pages and pages capture information about the here and now of your child’s life but of course things quickly get silly in that delightful Dr. Seuss way.

I can make noises, (check all that apply)

Like a rooster

Like a dog

Like a cat

Like a goat

Like a sheep

Like a goose

Like a train

My family loves my noises. Yes or No?

The boys work away on their books independently, and every once in a while I hear a giggle or a rooster noise.

Once completed these books will hold a special place on our shelves as a snapshot of who my boys were when they were 5 and 6 years old . . .

And their wobbly, misshapen letters will continue to tug at my heartstrings long after they are too big to sit in my lap and discuss the merits of life as a giraffe.*

*I wish I were a giraffe/ I am glad I’m not a giraffe.  Check one.

Story Time: Pirate Edition

Story time is one of my favourite parts of the day with the boys.  We have two designated times during the day when we cuddle up and read: while the baby is napping and just before bed.

From my post yesterday, I am sure that you can surmise we have been reading a lot of pirate books lately.  Here are some suggestions that I am sure will be a hit with your little matey!

Grandma and The Pirates by Phoebe Gilman

I am such a fan of Phoebe Gilman.  Her talent as an author and illustrator shines from the first page of her books and instantly captivates her audience.  The boys love when I read them Jillian Jiggs and when Jillian’s mother passes out from the sight of Jillian’s messy room, I am guaranteed a giggle.

Grandma and The Pirates has been read nightly for the past few months.  My pirate-obsessed son can be heard reciting passages of the book long after the lights have been switched off.  I am waiting for Pirate Pearl to arrive in the mail which I am sure will be enjoyed as much as Gilman’s other works.



How I Became A Pirate and Pirates Don’t Change Diapers by Melinda Long

These fanciful stories are fun to read and most definitely appeal to imaginative kids.  David Shannon’s distinct illustrations give life to Captain Braidbread and Long’s repetitive chorus engage emergent readers (and those with a flair for theatrics!).

Pirates Go To School by Corinne Demas

Pirates go to school too according to this silly rhyming book.  Swords and parrots along with funny looking clothes accompany this lot of young pirates to their school.

Mungo and The Picture Book Pirates by Timothy Knapman

This is actually a book about a book!  My friend Nathalie will love this!  Mungo is a pirate-loving boy who jumps into his favourite pirate storybook when the hero of the story takes a well-deserved break.  Initially, I thought the concept of the story would be beyond my four-year-old but not so.  This led to an interesting conversation about what books he would like to jump into.  Not surprising, Grandma and The Pirates topped the list.

Now I pose the question to you:  If you could jump into any book, which one would you choose?  I wouldn’t hesitate to jump into the pages of Little Women.


Books Make Great Gifts

A few weeks ago, I shared John Levy’s, of Mastermind Toys, suggestions for the perfect gift this holiday season. Last week, the moms group that I belong to had the good fortune of hosting Eleanor LeFavre of Mable’s Fables bookstore.

Mable’s Fables is the quintessential children’s bookstore. It reminds me of the shop that Meg Ryan’s character owns in the movie You’ve Got Mail. Eleanor’s bookstore is a warm and inviting place that easily lends itself to lulling away hours on a rainy afternoon. The selection of books is well edited to include only the best and the young adult section housed on the second floor is unparalleled to any bookstore that I have visited.

Eleanor shared with our group some of her favourite books to give as gifts this holiday and if you can’t get down to Mable’s Fables to support this incredible independent treasure, visit them on-line.

A must add to the holiday book line-up:

A Porcupine in a Pine Tree by Helaine Becker and Werner Zimmermann

For Babies:

Mother Goose Remembers by Clare Beaton

That’s Not My . . . (series) by Fiona Watt

Bright Baby (series) by Roger Priddy

Board books with black and white illustrations

for example: Daddies and Their Babies (series) by Guidio van Genechten

Classic Alphabet books (and their selection is so inspiring!)

A to Z by Sandra Boynton

For Younger Children:

No Two Alike by Keith Baker

(a great choice for celebrating differences)

Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury

Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow by Susan Shea

(I bought this one and the illustrations are beautiful!)

Tilly (series) by Polly Dunbar

Knuffle Bunny (three in the series) by Mo Willems

(a favourite in our house too!)

Baby Come Away by Victoria Adler

The Adventures of Taxi Dog (series) by Debra and Sal Barracca

One Smart Cookie: Bite-size Lessons for the School Years and Beyond

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (this is a fantastic book!!)

Little Beaver and The Echo by Amy MacDonald

My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems

The Big Snuggle Up by Brian Patten and Nicola Bayley

Burton and Isabelle Pipistrelle: Out of the Bat Cave by Denise Dias

Bear In Underwear (series) by Todd H. Doodler

Stories From Around The World For Little Children by Usborne

(the illustrations are stunning!)

For Early Readers:

Key Words with Jane and Peter by Ladybird

Runaway Duckling by Francesca Simon

Mish Mash Hash by Francesca Simon

Sleeping Beauty by Sally Gardner

The Amazing Adventures of Bumble Bee Boy

by David Soman and Jacky Davis

Jack and the Flum Flum Tree by Julia Donaldson

Dr. Xargles Book of Earthlets by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

Big Bad Bruce by Bill Peet

Ella Bella Ballerina and The Sleeping Beauty by James Mayhew

The Jewel Fish of Karnak by Graeme Base

Suki’s Kimono by Chieri Uegaki

There’s A Princess In The Palace by Zoe B. Alley

For Independent Readers:

Book of Why by Kath Grimshaw and Jo Connor

First Nature Encylopedia by Dorling Kindersley

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

The Clumsies (series) by Sorrel Anderson

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Dicamillo

Honey and Bear (series) by Ursula Duborarsky

Whether you plan on giving a book this holiday season or just adding to your home library, I hope that these suggestions serve you well.

What are some of your favourite children’s books?