Friday, October 13, 2023

SCRIBBLE by Ruth Ohi -- a picture book about shapes, friendship and imagination

I'm happy to share this wonderful story about friends, imagination and making marks! I read this book every year in my kindergarten class, because it has so many possibilities to connect to learning. 

Loopy line dancing over a pink circle, blue square and yellow triangle

Why this book?

I love this gentle story about three friends whose play is changed by a newcomer. The expressions on the shapes have on the cover intrigued me! This book is a great one for inspiring art as well as discussions about friendship.

My thoughts as a creator:

This is another example of a picture book with many layers. It's so clever to use shapes (there's math) in this story about friends (social emotional learning) and imagination (art). What happens when the scribble comes along, anyway? 

My thoughts as an educator:

This is a wonderful story for talking about characters and how they have different personalities. How are the three shapes different? How are they the same? It's also another story we can read to encourage discussion about friendship and feelings. I especially like to use this one before art activities with shapes. My students enjoy using this story and their own creations as inspiration for creating their own stories. 

Ages: 3 - 6

Grades: Pre K - 1

Connections: 2-D shapes, friendship, imagination, identity 


Social Emotional Learning/Drama:  Use simple puppets with shapes to act out friendship scenarios, such as making new friends, sharing toys or hurt feelings. Have children suggest ideas for social problem solving and act them out using the shape puppets.  

Literacy/Art: Provide students with shape cut outs and have them use lines and their imagination to create a shape-inspired art project. Another great art activity is to talk about how the faces on the shapes are created with simple lines and dots, and encourage children to choose a feeling to show on their own shape drawing.

Literacy/Writing: Prompt students to create a new story about one or more of these characters through drawing! Begin by drawing one of the shapes and showing how they are feeling. By asking "why" questions students can build their own story.

More resources:

Canadian author-illustrator Ruth Ohi tells us about the story and demonstrates how she starts drawing her characters:

Visit Ruth Ohi's website (click here) for activities based on the book and examples of student art work. 

Description from the publisher:

"Do you want to play?" said Scribble.

Circle loves to roll — around and around. Solid Square likes to sit still and strong. Triangle can celebrate all her good points, and always knows which direction to go. But when Scribble suddenly dashes through their ordered world — all messy lines and energy — Circle, Square and Triangle don’t know what to think.

But turns out just a zig zag here and a wavy line there are all that’s needed to stir imaginations, and soon the shapes find themselves working as a team, on a course for adventure!

Award-winning author and illustrator Ruth Ohi’s energetic art shows young readers that anything is possible with a splash of colour and the most basic shapes. This wonderful picture book will spark creativity, and encourage young minds to identify and draw the Circle-Square-Triangle-Scribbles in their worlds too!

Scribble was written and illustrated by Ruth Ohi and published by Scholastic Canada in 2016.

Visit the creators (click names for links):

Ruth Ohi

Scholastic Canada

 For more wonderful picture books, visit Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Friday, September 22, 2023

Don’t Hug Doug (He Doesn’t Like It), written by Carrie Finison and illustrated by Daniel Wiseman

I'm so excited to share this story with you! This is a great book to read at the beginning of the school year -- it's humorous and also gets across an important concept related to social emotional learning.

Why this book?

I'm always looking for entertaining stories to get across important concepts for early learners. I'd heard about this book before from my 12 x 12 writing group, and I was delighted to find it in my library. The simple cover design with the big title grabbed my attention right away.

My thoughts as a creator:

I love how Carrie Finison took a potentially serious topic and made it into a fun story! This is a wonderful example of how to include different layers in a picture book—including social emotional learning and rhyme! I also like the use of repetition which encouraged my students to read along. Illustrator Daniel Wiseman used a bright, cartoon style that is both attention-getting and suits the humorous tone of the story. 

My thoughts as an educator:

Early years educators and teachers will love this book for a lead-in to helping young children understand that they have a say in who can give them a hug. It’s also great for discussing individual differences and preferences. I also loved the spread with different ways to give a high five. Other elements to discuss include rhyming words, collections and different ways to show you care about someone. 

Ages: 4 - 7

Grades: K - 2

Connections: bodily autonomy, consent, individual differences, friendship


Social Emotional Learning:  Make a list of different ways you could show you care about a friend. Revisit the page with different types of high fives. Turn to a partner and try five different ways to high five. Can you think of another way?

Math: Doug has a striped shirt. How many other children in the book are wearing stripes? How many are wearing dots? How many kids in your class are wearing stripes? How many are wearing dots? You can use these questions to model how to record data in charts or graphs.

Literacy/Phonics: Talk about the short "u" sound. Try this game from Fantastic and Fun learning to practice reading short "u" CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words.

Short U CVC game


More resources:

Visit author Carrie Finison's website for book related colouring pages and activities such as "Invent Your Own High Five."

Description from the publisher:

Doug doesn't like hugs. He thinks hugs are too squeezy, too squashy, too squooshy, too smooshy. He doesn't like hello hugs or goodbye hugs, game-winning home run hugs or dropped ice cream cone hugs, and he definitely doesn't like birthday hugs. He'd much rather give a high five--or a low five, a side five, a double five, or a spinny five. Yup, some people love hugs; other people don't. So how can you tell if someone likes hugs or not? There's only one way to find out: Ask! Because everybody gets to decide for themselves whether they want a hug or not.

Don’t Hug Doug (He Doesn’t Like It), written by Carrie Finison and illustrated by Daniel Wiseman, was published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in 2021.

Visit the creators (click for link):

Carrie Finison

Daniel Wiseman

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Random House

 For more wonderful picture books, visit Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Friday, July 14, 2023

NO HORSES IN THE HOUSE by Mirielle Messier & Anna Bron

 During my summer reading, I discovered this wonderful book which is too good not to share! I love stories about strong girls but this is a great book for anyone who wants to follow their own dreams.

Drawing of three horse heads looking at centre of page where girl is working at an easel, title above the easel
Why this book?

I found this story in my library's online collection when doing some research for one of my own writing projects. Was I intrigued! I’d never heard of this artist before but I was captured by her story. I loved learning about her life and the perseverance she showed in working towards her dream of becoming an artist. A great story for all ages!

My thoughts as a creator:

Even though I don’t write biography, it was interesting to see how Rosa’s life experiences were selected to create an attention-getting story. I love how the colour palette the artist chose makes me think of history and the past. The characters have such great facial expressions and there are lots of interesting details and movement in the illustrations that bring a playful feel to the story.

My thoughts as an educator:

What a great book for discussing the idea of breaking down barriers and considering different perspectives! This is a good story to read anytime in the classroom, with opportunities for discussion about following your own dreams, not giving up when you face something challenging, or times when girls weren’t allowed to do things. Also a nice book for showcasing a little art history.

Ages: 5 - 9

Grades: Gr 1 - 4

Connections: gender roles, animal painting, perseverance, artist biography


Art Discussion:  Show several examples of Rosa Bonheur’s art work to students. Discuss questions such as: What do you notice about her artwork? What subjects did she like to paint or sculpt? How does the art work make you feel? Prompt: If you could ask the artist a question, what would you ask?

Art Activity:  Trying out texture, From Suzanne Tiedemann on

Watch this video about visual texture:  Talk about textures in the classroom.  Provide black paper and oil pastels for students to create their own textured lion face drawing.

Literacy/Persuasive Writing: This book could be a springboard for persuasive writing activities. For example, have students generate a list of things they aren’t allowed to do. Create a speech to persuade an adult with three reasons why they should be allowed to do it. Or, pretend you are Rosa Bonheur and design a poster to explain to others why you should be allowed to have a horse in the house.

Literacy/Alphabet: Create a class alphabet book! Encourage students to choose a letter of the alphabet and draw an animal to represent the letter. Or, make a list of the letters of the alphabet and encourage students to think of an animal to go with each letter.

STEM: Provide opportunities for students to research horses. Question/Prompt: If a horse can’t live in a house, where could it live? Design an ideal home for a horse using found materials such as straws, popsicle sticks, cardboard, and tape.


More resources:

  • Links for background information:

  • Hands On Art Activity ideas:

  • Other reviews (click title for link):

Canadian Review of Materials, reviewed by Julia Pitre

Description from the publisher:

Based on the incredible life of the pioneering, feminist and queer artist Rosa Bonheur, this charming story depicts Rosa's early years and her drive to fight for her dreams.

Rosa Bonheur loved to draw animals. She was good at it too! Unfortunately, in nineteenth-century France, girls were not allowed to be artists. But Rosa didn't let that stop her. In this fictionalized account of her early life in Paris, Rosa studies art at home, bringing a menagerie of animals into the apartment to study up close. When she is kicked out of the horse market for sneaking in wearing boys clothing, Rosa must think creatively to challenge the rules in pursuit of her dream of becoming a world-class realist painter and artist.

No Horses in the House! The Audacious Life of Artist Rosa Bonheur, written by Mirielle Messier and illustrated by Anna Bron, was published by Orca Books in 2023.

Visit the creators (click for link):

Mirielle Messier

Anna Bron

Orca Books

 For more wonderful picture books, visit Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Monday, May 22, 2023

ICEBERG by Jennifer A. Nielsen -- an exciting adventure with a 12-year-old aspiring journalist


Why this book?

The story of the Titantic is always intriguing. I was drawn to the idea of a stowaway aboard the ship--and what an interesting character she turned out to be! Hazel’s dream of being a journalist was a great way to bring in bits of the history of what happened to the Titantic. There was also a storyline of Hazel collecting information to solve a mystery about some swindlers she came across on board. The friends Hazel makes give us different perspectives on life at the time of the Titantic. From a writer’s perspective, I think this would be a great read for anyone writing historical fiction. It’s a wonderful example of how to incorporate history into a compelling story!  

Connections: mysteries, the Titantic, journalism, adventure, icebergs

Activity Ideas:

Literacy: What are some of the clues Hazel collected about what was going to happen to the Titantic?

Discussion: Consider Mrs. Abelman’s statement: “We must live the best we can until we gracefully accept our fate.” Do you think Hazel had any regrets about any of her actions on the Titantic? Was there something she could have done differently?

STEM: Look up Morse Code and try to write a coded message to a friend. Tap it out and see if your friend can decode your message.

STEAM: Create a piece of art using a collage technique that contains a coded message.

STEM: Make a list of the things Hazel learned about icebergs. Write three question you have about icebergs. Do some research to see if you can find out the answers. Or research the question: What are some ways ships can avoid or be protected from colliding with icebergs?

Additional Resources: 

Also by Jennifer A. Nielsen and still one of my favourites is The False Prince (click here for my thoughts)

 Description from the publisher:   

Hazel Rothbury is traveling all alone from her home in England aboard the celebrated ship Titanic. Following the untimely death of her father, Hazel's mother is sending her to the US to work in a factory, so that she might send money back home to help her family make ends meet.

But Hazel harbors a secret dream: She wants to be a journalist, and she just knows that if she can write and sell a story about the Titanic's maiden voyage, she could earn enough money to support her family and not have to go to a sweatshop. When Hazel discovers that mother didn't send her with enough money for a ticket, she decides she must stow away onboard the storied ship.

With the help of a porter named Charlie and a sweet first-class passenger named Sylvia, Hazel explores the opulent ship in secret, but a haunting mystery quickly finds her. The danger only intensifies when calamity strikes, and readers will be caught up in the terror and suspense alongside Hazel as she fights to save her friends and herself.


Iceberg, written by Jennifer A. Nielsen was published by Scholastic Press in 2023.



To find more middle grade books to read, check out Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, organized by Greg Pattridge over at his blog.


Monday, May 8, 2023

THE BIG STING by Rachelle Delaney

Short girl and taller boy carrying books in front of a hill with bees around them

Why this book?

Since I love books about nature and all its creatures, I was intrigued to read a story involving bees. I also know that Rachelle Delaney’s books usually have some kind of mystery to solve—and missing beehives is certainly a unique premise.

 I was having so much fun I read this story in one day, and actually laughed out loud a few times. The characters are believable and I loved the idea that Grandpa was leading his more cautious grandson on adventures.

This story also referred to some interesting professions (such as auditor) and included some fun names for computer games, like Applewood Acres. The games sounded so fun I wished they were real! I really enjoyed this book! From a writer’s perspective, I think it would be a good mentor text for anyone writing a contemporary middle grade novel.

Connections: mysteries, neighborhood adventures, bees

Activity Ideas:

Social Emotional Learning: The story mentions several personality types related to an online personality quiz: Auditor, Adventurer, Problem-Solver and Counselor. List the characteristics of each personality. Which ones do you most relate to? What kind of career interests you? Does it fit with your personality type?

Literacy: What are some of the obstacles that Leo faced as they worked to find the missing beehives? How did his character change by the end of the story?

STEAM: Research bees and design a model of a beehive using materials of your choice. Or build a real bee habitat to install outdoors.

MEDIA: Design your own computer game idea by making up a name and rules for how to play. Create an ad for your game in a format of your choice (poster, video).


Additional Resources:

25 Bee Activities for Middle Schoolers - Link here.

For my thoughts on some other books by Rachelle Delaney, click on the titles:

The Metro Dogs of Moscow  

Alice Fleck’s Recipes for Disaster

Book description from the publisher (to visit the publisher click here):   

A visit to Leo's grandfather's farm turns upside down when his grandmother's bee hives are stolen. A light-hearted and funny middle-grade novel for fans of Rebecca Stead and Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

Eleven-year-old Leo is an "armchair adventurer." This, according to Dad, means he'd choose adventures in books or video games over real-life experiences. And while Leo hates the label, he can’t argue with it. Unlike his little sister Lizzie, Leo is not a risk-taker.  

So when he, Lizzie, Mom and Dad leave the city to visit Grandpa on Heron Island, Leo finds all kinds of dangers to avoid — from the deep, dark ocean to an old barn on the verge of collapse. But nothing on the island is more fearsome than Grandpa himself — Leo has never met anyone so grumpy! According to Mom, Grandpa is still grieving the recent death of his wife, a beekeeper beloved by everyone on the island.

Despite Leo's best efforts to avoid it, adventure finds him anyway when Grandma’s beehives go missing in the dead of night. Infuriated, Grandpa vows to track down the sticky-fingered thieves himself . . .  with risk-averse Leo and danger-loving Lizzie (plus a kitten named Mayhem) in tow.

The Big Sting, written by Rachelle Delaney was published by Tundra Books in 2023.

 Other reviews of this book (click on title):



 To find more middle grade books to read, check out Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, organized by Greg Pattridge over at his blog.

Monday, April 17, 2023

THE THINGS OWEN WROTE by Jessica Scott Kerrin

Small line drawings of house, bat, boy, volcano
Why this book?

It was refreshing to read this unique middle grade novel. Owen is a likeable character and I enjoyed the mystery of wondering about what he had written in his journal that made him want it back so desperately. I also loved the idea of a spontaneous adventure to another country! This is a quieter story with interesting details about Iceland, but it also brings out some of the feelings Owen experiences as he realizes his granddad’s memory is starting to fail. 

Connections: Iceland, anxiety, grandparents, elder care, poetry

Activity Ideas:

Literacy – Make your own journal page about a place you’d like to visit (or a place you’ve been). Do some research to add “little known facts.”

Literacy/Poetry – Choose an object from a place you’ve visited. Make a list of words and feelings you associate with the object. Use your list to create your own poem.

History/Geography: Choose one of Canada’s northern lands, such as Nunavut, Yukon or the Northwest Territory. Find a map and trace or print it. Mark key features of the land. Research the kinds of buildings and animals you might find there.

Literacy Discussion – What do you think about Owen’s terrible secret? Record your thoughts or discuss the resolution to the story. What are your thoughts about using AI to help with writing an essay or assignment?


Description from the publisher:   

Owen has always done well, even without trying that hard. He gets A’s in school, is an avid photographer and knows he can count on his family’s support. But then Owen makes a mistake. A big one. And now he must face his fear of disappointing his entire family.

A last-minute trip to Iceland, just Owen and his granddad, seems like the perfect way out. For Owen’s granddad, the trip is about paying tribute to a friend with Icelandic roots. But Owen has a more urgent reason for going: he must get back the notebook his granddad accidentally sent to the Iceland archive. He can’t let anyone read the things he wrote in it!

The pair gets on a plane, excited to leave their prairie town for a country of lava fields, glaciers and geysers. However, as they explore Iceland, the plan to recover Owen’s notebook starts to spiral out of control. Why does Owen’s granddad seem so confused and forgetful? And can Owen really hide the truth of what’s in his notebook?

The Things Owen Wrote, written by Jessica Scott Kerrin was published by Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press in 2017.

You can find out more about this book, as well as connections to core standards, by visiting the publisher’s webpage HERE

Friday, March 31, 2023

Lucy Tries Hockey by Lisa Bowes & James Hearne

Why this book?

I was excited to see this book at my local library. It’s a perfect way to introduce kids to hockey – as well as the idea of practicing to get better. The big, bold digital –style illustrations are full of action. I also appreciated the diversity in the kids depicted on Lucy’s team. This book is part of a series, where Lucy tries other sports—soccer, luge, short track, basketball and baseball. Some of them are also available in French and Spanish.

My thoughts as a creator:

It’s great to see a picture book that focus on a girl learning to play sports. I love the added layers in this story about not being afraid to try and practicing. This story is also told in rhyme, which adds another dimension to the story. I’m looking forward to reading the other books in the series.

My thoughts as an educator:

I love the idea of reading books that show case different sports. This series would be great to read during an Olympic year, as well as anytime to promote active living. The story contains a lot of hockey vocabulary that I discussed with my students.

Ages: 4 - 7

Grades: K - 3

Connections: hockey, rhyming, practicing sports 


Active Play:  Check out this link from Hands On As We Grow for a fun way to play “indoor hockey” with tape and bean bag that could be adapted for playing on a table or area in the classroom.

Literacy: Draw a picture of your favourite sport or a sport you might like to try one day.

Literacy: Which sport do you think Lucy should try next? Write your own “Lucy Tries” story about your favourite sport!

STEM: Can you design a hockey stick? Provide materials for designing such as straws, popsicle sticks, cardboard, and tape. With a water bottle lid or other small object for a puck, students can test their hockey sticks on a table top to see which designs work best. Another challenge might be to try playing on different surfaces (e.g., carpet, table top, frozen slab of ice) to see what happens!


More resources:

Find out more about Lisa Bowes and her book Lucy Tries Basketball:

Read an article about Lisa Bowes and her series from Collingwood Today:

More information about the series from Orca Books:

Created by veteran sports journalist Lisa Bowes, the Lucy Tries Sports series aims to promote inclusive physical literacy and encourage young readers to get involved in sports. Endorsed by elite athletes, the series focuses on participation and the importance of play.

The books follow Lucy and her friends as they learn introductory skills in a variety of exciting sports, guided by coaches and teachers. Lucy's eagerness to try new things will inspire all children to get outside and play.

The Lucy Tries Sports series reinforces the HIGH FIVE principles of healthy child development needed for quality programs, including the support of a caring adult, the opportunity to participate, to play, to make friends and to master skills.

Description from the publisher:

Lucy and her family are skating on an outdoor rink when she sees a game of hockey going on. It looks like fun, but maybe too challenging. Supported by her parents, Lucy enrolls in an introductory hockey clinic. And thanks to an encouraging instructor, she and her friends learn basic hockey skills, have fun on the ice and decide to add hockey to their list of favorite sports!

Lucy Tries Hockey is also available in French: Lucy joue au hockey

Lucy Tries Hockey by Lisa Bowes and illustrated by James Hearne was published by Orca Books in 2018.

For more wonderful picture books, visit Perfect Picture Book Friday at Susanna Leonard Hill's website