Friday, February 21, 2020

A FOX FOUND A BOX by Ged Adamson – a story about music and nature

Don’t be fooled by the rhyming title—this isn’t a rhyming story, but instead a celebration of music and nature. For me, it also had a deeper message about the benefits of turning off noisy media and taking time to listen and appreciate the world outside.

Summary from the publisher:

A little fox is digging for food when–OUCH! What is that?–the fox finds a box! When the fox brings the box home to his animal friends–and turns a funny-looking knob–the box starts to sing, and music fills the forest. Everyone agrees that it feels nice. Day and night, they listen to the box’s songs, until, one day, it goes quiet. No matter what they try, they just can’t get the box to sing again. The animals stop swishing their tails and flapping their wings…. But, in the silence, the fox hears the drip-drop rhythm of melting icicles and the thump thump of a beaver’s tail and comes to realize music is everywhere. The noises of the forest and the animals build into a symphony, until, eventually, everyone joins together in a joyous dance party.

A Fox Found a Box was written and illustrated by Ged Adamson. It was published in 2019 by Schwartz & Wade Books.


Fox was searching.

Somewhere, under the snow, there was food.

And to find it, he had to dive in.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

This is truly a story where every word counts. This would be a great text to study to see how the author uses onomatopoeia in a quiet story.

I really enjoyed the gentle, playful illustrations. It was interesting to think about how a few lines could create such expression in the animals’ faces.

My Thoughts as an Educator:

This is a lovely story for introducing music activities as well as for discussing sounds and things we hear. It also would be interesting to talk about the “box” and think about why it doesn’t work. This story shows problem-solving, persistence and appreciation for nature. A great book for the classroom – it could be used in many different ways, even as a model for drawing and creating animals through art.

Ages: 3-7

Grades: PreK – 2

Themes: music, nature, appreciating the world


Interactive Reading: Have children try to create some of the sounds as you read the story. What items would create a “swish-swish” or a “drip-drop beat”?

Explore & Listen: Go on a walk outside. What sounds do you hear in your neighborhood? Which are quiet? Which are louder?

Listen & Paint: Provide paints and play music while children are painting. Do different kinds of music lead to different colour choices?

Movement & Music: Play different kinds of music and have children make up their own movements. After each selection, give children a chance to share their feelings. How did the music make you feel?   

STEAM Challenge: Can you build something that makes noise? Decorate your construction! Find a friend and use your noise-makers to make your own music together.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

It's I Read Canadian Day!

I'm super excited about the first ever I Read Canadian Day! It's a nationwide celebration of Canadian authors. 

To learn more about it, read this article about author Eric Walters and how this movement started, from The Toronto Star.

For lists of books by Canadian authors and illustrators, check out the nominees in the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading program or this list of Canadian authors and illustrators with pictures of their books, created by Elizabeth Cook, a teacher-librarian in the Halton District School Board. 

Just a few of the wonderful Canadian books that I've featured on my blog:

Monday, February 17, 2020


I just loved this book! After I read it, I learned that it’s a re-imagining of the classic, Little Women. Except in this version, there are four sisters in a Muslim, Pakistani American family.

Description from the publisher

When Jameela Mirza is picked to be feature editor of her middle school newspaper, she’s one step closer to being an award-winning journalist like her late grandfather. The problem is her editor-in-chief keeps shooting down her article ideas. Jameela’s assigned to write about the new boy in school, who has a cool British accent but doesn’t share much, and wonders how she’ll make his story gripping enough to enter into a national media contest.

Jameela, along with her three sisters, is devastated when their father needs to take a job overseas, away from their cozy Georgia home for six months. Missing him makes Jameela determined to write an epic article—one to make her dad extra proud. But when her younger sister gets seriously ill, Jameela’s world turns upside down. And as her hunger for fame looks like it might cost her a blossoming friendship, Jameela questions what matters most, and whether she’s cut out to be a journalist at all…

More to the Story by Hena Khan was published by Salaam Reads, a division of Simon and Schuster, in 2019.

Why you want to read this book:
What I loved most about this story were the strong, believable characters and the way the family sticks together no matter what.  It was so interesting to have a glimpse into Jameela’s family and their culture. I felt like I was experiencing everything right along with Jameela. This is a story with a lot of heart.


“This is the worst Eid ever!” Aleeza flops onto the sofa and grabs the TV remote.

If you’re a writer…

You might want to read this and think about how the author develops characters through small interactions with the other characters in the story, and by sharing her thoughts and feelings. I also liked the way the author introduced important topics like microaggression and digital media use naturally within the context of the story.

If you’re an educator…

This would be a lovely, but quieter book to recommend for readers who are interested in family stories. There are lots of ways for readers to connect to the story through typical middle grade issues of friendship, crushes and conflict between kids in a school club. A great book to add if you’re trying to broaden your collection of diverse stories.

If you’re looking for more middle grade books to read, check out Marvelous Middle Grade Monday on Greg Pattridge's blog.

Friday, February 7, 2020


A fun story about friendship (with a few details about the differences and similarities between turtles and tortoises).

Summary from the publisher:

Two sworn enemies learn that they have more in common than meets the eye, and it’s never too late to make a new friend—even if it takes decades!

Ever since they were little hatchlings, Turtle and Tortoise decided that they’d forever be separated due to their different shells.

As years and years go by, the two reptiles stay on opposites side of the pen and embark on their own adventures, while holding an everlasting grudge. Until one day, Turtle and Tortoise get into a bit of pickle and need each other’s help!

Turtle and Tortoise Are NOT Friends was written by Mike Reiss and illustrated by Ashley Spires. It was published in 2019 by HarperCollins Children’s Books.


There is a place far, far away, and in that place two eggs found themselves in the same pen.
A turtle popped out of one egg.
A tortoise popped out of the other.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

I enjoyed the humor in this story! This would be a good one to study to see how to use animal characteristics as the basis for creating humor. 

I found it surprising that the front feet of the turtle and tortoise were referred to as hands – I wondered if this would be confusing for young children.

My Thoughts as an Educator:

I liked the way this story mirrors how children sometimes make their mind up about something based on a small, possibly erroneous, piece of information and later realize they weren’t right or that it doesn’t matter. I’d enjoy using this book to start a discussion on appearances are not always important when it comes to friendship.

Ages: 4-9

Grades: K – 3

Themes: individual differences, friendship, cooperation


Research & Share: What questions do you have about turtles and tortoises? Do some research and try to answer them! Share your findings by making a book or poster.

Dramatic Play: Make a turtle puppet and a tortoise puppet and act out the story.

STEM Challenge: Design a way for either the turtle or tortoise to get to the middle of the pen faster! What would help—a bridge? A vehicle? A balloon? Draw your design and then try to build it!

Monday, February 3, 2020

PIPPA PARK RAISES HER GAME by Erin Yun – A young basketball star tries for a new life

I’m not a big sports person, but I know lots of kids are, and it’s not always easy to find sports-related books with female main characters. Although I've never read Great Expectations, this book is a re-imagining of that classic story by Dickens.

Description from the publisher:

Life is full of great expectations for Korean American Pippa Park. It seems like everyone, from her family to the other kids at school, has a plan for how her life should look. So when Pippa gets a mysterious basketball scholarship to Lakeview Private, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself by following the “Rules of Cool.”

At Lakeview, Pippa juggles old and new friends, an unrequited crush, and the pressure to perform academically and athletically while keeping her past and her family’s laundromat a secret from her elite new classmates. But when Pippa begins to receive a string of hateful, anonymous messages via social media, her carefully built persona is threatened.

As things begin to spiral out of control, Pippa discovers the real reason she was admitted to Lakeview and wonders if she can keep her old and new lives separate, or if she should even try.

Pippa Park Raises Her Game by Erin Yun was published by Fabled Films Press in 2020.

Why you want to read this book:

If you love reading about sports, you’ll want to read this one! There are tense moments on the basketball court as Pippa tries to fit in with her new team. But what really kept me turning the pages was the contrast and tension between Pippa’s family situation and her new friends at private school.  This is a great story about how a girl struggles to fit in.  


I was the only person in the park.
Tucking a damp strand of hair back behind one ear, I surveyed the abandoned slides and empty benches.

If you’re a writer…

Consider studying the action scenes in this novel, especially if you’re writing about sports. The pace picks up and I felt like I was right there in the moment when Pippa was playing basketball.  

If you’re an educator…

This book would be a good one for a classroom or school library collection. The author includes many interesting details about Pippa’s experience as a Korean American background. Pippa’s struggles with trying to fit in with a peer group and make friends will be familiar to many readers.  How much do you tell others about yourself? Do you tell them the truth or adjust the truth to look different, to be what you think others want you to be?  

If you’re looking for more middle grade reads, check out the list over at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday on Greg Pattridge's blog.

Friday, January 31, 2020

UNDER MY HIJAB: A story about different ways to express yourself by Hena Khan & Aaliya Jaleel

I was really interested to learn about the hijab and all the different ways it can be worn!

Summary from Amazon:

Grandma's hijab clasps under her chin. Auntie pins hers up with a whimsical brooch. Jenna puts a sun hat over hers when she hikes. Iman wears a sports hijab for tae kwon do. As a young girl observes the women in her life and how each covers her hair a different way, she dreams of the possibilities in her own future and how she might express her personality through her hijab.

With cheerful rhyming text by the author of Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, and charming illustrations from a talented newcomer, Under My Hijab provides a friendly introduction to hijabs for all readers, and celebrates the many Muslim women and girls who choose to wear them.

Under My Hijab was written by Hena Khan and illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel. It was published in 2019 by Lee & Low Books.

Grandma peeks into the oven
as a brown loaf of bread starts to rise.
Her hijab is carefully folded,
like the crusts on my favorite pies.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

One of the things I found intriguing about this text was the structure. Each woman or girl is shown first in one situation wearing a hijab, and then in a situation without it. I haven’t seen many picture books written this way, but I like the way it allows the reader to compare the situations easily. I really enjoyed the way the women are shown with many different roles and interests.

My Thoughts as an Educator:

This is a great book for talking about individual differences and cultural or religious traditions. I loved how each character expressed themselves differently through their clothing.

Ages: 4-9

Grades: K – 3

Themes: individual differences, women, traditional clothing


Dramatic Play: Provide pieces of cloth for children to fold and experiment with wearing.

Draw & Write: Do you have a favourite piece of clothing? Draw a picture of it. What makes it special to you?  (Educators could hang the drawings around the classroom for a “gallery walk” as a basis for more discussion on individual differences.)

STEAM Challenge: Design a piece of clothing that can be worn on the head – a head scarf, hat or hair accessory. What patterns and colours could you include? Draw your design first, and then try to make it using paper, cloth and other materials.

Friday, January 24, 2020

THE MAGIC BOAT: A lovely story about imagination and friendship by Kit Pearson, Katherine Farris & Gabrielle Grimard

Reading this book made me long for the beach! This book has been nominated for the Blue Spruce Award in the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading program in 2020. I read a hard copy from my local library.

Summary from the publisher:

Every summer morning, Ellie and her Nonna go to the beach. They swim and build sandcastles, and while Nonna reads, Ellie watches the other children play. One day Ellie builds up the courage to approach an older girl playing on her own in a beached rowboat. Piper has a gift, an imagination so great that she whisks Ellie off on grand adventures, going high in the air, deep below the ocean and everywhere in between in their little blue boat, their magic boat. When Piper has to leave, Ellie discovers she has her own vivid imagination.

The Magic Boat, written by Kit Pearson and Katherine Farris and illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard, was published in 2019 by Orca Book Publishers. 

Every summer morning, Ellie and Nonna went to the beach.

Ellie built castles and decorated them with pebbles.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

What a lovely example of a "quiet" book! This book transported me to the beach with vivid details. The story wonderfully captures the transient connection between two children at the beach—and how different imaginations can lead to different play experiences. The soft pencil and watercolour illustrations are perfect for this sweet story.

My Thoughts as an Educator:

There are many possibilities for discussion with this story. It would be a good one to read before encouraging children to draw and write about their own experiences in writing workshop, for instance, meeting a new friend, going on a vacation, or doing something with a grandparent.   

Ages: 4-8

Grades: K – 2

Themes: friendship, imagination, beach vacations


Discuss: Was the boat magic? Why or why not?

Find and List: Look and listen for all the different birds and animals in the story. Make a list and count how many different animals there were.

Imagine and Write: Provide a “magic boat” (e.g., big box, large plastic tub, large mat) to sit in. As children sit in the “magic boat,” encourage them to imagine a story. On a clipboard, they can draw and write about what they imagine as they spend time in the “magic boat.”

STEM Challenge: Provide boxes, wood, bubble wrap, etc. Prompt: Create your own “magic” boat. Will it float?