Friday, December 2, 2022

The Bird Feeder by Andrew Larsen & Dorothy Leung

child and grandmother looking out a window at a cardinal on a bird feeder
 Why this book?

I don’t often read picture books that make me cry, but this one did. It reminded me so much of my own mom, the process of her dying and her love of birds. I loved the relationship between the child and their grandma, and the things they liked to do together. 

This would be wonderful book to help a child with grieving a loss of a special person in their life, because of the calm and steady way it showed what happened. It’s also the first time I’ve seen a hospice depicted in a picture book.

My thoughts as a creator:

The simplicity of the straightforward language and description created a sense of comfort when I read this story. There are many lines that give you space to stop and think and just feel the emotion. It’s a great example of a quiet and gentle book that can evoke emotions. I also loved the illustrations in this story. Though many of the scenes take place in the same room, different perspectives add interest, and carefully chosen details evoke emotions to fit with the text.

My thoughts as an educator:

I think this is a good book to provide for optional reading in a classroom or library. It needs a quiet space with some time for discussing the feelings and personal connections that might emerge when reading. I’d read this in a smaller group setting, so that children have a chance to talk about their own feelings and relationships with the special people in their lives.

Ages: 4 - 7

Grades: K - 3

Connections: grandparents,  birdwatching, dying, hospice care, therapy dogs  


Literacy: Draw a picture of something special you like to do with a grandparent or other family member.

Literacy & Social-Emotional Learning:  Contact a hospice or retirement home to see if your students could make drawings or cards for residents. Have students create art or drawings or messages to brighten the walls in a retirement home or hospice.

STEM:  Create a bird-watching station in the classroom (e.g., make a sign for the window, provide binoculars and bird watching charts and books, as well as a book for students to record their own bird drawings). Provide materials to create bird nests or design a bird feeder.

More info:

Bird inquiry resources:

The Curious Kindergarten 

Kindergarten Fun in Room 101 

Mrs. Albanese's Class

Cornell’s Bird Academy (a forum for discussing citizen science investigations with ways introduce and assess student inquiry projects)

How to explain hospice care to children from Bridge Hospice Care

Description from Kids Can Press:  

When Grandma gets sick and comes to stay at her grandchild’s house, she brings her bird feeder. Grandma loves birds. And the child loves the time they now get to have together, drawing pictures of birds and “talking about interesting things.” After a while, though, Grandma’s health declines, and she moves to the hospice. Hanging Grandma’s bird feeder outside the window there makes things better. After a while, though, Grandma continues to grow weaker, and her ability to interact lessens. Difficult as it is, the child adjusts, knowing that, while the situation keeps changing, their love for each other never wavers.

Award-winning author Andrew Larsen beautifully captures the special bond between a child and a grandparent, and sensitively deals with a child’s loss of a loved one. Using the motif of their shared love of birds and its physical manifestation in the form of the bird feeder allows for a continuity in the child’s life that puts the loss in a larger context. Larsen offers an authentic, straightforward presentation of the process of a loved one’s death, from being sick, to going to the hospice, to participating less and less in their relationship, to death. It will lead young readers to ask their own questions about life, death and how we remember those who die. The cool palette and simple lines in Dorothy Leung’s art evoke empathy for the child’s experience, while the presence of the birds adds life and hope to the visual story.

The Bird Feeder was written by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Dorothy Leung, and published by Kids Can Press.

Monday, November 7, 2022

The Great Caper Caper by Josh Funk & Brendan Kearney

characters from the story with the title above
Why this book?

I was so excited to see the latest “Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast” book! This one is a fun mystery with a friendship theme. I love how the characters work together to solve their problem.

A plus for these books is that there's humor in this story for grown-ups as well as kids, so they can be enjoyed by all age levels. It's definitely one you can read more than one time to appreciate all the details and the humor!

My thoughts as a creator:

What a great example of a rhyming story with a strong plot and storyline! I’m also amazed at how the author-illustrator team manage to work in so many characters and create a satisfying ending. This one is a great book to study if you love to write word play or want to see how another author uses “made up” names for settings in a humorous picture book.

My thoughts as an educator:

This is a great story to read with children to promote a love of reading! The fun characters based on food are really appealing to kids. I also loved how the characters work together to solve their problems. The illustrations contain lots of details that children can spend time looking at when reading the book on their own.

Ages: 4 - 7

Grades: K - 3

Connections: problem-solving,  teamwork, rhyming, friendship


Literacy & Dramatic Play: Try retelling the main events of the story. Children could draw the characters and attach to popsicle sticks to make puppets to retell the story events.

Literacy & Drawing: Talk about all the interesting places in the refrigerator! Encourage children to draw a map (or draw a map together) of some of the fun places. Bonus: Children could add to the map with their own imaginative names for places.

Literacy & Art: Look at the fun postcards from “Las Veggies” at the end of the book. Encourage children to design their own postcard from one of the characters in the story.

STEM: Create a challenge to build a tower using materials from around the classroom.


More info:

For a peek at an earlier adventure of Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast, check out my post on The Case of the Stinky Stench.

THE GREAT CAPER CAPER was recently selected as an Indie Kids' Next Pick.

This post is part of the The Great Caper Caper blog tour! Check out these other places to learn more about this story:




Description from the publisher:  

In the fifth adventure of the Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast series, our delectable rhyming friends find their home covered in darkness and embark on a Las Veggies heist—perfect for fans of The Food Group series.

When Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast awake one morning to near-darkness, they are aghast. Who would steal the fridge light? And what if the fridge is—gasp—dark all the time? Not to worry. Our trusty heroes are on the case. Will they be able to bring the fridge back to its bright self, or will they have to live in semi-darkness…forever?

The Great Caper Caper was written by Josh Funk, illustrated by Brendan Kearney and published by Union Square & Co.

Friday, October 28, 2022

3 in 3 (and tea!) Episode 3 - 3 books by Canadian creators

Welcome to another episode of 3 in 3 (and tea) with Debbie Ridpath Ohi and me, where we feature 3 children’s books by Canadian authors and/or illustrators and share a few tips and resources for using them in the classroom. 

In Episode 3, we explore a picture book and a middle grade novel with connections to family relationships, and a colourful bonus picture book! (If you want to catch up on other episodes, you can find them on Debbie's 3 in 3 playlist -- or click here: Episode 1 & Episode 2). After you watch the video, click on the titles or book covers below to find out more about the books and a few teaching ideas. 

Picture Book:

Grandmother and girl walking on beach towards water

 In this dual-language picture book, a young child and their grandmother experience the seasons through nature. The poetic language and detailed illustrations make this a wonderful story to inspire children to write and draw.

Learn about the book creators:

Author: Brittany Luby ๐Ÿ

Illustrator: Joshua MangeshigPawis-Steckley ๐Ÿ

Translator:  Alvin Ted Corbiere.

Visit the publisher:

House of Anansi Press/Groundwood Books 

Activities & resources here.

Middle Grade:

Girl and her duck sitting outside in nature
 Like a Duck by Deborah Kerbel

 Summary: In the middle grade novel, Like a Duck, Sarah, a girl who has a registered therapy animal, Webster, to help her copie with stressful situations, is forced to go to a French-themed cooking camp where her duck isn't wanted. A quirky and fun story with lots of heart.

Visit the author online:

Deborah Kerbel ๐Ÿ  

Visit the publisher:

Scholastic Canada


Activities & resources here.


Bonus Picture Book:

In Raindrops to Rainbow, a girl experiences different emotions on a day that starts out rainy. A fun rhyming story that features different colour words and shows the colours in a rainbow.

Visit the author and illustrator online:

John Miklos Jr.

Charlene Chua ๐Ÿ 

Visit the Publisher

Penguin Random House 

Activities & resources here.


**Find out more about Canadian author/illustrator Debbie Ohi by visiting her website.

**Thanks to The Faithful Sidekicks for writing and performing our theme song! You can learn more about them at their website

Raindrops to Rainbow by John Miklos Jr. & Charlene Chua


Painting of smiling girl with glasses holding an umbrella, walking under a rainbow with her dog

Why this book?

What a fun rhyming book about colours! I really loved the cute illustrations that showed a little girl and how she felt and the colours she enjoyed over a rainy day. Even though this story seems simple, there are lots of layers and ways to use this story in the classroom (another thing that attracted me to to this one).

My thoughts as a creator:

If you’re interested in writing rhyming stories, the text in this book is a great example of how to weave another concept, in this case colours, into a rhyming story. The way the illustrator kept the focus on the main character and showed her emotions was great for helping young children connect to the story.

My thoughts as an educator:

Not only does this story teach us about the colours in a rainbow and give kids a chance to practice colour words and names, but it also showed the different emotions a young girl experienced throughout the day. This book is a good length for preschool or kindergarten kids and the rhyming words and colours keep students engaged during a read aloud.

Ages: 4 - 7

Grades: K - 3

Connections: colours, rainbows, emotions, storms


Active Learning/Math: Have students go on a colour hunt for items of different colours around the room. Build a giant rainbow together using the items!

Literacy: Encourage children to listen for the rhyming words in the story. Choose one of the words and see how many rhymes you can come up with!

Social-Emotional Learning: Draw emoji faces to show the different feelings the girl experienced in the story. Encourage students to try to think of a time when they felt scared or joyful (or one of the other feelings they discussed). Encourage students to draw their own picture about a time when they experienced one of the feelings.


More resources:

Rainbow Activities for Kids at Growing a Jeweled Rose

Rainbow Activities for Preschool at Preschool Inspirations

Description from the publisher

Raindrops are falling outside, but there’s still a world of color to experience! Delightful rhymes and brilliant illustrations detail how a gloomy, rainy day might not actually be so gloomy after all when you get to spend time with Mom, Brown Bear, and the colors around you. And when a “beaming rainbow, bold and bright” cuts through the sky, everyone gets to experience the joy of all the colors that can only come after the rain.

Raindrops to Rainbow, written by John Miklos Jr. and illustrated by Charlene Chua was published by Penguin Random House.

I feature this book in Episode 3 of #3in3 (and Tea) with Debbie Ridpath Ohi. For other picture books we've featured, check out Debbie's Youtube playlist here.

Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know by Brittany Luby & Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley

Cover illustration showing child and grandmother walking outdoors over sand towards water

Why this book?

This wonderful book takes look at the seasons through feeling and experiencing them in nature. The more times I read it, the more I appreciate and think about different ways I know the seasons myself.

My thoughts as a creator:

I really enjoyed this look at the seasons from a perspective that is not my own. To stretch your writing brain, it would be interesting to try to make a list of the different ways you know the seasons (or a place) yourself and add those details to a manuscript or write a poem.

My thoughts as an educator:

child and grandmother in silhouette sitting in front of lake at sunset
I was so happy to share this book with my students! While we read this story, the children were eager to talk about their own experiences of how they experience the seasons. It’s wonderful to be able to share this dual-language story and keep it in the classroom for children to refer to at different times over the year. Talking about the illustrations with children provided so much opportunity for discussions about activities they experience with family members.

Ages: 4 - 7

Grades: K - 3

Connections: seasons, nature, Anishinaabe culture, intergenerational relationships


Literacy & Nature: Talk about different ways of knowing the seasons. Go out on a nature walk and explore. What do you see, smell and hear related to the current season? When you return inside, draw a “map” to show what you found.

Dramatic play: Make a list of student ideas about different ways of knowing the seasons. Have students take turns acting out one of the ideas while others guess what they are showing (or which season they are showing).

Art: After reading the story and talking about the details in the illustrations, encourage children to paint their own pictures to show a favourite activity they do with a grandparent or other family member. What details could they include?

Inquiry: Talk about the animals and plants shown in the story. Choose one animal or plant and find out what it does during the different seasons of the year.


More resources:

The publisher has provided a study guide with comprehension questions and activities related to seasons and storytelling.

Description from the publisher:

In this lyrical story-poem, written in Anishinaabemowin and English, a child and grandmother explore their surroundings, taking pleasure in the familiar sights that each new season brings.

We accompany them through warm summer days full of wildflowers, bees and blueberries, then fall, when bears feast before hibernation and forest mushrooms are ripe for harvest. Winter mornings begin in darkness as deer, mice and other animals search for food, while spring brings green shoots poking through melting snow and the chirping of peepers.

Brittany Luby and Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley have created a book inspired by childhood memories of time spent with Knowledge Keepers, observing and living in relationship with the natural world in the place they call home — the northern reaches of Anishinaabewaking, around the Great Lakes.

Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know was written by Brittany Luby and illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckly. It was translated by Alvin Ted Corbiere. This book was published by House of Anansi Press and Groundwood Books.


I feature this book in Episode 3 of #3in3 (and Tea) with Debbie Ridpath Ohi. For other picture books we've featured check out Debbie's Youtube playlist here.

You can also find wonderful picture book selections at Perfect Picture Book Friday, a blog review feature compiled by Susanna Leonard Hill, listing picture books with contributions by avid picture book readers and book bloggers.

Monday, October 24, 2022

LIKE A DUCK by Deborah Kerbel

Girl and duck sitting on a hill with lake and sun in the background

Why this book?

There were so many things to love about this book! Sarah, the main character lives with her mom and her duck, Webster, who is a registered therapy animal that helps Sarah when she feels stressed and anxious. Sarah has many worries, including how she’ll get through the unusual cooking camp her mom signed her up for as well as why her dad left when she was little.

I was really interested in the cooking camp—and a bit surprised to find it wasn’t quite what I expected. This book is about building relationships, coping with stressful situations and solving the mystery of what happens to Webster when he goes missing. 


Connections: family, friendship, anxiety, therapy animals, cooking


Activities for students:

Social Emotional Learning – Discuss different strategies for coping with stressful situations. Encourage students to write their ideas on cards to put in a basket in a “calming centre” where they can try each other’s ideas.

Literacy – A great activity could be for students to each make a list of 7 things people should know about their pet or about them. Posting them anonymously could make for a fun guessing game about who’s who.

Personal Journal – Reflect on times when you were forced to participate in something you didn’t want to do. What did you do? Is there something you could have done differently?

Reasoning Skills: List the pros and cons of having a duck for a pet.

Literacy & Problem-Solving: Brainstorm a list of ideas for what Webster might be doing while Sarah is searching for him. Provide materials for students to create a board game to show where Webster the duck might have gone.

More resources:

Discussion and Activity Guide from Scholastic

Description from the publisher:

For almost as long as she can remember, it’s been Sarah, her mom and her steadfast duck, Webster. Ten years ago, Sarah’s dad mysteriously left, and it feels more important than ever for her to find out why. But that is going to be harder than she expected.

When Sarah’s birthday plans get cancelled, she is sent to a camp where she doesn’t want to be. It couldn’t get any worse. And then it does. Will Sarah have to say another painful goodbye?

In a story about love, loss, unexpected friendship and finding out who you are, Like a Duck reminds us that family is what you make it . . . and sometimes what feels broken is actually imperfectly perfect.


Like a Duck by Deborah Kebel was published by Scholastic Canada.

You can also find more middle grade book selections at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, a blog review feature compiled by Greg Pattridge, listing middle grade books with contributions by enthusiastic middle grade book readers and book bloggers.

Monday, September 19, 2022

HAVEN JACOBS SAVES THE PLANET by Barbara Dee – a story about climate and eco-anxiety

Caucasian girl sitting on the ground drawing the title with her finger and small plants around her
Why this book?

I was interested in reading this story because of my own growing awareness about the impact we are having on our climate and environment. The anxiety that the main character, Haven, feels is something more and more people are becoming aware of and maybe are even experiencing. 

While this story might be seem a little intense for children already grappling with anxiety, it may also be helpful to show that they are not alone in their anxious feelings and behaviours. I’m really glad that this story showed me a window into the feelings that Haven was experiencing as well as showing her getting counseling help.

I really enjoy the realism of Barbara Dee's characters. Haven wasn’t a perfect student and I appreciated how she had an understanding teacher to encourage her to complete her work. Haven’s river project gave her a chance to use problem-solving skills, collect data and speak out about something important to her. I loved the message that small steps are important in bringing about change.

Connections: eco-anxiety, climate, environment, data collection

Activities for students:

Social-Emotional Learning – A lot of times we can feel anxious about things happening that are beyond are control. Encourage students to regularly practice mindfulness or calming strategies such as one of the many techniques in the book, Breathe Like a Bear by Kira Willey (Rodale Kids, 2017).

Literacy – After reading, students could discuss the climate problem and solutions Haven tried, or represent the information in a graphic organizer. 

Literacy & Art—Design a poster Haven might have created to advertise her project.

Math/Science—Explore a climate related issue such as pollution by considering trash around your school yard. For example, collect data to monitor the amount of trash collected weekly in your school yard. How could you increase awareness of the issue?


Description from the publisher: 

Twelve-year-old Haven Jacobs can’t stop thinking about the climate crisis. In fact, her anxiety about the state of the planet is starting to interfere with her schoolwork, her friendships, even her sleep. She can’t stop wondering why grownups aren’t even trying to solve the earth’s problem—and if there’s anything meaningful that she, as a seventh grader, can contribute.

When Haven’s social studies teacher urges her to find a specific, manageable way to make a difference to the planet, Haven focuses on the annual science class project at the local Belmont River, where her class will take samples of the water to analyze. Students have been doing the project for years, and her older brother tells her that his favorite part was studying and catching frogs.

But when Haven and her classmates get to the river, there’s no sign of frogs or other wildlife—but there is ample evidence of pollution. The only thing that’s changed by the river is the opening of Gemba, the new factory where Haven’s dad works. It doesn’t take much investigation before Haven is convinced Gemba is behind the slow pollution of the river.

She’s determined to expose Gemba and force them to clean up their act. But when it becomes clear taking action might put her dad’s job—and some friendships—in jeopardy, Haven must decide how far she’s willing to go.

Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet by Barbara Dee was published by Simon & Schuster in 2022.