When Annick Press, an independent publisher based in Toronto, approached us with their new fall catalogue we were pretty excited. My kids meticulously scrolled through the list of new books and argued about which ones to pick. We've reviewed our choices below but please head over to their website to see the whole selection (a few others new releases are pictured above). Many thanks to Annick Press for the books!
Written by Robert Munsch and Illustrated by Michael Martchenko
Release date: September 3, 2019
My kids were immediately drawn to this book since they are so familiar with the work of Munsch (aren't all Canadians?). This is quite a different book though, as it isn't a story in the traditional sense. In 'Moods', each page has a picture from one of Munsch's classic stories and a single word to match it. An emotion or mood (see photo below). It was perfectly timed for us leading up to the start of school. My youngest just started kindergarten last week and he was a little unsure of his feelings about it. We spent time during the summer reading through this slowly and thinking about what the characters were doing in each picture and where the feelings might have come from.
We do a lot of talking about our feelings in this house and I'm always happy to find a new tool to spark discussion. Using characters and stories that we are all so familiar with really helps my kids relate to what they are going through. I also love using his books in class because he represents our beautifully diverse population and kids can see themselves represented in the pages. This book would be an asset to any early elementary classroom or family working on emotional intelligence.
Why Don't Cars Run on Apple Juice?
Real Science Questions from Real Kids
Written by Kira Vermond and Illustrated by Suharu Ogawa
Release date: September 10, 2019
This book was my 7 year old's top choice. He loves asking questions and finding out new facts. He could have easily written the title. It was the first book he picked up when they arrived and he is still working his way through it daily. It is absolutely packed full of information. Each topic/question has a long page or two of details including beautiful illustrations that help illuminate the given answers.
It is recommended for ages 7-11 (grades 2-6). I would definitely have this in my classroom library and can see kids returning to it again and again to discover fun new information. Some of the questions/answers covered are "How do people think without language?" or "Why do we have different faces and ants do not?". Adults will enjoy reading this just as much as children (I certainly have!).
This book is an excellent tool for anyone looking to increase or enhance an interest in STEM (science, technology and maths) themes.
Our Big Little Place
Written by James A. Conan and Illustrated by Nicolle Lalonde
Release date: September 10, 2019
This is a sweet story told from a child's perspective, about life in an apartment building. It opens with our little narrator explaining that he hears his parents talking sometimes about their space being too small. He can't understand this because it feels so big to him! He talks about the feeling of being part of a community, part of the city and enjoying the view. He explains what he likes to play both inside (his apartment and the hallways) and outside at the park with his friends.
The story uses the simple idea of how children often see so much more beauty around them then adults do. More importantly though, the story normalises life in an apartment building. As a teacher in an urban environment, it is extremely important to me that my students can relate to and see themselves in the texts we read together. More often than not, characters in children's stories live in detached houses. Not many (if any at all!) of my kids can relate to that.
The book is recommended for ages 4-7 (grades Pre-K-2).
A Visual Exploration of Energy
Written by Shaker Paleja and Illustrated by Glenda Tse
We already own and love Eat Up! (see our previous review of it by clicking here), so were more than happy to explore a book with a similar format but focusing on energy. These books are great transition books for kids who enjoy reading on their own but can sometimes be overwhelmed by chapter books. There is a ton of writing in here, but the layout and info-graphic style makes it much less intimidating.
I happen to have a son who loves all things science related and seemed to be born an eco-warrior, so this book has fascinated him. It helps me as a parents when I can't answer all the questions that come at me and also gives us a lot to talk about and expand on. The text explains what energy is and where is comes from. It breaks it down into renewable and non-renewable. It reviews emissions and climate effects as well as discussing future possibilities for energy.
Whether or not this topic would be your child's first choice, I think it is a wonderful book to have as a socially responsible parent. I have always reminded my kids to turn lights off when leaving their room or not to stand with the fridge door open. After reading this, they seem to remember on their own and are more motivated to do so. As with most non-fiction books, I also think it would benefit any classroom.
50 Underwear Questions
A Bare-All History
Written by Tanya Lloyd Kyi and Illustrated by Ross Kinnaird
My 4 year old chose this book for obvious reasons. I wouldn't normally say a book of this length (105 pages) would be suitable for his age, but with a topic like underwear it is perfect. Adults and kids will all learn something new from this detailed history of undies. While my 4 year old will only listen to a page or two at a time, the funny illustrations keep him flipping through the pages even when his attention span is waning.
The chapters, which are surprisingly detailed, cover everything from what underwear was like in ancient times (Egypt and Rome) to how they did laundry in Medieval times. They review fashion trends like corsets, codpieces and petticoats. An exploration of different fabrics used will make you feel itchy all over (imagine sweating into burlap all day?).
This book is a fun way to sneak in a bit of historical learning without it feeling like some heavier history topics. Anyone with a reluctant history learner (or a lover of unusual historical facts!) should pick up a copy.
Our Halloween book choices and activities have been filling up our Instagram feed this month. Have you had a chance to check them out? We have now posted them all on the website so you can come back for them any time. This is just a peek at some of the fun we have had.
We started off with Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket. Using some leaves from our garden, we painted spooky ghosts on them to hang up as decoration. We also tried some scissor practise for toddlers, with chalk drawing and googly eyes, inspired by the ghosts in the story!
See our Goldfish Ghost activity page HERE!
Little Boo was probably our favourite new find this season. It is such a sweet story, you have to check it out. If you are a teacher or homeschooler, this book would be great for examining life cycles of plants. We looked at pumpkin seeds, did some sensory play with all the pumpkin goop, made our own cardboard pumpkin and wrote about things we can't wait to do when we grow up!
See our Little Boo activity page HERE!
J is for Jack-O-Lantern turned out to be way more than just an ABC book. There are loads of interesting facts in there which make it appropriate for older readers while the ABC factor is great for younger ones.
We decided to make some play dough jack-o-lanterns and did a shadow and light investigation with our pumpkin templates.
See our J is for Jack-O-Lantern activity page HERE!
Our final read was probably the spookiest of them all! A few household objects come to life which might scare some younger readers (but is a really fun read for anyone who can handle it). To offset any fear, we made light of objects coming to life by adding adorable little eyes to furniture around our house.
See our Rules of the House activity page HERE!
Llama Llama Red Pajama somehow flew under the radar for me. I only discovered it when the author, Anna Dewdney, unfortunately passed away. It still took me until very recently to read it. Which is such a shame because I absolutely love it. I think I might even say it is my new favourite book. I was laughing out loud reading it to my kids, because I AM MAMA LLAMA!
Sleep is such a funny thing. As a kid you never want to go to sleep. As a young adult you stay up super late or all night with no real repercussion. You reach your late 20s/early 30s and you are now nicely settled into an early bed routine (maybe that was just me? I don't know) and properly appreciate a good sleep. Then you have kids and you miiiiiiiiss your sleep. I don't think I've slept for 8 hours straight in 5 years.
It is my own fault. I know that and I am not complaining. I did not want to sleep train (good for you if you did, we all make choices that work for us). We had the babies in the room with us for a long time. I breastfed all night long. Like every hour. For a long time. To be fair, once each kid reached around 1 year old, they were both pretty great sleepers. It is just all those things that come up and make them temporarily bad sleepers again. Like teething. Illness. Developing asthma. Getting rid of a dummy/pacifier. Transitioning to a bigger bed. Moving siblings into a room together. Moving house. Potty training. Nearby construction. Hot weather. Cold weather. Learning about monsters...the list could go on.
Aside from all the bumps in the road of sleep, there is the monumental task of actually getting them to drift off. I know some friends who after reading books, stick kids in their beds and walk out of the room. Job done. I know some who lay and cuddle kids for an hour until they fall asleep. I suppose in our house we fall somewhere in the middle. We could probably be a bit better at bedtimes. We probably let the kids drag it out longer than necessary. Part of me doesn't want to rush bedtime because they are only little for such a short time. Of course I have days where bedtime seems never ending so I leave the room and end up with little llama's screaming mummy, filling me with guilt as I pour a large glass of wine!
So it's those days, the off ones where bedtime isn't a smooth as it could be, that inspired me to focus on bedtime books this week. We've read them a million times but have never really done more with them. Maybe, just maybe, a little learning linked to these books about peaceful bedtime routines could help us out. We shall see.
Listed below are the books I am aiming to cover this week and a brief breakdown of some activities I thought would link nicely to them. As usual, I will post our activities on Instagram with more detailed descriptions of each task.
1) Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
I thought we'd start with some simple fun stuff. We love to play 'spot the mouse' in this book, so I'm going to create a 'spot the alphabet' hunt around the house for E. I thought a nice activity for both kids to do together is to remake the book within their own room - so take pictures of their room, then print them and create a similar story to read at night. Since F has been doing a lot of rhyming in school lately, we can pull out rhyming words from the story. Then I also want to look at the clocks on each page of the book and work out how long it take the bunny to sleep! If we feel scientific, we might even talk about how the moon rises on each page.
2) Mortimer by Robert Munsch
This book seems perfect for a little problem solving task. I want F to think about why Mortimer does what he does. Then I want him to think of what the family could do differently. Next, for both kids I thought it would be fun to write a new song for Mortimer (need to prepare myself for them singing it at bedtime though!). Then I thought we could even make music to go with it.
3) Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
When little llama starts to freak out, he does some great actions I thought my little guy would have fun copying. I might even go so far as have him use actions to retell the story and get big bro involved. As with many of these books, there are wonderful rhymes, so will work on those with F some more. Since F often claims he is scared on his own at night, I thought it would be a good idea to look at fear related to the dark and what little llama is scared of in the story.
4) The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
For a bit of fun and vocabulary building, I want to have E try on big/medium/small clothes. The animals in the book follow a nice little routine, so I want to discuss our own routine and see if the kids want to change anything or add to it. For a bit of physical activity I want them to try out each exercise the animals do (probably not right before bed though!). We might try a bit of yoga or stretching at bedtime, depending on what they decide they'd like to do. I also want to highlight how the animals HANG UP THEIR OWN TOWELS!! Maybe that will inspire my kids try hanging things up. Just once even. Doesn't even have to be hung up. Let's just aim for not on the floor. That would be dreamy.
5) Bedtime for Peppa
So this obnoxious little piglet has made her way back into our lives. F went through a Peppa phase when he was little. It lasted 6 months and I haven't been happier for a phase of his to end! Now E has discovered her. We are trying hard to stick to books and not TV, which make her a little more bearable. To be fair, they often have really nice social stories about home life that kids relate to. This one in particular lays out the bedtime routine really well. To finish our bedtime book theme, I want to make a bedtime checklist together that involves how long each activity should (reasonably) last, decide how many books we can read or how long mummy/daddy stay in the room, how many songs are sung etc. Then we can make it up in a visual way for us to use each night. I'll be sure to report back if it works out!
Anyone else have tips for what works in their house? I am open to suggestions!
London holds a special place in my heart. Both of my children were born there and many great friends remain there. Last weekend marks one year since we left, so I thought it was a good time to pull out all our favourite books about London and take a little walk down memory lane. Kids have such a funny sense of time - a year, a month, a week, an hour. My 4 year old is sort of getting a better grasp of it but it is still hard to explain just how long a year really is. I suppose I am not much better. It feels like a life time since we left but also like yesterday.
Whenever I strike up a conversation with a stranger (like today in the library with a fellow mum), my 'sort of' newness to the area comes up. Then of course London comes up and always the same question - "Why did you leave?". That is a pretty hard question. I love London. It is such an amazing city and there was so much to do with kids there. We lived in a lovely suburb. I could walk absolutely everywhere (I don't drive). We could pop over to Europe for the weekend. I could go on and on.
Unfortunately we weren't close to any family and as we added to our brood, we started talking about moving 'home'. My kids could grow up with cousins and grandparents around them and that meant a lot to me. Also a teacher, I didn't really want my kids in the English school system. Don't get me wrong - I know a million brilliant teachers over there. It is more because of the constant change from the government, the pressure from inspections and the impossible workload put on teachers.
So that was it. We discussed it and kind of just did it. I started selling off our household items. We began the application process for residency for my other half. I booked a shipping container. We arranged flights. Then it sort of just happened. I was so sad leading up to the move, that it was like living in a blur. My youngest turned 1, just three weeks before we left and it was such a bittersweet celebration. Luckily we had a 2 week trip to France and a wedding of a good friend to attend before the actual move to Canada. That helped ease the transition a little bit.
It was still super tough though. When we arrived in Canada, it took months for my 4 year old to stop begging us to return or to tell me how much he missed his friends. You can plan all the activities in the world to distract a kid, but that won't stop them from feeling lonely. It broke my heart. It made the transition harder. Luckily little ones make friends quickly and soon move on. We have new friends and new jobs and have settled into life. Most importantly, I have more time with my kids, which was a big part of the move.
Sitting here a year on, we turn to books now to keep London and its memories alive in our kids' minds. We will go back one day with them, but for now we'll flip through the pages of these lovely books. Each page let's us tell our own family's story. Each page helps us reminisce.
Keep an eye out on our Instagram page for some of the activities we do that relate to each of these London books.
Hello! I'm Deb,
a book-toting mother of two and an elementary (primary) school teacher. I love making stories engaging and interactive for kids.
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