Tag Archives: picture books

‘The Aunts Come Marching’ by Bill Richardson and Cynthia Nugent

(Preschool – 3) Thanks to Jessica for putting me onto this fabulous musical counting book with a catchy marching tune. Road tested with our new grandchild, this slightly wacky but delightful book is already a favourite both with children and adults (always my benchmark with picture books)! The illustrations are such fun, the repetitions irresistible, and in case the tune  is unfamiliar, there is a helpful musical score included. What a great introduction to various instruments as well! The eccentric aunts (not ants) come marching one by one, two by two, etc., all playing loud instruments and bound on staying for awhile. Oh help!! Dad would like to be marching (or swinging) to a slightly less frenetic drumbeat…in his hammock!

‘Scaredy Squirrel’ by Mélanie Watt

(Age 5-7)
This award winning series of children’s picture books features an adorable paranoid squirrel. It receives high marks from me for humour and for tapping into one of life’s realities: fear. If books are handy tools for vicariously encountering all kinds of human experience and emotion, this series has good value indeed!

Scaredy Squirrel would rather stay in his safe and familiar tree and follow a carefully planned routine, than risk venturing out into the unknown. Until one day the unexpected happens…and of course, he learns a gentle lesson that life will sometimes thrust him out of his comfort zone. What I like is that while developing him slightly, the experience doesn’t change him completely which is realistic and affirming.

Other titles in the series: Scaredy Squirrel… at night, goes camping, at the beach, as a birthday party, makes a friends, prepares for Christmas, and prepares for Halloween. Lots of adventures where courage is needed!

I loved the note at the back of the book:  “Mélanie Watt never leaves her home near Montreal, Quebec. She would rather concentrate on creating books for kids.” 🙂

Here is a read-aloud of the story. (If you can’t see this or interact with it in your email post, just click on See All Comments  or on the Post/Book Title at the top of the post, and you’ll get right to the blog where you’ll be able to click on the link.)


‘Oi Frog’ by Kes Gray and Jim Field

Oi Frog!starstarstarstarWho doesn’t love a charmingly silly story with inventive illustrations!?! This children’s picture book has it all…humour, rhyming, creativity, and all together it’s just plain fun. It might even lead to a game to play on your next road trip!

Cats sit on mats, hares sit on chairs, mules sit on stools, gophers sit on…well, you get the idea! But that frog, oi that frog, is being a pain because he just will not agree that he must sit on a log!

While researching this book, I came across this delightful poem review on Goodreads by Leila Skelton which recommends the book way better than anything I can say about it:

This book is like a rhyming treat
Accomplishing that special feat
Of mixing up who wrote, who drew,
Producing something fresh and new
That overall is very funny
(And very worthy of your money).

A frog would like a comfy spot
But is that easy? No, it’s not!
For every creature that we meet
Has got a special rhyming seat
And finding where we sit each one
Is really only half the fun!

My nieces love this. (knew they would)
All bedtime faves have been forgotten
In favour of a froggie’s bottom!

I hope you take this tip from me:
(So far, bought 3…)

‘Stellaluna’ by Janell Cannon

StellalunastarstarstarstarstarThis is a gorgeous children’s picture book from the 90’s. I’m not sure how it never came across my radar before. Thanks for the heads up Kathy (via K & M)!

It is a tender story of family, friendship, and love but far from schmalzy. A fruit bat is separated from her mother and ends up living with a bird family. There is hilarious humour around the fact that birds and bats are very different creatures indeed! But there are also powerful messages about how to appreciate and value difference in yourself and in others. The illustrations are luminously deep and capture remarkable moments in the story.

Enjoy the story and pictures here, beautifully read by Pamela Reed.

‘The Quiltmaker’s Gift’ by Jeff Brumbeau and Gail de Marcken

The Quiltmaker's Giftstarstarstarstarstar
(K – 3) A quilter who makes the most beautiful quilts in the world, generously gives them away to those who need them. However, when a greedy king asks for one, she refuses to oblige, and bravely steps out to teach him a valuable lesson. It’s a lovely old-fashioned folk tale all wrapped up in beautiful cozy quilt designs.

The author Brumbeau claims that his exposure to independent self-sufficient women (his mother and his sister) gave him the inspiration for this book and others. The illustrator de Marcken says that she has been lucky to have lived in many different places in the world which have inspired her work. Her illustrations are brilliantly colour rich and fanciful.

One fun aspect of the book for quilters, which I am myself, is that the elaborate illustrations throughout the book are full of clues to quilt block names! For example, the ‘bear claw’ pattern is in the quilt that she gives to the bear in the cave.

You can link to a a full reading of the story with pictures here.

Quilts from The Quiltmaker's GiftThere are companion quilt books available with patterns for the quilts featured in this picture book by Joanne Larson Line. According to reviews this first one is superior to the sequel. Check Amazon or your local quilt shop.


‘Happy Birthday, Royal Baby’ by Martha Mumford

Happy Birthday, Royal Baby!starstarstarstarstar

Countries that have royal families tend to be besotted with their monarchy. The British are no exception, and after living in the Royal Borough of Windsor for 4 years now, I also confess to some “royal watching”. I admit to checking the flag on Windsor Castle daily (from my bedroom window), just to see if the Queen is in. “Queen’s in” I’ll quip, on my way to making myself  my morning cuppa…silly woman that I am, it means nothing, but it is sort of nice to know!

Since I was away for Prince George’s first birthday (shame on me), spending the summer in Canada, I was delighted to find this picture book in my house upon my return – a gift left from a house guest. Thanks Evelyn!

It’s a great humorous look at all the fuss families make about a child’s first birthday, when actually the toddler will never remember the event anyway, and in truth will usually ignore all the expensive toys and end up playing with the box! The greatest picture books are just as entertaining for the adult who’s reading them, as for the children who are listening, and this one achieves that, in fact it will likely have the adults chuckling more.

Ada Grey has done a marvellous job of the illustrations: colourful and recognizable sketches of all of the members of the royal family including the Middletons. And there are corgis involved in all sorts of fun activities on every page! I wonder if the parachuting Queen was inspired by the London Olympics?

A fun picture book for Brits and Canadians alike, because even though they may not admit it, Canadian royal fans are just as besotted.

Shhh! Don't Wake the Royal Baby!In case you are interested in royal collections, there was a previous book by Martha Mumford called Shhh! Don’t Wake the Royal Baby which coincided a year ago with Prince George’s birth.

Newsflash: Announcement made last night, another royal baby on the way! 🙂

Author Feature: John Burningham

When I was visiting Henley-on-Thames for the first time, I stumbled onto one of those charming independent book stores which are sadly becoming increasingly rare. It’s marvellous to browse and take advantage of artful displays. This bookstore had a very extensive picture book display where I got lost for quite awhile. People who know me, know how much I love good picture books! I firmly believe they are extremely important for children of all ages. When I finally emerged from that display of picture books, I had rediscovered a favourite children’s book author and illustrator John Burningham.

Burningham’s award winning books are quirky and original. They offer simple story lines, delicious repetition, humour, and a delightful anticipation of how the plot will unfold. Beautifully sketched illustrations adorn these extraordinary stories. Burningham has written and illustrated many children’s books, these are three of my favourites.

Mr. Gumpy’s Outing

Because Mr. Gumpy makes some clearly unrealistic demands of his boat passengers, the reader knows there will be something catastrophic coming up very soon! It goes against the very nature of a rabbit to not hop, a Jack Russell terrier dog to not tease the cat, and chickens to not flap! We all know that this will be an eventful trip down the river for Mr. Gumpy and all of his passengers! Note, it’s not Mr. Grumpy, it’s Mr. Gumpy, whose grace is evident despite the bumpy ride and is amazingly not grumpy at all!


The plot is hinted at immediately in the sub-title: The Adventures of a Goose with no Feathers. Bald Borka has  a problem and is suffering from being different from her siblings and other geese. With the absence of feathers, in addition to being ridiculed and being cold, Borka cannot fly!  What will happen to the poor goose wearing a knitted jersey for warmth, when her whole family leaves her?

Avocado Baby

An amusing story featuring a common problem – baby won’t eat. To the rescue comes an unusual food for a baby to fancy, but the results are astounding!

The Guardian has a great interview with John Burningham, talking about his work and his books.  Here is the link, there is a little  5 min video which is worth watching, and not just because it features his own Jack Russell terrier at the end!
“I became an illustrator by accident”

And, if you love a good dog story, sit back and enjoy this 12 minute version of ‘Cannonball Simp’ with beautiful music and narration accompanying Burningham’s illustrations.

‘Sidney & Norman: A Tale of Two Pigs’ by Phil Vischer

How can a couple of pigs in business suits teach us a thing or two about the love of God? Phil Vischer, creator of ‘Veggie Tales’, brings us a delightful story about  two different pigs who both receive messages from God. It completely changes the way they see themselves and others. And the message is of course for the reader as well.

Sidney is messy. Always late and can’t keep up, he stumbles and struggles through life and though he tries, he never seems to measure up. Norman, on the other hand, is always on time, ever neat and tidy, and sometimes considers himself so good that it causes him to look down on others. Then one day they each receive an invitation from God because He has something to tell them. Norman is happy and proud to have the invitation, Sidney is terrified. What will they hear? Is it what they were expecting?

Phil Vischer is creator of Veggie Tales. Although I am not a huge Veggie Tales fan, this little story about how we judge each other and even ourselves is a multi-layered story for kids of all ages.

Author Feature: Nancy Tillman

Enchantment and wonder: these are the words which best describe the picture books by Nancy Tillman. Dancing polar bears, sleeping in a tree with a fat panda, sleepy cows: this is the stuff of Tillman’s unusual books for children.  The illustrations are breathtaking and the words are lyrical. The main message to children in Tillman’s book is “You are special and you are loved.”

There are several books to choose from, check out Nancy Tillman’s website.

Nancy Tillman’s Website

‘On the Night You were Born opens with these words.
“On the night you were born, the moon smiled with such wonder that the stars peeked in to see you and the night wind whispered, ‘Life will never be the same.’ This book makes a great gift for a new baby.

‘Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship’ by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Dr. Paula Kahumba

 What a great story and what a beautiful book! When life gets tough, we make unusual alliances and find unexpected friendships.  And we don’t have to be the same in order to get along! A line from the book sums it up, “Our most important friends are sometimes those we least expected.”

Tragedy struck both human and animal life with the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean on Dec. 26, 2004. An orphaned baby hippo was rescued  and sought solace in a friendship with an old tortoise in his new home in Kenya. They became inseparable. The photographs are amazing and this  true story is well told. “Mzee” means ‘elder’ in Swahili.

Owen & Mzee

Update: “As of March 2007, Mzee has been removed from the enclosure. A female hippopotamus named Cleo has been added to provide companionship for Owen. Owen seems to be adapting to his new companion and it is possible that Owen and Cleo will have offspring when he reaches maturity.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owen_and_Mzee]