Author Archive

Dog Loves Drawing by Louise Yates

Stella Batts Needs a New Name by Courtney Sheinmel, illustrated by Jennifer Bell

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary

It has been a wonderful summer of learning and fun adventures! Even as I begin to write this my daughters are being amazed by the athletic feats of the paraolympic women and men. We applaud their courage and outstanding skills!

This has also been a very empowering summer for Elizabeth and Sophie. Both have made great progress in swimming, showing commitment to learning, and being the best individuals they can in the face of constant change (for Sophie – leaving her daycare familiarity and family after more than 4 years; for Elizabeth – evolving into a hand-raising, pick-me child who discovers how to float as the magician’s assistant at the CNE!) Both of my daughters surprise and amaze me regularly!

We have had a terrific time participating in the Toronto Public Library’s Summer Reading Program, seeing the behaviour of our visiting turtle Speedy and enjoying all this summer offered. Part of that was Elizabeth beginning to read chapter books on her own (starting with Stella Batts Needs a New Name, by Courtney Sheinmel and birthday gift Ramona Quimby, Age 8, by Beverly Cleary)

With fall around the corner, we are getting back on our regular reading together schedule. A recent favorite has allowed us to focus on story telling through illustrations rather than the words has been Dog Loves Drawings, by Louise Yates. This dog loves books so much he owns a bookstore! Then one day he receives a blank book for drawing and discovers the joy of creating his own characters and story. Make sure you have your pencils sharpened and some blank pages ready before you start this one!

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It’s hard to believe it has been over a year since Emerging Readers started. Thanks for visiting! It has been great to share so many  good books to inspire young people’s interest in reading. Now we are looking for our next creative adventure, so this will be the last post here.

In the meantime don’t forget what a wonderful place the TPL (or your local library) is for providing you with new ideas and great books. Keep reading – and we look forward to the next time our paths cross!


Hurray, the 2012 Summer Games have begun! What a fantastic opening ceremony — we look forward to the amazing display of sports (and good sportsmanship) to come over the next two weeks. Here are some of our favourite moments from these games so far –

Day 1 – Men’s doubles rowing heat
A Canadian team was winning this heat, having pulled ahead early and the commentators observed the tension building up in one of the rowers shoulders and arms. Feeling very happy about their victory Elizabeth observed “Well, they can take it slower when they are rowing back (to the start).”

Also Day 1 – Women’s basketball

Things were looking very promising for the Canadian women’s first game against Russia. However, the Russians proved too much in the final minutes beating our team by a 4 or 5 point margin. Sportsmanship is so key to all we do in life. Learning how to lose is such a hard lesson. Kudos to these women who, although disappointed, played as a team and accepted the outcome. This is a big and important lesson  — thank you ladies for showing us how to do it gracefully!

Day 6 – Sport unknown (overheard from upstairs)

Anil – “I can’t believe he just did that!!!”

Elizabeth – “OOOHHHHH!”

Also Day 6 – Practising for the 20?? Olympics at the Riverdale Pool – sister synchronized jumping event

Elizabeth  – “Sophie, that one was not the best, but the entry was clean.”

Day 8 – Trampoline

Canada’s first gold medal is won by Rosie MacLennan! Hurray! We are so proud of the people representing our country!

We are loving the Olympics, although it has combined with our few days vacation travelling in Ontario to put our regular reading on hold. I don’t really mind: there are so many great lessons and ideas these Olympics are encouraging, I think this is also time well spent.

Hope you have been able to enjoy some of the Olympics too. Feel free to leave us a comment with your favorite Olympic story.

Bea at Ballet by Rachel Isadora

Sophie & Elizabeth with dance instructor Megan at the Fringe Festival Production “RockGarden Party” July 14, 2012

We just have a few days left until Sophie’s week of summer dance camp. We’ll be lucky if she doesn’t explode from excitement first. Her dance classes to date have been primarily creative movement, but the idea of ballet intrigues her (she happily sat through an entire production of the Nutcracker back in the winter).

There are lots of children’s books about dance – this one shows lots of different dancers.  It provides a nice introduction to the common terms, moves and items associated with ballet. This book is a hit at our house right now; I’m sure Sophie sees herself in it. She is even trying out the positions based on the illustrations! If you have a beginning dancer too – check it out!

I recently picked up a booklet at the TPL celebrating Lillian Smith’s hiring and her contributions as Toronto’s “first professionally trained children’s librarian”. It is packed interesting historical tidbits and highlights 100 books published from 1912 to today. It has lots of familiar covers, some of which I recall reading as a child and one which we have covered in an Emerging Readers blog from almost one year ago (Press Here by Herve Tullet).

Included in the selection of 100 are some that we are fortunate to have as part of our home library collection that we can read time and time again –

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans – one of the original brave girls (“To the tiger in the zoo, Madeline just said ‘Pooh-pooh‘”). If you are thinking of taking your daughter(s) to see that new movie this summer, also plan to pick up this great book.

Mr. Gumpy’s Outing by John Burningham – I can’t count the number of times we read this one to the girls in the first years of their lives! It wasn’t a surprise to see the new book run now being featured in bookstores.

Finally, there is one book that we hope to catch as a theatre production in the next two weeks at the Toronto Fringe Kids FestivalSomething from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman.

There are many suggestions in this booklet that we haven’t read yet, so we are going to add them to our summer reading list and we may highlight some here soon! Let us know your favourite too!

Ivy + Bean – No News Is Good News by Annie Barrows & Sophie Blackall

Elizabeth, Sophie and I are about to embark on a new adventure – two months of summer vacation together! In recognition of this new three-of-us together model, Elizabeth and Sophie are contributing to this blog post. Each of us is looking forward to our own vision of what this summer will be…

Cathy: getting time to connect with each of my daughters in a way not possible during too short weekends, with (too many!) scheduled activities.

Elizabeth: sleeping in, no dictée and “my birthday is the next one in the family!”

Sophie: spending time with Lizzy, missing my daycare friends and (maybe) cracking the code to learn to ride a two-wheeler by myself!

Thanks to our local book bank, we’ve acquired a few books in a series that is one of our “old” favourites, first discovered through the public library — Ivy + Bean! Author Annie and illustrator Sophie can’t create these stories fast enough, but when Ivy & Bean – No News Is Good News became available this past spring, it encouraged us to re-read some of the previous adventures we had already enjoyed. They were just as fun the second time around! These stories are chapter books with occasional illustrations. Like many good books, you will frequently find yourself looking forward to the next opportunity to read more!

C: Which character do you like best?

E: Ivy

S: Yeah, Ivy

[This surprised to me. Both girls seemed to like the character who they describe as neater and more proper. Maybe because it is frequently Ivy’s imaginative and creative sides that cause the adventures to unfold!]

C: If you were to join in their next adventure what do you think it should be about?

S: Hotdog buns or bananas

E: Tiny, tiny beans or crickets, baby crickets

[This interview took place over breakfast. Sophie’s mind was obviously influenced by other forces!]

If you haven’t yet enjoyed these adventures, the stories are about two 7-year old girls who live on the same street. They are different enough that they never thought they would become friends — but they are! These are hilarious adventures involving dance, babysitters, ghosts, small individual wax-wrapped cheeses, mud volcanos, and more!

We also recently discovered a similar type of book series –  Heidi Heckelbeck has a secret. The author of this series has had four books published so far this year (!). Even though the library only has access to two of the books so far, if you need some additional good reading for this summer, it is worth checking out. Enjoy!

Owly – Just a Little Blue, by Andy Runton

Owly & Wormy – Friends all Aflutter, by Andy Runton

Ahhh, it’s spring time and everything seems so new again!

We got our bikes out, so Sophie and I have added some days of work and daycare commuting using our conjoined bike. So far it has been great! We have a low stress, downhill route in the morning and a bit more tricky (left hand turns and more traffic) ride uphill at the end of the day. Since this is still pretty new for us we are getting use to each other’s rythm and ways. The bike ride home seems to be Sophie’s preferred time to be a Star. There has never been a doubt that in our small family she is the born performer! During the bike riding she belts out every song she can think of including a good mix of Christmas favourites and songs I assumed she would have forgotten from mom and baby drop-in centre days (which seem so long ago now). She also includes some I’m sure are her own creation. It is this last batch that made me think she was ready for the type of children’s book without words – make up your own story. We had tried some of these  books before, with mixed success. However a recent library blog on kid’s comics plus her creative bike expressions suggested it was time to try that kind of book again. I think we are both glad they are in our current library borrowed pile!

Our usual morning breakfast routine was changed a bit this week. Sophie wanted to use a bar stool to eat at the little window/ledge that connects our kitchen and dining area. I find it so difficult to get her to focus on eating in the morning that I’m happy to accommodate most requests. This morning Sophie decided to entertain herself with Owly – Just a Little Blue while she sat there with her cereal. Her story evolved around an apple and I may have broken her interpretation when I told her the name of the owl. She only made it through a few pages, but as a natural story teller, I have a feeling she will be revisiting this one.

We also borrowed a copy of the picture book interpretation of this character Owly & Wormy – Friends all Aflutter, which we will have a look at this week.

I love to encourage my daughters to use their imaginations. As I’ve suggested in the past, this skill is often overlooked, but can be one of the best sources of satisfaction throughout life. While the timing with the wordless books didn’t work some months ago, now it seems to have found a receptive audience. I find it hard to know what kind of reading material will be appropriate when. I guess the trick is just to keep track of these possible tools and keep trying different ones until we find the ones that work to help our children develop in the way and at the pace that is right for them!

Happy story telling!


A Kiss for Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik and pictures by Maurice Sendak

I have often admired those with the skills to execute both the writing and the illustration that make a children’s book. Many times, however, it is someone else’s unique interpretation of a story that gives it some added depth.

This was reinforced this past week with Maurice Sendak‘s death. Where the Wild Things Are, the book he authored and illustrated, obviously made a huge contribution to children’s literature (and our thinking about the kind of information and thinking of children), but, to me, it is his illustrations of the Little Bear series that show his talent and his love of humour.

The Little Bear books depict the world from a young bear’s perspective including his understanding of himself and his interactions with others (family and other animal/human friends). His mother’s frank explanation of what will happen to him when he tries to fly like a bird to the moon is a classic in parental humour and honesty –
“And maybe ,” says Mother Bear, “you are a little fat bear club with no wings and no feathers. Maybe if you jump up you will come down very fast , with a big plop.” (Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik and pictures by Maurice Sendak)

The story that I find most lovely is A Kiss for Little Bear. This book is the final one in this series and the only one published after Where the Wild Things Are (there are hints that maybe Little Bear shares Sendak’s love of drawing wild things). It is the illustration on page 22 with Little Bear laughing as the little joke he has started with a kiss being passed along from friend to friend that shows Sendak’s skills as an artist. The mischievousness and fun of this illustration makes the words and characters in this story come alive. When you get a copy of the book, let us know if you agree!

Merci Monsier Sendak!