Awesome Picture Books for Older Readers

We often post reviews of fantastic picture books that are perfect for sharing with your little readers – books that rhyme and are catchy read-alouds that are fun additions to storytime. However, there are also some great picture books that can be an absolute delight to share with older kids. For example, a few months ago, I blogged about the amazing book Captain Cat (review here), which got me thinking of those longer picture books that amaze you with their characters, plot and storytelling. Here are a few stories that will surprise and enchant you and your child.

Fantastic FlyingThe Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore
by William Joyce

Morris Lessmore loves words, stories and books, and after a tornado carries him to another land, dreary and colorless, he finds a single book in color that leads him to an amazing library where, he learns, the books need him as much as he needs them.

Why I love it (and you will too): The artwork is just beautiful, with great details and fantastic colourwork. Morris’ story is one that will warm the hearts of any book lover! Interestingly, this book first appeared as a film and an app!

500 hatsThe 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins
by Dr Seuss

When the old King Derwin passes through town, all around take off their hats, including young Bartholomew Cubbins. Unfortunately for him, as soon as he takes on his hat, another magically appears. Can Bartholomew take off his hat before the King takes off his head?

Why I love it (and you will too): This classic story has an amazing narrative build, and the increasing tension over Bartholomew’s fate will have you flipping the pages in anticipation. Reading the first two lines of this book still gives me happy shivers!

Day the CrayonsThe Day the Crayons Quit
by Drew Daywalt

When Duncan arrives at school one morning, he finds a stack of letters, one from each of his crayons; they feel quite badly used by Duncan. Can the young boy find a way to placate the crayons?

Why I love it (and you will too): These crayons have amazingly funny complaints! It’s a book that will make you laugh out loud and carefully comb over all of the illustrations. You’ll come back for this one more than once!

by Chris Van Allsburg

Left on their own for an afternoon, two bored and restless children find more excitement than they bargained for in a mysterious and mystical jungle adventure board game.

Why I love it (and you will too): This picture book lets the imagination run wild, so much so that it was made into a popular movie. Full of danger and adventure, this well-written book has illustrations that are realistic and unique.

Happy reading!


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Awesome Picture Book: Splat! Starring the Vole Brothers, by Roslyn Schwartz

SPLATThe Vole Brothers are enjoying a leisurely stroll, when…SPLAT! A pigeon leaves a very unpleasant surprise on one of their heads. I wasn’t yet familiar with Roslyn Schwartz’s illustrious Vole Brothers, but I have found a new favourite! This is the sort of book that will appeal as much to a 3 year old as it would to an 8 year old, and is a wonderful story for reading with a child one-on-one or a group of kids in storytime.

This is one of the funniest picture books I’ve read in a while; Schwartz’s lighthearted humour will definitely appeal to kids! Using sounds and images, SPLAT! Starring the Vole Brothers just continues to escalate in hilarity. The story begins with the harmless “Flap Flap Flap” of a pigeon, but as the bird approaches the vole brothers on their walk, the flapping begins to seem ominous. The brothers look up at the bird with an admiring “Ooooooooooo” which soon turns to “Err…” when they see that disaster (and bird poop) is about to strike. Unfortunately, the clean brother is not very sympathetic (laughing “Tee hee hee”), but he learns his lesson soon enough when he gets the bird poop thrown back his way. Things continue in this fashion, and even the pigeon feels the consequences of his actions! One of the things that I love about this book is the opportunity to laugh together and to discuss and predict what’s going to happen next.

SPLAT! Starring the Vole Brothers is the perfect read-aloud because of how well the sounds and pictures tell the story: Schwartz uses classic cartoon qualities (imagine that each page is a panel) which make it really fun to read sounds like “Tee hee hee” in a silly, animated voice.  The books works wonderfully as a means to help early readers and pre-readers recognize easy narrative structure and the spelling of simple sounds. Did I mention that it’s really funny, too? The Vole Brothers definitely brought out my inner kid.

I laughed my way through this expressive, slapstick picture book to the hilarious and clever conclusion. This book is a winner!



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Book Review: Curiosity by Gary Blackwood

curiosityCan you imagine a hoax so successful, that Napoleon Bonaparte, Benjamin Franklin and Empress Maria Theresa were all duped by it? That very thing actually happened, and the hoax revolved around an automaton named the Turk, that was said to be able to play a near-perfect game of chess. The public were amazed by the creation, until the day that it was revealed how the Turk really operated (hint – it wasn’t actually mechanical!). Curiosity by Gary Blackwood takes place in America, years after the truth about the chess-playing automaton has been revealed in Europe, and follows young Rufus Goodspeed, a chess prodigy forced to operate the Turk for a nasty and ruthless con man. This novel was a delight to read, and is sure to appeal to readers who like historical novels and adventure stories.

Rufus had a very easy life as a young boy. Despite have a slightly hunched back and being much smaller than the other children, he was well-looked after by his father and his nanny. He had a natural gift for the game of chess, which he discovered when he was 4 years old, and his father let him devote his days to playing the game and reading about it. This wonderful and idyllic life comes to a sudden end when Rufus’ father loses his position and winds up in debtors’ prison. Now, Rufus has to look after himself while also trying to find a way to make enough money to rent his father a bed in the prison. While in these dire straits, Rufus is offered a way out; he can work for Maelzel, the owner of a curiosity shop. Once Rufus arrives at the shop, he discovers the catch; Rufus won’t be getting paid for his work, and he can’t leave!

Maelzel has taken Rufus in order to use him to operate the Turk. He is a harsh task master, and Rufus becomes increasingly nervous. He isn’t the first person to operate the automaton, but what happened to the previous chess experts? Rufus begins to suspect that Maelzel is even more sinister and villainous than he could have imagined. As he tries to find a way to escape his fate, he must also attempt to keep the Turk’s secrets. After all, he has nowhere else to go!

Gary Blackwood created a very dynamic character and narrator in Rufus Goodspeed. Rufus opens the book with a direct address to the readers, assuring them that even though the book is about chess, he won’t go into too many technical details (a promise he delivers on). He vows that the reader will be engaged, and he does just that. Curiosity was a lot of fun to read, and has some nice historical touches that make it educational as well as entertaining. If you are looking for a good middle grade novel, consider trying out Gary Blackwood’s Curiosity.

Happy reading!


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New Arrivals in Children’s Music, Part II

This week’s new children’s CDs are wonderful albums featuring music from all parts of the world. Whether they’re re-imagined covers of traditional songs or folk songs from other places, we have a great selection of world music for every taste!

World travels : world music for kMusic World Travelsids / Music for Little People

Well-loved children’s and world music artists perform classics from many different cultures.

Blue clouMusic Blue Cloudsds/ by Elizabeth Mitchell & You Are My Flower

Elizabeth Mitchell and her family reinterpret a mix of Japanese songs and American music by artists like David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Bill Withers, Ella Jenkins, Van Morrison, The Allman Brothers.

Music Choo ChooChoo choo boogaloo : Zydeco music for kids  / by Buckwheat Zydeco

Babies, toddlers, and adults will love dancing and singing along to this fun album, where kids can learn about traditional Cajun music and instruments. Look how much fun he’s having!

Music AfricanThe rough guide to African music for children

Variety abounds on this compilation of African songs, chosen by kids (and enjoyed by adults)!

Music Mighty SkyThe mighty sky / by Beth Nielsen Chapman and Rocky Alvey

This one’s a wild card! The duo sings some great songs in different folk music styles, all about the planets and our solar system. This one is a fun and educational listen!

We have tons of fun and enriching children’s music to discover: come check out our collection.


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Battle of the Covers Round 2

It’s time for another round of Battle of the Covers! These redesigns often occur when books go from hardcover to softcover, or a second book in the series comes out, or just because. Let us know what you think of these cover redesigns, and remember, the original cover is always the first option.

First up is The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, which got a cover redesign this year. I was a little shocked when I saw the new one, but what do you think?

sisterhood old    sisterhood 2014







Next, we have a cover battle for Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. I can see what they were trying to do with the redesign, but I kind of like the somewhat darker cover. What about you?

Out of the easy 1

Out of the Easy 2








Next, let’s turn to YA super-author Sarah Dessen, who has written a great many books and has, in turn, had a great many cover redesigns. Let’s take a look at Someone Like You, one of her first. I have to say, I think the cover designs just keep getting better!

someone like you 1 Someone like you 29780142401774_SomeoneLikeY_CV.indd






Thanks for voting, and remember, you can share your thoughts in the comments!

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New Arrivals in Children’s Music, Part I

Music is a pretty amazing thing. For children, music and rhythm is a gateway to early literacy, language development, empathy, emotional growth, different cultures, movement, coordination, and even math! (Obviously, I could go on…) At the library, we love using music to help babies and adults bond, to share great energy, and to pave the way for early literacy and a love of words and books.

For older kids, I’ve been really delighted with the amount of great children’s artists there are to choose from these days. Today, I’d like to feature some of our new music here in the Children’s Department: original, fun, and well-reviewed albums that kids and adults can enjoy together.

My Best Friend is a Salamander by Peter Himmelman

“…A [Fred Koch] favourite…for its originality and child-like splendor,” Peter Himmelman’s first CD for children has been compared to Shel Silverstein in terms of its sometimes wacky wordplay.


TheyMightBeGiants-No!No!  by They Might Be Giants

All Music Guide gave the album a great review (among many other great reviews), calling it “one of the group’s most creative albums in years, and undoubtedly one of [the year's] best children’s releases, because it says yes to fun and individuality.”

Nora's RoomNora’s Room by Jessica Harper

A great album to dance to for preschool and up, in Nora’s Room, “Rhythms and rhymes play across the album in unpredictable, delightful ways.”
– Billboard Magazine

MeltdownMeltdown by Justin Roberts

Justin Roberts came up again and again in my search for music that both parents and kids can appreciate. “Roberts has been compared to James Taylor, a comparison earned mostly because their voices are similar. But Roberts’ musical strengths are his uptempo rockers…and this album shows off his guitar-based pop-rock to fine effect” (Zoogobble). Recommended for ages 5-10.

jennifer_gasoi_throw_a_penny_in_the_wishing_well_2012Throw a Penny in the Wishing Well by Jennifer Gasoi

Grammy-winner Jennifer Gasoi is a Canadian artist who “writes happy songs for happy kids.  In her orchestration and target audience, she’s like a jazzier Laurie Berkner” (Zoogobble), and is recommended for ages 3-7.

Stay tuned for Part II, featuring wonderful folk and world music for kids from toddler to ten!



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Online Teen Book Club Challenge

Online Teen book club Challenge poster 10x15 2014-09 (1)We love YA, and we know there are lots of devoted YA readers in our community. Most of the time, when you finish a book, you want to talk about it, but it’s sometimes hard to find time to get together. Our solution to this little dilemma was to create an online space to share our YA book thoughts, so for the past two years, we have been doing just that with our Online Teen Book Club – OTBC for short (and you can reach it here). Here’s how the club works: each month, three titles are posted and readers get to vote on which one they like best. Then, on the first of the following month, the chosen book gets discussed.We write about the novel, raise a few questions and have all sorts of polls for you to take. We have discussed some pretty amazing books since the blog first started, books like The Fault in our Stars, Graceling, We Were Liars, Between Shades of Gray, The Scorpio Races and so many more!

Now that we have so many selections, we are launching a new contest. Come to the library to pick up the Online Teen Book Club Reading Challenge booklet. Once you have the booklet, you can start working your way through the list of books we have blogged about, reading the novels, taking the polls and commenting. For each book that you do that for, you get any entry into our raffle for a Kobo Touch. The contest runs from October 1 to January 30, 2015, so you have a lot of time to get those raffle tickets. You can pick up your tickets all at once, or each time you complete a row; it’s up to you!

The motto for the Online Teen Book Club is “vote, read, share” and we hope this contest encourages you to do just that!

Happy reading!


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Book Review: Knightley and Son by Rohan Gavin

KnightleyI haven’t read a good mystery in a while, but I was taken with the gorgeous cover of Knightley & Son, and was pleasantly surprised by the great characters and intriguing story inside. I’m a big fan of British mysteries and British humour, and this book is a great combination of both! The London setting and a cast of charming (and funny) characters drew me in from the first page. Rohan Gavin’s skill as a screenwriter is well translated to an exciting mystery full of twists and turns that I could see playing out in my head as I read.


A popular self-help book called The Code seems to be making people do (and see) very strange things. Meanwhile, 13-year-old Darkus Knightly has been visiting his father, once London’s “top private detective,” as he lies in a years-long coma. In an effort to understand what his father was working on before he mysteriously fell asleep, Darkus has painstakingly read and memorized much of his father’s top-secret case files. When Mr. Knightley finally awakes, he finds that his son might be his best asset in solving the sinister case of The Code. Along with a Scottish agent from the Department of the Unexplained and Darkus’s stepsister Tilly, Darkus and his father delve into a case full of conspiracy and danger.

Not only was the plot fast-paced and exciting, but the characters were fantastic! Darkus is a bit of a Holmes-ian genius, and Tilly is a brilliant and unlikely sidekick. Tilly’s bumbling father Clive (Darkus’s stepdad), provides great comic relief, as does Uncle Bill from the Department of the Unexplained. This well-written middle-grade book is a must-read for mystery lovers. Although this is the beginning of a series, the first book managed to have a satisfying conclusion while still making me want to read the next in the series.



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Teen Program: Our Little Infinity – Fault in our Stars on DVD

fault-posterThe Fault in our Stars is one of the biggest YA books to be published in the past few years, and the movie was also a huge hit, earning over $300,000,000 worldwide! Now, The Fault in our Stars is on DVD, and we’re celebrating by screening the movie at the library. On October 2 at 7 pm, we’ll be showing the film. One lucky participant in the room will walk away with a book/DVD combo of their very own.

If you’ve never heard of the book or the movie, now is the perfect chance to discover it and find out what the fuss is all about. The story surrounds Hazel, a whip-smart teenager who has been dealing with the fact that she has terminal cancer for a few years now. Her parents force to attend a support group to deal with her feelings, and while there, meets the  handsome and charming Augustus Waters. Their friendship develops, but Hazel remains reluctant to fall in love since she know she has never been anything else but terminal. This well-written and compelling story is one that begs to be to be re-read or re-watched. Luckily, you have the chance of having both the DVD and the book added to your personal collection just by coming to watch the movie on October 2.

If you’re interested in coming, just email us ( or give us a call (514-485-6900 ext 4111) to reserve your spot.

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Favourite: Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

I have a soft spot for monster stories, and find myself gravitating toward monster-themed storytimes as often as I can. Some monster books are the perfect way to be silly and to turn the scary monster into something nonthreatening and even kind. From the charming Larf to sweet The Monsters’ Monster, my favourite monster protagonists are generally big teddy bears, and Mo Willems’s Leonardo the Terrible Monster is no exception.

LeonardoLeonardo is a pretty terrible monster, in that he is not scary at all. He looks around him at what a monster is expected to be (gigantic, weird, or many-toothed) and is disappointed that he doesn’t measure up. He comes up with an “evil” plan to find the most anxious child he can and “scare the tuna salad out of him!”, and so he chooses Sam. Unfortunately, Sam is having a particularly terrible day and while Leonardo is sure that he has scared him into crying, it turns out that Sam is upset about something else. In a sweet turn, Leonardo decides to be a good person instead of a terrible monster, and comforts his new friend.

I first fell for Leonardo while reading to a first grade class that thought Sam’s bad day was quite hilarious (poor Sam). Willems has a sense of humour all right, and it definitely resonates with young elementary school students. Most people can relate to the themes here: Leonardo’s feeling of isolation as he looks around and doesn’t fit the mold, Sam’s unfortunate day, and the importance of being a friend to someone. Somehow although there is a nice message at the end, there isn’t a hint of saccharine sweetness to this one. Leonardo is still a little bit mischievous, and Sam still surely still feels angry or sad from time to time.

Some Monsters are Different, however: monster stories are told in many different ways for many different audiences. Leonardo is seven years old now, and he has been joined by some other great monster-related books in our collection, like Peter Brown’s My Teacher is a Monster (no, I am not)and Jonathan Emmett’s Here Be Monsters





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