Upcoming Program: The Story of Babar

Story-of-Babar-JM_500pxThe Children’s Department is pleased to announce our March WOW! The Story of Babar. Taking place March 1 at 3 pm, this live performance and storytelling event is great for the whole family. While it is aimed at children between the ages of 3 and 7, all Babar fans will have a fun time.

The program, produced by Jeunesse Musicale, will present Babar’s adventures. It will be set to music and narrated by a talented actress. This an event you won’t want to miss out on.

Watch the video below to get an idea of what the concert is like. Our performance will be in English, but French text is available as well.


Tickets are $5 and on sale now and available at the main desk of the library.


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Book Review: How to Outrun a Crocodile When your Shoes Are Untied by Jess Keating

how to outrunAfter reading a review of How to Outrun a Crocodile When your Shoes Are Untied that stated the novel was a “fun-filled, pitch-perfect book about one of the most fraught stages of life” (Kirkus Reviews), I decided to give it a try. I love true-to-life stories when they are done right, and I was hoping to add it to my long list of middle-grade reads that I can freely recommend. While it didn’t make it to my very exclusive “favourites” list – when you read as much as I do, the favourites can pile up if you aren’t exacting with your criteria – I really enjoyed it and think it will almost certainly find an audience of readers who are clamouring for more.

Ana Wright, named after the anaconda (much to her shame), is having a difficult twelfth year. Her best – and perhaps only – friend,  has just moved away to New Zealand, and Ana doesn’t like the idea of making new friends. Not only that, but she doesn’t know how to go about it! To top it off, she keeps getting picked on by some girls at school (a group she nicknamed the Sneerers), and she just found out she is going to have to live in the zoo where her parents work. Ana wishes she could just fade into the background, but circumstances keep making it so that she is the centre of attention. Can she find a way to get comfortable in her own skin? Or is she doomed to have a mortifying middle grade?

How to Outrun a Crocodile When your Shoes Are Untied is a great example of realistic juvenile fiction. Ana has a wonderful sense of humour, as evidenced in the “Creature File” blurbs she writes about her classmates, but she gets uncomfortable when too much attention is on her; that discomfort only makes things worse, and she ends up in some pretty embarrassing situations. Over the course of the book, Ana has to make new friends, get comfortable with public speaking, and figure out how to handle some not-so-nice peers. It’s a fun read, with some surprises and great details about animals and middle grade politics. I found Ana’s embarrassment really compelling. In one scene, her parents visit her school to talk about what they do for a living; Ana sits in class, sinking deeper into her chair, convinced that everyone is laughing at her parents. She can’t figure out why they don’t see that the students are making fun of them. Ana’s humiliation in palpable, but as a reader, you kind of wonder if maybe it’s all in Ana’s head, a detail I found wonderfully realistic. Ana is crippled by her fear of being laughed at, and it makes her see everything from a skewed perspective.

This was a breeze to read and a lot of fun. While Ana is the main character, her twin brother Daz is also an important part of the book and a nice counterpoint to the very sensitive lead. The second book about Ana and her family will be arriving in the near future, so if you like How to Outrun a Crocodile, know there will be more adventures coming soon.

Happy reading!



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Parenting Program: Children’s Sleep 101

Children's-Sleep-101_500px (1)Our first parenting program of the new year is coming up. Taking place February 10 at 7 pm, this free program is of interest to anyone who has young children. Dr Shirley Blaichman, a pediatrician and member of the Canadian Peadiatric Society’s Public Education Committee, has years of experience helping parents understand their children’s general health, including the always-complicated issues that come with sleep and sleep habits.

At this free program, parents will get the benefit of Dr Blaichman’s advice and tips. The session will focus on younger children, from newborns to preschoolers, and will have hands-on tips and guidelines to help parents figure out how best to manage their child’s sleep. This is a must-attend program for anyone with young children, and we hope to see you there!

If you are interested in attending, you can call 514-485-6900 ext 4111 to reserve your spot today.


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Awesome Picture Book : The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

The Most Magnificent ThingI’m a big fan of Ashley Spires: her quirky, adorable illustrations perfectly match her multi-faceted, amusing, and relatable characters. Her new picture book, The Most Magnificent Thing, is an ode to perseverance and resilience, and it’s as sweet and fun as her plethora of other awesome books for young readers.

This picture book stars a “regular girl” and her doggie sidekick, who also happens to be her “best friend in the whole wide world.” They do a lot of making and unmaking together, until “one day, the girl has a wonderful idea. She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing!” The illustrations will keep young listeners guessing as the girl plots, plans, and begins to build her magnificent thing. Of course, things don’t go exactly as she had hoped, and she ends up with a whole lot of objects that are not quite right. After hours of work, her frustration gets the better of her and she becomes quite furious and decides to “quit.” When she comes back to her project after a walk with her dog, things are looking a whole lot rosier. She begins to notice that her failed experiments weren’t really such failures after all, and she finally sees her magnificent thing through–with great results.

Even for the youngest audience, trying and failing might be familiar, and the little girl’s story is one that we’ve all experienced at one point or another. Although the heroine gains quite a crowd of admirers for her tenacity, she still needs to take a break. Her focus on getting things right proves both frustrating and rewarding, though, when she finally completes her project. The idea that failure can lead to success is a really important one, and a hard thing to grasp in the throes of trying to do something difficult. Ashley Spires has captured something universal here; her “regular girl” shows us the trick to realizing one’s vision even when things get tough. It’s a lesson that I find myself learning time and again, and this is the sort of book that illustrates it in an expressive and accessible way. The little girl gets what she wanted through hard work and extraordinary creativity, and shows us that although creating isn’t always “easy-peasy,” it can be totally worth it. What a magnificent book!



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Valerie’s Most Anticipated for 2015

At the start of every year, I try to scope out the upcoming books that I am most excited about. Last year, I eagerly waited for Just One YearSam and Dave Dig a Hole, and Death by Toilet Paper, and all of those titles lived up to my expectations. As I stare down at the cold coming months, I can point to so many books that I am itching to get my hands on. Here are just a few that you will also hopefully look forward to; after all, when we are in full winter swing, books can be the best distraction!

WolfieWolfie the Bunny
by Amy Dyckman

I loved Boy + Bot, and this story of a wolf adopted by a bunny family sounds absolutely adorable. I anticipate great illustrations from the awesome Zachariah Ohora and an “awww”-worthy story.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

“The Bunny family has adopted a wolf son, and daughter Dot is the only one who realizes Wolfie can–and might–eat them all up! Dot tries to get through to her parents, but they are too smitten to listen. A new brother takes getting used to, and when (in a twist of fate) it’s Wolfie who’s threatened, can Dot save the day?”

yetiYeti and the Bird
by Nadia Shireen

This looks like it will be a very cute tale about unexpected friendship. I also happen to love Yeti stories, so I was a bit smitten just by the title.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

“Deep in the forest lives the biggest, hairiest, scariest yeti anyone has ever seen. And he is also the loneliest yeti around. Then one day…THUNK! Someone lands on Yeti’s head. And that someone isn’t scared of Yeti at all. Could that someone be a friend?”

We Are AllWe Are All Made of Molecules
by Susin Nielsen

All of her previous books have brought tears to my eyes, and I think she is an amazing and funny author. All this means I have very high expectations!

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

“Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant, but socially clueless. Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the undisputed “It” girl in her grade, but her marks stink. Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. The Brady Bunch it isn’t. Stewart is trying to be 89.9% happy about it, but Ashley is 110% horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; ‘Spewart’ could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder. They are complete opposites. And yet, no matter their differences, they share one thing in common: They – like the rest of us – are all made of molecules.”

black doveBlack Dove, White Raven
by Elizabeth Wein

Elizabeth Wein has written two fantastic historical novels that pulled at my heart and made me cheer. She wrote one of my all time favourites, Code Name Verity, and so the prospect of another novel about daring pilots has me very happy.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

“Rhoda and Delia are American stunt pilots who perform daring aerobatics to appreciative audiences. But while the sight of two girls wingwalking – one white, one black – is a welcome novelty in some parts of the USA, it’s an anathema in others. When Delia is killed in a tragic accident, Rhoda moves to Ethiopia with her daughter, Em, and Delia’s son, Teo. Em and Teo have adapted to scratching a living in a strange land, and feel at home here; but their parents’ legacy of flight and the ability to pilot a plane places them in an elite circle of people watched carefully by the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, who dreams of creating an air force for his fledgling nation. As Italy prepares for its invasion of Ethiopia, Em and Teo find themselves inextricably entangled in the crisis – and they are called on to help.”

What books are you most excited about in the coming year?

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Critical Favourites: “Best Of” 2014 in P, J, and YA

“Best Of” lists are some of my favourite things this time of year. I will inevitably read a great book too late to add it to my own yearly list (it just happened with Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future). This is why I’m always grateful for the word of book experts and enthusiasts like the folks at Kirkus and School Library Journal, who always provide stellar book lists for every age. A good chunk of Valerie’s or my favourites made it onto these lists, so I’ll give some other books in our collection the chance to shine. Some of these are brand new arrivals or are on their way. Reserve or come check them out today!

Picture Books (P)

The mermaid and the shoe by K.G. Campbell
Share by Sally Anne Garland
Shoe Dog by Megan McDonald ; pictures by Katherine Tillotson
Blizzard by John Rocco
Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman
Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead
Any Questions?  written and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
The Baby Tree  by Sophie Blackall

Middle-Grade Fiction (J) 

The forbidden stone
by Tony Abbott
Jasper John Dooley: Not in Love  by Caroline Adderson ; illustrated by Ben Clanton
Hidden : a Child’s Story of the Holocaust written by Loïc Dauvillier ; illustrated by Marc Lizano ; color by Greg Salsedo ; translated by Alexis Siege
The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos
The Glass Sentence  by S.E. Grove
Odd, Weird & Little by Patrick Jennings
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier ; with color by Braden Lamb
Fly Away  by Patricia MacLachlan

 Young Adult Fiction (YA) 

Death Sworn by Leah Cypess
by Scott Westerfeld
by Meg Wolitzer
Grasshopper Jungle : A History
 by Andrew Smith.
We Were Liars
 by E. Lockhart
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
by Jenny Han
Girl Defective
 by Simmone Howell
The Tyrant’s Daughter
 by J.C. Carleson
The Story of Owen : Dragon Slayer of Trondheim
by E. K. Johnston
The Family Romanov : Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia 
by Candace Fleming

We also have plenty of award-winners for all ages here at the library. Here are some past and current winners for P, J, and YA.



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Valerie’s “Best of” 2014: P, J and YA Favourites

At the end of each year, I take great pleasure in revisiting the books that swept me up and reminded me how much joy reading can bring. While there were so many books that were a lot of fun to read, these are the ones that I was most excited about.

Valerie’s Favourite Picture Books

When it comes to picture books, I love ones that make me laugh and make me smile.

1) Froodle by Antoinette Portis
2) Ninja by Arree Chung
3) Penguin in Peril by Helen Hancocks
4) Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett
5) The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak – Read my review by clicking here.
6) Captain Cat by Inga Moore – Read my review by clicking here.

Valerie’s Favourite Middle Grade Books

My favourite middle grade books are ones that pull at your heart-strings, with convincing kids involved in realistic situations.

1) Death by Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart
2) Skies Like These by Tess Hilmo
3) Always, Abigail by Nancy J. Cavanaugh

Valerie’s Favourite Young Adult Books

I love Young Adult novels that have great characters and strong world-building.

1) Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
2) Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King
3) I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
4) Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis – Read my review here.
5) The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton – Read my review here.
6) Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho

For more favourites of 2014, check out Bronwen’s list by clicking here.

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Awesome Picture Book: The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak

book with no picturesIt has taken me a little while to post about The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak, a recent picture book which I used in storytime a few weeks ago. I had to really put together my thoughts because I wasn’t sure exactly how to write about the book, which doesn’t happen very often! While it was a blast to read (both children and adults in attendance laughed quite loudly), as the title indicates, there are no pictures in this book. I confess to feeling a little lost as to how to discuss a picture book with no pictures. Still, it made such an impact on me that I couldn’t end 2014 without mentioning how much fun this book is and how highly I recommend it.

B.J. Novak, a comedy writer and actor, has created a very readable book that you will be dying to share with little readers. The book starts off by explaining that even if a book with no pictures may not sound like fun, the rules says that the person reading the book has to say absolutely everything written, no exceptions. Of course, what follows is a series of silly phrases and nonsense words (and small protests by the reader worked into the text) which caused uproarious laughter. The Book with No Pictures is a great example of a work that really shines with a crowd of children because as the instructions contained get more and more ridiculous, the children get more and more comfortable laughing their little heads off.

Before I read this to a crowd, I wasn’t sure the book would work, but the little naysayer inside of me was convinced once I started, and you will be, too. Not sure about the book yet? Check out this great video of the author reading it to a crowd of students.

Happy reading!


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Bronwen’s “Best Of” 2014: J and YA Favourites

Is 2014 really almost over?! It’s December, and once again I’m thinking about my absolute favourite books that were published this year for middle-grade and young adult readers. Many of them have inspired me to write blog posts already. Here’s a recap of some of my most memorable reads.

Dreams of Gods and MonstersDreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Part III of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy

“From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera, and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.”
My Take: This is the satisfying conclusion to an awesome series. Highly recommended across the board.

We were liarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart

“Spending the summers on her family’s private island off the coast of Massachusetts with her cousins and a special boy named Gat, teenaged Cadence struggles to remember what happened during her fifteenth summer.”

My take: This is the sort of book that sticks with you, and that you might find yourself poring over several times, finding new details and meaning in every read.
(You can read the Online Teen Book Club discussion here.)

this one summerThis One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

“Every summer for as long as she can remember, Rose, her mom, and her dad head to a lake house at Awago Beach. Its a refuge, a getaway, a chance to relax and recover from the stresses of the past year. And every summer Roses friend Windy and her family are there as well. Windy and Rose are like sisters and best friends. This year though…things have changed. Roses mom and dad just wont stop fighting.”

My take: This beautiful little novel captures perfectly the feeling of summer, of vacation, and of growing up.
(You can read my review here.)

Knightley and SonKnightley & Son by Rohan Gavin

“A father and son detective team investigates the mystery surrounding a book that that makes its readers commit terrible crimes, and a sinister organization known as the Combination.”

My take: The London setting and a cast of charming (and funny) characters drew me in from the first page.
(You can read my review here.)

The BoundlessThe Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

“Aboard ‘The Boundless,’ the greatest train ever built, on its maiden voyage across Canada, teenaged Will enlists the aid of a traveling circus to save the train from villains.”

My Take: The Boundless starts strong, gripping, and full of adventure, and the pace doesn’t let up until you’ve read the book cover to cover.
(Read the full blog post here.)

So there you have it: a range of books for different tastes, and by far some of my favourites published this year.



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A Valerie Favourite: Constable and Toop by Gareth P. Jones

Constable and toopConstable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones was in the running for our Online Teen Book Club a few months ago, and while it didn’t win the vote, it has been on my radar since then. There was so much appealing to it: Victorian London, ghosts, mystery, and a gorgeous cover! Eventually, I just took it home, and I’m so glad I did. I couldn’t put this down and read it in almost one sitting.

The plot is very intriguing, and it is presented in such an expert way, that I was hooked before I even knew it. Something strange is happening in London; most normal people can’t see it, but the ghosts know something is amiss. Black rot is taking control of buildings, making them a danger to any ghost who wanders by. Meanwhile, in a small London suburb, fourteen-year-old Sam Toop, son of an undertaker, knows all about ghosts; he is a Talker, able to communicate with spirits and see into their world. On a trip to London, Sam sees the black rot firsthand, but what can a fourteen-year-old possibly do to stop this terrible scourge? And how did it come to be in the first place?

This is a fantastical (and fantastic) mystery. It is well-written, funny, and doesn’t get too bogged down in historical details. They are there for readers who love novels set in a bygone era, but they don’t overwhelm the story. I would say that they add a little bit of flavour, but it’s really the plot and the characters that make this book so amazing! Let’s take a look at some of the great supporting characters. First we have Lapsewood, a bureaucratic ghost who likes his desk job and is scared of change. When a sudden demotion forces him to visit London’s haunted houses, he stumbles across the mystery of black rot and has to work with street urchin and rogue ghost Tanner to get to the bottom of things. There’s also Clara, a young, aspiring journalist and tenant of one of the haunted houses that has been affected by black rot. She is fascinated by the idea of ghosts and wants to know more. Each of these characters (and several others) circle the mystery, until the truth is eventually revealed in a spectacular way.

With so many plot threads, this book could have felt scattered and rushed, but it wasn’t either of those things. It was incredibly readable, with a plot that pulled you along; Jones did a fantastic job of dropping just enough hints throughout the book that the resolution to the mystery didn’t come out of nowhere. After the satisfying conclusion, I couldn’t help but wish there were more adventures with the cast from Constable & Toop.

This is a YA that can easily satisfy confident middle grade readers; despite the mention of death and murder, the novel doesn’t get too graphic or gory. It’s a great historical mystery that comes close to being unputdownable.

Happy reading!


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