Awesome Picture Book: The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

day the crayons came homeWhile I did not devote an entire blog post to Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers’ first crayon adventure, The Day the Crayons Quit, I did mention it here as a great picture book for older readers. It is one of those books I recommend often, and I even gifted it to one of my nephews for his birthday, so I stand behind my recommendation! This fall, that incredible duo came out with a sequel, The Day the Crayons Came Home, and I knew this time I would have to devote a full blog post to this truly awesome picture book. So here goes!

In the first book, Duncan’s crayons are tired of the way they are being used and each one composes a plaintive letter to their owner. In the sequel, Duncan receives postcards from crayons he has lost, forgotten, or damaged over the years. These crayons are trying to make some changes, which ends up being quite complicated for some of these colourful friends. Among this cast of damaged waxy friends, the reader meets Maroon Crayon (whose castaway beard is to be admired), Pea Green (who is changing his name to Esteban the Magnificent), the horribly mixed up Yellow & Orange, the Turquoise Crayon who has become stuck to a stinky sock, and my favourite, Tan (or possibly Burnt Sienna) Crayon, who was eaten by a dog and puked up. There are even more crayons with equally funny signatures and stories that will almost certainly have you smiling with your little reader.

Like the first book, this is a great option for sharing with older readers. It’s funny and visually interesting, with something to talk about and look at on each and every page. It’s full of great details, like the aforementioned beard on the maroon crayon who has been marooned in the couch. With great wordplay like that, you can find lots to talk about with your not-so-little one. Oliver Jeffers, who illustrated the books, is so stylistically unique, and he imbues the crayons with so much life and personality. Just take a look at Esteban (formerly known as Pea Green) and you’ll understand what I mean.


Much like the movie Toy Story made every person who watched it think about their toys a little differently, these  books will make your children (and maybe even you) look at crayons in a whole new light.

Happy reading!


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Upcoming Program: Learn Chess for Beginners

Learn-Chess-for-Beginners_Nov2015_500px.jpgOur popular summer chess program is back! This time, David Steiner and Mark Cohen will be teaching the basics of chess, along with strategies and techniques, after school, Tuesdays at 4 pm beginning November 17. This four-part class, offered at 20$ for library members and 30$ for non-members, is aimed at children aged 7 and up. Even those who are already familiar with the rules of chess can get a lot of out of this class as it will offer opportunities to practice skills and get pointers on in-game strategy.

This program is a fun after-school activity that is a great way to meet other chess players (and aspiring chess players) in the community, all while getting better at this fun and stimulating game.

For more information, call the Children’s Department at 514-485-6900 extension 4121.

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Favourite: Plain Kate by Erin Bow

I’ve been reading a whole lot lately, especially in young adult fiction. I always feel a bit guilty when I give one part of the collection preference, so I decided to challenge myself to read a book from our middle-grade section to give myself a break from high school. I am so glad that I broke the YA habit (for now), and picked up a beautiful book called Plain Kate by Canadian author Erin Bow. I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while; I think I had even checked it out before and ended up returning it unread because I had so many other great library books at the time. I ended up loving Plain Kate, even more than the slew of other very enjoyable books that have been taking up most of my reading time. It was one of those stories that I know I will remember for a long time, and whose characters will stick with me indefinitely.

plain kateKate is the daughter of a master carver, and lives in a small town where everyone knows her family. She learns to carve when she is very young, and is about to apprentice with her father when he suddenly dies of a terrible sickness sweeping the village. Unfortunately, Kate’s talents–and her looks, although some say she’s plain as a stick–make her a target for suspicion. Her eyes are two different colours, and she is such an incredible carver that most of her fellow villagers begin to suspect that she is a witch and call her “witch-blade”. Her neighbours are very superstitious; Kate, and her father before her, have made much of their living carving objarka, protective talismans to draw good or ward off evil. After Kate’s father dies, she is utterly alone and has lost her teacher and her ability to become a master of her trade.

After the death of her father, his shop (Kate’s home) is taken from her by law by another “master” carver. Although his work is clumsy and nowhere near matches Kate’s own, she must leave her home. She goes to live at her father’s stall at the market, and discovers three abandoned kittens which she raises to adulthood. The most tame, Taggle, remains her loyal companion.

Everything changes for Kate when a man named Linay comes to town. He establishes himself quickly in the marketplace, capitalizing on the villagers’ fears and selling charms to ward off evil and illness. Linay watches Kate’s desperate attempts to survive with fewer and fewer jobs. Several times, he uses his magic to help Kate obtain food, but in doing so makes her look even more like a witch. More and more quickly, Kate’s neighbours are ready to blame her for any misfortune in the village. Finally, Kate is attacked while she is sleeping, and Linay gives her a choice: burn for witchcraft, or let him grant her a wish in exchange for her shadow. Kate, destitute, accepts Linay’s offer: in exchange for a bit of food, survival gear, and her “heart’s wish,” she gives Linay her shadow. Kate’s heart’s wish is companionship, so Linay grants Taggle the power of speech. Talking cat and girl strike out to find a way to live. With the help of Niki the baker, the only remaining villager who shows Kate any kindness, Kate and Taggle join a nomadic people that all of the villages shun: the Roamers.

Kate soon realizes that not having a shadow is a dangerous curse which she must hide from the Roamers, and begs Taggle not to reveal himself, worried that he will look like a witch’s familiar. When Kate realizes Linay’s true and sinister plan for her shadow, she must journey to get it back and to stop Linay from killing an entire village to avenge the death of his sister, who was burned by those very villagers as a witch.

Plain Kate is a ghost story, a fairy tale, and an epic fantasy. Erin Bow is a poet, and her writing is so beautiful and simple that it makes for a perfectly paced and lyrically written story. One of the reasons that I loved the book so much was its focus on a lonely heroine and a journey that begins with survival, but ends with an incredibly selfless act. This story is full of danger, adventure, and heartbreak: I cried for Kate and Taggle several times during the book. The bravery of two orphans makes for sad and wonderful characters; this book reminded me a bit of Sabriel, another of my favourites. In all of its seriousness, however, there were moments of humour. In normal cat fashion, Taggle could be quite funny at times.  Although talking animals have a wonderful place in literature, I haven’t met a talking cat that I’ve loved as much as Taggle in a long time.

Highly recommended for ages 10 and up, especially for lovers of fantasy, adventure, and great characters.



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Upcoming Parenting Program: Bridging the Gap : Transitioning from Daycare to Elementary School

Bridging-the-Gap_500pxChildren who attend daycare or preschool are already well on their way to making an easier transition to Kindergarten, however it can still be an adjustment for children and parents alike. New schedules, new kids, and a different learning structure with new rules and expectations will all help children learn to become more independent, but it can also cause (understandable) anxiety. Anxious or not, there are many resources in place to help your child get the best out of their first year of elementary school. Enter our upcoming free parenting program, Bridging the Gap: Transitioning from Daycare to Elementary School. The program will take place here at the library on Wednesday, September 30 at 7 pm. 

Our guest expert Nicole Spence has lots of experience helping families as they learn new routines. As a social worker in local schools, she has often given parenting workshops which provide hands-on advice and resources, answer questions from parents, and help embrace the exciting change that is elementary school. Nicole is an advocate for kids and families, and will be able to speak to issues such as how to effectively communicate with teachers and administrators, and how to create the best routine for your child. Whether your little one is going to elementary school in the next few years, or has just come from daycare or preschool to a new Kindergarten class, this is the perfect program to help get a leg up on elementary school.

The program has been featured in Montreal Families. Click here for the full article. To register, please call us at (514) 485-6900 ext. 4121.

Ce programme se déroule en anglais, cependant il sera possible de poser des questions et obtenir des réponses en français.

We hope to see you there!

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Book Review: Sign of the Cat by Lynne Jonell

sign fo the catSometimes, you pick a book off the shelf because it has a great cover. When I saw Lynne Jonell’s The Sign of the Cat had arrived, I decided to take it home in spite of the cover (which I found looked a little dated), and I’m certainly glad I did. This middle grade novel about a young boy on a rollicking adventure was a blast to read, full of danger, evil plots, humour and cats! This was a very fun book, and while I could spot many of the plot twists coming, that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of it.

Warned by his mother to ensure that he never tried too hard or succeeded more than other children, Duncan has been chafing under her restrictions for years. He was told he must never be top of the class, never win at fencing and, oddly, never walk around without his hat on. Duncan bristles under these directions, not understanding why his mother wants him to hide his excellence. He knows she loves him; she works long hours teaching music in order to keep him fed, sometimes going without food herself.

Something  else which makes Duncan unique is his ability to speak Cat. Taught by his elderly feline friend Grizel when he was very young, Duncan confides in his beloved pet all of his frustrations; while she advises him to heed his mother’s warnings, Duncan is a young man determined to find a way to do his very best. One day, while attempting to find work on the docks, he runs into the Earl of Merrick, the much-loved hero who has been searching tirelessly for the missing princess. Everyone in the island kingdom of Arvidia knows the story of Charles, the bad Duke, who betrayed the King and tried to kill the Earl of Merrick. During the conflict, the princess was lost and has been for years now, with the Earl searching tirelessly for her. So when Duncan meets the Earl on the docks, he is stunned and excited, even more so because the Earl invites him aboard his ship. What follows is a sea-faring adventure, full of intrigue, betrayal and mystery.

This is a fun fantasy novel that isn’t too bogged down in fantasy-world details, so it’s a good choice for readers who don’t like (or are reluctant to try) high fantasy. Duncan is a sweet character, who has a little bit of a rebellious streak in him (which makes him more interesting), but it is his kindness that will really win readers over. He is trusting, which is what gets him into trouble early in the book, but also smart, so he is able to get himself out of his predicaments. While the story starts off a little slowly, once the adventures begin, the pace really picks up.

The Sign of the Cat was a very enjoyable middle grade fantasy book, that will appeal to lovers of adventure. It’s a delightful stand-alone (so far), which means the reader gets a satisfying conclusion when he or she turns the very last page. So if you are looking to try out a fun and fantastical adventure, give The Sign of the Cat a try!


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Favourite: Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel

pack of dorksI’m always looking for great middle-grade realistic fiction, and Beth Vrabel’s Pack of Dorks is a winner. The story starts with Lucy, the heroine, declaring, “This was the biggest recess of my life. Today, I would become–officially–the bravest, most daring, and by far the most mature fourth-grader at Autumn Grove Intermediate School. Today, as soon as the bell rang, I was on my way to becoming a legend. Today, I was going to kiss Tom Lemming.” Lucy is used to being popular; little does she know that thing are about to change.

I had a sinking feeling for Lucy when Becky, Lucy’s best friend, admits to her that she had befriended Lucy because she was the most popular girl in school. Furthermore, Becky would do “anything” to be popular. She says it herself. When Lucy doesn’t show up for school the day after the uninteresting first kiss she shares with Tom Lemming (Becky has her first kiss at the same time with Henry, Tom’s best friend), things begin changing fast. Lucy has a good reason for not going to school the day after: she is at the hospital with her mother, who is giving birth to Lucy’s little sister. Lucy’s sister is born with Down Syndrome, and her parents are sad and preoccupied. Worse (from Lucy’s point of view), she loses the faux-diamond ring that Tom had given her at the hospital, and her parents don’t seem to care or want to help her find it. When Lucy returns to school the next day, Becky is ignoring her. To add insult to injury, Becky, Tom, and Henry are laughing at her behind her back. Suddenly, Lucy finds herself being pursued by the class nosepicker, April, but to Lucy, it seems like she has no friends at all.

Things get better when Sam, a quiet and thoughtful boy with whom Lucy has never spoken, begins to talk with her. Sam and Lucy’s budding friendship helps Lucy to realize that there are a lot of classmates that she’s never noticed before. Even with Sam’s support, the drama continues at school, but Lucy’s parents are often too busy to notice that she’s having a hard time.

Lucy is tougher than she thinks she is. As Lucy’s friendship with Sam, April, and her little sister grow, Lucy begins to grow too. One of my favourite aspects of the book is how much Lucy is changed by her challenges; she becomes much more self-aware and much kinder as her story progresses. I loved this book because Lucy has the experience that most kids in later elementary school have; making new friends, losing old ones, and even being teased. Her story is universal in so many ways, but Lucy’s sense of self, her independence, and her introspectiveness is what makes her special. It is guaranteed that young readers will be able to put themselves in Lucy’s shoes, and perhaps they will also be inspired to form their own “pack of dorks.”



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Awesome Picture Book: Bears Don’t Read! by Emma Chichester Clark

Bears DontIt’s time for another Awesome Picture Book post! This isn’t the first time I’ve written about the subject of this post: Emma Chichester Clark. Minty and Tink surprised and delighted me when I first discovered it (here is my review of that book), and since then, I’ve been pleased to spot Ms Chichester Clark’s illustrations in a great many library books (click here for all library holdings). Every time I stumble across one, her work makes me smile, and I can always identify her because of her distinctive style (a fact which was recognized when she was given the Mother Goose Award for best newcomer). However, she is not just a talented illustrator; she is also a skilled writer, whose stories are charming, funny and memorable. Case in point: Bears Don’t Read.

George is a thoughtful bear who spends most of his days wondering about Life. His brothers and sisters are happy to spend their days fishing and chatting, but George wants more. That is when he finds a book lost in the woods. As soon as he gets his paws on the book, he knows he has discovered something very special, but he doesn’t know how to read! Determined to unlock all the secrets in the book, he goes off in search of a place where he will be taught how: a school. Except when George goes into town, he causes widespread panic. Will he ever be able to learn to read?

This is a longer picture book, with a wonderful story that sparks the imagination. Needless to say, the illustrations are unique and eye-catching. The leaves and flowers look like they are inspired by (and comprised of) vintage wallpaper swatches, a wonderful detail that adds great depth to the images. On top of the fantastic visuals, Chichester Clark has created a remarkably likable bear in George; he is determined, smart and curious. As the reader, you want him to find a teacher who isn’t scared of him, because as all readers know, and as George discovers when he finds that lost book in the woods, books make the world a more interesting place!

This picture book is a great choice to inspire and motivate first-time readers, but most of all, it’s a lot of fun.

Happy reading.


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Upcoming Teen Program: Guardians of the Galaxy

Are you a fan of Marvel comics (or do you know someone who is)? Here at the library we get tons of requests for Marvel, and we’re really excited about all of the great Marvel movies coming out these days.

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy_500pxWith Montreal Comicon happening this weekend and Ant-Man coming to theatres on July 17, what better way to celebrate (for free) than by coming to the library to watch a screening of last summer’s awesome Marvel hit, Guardians of the Galaxy? We’ll be showing the film this Friday, July 10, at 7:30 pm for teens 13 and older. One lucky teen will have a chance to walk away with some Marvel comics of their own.

In case you need a refresher (or haven’t seen it yet), here’s the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy:

To register to see the movie, please call us at (514) 485-6900 ext. 4121, or e-mail Hope to see you there!

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Book Review: Boys Don’t Knit by T.S. Easton

boys dont knitAbout 7 years ago, I discovered knitting , and since then, I love reading about it. Usually, books about knitting tend to be picture books, so when we received a young adult novel titled Boys Don’t Knit, I knew I had to read it. I was excited to see a book for teens about a boy discovering knitting, not only because of the knitting connection, but also because I love finding new and unexpected books that appeal to boys – and this one certainly does!

Boys Don’t Knit by T.S. Easton is about Ben, a seventeen year old who was caught stealing liquor from a store and has been placed on probation and given certain mandatory acts to fulfill. The first is to keep a journal, which annoyed him to no end as he has been keeping a diary (as he calls it) for years. Then, he must also help out around the house of the woman who was injured during his attempted theft. And finally, he has to take part in some sort of after-school activity so that he develops a sense of community. His choices being rather limited, he decides to take a knitting class. And so begins a rather funny and heartwarming story of a young man’s adventures in knitting, bullying and romance!

There are so many reasons that this book was a hit for me, including the great story, compelling characters and funny writing. I was sold on this book in the first few pages; with every passing sentence, I became convinced that Ben was a character I had to get to know better. From the embarrassment he feels over his parents’ affection for each other (which manifests in lame double entendres), to his logic-based fantasies about one of his teachers, Ben was a well-rounded character who kept making me laugh.  I also found his sense of right and wrong quite compelling. The whole reason he got into trouble for stealing was because while his friends (masterminds behind the alcohol theft) were racing away from the scene of the crime with little regard for safety, Ben was biking away at a reasonable speed, and the crossing guard, angered by the behaviour of the other boys, ended up in a collision with Ben, who got blamed for the whole thing!

I loved that this novel was in first-person journal narration and that the main character was a seventeen-year-old boy; it’s not every day that you find a YA novel in this form told from a male perspective. Ben was funny, relateable, and in many ways, a typical teenage boy, struggling with fitting in, parental disapproval, and getting the girl (once he decides which girl he wants to get)! I loved that this typical teenage boy also fell for a hobby that is traditionally seen as feminine, although as knitting teacher Mrs Hooper informs the  group, “Knitting was originally a male-only occupation.”

Give this gem of a YA a chance and you’re sure to fall for Ben Fletcher, “accidental criminal, liar and master of mohair.”

Happy reading!


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Upcoming Teen Program: Fun Across the Board

FunAcrosstheBoard_500pxBoard games are not only a great way to bond with others, but they can be challenging, creative, funny, and good for your brain. We’re very excited that we’ll soon have awesome board games like Settlers of Catan, Pandemic (my personal favourites), and many others available in the Children’s Department for kids and teens to check out and play with friends or family.

On June 26 from 5:30-8:30, in honor of the end of exams, we’ll launch our board games collection at a free teen event: Fun Across the Board Social Game Night. Tweens and teens aged 11-16 can come and play board games together. No registration is required; teens can drop by with their friends to choose from a great selection of games. Members of our Teen Advisory Group will be playing too!

If you know a gamer (or are a gamer between 11-16), don’t miss this first opportunity to play games at the library. It’s going to be fun!

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