Margaret's Top Picks for Children and Adults
Children's Books I've Enjoyed
(Note: I've presented many of these books to a young audience, and describe their reactions in my reviews.)
God Bless You and Good Night by Hannah Hall
Animal mommies and daddies tend to their babies at bedtime with love and gentleness, song, story, snack, words of comfort, and prayer. The soft illustrations add to the gentleness of this love poem that works SO well with my toddler granddaughter.
Flora's Surprise! by Debi Gliori
There was no use pretending--I confessed to the kindergartners before even reading them this story that I’d been surprised. SOMETIMES I can guess the ending to a children’s book, but not this time.
Young children will enjoy this lovingly illustrated and gentle story of hope and persistence.
L'imagerie de la Bible by Emilie Beaumont
What a beautiful and tasteful rendition of God's Word for children who are learning to read French! Sparse in text and generous in bright, clear illustrations, L'imagerie de la Bible is an interesting and engaging Bible story book for young students.
Wolf's Coming by Joe Kulka
Rated for kindergarten to grade two, this story even has nine-year-old Tina mystified at first. I think it’s the marriage of text and illustrations that does us all in. Kulka’s bright, almost garish portrayals of the night sky, drooling wolf, and alarmed prey animals set everyone from kindergartners to sophisticated grade threes to the story lady herself up for the ending.
And it’s a good one.
Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills
Rocket sniffs out lovely words like "buttercup", "feather", and "nest", and brings them back to the classroom in the meadow. The teacher helps him spell the tricky ones, and sometimes adds her own. Words like "the" and "up" aren't nearly as exciting as "snail", "flower" and "rock", but the wise teacher knows they'll come in handy.
Teacher and student hang their magnificent collection on a tree, and the little bird, a veritable master of pedagogy, allows Rocket to ponder them all afternoon. Perched on his head, she is, perhaps, biting her tongue while Rocket comes up with the idea all by himself--he's going to write a story!
Duck & Goose by Tad Hills
An aristocratic duck and a curmudgeonly goose find an egg in the meadow.
An egg? Yes, of course. It’s round.
But the children in the story circle are laughing. They don’t believe it’s an egg. Perhaps it’s the utter roundness of the item, or the utter roundness and varied colors of the spots.
No matter. Stories and eggs are serious business, and I continue. . . .
A Forever Home for Sarah by Marie Ens
What happens when a little girl is born without hands in a culture where belief in karma is strong, and a less than perfect baby is believed to bring bad luck to those who care for her? Sarah’s mother cannot care for her, and when Sarah’s grandmother and aunt reject her, the mom feels she has no choice but to feed her baby one last time . . . .
Larry Potty's Animal Poems by Larry Potty
Read the work of Larry Potty
Who claims he's only slightly dotty.
Read his cute and rhyming poems
of interesting animals and their hoems.
Charming text, and funny and inviting illustrations (is it just me or do others see the resemblance between Larry and the meerkats?) invite children into Larry Potty's world of fascinating creatures. While showing us how humorous the animals are, Larry also weaves in respect for their differences and their place on the planet.
Spunky's Camping Adventure by Janette Oke
Remembering how much our daughter had enjoyed Spunky's Diary, I was delighted to find this story for the pre-chapter book set. As some of the children were quite young I told it rather than read it, and the bright, clear pictures, continuous action, and faith lessons kept their attention.
The more you read this book, the more you find to enjoy--like Spunky's ball hidden on each double page spread, the page numbers in paw prints, and the back cover instructions on puppy care while camping.
Franklin in the Dark by Paulette Bourgeois
This story was a real hit with the kindergartners and grade ones. Franklin's counsellors--the duck, lion, bird and polar bear--quacked, roared, chirped and growled their advice to the timid turtle, much to the amusement of the children.
Room for One More by Mathew Price & Ian P. Benfold Haywood
The kindergarten/grade one group enjoyed this lift-the-flap book about a compassionate family that takes in at risk, lost, lonely, hungry, and otherwise needy animals.
But Tina, with her accumulated wisdom of nine whole years of life experience, detects a character flaw in Mommy. Will your child detect it, too?
Baby Animals Black and White by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes
Woof! Meow! Baa! Baby! May, two years old
This sleek, elegant, ultra-cute board book has received the coveted Toddlers' Seal of Approval. What a fresh, simple concept-endearing black and white drawings of baby animals in a shiny board book just the right size for little hands!
A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis
How does Edna, whose entire world is and always has been blue, black and white, know that there must be something else?
As in so many other picture books that draw young listeners/viewers in, we see the "something else" before Edna does. Not that we know what it is . . . but we think we do!
Franklin Wants a Pet by Paulette Bourgeois
Franklin doesn't want a puppy! He doesn't even want a kitten!
Franklin has both his parents and the kindergartners mystified until the end. . . and Erin is pretty proud of herself. She is the only child in the story circle who guesses Franklin's choice!
Marley and the Kittens by John Grogan
Marley discovers two kittens abandoned by the side of the road, and his family rescues them. What could possibly go wrong?
Plenty, as our lumbering hero tries hard to be just as cute as the kittens. . . and ends up sentenced to time out in the laundry room!
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett
There's delicious fun when you and the dog are the only ones who know what's going on. This story garnered some of the best participation ever with a young audience.
A Home for Dakota by Jan Zita Grover
This is a serious little story about a puppy mill rescue dog and an angry young girl who is undergoing chemotherapy. But it has a happy ending and bright pictures, which enabled me to tell it to the kindergartners in a way that they could enjoy it. Told in Dakota's voice, this story will entertain the younger set and perhaps serve as a catalyst for older children to volunteer at an animal shelter.
Cool Kids Wear Glasses by Teddy O'Malley
It's a very wonderful book. Tina, third grader
This tale of transformation from Queen of Mean to truly cool was a treat to share with my granddaughter Tina. She identified easily with the characters, and particularly liked think-for-herself Kayla.
Third graders are asking questions about values and are still open to answers from adults. In my view, they’re at an ideal age to be learning from stories like this one.
The Very Best Sheepdog by Pinny Grylls
A Zero to Hero story with a twist . . .
The unassertive sheepdog's friendship with a little lost lamb plunges him even deeper into zero-ism--until one dark and stormy night that leaves the farmer at his wit's end and the whole herd lost, cold and afraid.
Moonbear's Dream by Frank Asch
Who doesn’t like to be the smartest one in the room?
Not one of the characters in Moonbear’s Dream has a clue what’s going on, and neither, apparently, does the author. Only the reader and wily illustrator are in the know. Will Bear and Little Bird ever figure it out?
Happy Birthday, Big Bad Wolf by Frank Asch
The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend. Abraham Lincoln
What happens when a Big, Bad--and Hungry--Wolf knocks on the door, and Little Pig welcomes him in? It's an intriguing premise--two frightened pigs and one that doesn't know enough to be frightened host a birthday party for a pork-loving wolf. This is an excellent book for helping children see things from different perspectives. I didn't like it that Poppa Pig lied, but I got around that because I was telling the story, not reading it word for word.
A Friend for Growl Bear by Margot Austin
Who wants to play with a growling bear, even a very little one? And what's a little guy to do when nobody understands that he just wants to be friends?
Tanglebird by Bernard Lodge
The Ugly Duckling lives on in this version involving another avian rejected by his peers. A compassionate family plays a pivotal role in Tanglebird's journey from Zero to Hero as the plot tangles, then untangles, along with his quest for a tidy nest.
Pierre the Penguin: A True Story by Jean Marzollo
That's very nice that he built a nest for his friend. Kindergartner
It's really cute, and it's nice how she [the aquatic biologist] helps the little penguin. Tina, nine years old
A nature lover and admirer of all things cute, Tina takes right to this story of a penguin in a wetsuit. The story has a deeper meaning as well, as the biologist and her colleague employ ingenuity and perseverance in problem solving.
Warning! Do Not Open This Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt
When Tina was little, we used to play tea party. I would warn her sternly not to spill the imaginary tea, and her little hand would shake with excitement as she did just that, then bore my scathing scolding.
Now, with a nine-year-old’s love of irony, she OPENED Warning! Do Not Open This Book! With nerves of steel and uncontainable curiosity, we dared to defy author Adam Lehrhaupt—and turned every page! Your child will, too.
What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins
Not even one of the kindergartners in our story circle has a mom who says, "Roll up your pant legs so you can hear better!" Guess none of them are crickets with ears on their knees.
What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? not only provides children with a lot of fun guessing what animal the given part belongs to, it promotes fascination with just how different these creatures are. And at a Christian centre like the one where I have my weekly storytime, it can be used to promote discussion about the incredible variety found in Creation.
Wilderness Cat by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
Most young children–eight-year-old Tina and the kindergartners included–like animals, but this quiet story held them all particularly enthralled. I think they strongly identified with the heroine, who obediently but with great difficulty gives her beloved cat to a neighbor before the family begins the 50-mile trek to Canada.
One night when it seems the family might starve, help comes from an unexpected source...and Mama promises that they will never leave their faithful kitty behind again.
Little Hoot by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
“Why do I always have to stay up and play?” complains Little Hoot. “All my other friends get to go to bed so much earlier than me!”
The kindergartners had fun helping me with this story. They practiced Little Hoot’s work (pondering and staring), and loved the irony of this little creature begging to go to bed early.
But . . . Spoiler Alert! . . . at least he escapes a bedtime story!
Taking Care of Sister Bear by Ursel Scheffler
There’s a heightened appreciation in the love we feel for those we have almost lost. This powerful truth is brought home with great gentleness in Taking Care of Sister Bear.
The New Bear at School by Carrie Weston
Scary, hairy and just plain big, Boris is excluded all day by his frightened classmates. But on the way home . . . Oops, no spoilers!
A beautifully told story of prejudice dispelled and fear conquered, much enhanced by Tim Warnes' intricate depictions of animals experiencing fear, gratitude and friendship.
The Very Itchy Bear by Nick Bland
How does a flea say, “Hello! I want to be your friend”? The same way he says everything else, of course. (Ouch!)
So how exactly do Bear and Flea become BFFs? And might the author be telling us something about the irritating people in our lives?
You are your little one will enjoy the catchy, musical text and the gentle lesson, and your child will have fun finding tiny Flea in Nick Bland's drawings.
Dear Polar Bear . . . by Barry Ablett
Who hasn't felt hungry, cold or lonely? And who doesn't like to get a package in the mail?
What a beautiful way for young children to learn a little geography, appreciate nature in other parts of the world, and begin to understand that those who are very different from us have much to offer! The surprise at the end ties the story together beautifully as Polar Bear’s friends unite to give him the best gift of all.
Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
Forlorn and bedraggled, rainwater pelting his great mane, Leo stands outside the glass library doors and gazes in. Barred from his beloved storytime, no longer able to provide a comfy backrest for young readers or a step stool to those needing a book on the top shelf, the huge beast grieves.
Until . . . .
The Forgiving Tree by Jan Berenstain and Mike Berenstain
What a pleasure to hear this gentle story unfold as seven-year-old Tommy read it to me over the phone! I foresaw the damage to Brother Bear's brand new birthday bike, but Sister's words of wisdom were a surprise.
Little Croc’s Purse by Lizzie Finlay
This story lends itself to dramatic reading, and the illustrations are a wonder. Who knew that crocodiles were so expressive? With just a few strokes, Ms. Finlay portrays curiosity, pleasure, menace–and the joy of a well-made choice.
Fiddler by Stephen Cosgrove
An unusual allegory starring a rhyming, fiddle-playing bear who saunters into the land of Barely There and teaches three selfish, suspicious bears a life-changing lesson on the value of sharing.
Adult Books I've Enjoyed
Arise Warrior Princess by Lisa M. Prysock
A source of encouragement and inspiration to those who are treading a fearsome and wearying path, seemingly without map or compass. Each of us will read it in our own way, and the words that are for us will shine more brightly.
I recommend "Arise" for those who are stumbling through the valley, and also for those who are on a smooth path—because there are always valleys ahead.
The Bible Teacher's Guide: Nehemiah: Becoming a Godly Leader by Gregory Brown
"A leader is made by what he does in solitude, and a leader is broken down by what he does in solitude." (p.49)
How is it that a book written centuries ago can teach us how to live well today and tomorrow? As I watch the story of Nehemiah unfold before my eyes, Greg provides profound insights from both the Old and New Testaments. I learn the characteristics of godly leaders, and solutions for problems plaguing our families, churches and nations.
The Bible Teacher's Guide: Building Foundations for a Godly Marriage by Gregory Brown
Based not only on Scripture but also on the author’s personal experience, observation and study, Building Foundations is totally practical. One of the features that interests me the most is the balancing of Scriptural principles with the understanding that although God’s commands are for all, their application does not always look the same from person to person and from couple to couple.
Love Triangles: Discovering Jesus the Jew in Today's Israel by Bobbie Ann Cole
Old and New Testament Scriptures, the lives of Bobbie Ann's Jewish ancestors, ancient and recent history of the Land she claims, and events in her life and the lives of others form a rich tapestry. This highly readable—even chatty—book will help you to understand more of the Carpenter Who changed the world, His followers, and His enemies.
Disciples Indeed Workbook by Bobbie Ann Cole
The first thing that struck me about the workbook was Bobbie's voice–gentle, comforting, encouraging . . . and insistent. Bobbie knows that I have a story to tell, and that I can learn to tell it well. She also knows that my story is important.
She Does Not Fear the Snow by Bobbie Ann Cole
Golden wings dance during the service in the basement of a shopping mall in Jerusalem, invisible to the worshipers but caught on Terry’s camera. A shabbily-dressed Man with a surprising air of authority beams as He shakes Bobbie’s and Terry’s hands.
A mysterious rug with a life-changing message, a Ruth-type love story, fascinating interactions with other Believers, poetic descriptions of a landscape many Canadians take for granted . . . .
What was the artisan thinking when s/he wove Bobbie's likeness into a rug in the the prey?
The Spark by Kristine Barnett
From low functioning autistic at the age of two to tutor and quantum physics researcher at the age of twelve . . . . Author Kristine Barnett's story of her son's journey reminds us that " . . . if you fuel a child's innate spark, it will always point the way to far greater heights than you could ever have imagined."
Prayers Spoken, Lives Changed by Jennifer O. White
Jennifer’s joy and enthusiasm sparkle on every page as she first introduces us to her own story and then presents each account by someone who has met with God through prayer.
The power of Godly music, forgiveness for those who have wounded us, a call to adopt a child, birth defects and a prognosis of a “vegetative state”, a “cyst” that was actually a baby . . . and even “unanswered prayer”—through their stories, these writers call us to reach out to the One Who met them when they prayed.