Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Picture It Picture Books – Illustrated by Your Child

Books are big in our house as I’m sure you can guess from the Write a Review Wednesday posts every week. I love how books encourage learning, discovery and imagination. So when the folks at Mom Central Canada told me about Picture It Picture Books, I was interested to see these first hand how these would work.

The concept behind Picture It Picture Books is to tap into your child’s creative imagination. The stories are already written and your child adds the illustrations, sharing their interpretation of the story being told. There are currently 6 different titles available and the subject matter varies depending on your child’s interest. For younger kids there’s My Alphabet where kids illustrate something for each letter, something that might be more personal to them.

For older kids (and by older I mean maybe six or seven), there’s Captain Zane or The Moon Story. These are closer to stories to actual stories you might read and your child adds the illustrations.

The sample we were sent was Imagining Me, a story about your child. This isn’t really a story but rather a collection of pages about your child’s interests: their job when they grow-up, a wacky hairdo, playing with their best friend. I thought the Picture It Picture Books would be appealing to my 8-year old who has a current fascination with illustrating her own stories, but the sample didn’t appeal to her at all. She has a few books like this, books that she can customize based on her preferences and she had no interest in doing another one. This wouldn’t be one of the books I would have chosen either. For a book about your child, some of the pages are very specific and are of topics kids might have no interest in.

My 6-year old decided he liked a few of the pages, like developing a vehicle or designing a new toy (as his job) but that was the extent of his interest. I would love to see one of the more story oriented books to see if there would be more interest; the kids would actually be illustrating pictures of a story versus more of a workbook type activity (like the alphabet or Imagining Me).

The finished books do make great keepsakes for your kids as they grow-up or maybe even something to give to grandma (a story to read together when visiting and something grandma can enjoy because of the personal illustrations).

You can find the Picture It Picture Books on their website or at other stores and markets across the country.

I want to thanks the folks at Mom Central Canada and Picture It Picture Books for sending the review copy along to me.


Love My Daughter’s Writing Mind: A Landscape Poem

I was visiting my eight-year old daughter’s teacher one morning. She was giving me an update on how she was progressing in grade three. No surprise she’s following my academic footsteps, doing well in math and sort of sucking in spelling. That’s my life story. But I was excited to discover her love of language too. I always knew my daughter had a thing with words, even when she was younger. Her teacher showed me a project she had the class work on recently. They had to create a landscape mosaic and then write a descriptive poem about it.

I love the picture but many of the kids did similar paintings. It’s obvious they were given direction on the style to paint. It’s still a wonderful painting. What really made my jaw drop was the descriptive poem she wrote to accompany her painting

Rough, jagged and empty. My heart sinks to my toes. No friends nor company only the sun and snow. I am attached to my neighbours like an apple is attached to its nurturing mother. The mountains beside me tease me because I am the only one who has a flat head.

The water is a navy blue diamond with blotches of emerald-green. The sun tries to evaporate it like an African desert. But the water is stronger. The water is a thick sheet of glass. Still…seaweed almost frozen to death sits on the bottom of the water.

The land is pink like a pink popsicle and emerald like a gem stone. Together they look like watermelon. They are very dry because all of their juice has made a very cold river. It’s seeds are so cold they were frozen into snow.

The moon is dark chocolate. whatever it sees it turns it into whatever chocolate flavour it wants, just like Medusa, except she changes objects into stone.

The snowflakes twinkle, twirl and shine in the moonlight. They make not a sound, nor a peep, but a soft landing. The snowflakes sparkle and shine in the night. The mountain just pricked one like a spinning wheel.

Part of my reaction is that of a proud mom. The other part is that of someone who enjoys language and seeing my daughter use it this way, reading her words, gives me goose bumps.

Chicken, Pig, Cow want to go to your house (giveaway)

I’ve been very fortunate to have reviewed a number of great books for kids as part of my weekly Write a Review Wednesday post. But today isn’t about me, it’s about you or rather what I can give to you.

Recently I wrote a review on Ruth Ohi‘s wonderful picture book Chicken, Pig, Cow as well as her follow-up book Chicken, Pig, Cow On The Move, equally as wonderful. If you ever get a chance to hear Ruth Ohi read, you should. My oldest daughter and I had a chance to meet her recently at the Word on the Street festival. She is so energetic and enthusiastic and really talks to and involves her young readers in her presentation. It was so much fun (and I learned a thing or two as well).

So how is this post about you? In addition to the copies of both Ruth Ohi’s books for my reviews, my friend Joanna from Annick Press sent along two additional copies. That’s right, I have an additional copy of Chicken, Pig, Cow and Chicken, Pig, Cow On The Move. I know, pretty awesome!

So I’m offering both of these books together to you my blog readers, book lovers. And since my birthday is today, I’m feeling really generous and I will send these to anyone in Canada or the United States. If you would love to add both of these books to your personal library, leave a comment below telling me one of your favourite kids books (I’m always looking for new book suggestions). Don’t forget to leave your email address so I have a way of contacting you. I will accept entries until Monday, October 12, 2009 (midnight EST) at which time I will randomly pick a name. Good Luck!

Update: We have a winner. has picked a winner and they have been notified. Thanks for your interest.

My word! All full day of Word on the Street.

yesterday was the Word on the Street Book and Magazine festival in Toronto. It’s been in my calendar for weeks now. I even compiled a list of things I wanted to cover at the event. I’m fortunate enough to live just a streetcar away so I didn’t have to worry about traffic or construction or parking or protests.

Protest? Parade?

Protest? Parade?

Actually I don’t think this was a protest but a parade. But it did seem a little odd to host a parade just blocks away.

I brought my oldest daughter with me while my husband watched the other two. Yes, I’m sure all my kids would have liked going but there’s only so much distraction I can handle. We hit Kid Street first. I could say it was because I brought my daughter, and that’s partly why, but since I have an interest in children’s books also, that’s the real reason we started at Kid Street first.

I was able to finally meet Joanna from Annick Press and what a wonderful lady. And super cheerful. While we waited for Ruth Ohi to read her newest book CHICKEN PIG COW ON THE MOVE (which I’ll be reviewing this Wednesday as part of Write a Review Wednesday), my daughter wanted to try her luck at the Annick Press String Pull Booth. For a loonie donation (that’s a dollar for those non-canadians) she pulled a string to see what prize she would win. You could win a small Annick book, a paperback, a hardcover or the big prize, a collection of books. Well third times the charm.

Persistance pays off

Persistance pays off

We then headed over to the Children’s Reading Tent to catch Ruth Ohi. I was looking forward to hearing her read because I enjoy her books but I never expected to be so entertained. Ruth Ohi was energetic and enthusiastic and was right into the kids. Beyond just reading from her book, she shared how she created it, the process and even showed some early sketches. She also offered the kids a chance to experiment with their own illustrations by giving them printouts of Chicken, Pig, Cow with space to include their own background. I think my daughter will be busy drawing.

Ruth Ohi reading from her book CHICKEN PIG COW ON THE MOVE

Ruth Ohi reading from her book CHICKEN PIG COW ON THE MOVE

Doughnuts and jellybeans, how to draw by Ruth Ohi

Doughnuts and jellybeans, how to draw by Ruth Ohi

After the entertaining reading we were able to catch Ruth Ohi at the Annick Press booth and get her to autograph our copies. She personalized my daughter’s book with a wonderful sketch of my daughter. My daughter was delighted.

Ruth Ohi personalized my daughter's book..

Ruth Ohi personalized my daughter's book..

...with a wonderful sketch.

...with a wonderful sketch.

And before we had a chance to catch our breath my daughter and I were back at the Children’s Reading Tent to catch Patricia Storm read from her new book PIRATE AND THE PENGUIN. Actually, read isn’t quite right. Instead she performed her book in a wonderful play. I’m just sorry I didn’t film it. Of course I had to pick up a copy of her book also. Can’t wait to share it with my kids.

Patrica Storm as the pirate

Patrica Storm as the pirate

Patrica also gave the audience tips on how to draw their own penguin and pirate

Patrica also gave the audience tips on how to draw their own penguin and pirate

With the readings out of the way (though I was disappointed I missed Carey Fagen and meeting Sylvia from Tundra Books), it was time for a late lunch. The nice thing about the Word on the Street festival this year, they had more than just exhaust dogs. There’s nothing like a sweet corn roast and lemonade.

More than just hotdogs

More than just hotdogs

The corn was perfect

The corn was perfect

We did another round of the festival. Cheerios had a tent giving people a chance to send CHEER postcards to the Canadian Olympic Athletes. My daughter couldn’t pass that up. Plus there gave out little sample bowls which was perfect since I didn’t pack any snacks (I guess I didn’t expect to be at the show for as long as we were).

Sending a little Cheer to the Olympic athletes

Sending a little Cheer to the Olympic athletes

And just before leaving, we ran into an old friend, Chirp. I say old friend because Chirp magazine has been coming to our house for over four years now. My daughter couldn’t resist a hug.

An old friend, Chirp

An old friend, Chirp

There was music and dancing and performances too.  All and all a full and entertaining day. Luckily neither my daughter nor myself fell asleep on the streetcar ride home. But maybe our heavy bag of children’s books kept us away (perhaps some future Write a Review Wednesday books in there too). Until next year.

A book festival isn't complete without books

A book festival isn't complete without books

Have you heard The Word on the Street?


I’ll let you in on a little secret, I love books. Okay, probably not much of a secret. I love to write for kids and review great children’s books through my weekly Write a Review Wednesday post. So my excitement about this Sunday’s Word on the Street book and magazine festival should come as no surprise. My husband and I use to go religiously every year before we had kids, though it’s hard to remember those moments. I’m looking forward to getting back into going again.

Hearing author’s read, checking out some of the new children’s books, meeting some of the publishers I’ve had a chance to work with. Perhaps I’ll even pick up a tip or two on progressing my children’s book writing. The day promises to be full, but some of the key things scheduled that I want to visit are:

  • It’s All About Kids, Carey Fagan, CBC Stage (1:30-2:30). You may remember I wrote a review on Carey Fagan’s book Thing-Thing.
  • 5 Things That WON”T Help You Get Your Children’s Book Published (and 3 That Just Might), Stephanie Simpson McLellan, Canadian Magazine Tent (11:15-11:45)
  • Chicken, Pig, Cow on the Move, Ruth Ohi, Children’s Reading Tent (1:00-1:30). You may remember I wrote a review on Chicken, Pig, Cow. I plan to have a review on Chicken, Pig, Cow on the Move next Wednesday.
  • The Pirate & The Penguin, Patricia Storms, Children’s Reading Tent (2:00-2:30)

I’m bring my seven year old daughter with me so I think we’ll be spending a lot of time on Kids Street.

So if you’re in or around Toronto and you love books, be sure to stop by The Word on the Street book and magazine festival this Sunday, September 27, from 11:00-6:00pm. And if you see me wandering around starry-eyed and loaded with books, but sure to say Hi (though you might have to wave your hand in front of my face to get my attention).

Write a Review Wednesday: I am too absolutely small for School

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. My two oldest kids head back to school next Tuesday. Last week I reviewed Grumpy Bird written by Jeremy Tankard, my son’s favourite Scholastic school book. This week we’re still thinking about school.


lolacoverThis isn’t the first year of school for my two oldest (starting grade 2 and senior kindergarten) and they’re both really excited about heading back. But starting school for the first time or transitioning into a new grade can be scary for some kids. And Charlie and Lola deal with that issues, starting school, in Lauren Child’s book I am too absolutely small for School.

Lola is about to start school for the first time, but she doesn’t think she’s ready. She comes up with all sorts of reasons why she shouldn’t go to school: she’s not big enough, she has all her books memories and doesn’t need to learn to read, she doesn’t want to wear a schooliform or quite simply she’s far too busy doing other things at home.

That’s where big brother Charlie, who already goes to school, comes in to help address Lola’s fears. He explains in terms his little sister can understand how important and fun school can be, Like how Santa Clause doesn’t own a phone so if Lola wants him to get her wish list, she’ll have to write him a letter. And to write him a letter means she needs to learn how to write.

My kids love the Charlie and Lola books (there are a few). My son thinks Lola is very, very funny. He loves all the crazy things she does and says, something I’m sure he can relate too.

My older daughter’s thoughts:

I like that the words zig zag around the page. And the pictures use bright colours and patterns. I’m not sure if Charlie and Lola are real but I’d like to think they are. Their stories are just like real kid stories.


The Charlie and Lola stories are written from Charlie’s point of view. The language used creates a beautiful distinction between Charlie’s older, wiser big brother voice and Lola’s young, carefree child-like voice. Lauren Child’s books are a delight to read and look at. She treats the copy as an extension of the illustrations, using different fonts and sizes as well as weaving it around the page and other images. I love the mix of photography and illustration.

I am too absolutely small for Schoolis a great story that addresses a number of issues a child might have floating around in their pre-school thoughts. And Charlie and Lola are a delightful in helping relieve those concerns.

Published by Candlewick Press, you can add a  copy of I am too absoluetly small for School from

You can also read other Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Write a Review Wednesday: Grumpy Bird

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. As we prepare for the start of school, my kids have been re-reading their favourite Scholastic books.  Last week I reviewed my daughter’s favourite, Pinkalicious written by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann and illustrated by Victoria Kann. This week it’s my son’s turn.


grumpbirdfrontMy son is not one to hide his emotions. When he’s in a good mood he’s all smiles and hugs. But when he’s in a bad mood, look out.

Scholastic’s  (@scholastic) book Grumpy Bird, written and illustrated by Jeremy Tankard ( age 4 to 8 ) is about a bird who wakes up grumpy. He’s so grumpy in fact that he can’t even fly. While walking he encounters many of his forest friends who tag along, uninvited. At first Grumpy Bird is annoyed but when his friends turn following him into an impromtu game of follow the leader, Grumpy Bird actually forgets he’s grumpy.

Jermey Tankard’s use of repetitive dialog encourages kids to participate in the story. With each new friend encounter, my kids delight in participating in the dialog since they know it off by heart. The animal characters add a playful feel to the story and they stand out against the sketch-like background illustrations. I love how the colours in the  background show the passing of time as the day progresses from early morning until night.

I’m guessing we’ve all had mornings where you wake-up in a bad mood for no real reason. Kids are no different. As young kids try to understand their own feelings and how to express them, bad moods may be pretty common. This story is a great starting point for discussing angry feelings and how to recognize them and deal with them. It’s not uncommon in our hose for someone in a bad moode to be referred to as a Grumpy Bird. Asking the question ‘Why are you such a Grumpy Bird?‘or playing a game of follow the leader sometimes breaks the bad mood spell in our house.

grumpybird inside

Our copy was purchased through the Scholastic school market, but you can get a version of it from

If you’re interested in other books for kids, check-out my previous Write a Review Wednesday posts.

I’m sure I could write it better

As you already know, I’m participating in the Harry Potter Reading Challenge happening over at Galleysmith. I was fortunate enough to have my mom lend me her copies of The Philosophers Stone and The Chamber of Secrets so we were able to start reading. My husband and I have been taking turns reading a chapter to the kids each night at bedtime. We’ve all been really enjoying the experience.

Since I’ve seen the movies also, I can’t help but compare each scene we read in the book to the corresponding scene in the movie, if it exists. Yesterday the kids asked to watch The Chamber of Secrets movie. We finished watching The Philosopher’s Stone a few days earlier (again) so when we asked the kids what they wanted to watch, The Chamber of Secrets was the obvious next choice.

There’s a scene in movie where Ron and Harry are in Professor Dumbledore’s office being reprimanded by Professor Snape for damaging the Whomping Willow:

Snape: Not to mention damaging a Whomping Willow that’s been on these grounds since before you were born

Okay, maybe it’s just me, but this line really bugs me. If you’ve seen the movie, the tree is so large it has to be hundreds of years old. And how old are Harry and Ron in the second story? Thirteen? Saying that tree is over thirteen years old is ridiculous! Of course I assumed this was a line that was pulled from the book. But after reading and re-reading the pages this scene occurs on in the book, it’s obvious the screenwriters added this.

I’m sure I could come up with something better:

  • a Whomping Willow that’s been around since before Hogworts was built
  • a Whomping Willow the founders of Hogwarts planted
  • a Whomping Willow that’s been around since before Dumbledore was born

Well you get the idea. At least these examples emphasize the old age of the tree, which I am assuming was the intention of including the line in the movie in the first place.

What would line would you write instead?

Next Steps – August 3/09

I knew this day would come, just not this soon. I’ve been looking over my next step list and have to honestly say I didn’t accomplish much. Actually, I didn’t accomplish anything that I wanted. Being out of town and getting sick certainly didn’t help much. So I’m taking last weeks unaccomplished list and moving it into this week:

  • Work on Chapter Book material – When I write, I like to write by hand so I want to set a goal of writing one to two pages a day for my story. Also I need to avoid editing any work I do write (that’s one way I knock myself off track, editing before I’m done)
  • Reading research – I think I need to find some chapter books that deal with serious topics and read them as a reference (not sure how I’ll find this list yet)
  • Review additional magazine story – I have another story I’ve written for a children’s magazine. I’m not sure if it works, but I need to revisit it and see if I can make it work or if it should just be scraped

Hopefully I’ll be more successful this week.

Write a Review Wednesday: The Lime Green Secret

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week I wrote a review on Wanda’s Freckles, a great story about celebrating a child’s uniqueness (by Barbara Azore and Georgia Graham). This week I review another wonderful picture book by Georgia Graham courtesy of my friend Sylvia at Tundra Books (@TundraBooks).


liegreenWhen you have girls in your house, fancy dresses are bound to fit into your day. My youngest daughter loves to dress in twirlies (her term for dresses). And once she has her twirly on there’s no getting it off even if she’s playing in the backyard, helping with grocery shopping or digging for worms in the backyard. I think that’s one reason why Georgia Graham’s book The Lime Green Secret (age 4-7) by Tundra Books appealed to me.

Gloria is happy to be a flower girl for her older sister’s impending wedding. But what she’s really excited about is the beautiful satin gown, long white gloves, shiney white shoes, lace socks and a sparkling tiara she gets to wear. Her mother has told her she can’t wear the dress until the wedding. Of course that’s easier said than done. While wearing her flower girl dress, Gloria fills her days until the wedding with conducting an orchestra to having a tea party with friends. But when disaster strikes and something happens to the flower girl dress before the wedding, Gloria doesn’t know what to do.

My kids loved this story. I think they could relate to Gloria’s excitement with wearing the special dress and the desire to wear it, even when it’s not suppose to be worn. Georgia Graham’s illustrations, like in Wanda’s Freckles, add a warmth to Gloria and other characters in the story. My kids laughed out loud at how the illustrations revealed Gloria’s secret too.


Gloria has a hard time waiting until the wedding day to wear her flower girl dress

Released in February 2009, you can add The Lime Green Secret to your home library by buying it from You can also see other children book reviews I’ve written as part of  Write a Review Wednesday.

What is your family favourite this week?