Saturday, August 10, 2013

10 For 10

Inspired by a recent Nerdy Book Club blog post, I set out to join in the fun and on August 10 compile a list of my Top 10 Picture Books. Not an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination. I was smitten with some of the lists from previous years, and their creative approach to make the 10 for 10 specific and personalized. Since many of the librarians and teacher-librarians that I follow online are American, I thought I would go the nationalistic route and choose my Top 10 from the True North, Strong and Free. This was still a very daunting task. There are so many amazing Canadian authors and illustrators. And so many wonderful picture books to choose from. I just hate the thought that I am omitting some well-deserved mentions. My selections are based on my own private likes, as well as the ones that never fail to elicit a strong reaction from my students. So, without further ado, I present, in alphabetical order, my

Top 10 Picture Books by Canadian Authors/Illustrators That Need To Be In Every Library

 Fernandes, Eugenie. The Tree That Grew to the Moon. Scholastic, 1994.
IMAGINATION! That's what this book is all about. Fernandes' beautiful dialogue, combined with her vibrant and detailed illustrations, have made this book a well-loved pick for close to 20 years.
 Fitch, Sheree. There Were Monkeys in my Kitchen. Illustrated by Marc Mongeau. Doubleday, 1992.
Again, lots of imagination and detailed illustrations.  There is a fair amount of text, but Fitch uses lots of silliness and rhyme to make it a favourite for the younger crowd. There's even an appearance by the RCMP - what could be more Canadian than that?

Forler, Nan. Bird Child. Illustrated by Francois Thisdale. Tundra, 2009.
Just when you thought I was stuck in the 90's, I have come to put a current offering on the list. From my friend and colleague, this is the book that needs to be on every library shelf. Forler's beautiful and lyrical text, along with Thisdales' almost-photographic artwork, present bullying from the bystander's viewpoint. This touching and emotional story is perfectly suited for older primary students. I cried the first time I read it.

McFarlane, Sheryl. Waiting for the Whales. Illustrated by Ron Lightburn. Orca, 2002.
I am crazily in love with this gentle and timeless book. The illustrations showcase the beauty of the Canadian West Coast, and the text so amazingly captures a sense of peace and purpose. The grandparent/grandchild relationship is presented, as well as a hint at the natural human life cycle. A perfect bedtime or quiet time story.

Munsch, Robert. The Paper Bag Princess. Illustrated by Michael Martchenko. Annick, 1992 (First published Turtleback books, 1980).
Although born in the U.S., Robert Munsch is considered one of Canada's best-known children's authors. He has been presented with the Order of Canada, and has even won a Juno Award. The Paper Bag Princess, written in 1980 is still relevant and beloved. And it's main character remains a popular Halloween costume. A strong female role model, and a warning about judging outward appearances - all presented with humour and in a non-preachy format.

Reid, Barbara. Perfect Snow. North Winds Press, 2009.
What can I say about Barbara Reid and her fantastic plasticine artwork? Really, if you are not familiar with this author/artist you are really missing out. You can even check youtube out for a demonstration of her amazing and original methods. Students, young and old, are simply captivated by this book. And, of course, I always save it for a very snowy day. Right before recess is best. It provides lots of inspiration for building and for teamwork and cooperation.

Stehlik, Tania Duprey. Violet. Illustrated by Vanja Vuleta Jovanovic. Second Story Press, 2009.
A touching story of a young girl of mixed-race who just wants to fit in. The message of the story is far from subtle, yet it is presented in such a unique and non-limiting way that it provides an excellent entry point for discussions of culture and diversity. It has also been well-accepted by students who know they are different in some way, and allows them to see this difference as a point of celebration.  Beautiful and quirky illustrations really add to the richness.

Stinson, Kathy. Red is Best. Illustrated by Robin Baird Lewis Annick Press, 1982.
Another oldie, but a goodie. Such a perfect little story for the very young who are wanting to assert their independence. I'm sure everyone can relate to the "juice tastes better in the red cup." Love it. Just thinking about this book again "makes my hair laugh."

Watt, Melanie. Scaredy Squirrel. Kids Can Press, 2006.
Melanie Watt has added to her Scaredy Squirrel series and all of them are delightful and loved by students at all of the schools I have worked. I think young children are better able to face their own fears when they see how much fun it is when Watt's character faces his. Although a little challenging to do as a read-aloud, it is well worth it. On one of the first warm "spring fever" type days of the year, I like to bring a couple of picnic blankets, a basket, and big conch shell outside and do my storytime under the shade of a tree. The students LOVE this.

Wishinsky, Frieda. You're Mean, Lily Jean. Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. Scholastic, 2009.
Everyone can relate to a bossy newcomer who upsets the status quo. This authentic portrayal has sometimes been needed for a few grade 2-3 girls who think they are the directors of the recess playground. Great dialogue and I have always been enamoured with Denton's illustrations.

So, there you have it. What do you think of my list? Anything that you would add?  I am looking forward to discovering all kinds of new favourites on August 10 when I read all the entries in the 10 for 10. You can follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #pb10for10. Or go to Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community or Enjoy and Embrace Learning for lots more good stuff.


  1. Hurray for Canadian talent! this is a wonderful list. As we've discussed on twitter Bird Child is a favourite of mine. And LOVE Monkeys in my Kitchen. I read that to my children SO many times when they were little!

    1. I agree Carrie. Have to celebrate Canadian talent whenever I get the chance. It's been so nice to "meet" you. Now I have another blog to get excited about - "There's a book for that." Looking forward to it. All the best in the new school year.

  2. Great list! Brought back some wonderful storytime memories. Love that you include when/where you read them to get strong reactions from students, like right before recess on a snowy day!

    1. Thank you. I had started to compile a binder for readalouds. I had props, voice suggestions, and similar notes included. There are so many awesome picture books, and they can be used in limitless ways. I love picking out the perfect one for the most suitable time. But hard to keep track of all the excellent choices.

  3. This was a great idea, Julie. I enjoyed seeing authors I know like Melanie Watt, Robert Munsch, and Barbara Reid. Glad to also learn of some authors new to me. Looking forward to checking out a few new titles.


    1. Thank you, Cathy. I am always happy to share new authors and books. And a big thank YOU for all your hard work (I can only imagine) in helping to organize the 10 for 10. I will be on the lookout all year for next August's selections.


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