Monthly Archives: July 2014

Celebrate this Week – Summer Celebrations (so far!)


I’m happy to be joining Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes and others to celebrate and appreciate the goodness of the past week.

Summer is in full swing and it’s been very HOT here in Vancouver.  It’s nice to slow down from the frantic pace of our lives and enjoy time with family and friends.  Here are my summer celebrations so far…

1) Weekend on the lake – To start the summer off with a splash, I spent a few relaxing days with our good friends at their summer lakeside cottage in Vernon.  This is summer tradition as my family have been going there for many years.  Unfortunately, only my younger son Oliver and I were able to make the trip this year but we had a wonderful time.  Morning dog walks, swimming, boating, wakeboarding, and evenings of games, cards and charades!  Of course, I spent a good deal of time reading on the dock!


The boys having a wild ride on the lake!


What a way to start the day – a book and a great view!

2) Berry Picking and Jam Making  -This week I took my goddaughter, her sister and their mum, my dear friend Kimberly, to pick berries at Emma Lea Farms in Richmond.  It was a great adventure and a first for the girls.  They were thrilled! (My boys used to LOVE picking berries but sadly, early morning berry picking is not high on a teenager’s list of summer activities!)  The sun was shining and we arrived early before the crowds!  We filled two wagons full of berries and then shared a huge berry ice cream Sunday!  Then it was home to wash, mush and make raspberry jam – yum, yum, summer fun!


Filling wagons with fresh berries!


Making raspberry jam in Auntie Adrienne’s kitchen!

2) Rediscovering Some Childhood “Friends”  – I have been trying to work on the endless sorting of “stuff” that we seem to accumulate.  During a trip into our storage attic, I came across a box of my childhood books that I have never been able to part with.  I was instantly distracted as I sat on the floor and began to read through all my old books that were my friends growing up.  I will be sharing these on an upcoming post but I celebrate the idea that books are my friends – I make new friends, but there is something special about childhood friends.


Betsy’s Busy Summer – One of my favorite childhood books

3) Family Photo Wall – I have been wanting to do a wall of black and white photos of my family for over a year and I have finally got myself organized to do this.  I have spent hours and hours this past week searching through old family photos and I celebrate the wonderful memories we have created together.  Every photo tells a story and I am filled with so much love and gratitude.  My boys are growing up so quickly and I love being able to see their faces through the years.  It was a challenge to narrow my choices down but my photo wall is almost complete.  Here is one of my favorite pictures:


A pirate, a knight and a princess: Me with my boys – Halloween 2004.

4) Dinner with a New Friend – One of the best things about presenting workshops is meeting educators who share the my passion for literacy and learning.  Some of those connections I make grow into friendships.  Donna Kozak and Lisa Wilson are two extraordinary teachers and literacy leaders from SD23- Kelowna, both of whom I now consider my friends.  Last week, Donna was in town for a conference on New Teacher Mentoring at UBC.  We had a “date” at Seasons in Queen Elizabeth Park- my favorite restaurant in Vancouver.  We sat on the patio and looked out over the city and ate delicious food and drank lovely wine – but best of all we talked and talked and laughed and laughed!  I celebrate new friendships and the amazing, brilliant, beautiful person I now consider my friend.


Donna and me at Seasons in the Park.

5) Stenhouse Video Clip  – During my presentation at Reading for the Love of It Conference in Toronto – I met Dan Tobin who is the president of Stenhouse, the company who publishes my books in the US.  He invited me to do a short video clip to promote my new book Nonfiction Writing Power – and just last week, they posted it on the Stenhouse website.  I am thrilled!  You can watch the clip here:  Stenhouse

I have many things to celebrate and I feel tremendously grateful for them all.  What are your summer celebrations so far?


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Filed under New Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – New Books for Summer Reading!


It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week.  Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers

Well, summer is officially here and I’m enjoying the slower pace of life!  Time to relax, get to my very long “to do” list and enjoy reading lots of books!  After a recent visit to my favorite local book store, and a delivery of a few ARC’s – I’m happy to share some of the new books I have been enjoying!

 Kicking a Ball – Allan Ahlberg

With the excitement of the Fifa World Cup – this book caught my attention!  I am also a fan of Allan Ahlberg (The Jolly Postman;  Each Peach, Pear, Plum).  This wonderful rhyming story is about the simple joy felt by a boy kicking a soccer ball.  ‘Not eating an ice-cream Or riding a bike No – kicking a ball Is what I like!”  Sebastien Braun’s illustrations are delightful!  I think this would be a perfect anchor book to read aloud to a young primary class and certainly one that many will make connections to!


My Pet Book – Peter Staake

Last summer, Peter Staake’s moving wordless picture book Bluebird was getting a lot of attention for its powerful depiction of loneliness, bullying, and the importance of friendship.  In his latest book, Staake takes a lighter approach in a heart-warming story of a young boy who choses a red book to be his perfect pet!  (He does not care for cats or dogs!)  I LOVE the idea that a book can be a pet!  The book is told in clever rhyme and is a joy to read aloud. I am already visualizing my class in September dragging around their favorite “pet book” by a leash around the classroom!  

Nancy Knows – Cybele Young

I so enjoyed Canadian writer and illustrator Cybele Young‘s Ten Birds (which won the Governor General’s award) and her follow up Ten Birds Meet a Monster, so was excited to see her new book Nancy Knows. Wow!  This book is a whimsical feast for the eyes!  It is the charming story of an elephant who remember lots of things, except the very thing she is trying to remember. Each captivating spread features fantastic miniature paper sculptures – it’s an extraordinary work of art as well as a delightful story of a young elephant.


Julia, Child – Kyo Maclear

This fictional story by another Canadian author is apparently loosely inspired by the life and spirit of the real Julia Child.  It tells the story of two best friends – Julia and Simca who take cooking classes.  They begin to discover that the adult world is mundane and colorless and so decide they never want to grow up.  They begin to create recipes for “growing young” – not in a physical way but spiritually – a joie de vivre!   This book is a celebration of youth and being young at heart no matter what your age is.  Julie Morstad’s (How To, When I Was Small)  delightful illustrations are a perfect match for this book.  I’m not sure if it’s a book aimed at adults or children but it’s certainly worth a look!

The Memory Tree – Britta Teckentrup

Get your Kleenex ready as this book made me tear up a few times.  When fox is dies, his friends gather to share stories and special memories they each shared with fox.  As they share their memories, a tree begins to grow, sheltering and protecting the animals like Fox.  This book is gentle and comforting and would be a wonderful book to share with any child who may be experiencing the grief of loss.  Beautiful and touching.


The Eagle and the Wren – Jane Goodall

As soon as I saw animal activist Jane Goodall’s name on this book I knew it would be great!  This story is based on one of her favorite childhood fables.  All the birds are arguing over who can fly the highest so owl devises a contest to see just who can.   Eagle wins the contest, flying higher than any other bird, but as it turns out, wren was hiding and riding along in Eagle’s feathers.  He begins his flight where eagle stops and soars even higher.  So who won the contest?   I can see how this book could be used to stimulate many questions and great discussions.  I love how Jane Goodall writes in a non-condescending way and is able to weave bird facts into the story.  I also loved the importance of working together to help each other achieve great things.  The illustrations are amazing!  This is definitely one I look forward to sharing with my class this fall.

Boom Snot Twitty

Boom, Snot and Twitty – Doreen Cronin

Besides the catchy title, I so love Renata Liwska’s illustrations (The Quiet Book) that I was immediately drawn to this book.  It is the story of three friends – Boom the Bear, Snot the Snail and Twitty the bird, each of whom look at the world differently. Boom wants adventure, Twitty likes things “as is” and Snot prefers to see if there will be better options. When a storm arrives, each deals with it in a slightly different way and eventually they collaborate to deal with it together.   I enjoyed this book and the charming illustrations, but for some reason (perhaps from the lively title?)  I had expected something a little more lively and humorous.  Instead, it was simple and soft but fell a little flat.  With “snot” in the title – I expected to laugh more!  I did like the theme of respecting each others’ differences and collaboration.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things

The Museum of Extraordinary Things – Alice Hoffman

This summer, my book club summer is reading The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman.  We all enjoyed her previous book The Dove Keepers and so far, I am enjoying this one even better.  It is a love story that takes place in New York City in the early 1900’s.  It is the story of Coralie, the daughter of a sinister museum curator who collects and exhibits “freaks” in his Coney Island side show.  Coralie is an exceptional swimmer and when she turns 13, her father creates an exhibit for her as the “Human Mermaid”, making her stay underwater in a life-size tank for hours at a time.  The book flips between her story and the story of a rugged photographer named Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father.  These two have only just met, but I’m anticipating their lives to become intertwined as the story continues.   So far, I am completely drawn into this story – the writing is excellent and I’ve made many T-T connections to The Night Circus and Water For Elephants.  A captivating story so far!

Well – that’s it for now!  Thanks for stopping by and I’d love to know which book has caught your eye!


Filed under Connect, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Picture Book, Read-Aloud