Review: Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, Illustrated by Chris Case

Jacob's New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman Illustrated by Chris CaseWhen I picked up Jacob’s New Dress at the library and started to read it, I teared up. I thought of all the kids I’ve taught in child care over the years who have been teased for using the “girl clothes” in the dress up centre, all the parents who have been angry when they’ve come to pick up their son and found them in a dress, or the parents who have told me that their child may only wear the dress up clothes that matches their child’s sex. The amount of parents who get upset over this boggles my mind.

Jacob’s New Dress is about a little boy who wants to wear a dress to school. He goes through a few different options like dress up clothes and creating his own “dress-thing” while trying to get his family and peers on board. I loved that his friend Sarah and his teacher was on board with him wearing a dress and were supportive of him from the start. I really loved that his parents were a bit hesitant at the beginning, but were loving and interested in supporting their child. It feels more realistic to what children who are gender non-conforming might face at the start of sharing this with their families.

I truly feel that this book should be in child care centres and classrooms everywhere, regardless of whether that class has a gender non-conforming child in it. By showing children these ideas early on it can teach them empathy and help them to be more supportive of their friends, and to be less confused if they find that they are not interested in the things that they “should” be interested in.

The authors, Sarah and Ian Hoffman,  have first hand experience with gender non-conforming children and write at

Review: Alphasaurs and Other Prehistoric Types

Alphasaurs and Other Prehistoric Types book by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss

I was recently looking for an alphabet book for a child that is really interested in letters. I was looking for something more advanced than the typical beginner alphabet books, something that would be interesting and engaging to a child who loves to create illustrated alphabets, and preferably something with good design.

I found a book that met all the criteria: Alphasaurs by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss. This book goes through the entire alphabet, giving one dinosaur for each letter. Instead of typical drawings of dinosaurs, each dinosaur is made up of letters in a variety of fonts, for example a Brachiosaurus made entirely out of many Bs.  Each dinosaur page also includes how to pronounce the name, the size of the dinosaur and neat facts about each dinosaur.Brachiosaurus

This book was a big hit, not only with the child I had in mind when I got it but the other children loved it as well. There were many dinosaurs that were new to them as well as me. I’ve read many a children’s dinosaur book so obviously I know of Stegosaurus, Brontosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex but this book included some I’ve never heard of such as Nothronychus, Lambeosaurus and Fruitadens.

The book is well designed, from the fonts used to the beautiful colours. No garish colour schemes here, each page uses about three to five colours that complement each other well. The flaps and cut out details on some of the pages are a nice touch as well.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a new dinosaur book to add to their child’s collection or for an alphabet book that parents and educators will enjoy too.

Friday Links

The official trailer for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children has been released. I have very mixed feelings about this movie. The trailer makes the movie look good but not really what I was envisioning in my head. Although I guess that’s frequently the problem with books being turned into movies, isn’t it? One of my concerns for the movie is the casting of Miss Peregrine. How Miss Peregrine is shown in the trailer feels completely wrong to me, and I think they shouldn’t have cast Helena Bonham Carter. I realize that she is involved with Tim Burton, but he casts her as the lead regardless of whether or not she is a good fit for the role.

The shortlists for Kate Greenaway and Carnegie Medals have been announced. Via The Guardian. I’ll be adding several of these books to my TBR list. I’m especially excited to read Five Children on the Western Front. I absolutely loved reading Five Children and It, and a sequel written by someone other than the original author is intriguing.

The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems opens today at the New York Historical Society. It runs until September 25th, 2016 and I would love to be able to go see it. Road trip! New York Times article about the exhibit.

Travelling library: The two Indians on a road trip to promote books via BBC. I love stories of unusual book shops and libraries.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Rainbow Heart Cookies Eugenie Cookies
Via Eugenie

These rainbow heart cookies, called Eugenie cookies, would be a perfect dessert for St. Patrick’s Day.

make a lucky penny necklace
via 30 Minute Crafts

This lucky charm clover necklace is a great way to use pennies you still have hanging around. It would be great to wear on St. Patrick’s Day or all year round for a little luck.

Some of my favourite books for St Patrick’s Day, for kids of all ages.

Happy St Patrick's Day Curious George

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Curious George by H.A  Rey, for children ages 2-5.

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Clover

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a CLover! by Lucille Colandro and Jared Lee, for children ages 4-7

Leprechaun in Late Winter

Leprechaun in Late Winter by Mary Pope Osborne for children ages 7 and up

This would be a great craft to decorate your house with: Hanging Paper Four Leaf Clovers

Fun and easy craft to do with the kids: Bell Pepper Shamrock Stamp



What to do in Hamilton on March Break

What to do in Hamilton on March BreakLooking for something to do in Hamilton during March Break? There are several March Break events and activities across the city.

The Zoetic Theatre is holding a pyjama screening of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the newest version). Show up in your pj’s and enjoy contests and games as well as the movie. The fun starts at 10am on Wednesday, March 16th 2016, tickets are $8 and available online but they usually sell tickets at the door as well.

Disney on Ice is back in Hamilton with Dare to Dream! This entertaining skating show includes favourite Disney characters such as Rapunzel from Tangle, Princess Tiana and Cinderella. Dare to Dream will be held at the FirstOntario Centre on March 17th– March 20th 2016. They have at least two shows each day and offer matinees as well as evening shows.

Cineplex will be offering March Break Movies, which are movies that have been brought back to theatres and tickets are much cheaper than usual at only $2.99. SilverCity Ancaster is not participating, but SilverCity Hamilton Mountain is participating and will be showing Minions, Paddington, and Shaun the Sheep. Movie times can be found by searching the Cineplex website for Hamilton Mountain.

The Hamilton Children’s Museum is a fabulous place to spend an afternoon with your little ones. They recently re-opened after some renovations were completed and are currently features the Summers Theatre Stage, the Building Gallery and the Ship Gallery. They have incredibly reasonable prices, $2 for anyone 13 years old and up, $4 for children ages 1-12, infants under 1 are free. They also have a family pass available for $9, which includes two adults and an unlimited number of dependent children under 18. Great deal! The other Hamilton Civic museums are also running March break programs, information can be found here.

The RBG is also an entertaining and educational place to take children to. While they are located in Burlington, not Hamilton, I have included them in this list because they are so close to Hamilton and are even accessible by bus from Hamilton. Their current theme is Reptile Rendezvous and is an interactive exhibit.

What are you planning on doing this March Break?

Children’s Books for Winter

With this last winter storm melting away, it seems like winter is on it’s way out. So before the snow is gone (until next year anyways!), I’d like to share some beautiful books about snow and winter.

Red Sled by Lita Judge. This book has fun pictures that will make children smile.It’s a wordless story that is told by pictures and sounds, but the story is still told in a clear and powerful way.

Snow Dog, Go Dog by Deborah Helligman, illustrated by Tim Bowers. The beautifully textured illustrations show the story of a dog who goes off just as the flurries of snow start.

Why is the Snow White? by Heinz Janisch and Silke Leffler. This book is perfect for the curious child who is forever asking “Why?”. The book tells an imaginative tale of how snow got it’s colour, with Father Snow finding a field of beautifully coloured flowers and in turn asking them to share some of their colour. This story would also be a great way to open up a discussion of sharing of yourself with others, selflessness and helping other people.

To end this post I have to include The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. This has been a favourite of my since childhood and I have read and re-read it to many children over my years of working with children. It’s simple but evocative pictures bring you to a simple but lovely snowy day.


Snow Day!

There is something magical about waking up to find that school has been cancelled and you have a snow day. Or, if you’re like me, setting your alarm for a few minutes before the time that the decision to stay open or to close is to be made and then obsessively checking Twitter, Facebook and the news until it’s finally posted. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Snow day!

Person, Human, Female, Girl, Cap, Winter, Snow, Gloves
Snow Day!

If you’re a teacher or a child care provider a snow day can be a nice day to relax, or to get ahead on planning (or caught up on planning). If you’re a parent with little ones at home however, you have an unexpected day to fill with activities. 

Here are some fun activities to keep your kids engaged and having fun on a snow day.

Movie day. Stay in your pajamas, pop some popcorn and watch a family friendly movie like Inside Out or Minions.

Snuggle up and read. Whether you’re a kid or an adult, snuggling under a warm blanket and enjoying some hot chocolate with a favourite book is great way to spend some time indoors when it’s stormy outside. When the forecast is calling for snow I usually make sure I have time to head to the library to pick up a few books.

Active indoor games. If you have a Wii or Kinect for X Box it’s a good way to let your kids play some video games while still staying active. There’s a large variety of active games available for these systems like sports, carnival games or dance games. If you’re looking for some active indoor games that aren’t video games, you can try having a scavenger hunt indoors, playing games like volleyball or keep it up using a balloon instead of a ball, or competing to see how many bean bags or ball bags you can toss into a laundry basket or smaller container.

Baking. If you already have some supplies on hand, baking can be a fun way to keep your kids entertained while they’re inside. Plus you’ll have some delicious treats when you’re done! Here’s a link to my favourite brownie recipe. It’s a very simple recipe to follow, doubles well and the brownies it makes are fabulous. 

Crafts. Whether your children are older or younger, crafts are a good way to keep them engaged in an activity. From colouring or painting, to crafts that are a little more involved, there’s a craft for any age, skill level or interest. Here’s some links to fun kid’s crafts you can do on a snow day: Hand Print Penguin, Winter Tree Silhouette, Paper Plate Snowman.

Just because it’s a snow day though, doesn’t mean you have to stay inside all day if you don’t want to. Bundle up in some warm clothes and head outside to build a snowman, go sledding or make some snow paintings in your backyard using spray bottles filled with water and a little bit of food dye. Don’t forget the classics of building a snow fort and having a snowball fight!

Whatever you choose to do on a snow day, stay warm and safe, and enjoy it! What are your favourite things to do on a snow day?


Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo

Up to This Pointe Jennifer Longo

She had a plan. It went south.

Harper is a dancer. She and her best friend, Kate, have one goal: becoming professional ballerinas. And Harper won’t let anything—or anyone—get in the way of The Plan, not even the boy she and Kate are both drawn to.

Harper is a Scott. She’s related to Robert Falcon Scott, the explorer who died racing to the South Pole. So when Harper’s life takes an unexpected turn, she finagles (read: lies) her way to the icy dark of McMurdo Station . . . in Antarctica. Extreme, but somehow fitting—apparently she has always been in the dark, dancing on ice this whole time. And no one warned her. Not her family, not her best friend, not even the boy who has somehow found a way into her heart. via Goodreads.

Before reading Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo, I had been in a real reading slump. I was having a hard time sitting down to read, not finishing books etc. As soon as I started this book though I was hooked. It’s the kind of book that you want to read as quickly as possible while simultaneously savoring it. When I first started reading it I read a bit here and there, then ended up devouring it on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Although the book is split fairly equally between two very different settings, Longo writes in such a way that you don’t get whiplash going from one to the other. She manages to take you from San Francisco on one page, to Antarctica the next without making rough transitions. Each scene flows into the next nicely, while maintaining the reader’s interest.

Jennifer Longo has a dance background and a strong interest in Antarctica and you can really see this in her writing. She adds so many details that the reader can really picture themselves dancing next to Harper or shivering next to her on the ice. I’m very curious about things I don’t know and love lots of details, the way the author wrote about wintering over was fabulous.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants a compelling read, regardless of whether or not they are interested in dance. I’m going to look for Jennifer Longo’s previous book Six Feet Over It, and can’t wait to read her next book.

Top 5 Valentine’s Day Crafts for Kids.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Looking for a craft to do with kids today? Here are  five kid-friendly Valentine’s Day crafts.

DIY Valentine's Window Clings
via The Connection We Share

DIY Valentine’s Window Clings. Theses look so simple to make!

Valentine’s Day Necklace. I love paper straws. They’re so cute and come in so many different patterns and colours but I hate using them in drinks because they tend to fall apart quickly. Using them in crafts is a great idea!

Modern DIY Valentine’s Shirts. An activity that is a bit more challenging and needs more materials but gives you a great shirt to wear on Valentine’s Day. I like that kids can customize it and move away from the red and pink colour scheme if they want to.

Cupid’s Heart Glow Stick Valentines. I bought Valentine’s glow stick bracelets for my after school program kids this year, but I love this craft because you can personalize the messages.

DIY Scratch Offs. This would work for different ages, even adults! You could also use this technique to make scratch off tickets for birthdays or other holidays.

What are your favourite crafts or activities to do on Valentine’s Day?