Celebrate World Read Aloud Day

World Read Aloud Day is an international initiative of Litworld a non-profit literacy organization that believes that the world’s children “have the right to read, to write, and to share their stories.”

Read a story aloud today to someone you love.  And don’t forget to consider helping to create that same opportunity for others in our world community who lack the resources we are so fortunate to have.

Here are two delightful stories brimming with alliteration that I plan to read to my not-yet-two-year-old granddaughter today.

Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That by Victoria Allenby and illustrated by Tara Anderson, is a perfect read for a little one who is fascinated by felines. It features a rhyming story that children will love to chant along to and adorable illustrations of a kitten’s energetic efforts to get Nat the Cat’s attention…

Nat can sleep in dresser drawers,

Or in front of bedroom doors.

Under blankets, on a stair,

Upside-down on someone’s chair-

Have You Seen Birds by Joanne Oppenheim and illustrated by the talented Barbara Reid, was a favorite of my daughter back when she was small.  A generation later, it’s become one of her daughter’s favorites.

Have you seen spring Birds?

Fluffy, cheeping,

sleeping, peeping,

ever-eating baby birds.

Picture Book Review: When Emily Carr Met Woo

Monica Kulling’s When Emily Met Woo is a perfect introduction to one of Canada’s most famous artists, Emily Carr. Young readers will find an engaging story,  a brief history, some of Ms. Carr’s most famous images and the charming illustrations of the very talented Dean Griffiths.

Monica Kulling paints a vivid picture of Emily Carr’s life in simple, direct language. Emily is thought to be a “strange bird” whose art no one wants.  “To make a living, she [Emily] made and sold clay bowls and hooked rugs.”  The painter was known as an eccentric who housed a menagerie of animals, including a monkey she called Woo. The depth of love Emily feels for her animal companions is clear when Woo becomes gravely ill.  Fortunately, Woo makes a full recovery and accompanies Emily to the forest where “Cedars touched the sky. They touched the painter’s heart too.”


I especially like the design of the dust jacket. The front cover integrates a photograph of Carr and Woo within the illustration while the back cover features several of Carr’s paintings as well Griffiths illustration of Woo.

Picture book biographies are difficult to write well, but Pajama Press, Monica Kulling and Dean Griffiths all get top marks with When Emily Carr Met Woo.

#willholdtheline … A shout out to support teachers

#willholdtheline. Let teachers know that you support them.

I’ve been a little lazy about posting lately…enjoying my granddaughter, gardening, socializing, and busying hosting out of towners. But, a plea has gone out (Thank you, Kara) that our province’s teachers are still without a contract and September is just around the corner. As a former teacher, a parent and writer and citizen, I care deeply about education. I know that teachers make a difference in the lives of children.  I knew it as a student, I know it as an educator, as an author who has been in schools all across this province, and I know it as a parent.  I am deeply indebted to teachers, and I want them to know that they have my support. Teachers need to know that we stand behind them as they fight for our children. They need to hear from you, and so do our politicians.  Tie up their phone lines and fill their mailboxes. Demand that they make our children’s education a priority.


The rewards of starting a little library in your neighborhood

IMG_3338I’ve probably mentioned the little neighborhood library that I began in front of my home a few years back.  My neighbor, George decided to build a more water proof version for me, and one that would accommodate more books.  We planned the dimensions over dinner and a bottle of wine. His wife, Kathy offered some cute little seahorse drawer handles that she had been saving for a special occasion. The roof is an old rubber pool liner offered by Nigel and Cathy, a couple from across the street who saw us working on the library in front of George’s place.  I used some left over paint from a craft project to paint it up. George put heavy duty wheels. And here it is.

Now I have four shelves instead of two and the shelves are bigger, so it’s easier to fit picture books. A pleasant bonus is that now,  I know my neighbors a little better. I admit that a few of the books don’t find their way back. But most do.  And,  I even get book donations dropped off at my door.

IMG_3337I have found roses, book marks and notes waiting left for me from appreciative readers. Yesterday, when I went out to replenish the library and this is the note that waiting for me.

Thanks Julia.  This is exactly why I do it.

Walter Dean Myers

Sad news…

African-American author, Walter Dean Myers passed away yesterday. He was 76 years old. He was one of several wonderful writers who changed the face of literature for young people in North America.

I had the pleasure of hearing him speak only once, but his words, like his books, will remain with me for years to come. Fallen Angels, Monster, and Bad Boy are some of my favorites. I will be revisiting them, and I hope you do too. He often set his stories in inner city neighborhoods and featured characters who often made  less than ideal choices.

Myers,who grew up in Harlem under some tough circumstances,  dropped out of high school, and had more than a few brushes with the law.  He managed to stay connected to books and reading through his local library.  In a public radio interview on “here & Now,” Myers says, “My circumstances often seemed insurmountable to me, but through reading I reached out for ideas that might help me escape them. The books I read showed me options other than those I saw reflected in my surroundings. They gave me new definitions for success in my life.”

After working a series of low paying jobs, he took the advice of a high school teacher who had told him to keep writing no matter what.  Fortunately for all of us, Walters followed that high school teacher’s advice.  He went on to publish more than 100 books and became one of the most respected voices in young adult literature in America.  He was a tireless advocate for literacy, and his writing was especially popular with middle and high school boys.  His books garnered multiple honors including: five Coretta Scott King Awards for African-American fiction, two Newbery Honor Medals, and a Printz Award. He was named a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature in 2012-13.

For young writers looking for writing advice, Myers published Just Write, which he described as a template from his own life.




Summer fun

I love summers and so do kids, but some days, but every now and then, a rainy…I’m bored day comes along. What to do?  National Geographic Kids has some very cool coloring pages to download, but why stop there?  Kids can use the pages as jumping off points for there own drawing projects, or accompany the art with their own stories.

Stories come in all shapes, sizes and mediums

I love that stories can be told in so many ways.  Here’s a Ted Talk by Jim Toomey that is really cool…it’s his story on how he became a cartoonist, but it’s also the story of how “Story” comes in a variety of forms and how it can have an impact on our world.  So, for all you parents and teachers out there who tell kids to stop doodling, you may want to check this out. And for those of you who are kids and doodle-inclined, this is for you.

Orca book Publishers spring book launch

Orca Book Publishers is celebrating some awesome authors in their spring book launch.  If you’re in town, be sure to drop in. If you can’t make it, books will be available through your local bookstore, or online.


Blog Hop

One of the cool things about being a kid’s book writer is the mutual support and help members are happy to give each other.  It’s a wonderful community, and I so appreciate being a part of it…which is how I ended up agreeing to this blog hop.

My invitation came from Adrienne Mason, a west-coast writer and editor that I first met through CWILL BC.  CWILL BC started out as a small group  published BC children’s writers and illustrators, but today it’s bursting at the seams with more than 150 members.  Be sure to check out CWILL BC as well as Adrienne’s blog which is full of her gorgeous collages. And, don’t forget her books. They are a real joy, not to mention totally informative.

While you’re at it, please check out the three writers I am in turning tagging:

Margriet Ruurs,

Helaine Becker,

and Lois Peterson (a crazy busy work schedule is preventing Lois from participating in the blog hop, but she has such an awesome blog that you should be sure to check her out anyways).

What am I working on?

One of the things I love about being a writer is that I’m almost never doing the same thing.  So, one day I may be researching moonsnails and the next, I’m studying the official rules of baseball.  It’s absolutely never boring.

Right now I’m working on an untitled chapter book about Joey and his best friend Matt.  Both both love dogs, have annoying sisters, and can’t get enough of baseball! When Joey makes the tournament team and his best friend doesn’t, he knows the coaches have made a mistake.  He has to find a way to get Matt on the team.  The championship, and their friendship depends on it.

But, this isn’t the only thing I have on the go.  I’m often revising another story, making notes about new story ideas, and editing stories for other writers.  I have a serious passion for picture books (yes, I have books shelves overflowing with them).  I love writing them, and  I have one on the back burner that has been percolating for some time. Stories are like that; sometimes it takes them a while to bubble to the surface.

How does your work differ from others in this genera

From my very first book, Waiting for the Whales, my work has been rooted in two things: place and lyrical language. I grew up in Arizona, and I love the desert.  But, the west coast stole my heart from the very first moment I laid eyes on her. This place has inspired many of my stories and I’m sure that it will continue to do so.

I also love lyrical language and the way words flow together to create something bigger and richer and more beautiful than mere sentences. Not surprisingly, I am a big fan of all sorts of poetry 🙂

Lately, my writing has taken a new direction. I’m finding that I’m enjoying playful characters. Sometimes my characters are 9 year old boys who can’t stay out of trouble. And, sometimes my characters take the shape of a canine who wants to do the right thing but just can’t quite master it. I hope that my readers will agree that these are characters that jump off the page.

Why do I write what I do?

I’m not nearly as prolific as many of my writer friends, probably because I’m easily distracted and a whole lot lazier. I need to fall in love with an idea, a character, or a concept that won’t let me go.  When that happens, I’m ready to commit to the time it takes to write and rewrite and rewrite again  until I have something  that  I know I will be proud to share.

How does my writing process work?

I don’t have a specific time or schedule that I work by.  I’m always fooling around with some bit of writing. I often mull things over for quite some time before I start a project.  Even then, I may find it I need more thinking time.  I don’t tend to outline, although I suspect if I could work that way I would be a much more efficient writer.  Alas, I’m not an outliner, so I just muddle through.  Usually,  by the time I start writing, I have a pretty good idea of what, when, where, and who in my head.  Once I start, I’m terribly obsessive and have a hard time stopping.  When I’m in my obsessive phase, I usually work through dinner, late into the evening.  My dog, Ruby is no happier about that than my children were all those years ago when I first started writing.

I do a lot of editing and usually end up rewriting a story at least half a dozen times. I probably spend quite a bit of time in the final edits getting the language just right.  That’s probably because for much of my career, I’ve been a picture book writer, and with only 32 pages, every word counts.

You won’t regret checking out these three other writers!

Margriet Ruurs

I’ve known Margriet for more than 20 years.  She is a whirlwind in the children’s book world and I can hardly keep up with the books she’s written or the places she’s travelled.  She’s also one of the kindest most generous people I know and it’s a privilege to call her a friend.


Margriet Ruurs is the author of 30 books for children. Margriet works in elementary and middle schools across North America and also in many international schools around the world. She loves writing but also sharing stories with children and educators, getting them excited about writing their own stories.

Margriet lives on Salt Spring Island, BC where she and her family run a booklovers’ Bed & Breakfast called Between The Covers. Her next new books will include Families Around The World with Kids Can Press and A Brush Full of Color, the biography of Canadian artist Ted Harrison with Pajama Press.

website: http://www.margrietruurs.com

blog: http://margrietruurs.blogspot.ca

Helaine Becker

I first met Helaine about 10 years ago at a conference we were both presenting at. I was unfortunately coming down with the flu. Despite not feeling very well, Helaine made me laugh so hard that I almost forgot about being sick. She is such a bright light in the writing world, that you just have to read her books.

Helene is an award-winning writer of books for children. She has written over50 books, including the best-selling picture book, A Porcupine in a Pine Tree, theLooney Bay All-Stars seriespopular non-fiction, including Magic Up Your Sleeve,Secret Agent Y.O.U. and The Quiz Book for Girls; and young adult novels includingTrouble in the Hills and How to Survive Absolutely Anything. Helaine loves bright shiny colorful things, especially happy faces and flowers. She is crazy about fluffy dogs, coral reefs,  ice cream and color-changing nailpolish.

website: http://www.helainebecker.com


Lois Peterson

I first met Lois online when I was looking to share a room with another writer at the LA SCBWI Conference about six years ago.  We don’t get to see each other often but she is a fine and dedicated writer that I have learned a lot from. Her books for kids are wonderful thought-provoking reads, and I especially recommend  her 101 and more Writing Exercises for anyone wanting a writing career.














Literature to Inspire…picture books

Last weekend I attended a wonderful early ed. montessori conference, Children Change the World in Calgary, Alberta.  Inspiring presenters, dedicated teacher attendees, and superb organization all contributed.

Here is the reading list for my Literature to Inspire Program. It’s weighted to younger readers, but many of the titles are suitable for older children too, so read, share, enjoy, and continue to add wonderful books that you discover to this reading list.

Sheryl’s Literature to Inspire Reading List


*** Here is a broad selection of picture books that will round out any library but be sure to keep adding more titles


Fairy, Folk, Myth 

a) Modified Traditional

Rapunzel byPaul O. Zelinsky

The McElderry Book of Aesop’s Fablesby Michael Morpurgo

Greek Mythsretold and illustrated by Marcia Williams

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears

How Raven Stole The Sun by Maria Williams, illustrated by Felix Vigil

The Dragon’s Pearl by Julie Lawson, illustrated by Paul Morin

b) Fractured Fairy Tales

The True Story of The 3 Little Pigs! By A. Wolf as told to Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems

Dog Tales by Jennifer Rae, illustrated by Rose Cowles

c) New Tellings Dressed in Old Forms

Squids Will Be Squids: Fresh Morals and Beastly Fables by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith

War and Peas by Michael Forman

Doing it Write: Books that engage readers

a) Wordless Wonders

Flotsam by David Wiesner

Chalk by Bill Thomson

Window by Jeanie Baker

b) Draw and Tell

Draw-And-Tell by Richard Thompson

Tell and Draw Stories by Margaret J. Olson

c) Puzzle Books

Animalia by Graeme Base

Twelve Ways To Get To 11 by Eve Merriam, illustrated by Bernie Karlin

d) Feel or Find Books

Look-A Likes Jr. by Joan Steiner

A Pod of Orcas by Sheryl McFarlane, illustrated by Kirsti Anne Wakelin

Perfect Poems

a) Chanting Charms

Gifts by JoEllen Bogart, illustrated by Barbara Reid

Science Verse by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith

What’s That Sound? In The City

What’s That Sound? By the Sea

What’s That Sound? At the Circus

What’s That Sound? On the Farm by Sheryl McFarlane, illustrated by Kim LaFave

Did You Say Pears? By Arlene Alda

b) Building Refrains

This is the Dog by Sheryl McFarlane, illustrated by Chrissie Wysotski

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? By Bill Martin Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle

Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney

Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz

c) Rhymes Without Reason: Nonsense Rhymes

Once Upon a Twice by Denise Doyen, illustrated by Barry Moser

The Cat In The Hat by Dr. Seuss,

There Were Monkeys in my Kitchen! By Sheree Fitch, illustrated my Marc Mangeau

d) Prose Pleasers

Going to the Fair by Sheryl McFarlane, illustrated by Sheena Lott

Moonsnail Song by Sheryl McFarlane, illustrated by Sheena Lott

Waiting for the Whales by Sheryl McFarlane, illustrated by Ron Lightburn

Me and Mr. Mah by Andrea Spalding, illustrated by Janet Wilson

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: books about the past, the present and the future

A) Past Perfect

In Flanders Fields by Linda Grandfield, illustrated by Janet Wilson

Belle’s Journey by Marilynn Reynolds, illustrated by Stephen McCallum

Lumpito and the Painter from Spain by Monika Kulling, illustrated by Dean Griffiths

Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barner

b) Present Tense

Mile-High Apple Pie by Laura Langston, illustrated by Lindsey Gardiner

No Two Snow Flakes by Sheree Fitch, illustrated by Janet Wilson

That Magnetic Dog by Brue Whatley

Jessie’s Island by Sheryl McFarlane, illustrated by Sheena Lott

c) Fabulous Fantasy

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, illustrated by Ron Barrett

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig

d) Playful Possibilities

Giraffe and Bird by Rebecca Bender

My Sister Gracie by Gillian Johnson

Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard

Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeanie Baker

Student Additions

The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila McGraw

Red is Best by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Robin Lewis

My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards, illustrated by Shirley Hughes

Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel

Mole Music by David McPhail

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Play, Mozart, Play by Peter Sis

Pete the Cate: I Like My White Shoes by Eric Litwin, illustrated by James Dean

Peter and the Wolf  by Sergei Prokofiev, illustrated by Charles Mikolayck

Musical Max by Robert Kraus



Previous Older Entries