Category Archives: Book Review

What Does It All Mean? (Nursery Rhymes, that is)

Sometimes an egg is just an egg. And sometimes it’s a cannon.

I am currently in love with this fantastic book about the meaning of nursery rhymes: Half for You and Half for Me by Katherine Govier.HalfForYou

As a children’s librarian, I love all things to do with children’s literature. Nursery rhymes hold a special place in my heart, though, from the many recitations by my mother at bedtime; the impromptu plays my siblings and I would concoct based on the rhymes found in our dog-eared and much loved Real Mother Goose anthology; and the hours now spent repeatedly singing these rhymes with my two-year-old son.

So when I came across this book, I was immediately besotted. A nursery rhyme book that divulges its secrets and that is both beautifully illustrated and Canadian (Albertan!) to boot! Yes, please!

Back to the egg. We are all familiar with Humpty Dumpty. But did you know that while some think Humpty Dumpty is a riddle rhyme, with the answer being ‘Humpty is an egg’, others believe Humpty actually refers to a cannon on a castle wall used to protect the royalists during sieges?

Or that Rock-a-Bye Baby has sometimes been credited as the first poem produced in North America? (Apparently, one of the pilgrims arriving on the Mayflower saw Aboriginals suspending their babies in birch bark cradles in the trees to be rocked by the wind. Ingenious!)

But this next one blew my mind. Many people have often said that Ring Around the Rosie is actually a rather depressing rhyme about the plague. But Govier sets us straight, explaining that the rhyme is probably not old enough to be able to reference the Great Plague we thought it was describing. This rhyme doesn’t appear in history until the late nineteenth century – a full two centuries after the 17th century plague it supposedly describes. Rather than falling dead in the line ‘we all fall down’, it is believed the children are really just curtsying. Isn’t that a much nicer way of imagining this rhyme as we sing it with our children?

I love reading about the multitude of theories surrounding the origins of nursery rhymes. Is there one that you’ve always wondered about? Send us a message and we’ll see if we can find some answers for you!

Tactile and Interactive Board Books

Last month we wrote about why board books are so important for early development.

This month, we’d like to share some of our picks for our favourite type of board books — those with movable parts, interactive elements and lots of tactile stimuli!

Before we get into the benefits of these books, we want to add the same disclaimer we do in every program in which we talk about choosing books for babies: Making books with lots of bells and whistles might seem like a gimicky way for publishers to sell titles, and sometimes it is. It might also seem counter-intuitive to other parenting advice we’ve heard; having books with ‘toys’ in them might seem to work against the logic that tells us digital screens cause over-stimulation and that we need to teach slower, sustained attention to our children.

But! These books are also brilliant tools for:

  • learning engagement (having novelty input is what sparks our imaginations and pushes us to learn more)
  • hand-eye coordination (tracking is a crucial pre-reading skill)


  • developing pincer grip and fine-motor coordination (the pre-writing skills that allow us to hold pens and pencils and move them in small, concentrated ways)

Board books, with their flaps, sensory patches, sparkles, tabs, pulls, holes, and sometimes even actual bells and whistles, provide a unique opportunity to build these skills while simultaneously strengthening the same bonding, literacy, and communication skills of regular storytime.

Our list of our favourite tactile and movable board books is always changing. Our Director has a list published through Calgary Public Library if you’re interested in borrowing rather than buying, but these books tend to have a shorter lifespan than other books (which is OKAY!) and new ones are always being developed. Some of our stand-by classics include:

  • Re-pubs by Eric Carle and Bill Martin Jr. like “The Very Hungry Caterpillar“, “Mister Seahorse” and “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” (the Slide & Find edition particularly)
  • Just about anything by Salina Yoon, but especially “Opposnakes“, her Lift-The-Flap-Adventure Series (Space Walk and Deep Sea Dive), and “Who Do I See?
  • Rufus Butler Seder’s Scanimation Series, especially “Waddle!” “Gallop!” and “ABC Animals
  • Anything that Herve Tullet has ever written (seriously) but for the littlest readers, we recommend his Tullet Game Series
  • The current publishing phenomenon that is the Usborne “That’s Not My…” Series. These ones include tactile swatches that are higher-quality than most mass-market titles, like full velcro (a lot of publishers shy away from rougher textures in favour of softer, ‘babier’ ones, but it is so important to expose our children to a whole variety of fibres!), puffy fabrics (that can be pressed deeply into the books, excellent for learning about pressure and weighting), and one-off textures that have been manufactured for each title.

We like the last series so much that we are going to submit a massive order through Usborne at the end of April. We’ll be carrying them in-store once our new location is up and running, but if you’d like to order a set now (and secure a title before it discontinues or batch re-prints) you can add your selection to our order (residents of the Greater Calgary Area only). Just shoot Alex an email with your title selections and we’ll get them on the list!


If you ever have any questions about recommendations for books for your little one, we are always happy to help!

Happy Reading!


Guest Blog: Top Ten Books for Toddlers

brin twitterThe Adventures of Huckleberry Brin is a great resource for all levels of children’s literature and programming, but today Brin joins us to specifically speak to her Top 10 picks for Toddlers! Featuring concept books with letters and colours, and lots and lots of animal stories, these choices are sure to be a hit!

Thanks for joining me in my countdown of my Top Ten Books for Toddlers! These are not in any particular order because I like them all for very different reasons and who can really pick a favourite anyway?

Number One: Oh, Daddy! by Bob Shea

Does your Daddy need help getting dressed or giving big hugs? This story is lots of fun! Little Hippo’s Daddy needs help with everything from getting dressed to eating his carrots, or that’s what Little Hippo thinks. Have fun with your child by getting them to participate in telling this story, they’ll love sighing along with you when you say “Oh, Daddy!”

Number Two: Dancing Feet! by Lindsey Craig

A guessing game and a movement game in one?! This book offers a lot of opportunity for vocabulary building and play.Guess who is dancing based on their feet and then practice dancing like that animal. Your child will be introduced to a variety of concepts such as animals, colours, and movement adjectives.

Number Three: Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard

Everyone gets grumpy sometimes. Help your little bird get out of their cranky pants by joining Bird on his walk through the forest. Bird woke up grumpy, too grumpy to fly, so he’s decided to walk. Along the way, his friends join him and end up playing a bit of a copycat game that cheers Bird up. For added fun, join Bird and his friends in their game!

Number Four: Kiss Kiss! by Margaret Wild

Baby Hippo left home in the morning and forgot to give his mama a kiss! As he waddles through the African landscape, he sees all of the other baby animals kissing their mamas. Suddenly, he remembers that he forgot to kiss his mama and rushes back home. Try making this story interactive by kissing your little one as the other baby animals give their mamas a kiss.

Number Five: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.

Who doesn’t love a good alphabet book? This book has a great rhythm and begs to be read over and over again. I love the use of colours and both lower and uppercase letters. Have your child point out colours and letters they recognize as you read the book and point to the letters as you read each one to strengthen the connection between the letter and its sound. Also, Weston Woods has done a fantastic video of this book with a killer beat!

Number Six: From Head to Toe by Eric Carle

I love this book because it encourages participation and movement. You can demonstrate the movements of each animal and have your child copy them. You can even extend the fun and make up animal movements of your own!

Number Seven: I Am Small by Emma Dodd

The world is a scary place, but with your help your little penguin can do anything. This book is beautifully illustrated with simple text that allows you to elaborate as much or as little as you’d like. I’d recommend this book for a cozy bedtime story where you can cuddle your little one and give them a little extra security.

Number Eight: Who’s Laughing? by David Bedford

It should be no surprise by now that I love interactive books and stories. This lift-the-flap book is very well done and a lot of fun to read. Enjoy making the different sounds of animals laughing and then guessing who is laughing like that. Extend the fun by making up more animal laughs!

Number Nine: Wow! Said the Owl by Tim Hopgood

As far as colour books go, this one is my favourite. Not only does it introduce the colours of the rainbow, but also the concepts of night and day. Extend your child’s knowledge by talking about how some animals sleep during the day and are awake at night. Also, see how excited you guys can make the owl sound throughout the book!

Number Ten: Zzzzz: A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na

This is a great bedtime book. The relaxing illustrations are interesting enough to hold your child’s attention, but not so stimulating that they will get wound up just before sleep. Another great thing about this book is the little owl that is present on every page discovering how all the other animals sleep.

Thanks for your time, I hope you find at least one book on this list that will become an integral part of your child’s personal library!

— Huckleberry Brin


Stumblr — Great new find!

Ed Emberley is already a staple of every Rhyme & Reason program, but the other day while on our regular book hunt for our end-of-programs gifts, we stumbled across THIS amazing new addition to the Monster collection, and now that place is truly cemented:

nighty night

It’s got all the tactile, manipulable goodness of the original, but it’s even cuter (who knew that was possible?!)

Our other picks for Monster Storytime?

monster 2 monster 4 0-545-21829-2

Add some Fingerplays to the mix by singing “Five Little Monsters Jumping on the Bed!”

You can easily make these out of coloured foam and googlie eyes (monsters are impossible to “mess up”) for some guaranteed fun!

Book Review: You Are Stardust


We are ALWAYS looking for exciting and interesting books to share with our families and children — and despite some lingering fears that e-publishing will mean the death of the book, it is clear to us that Children’s Literature is alive and THRIVING!

This month we’re taking the time to highlight the delightful “You are Stardust” by Elin Kelsey, with artwork by Soyeon Kim.

With the facts of a non-fic and the flow of a lullaby, this gentle and beautiful picture book is a great fit for every age. Whether you’re sharing a story with a curious five-year-old, reading aloud to a classroom of second graders, or even if you just need a break from the sing-songy offerings of stand-by baby titles, this book has something for you!
We promise there is something for everyone in this book! It is also perfect for extended activities! Try piecing together different materials to make your own collage/diorama! Talk about the habitats of different animals in the pictures! Pick one of the natural processes (like pollination or the water cycle) that are touched on so simply and expand the conversation!

You can also check out more activities on the website, or download the book app from The App Store!