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



Researching isn’t just for information books

If you know anything about writing, then it isn’t a surprise that research isn’t just for non-fiction titles. And just to be clear, the Internet may be an easy research tool, but it isn’t always reliable.  You may actually have to crack the cover of a book, or a journal or two folks.  Here’s a great article by Andy Weir, author of the sci-fi page-turner grounded in scientific research, The Martian.  One of his tips; research informs the story.  Don’t dump everything you learned into your manuscript, impressive though it may be.

Even if you’re not a sci-fi buff, definitely pick up his book.Who knows, you may learn something.  

If you want to be a winner, you have to practice…that goes for basketball, or writing.

Forsythia  & Magnolia about to flower

Forsythia & Magnolia about to flower


I love this time of year.  The longer days.  The gorgeous blooms in my garden.  Watching excessive amounts of college basketball.  And – most importantly – choosing a winner for The Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Writing Contest. As in past years, I’ll be the judge for the grade four category.

Writing and March Madness basketball are two of my favorite passions. It’s true that writing is a solitary endeavor while basketball is very much a team sport. But, the two activities have a lot more in common than you might think. Both basketball and writing are based on practicing a set of skills, and both rely on participants mastering those skills.

Unlike college basketball coaches, I don’t expect perfection from the young writers from across Canada who submitted stories. However I do want to see some sense that they are starting to develop their writing skills. It’s easy to tell when a young writer has spent extra time at their writing. They’ve figured out the importance of story with a beginning, middle and end.  They’re starting to understand how to develop their characters.  And, they are better at using engaging and interesting language.  All these are indicators of time spent honing their craft.
While the NCAA is in the process of choosing their best teams to compete, I’ve narrowed my choice down to the top five stories. Soon, I’ll have picked a winner, and two runners up. If you end up winning the contest, congratulations.  If you didn’t, take the time to revise your story and make it stronger.  Keep practicing.  Keep writing more stories.  Keep working to get better at something you love.  You can bet that all those NCAA basketball players will be  out on the court honing their b-ball skills and getting better at doing something they love too!


The Folks at Victoria Art Gallery love our e-books. What about you?

Stephen McCallum (from Crow Cottage Publishing) and I did a talk for the Victoria Art Gallery yesterday. What a lovely group, and a wonderful turnout.  It was also a treat to see author, Marilynn Reynolds.  Love having such strong support for our new ebook publishing venture. If you haven’t seen our books, follow the Crow Cottage links above.  We think you’ll love them, and we think you’ll love our low prices too!




 Are you inclined to head toward the picture book section of the bookstore or library? Do you love middle grade fiction as much as your middle grader, or is young adult fiction for you? Have you dreamed of becoming an author?  Are you willing to write and rewrite until your story is perfect?  Do you have what it takes to become an author?

Is that a resounding YES YES YES!

Then get your pens or laptops out and get writing because the Canadian Society for Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers has teamed up with The Writers’ Union Of Canada to offer you a wonderful opportunity; the 17th Annual Writing for Children Competition.The winner will take home $1500. But, the best part is that the winner and finalists will have their work sent to three publishers for consideration.

The $25 entrance fee will get your writing read by a pro, and would be cheap at twice the price. Contest ends April 25th so don’t delay.  More details can be found at

(To qualify, you must be unpublished and either a Canadian or a landed immigrant)



Children Change the World Montessori Conference coming up in Calgary

I’m super excited to be presenting at the Children Change the World Montessori Conference in Calgary April 11-13.  If you’re anywhere near Calgary, you won’t want to miss this awesome conference.  I’ll be talking about inspiration literature and I’ll be presenting some of the fabulous new audio enhanced electronic picture books put out by Crow Cottage Publishers.  See you in Calgary.

Polly Horvath in Victoria, Monday Feb.17

Don’t miss, author Polly Horvath Monday February 17th, 7:30 pm at the Victoria Children’s Literature Roundtable!

Polly Horvath, winner of the 2013 Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize for One Year in Coal Harbour, will join us to talk about her writing career. Polly’s award-winning books, such as The Trolls, The Canning Season, and My One-Hundred Adventures, delight children with their quirky sense of humor, rich language and plucky heroines.




Also at this meeting:

A presentation of The Great Plastic Round-up, featuring The Cascadian Crusaders, a book by local authors Michelle Peters, Haemish Beaton, Alex Witcombe and Jarrett Krentzel, illustrations by Alex Witcombe. Learn about all the plastic in our oceans and what we can do about it. Book the Cascadian Crusaders to bring their program to your school.

The VCLR is open to the public. Members free, drop-ins $5, students $4. Meetings are held at the Nellie McClung Branch Library, 3950 Cedar Hill Road.

Doors open at 7 pm. Browse Schoolhouse Teaching Supplies and Children’s Bookstore’s table before the meeting. Bring a friend!

For more information about the Roundtable, call 250-598-3694, find us on Facebook, or visit:

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