A Flock of Shoes

BLUE SPRUCE nominee 2012

A Flock of Shoes

by Sarah Tsiang

illustrated by Qin Leng

Toronto: Annick, 2010

30 pp.

Age: 5 +

Interests: shoes, seasons, summer, winter, travel


Fairy Wars: Barbie vs. Tinker Bell

Just a quick note on the Barbie Fairytopia series of movies, which we have just recently been watching. (Most recently, just today. PA day from school.) Barbie’s fairy movies are very different from the Disney Tinker Bell brand. In a nutshell:

Pixie Hollow (Tinker Bell): very preschool, everyone’s sweet and lovely (except for one snarky girl), no big villains, no evil plots to foil

Fairytopia (Barbie): characters look and sound like teenagers, default setting for fairies seems to be snide and mocking (“He-LLO!”), ongoing arch-villain with megalomaniac schemes

With the Disney brand comes the deep pockets and big production value, which really comes to the fore in this battle. Pixie Hollow is absolutely gorgeous – fully populated with fairies and critters, and bustling. Fairytopia is beautiful, but in a limited way – generally underpopulated… deserted really, in the two movies we’ve seen. So much for design, but the writing and characterizations are also superior in the Disney product. The Barbie movies rely far too much on teen slang and kind of nasty, gossipy girl relations. They seem to be betting on the premise that little kids want to watch films populated by their older sister and her friends. Odd. The characters too, are quite flat, personality-wise, and they all move like… Barbie dolls. Tinker Bell is a much more nuanced, flawed heroine and her friends are more distinct and fully-rounded characters.

Tink movies are definitely better for younger viewers. The Barbie movies have a more mature world-view and Quest vs. Evil Plot structure.

In conclusion: Barbie’s movies may have come out first, but Tinker Bell kind of kicks Barbie’s pert little behind in this match-up.

Barbie Fairytopia Movies

Barbie: Fairytopia (2005)

Barbie: Mermaidia (2006)

Barbie Fairytopia: Magic of the Rainbow (2007)

Barbie Mariposa (2008)

Disney Tinker Bell Movies

Tinker Bell (2008)

Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure (2009)

Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue (2010)

The Little Hummingbird

BLUE SPRUCE nominee 2012

The Little Hummingbird

by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas

Vancouver: Greystone Books, 2010

20 pp.

Age: 5 +

Interests: nature, animals and birds, environmentalism, First Nations art, Canadian books


Nine Days to Christmas


Nine Days to Christmas

text by Marie Hall Ets & Aurora Labastida

illustrated by Marie Hall Ets

44 pp.

Age: 4 +

Interests: Christmas customs in Mexico, pinatas


Whatever happened to those weekly commentaries?

Arghh. I love doing the commentaries, I really do. Unfortunately, however, they require big long spans of time to compose, and at the moment I can only grab an hour here or there to write or read. (Half-day kindergarten=shortest 2 hours of my day!)

I’ll get back to them some day, I promise. I continue to read and take notes and ponder so that I can hit the ground running whenever I can dig up some extra hours in my day!

If you have any ideas for Commentary topics, or for Top 5 lists, please let me know!

Must run now and pick up the boss from school…

Top 5: Books for Beginning Readers

There are many graded readers out there and an awful lot of them are just dire. Dull dull dull, and often ineptly illustrated as well. If you have a struggling or otherwise reluctant reader, it is worth your while to search out the most entertaining offerings you can. Here are a few gems we have found and enjoyed.

(P.S. There is no shame in beginning with a phonics book set featuring a favourite TV or other pop culture character. In our case it was Hello Kitty.)

1. Hop on Pop, by Dr. Seuss

This is reading made painless, and funny to boot. There’s no story, just a series of situations with the words presented, followed by simple sentences using them. Ie. “ALL TALL, We all are tall.” and on the next page, “ALL SMALL, We all are small.”

The Dr. Seuss easy readers are still the best out there, for sheer simplicity and entertainment value. From this title move on to One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and other titles under the Cat in the Hat banner, like Go Dog Go, Are You My Mother? etc.

2. Cat Traps, by Molly Coxe (Random House Step Into Reading series, step 1)

This is one of the dime-a-dozen kind of graded readers, but this title is actually quite funny and contains just the right amount of repetition and age-perfect jokes to warrant repeated readings. My nephew read this to my daughter years ago, and this summer she was finally able to read it back to him – giggles all round.

3. Elephant and Piggie series, by Mo Willems

These books are very simple, extremely engaging and hilarious. All about the relationship between two very good and very different friends. Misunderstandings lead to over-reactions but friendship triumphs in the end.

From the author who brought you Knuffle Bunny, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, and many other books. This series has 15 titles, including Today I Will Fly!, My Friend is Sad, I Am Invited to a Party!, I Will Surprise My Friend!, and my personal favourite, I Am Going!

4. Buzz Boy and Fly Guy, by Tedd Arnold

Cute cartoon book about a boy and his pet fly. In this one they imagine they are superheroes and have a pirate adventure. Action-packed without recourse to meanness or violence! There are 10 titles in the Fly Guy series, including Hi Fly Guy, Shoo Fly Guy, and Fly Guy vs. the Flyswatter.

5. Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot series, by Dav Pilkey, ill. by Martin Oliveros

A little more advanced, but extremely engaging. A little mouse has a giant robot for a pal, which comes in handy whenever the world needs saving. In each book devious alien creatures invade and Ricky and his robot battle them. Some action, pummelling and karate kicking and so forth, but nothing too extreme. Pilkey more famously brought us Captain Underpants, but this series is thankfully free of the potty humour and insults of those books.

Highlights include fight scenes in “flip-o-rama”, where you flip one page back and forth to see a scene animate. Also for the artistically inclined there are detailed instructions on how to draw the characters at the end of every book! (Love this!) Another recommendation from a nephew (thanks Sam!) that is very popular in our house.

Other titles include Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot vs. the Jurassic Jackrabbits from Jupiter, Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot vs. the Voodoo Vultures from Venus, etc.

Baboushka and the Three Kings


Baboushka and the Three Kings

text by Ruth Robbins

illustrated by Nicolas Sidjakov

Berkeley, CA: Parnassus, 1960

Age: 4 +

Interests: Russia, folk tales, Christmas


The Enchanted Castle

The Enchanted Castle

by E. Nesbit

originally published in 1907

New York: HarperCollins, 1992

288 pp, 12 chapters

Age: (read to) 6 + ; (read independently) 8 +

Interests: magic, castles, treasure, siblings, mystery, adventure

Also by this author: Five Children and It, The Railway Children, The Story of the Treasure Seekers, The Book of Dragons


I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato


I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato

aka I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato (American title)

by Lauren Child

London: Orchard Books, 2000

30 pages

Age: 3 +

Interests: food, picky eaters, mealtime, siblings

Also by this author: Clarice Bean novels, Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Book?, The Princess and the Pea


Media Tips for Babies and Toddlers, from Common Sense Media

A (very) brief article on Common Sense Media about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation re. babies and screentime. Also includes link to results of a survey done by Common Sense entitled Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America.


No screen time for babies under 2. The Real World is still the best teacher!

There is no software that will make your child more ‘school-ready’.

Letting your kids have tv’s in their bedrooms is a bad idea.

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.