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Hello, CLASC folks!

It’s that day of the year – we wait for the night, when witches will fly and pumpkins grin, and skeletons dance.

Do you have any favorite Halloween stories or materials? Here are some of ours:

Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree is a shivery, gleeful jaunt through the different periods and cultures of history that have become part of our Halloween get-ups: the mummies, candies, witches on broomsticks, and ghosts. Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud guides eight boys through a treat – or is it a trick? – of an adventure, a quest to find and save the ninth member of their group.


Only A Witch Can Fly, by Alison McGhee and Taeeun Yoo, is a gentler look at witches: a young girl wants to fly, and must try several times before her broomstick will soar across the night sky. A sweet picturebook that could be used all through the year, but is perfect for a Halloween goodnight story.


For rhymes, this is a fun one: “Witch’s Pot” — the link takes you to Jbrary performing the song. It’s funny to end the game with the Mother Goose rhyme “Hot Boiled Beans” — “Ladies and gentlemen come to supper– Hot boiled beans and very good butter! Hee hee hee!” Crook your fingers and cackle.

What are your favorite Halloween materials?









VCLR Illustrator’s Breakfast With Ashley Spires

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Hello, CLASC folks!

Becca the Book Wyrm came to CLASC this week raving about her exciting adventure last week. As she and her daughter Caz the Cockadoodle enjoyed some Timbits, they read children’s books together and reminisced about meeting the famous author Ashley Spires. Becca’s favourite Ashley Spires book is The Most Magnificent Thing, but Caz loves the Binky series the best! Becca admitted with chagrin that she blew her book budget on Small Saul, Larf, and Binky Takes Charge, all by Ashley Spires. She has no regrets.

Below is Becca’s report on her attendance at the Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable’s Annual Illustrator’s Breakfast.

Ashley Spires is the Most Magnificent Thing

Last week, Becca the Book Wyrm had the privilege (well, actually she paid for the privilege) of meeting author/illustrator Ashley Spires. The Vancouver Children’s Literature Round Table hosted an Illustrator’s Breakfast, as they do every year, and they invited the Magnificent Ashley Spires! Becca was super excited to meet her, because a couple years ago she had visited Becca’s daughter’s school and taught the children to draw dogs. Her daughter, Caz the Cockadoodle, came home and painted a dog on the beach, which still hangs above her bed. Becca brought a picture of this painting to show to Ashley Spires! Guess what? She liked it!

Caz Ashley Spires Dog Painting
Ashley entertained the group of librarians, teachers, students, authors, illustrators and publishers with the rousing tale of her journey into children’s book publishing. She told us about her years of school (and which courses she didn’t take!), her years of struggle to get her work accepted, the wonderful years of enjoying the success of The Most Magnificent Thing, and the agony of accepting criticism and work that was rejected by publishers and editors. She also illustrated the journey with the similar process of creating The Most Magnificent Thing. Turns out the road to publishing a famous children’s book is not smooth! And requires hard work, study and angst. (Also, lots of tea and cats in Ashley’s case.) Ashley was happy to sign the pile of her books that Becca bought, and turns out that she reads YA fantasy too, as well as writing the Most Magnificent children’s books ever.

Ashley Spires Books

Becca the Book Wyrm also learned that a “mackle” is a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature (MACL) student at UBC, and she got to share breakfast with Canadian illustrator Karen Hibbard. How cool! She hopes to see you (yes, you!) at Serendipity 2018, the next VCLR event in March.

In Memoriam: Caroline Johnson

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We at CLASC are sorry to pass on the tragic news that Caroline Johnson passed recently….

we are grateful for her post and all that she did for children’s librarianship, and the world….

Caroline completed her MLIS at the University of British Columbia and worked as a librarian at North Vancouver District Public Library, New Westminster Public Library, and Surrey Libraries. Starting in Surrey in February 2014, Caroline worked for several years at Guildford as a Youth Services Librarian specializing in outreach to families and children. She was passionate about her early years outreach and focused on serving at-risk and marginalized groups in the community. She made strong connections to FRAFCA, Awahsuk, the Surrey Food Bank, Umoja, and many other organizations. Fluent in French, Caroline contributed to the collection development of children’s French materials and ran French Storytimes at Newton. A dog-lover, Caroline also coordinated the Dog-Tales program at Guildford Library. She was also a passionate member of the SCA, singing with a group of bard pirates, brewing and generously giving of her time and resources. She enjoyed horseback riding, traveling, reading, crafts, and spending time with her sister and family in Berlin.

We will miss Caroline’s energy and enthusiasm.  Our thoughts and prayers go to her family, her friends, and her beloved pets.

And Now for Something Different

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A Child’s First Book of Trump
by Michael Ian Black (words) and Marc Rosenthal (pictures)
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Praise Song for the Day, by Elizabeth Alexander (words) and David Diaz (pictures)


CLASCfolks, Greetings! We at CLASC are trying something NEW!!

We went down to our secret lair, to which we had kidnapped the lovely Princess Rei (because secret lairs must have kidnapped princesses in them).

Now Princess Rei just happens to be one of the most amazing storytellers, stoutest champions of librarianship, and weavers of straw into gold, that ever existed. Rumpelstiltskin wanted her (and the King too, of course), but she said: “It’s 2017; I got my own thing to do” — and walked straight into our Lab of Amazing Analysis and Ridiculous Reviews. She was singing a song: not about white shoes, but about
“Love beyond marital, filial, national, / love that casts a widening pool of light / love with no need to preempt grievance.”

Wow, what a mouthful. The book Praise Song for the Day was commissioned for Obama’s inauguration waaaay back in 2009; it features glowing illustrations and a touching, inspirational poem you can still read as a bedtime book to, or with, your toddler.
Princess Rei reminded us again and again that words really matter. Which brings us to our mad little experiment, mwahahahaha.

Just like Google, we’ll give tribute to hiphop and the history of mashing things up by pairing our review of Praise Song for the Day with our review of another book on another, more recent presidential inauguration of that elephantine neighbor to the south: A Child’s First Book of Trump. Michael Ian Black dedicated this book to “the haters and losers” in 2016, and it is most definitely NOT a children’s book. The Trump is mocked for being loud and orange, and folks are reminded that there are no Trumps up North in Canada (hint hint, nudge nudge). Nevertheless, it is a roaringly funny rhyming book, and as with many such books in history (such as Gulliver’s Travels), kids may take it for themselves. Inti’s big takeaway was “…turn off your tv.”

The discussion we had at our roundtable was that we are always looking for quality first, not to throw anyone under a bus. CLASC is apolitical and pro-kids’ books. We made a strong point that while one work was commissioned and seeks to commemorate an occasion, the other is a humorous political critique comparable to Dr. Seuss’s works (especially his harsh – and what we would now consider inappropriately disturbing – commentary on WWII). We concluded that these were both quality works by artists at the top of their game, but the stance towards the subject matter is what makes them very different.

We recommend all books hoping that everyone will find at least one title they love, and we hope that everyone takes the time to read to themselves and their little ones a beautiful bedtime story in which words and pictures interweave, and we can share a dream for a better tomorrow. We hope you enjoy these two, and please comment on any ways to use these books or similar works in all great Canadian libraries today.

Any other great books on presidents? Does anyone know of a glowing beautiful book about Trump, or a Seussian critique of Obama, for very young children?

Best all,

Your friends at CLASC

Thanks to Princess Rei for her company and insight!

Happy Birthday, Mr. Carle!

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Hello, CLASC folks! Today is the birthday of Eric Carle, and he is 88 this year.

We at CLASC are wishing Eric Carle the happiest of birthdays.
Where does one begin to explain the gratitude for his canon?
Personally, I (Inti Dewey) can only smile as I reflect: during library school I took a class with a name similar to: 521 Contemporary Literature and other Materials for Children taught by the life-changing Judi Saltman at the University of British Columbia. For a project during this class I asked my mother if she could help me remember one of the first books I read; my mother shared with me the long-forgotten memory, that I had turned the pages again and again of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Researching for this same course I discovered a video of Carle reading Die kleine Raupe Nimmersatt (the German translation of this book). As German is one of my secondary languages I am not able to judge how good his German is but it sounded fairly fluent. The video inspired me to learn that he had been born in Syracuse, New York but returned to Germany with his parents (who were both from Germany), living in Stuttgart and going to school from 1935 – 1952. He studied under Ernst Schneidler, a Type designer and calligrapher. He later returned to New York and in an interview with the New York Times in 1994 says “much of his work is an attempt to come to terms with the trauma of his family’s move from Syracuse”. (Lawson, C., April 13, 1994). IN THE STUDIO WITH: Eric Carle; For Children, Very Simple Stories With Very Vibrant Art. Retrieved June 25, 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com/1994/04/14/garden/studio-with-eric-carle-for-children-very-simple-stories-with-very-vibrant-art.html)

I am again and again amazed by how much there is for us to learn about these simple books and their inspirational creators.
Through this amazement I find inspiration to go forth, working hard to take care of myself and save the world in the littlest of ways: a smile, having a little bit more patience, being there for the little minds that are looking for the book about the butterfly…

So once again it is with the greatest of gratitude that in the name of all the Canadians serving children, I say “Happy Birthday Mr. Carle!!!”

National Aboriginal Day

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Hello, CLASC folks!

June is National Aboriginal History Month. June 21st, especially, is National Aboriginal Day; this year marks the 21st National Aboriginal Day since it was first proclaimed in 1996 by then Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc.

There are a still a few days left in the month to: read a book by an Indigenous author/illustrator, watch a documentary film, enjoy music by Aboriginal musicians, join  festivities hosted by the different Aboriginal advocacy groups in each province, or learn more about the history of Canada’s First Nations and their current issues. Do tell us your favorite titles in the comments below, or what you did to celebrate National Aboriginal Day/National Aboriginal History Month this year.

Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada Information Book Award

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Hello CLASC folks!

Do you know about the Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada’s Information Book Award? It aims “to recognize excellence in Canadian publishing of children’s nonfiction.” The shortlist of titles for 2017 has been announced, and you can find it here. Voting by Roundtable members will continue until October.


The Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada are a group of folks who enjoy, create, study, and are otherwise interested in, children’s literature (much like CLASC ;-)). There is one in nearly every province; see the list here.


Not only do we encourage everyone to seek out their nearest Children’s Literature Roundtable and get deeply involved, but we must also acknowledge our debt of gratitude to the Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable; our experiences at VCLR events have not only been excellent professional development and deeply pleasurable events in themselves, but they have also been one of the key foundational elements in what is surely to be a long lifetime of enjoyment in children’s literature, through the Illustrator’s Breakfasts and the Information Book Awards.

VCLR also has the important role of recognizing and celebrating the lifeworks of so many brilliant individuals who went before, through retirement ceremonies and parties.

Last but not least, there is Serendipity: a once-a-year conference/event/lifechanger that everyone should attend if they can!