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What is Freedom? Exploring the concept through Picturebooks. #LibrarianFightClub

What is Freedom? What’s the difference between ‘freedom’ & Privilege’?

Lately I have been asking myself “What is freedom?” an awful lot. So I started looking at my books trying to find freedom. Here’s what I found…

Growing up in Canada, we don’t’ spend a lot of time talking about the concept of ‘Freedom.’ Not in the way that seems to take over a lot of the discussion in America around what they demand from their society, what they expect of their lives. “Freedom” has never been our primary value in our Canadian society.

But lately I’ve begun to really start thinking about what it means to have freedom, and where does freedom end and privilege begin? What is a basic freedom and what is entitlement? So I turned to my books, to search for freedom and this is what I’ve found.

The freedom to dream big?

On the surface level, I think a lot of people think of freedom as breaking free from the constraints of society, letting their hair down and, letting out their emotions.

Freedom is the space to run, to howl and cry.

Being able to count on your basic needs being met is freedom, freedom to live.

But, freedom is the right to clean drinking water, safety, food security.

Freedom from Oppression & Persecution. To be able to pass on your traditions, your history without fear.

Freedom from Oppression & Persecution

Freedom is autonomy over your own body.

Freedom is autonomy over your own body (not someone else’s.)

Freedom is, to be in your own skin, to love yourself and take up space without apology or explanation.

Freedom to exist in your body, to love yourself and, be respected.

Freedom is to be able to love without fear.

Freedom is to be able to love without fear.

Freedom is to be able to express your identity.

Freedom is to be able to express your identity.

What did they all have in common? Safety. The safety to dream, to feel, to love, to be, to live. If your idea of freedom is directly endangering any of that safety of others, then what you’re asking for isn’t freedom, it’s privilege.
Posted in Anti-Gift Guide, Uncategorized

Why are most Gift Guides so Arbitrary?: More Books Less Crap 4

Most gift guides seem completely arbitrary, whether it’s a book guide or a toy guide, what do we look for in a guide that’s responsive to kids’ personalities?
I’ve never bought anything my kids liked from an age based gift guide. All Flops. I should’ve asked ‘do my kids like trains?’ Not ‘are they two years old?’ What a waste!
Any guides that distinguish between binary gender are awful. Who are building toys for? ids who like building! Toys have no gender!
Age relation to developmental stage is not universal. Puzzle complexity, for example is about what a kid is ready for, and that is personal. And you might say, but what about choking hazards! Well yes naturally safety is one issue, but skill development is a completely different thing. Also five year olds who put crap in their mouth can choke just as much as a two year old.
If we’re going to use random criteria to assign toy recommendations then we might as well make the categories fun…
Kid’s gift guide based on their Zodiac! Because why the hell not? Gemini Kids gifts!
Or Personality type gift guide?…Am I on to something?
Enneagram Kids gift Guide? Wouldn’t this make more sense?
OK but how do I find a useful guide?

Look for a guide where:

-the writer has tried the actual products and tells you about how their real kids used them. Helpful if you can tell if that kid’s personality aligns with the kid you are buying for.

-the toy company did not pay for a spot on the guide, gift guides in most magazines are paid for spots, and certainly in all junk mailers.

-where you can ask questions to the guide creator and get answers.

consider the actual kid you’re buying for.

-is the criteria for selections on the guide clear? And are they the criteria you yourself value?

-Ask the kid you’re buying for what they like, or ask their care givers and educators, use that as a starting point. If the child is going to daycare or kindergarten, they’re playing with lots of different kinds of toys, and their educator will know what they gravitate towards.

Being a thoughtful gift giver doesn’t mean being a good guesser. Asking shows respect for the child as an individual.

Delightful Funny Stories Your Kids Will Love, Gender and Age is irrlevant: These are all stories that my own children have enjoyed over multiple reads, or in some cases over the past year over and over again. The criteria is humour, enjoyability, good strong story line, likeable characters, excellent art, and that MY KIDS LIKED IT! All of my books are gifted, period, but I have not accepted any money and the links bellow are not affiliate links, I strongly suggest you buy them from your local indie bookstore.

“Leopold’s Leotard” Rhiannon Wallace, Risa Hugo 2021, Orca Book Publishers.

Leopold loves the dance! He doesn’t love his itchy performance costume. What will he do?

“Atticus Caticus” by Sarah Maizes and Kara Kramer, 2021, Candlewick.

A rhyming delightful tribute to a boy’s beloved cat. One of my three year old’s favourite book.

“Off-Limits” by Helen Yoon 2021, Candlewick

There’s nothing like the allure of office supplies, especially when they’re left unattended.

“Cannonball”by Sacha Cotter and Josh Morgan, 2020, Source Books Kids.

Doing a cannonball is no simple act, it takes courage, it takes chutzpah, has he got what it takes?

“On Account of the Gum” by Adam Rex 2020, Chronicle Kids Books.

A bad situation, and it just gets worse. Don’t sleep with gum in your mouth.

“Lobstah Gahden” by Alli Bridon and EG Keller, 2021, Sourcebooks Kids.

Two lobsters are just trying to win a gardening competition but boats keep dumping garbage on them, read in a Bahstan accent.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Best Board Books for Babies, Toddlers & Kids

Looking for Board Books guaranteed to entertain and stand the test of time? Perfect gifts for Baby Showers, Christmas, holidays, birthdays, or just because!

Board Books are the perfect form of children’s book, they hold up, they’re water resistent, they’re easy to travel with. Babies and toddlers can explore them independently and manipulate the pages and the features. Then of course there’s the whole new world of flaps, furs, twists, pulls, tabs, and whatever the heck pop out an artist can imagine and create! Paper Engineering adds a completely new element of STEM creation and 3D thinking otherwise unimaginable.

I LOVE BOARD BOOKS. MY KIDS LOVE BOARD BOOKS. Why do publishers bother printing stories on anything else? It just makes everything more accessible.

“in the Garden” by Emma Giuliani

“Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs Pop-Up” Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart
“Where’s Brian’s Bottom?: A VEEEEERRRYYYY LONG FOLD-OUT Book” Rob James
“Unicorns and Rainbows: A Very Busy Board Book!” Rusty Finch & Ela Smietanka
“Tacos!L An Interactive Recipe Book Board Book” Lotta Nieminen the whole series is fantastic.
“Moose!” Robert Munsch & Michael Martchenko, Available in paperback and board book.
“What’s For Breakfast?” Stephani Stillwell
“Fire Truck Tales” Jack Redwing, Josh Talbot
“Where Do You Poop? Agnese Baruzzi

Posted in Uncategorized

Lucy Catchpole is way too cool to hang out with me

It is a Saturday night, I am fairly certain. Not that it matters anymore because time has lost all meaning.

This is a test. A test of strength, a test of fortitude, a test, of website building capacity.

Will this blog post work? Who knows? Perhaps if the heavens a line and the fates bestow their good fortune on me.

Some parting wisdom for this night, a chicken in the pot is better than an egg in the basket.

Posted in Uncategorized

Catchpole Zoom Party

What Happened to You? Launch Party!

Time: Apr 6, 2021 03:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join us tomorrow for a little Bookstagram gathering!  We are excited to all see each other face to face.  

I hope you enjoyed “What Happened to You?” as much as I did, and so that we can keep track of posts (for resharing etc.) tag the authors in any posts, @thecatchpoles and the publisher @faberchildrens  

Thank you Thank you Thank you! 


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Is Hellofresh Worth It?: A totally honest, not at all sponsored, not even a little bit, not even a free bread roll, review of HelloFresh.

I never thought I would be someone to do a meal kit subscription, because I am a fairly capable cook.  But being stuck in a pandemic, and not actually going to grocery stores to wander around and come up with new meal ideas has gotten us in the most terrible food rut.

So after doing a series of stories asking for meal kit subscription advice and recommendations, I decided to try out Hello Fresh.  Over the last month we have received three deliveries, total of nine meals and I have decided we will not be continuing with it.  But, under the right circumstances I think it certainly has some merits.

What I wanted to get out of it: I wanted to spice up our meal routine, I wanted to learn some new skills, I wanted my toddler who loves to cook to have a great time with it, and I wanted it all delivered conveniently.

Did it deliver those things? Yes. We tried new things. I learned a few things I would do again. My toddler had a blast, she loves doing the HelloFresh boxes. And, it was all conveniently delivered.

So why am I not continuing with it?

  1. It’s just too expensive. It works out to be almost $150 for three meals (4 portions) with the delivery, and it was not enough for leftovers, I can buy enough food for a whole week if I bought just the groceries myself.
  2. My kids didn’t like most of the meals.  They were pretty hit and miss with my picky kids.
  3. It wasn’t particularly filling.  Even with four portions for our family of four (and our two kids under 5 barely eating) I ended up having to make an extra carb dish every time because it just wasn’t enough for us.
  4. There is just so much packaging!
  5. By the time we got to making the third meal, the salad or herbs were all wilted.
  6. It was actually quite a bit of work, preparing the meals with my kids and then having them refuse to eat them, making them something else, then having to clean it all up. It ended up being way more effort than an average meal.

I personally actually enjoyed most of the recipes quite a lot.  Of the nine recipes we would make five of them again I think. We all particularly enjoyed the Mexican inspired dishes. 

The best things we got out of this were

  1. It was a fantastic experience for my toddler.  It was exciting for her, the box arrived, and then following the card, and her learning. A chance for her to work on life skills, on reading, on following procedures, fantastic. Honestly that was the best part of the whole thing, and if we do order another meal kit, it will 100% be for this reason alone.
  2. My husband actually made a couple of the meals himself, and he doesn’t cook at all.  So it was actually a wonderful break for me to have him be able to get into the kitchen and make something not from the freezer, and he came out of it with some new skills!

So do I recommend you try HelloFresh?

Yes if you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, I actually think it shakes things up.  But for us personally as a family, it isn’t something sustainable long term.

Check out the reels below of my 2.5 year old Willow doing a couple of the HelloFresh meals. She really did have a fabulous time with it. Educational value alone on this was great.

Posted in #Librarian Fight Club, Uncategorized

Beyond 2020: Will Kidlit Evolve or Revert?

Before 2020, the children’s book industry wasn’t something that most people could care less about. Sure, there were handfuls of teachers, librarians, niche collectors and people actually in the business of making kids’ books, but the general adult population at large wasn’t overly concerned with it.

  2020 changed that, well, it changed a lot of things.  It shone a burning spotlight on a number of issues and KidLit was one of them, people got fired up. The Black Lives Matter uprisings in June had people looking for ways to be anti-racist, to change the world, to take part, and it was decided a great place to start was with children’s books. The cynical part in me wonders if that’s because purchasing kid’s books, and putting them on a display shelf, is only two clicks up from the most basic form of armchair activism. Whether or not people were actually reading them and discussing them with kids is to be determined.

  During the June uprisings, the status quo of children’s literature was found to be woefully inadequate, lacking in representation of BIPOC characters (Black Indigenous People of Colour), lacking in #ownvoices of Black authors and illustrators, lacking in stories that represented BIPOC characters in a range of types of stories.  People who had probably never thought twice about what sort of books they were buying their kid at the grocery store, suddenly were up in arms demanding immediate change from an industry so slow that you’ve got to wonder if they’ve only got one poor fellow binding every book by hand. Of course, all of these problems I’ve mentioned were no secret; studies, surveys, statistics, have all existed and been done for years showing that this is a huge issue. It’s just in the heat of June, and the fire of the protest, people suddenly cared a lot.

Books like “A is for Activist” by Innosanto Nagara, were cleaned out of every online store for months. Social Media Accounts focused on Diversity and Black representation in kids’ books were flooded with new followers, some accounts growing by fifty thousand followers or more practically overnight.  An entire generation of new Bookstagram accounts emerged.

With people clamouring to buy more books that just didn’t exist, the publishers have been left scrambling. They couldn’t do much that would have any immediate effect aside from reallocating marketing budgets to favour the books they did have featuring BIPOC characters. Suddenly popping out new books wasn’t an option. Especially given the constraints of being in the middle of a pandemic. Even under normal circumstances it takes about two years for the average book to be produced, 

Publishers have gotten to work as fast as they can, finding BIPOC authors and illustrators, and getting to work on publishing socially conscious books, but it will still be approximately a year and a half before most of the books will come to fruition. 

The big question is, how will these books be received, and how will that reception impact the course of Kidlit into the foreseeable future?

Will these books be rushed?  Will they be of questionable quality because of that rush?  Will the books all focus on delivering incredibly serious messages of social activism instead of providing picture books by and about BIPOC people that are meant for children to enjoy again and again? Because if the answer to any of those questions is yes, then there’s going to be a problem. 

Secondly, by the time these books are released how many people will still be interested? The fervour of the uninvested has cooled considerably in the last few months. That paired with having had to endure the absolutely revolting deluge of self published Amazon books about Racism slapped together in an attempt to Capitalize on the BLM movement has me wondering, will people be tired of it?

The fact remains that lack of representation in kidlit, is an issue that needs to be addressed. If this massive wave of #ownvoices books by Black Creators about BIPOC characters does not fulfill the industry’s expectation, then what will happen?  What will their conclusion be? What happens if they do not sell?

If things don’t work out my concern will be that the industry executives will conclude that they were correct all along in not investing in BIPOC creators and BIPOC stories.  Capitalism may dictate it would be best to just quietly close the lid on all of this, and let it collect dust with every other trend from 2020.

Or maybe, maybe I’m just jaded, and it’ll be fantastic, and people will turn up in droves to buy them. Maybe the demand for change brought out in 2020, is just what we needed to launch a new era in children’s books, a more inclusive one.

Posted in Uncategorized

Early STEM Learning and the OZOBOT

This week we will be hosting a fantastic STEM Learning Giveaway on our Instagram @Readwithriver Giveaway runs from Dec. 3- Dec. 10, 2020.

We are so excited to be doing an incredible STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) Giveaway this year for our North American Followers. We will be giving away three wonderful books, two of which were winners in the #Bookstagang_Bestof2020 List! And in partnership with @ozobot we will also be giving away

  • “Evo for Home & Homeschool“
  • In the box:
  • 1 Evo robot
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Evo Experience Pack
  • 4 Color Code markers
  • USB charging cable

To Enter, head over to Instagram! And Enter yourself in the Giveaway Post!

Watch River Show you how to use Evo the Ozobot!

We’re still learning about all of the features, because really the possibilities are enormous with coding your own programs, but here we show some of the basic ways you can use it.

You absolutely do not need to know how to code to be able to use this. It is incredibly accessible.

The Evo is a tiny robot that your child can code to perform certain actions by giving it instructions (code) in a few different ways. Using coloured markers, or stickers, tracks can be created and the Evo will follow along, this includes understanding instructions such as turn left, skip over or finished!

By downloading the app the Evo can also be driven by remote and given other instructions including doing tricks, playing games, or even trying your hand at programming your own game! Both River (4) and Willow (2) have had so much fun, designing tracks especially! They have enjoyed rolling out long sheets of paper to make extra long obstacle courses! It definitely levels up our homeschooling program.

US Customers Can purchase here. I do NOT make a commission from any sales, and I do highly recommend this toy we were gifted one. Additionally if you wish to order an Ozobot, during the holidays, they are also giving away a free Racer Wearable Skin  

Canadians can purchase Evo here.

  • “Evo for Home & Homeschool“
  • In the box:
  • 1 Evo robot
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Evo Experience Pack
  • 4 Color Code markers
  • USB charging cable
  • $99 in the US, $124.99 CAD

About the books in this Giveaway!

“Born Curious: 20 Girls Who Grew Up to Be Awesome Scientists”

This is an anthology of biographies explores the lives of Female Scientists! Inspire your little ones!

“Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention”

Izzy and Fixer have returned in the next book in this fabulous series. They’re on a quest to build a naturally fueled recycling machine and hopefully win the Genius Guild badge as well! Relatable characters, fun read aloud, growth mind set!

“Discovering Energy”

What is energy? How do humans harness it, how do we use it, what do we use it for? This book explores all of the ins and outs of understanding this complex topic for kids! With wonderful illustrations. This book was one of the nominations for the #Bookstagang’s Best Books of 2020.

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Inclusive Picture Books

Picture books that are full of diverse and joyful representation of humans. With an emphasis on joy and love.

If you’d like to purchase any of the books you see here I recommend contacting your local bookshop, if they don’t have a copy they will be able to order one for you. If you appreciate the work I do here I have merch available as well as a tip jar here.

“When Aiden Became a Brother”

By Kyle Lukoff and Kaylani Juanita

“Ho’onani: Hula Warrior”

By Heather Gale and Mika Song

“The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish”

By Lil Miss Hot Mess and Olga de Dios

“Uncle Bobby’s Wedding”

By Sarah S. Brannen and Lucia Soto

“Santa’s Husband”

By Daniel Kibblesmith and A.P. Quach

“Mom Marries Mum!”

By Ken Setterington and Alice Priestley

“Bling Blaine: Throw Glitter, Not Shade”

By Rob Sanders and Letizia Rizzo

“Julian at the Wedding”

By Jessica Love

“Julian is a Mermaid”

By Jessica Love

“PRince & Knight”

By Daniel Haack and Stevie Lewis

“Maiden & Princess”

By Daniel Haack and Isabel Galupo

[Christian Robinson]-[You Matter ]-[Hardcover]

“You Matter”

by Christian Robinson

“All Because You Matter”

By Tami Charles and Bryan Collier

Posted in Uncategorized

Hilarious Picture Books

If you’re looking for a good time, with picture books, this is the list you need. I recommend purchasing them from a local bookshop, if they don’t have it in stock, they can definitely procure a copy for you! If you’d like to support ReadwithRiver, we have a tip jar available, as well as merch.

“Everyone’s Awake”

By Colin Meloy and Shawn Harris

“I Have to Go”

by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko

Thomas' Snowsuit (Classic Munsch) by [Robert Munsch, Michael Martchenko]

“Thomas’ Snowsuit”

By Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko


by Judith Henderson and Andrea Stegmaier

“Hat Tricks”

By Satoshi Kitamura

Are You Eating Candy without Me?

“Are You Eating Candy Without Me?”

By Rachel L. Jacobs and Andy T. Jones

“Little Red”

By Bethany Woolin

“How to Give your Cat a Bath”

By Nicola Winstanley and John Martz


By Sacha Cotter and Josh Morgan

Mortimer (Classic Munsch) by [Robert Munsch, Michael Martchenko]


By Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko

“Oh No, George!”

By Chris Haughton

“The Hug Machine”

by Scott Campbell

“This is a Ball”

by Beck Stanton and Matt Stanton