Welcome back to another edition of Behind the Blog, the monthly feature where we celebrate fellow children’s book bloggers! This month we’re profiling Canadian children’s librarian and book reviewer Michelle, who blogs over at Fab Book Reviews. Take it away, Michelle!
Hi, my name is Michelle! I am a children’s librarian and I blog/review over at Fab Book Reviews. Thank you so much for having me, I am so delighted to be participating!
How would you describe Fab Book Reviews?
Fab Book Reviews is an online extension of my love of books and reading: it’s a site mostly filled with book reviews, but it’s also a place where I can – outside of my work as a children’s librarian- generally talk and share my love for authors, titles, illustrators, series, etc., that I’ve read and would recommend. Everything from board books to children’s fiction, YA to adult fiction, non-fiction, lots of Canadian lit is covered on the site!
Why did you decide to start your blog, and how long have you been blogging?
In all, I think I’ve been blogging for about six years, though Fab Book Reviews is about three years old! Fab Book Reviews is the result of my first review site going offline. My first site was Fabbity Fab Book Reviews, which was mainly YA-focused, and when that fizzled out (due to multiple factors), I had to take a break and reassess what I wanted to do. Did I even want to continue blogging and reviewing? I decided I did, but that things would have to change- especially in that the new site would really have to reflect how my own reading preferences were changing. I also wanted to feature more Canadian authors and illustrators, feature perhaps lesser-known authors and illustrators, as well as talk more about my ever-increasing love of picture books.
What are some of your favourite genres to read and/or review?
Children’s fiction and picture books are two favourites broad areas to read and two favourites to review. A few other favourite genres/areas of interest are: contemporary adult fiction, mystery/suspense and historical fiction (in children’s, YA and adult), coming-of-age stories, comics strips, humour, graphic novels (mostly in children’s and YA), and some memoir.
Can you name some of your favourite authors? How about favourite Canadian authors?!
How much space do I have here?!? My list of favourite authors is…lengthy and always growing! I’ll try to narrow it down a bit here: Louise Fitzhugh, Kate DiCamillo, Elinor Lipman, Megan McCafferty, Meg Cabot, J.K. Rowling, Julie Halpern, Don Calame, Nina LaCour, Kwame Alexander, Brenna Yovanoff, Jaclyn Moriarty, Katherine Paterson, Kate Morton, Judy Blume, Matthew Inman, Maria Semple, Sherman Alexie, Stephan Pastis, Allie Brosh, Claire Legrand, Lois Lowry, Mo Willems, Mac Barnett, Ian Falconer, Oliver Jeffers, Philip C. Stead, Jon Scieszka, Michelle Cuevas.
Canadian favourites: Susin Nielsen, Kit Pearson, Susan Juby, Gordon Korman, Will Ferguson, Robin Stevenson, Lisa Moore, Sarah N. Harvey, Teresa Toten, Miriam Toews, Mary Lawson, Sara O’Leary, Vikki Vansickle, Fanny Britt, Richard Van Camp, Kyo Maclear, Kate Beaton, Ashley Spires, Elise Gravel, Eileen Cook, Sophie B. Watson, Alice Kuipers, Melanie Watt, Zoe Whittall, Katherena Vermette.
I’d also love to add in some favourite illustrators if I could as well- I have SO MUCH love and awe for illustrators! Julie Morstad, Isabelle Arsenault, Julie Flett, Shaun Tan, Matthew Cordell, Jon Klassen, Jessixa Bagley, Eric Orchard, Christian Robinson, Lauren Child, Ben Hatke, Komako Sakai, Carson Ellis, Viviane Schwarz, Dan Santat, Brendan Wenzel, Patrick McDonnell, Richard Thompson, Sydney Smith, Jean Jullien, Molly Idle, Peter Brown, Chris Haughton, David Wiesner, Suzy Lee, Catherine Rayner, Erin E. Stead, Chris Appelhans, Gianna Marino, Cybele Young, and David Shannon. I know I’m forgetting names all over the place!
You have to do a last-minute story time with zero prep time – which books do you grab?
Ooh good one! For a preschool-age story time: I would grab a title with an interactive element, something like Christie Matheson’s Tap the Magic Tree, Please Open This Book! (Adam Lehrhaupt and Matthew Forsythe) or even Herve Tullet’s classic Press Here. Then I would pick something totally FUN or unusual like The Princess and the Pony (Kate Beaton), Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise (Sean Taylor and Jean Jullien) That Is Not a Good Idea! (anything Mo Willems, really!), Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen), The Book With No Pictures (B.J. Novak), Bob, Not Bob! (Liz Garton Scanlon and Matthew Cordell), or Bunnies!!! (Kevan Atteberry). For good measure, I’d add a lovely story with a heartwarming (but not heavy) message: any of the ‘Bear’ stories by Karma Wilson or titles from Catherine Rayner. For a younger, squirmier toddler crowd, rhyming stories, shorter stories, ACTIVE stories are key. Lucy Cousins is a go-to author as is Jan Thomas. Other options are Edward Gibbs’ I Spy series, and never-fail (shorter) classics by Eric Carle or Denise Fleming. Books with fold-outs or opening-up pages are also terrific: recent favourites include Everyone is Yawning by Anita Bijsterbosch and Look, Look Again by Agnese Baruzzi.
And one last note: even with zero prep time, make sure you bring multiple felt stories in with you!
What are some of your favourite book blogs to read?
Vikki Vansickle’s review blog- I get some of the BEST recommendations from Vikki’s site- especially for Canadian and children’s lit. I also love CanLit for Little Canadians, the 49th Shelf, CM: Canadian Review of Materials, Canadian Children’s Book Centre, Quillable, Raincity Librarian, The Book Wars, Picture Books Blogger, Ramblings of a Daydreamer, Pink Polka Dot Books (for my YA fix!). I am also very fortunate that I have access to print review journals at work! I spend quite a bit of time reading reviews from: The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, as well as Quill & Quire.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’ve been rereading my way through favourite comic strip collections lately- when things in my life are off-kilter and my reading time is limited, I tend to revisit comics. There is one comic strip that I absolutely ADORE and would love to talk about: Richard Thompson’s Cul de Sac. Thompson’s work is just incredible- his writing and illustrations are superb and Cul de Sac is one of my favourite things. Thompson published four collections and an anthology of Cul de Sac strips before he passed away in 2016. Any readers and fans of Bill Watterson, Charles M. Schulz, Steve Breen, Mark Tatulli, or Bill Amend (or similar cartoonists), who haven’t yet had the chance to discover Cul de Sac, I cannot sing its praises enough.
Thank you so much for inviting me to participate!!
Michelle @ FAB BOOK REVIEWS
Children’s Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.