Wildwood Dancing

By Juliet Marillier

Set in in Transylvania in the early 1500s, Wildwood Dancing is an adaption of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. The novel is told through the eyes of Jena, the second of five daughters.

Wildwood Dancing is the first YA attempt from Juliet Marillier that would be excellent for a young teenager or advanced reader. It has an excellently crafted story with a well-shadowed but still surprising twist ending (for which I would recommend this book alone). It kept me engaged and wanting more the entire time I read it, and evoked real sympathy and empathy for the characters. The cover of the book well reflects what is inside the pages – a beautiful, complex story that is still, at it’s core, very simple and powerful.

Suggested Age: 9-12

Marillier, J. (2007). Wildwood Dancing. Random House. More


The Canada Geese Quilt

By Natalie Kinsey-Warnock

The Canada Geese Quilt is a young readers novel about 10-year-old Ariel. She lives on a farm with her mother, father, and grandmother, sketching the wildlife around her house. Then her mother announces that she’s pregnant, and Ariel’s life turns upside down. Will her family forget her, or not love her, with the new baby? Only her grandmother is her rock, giving her advice and listening to her fears.

Designed for young readers who are making their first foray into chapter books. Children on the cusp (or just past) the double digits will empathize with the main character. Most children will understand the fear of a new brother or sister, as well as the fear of losing a beloved family member. The main focus of this book is not the story, but the revelation of feelings that are new and strange to the reader that they will face along with Ariel.

Suggested Age: 6-9

Kinsey-Warnock, N. (1992). The Canada Geese Quilt. Random House. More

See How You Grow

By Dr. Patricia Pearse

(See How You Grow: A lift-the-flap book is more of a medical book then a story, meant for children who ask where babies come from. The first half of the book is dedicated to Sarah’s little brother Ben – his conception, growth, and birth.

This book was written by a doctor, and the medical diagrams are excellent, though perhaps beyond the true comprehension of children. The growth of baby Ben and the lift-the-flap aspect of the book will keep children’s attention, and it has some interesting analogies when describing why and how the body changes when it grows (motorcycle messengers delivering messages). Overall, it’s a good (if somewhat dated) guide to the beginning of life.  Some parts, like the page on nutrition, will fall absolutely flat with kids, since they don’t control what they eat, and they likely won’t like half of what is on the page.

Suggested Ages: 3-5+

Pearse, P. (1988). See How You Grow. Barron’s Educational Series.


Martin’s Big Words

By Doreen Rappaport

Martin’s Big Words is a short biography of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, from childhood to death. Meant for young children, the story is told bluntly and as simplistically as possible as it covers his life is separatism, his life in the church, cries for de-segregation, and death.

On the cover, there is no title, no author or illustrator, only MLK’s face.  The focus, simply and elegantly written, is on MLK’s message, presenting it to children in a way that they will understand. It is likely they will not truly grasp this importance – the target audience is too young – but it is likely to be one of those books that stays with them as they grow and learn.

Suggested Ages: 4-9

Rappaport, D. (2007). Martin’s Big Words. Disney Book Group.

Slugs in Love

By Susan Pearson

A tale of star-crossed slugs. Marylou is a shy slug with a crush on Herbie. One day, she writes a love poem to Herbie on a watering can, and Herbie sees it. Thus begins a back-and-forth game; Marylou leaves Herbie a love poem, and he responds, only for some occurance to keep Marylou from seeing his reply. Will they ever meet?

The pictures are cartoony but impressive, and interact well with the text; each poem is written on something in the picture. In his final letter, Herbie climbs all the way to the top of the tallest tomato plant and leaves his message on a series of plants.

The story is simple and easy for young children to understand, and they will enjoy the poetry and silly slug faces.

Suggested Age: 3-5

 Pearson, S. (2006). Slugs in Love. Marshall Cavendish.

Sukey and the Mermaid

by Robert D. San Souci

Sukey and the Mermaid is an African-American retelling of a folktale. Based in the Caribbean, it is one of the few rare African-American tales involving mermaids.

The story revolves around the eponymous main character, Sukey. Running away one day, Sukey sits on the shore and sings a song that accidentally summons a mermaid called Mama Jo to her. A strong friendship develops between the pair, with Mama Jo playing a fairy godmother role to Sukey.

This story stands out in a lot of ways. The artwork is distinctive, done entirely in dark tones (scratchboard) that reflect Sukey’s world (A neat aside: the artwork is done by Brian Pinkney, who also illustrated The Dark Thirty).

This will appeal to children with an interest in African-American folktales, mermaids, or folklore alone.

Suggested Ages: 5-9

San Souci, R. (1992). Sukey and the Mermaid. Simon & Shuster. More


By Brian Jacques

A fantasy-adventure novel featuring anthropomorphic woodland animals, Mossflower is the second book in Brian Jacques’ Redwall series. It starts before the creation of Redwall Abbey, the setting of most of the future books, with all players arriving in Mossflower Woods. The forest is ruled by a family of cats, the main antagonist being the cruel wildcat Tsarmina. It is up to a courageous group of woodland creatures to free their mates from the clutches of the wildcat.

This book appeals to both boys and girls, and makes good use of an engaging plot. Jacques gives life to each animal race, with specific dialects and languages as well as cultural customs. It still stands as one of my favourite fantasy novels ever.

The Redwall series is over 20 years old, and still available on bookstore shelves. I would highly recommend picking it up for the young fantasy reader.

Suggested ages: 8-12

Jacques, Brian (1994). Mossflower. London: Hutchinson.


What Do People Do All Day?

By Richard Scarry
Less of a storybook and more of a casual, introductory view of what, exactly, do people do all day? WDPDAD (What Do People Do All Day?) is a fabulous book full of details that will keep any child entertained as they learn the words associated with everything, from specific buildings to tools to people.

WDPDAD does not shy away from giving in-depth details either: in the chapter of building a house, Richard Scary shows us exactly what goes into building a house, including the sewer pipes. It teaches children what the keystone of a bridge is, and how people ride on a train. For the inquisitive young mind, What Do People Do All Day is one of the best books you could ever find.

Suggested ages: 3-5

Scarry, R. (1968). What Do People Do All Day? (Abridged). Random House.



By Janell Cannon



Stellaluna is the story of a baby bat who cannot yet fly. Separated from her mother when they are attacked by an owl, she falls into a bird nest, where is adopted by the three chicks who live there. When she finally learns to fly, her differences become more obvious, and she is eventually reunited with her mother.

In addition to the story, Stellaluna also offers a few bonus pages of bat facts that are sure to whet the appetite of the young reader.

The artwork is beautiful. Each picture is beautifully painted and flawlessly reflects the tone of the page that accompanies it. The picture of Stellaluna reaching up to receive her insectoid meal is gorgeous, while flawlessly transitioning to comedic picture of her spinning around a branch.

Suggested ages: 5-9

Cannon, J. (1993). Stellaluna. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Welcome to Dear As Salt

Who am I?

My name is Whitney Spencer, and I am an MLIS (Masters of Library and Information Studies) student at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. This blog started as a project for one of my classes; more specifically, a class on children’s services and literature. After the completion of the assignment in December 2011, I decided to keep going, mostly at the behest of my sister who enjoys reading my posts in between studying for exams.


Can I make a request?

Of course! I welcome suggestions. If you have a book your son/daughter, or you yourself, enjoyed, I would love to hear about it.

If you want to contact me, please email me at w.spencer@dal.ca, or just comment below.



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