Thursday, May 21, 2020

Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award

The Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award is a literary program designed for young readers in Atlantic Canada. Each year, thousands of children in grades 4-6 read from the shortlisted titles and vote for the winners. Books are selected from Canadian titles published for children over the last two years and are chosen "to spark the imagination and to illustrate a variety of stories, voices, and cultural experiences for young readers in Atlantic Canada."  There are four categories of books:

English Fiction
English Nonfiction
French Fiction
French Nonfiction

You can find more information about Hackmatack, the 2020 shortlist, as well as past winners and nominees on the Hackmatack website

Several of the Hackmatack-nominated titles, in both English and French, are available to borrow in eBook format from OverDrive. If you are a fan of Nova Scotia's favorite weatherperson, Frankie MacDonad, you can borrow his book Be Prepared: The Frankie MacDonald Guide to Life, the Weather, and Everything by Frankie MacDonald and Sarah Sawler. 

Sarah Sawler's book 100 Things You Don't Know About Nova Scotia is also one of the shortlisted titles that is available to borrow on OverDrive. 

In addition to titles from the 2019-2020 shortlist, there are also titles from previous years. 

Due to COVID-19, this year's Hackmatack tour is a bit different. In person readings, class visits, and the big award ceremony have been cancelled but Hackmatack is offering a series of author readings via their Facebook page. Make sure you visit their page to take part in upcoming readings and see some that you might have missed. 

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Becoming a Backyard Nature Expert

Now that we are finally getting some spring weather, it is a good time to explore plants and animals you can find in your own backyard and community. I was inspired to write this post when I read an article in The Guardian about how "rebel botanists" are using graffiti to name the wild plants they come across in their communities. Let's be clear, I am not advocating graffiti. This movement, which started in France, involves using chalk to write the name of a plant on the sidewalk next to it. Think about the plants you find growing in sidewalk cracks. Do you know what they all are? Most of us know what dandelions look like but what about some of the other plants? It would be interesting to find out.  The Nova Scotia Museum has a free downloadable book that can help with plant identification. You can download the book in pdf format at

While the Nova Scotia Museum book is very thorough and a top-notch plant identification guide, the pdf is more than 1500 pages and not easy to search. A few websites to help with local plant and tree identification are:

The Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources has a variety of resources to assist with tree identification. Trees of the Acadian Forest is an introductory guide for most tree species found in the Acadian forest. 

The Nova Scotia Young Naturalists Club is a great opportunity to learn from other young people in Nova Scotia. There is information about local clubs (and how to start one) plus there are a variety of links to helpful identification sites. 

Common Shrubs, Herbs, and Mosses of Nova Scotia is a project of the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute

Nova Scotia Wild Flora Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the appreciation of wild flora and habitat in Nova Scotia.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst has a very comprehensive list of plant identification websites. This is an American resource but you can find information about all types of North American trees, shrubs, weeds, grasses, etc.

Citizen Science

You can put your new plant identification skills to work by helping with some "citizen science." Citizen science allows the public to participate and collaborate in scientific research and increase scientific knowledge. 

NatureWatch gives Canadians the opportunity to help scientists track changes in the environment. According to the NatureWatch website "information you submit to our NatureWatch programs is pooled with information submitted by other participants across Canada, and is used by researchers at several Canadian universities to improve scientific knowledge of changes in Canada’s biodiversity, climate, and the natural environment. Being a NatureWatcher costs nothing, and is a great activity for children, adults, families, groups, and clubs. You choose the places where you go to enjoy nature – your backyard, a neighbourhood park, or a favourite forest, field or pond – and use the NatureWatch website on your smartphone to record the frogs, flowers, worms, or ice conditions you observe there."

iNaturalist is a free app that helps you identify plants and animals around you. Recording and sharing your observations can help generate data for scientists and you have the opportunity to connect with a community of scientists and naturalists who can help you learn more about natutre. 

Nature Books for Children

OverDrive has a few eBooks of interest to young naturalists. Check out the series of books by Peggy Kochanoff:

Be a Wilderness Detective

Be a Pond Detective

Be a City Nature Detective

Be a Night Detective

Be a Beach Detective

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Crafting with Books

Do you have some old books lying around the house that have outdated information or are in bad shape?  Did you know that you can can give old books a new life by turning them into some cool crafts or decorative pieces? Here are a few ideas that you can make for yourself or as gifts for family and friends.

Decoupage Vase

Decoupage is the art of decorating an object using paper cutouts and glue. You can add other embellishments like gold leaf, special paint effects, or fabric, but the process itself is very simple. You can find all the directions you need to make a decoupage vase here but there is not much to it other than taking pieces of paper and using a glue (Mod Podge is often preferred by crafters but I just used basic school glue because it is what I had at home) to paste the pieces on a glass bottle. There is a bit more to the process than just sticking the pieces of paper on with glue, you really need to paint the entire piece of paper with the glue and then apply glue over the top to seal it. 

The great thing about decoupage is you can make some unique pieces that look very impressive but it is quite easy. I wanted to try it myself and I have included a photo of the vase I made.  I even folded some paper flowers to go in the vase. The flowers were a bit more tricky, you can find the link to some directions here, but there are easier designs to try and some that are more kid-friendly. Perhaps you are familiar with tissue paper flowers. I used to make these as child and I did not have tissue paper by folding a bunch of pieces of Kleenex together and peeling apart each layer. You can easily make these flowers using recycled paper too. Book pages might be a bit thick to work well but I made one using some old flyers. 

Book Folding 

Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library is very lucky to have some very talented staff members who are much more gifted than I am at turning books into beautiful pieces of art. I've included some photos of very cool book folding designs created by Cristal Van de Pol, Branch Assistant at the New Glasgow Library. Once our libraries open for programming again, make sure you try out one of her crafting programs. But until then, Cristal has created a video to show you how to fold a book into the fairy house pictured below.
Book Heart  Photo credit: Cristal Van de Pol
Fairy House  Photo credit: Cristal Van de Pol

Hedgehog Photo credit: Cristal Van de Pol
You can find more book folding projects and other bookish craft ideas at the following links:

Do you have a project to share with us? Let us know. You can find our contact information listed on the blog. 

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Local History and Genealogy

Did you know that the public library is a great resource for researching local history and genealogy? Whether you are using this down time to work on family genealogy, your child is getting a head start on their next heritage fair project, or you are just interested in learning more about the history of your community, PARL has a few resources that can help guide you. is an online genealogy database that includes immigration records, census records, vital records, family histories, church records, military records, and much more. Although is usually only available at your local library branch, it is, for the time being, free to use from home. You can access by visiting the PARL website and following the directions that are listed. In addition to the information you need to access the database, our website also has  some useful research tips. The amount of records a simple search can return is a bit daunting so follow the tips to help you narrow down your search., a collection of digitized documents, photographs, historical maps, and cemetery guides. An initiative spearheaded by Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library, there are a variety of resources specific to Pictou and Antigonish counties, such as the Pictou Historical Photograph Society collection.

A resource that deserves special recognition is the Creed Mi'kmaq Tracings Collection. In 1887-1888 George Creed, the postmaster in South Rawdon made a series of tracings of Mi'kmaq petroglyphs found at Kejimkujik and McGowan Lake. Petroglyphs are artwork and symbols carved into rocks and give us a glimpse into Mi'kmaw culture, tradtions, and history. In some cases, these tracings are the only record of specific carvings as they have been destroyed by vandalism or they are no longer accessible. 

Information for Family Historians

The PARL homepage features a tab called "Subject Resources". Under this tab you can find a link to our resource page for family historians. A noteworthy feature on this page is a photographic collection called Pictou County Characters, which includes photographs of citizens in our local communities.  Although there are links to other unique collections of local interest, many of the resources listed on this page will require an in-person visit to the Heritage Room in the New Glasgow Library. Once all of COVID-19 precautionary measures have been lifted, our library branches will be open again. But until then, we hope you find some of these digital collections compelling and thought provoking. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

What Do Parents Need to Know About Social Media?

Children and teens are spending all of their time at home these days and are no doubt spending a lot of that time on social media. Social media can be a great tool to help children and teens stay connected with their friends and family. During this time of social distancing, families are sharing birthday celebrations via Facetime, friends are doing yoga together via Zoom, people are participating in exercise classes via livestream, and children are messaging eachother about their schoolwork. With so many options at our literal fingertips, it certainly helps pass the time and alleviate the isolation that so many people are feeling. 

But there are reasons to be wary about young people's use of social media too. The sheer number of networks and applications (apps) makes it very difficult to stay informed about who is using what and if there are security or safety concerns. 

A Few Basics

  1. Try to familiarize yourself with the various social networks that young people are actively using. 
  2. Remind them not to share personal information, passwords, or their location online.
  3. Talk to your children about the dangers and consequences of social media:
    • Cyberbullying is using online platforms to intimidate or harass others. Cyberbullying can involve sending mean messages or posting them on a public platform, deliberately excluding someone from a group message or chat, or sharing pictures or information without someone's permission. 
    • Sexting is sending sexually explicit messages or photos via email or chat.
  4. Let your children know that nothing they post is really private and not to post anything they would not want a family member, teacher, or anyone else to see. 
  5. Social media platforms have privacy settings. Make sure you check these regularly. 
This is a very general overview of a weighty topic. The following resources may be able to answer specific questions. All sites are reputable and have up-to-date information. 

A Word About Online Gaming

Many young people play online games like Fortnite and Roblox which have a social component to them and allow them to play in real time with other people across the world.  While the games may look simple enough- the ability to interact with strangers can be very concerning. There are ways to help keep your children safe so that they can enjoy playing games with their friends. The Internet Matters Gaming Advice Hub has many tips to help you navigate this 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Stay Home and Read Atlantic... Plus Some Selections for Children and Youth Too...

Stay Home, #ReadAltantic

Premier McNeil's now famous phrase "stay the blazes home" has captured the attention of Nova Scotians and permeated its way into our collective vocabulary. Public libraries in Nova Scotia want to make sure that while you are staying home, you have access to a variety of books and other resources and have partnered with the Atlantic Publishers Marketing  Association (APMA) on the 2020 #ReadAtlantic program. With support from Nova Scotia Provincial Library and the NS Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, this 5 week initiative, which started on April 15,  makes a new locally published eBook available for unlimited downloads through our OverDrive collection. You can learn more about each title and when it will be available on the APMA website.  

Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library is very happy to be offering, via Zoom, live readings by two featured authors during the coming weeks. You can send in your questions and comments ahead of time by emailing Ellie at If you are not comfortable or interested in using Zoom, feel free to join us by teleconference. Full details to participate are on our website

Crow by Amy Spurway
Tuesday April 28 at 7 pm


Silver Linings by Janice Landry
Tuesday May 26 at 7 pm

Books for Children and Youth

Although the following books are not part of the Stay Home and Read Atlantic initiative (and therefore are not available for unlimited downloads) I thought it worthwhile to highlight few Atlantic Canadian books for children and youth that are also available through OverDrive. 

Wereduck by Dave Atkinson 

Kate's family has always told her that on her thirteenth birthday she will become a werewolf just like them. But she doesn't want to become a werewolf, she's always felt more like a duck. So what happens on the night of her thirteenth birthday? Does she follow her in family's werewolf footsteps or does she do what she's always become what she's always wanted to become. 

The Walking Bathroom by Shauntay Grant 

Amayah doesn't have a costume to wear to school for Halloween. She wants to do something different and creative. But just what will people think of her choice of costume- a walking bathroom!

Sinking Deeper (or My Questionable, Possibly Heroic) Decision to Invent a Sea Monster by Steve Vernon 

Roland MacTavish's mom wants him to move to Ottawa, away from his father, his weird friend, and his even weirder grandfather. So, what does he decide to do? He invents a sea monster. But his plan quickly spins out of control and it gets harder and harder to keep up the illusion. 

My River by Stella Bowles

Stella was told she couldn't swim in her backyard river because hundreds of houses flushed their raw sewage into it. She decided to do something about it. This is the true story of Stella's grade six science project to clean up the LaHave River.

These are just a few examples of Atlantic Canadian eBooks for children and youth that you can find in OverDrive. You can search Atlantic Canadian eBooks to find more or click on the link in OverDrive to bring you directly to the  Kids & Teens collection. 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Free, Family-Friendly Films

Wednesday April 22 is National Canadian Film Day (NCFD). 2020 marks the seventh year for this annual event which is all about promoting and celebrating Canadian films and filmmakers. Unfortunately COVID-19 has played havoc with plans to show films across Canada but, not to worry, the folks at Reel Canada have come up with some alternative ways for us to watch some movies on April 22. If you visit the NCFD website you will find information about the variety of films that they have selected for screening.

While you might need to subscribe to Netflix, Crave, or another streaming service to access many films, NCFD is offering a variety of family-friendly programming via Facebook Live. Every half hour on the hour, there will be a 10-15 minute activity and accompanying film for children. All you need to do is tune into their Facebook page on April 22 to participate. Here is the schedule (all times listed are Atlantic Time):

12:00 PM - Oh Canada! Geography Activity
1:00 PM - The Log Driver's Waltz 
2:00 PM - Arts and Crafts: Make and Decorate a Moose or Beaver Mask
3:00 PM - Earth Day Special
4:00 PM - Bilingual Singalong to The Cat Came Back

You might also want to check out some of the family films that have been featured as part of NCFD. The following list is just a few examples and you can find the full selection on the NCFD website:

Babar: King of the Elephants (watch on YouTube)
The Breadwinner (watch on CBC Gem, which you can access for free)
Franklin and the Turtle Lake Treasure (watch on YouTube)
The Little Bear Movie (watch on YouTube)
The Legend of Sarila (watch on CBC Gem)
Wonders of the Arctic (watch in English or French on the Canadian Museum of History website)

Happy watching!