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Thursday, October 17, 2019

My Winter City, words by James Gladstone and pictures by Gary Clement. Groundwood Books, 2019. $19.95 ages 3 and up

"It holds warmth a little closer
to our skin and our bellies,
and time a little slower, tying
laces, pulling mittens ...

trudging, huffing creatures
move at the sluggish speed
of snow.

My winter city is a soup of
salty slushes, full of sliding ... "

I had a plan to post this wonderful book much later in the season ... then, a Thanksgiving weekend winter storm practically closed down our province. It left plenty of homes without power, hip-deep drifts, clogged streets and highways, thousands of trees bent and broken, and many abandoned and dented cars. Although the snow is melting, it is taking its time under cloudy skies. I know we have some fall weather left to come but, it has left many dreading what might be next and last for a much longer time.

Two urban inhabitants here are keen to get out and see the sights following a winter storm. The streets are winter-white; the cars are covered in a deep layer, a man and his dog make tracks along a pristine snowy sidewalk, and still the snow falls. It is s wonderland to many!

The boy and his father (with their dog) bundle up in parkas, woolen socks, snow boots, scarves, toques, and mittens. Their dog anticipates a walk. Off they go. Dad has the toboggan in hand while the son trudges behind his dog. Buses splash slush on pedestrians as they wait to board. Everywhere there are signs of people on their way somewhere.

Their day is filled with the wonders of snow and its many differing scenes. After making it to the sledding hill and enjoying its excitement, they make their way back home.

"My winter city is an afternoon journey
past side-walk singers in shivery shadows,
past winter workers with hot steaming chocolate,
past rows of locked bicycles, buried and waiting,

back where we came from ... backwards sledding.

Jump up,
hang up,
warm up,
done."

The author ends with an invitation to readers to tell him what their winter city is like.

Gary Clement designs the endpapers and full spreads with wintry scenes that are sure to be familiar to those who experience the wonderland that a storm brings. Perspectives change, adding details that give context  to James Gladstone's family story celebrating the many joys of a 'snow day'.

It won't be long until we will all have our own stories to share. In fact, kids here could write one now.
                                                                          


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Please Don't Eat Me, written and illustrated by Liz Climo. Little. Brown and Company. Hachette, 2019. $23.49 ages 3 and up

""Wait! I still need to eat you!
My friends will make fun of
me if I don't.

Oh, no. I am being eaten.
What a bummer. 
Ouch. 

Okay, are we good now?

Oh, those guys weren't my
friends."

If you like to read books that are certain to make your listeners snort with laughter, you will be happy to have this one in your hands. It begins with a burrowing bunny who pops up in front of a much larger bear. The bunny has only one request: not to be eaten.

But, the bear is hungry and you know what that means. The bunny offers to order a pizza. Wanting the last slice is definitely not the way to avoid being supper for the bear, although it is fairly content with the meal. Dessert will make it perfect. The bunny has another solution. After sharing an ice cream soda, the bunny prepares again to take its leave.

It turns out it is not the end of the bunny's dilemma. Covered in bear spit and  bent on escape, he must now convince the bear that a four leaf clover is a better lucky charm than a rabbit's foot! The bear still has a bone to pick:

"Wait - are you
sure I shouldn't eat
you? I mean, you did
burrow through my
lawn earlier. That
was pretty rude.

For crying
out loud."

Posted warning signs for other bunnies, and returning the yard to its further glory certainly should be the end of it! It seems not.

Listeners will love the negotiating, the droll humor, the charming characters, and their ultimate solution to the problems faced. 

"Aw, nuts."

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

This Book of Mine, written by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2019. $23.50 ages 3 and up


"To open it wide
and put my nose inside.

To read it aloud
and wish for a crowd.

To become the book,
now that this book
is mine."

I spend a good part of many of my days reading ... I am blessed. Blessed to have the opportunity, blessed to choose the books I want to read, blessed to have a love for reading and books that has been mine since I was a child. Books lift my spirit, teach me about the world, provide opportunity to live in the shoes (and hearts) of many, offer lessons in empathy and understanding ... and much, much more.

This book pays homage to the affinity between books and their readers. The gorgeous artwork shows characters of all ages and races and from different walks of life; each reaches for a book for their own particular pleasure. The children from the cover, a child at the library, readers in solitary, peaceful places with books in hand, a mother and her baby ... the scenes move from page to page with wonder and purpose.

"To think about what I
just saw -
then close the book
and try to draw."

On each spread, the book holds attention through the color of its cover. Young readers will find pleasure in the simple text and its accompanying illustrations. The couplets have a rhythmic tone that will carry the reader from page to page. The expressive faces of the readers show that reading unites them. It is a quiet celebration of the friendship felt between reader and book. Perfect for your favorite bookworm.
                                                                           

Monday, October 14, 2019

A Voice for the Spirit Bears: How One Boy Inspired Millions to Save a Rare Animal, written by Carmen Oliver and illustrated by Katy Dockrill. Kids Can Press, 2019. $18.99 ages 9 and up

"TRY.
The spirit bears had no voice,
so he had to find his. He opened
his mouth and ...

... his words spilled out and
snapped into place! "By protecting
the home of the spirit bears, we can
ensure that they will be wild and
free forever." Simon went on to
explain ... "

Children can make a difference. They just need to care enough to raise a voice, and make it heard. Simon Jackson did just that. In childhood, he developed a love for bears. Simon's stuttering was a huge problem for him; he was teased and left out by his classmates.

In nature, he felt more comfortable and was even able to talk to the wildlife that lived in the woods behind his house. He read many books about grizzlies, his favorite bear at the time. Then, a news report changed his life.

"One day, there was a story about a forest
above Canada's border in Alaska that needed
protection. The trees were going to be cut down,
destroying the homes of the brown bears that
lived there.

Those bears are helpless, thought Simon.
It's not fair!"

He wrote letters, and raised money to convince the governments of both countries to protect the bear population. It worked. A park was created for their protection. That was only the beginning for Simon. Despite continuing difficulties at school, Simon was determined to do more research. His reading led to his discovery of the spirit bear, a rare species born with creamy white fur and found only in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia, near his home. What could he do to help them?

Loving those bears and caring about their future gave Simon a chance to speak publicly about their plight. His passion for the cause lead to his being able to articulate clearly what he wanted others to know.

"He visited every classroom in the school. He
convinced students to put pen to paper. To stand
up for what was right.
Seven hundred letters flooded the government."

Although deforestation continued, Simon kept up his fight to protect the spirit bear. Word spread, thanks to his tireless work. With school friends to help, he established the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition. It attracted support and membership from all over the world. More and more people paid attention, including Dr. Jane Goodall. It remains his life's work.

In back matter, the author shares a short biography of The Real Simon Jackson, some notes on Spirit Bears, and offers a section on What You Can Do to Make a Difference. 

If you are looking for environmental protection books and the part that your own children or your students can play in making a difference, add this to your growing bucket of titles. It's the newest addition to the CitizenKid collection from Kids Can Press, and worthy of your attention.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

A Whale's World, by Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read. Orca Book Publishers. 2018. $19.95 ages 6 and up

"The orca also sees another,
much bigger whale. Orcas
can grow to be the size of a
stretch limousine. But this
whale, called a fin whale,
is as big as a bus. Orcas are
black and white, but the fin
whale is bluish gray. And
unlike the orcas, he is not ... "


This is the fourth in a series of photo journals concerning the Great Bear Sea and Rainforest, and the creatures in this area of  British Columbia. The books are just right for kids who want pertinent information, and an up-close-and-personal accounting of the environment. In this book, a small pod of hungry orcas is looking food.

The very attractive photographs, taken by Ian McAllister, are sure to have readers poring over every detail ... they feature not only the magnificent whales; also bears, a wolf, other whales, a shark, seals and sea lions, and so much more.

"The orca is getting frustrated. Where are all the seals
and sea lions? How will she and her pod fill their bellies if they
don't find something to eat? She decides to look above the water
again. Maybe she'll spy a seal swimming toward a sun-warmed
rock. Then she and her pod can capture it."

Readers will feel a connection to the orca pod because the storytelling is focused on one orca, making it a more personal narrative. They are made aware that food can be elusive, and that the food chain is part of the natural rhythm of this beautiful habitat. The book is informative, while using rich language to allow young readers to 'see' what is happening here. Its content is sure to encourage children to ask questions, and will lead to them to find out more through further research.

Perfect for adding to the other books in this fine series.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Sweety, written and illustrated by Andrea Zuill. schwartz & wade books. Penguin Random House, 2019. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"There were times when Sweety wondered what it would be like to be someone else. Someone like Deb. Deb always said the right thing and had stylish friends. Best of all, she had beautiful hair. Sweety wanted hair like Deb's."

Sweety is a sweety ... a naked mole rat with thick glasses, awkward dental gear, and a penchant for identifying fungi and doing school reports through interpretive dance. The interest in fungi is not shared by the other naked mole rats; she can't find anyone wanting to work with her on identification. While others describe their dolls in simple terms, Sweety has a much more descriptive and pointed answer when asked to describe her own:

"This is Warrior Princess Zorna!
Friend of the friendless, lover of
chocolate-beet cake with cream 
cheese frosting! Her favorite color
is aubergine and my mom made
her for me!"

Readers soon see that Sweety has some quirks. It never causes her friends to shun her, or make disparaging remarks. It just shows that her grandmother might be right when she calls her 'a square peg'. Sweety is generally happy with who she is. Only occasionally does she wonder if she should change just a little to be more like Deb, one of the other young mole rats. Most of the time she is happy being the way she is. 

Her Aunt Ruth, also a square peg, is just the visitor Sweety needs to boost her confidence and let her know that being herself is her best self. Sweety concurs. She gives herself license to wait and see if 'her people' are out there. Lo and behold!

"My name is Sandy.
Your shirt is wonderful!
I wouldn't mind having a
shirt with a mushroom on
it. I love mushrooms. My
favorite is a Gyromitra 
esculenta. It looks like a
brain."

I cannot do justice to the quirky artwork. If you have seen other books by Andrea Zuill, you will know what I mean. Her characters warm your heart, The humor is understated but very appealing.
Every single spread is unique and detailed.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Because, Score by Mo Willems and Performance by Amber Ren. Disney/Hyperion Books for Children, Hachette. 2019. $18.99 ages 5 and up

"Because workers checked
the lights and the seats and
swept the floors - the grand
hall was ready.

Because the time had come -
 the ushers opened the doors.

Because someone's uncle
caught a cold -
someone's aunt had an extra
ticket for someone special."

This is a beautifully quiet cause-and-effect homage to the power of classical music in one young girl's life. It all begins long before she hears her first concert - with a man named Ludwig whose music  encouraged another young man (named Franz) to write some of his own. Contemporary musicians, all admirers of Schubert's work, decide to form an orchestra. In turn, they send out invitations to a wide variety of accomplished musicians asking them to join them.  The orchestra grows, and is soon ready to for its first concert.

In the meantime, a graphic designer is creating a poster about Schubert's work to announce that concert, a train conductor is dropping another kind of conductor at the concert hall, and the orchestra is settling in for its initial performance. Inside the concert hall, workers are making sure the hall is sparkling clean and ready to welcome concert goers. The ushers open the doors.

Not too far away, an uncle is confined to bed with a cold, leaving an aunt with an extra ticket for someone very special to her. The aunt and her special guest find their seats, and ready themselves for the music.

"In row C, seat 14 -
sat the girl with the uncle's ticket.
She heard the beautiful music written by
the man named Franz -
and it changed her."

It inspired her to follow the path that led to another very special musical performance. This book is not just about music - although music is at its heart. It is also about many small moments, one affecting the next. It is about the people who help make something extraordinary come to fruition. It is about hope, hard work, and wonder.

Amber Ren's gorgeous illustrations are filled with the joy and power of music. They present a multicultural community consumed by that joy, and supportive of the arts in personal ways. Every spread is filled with inviting details and is awash in music.

Do you have a BECAUSE moment? Can you tell someone about it?