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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

An Inuksuk Means Welcome, words and art by Mary Wallace. Owlkids, 2015. $18.95 ages 5 and up

is for inuksuk,

the stone messenger
that stands at the top
of the world."

Inuksuit have many purposes in Inuit culture. Because of the vast expanses of land in the north, an inuksuk may be used as a beacon, providing a kind of map to help travellers find their way. They are also used as a means of welcome and joy for those who see them.

"For thousands of years, people living in the Arctic have built stone towers called inuksuit to guide them across this land of ice and snow. A single marker is called an inuksuk. It can mark where to find food or how to find home. It can even be a way of saying, "Welcome."

Mary Wallace uses an acrostic framework to introduce her readers to seven words from the Inuit culture, each beginning with one of the letters of inuksuk. In reading it, we learn something about the customs and traditions of Arctic life for the Inuit people.

The words are first given in English and accompanied by textured and beautifully rendered artwork. The double spread that follows each of the seven words presents a portrait of the Arctic landscape, with a phonetic guide to saying the word properly as well as the word show in Inuktitut characters.

You will see the polar bear, a umiaq, a kamik, the siku, a umimmat, and the kunik. Interested in knowing more? Find this book at the library or your local bookstore. Then, you will know what each word describes.

Mary Wallace's paintings show readers the depth of beauty in the Arctic and the power of the stark landscape. As well, she allows a glimpse at family and the variety in form for these iconic towers on the northern landscape.

A final page shows and explains the meanings for the various inuksuit that may be built as messengers of the Arctic landscape, also giving their pronunciation, their Inuit spelling and the English translation. Readers are encouraged to go back and see if they can find each of the seven images.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Princess Pistachio and the Pest, written and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay. Translated by Jacob Homel. Pajama Press, 2015. $12.95 ages 4 and up

"Pistachio throws her clothes on. No crown for her this morning. She slaps on her baseball cap, takes her backpack and her flashlight, and careens down the stairs. She rushes into the kitchen like a tornado. She's singing loud enough to rattle the windows. Loud enough to wake the neighbors. "No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers' - "

Instead of going exploring with her friends on the first day of summer vacation, Princess Pistachio is tasked with the challenge of looking after her little sister Penny. The princess has a penchant for adventure and she is not pleased with her mother's request.

"Half an hour later, Pistachio hits the road. She is dragging behind her the wagon piled high with dolls, stuffed animals, plastic buckets, shovels, rakes, and ... her little sister!
Penny wears her rabbit-ear hat and her Superman cape. She looks ecstatic. She has also managed to hide the dog under a stuffed elephant."

It is not an auspicious beginning. Things just keep getting more and more complicated as the day passes. First, Pistachio is accused of stealing bananas and a melon from the grocer, only to later catch Penny chomping on a pear from her wagon. Who's the thief? Each friend she meets is excited about their planned adventure. Pistachio must decline their repeated invitations in favor of caring for her sister. YEESH!

When Penny climbs a wall and promptly falls off, Pistachio is scared for her safety. Hurtling after her to the other side, she is angry when Penny pretends to be hurt and is not. Only then do they realize that they have landed in Mrs. Oldtooth's garden. The kids in the neighborhood call her a witch. Penny and Pistachio must deal with her threats before making their escape while Mrs. Oldtooth is distracted.
They head to the park for a play ... a recipe for further disaster. They are asked to leave after a series of infractions. If  the opportunity to care for her little sister tomorrow arises, how will Pistachio react?

Perfect for early readers wanting more text in the books they are reading! There is so much action, humor and description. The illustrations perfectly match the tone and share with readers the adventures that the sisters have. It's quick to read and worthy of reading again.

Huzzah for Princess Pistachio! I know we will meet again!


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Bug in a Vacuum, written and illustrated by Melanie Watt. Tundra Books, Random House. 2015. $24.99 ages 5 and up

Bug in a Vacuum Melanie Watt
"Excuse me,
you've vacuumed

I wouldn't hut a fly.
There's the insect
you want ...

So pal, what are YOU
in for?"

I seem to have had a run on bugs lately. Here's a new book from the glorious Melanie Watt with an attention-grabbing tale of a vacuum and its prey! Before we begin the reading, Ms.Watt helps to prepare us for what is to come by showing that there are different meanings for the same word:

"Bug (buhg)
*an insect
*an unexpected glitch

Vacuum (vak-yoom)
*a cleaning machine
*a void left by a loss"

I know I have been guilty of swooping up bugs if I see them while I am running the vacuum. To tell you the truth, I have never (ever) thought about how those bugs might feel. Here, we learn just how devastating going from the 'top of the world' (it's sitting atop a globe before capture) to the inside of a dirt encrusted vacuum bag can be!

In fact, this small creature feels trapped and all alone as he begins a journey through the five stages of grief described by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Each stage is pictured on a series of household items.

A spray can label describes denial - "FINE AND DANDY

                                                           WIPES OUT
                                                           THE UGLY TRUTH

                                                           An ounce of doubt
                                                           and gallons of disbelief"

The bug is tenacious in his bid to escape. Each of the stages provide narrative fodder for his situation and his attempts to free himself from the trap that is confining him. From the outside we see that the family dog is feeling remarkably sympathetic, as he mourns the loss of his own much loved chew toy to the bothersome machine.

Kids and adults are going to establish an empathetic connection with the wee guy as he does his level best to improve his situation. It is so clever, with brilliant artwork taking a major role in the storytelling. It is funny, bordering on hilarious at times. It is tender, in keeping with the story being shared. The illustrations are filled with a host of details that will garner attention and allow for deep discussion.

There are so many ways we can learn to handle changes in our lives. This book definitely helps us see that is true. I can't wait to read it to some unsuspecting adult or child just to enjoy their reaction!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I See A Pattern Here, by Bruce Goldstone. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2015. $20.50 ages 7 and up

"Since patterns repeat,
you can use them to
guess what comes next.

What bead would you
add to each string?

Look at the pattern
of beads on the string.
Which keeps the pattern

Bruce Goldstone's other books have considered estimation and probability (two mathematical concepts that are not as easy as one might expect for young learners). His exceptional photographs and clear writing help enormously when introducing such things to his audience.

In this book, he shows us the many patterns that we are sure to see when we put our minds to finding them. There are many places that provide examples of pattern in nature and in manufactured objects. Beautiful, often intricate, patterns enhance every page, filling them with color, interest and even awe. The language is simple and direct, encouraging mathematicians to look closely and think about what they are seeing in each of the many images.

In MathSpeak balloons, he provides further information concerning math words and concepts that are related to patterning:


The math word for slide is translation. That doesn't mean naming a shape in another language. In math, a translation is a move from one place to another."

There are so many examples of patterns, readers are sure to spend an inordinate amount of time searching them out when they have closed the book on its last page. They will also know more about slides, flips and folds. Questions are asked, instructions given, and growth in mathematical language is sure to result: translation, rotation, symmetry, scaling, tessellation, and more ...

"Another artist used a stencil to paint his temple wall in Laos. To make a stencil, the artist cut a pattern out of a thin sheet of paper or other material. Then the painter placed the stencil on the wall
and painted the part of the wall that showed through the holes. Finally the painter slid the stencil over and repeated."

In a final bold and colorful spread the author encourages his readers to find each kind of pattern that he  has introduced in this book. Finally, in backmatter, he provides encouragement to try a hand at creating our own patterns using blocks, stamps and cutouts. An answer key assures that there will no sleepless nights trying to figure out if we got it right, or not.

Quite beautiful and very useful, this book makes math more manageable for many young learners.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Once Upon A Rainy Day, written and illustrated by Edouard Manceau. Translated by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou. Owlkiids, 2015. 18.95 ages 5 and up

"But today it's raining. So Mr. Warbler doesn't venture outside, and the Big Bad Wolf sleeps in. And so it goes. The same old story, day in, day out, except when it rains. The trees know the story well: every morning they see the Big Bad Wolf race over to Oscar's house."

Are you up for adventure? The premise sounds mundane as the same story plays out every day - well, except when it rains! On rainy days, the actions of the characters are thwarted right from the start. And, my friends, this is one of those rainy days.

Most every day, Mr. Warbler is the first one awake and he sets out for the Big Bad Wolf's house where a special signal will awaken the wolf and set him on his daily routine. But, not today - it is raining. That doesn't stop the author from letting us know what usually happens!

On normal days, Wolf sets off in pursuit of his daily sustenance, beginning with Oscar. Oscar is of particular interest to Wolf as he is 'a delectable pig with plump thighs and tender feet' - the perfect meal, it would seem.

 I want to be in Oscar's procession on rainy days:

"He lived in the city before moving here with his entire library. Oscar adores rainy days like today. Snuggled all cozy and warm under a tartan blanket, he devours stacks of books."

On the days when it isn't raining, Oscar is an escape artist. He always manages to avoid Wolf by making a getaway on his bicycle and racing to Amadeus' house. And so it goes ... each animal that might serve as a meal for Wolf manages to find safety with another, leaving Wolf constantly chasing them. When they get to the end of the road, a final blast from a giant trumpet sends Wolf tumbling and grumbling about missing his meal. Then, he heads for home ready to begin all over again when Mr. Warbler awakens him in the morning - if it's sunny.

Because today is a rainy day we meet none of the characters who usually enact this wild, rambunctious saga. We rather see scenes of the places where the action takes place on sunny days. Here, there is no action and we are left to our own imaginations when considering how the tale plays out day, after day, after day - except when it rains!

A perfect book to share with a little one, allowing extended time to stop and talk, and picture the scenes as they might look on the next sunny day.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hilda and the Midnight Giant, by Luke Pearson. Flying Eye Books, 2011. $25.00 ages 8 and up


The forms are widely


Crazy about ensuring the
wellbeing of my people ... "

This second book about Hilda is testament, once again, to the artistic talent and storytelling prowess of Luke Pearson. It is also a coup for the skilled publication team at Flying Eye Books. I want to thank Tucker Stone, US Sales and Marketing Director at Nobrow US, for sending it along for my enjoyment and a chance to share it with my readers.

Hilda is a feisty and admirable protagonist, and is sure to win followers with her strength of character and plucky determination to get things done. She's still sporting blue hair and bright red boots, and accompanied by her tiny foxy pet.

She and her mother are settling in for a cup of tea in their home in the mountains when the sixth tiny letter of the week arrives. It's from the hidden people: their note states that the two have to move immediately and then the tiny, invisible people are going to smash down the house they have been living in. Hilda sends a terse reply; rocks begin flying through their living room window. Those flying missiles are followed by a pronouncement:


While sending the attackers packing, Hilda notices a very large, shaded character overlooking their land. Hilda is unafraid, but wanting to tell her mother. When she gets back inside, her mother insists that they should move into town where she has been offered a job and they would be safe from such attacks. Hilda is shaken and begging to stay - her mother relents for the moment. If anything else threatens them they are gone, she says.

During an unsettling night, Hilda hears a voice in her head that turns out to be one of the elves, a young girl named Alfur. By forging a number of relevant papers that will allow Hilda to see those who are threatening her home, Alfur sets Hilda on a quest to change her own future. While trekking from one elected official to the next, Hilda is always aware of the mysterious being, taller than the mountains and unknown to her, who is always nearby.

Humorous, mysterious, and quite magical, this book is sure to find many fans and is worthy of a spot on library, classroom and personal library shelves. Check it out!

Next up, Hilda and the Bird Parade, and then Hilda and the Black Hound! I will tell you all about them as soon as I receive copies from Tucker.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Hilda and the Troll, by Luke Pearson. Flying Eye Books, 2013. $21.95 ages 6 and up

"A monster!

A monster ...


Of course cosiness
is even more appreciated
with a friend.

Even a soggy one."

If you haven't yet met Hilda, now's the time!. In this reissue, with added pages and a brand new title, you will share the story that captured attention as Hildafolk  (2011), and begin to understand why she is as popular today as when her story first appeared. If you know kids who love graphica and want adventure, it's the perfect book!

Hilda is just a little girl, as you can see by looking at the cover. Luke Pearson has created a charming character sure to be embraced by readers. Her small blue-and-white fox companion, the little man who shows up as a constant guest, even the particularly nasty looking Troll also have character and appeal.

Being outside on a dark and stormy night does not daunt her. She shows no fear, she loves adventure and she is keen to face whatever life might bring. She likes the rain and the wind, every bit of it. Once the night is done and daylight dawns, she is off to explore and pursue her love of drawing what she sees wherever adventure might take her. She loves life and she shows it at every turn!

Luke Pearson provides a wondrous adventure for his young readers, playing with color and design and adding humor that will take his audience back again and again to check out all that is happening on the image-filled pages. I love the feel of the matte finish, the bright colors, and the very classy look of the book as a whole. It is an auspicious start for a series of stories that now number three.

If you are looking for a special book to entertain and enchant, you have a winner in Hilda.