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Monday, August 19, 2019

Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes, written by Wab Kinew and illustrated by Joe Morse. Tundra, Penguin Random House. 2018. $21.99 ages 6 and up

"These, a few of my heroes,
maybe now your heroes too.
Let's look ahead at our lives,
think of what we want to do.

Maybe be a doctor
or movie star, it might happen.
Maybe we do both,
like our friend, Evan Adams."

In the section called Biographies that follows the text of this book, Wab Kinew shares this:

"Dr. Evan Adams
(1966 - present) is a Two
Spirit physician and public
health official from Sliammon
First Nation in British
Columbia, Canada. He is also a
well-respected actor who has
appeared in movies like Smoke 
Signals and many theater
productions. Today he works
as the chief medical officer for
the B. C. First Nations Health

In his first picture book, Wab Kinew introduces his readers to indigenous heroes whose lives and actions have made them worthy of attention and admiration. A singer and musician, Mr. Kinew wrote the rap lyrics used to honor the leaders chosen, and to spark confidence in those who read it.

He begins with men and women from past history who remain an inspiration:

"Before he made the big leagues or won Olympic Gold
little Jim Thorpe ran all the time, I'm told.
His twin died at boarding school, leaving Jim alone.
All he knew to do was run,
so ran the whole way home."

Most page turns introduce a new person of interest to those reading. They will learn about historical and contemporary heroes, always with just enough information to encourage a further look at that person's life. Both Canadian and American, each has impacted the world they live in. Not all will be familiar, but they have all had an impact. Back matter includes brief biographical information for all, accompanied by a pencil sketch.

Joe Morse has created exceptional images using watercolor, digital color and collage. The linework, textures and color palette are sure to encourage readers to take time to pay careful attention. Filled with expression and details from the historical times, they add important context. His final spread of a northern landscape with three children in the foreground, looking up (and forward, one can hope) at the beauty of the northern lights. Smiles on their faces and hope in their hearts, the text reads:

"We are people who matter.
Yes, it's true. 
Now let's show the world what people who matter can do."

In his author's note, Wab Kinew says:

"We walk on the same lands as the heroes celebrated
in this book. I hope their examples can help each of us, big
and small, relearn that the lands are sacred and we ought
to respect them. I also hope their stories of triumph over
adversity inspire each of us to reach our full potential."

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Imperfect Garden, written by Melissa Assaly and illustrated by April dela Noche Milne. Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2019. $19.95 ages 4 and up

"This carrot looks like it has two legs. Mom says carrots come in all shapes and sizes. We are just used to the ones in the store.

After we pull a few more carrots, I wash them and Mom peels them. I take a bite of my two-legged carrot and a bite ... "

What might Jay, who is helping his mom in their garden, discover about the two carrots he tastes? You're right! They taste the same. 

It's an important lesson for each of us to learn, isn't it? We have become accustomed to perfection in the fruits and vegetables we buy at the grocery store. In fact, I would venture to say we expect them to be without a blemish, or we don't buy them. How many times do you put back a grocery item because of an imperfection?

Jay and his mother are growing their own garden, and busy harvesting what is ready. Some of the fruits and vegetables are weird and unusual shapes - cucumbers, carrots, apples. Jay knows that apple pies taste delicious no matter the shape, size, or color of the apples used to make them.

From spring to fall they work together to reap what they sow. Once their garden produce has been consumed, the two return to the grocery store for the food they need. Jay is surprised, once again, to see how identical each item is. He has a question for the grocer:

" ... "Don't you have
any twirly-whirly, lumpy, bumpy
fruits and vegetables?"

The grocer has a surprising response; Jay is delighted.

The author follows up with a note, and a plea for readers to help reduce food waste, taking any small steps they can. She includes a section on 'tips for planting with children.'

Saturday, August 17, 2019

William Wakes Up, words by Linda Ashman and pictures by Chuck Groenink. Disney/Hyperion, Hachette. 2019. $18.99 ages 3 and up

"Wake up! It's spring!
Today's the day -
a special guest is on the way.
Rise and shine! No time to lose!"

One rolls out. Two others

"A special guest? Arriving soon?
I'll tidy up the living room." 

This springtime book should have been posted before today. I hope you will be able to share it as you talk with children about seasons and the changes each brings.

William wakes up, and wants his animal friends to do the same. It's been a long winter and they are expecting someone special. Looking out the window he can see the changes in his surroundings. He calls to his bedmates; only Chipmunk makes an appearance. They begin their baking, soon  realizing they will need help.

"Then Chipmunk conks out on the floor.
"There's way too much for us to do. 
We'd better wake the others, too."

With each excited plea for help, one more animal rolls out of bed - Porcupine helps with the cleaning; Groundhog does the same; Bear helps with decorating the cake. Is there someone else to help? Raccoon sleeps on. Or does he? Will  he miss sharing the cake, and welcoming the visitor? What do you think? And what will assure he does his fair share?

The rhythmic and repetitive text, the counting down of animal friends, the responsibility taken for tasks yet to be done make it special for young readers. The pencil and Photoshop artwork is warm, inviting and expressive. It is a terrific read aloud book for little ones.

If you don't have a copy of William's Winter Nap (Disney-Hyperion, 2017), you might want to check it out, too.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Origin of Day and Night, written by Paula Ikuutaq Rumbolt and illustrated by Lenny Lishchenkpo. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2018. $16.95 ages 5 and up

"At the very beginning of time, there was no light on earth. Darkness surrounded everything. Only nocturnal animals, those who could see in the dark, could easily hunt for food. Tiri, the Arctic fox, was lucky enough to have a pair of eyes that could see in the dark. He could hunt animals while they were sleeping ... "

This creation story mixes the best of the Inuit oral tradition. It is both a myth, and an animal fable. It concerns a time before there was light in the world. Spoken words had great power in the beginning. Once spoken, they could make things become true.

So it is said that Tiri, a nocturnal Arctic Fox, did not have any difficulty finding prey in the darkness. The ability to see there was strong. Calling "Taaq, taaq, taaq" ensured the land remained dark. Ukaliq, the Arctic Hare, needed light to see the path ahead and to find food. Calling "Ubluq, ubluq, ubluq", light would take the place of darkness. Now, Ukaliq could find the sustenance needed.

The two battled back and forth, changing the skies from dark to light over and over again, creating chaos around them. There was never time from one sky to the next to find the food needed. Something had to be done. Eventually, the two found common ground and allowed enough time for each to search for and eat a satisfying meal. Today we call those times night and day.

I am so pleased to be able to share cultural stories that provide a peek at lives lived by others. Ms. Rumbolt comes from a lively oral tradition, having lived throughout her life hearing the stories passed down by family members. Her retelling of one of the many stories that are part of her childhood helps children learn about tradition, compromise, and how to solve what might seem like a unsolvable problem.

The storytelling is just right. The illustrations bring it to life, with a black and white palette that only changes in moments of great wonder - the rising yellow sun, the surprised look on Tiri's face as sunlight makes it hard to see, the yellow of the animals' eyes, the dull red of the caribou meat. 

Those who share this book will learn about Inuit folklore, the culture and language, as well as the northern setting and the natural habits of Arctic animals.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Dumpster Dog, written by Colas Gutman and illustrated by Marc Boutavant. Translated from French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick and Allison M. Charette.Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2019. $13.50 ages 8 and up

" ... beneath the mangy coat of this
unfortunate creature, there lives a
sweet and affectionate being who
sees himself as something of a

Sadly, his appearance - that of an
old shredded carpet - drives even
the most courageous children away.

Dumpster Dog shares his garbage
can ... "

This is the first in a series of early years illustrated chapter books, originally published in France.

Dumpster Dog is homeless. He is not terribly smart, but he is very kind. It is his dumpster-mate, Flat Cat, who helps him understand what an 'owner' is. She encourages him to take a chance in the world away from their dumpster. It sets Dumpster Dog off on a mission to find that person, 'who will love him and give him treats.' His appearance does little to encourage success. He smells bad, looks like a well-used carpet and has a few other issues. But, he is determined and adventurous.

Knowing little about the world, he is constantly confused by what is happening around him.

"After mistaking a jump rope for a leash
and following two pigeons that he guesses
might be owners, Dumpster Dog sees
someone who seems just right."

Not so ... the person is deceitful, plying Dumpster Dog with food, and then offering him to the Hot Dog shop to be made into hot dogs. Not a chance. The owner is not interested. How about a watch dog? He's ugly enough to be scary. It works for a while. One day a child comes along, offering treats.  Who wouldn't trust a child? Her treats quickly put him to sleep, leaving an opening for a group of burglars to break in and steal from his owner. The adventures have barely begun.

The nefarious doings of the burglars land the kidnapped girl, Dumpster and other animals in big trouble. Soon, he and the girl are making an escape plan. Will they get away? If they do, will the child find her parents again? What can Dumpster Dog do to help and how can he help Flat Cat, the only real family he knows?

Dumpster Dog's naivete will entertain readers and make them smile. His antics are giggle-worthy, and his demeanor makes him more lovable with every page turn. The artwork, done in full-color,  add a much-appreciated dimension to the action and the friendships.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Captain Rosalie, written by Timothee De Fombelle and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. Translation by Sam Gordon. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2019. $21.99 ages 8 and up

"Each day, my mission continues its advance. Each day I, Captain Rosalie, am at my post at the back of the class, ready for a surprise attack beneath the coats. I look at the inscriptions on the blackboard as if they form a battle plan. I try to remember everything. I copy little bits down in the back pages of my notebook. No one pays me any attention.
The older children have forgotten about me."

Her father is off fighting in the Great War, her mother is working, and Rosalie sits at the back of the nearby one-room schoolhouse watching while all the other children do their lessons. Rosalie creates no commotion at any time. The teacher and the other children think that she is doing what five-year-olds do, drawing pictures and daydreaming.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Rosalie is very busy learning just as the other students are doing. She is on a mission of her own choosing.

"When at last the class sits down, I pretend to be elsewhere,
lost in my thoughts, even though I am concentrating perfectly.
I am Captain Rosalie, and I have infiltrated their squad this fall
morning in 1917. I know what I have to do. One day I'll be
awarded a medal for this. It's already gleaming deep within me."

It takes time. Along the way, Rosalie describes the classroom, the learning, the other children in the school. Evenings at home are often spent listening to her father's long letters, praising Rosalie and her mother for the bravery they are showing as the war goes on. Her father sends drawings he has made of his experiences there. Days and nights run into each other. The time is long, and they are lonely. Then, one night, everything changes.

"For a month I have lived in the memory of that night after the
snow. My mother still cannot bring herself to look at me. She has
changed. When she drops me off at school in the morning, I'm
almost relieved to see her go. She walks off, shuffling, even though
the ground is no longer at all slippery."

Captain Rosalie springs into action. She knows she is ready. She poses her first question of the teacher, asking to go home and retrieve the notebook she has left behind that morning. He is reluctant. Edgar, an older student and Captain Rosalie's lieutenant, agrees to accompany her. As she climbs onto a chair to bring down the box that holds her father's letters, she makes an amazing discovery.

"This closed box starts talking.
The words come slowly.
Assorted  . . .  sweets. 
It's written there, on one line, in violet letters.
I have been fighting that for months.
It was my mission.
I can read."

The letters she reads from her father are not the same as the letters her mother has read to her. They are dark, and full of despair. Because she can read, Rosalie discovers the truth. On that same day, another letter arrives from the Ministry of War. It contains a medal, awarded to her father for his bravery in action. Her mother gives it to her. Rosalie, though tearful, is able to smile.

Isabelle Arsenault's spare, muted gray and black artwork perfectly matches the story told. There are  few hints of color - Rosalie and her mother's red hair, the glow of the fire at school, the blue of the her father's drawings, the envelope and the box containing the medal.

Timothee De Fombelle uses no unnecessary words to share with his readers the emotional impact of war on families and communities. Rosalie's voice is strong and resilient, and brings readers into the story she narrates. Eloquently written, while heartbreaking, it is a story that will live long in your heart. Please share it!


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Bark in the Park, written by Avery Corman and illustrated by Hyewon Yum. Orchard Books, Scholastic. 2019. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"Bedlington Terrier
The Bedlington Terrier
Couldn't be merrier.
A really nice dog to keep,
Who feels like and looks like
a sheep.

Bull Terrier
A scrappy guy with lots of hustle,
He's one part dog and one part muscle."

Well, who doesn't like books about dogs? Cat owners? Readers meet 38 different breeds in this enjoyable book of poetry. Each poem is descriptive of the breed being introduced. Many will be familiar, some less so. They range from tiny to enormous, from quiet to not-so-quiet, from working dogs to family pets,  and include both genders of the species.

The poems are two or four line stanzas that use descriptive language to help readers familiarize themselves with those presented. Most rhyme, and many add a touch of humor. A pink-coated girl and her father are a part of each new spread as they roam the neighborhood, enjoying a cafe snack, a companionable walk, and stops along the way. In most scenes, the child shows her interest in these canine companions. At times, she watches from a distance; at other times, she gets up close and personal with them. As she and her father go about their day, she is always aware of the neighborhood pets.

She's a softy, not a bully,
And she's also fully woolly.

Old English Sheepdog
He's friendly and he's lovable,
And pushable and shoveable."

 The two return home to a doorstep filled with a broad assortment of dogs, all worthy of love and a place in their home.

The illustrations are action-filled and very appealing. Children will spend a lot of time poring over the details, taking note of the differences, all of the events that are playing out in the community as the two travel along its streets. Don't miss the endpapers - both front and back - which provide a label for each of the breeds from the book.