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Sunday, December 5, 2021

circle under berry, by carter higgins. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2021. $22.99 ages 2 and up


"lion under scarlet

scarlet over frog

lion over scarlet
    under oval 
      over frog

Oh, I hope you have a new baby or a happy toddler in your life! If you do, this is the perfect Christmas gift, or anytime gift, for a little someone you love. I know exactly who I am gifting it to next week. 

Take nine basic shapes, add impressive vocabulary, eye-catching colors, and you have only skimmed the surface of the learning that will happen when you share this truly exceptional book. It is such a collection of images, with a charming and well-planned structure. Throw in hearing and learning prepositions that are a part of language building, and a chance to watch any shape take on a new persona, and you will be amazed.

It is a book filled with rhythm and rhyme, making it perfect to read many times over. Each time it brings delight and wonder for those little ones listening.  The constant shuffling of one form to a different place, the beauty to be found in the brilliant named colors, and the possibilities to be discovered with each visit to its irresistible pages ... what more is there?  

Creating artwork using hand-painted papers that are collaged and then assembled digitally, Carter Higgins invites careful consideration and observation in a truly remarkable new book for our youngest readers.                                                                              

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Chez Bob, written and illustrated by Bob Shea. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2021. $22.99 ages 5 and up


"As a small-business owner, Bob wanted to 
be part of the community. He coached the 
basketball team. 

It's rewarding to be a positive role model
for the birds I'm going to eat,
thought Bob.

There's nothing sneaky about Bob, a ravenous and very lazy alligator. It is his assumption that the birds he so loves to eat will simply fly into his immense mouth when asked; thus, requiring not a bit of effort on his part to appease his longing for sustenance. After all, being as lazy as Bob is makes an alligator mighty hungry. His methods, despite his attempts to be polite, have little effect on the birds feasting on nearby seeds. 

Could the solution be a birdseed restaurant? If that works, Bob will sell his idea to other alligators and gain untold riches. Chez Bob is soon ready for guests. The birds flock to his establishment. Bob provides delicious seeds, and suggests that satisfied patrons tell their many bird friends. Soon enough, business is booming. The birds build their own townsite right next to the restaurant. Bob becomes a well-liked member of the community, despite his ongoing plan to eventually eat the unkowing birds. 

Before long, Bob is a trusted friend. When a storm blows up, the birds seek shelter in his mouth. What a lucky twist of fate! Or is it? 

Humorous and wonderfully illustrated in bold colors, and presenting a charming lineup of appealing birds, this story has all the right stuff to become a bedtime favorite.                                                                                                                                                

Friday, December 3, 2021

My Book of Butterflies, written and illustrated by Geraldo Valerio. Groundwood Books, 2021. $24.99 ages 8 and up

"Zebra Longwing
Heliconius Cydno 

In its caterpillar stage, the Zebra Longwing
has black spots and sharp-looking spines. It's 
only when it becomes a butterfly that it has 
a black-and-white zebra pattern.

In his newest book, Geraldo Valerio shares his love for the butterflies that can be found throughout the world. Front and back endpapers share labelled illustrations of both the larva and pupa stages in a butterfly's life cycle. Before he introduces each of the butterflies he so loves, he offers an introduction, a clear explanation of metamorphosis, a labelled illustration of the parts of a butterfly, and a world map (with a legend) showing where they live. 

What follows are beautifully designed pages that give young readers a close look at the beauty that is a butterfly, accompanied by accurate descriptions of their habitats, food, wing patterns, and other fitting details. It is a perfect book for taking time to look closely at all that is offered here. Each of the butterflies he chooses to describe are his personal favorites, as is evident in the title. 

As a child growing up in Brazil, with a vegetable garden in his back yard, he gazed with wonder as the butterflies left tiny eggs to develop into caterpillars, before sleeping inside their chrysalides, and finally bursting forth as full-fledged adults (a moment he never experienced).  

With each page turn, readers will respond to his conversational tone and sense of awe. He wants his readers to know the beauty they exhibit, and the habitats that attract them. Visually, the book is a real treat. His fascination is evident in the care given to each impressive image created in paper collage, acrylic paint and colored pencils. 

Back matter includes s glossary, an index, and a list of books and websites. Read this book now and be ready to welcome these beautiful creatures back come next spring and summer. 

Thursday, December 2, 2021

A Sky-Blue Bench, written by Bahram Rahman and illustrated by Peggy Collins. Pajama Press, 2021. $22.95 ages 5 and up


"When Aria arrived at her classroom, 
the other girls were already seated on 
the blue tarp that covered the floor. The 
teacher pointed her to the back row 
where she could lean against the wall. 
Aria walked slowly, her face burning 
as she felt everyone's eyes on her 

The world has heard much about the unexploded weapons that were hidden during armed conflicts in world communities. Aria is one of the Afghan children whose life was forever changed when she stepped on one of those devastating weapons. 

It is her first day back at school after a long recuperation. She is conscious of her 'helper-leg' as she approaches the other girls and the school itself. Aria knows there are no longer any benches at school. She also knows she cannot sit on the floor for a full day; it will hurt too much. She tries many different ways to keep herself comfortable. None work. 

Worrying about returning to the discomfort that school has become, Aria does not sleep well. Early morning brings a plausible solution; she will build her own bench! It takes planning, persistence, and a little help from a skilled carpenter, Kaka Najar. He gives advice, loans necessary tools, and offers a free gift of blue paint. It is all Aria needs. 

"Sky-blue is for courage, peace and wisdom.

Peggy Collins fills her spreads and endpapers (front and back) with digital artwork that reveals the emotions felt, the support of community, and the determination of a child to make a difference for herself and others as Aria navigates a new normal following such an overwhelming event in her life. An author's note shares his experiences growing up in Afghanistan, and writes this story to honor those whose lives have been impacted by land mines and UXO.                                                                                   


Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The Midnight Club, written by Shane Goth and illustrated by Yong Ling Kang. Owlkids, 2021. $19.95 ages 3 and up

It's just the streetlight making shadows,' 
Becca said. They held things up in the 
light and created new monsters. 
'This one's Scarf-enstein.' 

My granddaughters are going to love reading this one. I wonder if they might try to recreate the scenario for themselves. I guess we will see. I just sent them a copy for their Christmas book box ... one book every day from December 1 until December 24, when they uphold a much-loved Icelandic tradition of new books and chocolate on Christmas Eve. 

Milly is the younger sister, waiting in anticipation of midnight. At exactly that moment, she quietly wakes her big sister, Becca. With fingers held up on each hand (one finger on one hand, two fingers on the other), the Midnight Club is ready to rumble. It's a very hushed type of rumble. They do not want to wake their parents. 

They make their way stealthily past their parents' bedroom door, and down the shadowed hallway. Another rule is to avoid stepping on any of those shadows. They hop, leap, wobble, and stretch to find success. The creaky stairs require careful attention. 

"Milly had never been downstairs 
in the middle of the night. The walls 
were blue with moonlight. It looked 
like their very own planet.

Once safely downstairs, the Midnight Club members choose to do anything to their liking. Can you imagine? After much excitement, they cover their tracks and head back to bed with Oliver, the feline President of the Midnight Club in tow. Just in time for a good night's sleep, all secrets safe within themselves. 

Watercolor and pencil artwork is filled with blues, purples and soft moonlight yellow for this midnight adventure. The sisters are the focus at all times. Try whispering it to little ones for a perfect bedtime read.                                                                                        

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Drawn Across Borders, by George Butler. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $24.99 ages 10 and up

"When I arrived in Belgrade, I was immediately 
struck by the cold. But there are two types of cold
here: the cold you rush through from one building 
to another, as I was able to do, and the cold you have 
to sit in. Refugees and migrants had a different 
relationship to the cold. Everything they did was to 
combat it.

These 12 stories of migration were collected between 2011 and 2018 in such faraway places as Syria, Kenya, Tajikistan, Iraq, Palestine, Serbia and Myanmar. George Butler, an award-winning artist who has an enduring interest in news affairs that are current and compelling, spent those years reporting on critical situations in these varied places. His interviews were with people who had an urgent reason for leaving their homes. Their reasons were many: safety, food, work, love, family, war, a wish for a better future. 

"I have made these drawings. 
I made them in refugee camps, 
in war zones, and on the move, 
and as I drew, people told me 
their stories." 

Mr. Butler believes that as we read their stories, and try to understand the circumstances, the world will better respond to the continuing crisis. Each of the twelve chapters includes several telling sketches of the people he saw or met, his description of the setting and events of the time spent there. This is an emotional look into the faces of people and their circumstances, whatever they might be. Migration is not new. It can affect people from all walks of life, both young and old. The artist assures that we know this to be true. Through his expert lens, we are privy to the dreams, difficulties, and doubts migrants bear as they move from one place to another. 

"The end of this book is not the end of the stories of the people in it. I realize now that this was a small moment in their lives, and while meeting them was significant to me, it was probably not to them. A drawing is not like a photograph - it's not just about recording something: it can hold huge meaning too. Whatever others make of them, these drawings and the people they represent mean everything to me."

Absolutely stunning, heartbreaking at times, and worthy of attention.      


Monday, November 29, 2021

Meet David Suzuki, written by Elizabeth MacLeod and illustrated by Mike Deas. Scholastic, 2021. $16.99 ages 9 and up


"At the camp, David awoke most mornings covered 
in bites from bedbugs. There was little money for food,
so after his father joined them about a year later, he and 
David went fishing to help feed their family. When a school 
opened at the camp in 1943, David started grade one. He loved
to learn, and a year later he was already in grade four!

This is the newest entry in the Scholastic Canada Biography series. As is usual for this talented team, they provide a fascinating look the man who has been working tirelessly to bring attention to the environment for many years. His activism never wanes. He remains a strong advocate for the work that must be done to preserve the future of our planet. 

His story begins in Vancouver, where he continues to live today. It tells about his early childhood, his love of the natural world, his family's life in an internment camp, and a forced move to Leamington, Ontario in order to avoid exile to Japan. What a blow for so many families! The Suzukis were no different. 

Following high school, David went to the US to continue his studies. Once there, he decided that genetics was a field that held great interest for him. That led him back to Canada, and finally to a teaching job at the University of British Columbia where he taught for nearly forty years. Along the way, he created television shows, hosted a very popular radio show, and finally returned to television with The Nature of Things. Many have been influenced to love and appreciate science through that show, and David's insights concerning nature and the effect humans have on it. 

He is a truly amazing man, and I am much better-informed today about all he has accomplished because I read this fascinating story with interest and great admiration. Ms. MacLeod's text is fully supported by the illustrative magic of Mike Deas images. He is able to capture the emotional impact that life events had in leading David to speak out, speak up, and encourage others to think seriously about nature, climate change, racism, and making changes needed for a better future. He also adds touches of humor to ensure further engagement. 

A Feast For Joseph, written by Terry Farish and OD Bonny and illustrated by Ken Daley. Groundwood Books, 2021. $18.99 ages 4 and up

"At school, Joseph scoops up the kwon 
and dek ngor that Mama has packed for
lunch. Whoosh leans over to sniff it. "I 
think I might love it," she says.  

After spending time in an overcrowded East African refugee camp, Joseph and his Mama have moved to a new apartment where people are few and far between when it comes to sharing food. Joseph remembers a joyful place where boys played music and 'aunties' cooked communal meals in large kettles. He misses the people and the music. 

His new friend Whoosh is happy to spend time with him, but he wants more people around him. In a series of scenes that move from the camp to the present, he remembers important friends and family members who are not present when meals are being prepared. His belly sparks an idea, and Joseph begins the work needed to bring his plan to fruition. 

First, he asks his teacher. She promises 'sometime'. He would like to ask the neighbors but is unsure of their taste for the family's traditional foods. Whoosh loves kwon and dek ngor. He asks Whoosh and her mother. Saturday comes and no one arrives. He continues preparations, just in case. Sunday brings a new and wonderful aroma of a cake that Whoosh is making with her mother's help. All the work and worry is worth it when Whoosh and her mother arrive to share a welcome meal. What a 'feast'! 

Wonderful digital illustrations create wonder and joy, filled with all the energy of the two children. A glossary explains unfamiliar vocabulary.