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Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Caribou Feed Our Soul, written by Pete Enzoe and Mindy Willett, with photographs by Tessa Macintosh. Fifth House, Firtzhenry & Whiteside. 2020. $19.95 ages 8 and up

"My grandfather taught me many other games. He once made me a caribou bone game called k’├ęguwi. It is a stick attached to a string of hide. On the end of the hide string are several hollow caribou toe bones. There is also a piece of hide that has holes in it. To play, you have to get the bones onto the stick ... "

Pete's story is very personal, telling readers much about his life in the Northwest Territories on the east side of Great Slave Lake. He hunts, he fishes, he traps, and he works tirelessly to protect the caribou. Some of his work is done with scientists to track herds and ensure the health of these animals that mean so much to the northern way of life.

"Me, I love the land and all that it provides; especially caribou.
Caribou are everything to us.

I'm going to tell you about how we came to be here,
about what caribou mean to us and to our life today."

In this sixth book in The Land is Our Storybook series, Pete leads readers on a caribou harvest. As he does, he shares stories he has heard from his elders about the creation and the connection his people have to the caribou he so honors and respects. In so doing, he offers a rich history of the Chipewyan Dene.

"We believe caribou come from the stars. My grandfather told me they come down from the stars on the northern lights, so I know that when I see the northern lights there will be caribou in the area. This makes me happy because caribou are our main food source.”

Teaching the ways of his people is essential to Pete's life, and many benefit when he shares his knowledge. He carefully describes the caribou harvest and explains how each part of the animal is used to sustain his community. The plentiful, and colorful photographs add context to the telling and offer further learning.

Included is a map of his home area, a labelled photo of a caribou, further information in a glossary, quick facts, as well as photos and descriptions of the three people who collaborated to bring us this fine book.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

A Stopwatch From Grampa, written by Loretta Garbutt and illustrated by Carmen Mok. Kids Can Press, 2020. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"When summer started,
I got Grampa's stopwatch.
I don't want his stopwatch.
I want him.

Grampa used to time
everything. He timed me
when I raced to the end of
our street and back. Best
speed: 24 seconds."

First person narrative brings this story up close and personal for readers. The sadness is evident. The stopwatch is fine, but Grampa holding it would be much better. The two spent many hours together: enjoying ice cream, sitting together in the park watching caterpillars, eating cookies, snoring while snoozing. Grampa timed everything they did; he made it all more fun. Why didn't he just take his stopwatch? How could he leave it behind?

There is anger, hurt, and a strong sense of loss as the child deals with death. Grampa's watch is thrown in a drawer. Nothing seems quite the same without him. So many memories come flooding back as the grandchild mourns the loss of a beloved companion. Then the lonely days pass, as do the seasons. When the stopwatch is finally retrieved from the drawer, it offers fond memories and a chance to follow in Grampa's footsteps.

"The watch sounds like Grampa. It makes me think of
all the things we used to time together. Remembering
him feels good.

Tick ... tick ... tick ... 
Like he is still here with me."

Isn't that the best thing about mementos? They offer happy reminders of times spent together, and keep the loved one always in the heart.

Carmen Mok uses gouache and graphite to create lovely backgrounds that will appeal to readers. Expressive faces exhibit the emotions felt throughout the telling. Exploring the grief through time allows readers to see that wonderful memories surface and keep loved ones always near.

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Boreal Forest: A Year in the World's Largest Biome. Written by L. E. Carmichael and illustrated by Josee Bisaillon. Kids Can Press, 2020. $19.99 ages 9 and up

"Near a different lake, high in the
mountains, spring sun warms a
stately fir. Perched in its branches,
a sable yawns, basking in the light.

In the frozen soil, the tree's roots find only ice. But there's still a little moisture stored in its trunk. Water pumps from trunk to branch to twig to needle. The tree breathes in, waking from its winter slumber."

Beauty is found at every turn of the page in this very special book about the boreal forest. The author leads off with a welcome to the forest itself. A meaningful opening explains how the forest has come to be, and how it sustains itself. The following spread provides a world map that places the forest across most of Canada, Alaska, the Scandinavian countries and Russia. A chart provides the percentage in each country that is boreal forest and adds:

"There's more fresh water in the boreal forest
that anywhere else on Earth, with more that six
hundred thousand lakes in Canada alone."

Ms. Carmichael then goes on to describe in accessible, conversational text the boreal forest as it is seen in each of the four seasons. Several relevant information boxes are included to add interest and to provide a great deal of data on this largest land biome. The descriptions are lush, and captivating. The mixed media and collage artwork is quiet and elegant, lending a comfortable air to the entire design. Easy to follow and filled with detailed, informative text, this book will find fans at every turn. The fact that it ensures the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge and leadership is both welcome and necessary.

Once the seasons have been described accurately and with careful attention to all aspects of the environment, the author adds both the water cycle and the carbon cycle, and discusses climate change within the forest itself.

" The boreal forest is a "carbon sink," meaning it captures and stores more carbon dioxide that it releases into the atmosphere. That's one way the biome helps slow climate change. But the boreal forest is warming up, and it's warming faster than many other parts of the world. As a result, the biome's role in the carbon cycle has already begun to change."

A glossary follows, as does a list of further resources, a list of the author's selected resources, an author's note and an index.

Worthy of attention, and perfect for those interested in our world's natural resources.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Monster and Boy, written by Hannah Barnaby and illustrated by Anoosha Syed. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2020. $18.99 ages 6 and up

"But the monster loved the boy.
And the boy was hungry. So the
monster took a deep breath, puffed
out his furry chest, and pretended
he was feeling brave.

(Sometimes that's all it takes
to get your feet to move forward.)

The monster peeked around the door
into the kitchen."

In this first book of a brand-new series for readers wanting to move on to lengthier books, we meet the monster first and learn that he and the boy have never met. This monster is awake at night - aren't they all? Of course, that is exactly when the boy is sleeping. Because he has been around so long, the monster knows a great deal about the boy who sleeps in the bed above.

The boy's mother constantly assures him that monsters do not exist. One day, the monster decides he has had enough of that. He makes himself known to the boy, who looks like he might screech. In order to prevent what might happen with such a loud noise, the monster swallows the boy. What? That is no way to treat someone, is it?

Neither the boy nor the monster likes how it feels. However, the monster doesn't know how to change it. Eventually, he coughs the boy up. Together they face another problem. The boy is now the size of an insect. The author manages to placate the reader whenever anything scary happens. the monster invites readers to be part of the story, and adds background particulars as the story moves forward.

The cartoon images and humorous telling make this a friendship story for kids to savor. They will certainly be ready to read the second installment. This is a great start.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Song of the River, written by Joy Cowley and illustrated by Kimberly Andrews. Gecko Press, Thomas Allen & Son. 2019. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"Near the bottom of the
mountain the stream became
a river. It flowed through
farms where ducks swam and
cows drank and dogs barked
and a farmer took his cream to the town in a small boat. Cam said to the river, "You haven't changed your mind, have you?" The river sang in the voice of green and gold frogs ... "

Oh, to be as brave and adventurous as Cam. His grandfather has promised him a trip to the sea, but they have not yet gone. On this particular day, Cam notices a tiny stream of water running in the trees near his home. As young, inquisitive children often do, he impulsively decides to follow it and see where it leads. He is sure he can hear the water calling to him.

"Come with me. Come with me. I will take you to the sea."

What a promise! Cam follows. That little trickle of water soon meets another and the two become a creek. That creek seems to make the same offer if Cam follows. The creek becomes a stream, and so on. Finally, when the river seems to be taking its own sweet time to go anywhere, there is a sudden change in atmosphere and it calls out.

"Come with me!"

Cam does, and his persistence is rewarded. There, in front of him, is an expanse of water that has no end. The sea has its own song to sing for Cam - a song of wind, and birds, and whales, and ships, and even snow! He can't wait to get home and tell his grandfather.

Joy Cowley is a New Zealand treasure. She has been writing books I have loved reading since the early 70s, and I have been sharing them with children in school and at home for many of those years. This 25-year-old story about the beauty to be found in nature is poetic, and filled with lovely descriptive language that continues to entice and encourage young readers. New illustrations by Kimberly Andrews include gorgeous natural landscapes that change often throughout this wondrous journey, allowing readers to follow along as Cam finds his way to the sea he has so longed to see.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Grandparents, written by Chema Heras and illustrated by Rosa Osuna.Translated by Elisa Amado. Greystone Kids, 2020. $22.95 ages 4 and up

"Grandmother smiled and went to the mirror to look at herself.

"That's not true. I am as ugly as a chicken with no feathers," she said, putting the daisy in her hair. "Don't say that! You are as pretty as the sun. Now please hurry up. We have to go dancing!"

Manuel is working in his garden when he hears a passing broadcast for a dance that evening. It makes his day and sends him off to ask Manuela to go to the dance. She has every excuse in the book for not going. Each time she makes a critical statement about herself and how she looks, Manuel counters with a compliment.

He provides a cumulative collection of flattery:

"I'm going to put mascara on my eyelashes.
They are as stubby as a little fly's feet."

"Don't say that! You are as pretty as the sun
with your starry, sad eyes.
And your short eyelashes are like new- mown grass.

Now please hurry up. We have to go dancing."

As he continues to implore her to join him at the dance, while also sharing all the love he feels for her, Manuela begins to preen and prepare with gusto. She really does appreciate his attention and the constant pleas for her to join him. No matter what she says, he continues to add to the list of things that make her so special to him.

Finally, she has primped and preened enough that she is ready for the dance. What joy! She pins a daisy on his jacket, and offers a compliment of her own - the perfect ending to a story of grandparents we rarely see. It has only to do with two elderly people enamored of each other, and showing it in every way. Truly lovely!

The art created to enhance this story is a perfect fit. There is much fun in the details. Readers will be delighted to follow the two as they prepare for their evening, the joy they feel when they are together, and their memories of early times in their long marriage. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

Incredible Jobs You've (Probably) Never Heard Of. Written and illustrated by Natalie Labarre. Nosy Crow, Penguin Random House. 2019. $25.99 ages 10 and up

"The most-fun-job award probably goes
parks and travel companies actually pay
people to test some of the craziest slides
around the world. Testers check for
safety, speed, and creative features, and
there's a scale to rate the "splash factor"
and adrenaline levels.

The Nose Dive
Rapunzel's Escape
The Medusa "

I am totally incredulous at the abundance of jobs I had NEVER heard of ... what a fun book to experience. I took my time and pored over the double page spreads that are begin as a visit to The Great Hall of Jobs. My gosh, who knew? After you read from front to back, you will. Just as I now do.

Adults are always interested in what kids think they might want to be when they are older. After those kids read the many entries, those questions will be answered in unexpected ways. It could make for a very funny scenario.

"FUNERAL CLOWNS are paid to
lighten the mood on difficult days.
Wearing bright clothes and playing
tricks, they help people to remember
their loved ones with a smile."

Or ...

"In Tokyo, Japan, the trains are so crowded
during morning and evening rush hours that
white-gloved TRAIN PUSHERS, or oshiya, 
actually push people on board. The oshiya
pack the trains tight, and make sure nobody
gets caught in the doors. It's a tight squeeze
for people hoping to get to work on time, as
the trains are filled well beyond their capacity!"

Nope, that would not sit well with my claustrophobia!

These are not occupations that are often considered. In fact, they are real jobs for real people living around the world. Busy, detailed pages offer unusual captions, fun art, and humorous notions about the many jobs few consider. Every so often the author provides a challenge for readers. While some of these jobs will hold no appeal and may not be totally accessible to readers, they are certainly entertaining to consider. Remember, too, new occupations are being invented all the time and one might be exactly what the doctor ordered.

"Don't worry if you still don't know 
what your DREAM JOB might be. 

All the jobs in this book are as UNIQUE
as the people who do them."

From someone who grew up thinking my choices were teacher, nurse, or secretary, this book certainly expands horizons. You will be amazed, enlightened, and inspired!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Tanna's Owl, written by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley and illustrated by Yong Ling Kang. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2019. $16.95 ages 4 and up

"The baby owl was round.
Grey. Brown. Its eyes were
big and yellow. Its beaky
mouth seemed wide enough
to swallow its own head.

But, Tanna thought, it's
somehow cute ... 

"You'll have to take good
care of it," Father told her."

Tanna is not expecting the gift her father brings when he returns from a hunting trip. Why would he think she'd be happy with such an ugly, demanding thing? In fact, her father's intention is to help Tanna learn about caring for a creature from their natural environment. Tanna has much to learn - and she learns quickly. The tiny owl needs food, and Tanna is tasked with ensuring its survival.

As they spend time together, Tanna finds a kind of camaraderie develops between the two as long as food is part of the equation. Trapping lemmings at 4 in the morning is not Tanna's idea of an enjoyable start to her day. However, if she doesn't want to hear stomping feet and a chomping beak, she better be sure she has enough food to keep Ukpik content and growing. Ukpik offers very little reward for all the hard work. It is a pretty one-sided relationship. 

Needless to say, Tanna is not unhappy when it comes time for her to return to school in the fall. No more early morning hunting. By the time she returns home for the summer, Ukpik has returned to the wild - exactly where she should be. Throughout her time caring for the owl, Tanna learns lessons in being responsible for another creature, being respectful of all nature and, more than anything else, being patient while having the owl in her care. Not easy tasks, but worthy and life-changing. That is the heart of this wonderful book.

Yong Ling Kang creates a northern background both wide-ranging and serene, in a way that perfectly matches the wise words and important story told. Wise, real and with added touches of humor, it is sure to attract the attention of those lucky enough to share this book.

Both front and back matter add to understanding the premise for the telling, and give attention to the artists who made it available for our enjoyment.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Weekend Dad, written by Naseem Hrab and illustrated by Frank Viva. Groudwood Books, 2020. $18.95 ages 4 and up

"And I tell my dad all about
my week. I tell him about the
dragon catcher I invented. I
tell him about the boy in grade
six who tripped me at recess.
And I tell him about the sour
candy that Marlo dared me to
try. (It wasn't that sour.)

The bus ride feels like three
seconds, but according to
Wendell it lasts forty-eight ... "

When parents separate, the way of life their children have known is dramatically altered. In this very meaningful picture book, the child narrator allows readers a glimpse into the life he now leads. His narration is poignant and honest. His opening line is frank.

"On Monday morning, my
dad moved out of our house
and into an apartment."

Dad assures he won't be far away. The boy is bombarded with feelings and memories throughout the week. These small personal moments are testament to their life together prior to his father's leaving. Soon, it's Friday and Dad is on the doorstep. Mom provides everything needed for the visit, and a gentle kiss and hug goodbye. Wendell, his favorite stuffie, goes too.

The bus ride to his father's apartment is filled with amiable chatter. Arrival at his second home is fine because Dad is there; it bears no resemblance to his other home because Mom is not. This first weekend is strange. Fear, apprehension, and being in a brand-new place is disconcerting. On Saturday morning, the two begin making their own new personal memories. They do the same on Sunday because that's what they always do! These small moments are touching, and very effective.

There are no dramatic emotional displays. Frank Viva's hand inked and digitally colored images provide exactly the right touch for this quiet, hopeful story. In his deft hands, readers are able to fully understand what his happening as the young child navigates a new reality. While being with his dad, he wonders about his mom. He decides to leave Wendell to keep Dad company. Dad sends him home with a letter filled with love and hope. will hear your dad's heart beat, and with each beat, you will hear the words: "You are loved."

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Homesick Club, written by Libby Martinez and illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon. Groundwood Books, 2020. $17.95 ages 4 and up

"In Bolivia, there are lots of
mango trees and green vines.
A family of hummingbirds -
una familia de colibris - lived
in our backyard. My grandmother
and I fed them sugar water every

Hannah is from far away, too.
She is from Israel. She says
it's always sunny there, not
like here where the sun hides ... "

Monica and Hannah are kindred spirits, and they are classmates. That is not all they have in common. They have moved from other countries to live in the United States. Monica is from Bolivia where she and her grandmother shared a love of hummingbirds. Hannah is from always-warm Israel where giant sand dunes and tiny tortoises are not unusual sights. They are members of a club they have created for themselves ... The Homesick Club.

When their teacher has her baby and a substitute is hired, they meet Ms. Shelby. She is from Texas and has never lived in such a big city. While Monica and Hannah share memories of home and the things they miss, Ms. Shelby does the same thing while teaching. The girls notice that she often seems lonely. So, they ask her to join their club. Their teacher is intrigued.

"You have to be from far away," I say. "I'm from
Bolivia and Hannah is from Israel. We talk about
things we miss. Do you miss all the stars you could
see in Texas?"
"Yes," she says. "I miss seeing all of those stars. I
would love to join your club, Monica."

Among the things Ms. Shelby tells them she misses is something called Hummingbird Cake. It gives Monica an idea for Show-and-Tell. This heartwarming book speaks to the feelings of being from somewhere else. The tone for the telling is always full of feeling and being helpful to one another. It shows readers that no matter where we come from, we have many similarities.

What's better than sharing friendship and food?

Thursday, May 21, 2020

If I Couldn't Be Anne, written by Kallie George and illustrated by Genevieve Godbout. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2020. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"If I couldn't be Anne,
Anne with an e ...

I'd be a tightrope walker,
breathless and brave.

Or a lily maid, drifting
dreamily through summer.

Or a fancy lady,
pouring a perfect cup of tea,
in a grand, grown-uppish way."

If you know Kallie George's writing, you will know how much she loves Anne of Green Gables, and how well she knows her. This is her fourth book that focuses on Anne and her life. Those who know and love Lucy Maud Montgomery's books about the feisty redheaded orphan, whose home is at Green Gables on Prince Edward Island, will certainly know her unconstrained flights of fancy. Anne's imagination is quite astonishing.

Here, Anne (with an e) imagines what her life might be like, were she not who she is. The scenarios she considers are ever-changing, and come from the original tale. To appeal to a younger audience, Ms. George shortens the longer story to suit a younger audience. Anne is true to her character. Young readers will appreciate her charm, and her wish to be an integral part of the natural world. She imagines being a gull, the wind, a rose, or an invisible friend with the intent to become a kindred spirit to anyone needing one.

The text has a poetic tone, and the illustrations perfectly match the whimsy of the telling. They are beautifully created sing pastels and colored pencils. I know two little girls who will love learning more about Anne (with an 'e') before they are ready to read the novel. What a spirit she is! In the end they will be happy to learn that Anne is quite content being who she is.

This is lovely book that serves as an introduction to a character they may someday come to love as much as their mother and grandmother do.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

How To Write a Story, written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Mark Siegel. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2020. $23.99 ages 6 and up



a shiny one.

You can write about something
you love.

Or something that scares you."

Kate Messner has written this how-to book for aspiring writers as a follow-up to How To Read A Book, 2015. I think that it will prove as popular as that first one. She gives useful and straightforward advice for the ten-step process guide to becoming a dedicated writer: Search For An Idea, Once You Have Your Idea, Choose a Setting, Choose A Main Character, Dream Up A Problem For Your Main Character, Now It's Time to Plan Your Story, Write Your Story With So Much Detail Readers Can See It In Their Minds, Read Through Your Story and Make a List of Ways to Make it Better, Read Through A Few More Times, Choose a Captivating Title for Your Story, and Share Your Story With a Friend. 

With each new step, Ms. Messner adds thoughtful suggestions about ideas and process. Mike Siegel's ink and watercolor images fill the double=page spreads with charming, warm details sure to add background for the decision-making. As often happens, offering suggestions sparks further ideas.

"Don't worry if not all your ideas are
shiny. Sometimes you have to collect
a lot to figure out what works best."

She also gives writers latitude to take a break when one is needed.

"When you finish your first draft, take a break
and go do something else. Stories need time time
to blossom and grow."

If you are home schooling with your kids, and are wondering how to get them thinking about writing their own stories, you would do well to have this book at hand. Concise and adaptable, it is a great addition to a family or school library.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

In My Anaana's Amautik, written by Nadia Sammurtok and illustrated by Lenny Lishchenko. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2019. $16.95 ages 2 and up

"In my anaana's amautik, 
it feels cozy. The way the
material swaddles me feels
like being wrapped up in
soft clouds. I love snuggling
up inside my anaana's amautik.

In my anaana's amautik, I feel
calm. Her scent reminds me of
flowers in the summertime. I
love breathing in the smell ... "

How lucky to have a child share the joys of being tucked in a mother's parka hood. No one else can possibly understand what it is like. Many mothers in northern climates wear parkas with such hoods. It keeps the mothers safe and warm when cold winds blow, and a child who is carried there experiences the wonder of its warmth. 

Poetic, precise writing gives a sense of each of the blessings that come from being so close to the child's beloved parent. The warmth of being 'wrapped up in soft clouds', the mother's scent, the protection afforded while there, and the delight found in the love exhibited make clear the many benefits of such transport. Who could ask for more than that?

Each turn of the page provides a glimpse of the contented child basking in the beauty of the senses. The textures and soothing colors are chosen well to accentuate the simple text. A repetitive opening on each page adds to the serenity of the relationship between the two. The northern landscape creates an awareness for the need to wear such clothing when transporting a child from one place to another.

Intimate and serene, this lovely book is an ideal read for little ones at bedtime, or anytime.

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Elephant, by Peter Carnavas. Pajama Press, 2020. $19.95 ages 8 and up

"Later that day, Olive and Arthur were upside down on the monkey bars again. Olive let her hands hang loose so they nearly touched the ground. She closed her eyes. Her thoughts somersaulted in her head, bumping and rolling into each other: the elephant, the tortoise, and the photo in Arthur’s big book.

Like soft pieces of clay, these thoughts rolled around, then merged together to form an idea, big and bold and exciting."

Peter Carnavas is a brilliant writer. There, I've said it again. In this novel he recounts the story of a family gripped by grief in the loss of a loved one. While it could be somber and heartbreaking, he manages to focus on hope, love and joyful moments.

Olive is the central character, and we read the story it tells from her perspective. Olive is a pretty lucky girl: her best friend Arthur is her sounding board for everything she says and feels; her grandfather bakes for her, takes her on long walks around town, and makes the garden a serene and peaceful spot for contemplation and company; and her father plays an important role in her life. She loves him. But, his depression often prevents him from keeping promises made and spending time together. To Olive, that depression takes the form of an elephant only she can see.

Luckily, Olive is a plucky and confident young lady whose relationships with Arthur and her Grandad hold her up and give her strength. When a school project has Olive looking for something old to take to school, she has many ideas, including her mother's old, broken bicycle. Maybe Dad will fix it if she needs it for school. She is pretty sure it won't happen, so she tells Arthur about the elephant.

"And I imagine the sadness like a big, gray
elephant following him around. That's what I see."
"Like an imaginary friend?"
"An imaginary enemy," she said.
Arthur took another bite from his apple. "And is
it there every day?"
"All the time," she said, and then she couldn't stop."

Olive explains that her dad can't do much at all when the elephant is there. Arthur, ever the optimist, suggests all they need to do is get rid of the elephant. Simple, right? Not so much, but it sets Olive on a course to give it a try. What happens and how it happens leads to what turns out to be a reasonable ending for the children who will read this book.

Honestly, I could go on! This is one of my favorite reads this year, and I think it should be in all homes, libraries, and classrooms. It is a remarkable book, true to a child's understanding of what is real. Compassionate, hopeful and so beautifully written, you will fall in love with each of these perfect characters. Please, please read it.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Chirp, by Kate Messner. Bloomsbury Children's Books, Raincoast. 2020. $22.99 ages 9 and up

"Instead, she was up at seven to say goodbye to Dad, who was driving to Boston to meet with real estate agents about their old house. By eight, she was walking into the middle school for Launch Camp. A lady with short black braids and a neon-green T-shirt was standing outside, bouncing. Literally bouncing. Her voice was even louder than her shirt. "Welcome to Launch Camp!" She looked down at a clipboard. You must be ... Mia!"

A story about a cricket farm, I thought. That should be interesting; I like reading stories centered on 'stuff' I don't know. I came away from the reading having learned something brand new. I knew not one thing about farming crickets. Until now! After reading Kate Messner's latest book, I know much more than I did when I started.

That being said, this book is not only about cricket farming. It is about family, friendship, sabotage, strength, abuse, having a voice, healing, and entrepreneurship.That is a lot of subject matter to cover in one middle grade novel. Kate Messner does it seamlessly, weaving a story that is both mystery and nonfiction.

It begins with Mia and her family moving to her grandmother's cricket farm. Gram is an accomplished teacher and scientist who has recently suffered a mild stroke. The family feels the need bo be near her and help her get the farm ready for sale. Gram has no intention of selling, although it is not as easy task to make her farm viable and productive. When strange things start happening, Gran is sure it is the result of sabotage. Someone wants her out!

Mia's attendence at two summer camps garners new friends, a will to help her grandmother with her farm, and building strength and stamina at a sport she once loved. Her friends are supportive in both instances. At Maker Camp they work together to create new ways to advertise and improve production for her grandmother's crickets. At Warrior Camp she learns to trust her instincts in terms of gymnastics, rebuilding confidence and the skills she lost following an accident.

As the summer goes on, Mia's newfound confidence helps her find her voice about a number of things. She learns to speak up when advertising the benefits of consuming crickets in a variety of forms, as well as start a sleuthing campaign to discover who is sabotaging her grandmother's farm. As well, after keeping a secret about the sexual harassment of her former gymnastics coach, she is able to finally talk about it. Filled with wonderful characters who provide support and mentorship, Mia finds the strength she needs to be strong once again.

I will leave the final words to Kate, from an interview I recently read.

"And I think books that tell honest stories about kids grappling with unwanted attention can help us get there. In the real world – our world – kids are struggling, too. They’re looking for someone to listen. And all the while, they’re showing up for school and doing homework and laughing with their friends and going to band rehearsal. But they’re also looking for an opening to speak up, to feel whole again.  Books about sensitive topics don’t harm kids. They empower them."

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Feed The Birds: Attract and Identify 196 Common North American Birds, by Chris Earley. Firefly Books, 2019. $29.95 all ages

"Some individual birds may have
odd, pale coloration, white patches
or even be all white. These conditions
are related to pigment-production
problems. They are a great benefit
to human observers, as we can use
them to recognize individuals.
However, they are not a benefit to
the bird. Depending on the extent of
the loss of pigment, it may be extra
challenging for the bird to avoid
predators ... "

If you, like so many others during the pandemic, are looking to learn something new, you might consider birdwatching. Where I live, I am seeing birds that I have not seen before, and the mornings are filled with birdsong. I will be taking this book out to my screened-in porch to see if I can figure out who is visiting my yard and entertaining me with sight and song. It also gives plenty of useful information concerning other topics beyond observation and research.

Chris Earley is not new to publishing books about birds. Do a search and you will be impressed by this zoologist and environmental biologist who is the Interpretive Biologist and Education Coordinator at The Arboretum, University of Guelph. Pretty impressive credentials, I would say!

In this book, he helps readers take a careful look at 196 species. They all love backyard feeders! So, if you are interested in attracting birds to your back yard, you need this book. Its design is just right for helping readers attrract birds, identify them, and create an environment that will help to see how they behave and how they make adaptations to the places they live. Divided into 2 sections: Attracting and Feeding Birds and Identifying Birds, this conversational book provides helpful tips, clear and close-up photographs, identification guides, range maps, preferred foods and seeds, behaviors, as well as instructions for building feeders, discouraging squirrels, and getting your kids involved. It's a perfect outdoor activity as the weather warms. If you are thinking about planting a garden for the first time, Chris also gives guidance for the plants that will entice birds to your backyard.

Get interested enough in this new hobby and you may want to help with the annual Christmas Bird Count or Project Feederwatch. That information is provided. As well, a chart for keeping track of the birds that come to your feeder is there, also a list of further resources if you want to learn more, and a comprehensive index. Enjoy! Start something new!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Can You Hear the Trees Talking? Discovering the Hidden Life of the Forest, by Peter Wohlleben. Greystone Kids. 2019. $24.95 ages 10 and up

"There are fierce struggles going on in the forest every day, and trees are busy sending out news bulletins to keep their friends up to date. In summer, if you're lucky, you might even be able to smell some of the messages they exchange. Others you'll never pick up on because they're passed along underground ... It's easiest to defend yourself when you know that someone is coming."

I didn't want to miss telling you about this. Can You Hear The Trees Talkiing? is a terrific information book for any middle grader with an interest in the natural world. The author has revised his adult book to make it more accessible for young people. He wants them to know that we are attached to the plant kingdom in more ways than we might have guessed.

He talks about many different types of trees, the animals that shelter there, and the ways in which humans make them a part of their life. There are 7 chapters and Peter Wohlleen uses them to provide as much information as possible. At the same time he makes sure that what he shares will bring enjoyment and understanding for all who read it. He asks short questions throughout that are meant to keep readers on task, and always learning. There are activities and reminders to look carefully at what is being learned.

In the Friends and Enemies in the Forest chapter, four questions are presented: Can Trees Talk?, Is There a Forest Internet?, Why Do Fungi Grow on Trees?, and What Makes Trees Sick? Interesting, indeed. Those eager to learn about something specific are quickly guided to a place where they will get answers to their questions. This is a great mentor text for helping writers learn the ropes when considering writing some nonfiction.

Full of data to marvel at and to appreciate, kids and their parents are going to find appealing information boxes, engaging statistics, and excellent photographs that add context to this treat of a book. Peter encourages kids to get outside and take a careful look at trees, the seasons, and even to do some research of their own. In the end, readers will realize just how important trees are to our well-being, and what we can do to keep them as healthy as is possible.

If you are watching the trees in your yard and in your neighborhood, you will notice that they are 'greening.' You can actually see the tree turning color and buds opening every day now. Capture a photo every day to see the progress of spring in the trees that surround you.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Madame Badobedah, written by Sophie Dahl and illustrated by Lauren O'Hara, Walker Books, Candlewick Press. Penguin Random House. 2019. $24.99 ages 6 and up

"... She wore two pairs of socks
on each foot. Underneath the socks,
her toes were long and purple-ish
with knobs on them. They were grim.
They were, in fact, the toes of a villain.

Since no one seemed to care that
we were living with a high priestess
of crime, I realized I was on my own,
as usual. I would have to wait for the
chance to catch her red-handed."

Mabel loves her life at the Mermaid Hotel. It is an unusual place, but it affords Mabel the opportunity for adventure (shoeless, no doubt) at every turn. There are other things adventurers like as well, and Mabel likes every single one of them.

"I prefer home. No shoes; more bare feet. And adventure. Lots of lovely adventure."

She explains it all in Part One of her story; she also introduces a most fascinating guest. She names that guest Madame Badobedah. 

"A good name for the growly-voiced, suitcase-heavy, feather-clad guest who I was one hundred and ten percent sure was a villain."

Any detective worth her salt is going to begin immediate reconnaissance to learn everything she can possibly learn about the woman. After much surveillance, Mabel is convinced that her instincts have not led her astray. Madame Badobedah is a 'supervillain'. Numbered lists are compiled to prove her theory. Mabel's evidence is strong. She will have to wait patiently for her moment.

In Part Two she wants to follow up on what she has already learned. To her surprise Madame B knows she is outside her door and invites Mabel inside. They have tea. Following that social event, they embark on imaginary adventures that the most ambitious daredevil would no likely undertake. What joy they provide!

It should come as no surprise that Sophie Dahl (granddaughter of Roald) has a gift for smart and sparkling writing. They is endless detail in her storytelling in her debut for children; her captivating characters are memorable and amusing. The first-person narrative is marvelous for the elaborate descriptions of the hotel and of their continuing experiences.  So creative and imaginative, readers will love both characters for their feistiness, their friendship, and their love of fantastic exploits. The watercolor illustrations are as detailed as the descriptions, adding a great deal of fun to the reading.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Wild Honey From the Moon, written and illustrated by Kenneth Kraegel. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"Mother Shrew climbed high into
the treetops and stared up at the
distant moon. A cool voice broke
into the quiet night. "Why, hello,
Mrs. Shrew," crooned Horned Owl.
"Shall I eat you now or save you for
later?" "My dear mortal enemy,"
Mother Shrew replied without
taking her eyes off the moon,
"you must eat me later, for right
now I am on a mother's errand to
the moon."

When her son Hugo falls ill, Mother Shrew will not be hindered in her quest to find a cure. Hugo's illness is uncommon; no remedy is readily available. He is listless, with a head that is a cold and feet that are far too warm. Checking her best medical journal, Mother Shrew learns that the only cure for what ails Hugo is a spoonful of honey from the moon.

What? From the moon? How will she do that? Mothers know tenacity and love, and the level of dedication needed to help a beloved child. Her path seems obvious. She will go to the moon. How many obstacles can stand in her way? Each of the seven short chapters show just how brave she is and how far she is willing to go for Hugo.

The flight to the moon is provided by the Great Horned Owl who bragged he had been to the moon many times. Once there, he notes the stampeding nightmares and wants to take her back home where she will be a delectable meal. Dropping to the moon's surface she proves that she is a mother on a mission! Using one of the moon's 'nightmares' for travel, she offers a calming song. When the mare tires, Mother Shrew goes on alone. A chance meeting with a butterfly affords a lift to the Garden of the Queen Bee. The drone guard does its best to stop her from meeting with their Queen, keeper of the honey she needs. She will not be bullied.

"My dear sick sone needs your honey to be well.
So step aside. I am a mother on a mission, and I
will not be held back."

Full of warmth, this illustrated chapter book will be cherished for its love and bravery. The ink and watercolor images are a feast for the eyes. Textured and complex, they lead readers from the shrew's cozy den to the unexplored surface of the moon, and back again. What an adventure this is!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Under The Lilacs, written and illustrated by E. B. Goodale. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2020. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"All I need are some sticks
and cardboard to build a roof.
These rocks will work as a

My pen pal could still write
me letters as long as I let him
know my new address.

These strawberries should last me through the winter ..."

Does there come a time in every child's life when they think they need to make a run for it; to find a place of their own and show their independence and resourcefulness? I am sure I felt that way at times. It is just so long ago that I cannot pinpoint a specific memory. I do know that a majority of children, at one time or another, feel the need to flee.

In an always busy and noisy house, Kate feels left out. Her mother has her flute students. Her sister is too busy being Hannah to worry about her little sister. There's nothing for Kate to do but to run away. She slips a note under her mother's door. Mom doesn't even notice it ... even though Kate settles in for a long wait to see if she will.

Kate is not even sure they will notice that she's gone when she finally makes the decision. Out in the backyard under the lilac bushes, she finds a safe haven. She builds herself a cardboard house and scouts the neighboring territory for available food. There are a few things she has to do to ensure that her new place will be just what she wants it to be. She does make sure there is room for Hannah, and then for Mom. In fact, the new house looks a lot like the old, and it's perfect for 'a little while'.

The text is just right for early readers. Making Mango (the cat) the scapegoat for inviting her sister and mother into her new abode is astute reasoning for the target audience.  Images created in monoprinting, ink and digital collage have an inviting warmth about them. The natural setting is appealing and a great place for a new adventure ... without straying too far from home.                                                             

Monday, May 11, 2020

What Grew in Larry's Garden, written by Laura Alary and illustrated by Kass Reich. Kids Can Press, 2020. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"Winter melted away and spring sprouted. One warm afternoon, Grace found Larry on his porch with a pile of papers in his lap. "You wanted to know what my students would do with our plants," he said. "Listen to these letters."

As warmer weather arrives, thoughts turn to gardening and growing. One can only wish that a child wanting to know more about gardening would meet a fine man like Larry, a willing teacher of patience and problem solving.

Grace and Larry live next door to each other. They both have tiny yards. Larry makes use of every inch of his to grow spectacular vegetables. He is a willing teacher when helping Grace learn about the many facets of growing a garden. Faced with any number of problems, they work together to solve them. There is much to learn.

During the winter they prepare for spring by growing their gathered tomato seeds in little cups. They are many. Larry takes them to his classroom for his students to nurture. There is a good reason for doing so; Grace must wait patiently to discover what it is. Larry explains that when spring comes, he encourages each of those students to give back to the community by sharing a tomato plant and a letter explaining why the student chose the recipient. Such a lovely idea.

"Dear Bus Driver, 

I rode on your school bus for years. 
You were always so friendly to all 
the kids. I am giving you this tomato 
plant to say thank you. 


When a problem with a neighbor arises that seems to have no solution, Grace takes all she has learned from Larry about kindness, giving back, and figuring out how to solve a problem, to proffer a happy ending.

 A gentle story with heart, this book will be enjoyed by many. The artist used 'gouache paint and colored pencils, with final touches added digitally', to create an explosion of color in this very special garden. The book's inspiration is teacher Larry Zacharko who has helped his troubled students find purpose in doing something for others ... a grand gesture to be sure.  A perfect story to share in these times when we all need to think about others.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Love and the Rocking Chair, by Leo and Diane Dillon. Blue Sky Press, Scholastic. 2019. $25.99 ages

"Every family has its own story,
and no two families are the same.
Yet for all of us, time passes -
and as it does, our lives change.
Babies are born, children grow up,
parents get older, and sometimes
we even lose a person we cherish.
Throughout it all, love flows from
one generation to the next ... and on
and on. Families are a great source
of strength, support and hope."

In this family story, and their last one written together, Leo and Diane Dillon share the tale of a rocking chair that has connected family members through generations by its very being. Bought when the Dillons were awaiting the birth of their son, it became a place for a quiet, soothing song, for sharing books, as an imaginary horse for a little boy, and a receptacle for discarded toys.

As the boy grew older and left for school, it was tucked up in the attic and rarely ever considered. The parents aged; the father died. The son returned to be with his mother and wish his father a final goodbye. Soon, he brought someone new into their lives ... a life partner; one with whom he would have a child of his own.

Aha! The rocking chair ... found, dusted, placed in the nursery, and ready for a grandmother to sing a soothing song to a new baby girl. And, you know what that girl did ...                                                                                         

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Home In The Woods, written and illustrated Eliza Wheeler. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"The paths lead us to
a twisting trout creek,
an empty beaver lodge,
and a blooming berry patch,
with sweet jewels of blue and

We fill our pail, Marv's hat,
Ray's bag. Lowell fills his
empty belly."

I love this touching family story based on the author's grandmother and her life during the Depression. She is a young girl at the time. Only 6, she is one of eight children whose father has died. The children range in age from 3 months to 14. Coping with being a widow at 34, Marvel's mother is tasked with raising her children on her own. It is Marvel who shares their story.

It's summer time. With their Dad gone, Marvel's mother takes the family and everything they own deep into the nearby woods. There they find an old shack that holds little appeal. Mum is positive, encouraging her children to make the best of what they have. The main floor is pretty bare. Discovering a door in the floor, two of the children go exploring.

"Below is a root cellar
filled with old glass jars,
a tin pail, a pile of rags,
and a pitcher pump that goes
up and down,
up and down,
and out comes a stream
of cool, clear water."

That's a plus, and Mum helps them realize they can make themselves a home here. A garden provides food; the surrounding woods provide adventure. As summer turns to autumn, Mum goes to town to work for pay and the children step up to do the chores at home. With only enough money to provide what they really need, there is nothing left for toys or candy.

Winter means being inside a lot. The children learn new skills. The older boys do their best to hunt for food with little luck. Mum is a wonder in the kitchen. She uses what has been stored through summer and autumn to make delicious meals. Spring brings hope, warmth, and a chance to trade bread and jam to neighbors for milk and eggs ... and promise for the coming days.

Eliza Wheeler's storytelling is strong, honest, and very personal. Her captivating ink and watercolor images are filled with family love, but don't downplay the conditions of the time. A feast of visual details assures that those who share this book have a very clear picture of the time, the growth, the strength within this remarkable family. 

An appended author's note adds wonderful detail, while encouraging her readers to look to their own families for personal stories meant to be told.

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Cat Man of Aleppo, written by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha. Illustrated by Yuko Shimizu. Putnam, Penguin Random House. 2020. $23.99 ages 6 and up

"Alaa's work is important,
but he misses his loved ones.
Where are they now? Are they

He misses the way things
used to be before the war.
Aleppo's city center no longer
echoes with the rich, exciting
sounds of copper-pot pounding
and traditional sword sharpening.
His neighborhood is empty - "

The war that rages in Syria has caused millions to flee, and seek shelter in safer places. Many remain. Alaa is only one of them. He stays in his treasured Aleppo to continue driving an ambulance for the wounded. Every day he misses his family members and friends who have left. He does not know where they are, or if they are safe. While his neighborhood has changed beyond recognition, one of the things that remains the same are the cats. Too many to count, and to feed. But, Alaa does his best for those feline friends.

The cats are also victims of war. Left behind when families flee, they must fend for themselves at a time when there is little food or water for them. Alaa cannot let them starve; his heart won't allow it. Using his own money to care for them, their numbers grow. Luckily, Alaa has help from caring people around the world who contribute to his efforts to find a safe place for the cats to live. Each time he finds that safe place, the war causes him to move it. Today, it is located outside the city and now houses other rescued animals as well. What a story!

"Alaa loves his city of Aleppo. He hopes one day soon its
bazaars selling pistachios and jasmine soap will return, and
he can enjoy eating boiled corn and dried figs. Meanwhile,
he loves the sanctuary's courtyard filled with fat, sleepy-eyed
cats. There's no place he'd rather be."

Fascinating and brilliantly illustrated, this story of man who continues to spread love, hope, and wonder will inspire readers to do their best to make a difference in our world. The book begins with a note from Alaa, and ends with notes from each author and the illustrator. Humanity is at its heart, and shows readers that terrible circumstances can lead to great acts of love and compassion.


Thursday, May 7, 2020

Cave Dada, written and illustrated by Brandon Reese. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2020. $22.99 ages 2 and up






Even in the Stone Age, it was terrible trying to get a baby to sleep ... especially when the parent is tired, disgruntled and done for the day.

When Dada gets home from a day of hunting and gathering, he is hoping for a quick good night. Baba is having none of it. Baba wants a book before bed; Dada does not have the oomph or the inspiration to find such a book. He offers a rattle, a blanket, a stuffy, and even a rock in the 'rock'ing chair. Baba threatens tears, Dada gives in and offers a book.

Off he goes and comes back with a stone tablet story. Not the right one. Baba insists on a different book. Now, Dada is close to tears himself. The next book is much bigger and harder to handle. The friction from pushing it along the ground sparks a campfire. Dada takes fire to his baby, distracting him for a mere moment.

"BABA WANT BIG BOOK!" Dada treks off on the hunt for the desired tome. With the help of a mammoth, he retrieves said book and returns to find a welcome surprise!

Using colored pencil, gouache and Photoshop, Brandon Reese creates dramatic and comical scenes from an age long past. I love the baby's hot and bothered angry face when he is not getting what he wants, and his peaceful, calm demeanor when he falls prey to exhaustion. So much fun to watch his responses! 

The cave speak invites readers to pay close attention to speaker and tone. Funny as all get out, this is a book that will shared, then shared again - with help from listeners at every turn. WAH! WAH! WAH!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Why Do We Cry? Written by Fran Pintadera and illustrated by Ana Sender. Translation by Mihaila Petricic. Kids Can Press, 2020. $18.99 ages 6 and up

"Some people cry because
shouting for hours doesn't

Others, because they try to
keep everything under lock 
and key, but their tears find
a way to escape."

Mario and his mother are spending a quiet morning on a park bench together when he asks a quiet question: "Mom, why do we cry?" Giving his question a quick moment of thought, his mother answers with clear and honest responses.

There are many, many reasons for people to cry, she says. With each turn of the page, she offers up another explanation for this universal reaction. Each response offers a word within her answer that is bolded to emphasize an emotion.

"Often, we cry when we run into a wall.
When that happens, we don't cry because we're hurt,
but because the wall seems impossible to climb."

Illustrations help to convey the meaning in double page spreads that show a young girl with long braids (perhaps the mother herself) dealing with the emotion described. Colors shift with the mood, and add further context. The importance of giving in to tears because it is such an honest response is the underlying learning here. Offered in a quiet, moody, personal, and reassuring tone, the book invites talk concerning the feelings and emotions every one of us feels at some time or other in our lives.

"But more than anything, sweetheart,
we cry because we feel like crying.
That's the most important reason."

Back matter provides a description of tears, and ideas for further activities.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Where's Baby? Written and illustrated by Anne Hunter. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2020. $21.99 ages 3 and up

"Ba - by!

Are you indoors?

Maybe Baby
went out.

Ba - by!

Are you up in
that tree?"

Papa Fox is in a quandary! He can't find Baby Fox.

He asks Mama. She tells him that Baby must be somewhere. He looks in all the obvious places. To a reader's great delight, he doesn't look in the most conspicuous of them all. Not finding him indoors, he sets off to look up, inside, over, down, under, and around. At each spot he does encounter an animal that is there, but never his own baby.

After much searching, he is tired and consumed by concern. When he asks Mama Fox for help once more, she provides just the answer that kids who are watching and listening to the story have been trying to tell Papa all along. One more direction to check, Papa! What about behind you?

The sly little one has been playing a very successful game with his unaware father from the opening scene. Readers who are careful observers of all that has been happening will be delighted that Papa has finally become part of the joke. Especially when Baby wants to play all over again. Kids will be absolutely ready to repeat the adventure.

The dialogue that comprises the full text makes for a fun read. The ballpoint and colored pencil images are a perfect match to the conversation. Baby is always there, mostly obvious and offering expressive perspectives on the animals met, and his own joke, along the way.

Sure to encourage giggles, and perhaps a similar game or two of their own, this is a book that will be savored for weeks to come. Highly entertaining!

Monday, May 4, 2020

The House at the End of the Road, written and illustrated by Kari Rust. Owlkids, 2019. $18.95 ages 5 and up

"Have you ever seen a window break?

No, Robert! Don't! 

I don't think Robert really wanted to
break the glass. The rock just tapped
the window and skipped into the
gutter. Suddenly ...

A ghost!"

Summer adventure leads to misconceptions, fear, and new learning. Two cousins are last to arrive at Grandma's house for an annual visit. Robert is there already; Patrick and his sister, our narrator, join him. Exploring the area on bikes that Grandma keeps just for such an occasion leads them to an old house that looks deserted, and is a tad frightening. Robert is their heedless leader. He is quick to make trouble, throwing a rock at a window. In quick time, they see a face at that window ... a ghost!

Acknowledging that they have left a bike behind means they must share their story with their grandmother. She tells them the house belongs to Mr. Peterson, and they will soon be off to apologize. All the while Robert is doing his best to make himself invisible, wanting to avoid admitting what he did. Nervous about the visit, the children are embarrassed victims of Mr. Peterson's wicked sense of humor.

He invites them in, and is willing to share old films, toys, pressed flowers, and photos. The children each leave with a special gift, and a new attitude toward the old man. They visit often throughout their vacation, enjoying all he has to tell them. When Mr. Peterson is forced to move to a retirement home because the house itself is in such bad shape, the children don't have the opportunity to visit him before they leave. With Robert's ingenuity they find a way to keep the memories of his home alive for him.

Kari Rust's movie-like panels change color from bright to faded gray, and move the story forward in keeping with the emotions felt. The first-person narrative makes for a very personal telling, and their story is packed with suspense, detail and warmth.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

My Brother The Duck, written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Daniel Wiseman. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2020. $22.99 ages 4 and up

"So I visited my friend Carla
She's made volcanoes erupt,

pickles glow,

and paper clips float.

"We have a new baby. His name is Drake. I think he's a duck."

Stella Wells is a budding scientist and knows that research is the name of the game when you are trying to prove a theory. She is obviously not too keen on the chaos that has erupted in the family home recently. Her concerns over the new arrival begin when she hears her father making an observation concerning her mother's physical state.

"I spotted something odd before he was born.
Dad told Mom: "You're waddling. We must be having a duck."

They laughed. I didn't."

The baby arrives home with a plethora of necessities, and wrapped in a yellow blanket. Stella begins gathering the evidence she will need to prove her hypothesis that her brother is indeed a duck. After all, his name is Drake ... and you know what that means! He has a loud quack. You get where we are going with this.

With evidence piling up, she decides to check in with her best friend to share the concerns she has. Carla listens, but is not convinced that all needed facts have been gathered. In fact, she offers some suggestions of her own. They will need an expert. Principal Kowalski provides her observation.

"You know what people say,
'If it looks like a duck
and sounds like a duck,
it's probably a duck."

There you have it ... verification from an authority. Does it really matter?

This first-person narration with delightful characters and scenes will have little ones hooting as they listen in on a new kind of sibling complaint. Text and illustrations work seamlessly together to create a story sure to entertain - one that will have listeners begging to hear it again. Fun, fun, fun!

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Treasure, written by Mireille Messier and illlustrated by Irene Luxbacher. Orca Book Publishers. 2019. $19.95 ages 3 and up

"How about this?

No. Not precious enough. 

Finding a treasure is hard ...

Finding a treasure is fun!

Are you sure there is a

Two children, speaking only to each other, set out on a treasure hunt. They are not sure what they are hoping to find. The older thinks she knows what it should be.

"Well, a treasure is shiny and mysterious and precious.
And the best treasures are always hidden."

From one tiny discovery to the next, she has a reason for why it is not treasure. Each suggestion from the younger one is rejected. Their search moves forward. It is frustrating and tiring. In fact, she admits that there may be no treasure!

The younger's one complaint that the treasure they seek must be hidden too well leads to a hint that they might finally be close. Not too far now. Tada! The treasure is found ... it is shiny, it is mysterious, it is precious, and it will NOT fit in a pocket. Yet, it is so worth discovering.

What the younger child finds as they travel along are quite delightful objects, as Irene Luxbacher shows in her 'graphite, watercolor, acrylic paints, soft pencil crayons and found papers' digital images. Happily playing in the peaceful outdoors, the children prove just patient enough to find the hidden treasure that makes all the searching worthwhile.

Their memories of that day will be forever their own. The beauty of the landscape is evident in every spread, those with short burst of dialogue and those that have no words. Perspectives change, poignant details emerge, and readers will constantly shift their eyes from one scene to the next. The pace of the text is perfect for quiet exploration. Full of wonder and the beauty of the natural surroundings, this book is a treat.                                                                         

Friday, May 1, 2020

The Dog Patrol: Our Canine Companions and the Kids Who Protect Them, by Rob Laidlaw. Pajama Press, 2020. $23.95 ages 8 and up

"In 2018, after watching the feature documentary Sled Dogs, eleven-year-old Cameron decided to do her speech on the subject. She did a lot of research about commercial sled dog operations for tourists that chain their dogs for a long time. She even held a two-hour meeting with Sled Dogs director Fern Levitt."

Cameron Bitove is one of the many children who advocate for dogs. After learning all she could about sled dog operations and speaking out, 'she was invited to speak at the K-9 Unchain Canada "Break the Chains" rally ... "

Rob Laidlaw is a champion for all animals. Those who have read his informative earlier titles will be as inspired by this book as they have with the others. Many, many families are already proud owners of a canine pet. If you want the kids to take responsibility for that puppy they so wanted, this book will provide a clear guide for dog ownership.

Rob begins by introducing Keeper. 

"Keeper became a friend to the other dogs in my house -
Emmy, Mia, Bruiser, and Sam - and a foster mom to a litter
of kittens. She lived to the ripe, old age of eighteen and a half years."

Finding Keeper tied to a bulldozer with little water or food, Rob learned that the kind man who had rescued her had no idea concerning her care. Thus, the reason for writing this book. He wants everyone with a dog to know the best ways to enrich their lives and make them happy and healthy.

There are five sections: The Long History of Dogs and Humans, Amazing Canines, So You Want a Dog?, Getting Along With Your Dog, and A Dog's Life At Home. Each is concerned with learning as much as is possible to help humans live with, understand, and provide the best care for those dogs that share their lives.

The writing is conversational, stated clearly and appealing from start to finish. The photos and design invite careful attention to content. The profiles he shares in the Dog Patrol sections are inspiring and informative, always with the focus being on the best possible ways to ensure a happy, productive life for the dogs in our care.

"In her 11 years, Willow has initiated many fundraisers to benefit animal charities, including sewing and selling dog and cat toys, running 5Ks, and swimming a one-mile lake. By 2019 she had raised nearly $15,000. Willow also teaches children how they can foster dogs and puppies at shelters ... "

"At only six years old, Toronto, Canada, resident Molly Matlow is a powerful advocate for dogs and all other animals. Following in the footsteps of her mother, who works for a prominent protection organization, Molly misses no opportunity to let people know that dogs and other animals have feeling and needs, and that everyone should be kind, compassionate, and respectful to them. Molly used her birthday to raise funds for a wildlife rescue center ... "

In back matter the author has included a dog lover's pledge, a list of further resources, a thorough glossary and a detailed index.