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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. 


Sunday, November 28, 2021

Red and Green and Blue and White, written by Lee Wind and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. Levine Querido, Raincoast. 2021. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"When it got dark, Teresa 
flipped the switch, and her 
house glowed Red and Green. 

Across the street, Isaac lit his 
family's decorative menorah, 
and his house glowed 
Blue and White.

It is quite wonderful what kids can do when they set their minds to making a difference in their world. The story opens on a dark night where a community of homes is ablaze in the Red and Green lights of Christmas. Wait! One house shines in Blue and White. 

Two families living across the street from one another have prepared those homes for the coming season. Isaac and his family have placed their menorah in the front window in celebration of Chanukah. His best friend Teresa and her family are just finished decorating their Christmas tree. 

The two friends spend their days together doing what they love to do. Each night their houses glow with light. One night, after dark when everyone is sleeping, someone throws a rock through Isaac's front window, knocking out the menorah's light. 

"Isaac's mom asked, "Should we 
light the menorah again?" 
If they didn't, Isaac knew it would 
be like hiding they were Jewish. 
That didn't feel right.

Wanting to show support for her friend, Teresa puts a hand-drawn picture of a menorah on the front window and labels it for Isaac. It glows blue. Isaac is excited, and from that small act of kindness an idea grows. Soon, wherever you looked in their community, pictures and banners were placed in a show of support for Isaac and his family.    
Paul Zelinsky's uses digital media and variety in perspectives to fully fill every spread with bright colors, and the beauty of both darkness and light. Endpapers, both front and back are created in the four colors of the title and bordered by a ring of people standing in solidarity for community. So lovely, and inspiring. Back matter features an author’s note that provides information concerning an actual event that happened in Billings, Montana in 1993, and was the genesis for his book.                                                                                                      

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Ride The Wind, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 6 and up


"He put the bird in his old playpen. 
Once, long ago, before his mother 
had gone to the city to work, the 
playpen had kept him safe while 
she cooked and cleaned. His
mother had never come back - 
but it would keep the albatross 
safe, all the same.

Fishing with his father and uncle, Javier is helping with the lines. He is alarmed to see that an albatross is hooked to a line. Uncle Felipe frees it, and throws it in a corner of the boat. Their work continues. Once done, Javier checks on the bird and finds that it is alive. He wraps it up and hides it. Once back home, his father and uncle are off to sell their catch, allowing Javier the chance to take his own catch home with him. He finds it a safe place, and goes off to find what he needs to keep it safe and healthy. 

Village friends offer the help needed ... ointment, a nest, and small fish to feed it. The two get along fine until Javier's father discovers their secret. While he wants it gone, Javier makes a case for keeping it until it can fly. Two weeks is his father's ultimatum. Javier is able to voice his concern for the bird to his uncle, telling him that it reminds him of his mother who has left them and not come back. 

The albatross recovers; yet, she shows no sign of wanting to fly. It worries Javier. Returning home with more fish to feed her, he finds her gone. Worse ...his father has sold her! Furious, Javier heads off to recapture his beloved bird and head for the top of the cliff. There, the wind is strong and will provide momentum for the bird. As the two drop over the cliff's edge, Javier's father watches in horror. The heartwarming ending feels real and enlightening. 

Outstanding watercolour artwork by Salvatore Rubbino places readers right in the midst of this emotional book, allowing them to feel and see the drama that tells the story of a family in need of healing.                                                                                          

Friday, November 26, 2021

something good, written by Marcy Campbell and illustrated by Corinna Luyken. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2021. $23.99 ages 5 and up


"The day the custodian found the 
bad-something on the bathroom 
wall, all the girls from Mr. Gilbert's 
class were called into the principal's 

That 'bad something' is all it takes for a staff to mobilize and let the school community know such foolishness will not be tolerated. Mrs. Martinez, the principal, wants to get to the heart of the matter quickly and speaks assertively to the girls assembled. No one admits that they have information; rather they want to know for themselves what is there and who might have done it. The girls sneak in to see what the fuss is all about, and are gob-smacked by what they see. 

They don't understand why the girls have been singled out. It could have been anyone. Soon, classmates, parents, and the community-at-large knows. It changes their days in ways they don't like. They look at each other with suspicion, and begin to treat others with disrespect. 

"We were meaner 
than we used to be. 
Like when Devon went 
to sharpen his pencil and 
tripped, and we laughed.

Mrs. Martinez and her teachers takes charge. She assembles students and rallies the students around the fact that no one likes what has happened.  Things like the bad-something have no place in their school. Pride begins to spread. A project is suggested and the results show what a community that works together can accomplish. And, how it can change what lies beneath. Kids are kinder and proud of what they have done together. Bravo! 

Converstaions begin here. 

Corinna Luyken uses gouache, colored pencil, and ink illustrations to great effect here. Warm and cool colors effectively portray mood, and clear, diverse portaits show readers the classmates affected by the hateful writing on the wall. 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Her Epic Adventure: 25 Daring Women Who Inspire A Life Less Ordinary, written by Julia De Laurentiis Johnston and illustrated by Salini Perera. Kids Can Press, 2021. $19.99 ages 9 and up


"Junko kept on climbing. 
By the time she was 35, she had set 
her sights on the highest mountain 
in the world: Mount Everest. She 
was well trained and prepared, but
about three-quarters of the way to
the top, disaster struck - an
avalanche trapped Junko and her 
team in their camp. Junko was 
knocked unconscious."

It's hard to fathom the accomplishments of the 25 fabulous women who grace the pages of this book. They do not lead ordinary lives in any way. Instead, they let no one keep them from making a life for themselves that has defied assumptions too often made when women want to do the unexpected. They have proved their mettle in countless ways, leading adventurous lives and ignoring opposition to their participation. 

The introduction lets readers know that the women whose stories are told here did not bow to the pressures, the opinions, or the questions asked of them when embarking on very difficult undertakings. 
They were at the forefront for all who have followed in their footsteps, allowing the world to see that gender matters not when bringing change. 

Five sections follow: SKY, PEAKS, ICE, LAND, and WATER. Each section presents four women who proved that if no one believed in their abilities, they would believe in themselves ... and they would make their own dreams of adventure come true. There are names here that are quickly recognizable, and others that will not be to all readers. Each has made a tremendous effort to do exactly what they set out to do. 

An initial introduction page for each section reports on the feats attempted and accomplished by these amazing women. Then, double-page spreads provide a brief history, pertinent data on each woman in the chosen section, and what makes them 'epic adventurers'. As happens with all good nonfiction, readers can choose to read the section that most attracts their personal interest. I went quickly to ICE and Sarah McNair-Landry, a Canadian whose mother led the first all-women expedition to the North Pole in 1997. Sarah is the youngest person to reach both North and South Poles. 

Women from world communities are included. A section on More Amazing Adventurers is added, as well as a world map that plots some of the locations and routes mentioned in their personal stories. A list of resources and an index complete back matter.  

I refused to take NO for an answer.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

A Brush Full of Color: The World of Ted Harrison, written by Margriet Ruurs and Katherine Gibson. Pajama Press, 2021. $15.95 all ages


"Ted loved teaching his Cree second graders. They
brought him unusual gifts, like a bird's egg or the
skull of a muskrat. In return, he told them funny
stories and drew pictures for them. He soon discovered
that the early readers featuring North American
children like Dick and Jane had no meaning at all for his 
Cree and Metis students. So he and another teacher 
wrote and illustrated a small book filled with northern 
images instead.

Ted Harrison had lived in many places following his birth in England; his military service took him to India, Africa, Malaysia and New Zealand. What endears him to Canadians is that he chose to teach in northern Alberta and then in the Yukon where he would spend much of his artistic life capturing the beauty of this new home. 

The clear skies, the horizons, the wonder of the northern lights, and the beauty of the first and last look at each day were captured in a bold new light. Using black to outline the images he was seeing, and brilliant colors to begin to represent the people and buildings that were so part of his everyday life, he stunned the world with his work. 

In the 1980s, he turned his talent to illustrating books for the children he loved and spent his days teaching. He continued to tell his stories and paint, selling his works throughout Canada to eager crowds. He created art for two poems from his childhood written by Robert Service that are still well-known to all - The Cremation of Sam McGhee (1986) and the Shooting of Dan McGrew (1988). They remain much coveted works.  

The Harrisons moved to Victoria, B.C. in 1993. Worrying that he might not paint again, Ted did find solace in the landscapes of his new home, school visits, teaching art classes, and touring across Canada with his stories and his art. 

This book is filled with archival photos, and Ted's paintings. Each is carefully captioned with date, medium, and name. Back matter includes acknowledgements, sources & resources, and a useful index. 

In his foreword, he gives readers this advice: 

"I urge you to keep on reading, writing and painting. 
Develop your own style and keep it honest and true 
to who you are. Find inspiration in the world around 
you, and  you will make the world a happier and more 
creative place." 

Words to live by, aren't they? 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

BEAR is a BEAR. written by Jonathan Stutzman and illustrated by Dan Santat. Balzer + Bray, Harper. 2021. $23.99 ages 3 and up


"Bear is a bold explorer. 

Bear is a bookworm. 

Bear is an artist. 

Bear is a bear covered in chalk. 

Bear is a bear full of love." 

A live - and huge - bear seems a strange gift for a young child, doesn't it? This particular bear becomes an exceptional friend and companion. From the beginning, the two are inseparable. Although Bear is often stunned by the assorted uses the child finds for him, he remains loyal and loving. Every request is met with a willingness to be part of the adventure; snack, tissue, pillow, fancy lady, pirate, ghost. All roles are handled with aplomb. 

Any threat to the child's well-being is handled with love; every new task is welcome and affords more time together. As the young girl grows, so does Bear's heart. He loves unconditionally and with patient kindness. Bear remains the same (if a touch bedraggled) as life goes on. The girl attends university, and Bear becomes a complication. Too soon for Bear, and sadly, he is packed away in a box where he fades into darkness. What will happen now? 

Surprise! Once remembered, he is loved all over again. 

The text is rhythmic and full of magic. Dan Santat uses watercolor, pencil and Adobe Photoshop to design warm, friendly images of the two as they grow and change. White space on many of the spreads ensure that full attention is given to their many affectionate capers.  Aah! Stuffies - what a special place they hold in the hearts of their children.                                                                                      


Monday, November 22, 2021

Moon Pops, written and illustrated by Heena Baek. English translation by Jieun Kiaer. Owlbooks, 2021. $19.95 ages 4 and up

"The moon was melting! 

Granny ran out 
from apartment 
503 with a bucket 
to catch the falling 
moon drops.

 Bedtime stories can be such fun for little ones! On a hot summer night, everyone in Granny's building has their air conditioners on, fans running, even their fridge doors left open. Not surprising that the power goes out. What is shocking is that only Granny notices the moon is melting. She rushes to catch the drips, wanting to use them to make moon pops. Those moon pops work to melt away the heat all are feeling. 

"Back home in their beds,
everyone slept with their
fans and air conditioners
turned off, their fridge 
doors shut tight, and 
their windows open wide. 
Their dreams were 
icy and sweet.

Now, who is that knocking at the door? Two rabbits, former inhabitants of the moon, are at Granny's door. They no longer have a home. What to do? Leave it to Granny to find a use for the last few moon drops, and a lovely solution to the rabbits' worry. It takes a little patience, but the result is a real delight. 

 Wonderful illustrations accompany the folkloric storytelling. Created using dioramas and cut-paper, they provide soft moonlight, sleepy creatures, shared dark shadows, and a happy conclusion. 

"Some claim there is a man 
in the moon, while others say 
there is only cheese. 

According to Korean folklore, 
when you look into the night 
sky, you might just see a rabbit, 
pounding ingredients with a 
mortar and pestle.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

What Will You Be? Written by Yamile Saied Mendez and illustrated by Kate Alizadeh. Harper, 2021. $21.99 ages 3 and up


"I ask Abuela because 
she has been everything 
under the Sun and the Moon. 

She says she's still 
figuring out what to be 
when she grows up.

Abuela, when I grow up, 
what will I be?"

It is a question asked too often of young children. This exchange begins when one of the children in her play group asks, and our young narrator has some quick answers: an astronaut, a unicorn or a clown. It is not surprising response. Little ones always have aspirations, even those that are not necessarily possible. That's what comes from dreams for the future. Her friends are not satisfied. They want to know more. 

A visit with her grandmother raises the question. Abuela, sitting in her artist's studio, turns the question back to her granddaughter. Only she will determine the future she wants for herself. Abuela is certain that she needs to listen to her heart, which is exactly what the child does. 

Concentrating on what her heart is telling her, the answers are quick to come and they are numerous.  Together, the two imagine the numerous dreams that could come to fruition as the child grows and changes: builder of homes, a warrior with pen and paint, an explorer of ancestral lands, a farmer, a healer of broken hearts, a teacher and a student. Her abuela agrees that she can be all of those things, and reminds her that she need not do it alone. 

"All these things you can be
and more. But remember, 
when a job is too big for little 
hands, many hands can work 

Kate Alizadeh used 'scanned in pencil line, scanned in textures and Photoshop to create the digital illustrations' that bring the loving relationship between Abuela and her granddaughter so beautifully to young readers. The illustrative changes from front to back endpapers are a delight to see, and speak clearly to the unlimited possibilities that await. 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Girl Who Could Fix Everything: Beatrice Shilling, World War II Engineer. Written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Daniel Duncan. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 8 and up


"She was clever with her books,
but even cleverer with tools. 
In her spare time, she tinkered 
with her motorcycle. 
Then she took it to the racetrack, 
where she found she wasn't quite 
like the other riders, either. 
She was faster.

It remains amazing to me that, through children's literature, I continue meeting new heroes. I have mentioned it before; by reading picture book biographies to your children and students, you are sharing the stories of people from around the world whose lives are quite remarkable. 

Beatrice Shilling loved tools, rather than candies. She ignored the confectionaries where other children pressed their noses to the window, and chose to purchase a wrench from the nearby hardware store. She spent her days creating amazing machines, or fixing ones that were broken. If she took it apart, Beatrice put it back together. When she met Miss Partridge on a trip to London, she knew she wanted to be exactly like her. Beatrice wanted to be an electrical engineer. 

It became apparent that Beatrice should go on to university to further her education. What a shock to find she was the only female in her classes. The others were not welcoming. Beatrice was clever, with books and tools. Upon graduation, there was little left for her to learn about machines, and no jobs for a woman. She was hired to write handbooks ... not Beatrice's idea of useful work. When the Engine Department gave her a job, she did her best. She wasn't always successful; she was always happy. 

In George Naylor, she found a kindred spirit and married him. WWII was raging, and that is when her work with fighter planes amped up. The planes' engines would often quit. Beatrice and her team (of men) did their best to find a solution. Finally, Beatrice discovered the source of the problem. Money would be needed to fix it; there was none. With Beatrice in charge, a simple, inexpensive solution was found! Beatrice shilling was such an inspiration. 

Digital, appealing illustrations follow Beatrice from childhood to her career helping the war effort in Britain. Back matter includes an author's detailed note about Beatrice, her life and her work. Selected sources are included.                                                                                  

Friday, November 19, 2021

Little Witch Hazel: A Year in the Forest, written and illustrated by Phoebe Wahl. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2021. $24.99

"Until finally, he was ready to fly. 
Little Witch Hazel nestled into Otis's feathers
as he soared smoothly and silently through the night. 

She loved the feeling of the cool breeze rippling her
hair and flapping her cloak. With Otis, Hazel could 
see the forest in ways she had never had before. 

But Little Witch Hazel knew their time together
was running out. For Otis was a wild thing who 
belonged with other owls.

This is Phoebe Wahl's fourth picture book, and how lucky I am to be able to post it for you today. If you haven't already seen the first three, you have missed some truly lovely books. Look for Sonya's Chickens (2015), Backyard Fairies (2018), and The Blue House (2020). 

Little Witch Hazel introduces a young female enchantress who has great love and concern for all those who live in the forest with her. She wears a jaunty, red pointed hat as she travels throughout Mosswood Forest, always keeping her eyes on what is happening there. 

Her story is told in four charming scenarios, set in each of the four seasons. In spring she finds an egg, seemingly abandoned. She waits to be sure no one is coming back for it; then rolls it home where she can take care of it. When the owl hatches, Hazel is welcoming. Little does she know how much work it will take to keep Otis from eating the tiny neighbors. Once ready to fly, Otis provides a means of rapid transport for Hazel. Too soon Otis leaves, as happens with wild things.  

Season after season, Hazel proves her mettle with hard work and genuine concern for all. She is an important cog in the wheel that helps her community thrive. Her adventures are numerous and will be  much admired by readers. The title page for each new season depicts Hazel in clothing that clearly matches the time of year. The endpapers provide a detailed map of the forest itself. Using earthy shades that include brown, green, red and blue, Ms.Wahl creates warm backgrounds and distinctive characters that will have young readers poring over the pages multiple times. There is so much to see!

Hazel is a remarkable character worthy of admiration. She is sturdy, strong, brave, tenacious, and always loving. She pays attention to every aspect of life in her natural surroundings and all who share it with her.                                                                              

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Home Is ... written by Hannah Barnaby and illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon. Beach Lane Books, 2021. $23.99 ages 2 and up


"Home is city, home is town. 
Home is hanging upside down. 

Home is woven,
home is dug, 

Home is roomy,
home is snug.

What is home? Ask children and see what they have to say. 

In this friendly look at the meaning of home, Ms. Barnaby uses rhyming text to explore the many ways humans and animals see their place in the world. Spirited, colorful images accompany the opposing points of view. The words are simple and telling. 

The artwork heightens meaning on double-page spreads that show the differences. The changing perspectives are welcome and invite kids to look closely and discuss. As the book ends, the book is brought full circle, presenting the opening daytime scene in the same place; this time shown at night when all creatures (but the owl) are serenely resting at home. 

Warm-hearted, soothing and peaceful, this is perfect bedtime fare. 

"Home is anywhere you love."                                                                    

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Right Now!: Real Kids Speaking Up For Change. Written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Bea Jackson. Clarion Books, Raincoast. 2021. $23.99 ages 8 and up


"Mix one part childhood curiosity, 
one part Dad's encouragement, 
and a thousand questions. 
Let the potion steep for a few years
until it's got a steady voice bubbling up. 
Sprinkle in failure
(a few times over),
and pour in buckets of determination, 
until you cook up a good idea. 
Yield: A possible cure for cancer. 
Serves: Millions of patients worldwide.

Here are five names: Jonas Corona, Jazz Jennings, Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, and Bobby Novak. Are you familiar with each of them? I was not. Having read their inspiring profiles in this new book by Miranda Paul, I am much better informed than I was. Your kids at home and in school will be equally impressed to learn about the young activists whose stories are told here. 

"Has anyone ever asked you: 
What do you want to be when you grow up?

Here's a new question: 

What do you want 
to do right now?"

Ms. Paul encourages kids who want to make a difference to speak up, to make a change, to help someone. It's possible, and a worthy pursuit. 

Two-page spreads introduce young people who are brave, smart, persistent, articulate when speaking for other children, and creative. Sophie Cruz is first; she was only five when she handed Pope Francis a letter explaining the fear felt by immigrants who are separated from their families, or deported. A free verse poem, a factual paragraph, and a personal quote are accompanied by colorful digital illustrations that center of the child and the challenge faced. One of the spreads features 18 young people who are 'speaking up for voiceless animals'. 

These children live in places around the world; each has found a way to make a difference where they live, and beyond, with their actions. They are an inspiration. 

"The Animal Hero Kids

Lucia, Kimaya, Evan, Landon, 
Genesis, Josie, Ian, Rilee, 
Khendall, Hannah 

Helping farm and domesticated 

Back matter includes an author's note, a section called You Can Speak Up Too! Actions to Make a Difference, a glossary, a bibliography and quote sources. 

Robby Novak 'speaks up for everyone', and encourages readers with this quote: 

"Treat everybody 
like it's their birthday." 

Wonderful words to live by! 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Impossible Mountain, written and illustrated by David Soman. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"The River thundered and 
poured past them, beautiful 
and frightening. 
They couldn't cross here, 
thought Anna, but it they 
followed along the bank ...

Anna and her brother Finn are safe in their village. After all, they are surrounded by a high and very substantial wall. They have been told on many occasions that things beyond that wall are terrifying. Of course, none of the villagers know that to be true as they have never ventured beyond its protection. 

On the day that Anna and Finn climb a ladder to have a look at what lays outside the wall, they are astounded by an enormous Mountain they see there. The Mountain never leaves Anna's thoughts. She knows she has to climb it, and she will take Finn with her. The villagers give warnings about the River, the Cliffs, even the Great and Terrible Bear. 

Despite the concerns shared, Anna and Finn pack up and head off on an adventurous and sometimes harrowing quest to reach the top of the Mountain. With grit and determination, they face the obstacles they have been warned about; they plod on dealing with each in its time. There is a time when the two stop to wonder if they might not make it. 

"The Mountain Goat seemed to be 
standing on the cliff's face, impossible. 
But then Anna saw the trail, so thin
it looked like it was scratched into the 
Mountain's side. 
"This is the way, Finn!" she cried.

Of course, she is right. With help from the goat and then the Great and Terrible Bear, they accomplish what they set out to do ... only to find more mountains to climb! 

The settings throughout, created using watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil, are absolutely stunning. From the tiny details for the items the two carry with them to the wide vistas they encounter in the forest, at the River, into the apple orchard and at the base of the mountain, readers will want to stop in awe and take a careful look. Mostly, they will continue to move forward with Anna and Finn, and come back later for further observations. Astute readers are sure to note the bright red cardinal that accompanies them for every step of their journey. 


Monday, November 15, 2021

Two At The Top, words by Uma Krishnaswami and pictures by Christopher Corr. Groundwood, 2021. $19.99 ages 8 and up


"Running away to the city, 
I hired myself out to carry loads
for the foreign climbers
flocking to Nepal's high ranges. 

Slowly, slowly, 
carrying loaded packs on my back,
climbing many mountains, 
I grew stronger. 
My dream became a vision.

Told in two voices, this book shares the journeys of Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary and their historic climb of Mount Everest. Tenzing, a Sherpa grew up in Nepal doing what the other boys did - herding his family's yaks. Edmund Hillary grew up in New Zealand, tending his father's beehives. 

Tenzing loved to climb the mountains nearby, and had thoughts of climbing to the top. Edmund loved taking long walks, and wanted adventure. As each page turns to the next, the two share events and dreams that would eventually lead to experiencing the reality of climbing the world's tallest mountain. Climbing was their mutual passion. Both had high hopes for the future. 

"Six times, then seven, 
I climbed Chomolungma - 
the English call it Everest - 
but never to the top. 

Not yet. 

I joined Himalayan climbers - even tried
Everest, but didn't make it to the top. 

Not yet."

Then, in 1953, they met and pursued their dream. It was perilous to say the least. Of the four hundred who began the climb with them, only two pressed forward to complete the climb. They did it - together! 

Uma Krishnaswami follows up with 4 pages of information about Mount Everest, its size, the natural environment it provides, and its history. These are accurate facts for readers to process in trying to imagine what it must have been like to tackle such a daunting task. Since their climb, more that four thousand climbers have been successful. She adds selected sources, source notes, and a list of comparable books for young readers.

Christopher Corr created the vibrant images in gouache. They are full of energy, and provide a perfect accompaniment to the well-chosen wording for the remarkable story of these two men. It is quite the celebration!

Sunday, November 14, 2021

My Dog Banana, written by Roxane Brouillard and illustrated by Giulia Sagramola. Translated by Simon de Jocas and Paula Ayer. Greystone Kids, 2021. $22.95 ages 4 and up


"It isn't moving. 

She is very tired. 

She's yellow. 

She's a very rare 
breed of dog.

When a young child heads outside to take a pet for a walk, the two are surprised by the attention they get. Passersby are intrigued and quick to make comments about the two. They call attention to the fact that it is a banana being walked on a leash. The child insists the banana is, in fact, a dog. 

"Can I pet her? 

No, you made fun of her!
She'll probably bite you now.

As they state their opinions, The owner is quick to respond with reassurance that they are not seeing what they are so sure they are seeing. The laughter and flippancy they continue to assert is continually rejected until the two walkers angrily turn to leave. 

"Yeah, right. Look, everyone! 
This is Kitsy, my cat-pear. 
He meows on command. 

That's ridiculous. I'm leaving now."

Only then do the tables turn. Bystanders are left confounded by an unexpected response from the pet.    

This is a fun story to share. The text is concise, and enjoyable. The illustrations are expressive and present diverse characters. It's sure to get a humorous response from young listeners who will be happy to hear it again. 

Saturday, November 13, 2021

She Heard the Birds: The Story of Florence Merriam Bailey, written and illustrated by Andrea D'Aquino. Princeton Architectural Press, Raincoast. 2021. $24.95 ages 4 and up ,


"One day when she was older, 
Florence visited the big city and 
she saw lots and lots of rare birds. 

But these birds were NOT on trees. 

People thought wearing birds 
on hats looked beautiful.

To a woman who loved birds, and spent her life seeing, appreciating, and listening to their songs and languages, the only feeling Florence Merriam Bailey felt about these hats was disgust. It made her even more determined to ensure she would learn as much as she could about birds, and how to protect them. 

Learn about them she did. Using a camera, notebook, pencil and binoculars, (and her two ears), Florence got out into nature and listened ever more quietly. Knowing she must make a difference, she set to work. She started talking about birds, their songs, even writing a field guide to American birds. Always, she encouraged those who would listen to use binoculars, not guns, to get closer to the birds; to choose the outdoors, not a lab, to study them. 

"Soon, there were even more beautiful 
sounds in the air. But this time, 
they came from people! They were 
raising their voices, and things began 
to change.

Lovely, textured collages are created in gorgeous colors. These images encourage the reader to see the magic found in nature as Florence saw it. Her quiet journeys through this natural world show readers the power to be found in truly listening. Her dedication to that life of listening and protecting the birds she so loved is admirable - she was a hero. Her story is important. 

Back matter includes further historical information about Ms. Bailey, a note concerning the help still needed for birds today, and a list of resources to be used from various corners of the world.                                                                                 

Friday, November 12, 2021

How To Become An Accidental Activist, written by Elizabeth MacLeod and Frieda Wishinsky. Illustrated by Jenn Playford. Orca Book Publishers, 2021. $24.95 ages 9 and up


"There are many ways to protest. Some people 
speak up. Some people use social media. Some 
write books and articles. And some, like Ai Weiwei, 
create art. Ai has combined his eye-catching art with
powerful words to stand up to the Chinese government's 
repression of free speech and its disregard for human 

As they have done countless times, Elizabeth MacLeod and Frieda Wishinsky bring their formidable talent for doing excellent research to this book about activism and making a difference in a world that needs all the help it can get right now. Here, they have created profiles for nearly 100 people from around the world who has chosen to work in extraordinary ways to make their world, and ours, better. We are thankful to them for their dedication, and strength. 

All have worked to bring about change, and to keep up the fight throughout history for human rights, the environment, and so much more. This book would be a perfect fit in a middle years classroom. One or two entries read aloud each day would astound and encourage students to find out more, to look for others, and to get involved in making a difference where they live. 

An introduction is followed by ten chapters that divide the activists into separate themes: Find Your Passion, Don't Accept Things As They Are, Notice What's Needed, Just Get Started, Be An Expert, Stay Focused, Networking Works, Be Flexible, Be Unstoppable, and Dream Big. These chapters are followed by a glossary, a list of resources, and an index - all important features of excellent nonfiction books. 

Each chapter begins with a description of those events and problems that encourage people to become involved in acting for change. Some are historical; many are contemporary. What follows are three profiles of others who have stepped up to make a difference where they are and beyond. The design is appealing and easy to accesss. Archival and recent photos are placed with the entries to help readers with context. Pertinent quotes from a wide range of fellow activists are placed strategically to attract attention.     

Inspiring and uplifting, this is a book that can make an impact for children wanting to learn more, or who want to get out there and make their own small difference in their world. 

"Every day," says Song Kosal, "I will 
do one thing to make peace grow like 
a flower." 

(lost her leg at 5, when she stepped on a 
hidden landmine on the Thailand-Cambodian 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

War, written by Jose Jorge Letria and illustrated by Andre Letria. Translated by Elisa Amado. Greystone Books. 2021. $26.95 ages 10 and up


"War saddens, crushes, and silences. 

War is a machine for pain - 
The Evil Factory of all kinds of rage. 

War begets shadowy, iron children."

It's very hard to talk with children about war, unless they have been subject to one. As teachers, we always look to share books that might invite discussion and provide a stepping stone to a better understanding of how wars happen, and why. Adults, who have not faced the terror or consequences of war, are often hard-pressed to find an opening that encourages students who have lived through such events to be willing to share their experiences. 

Written by a Portuguese father-and-son team, this one attempts to answer relevant questions about how war happens, and what are the outcomes of such conflicts. The art is stark, done in black, gray and tan. As the book begins, readers see spiders and snakes fill the pages, and the snakes creeping ever forward. They move through a forest of trees until the sky lightens with a fiery orange.  

The author describes their movement. 

"War spreads through the day like 
a whispered, swift disease.

The text remains minimal, the illustrations move readers past a darkened building where one man stands alone apparently making decisions with little thought to the effects on others. There is hatred, fear, and vengeance ... all brought too often upon the innocent. Endless rows of soldiers, the sky full of bombers dropping bombs that destroy everything and leave countless dead, and the silence that follows perfectly describe what war is. 

It is a complicated and serious topic for discussion, but worthy of attention to help open conversations that have no easy answers or quick resolutions. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Hugo, written by Atinuke and illustrated by Birgitta Sif. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"Then one day
I see Somebody! 

I do my 
dance and Somebody
smiles a little smile. 

Now every day Somebody is waiting. 
Waiting to hear me knock. 
Waiting to see me dance. 

Until the day that I am late ...

Hugo is a pigeon who has a penchant for people and the park he makes his home. He is proud of the job he does to care for both. Hugo introduces his charges to readers and explains what he does with them. In all seasons, Hugo takes care of people, pets, and their surroundings. 

Winter keeps many inside; Hugo continues to visit at windows and let them know that spring is coming. However, there is one window that is always covered. He visits, but no one answers his call. In spring, he finally makes friends with the person behind the curtains. On the day he arrives late, the little girl comes onto the balcony to look for him. Wildly excited, he doesn't pay close attention to imminent danger! 

A dog snatches him off the bench, and carries him away. Surprised by a loud Non!, the dog drops the bird and runs off. It's Somebody to the rescue. 

"Somebody brings 
me water. 

Somebody brings 
me crumbs. 

Somebody strokes 
my wing.

Friendship grows. When it is time for Hugo to return to life as usual, he is released with sadness. He is weak, but he loves his job. Everyone is so happy to have him back ... even Somebody. She comes outside to play! Now, she is a part of the larger community Hugo watches over. 

Atinuke's engaging storytelling is perfectly complemented by Birgitta Sif's lovely pencil and digitally colored images. Soft lines and warm colors provide a lively backdrop for Hugo's ongoing concern for his many charges. Ms. Sif uses light to great effect at every turn. Her ever-changing perspectives are sure to keep young readers focused on the seasonal changes, and the friendly nature of Hugo's diverse community.                                                                             

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

I Hear You, Forest, written by Kallie George and illustrated by Carmen Mok. Greystone Books, 2021. $22.95 ages 4 and up


"Rustle, rustle. 

I hear you, Leaves,
sharing secrets. 

So that's where Robin 
hides her eggs.

It's exciting to see the growth in the number of books being published that are focused on getting kids and their parents outdoors. First, there is much to see, hear, touch, and smell. Second, it provides time to spend together - time for talking, getting exercise, and building sensual awareness in a familiar habitat. Getting into the forest for this little girl and her mother allows many opportunities to listen closely to the sounds the forest affords. 

As she makes her way through, she hears the tall trees, the rustling leaves, the frogs communicating, the stream singing, a deer sipping from a stream, squirrels snacking, and a breeze to carry a wish forward. As long as she listens quietly, she can experience the many pleasures of walking in the quiet and showing her mother what she can do as they visit every tranquil spot. It is a much loved place to spend time. 

Mixed-media illustrations are presented in shades of blue, green and brown. They are warm and welcoming, and show the animals of the forest as they take note of the visitors as they make their way through the natural surroundings. 

Ahhh! A walk in the woods is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.  With winter right around the corner, another listening adventure awaits.                                                                                  

Monday, November 8, 2021

The Fox and the Forest Fire, written and illustrated by Danny Popovici. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2021. $23.99 ages 5 and up


"Then one morning it’s strangely quiet.

I see a plume of smoke off in the distance.

I hurry to warn my mother.

And I wonder if we will ever see our home again.

Climate change is wreaking havoc on the world. As that happens, the number of devastating forest fires is rising every year. I can't tell you how many days our air was impacted this summer by fires burning both near to and far from where we live. It has never been as bad as it has been this year. The severe drought has increased the possibility of these fires burning out of control. 

What about the impact for families living right where these fires are burning? In a note, the author explains that he spent one summer working with a forest firefighting crew. While there, he came to love the natural world, and the animals that lived there. Being from the city, he had no idea the impact that summer would have on him. When a recent fire burned near his own home, he felt compelled to do something for the animals that are often forced to escape to a home in residential areas. So, he wrote and illustrated this book. 

It concerns a young boy and his mother, who have recently moved from the city to a new home in a rural area. He isn't impressed with the quiet nights, the loud mornings, or the problems that roots, rocks, and bugs cause during hikes with his mother. The lure of nature has a real impact on him. Soon, he is spending his time outside studying rocks, exploring new places, and helping the animals he sees. He especially loves his encounters with a fox. 

All is well, until the day he spies a plume of smoke. He rushes to warn his mom. As he runs, so do the forest animals, among them his fox friend. It is a long wait before they return from the city to find there is no house left. But they return with a plan. While the forest heals and the animals do the same, the boy and his mother begin building a new life in the place they love. 

Timely and topical, this book has a promising tone. Readers will find comfort in seeing that both child and fox have survived to move forward, after being affected by great tragedy. 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Germy Science: The Sick Truth about Getting Sick (And Staying Healthy), written by Edward Kay and illustrated by Mike Shiell. Kids Can Press, 2021. $19.99 ages 9 and up


"Not only do germs not
emerge from nonliving 
matter, they also prefer 
to make their home on 
living things. A patch 
of your skin the size of 
a coin has 30 million 
germs on it - more
germs that there are 
people in all of Australia!

You know that any book that covers the 'sick truth' about germs is going elicit some ewww moments. Edward Kay is very funny, and he ensures that this entertaining study of germs will keep kids interested and engaged as they explore the excellent research he has to share with them. 

He starts with humor before the kids even have time to take a look at the table of contents. 

"You can't tell by looking, but the book you're holding
is covered in germs! But don't be alarmed! Compared to
your skin, these pages are an oasis of sterility. Unless it's 
a copy that you're reading in a doctor's waiting room. In 
which case,
ewwww, gross, it's DEFINITELY covered in 

There are five chapters followed by a glossary, index, and a list for further reading. In the first chapter, readers quickly learn that they cannot escape germs; they are everywhere! The numbers are staggering. He offers some interesting comparisons to give readers scope for understanding how small they are and how many there are everywhere. Germs don't have a good reputation. The author reminds that they also do some very good things. He asserts that they are 'both harmful and helpful'. We need them to live. 

Further chapters discuss how they were discovered, how they make us sick (then causing our bodies to find ways to protect us), how they have changed history, and what we can expect for the future. The design is appealing. Each page has a heading, paragraphs of information that are accessible and fascinating, and cartoon illustrations that are sure to find favor with the target audience. If readers want to stay healthy, they do have the opportunity to learn what they need to do. In his nod to what the future might hold, Mr. Kay discusses the role germs could play in cleaning the environment and helping to solve crimes. 

His book is a great introduction, and a welcome addition to the Gross Science Book series. The world has been consumed with the spread of germs over the past eighteen months, and the ways we all can work to keep our bodies as healthy as possible.  Based on solid information and laced with humor throughout, this is a grand way to make learning fun for his readers while also providing pertinent and useful material.  

Saturday, November 6, 2021

What the World Could Make: A Story of Hope, written by Holly M. McGhee and illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan, Raincoast. 2021. $24.99 ages 3 and up


"Bunny made a crown, 
weaving together the branches
and flowers, until it was ready 
for Rabbit ... 

"This is for you," Bunny said. 
"So we can remember forever."

Rabbit and Bunny are fascinated as they stand together in the snow, watching quiet snowflakes find their way to earth. Who can blame them? It is truly wonderful to realize 'what the world could make'. So enchanted, they sit in wonder and Bunny makes a wish that it might snow forever. Rabbit wants insight; does Bunny mean never stopping? Will they forget what snow is if it stops? 

Rabbit knows a way to keep the memory of snow alive. He begins to make a snowball. In that way, they can always remember what snow is like. When the snowball is just exactly the right size, he gifts it to his friend. 

"You made me a gift from the heart
with a gift from the sky!

Their wonder remains as seasons change, and spring brings flowers filled with color and scent. Might they bloom forever? No, but a crown of flowers can be a beautiful reminder. This time it's Bunny making a gift from the heart. When summer rolls around, they take note of sea pickles and taste them with enthusiasm. The tasty snacks are a gift for both 'from the sun and the sea and the sand'. Finally, in autumn, they wonder at the ginkgo leaf carpet that covers the world beneath the beautiful tree. They enjoy jumping in those golden leaves for as long as they can, again amazed at 'what the world could make'. 

So, the earth turns, bringing wonder through every season. Text and art complement each other beautifully in this gentle, emotional story of friendship and blessings. Holly McGhee reminds all who share it that, while we have endured a year of unbearable change, there are good things that come from time spent together and she wants us to remember that nature never stops giving. Bravo!  

Friday, November 5, 2021

Before We Stood Tall: From Small See to Mighty Tree, written by Jessica Kulejian and illustrated by Madeline Kloepper. Kids Can Press, 2021. $19.99 ages 5 and up


"There in the darkness, our roots 
searched the soil and found a 
family of trees reaching out for 

We wove ourselves together, 
gathering strength from one 
another. And we whispered
all our secrets through tiny 
threads in the kingdom 

There has been lots of talk recently, following a great deal of research, concerning tree stands and the trees' ability to communicate with each other. In this book, the author uses poetic language to describe the development of trees as they are today. Each of her initial statements talks about the 'before'. 

"Before we stood tall ...

We clothed ourselves in bark and crowned
ourselves in leaves, waving eagerly at the sun. 

Before our twigs transformed ... "

The words beg to be read aloud. In doing so, readers relish the descriptive language and its meaning concerning the forest being described. So much to learn about trees, their growth over time, and their place in today's natural world. Using new research, the author looks lyrically at the life cycle of trees. As she adds layers of understanding for growth, she pays careful attention to what is happening below ground as well. 

For young readers it establishes a sense of place and importance. For older readers, especially with the addition of accessible and explanatory back matter, the learning is more extensive. Concepts are further explained concerning communication, the oldest trees, the layers of the forest, the production and release of seeds for further growth in forest habitats, and the wildlife that is supported there. 

Sources are listed, including books, films, and useful websites. Appealing, child-like art will hold attention with its varied perspectives, earthy colors, and expressive details. 

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Ducks Overboard!: A True Story of Plastic in Our Oceans, written and illustrated by Marcus Motum. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2012. $23.99 ages


"At least that was the plan. Far out to sea, 
the ship was caught in a fierce storm. 
A giant wave swept our container 
overboard, and it began to sink.

As a result of this event in 1992, 28,000 rubber duckies were washed overboard. Their voyage began in Hong Kong and was meant to be delivered to a shipyard in Seattle. Needless to say, that cargo container did not reach its destination. Nevertheless, in the years that have followed many of those tiny yellow toys have made their way to a wide variety of places. 

The duck telling its story here was finally picked up from flotsam on a trash-filled beach far away, and after many adventures. 

"I floated for thousands of miles,
until one day I finally reached 
land. Though I had never seen or 
been to this place before, it felt 
familiar. Why? The beach was 
covered in trash, the same kind 
of trash I'd seen in oceans all over 
the world. Plastic, it seemed was 

This book differs from other books I have seen about the same event. This rubber duck shares its many observations concerning waste plastic and how it is impacting the animals of the oceans, and the growth of garbage patches on the world's waters. It watches a whale swallow a plastic bag, a turtle get tangled up in fishing net, and passes by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 

Mixed media images fill the book's pages with colorful scenes the depict the toy's journey. While carefully-chosen text tells its story, the author inserts further important facts in a much smaller font on select pages. Constantly changing perspectives allow readers the chance to see the destruction in the world's waters as they follow the journey made and the observations recorded here. 

"We saw fish of every size, shape, and color. 
We saw a giant jellyfish and many other 
creatures. And we spotted something 
completely out of place in the ocean - 

a plastic bag.

Plastic bags are "single-use" plastic which means
they are used for a very short time before being 
thrown away."

These small additional notes are placed strategically within the text to show readers that the earth's waters are in big trouble. The final scene in the book shows the beach where the rubber duckie washed ashore. It is being cleaned up by a large group of volunteers who will make sure that what is useable will be recycled. The man who finds the toy takes it home for his son, who uses it as it was meant to be used - happily during his next bath! 

Follow up material is divided into four sections: LOST AT SEA, OCEAN CURRENTS, PLASTIC FACTS, and HOW YOU CAN HELP. Interesting and informative for all readers. 

Other versions of this event that would be useful to share together with this newest one are Eve Bunting's Ducky (2004) and Eric Carle's 10 Little Rubber Ducks (2005).  Both are still in print.                                                                          

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

See The Dog: Three Stories About a Cat, written by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House, 2021. $11.99 ages 4 and up


"See the dog 
dig a hole. 

Dig a hole? 
If I dig a hole, I will get 
dirt on my fur. 

See the dog 
dig a hole NOW.

After reading See the Cat in 2020, I waited with great anticipation for this companion book. As he did in that first book of short stories about a dog who was really a cat, Mr. LaRochelle muddies the waters of observation again with three apparent dog stories when the protagonist is a cat. 

The cat explains that the dog is sick, and it will be taking the dog's place. As before, each declarative sentence is in direct contrast to the abilities of the cat. When asked to dig a hole, the cat (who wants to avoid getting dirt on its fur) brings a excavator to do the work. Disappointed when asked to stop, the story moves on to the second chapter. 

This one involves a stick, and a swim across the lake to retrieve it. The lake is cold, wet, and terrifying. Caterwauling for help and finding out the water is actually ankle-deep, and a puddle, results in a huge chuckle for the early readers who will find themselves reading this book independently. The third chapter introduces a sheep. The cat assumes the sheep needs the fearsome protection of a dog, then panics when told a wolf is involved. Luckily, the dog returns in quick time, leaving the cat to do what it does best. 

Hilarious and satisfying, this is perfect fare for children working their way into independent reading. Full of fun, and replete with well-matched, engaging illustrations, you won't be sorry to pass this along to a child needing the right book at the perfect time.  

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

yes & no, written and illustrated by elisha cooper. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan, Raincoast. 2021. $25.99 ages 4 and up


"What. Are. You. Doing?
You have go to find another 
way to spend your day. 
Both of you. Go! 

And look out for each other."

I am going to go on a run with cat-involved books for the next few days. Funny how that happens in a publishing season. While pet books are always much appreciated and loved, these four stand out for their different perspectives and voices. They are wonderful to read aloud, and great fun ... all of them. 

In the video that follows this post, Elisha Cooper talks about the evolution of this charming story of a dog and cat in conversation with their interested and accommodationg 'person'. Early morning brings questions about sleep and a plan for the day. The pup is awake, excited, hungry, and eager to get on with it. The cantankerous cat has no such enthusiasm for any suggestions being made. The dog is all 'yes'; the cat is 'no, no'. 

The two are sent outside. The dog is delighted, and sprints from place to place at full speed. The cat climbs a tree. After some canine mischief making, the narrator has had it. The two are sent to a nearby meadow to find something they can do together, and to take care of the other. These moments of time spent with each other results in quiet interplay and reflection. When called inside, it's the dog's turn to react negatively. The cat obliges. In they go. Turn-about is fair play, we learn. 

A wonderful conversation, both spoken and unspoken, will elicit quiet snickers, a feeling of warmth, and the knowledge that the two will be happy to waken the next day to new shared adventure. A perfect bedtime read!

Monday, November 1, 2021

Negative Cat, written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"At school, my friends go on about
how excellent their cats are. 

Camilla can wear her cat like a scarf. 
Jack's cat can fetch a stick. 
Emilio's cat has its own Instagram. 

My cat stares at the wall. 

He's kind of negative, your cat."

Last for now, but not least, is this cat book from an author/illustrator for whom I have great admiration. I have been following Sophie Blackall's work since Ruby's Wish (2003). That's a while now, and she never disappoints. 

I was very excited to read that she had a new book on the horizon, and waited patiently until I could get a copy. Her author's note tells a family story of a much-loved rescue cat. The family loved Claudia despite her demeanor. Sophie's son described her as a negative cat. Years later, Sophie put herself on the road to telling this tale. 

The young man who narrates is on his 427th day of asking for a cat. His parents have had enough. They give in to his pleas. The family (including his snarky sister) voice a number of conditions. One is about reading for twenty minutes each day. 

"Ugh! I'm not so great at reading!
Words only make sense when I read
them out loud slowly, and the kids
at school stare and laugh at me. 
But I agree to the rules before my 
parents change their minds.

An excitement overload leads to a quick shelter visit, and Pookie. Not an appropriate name in any way. Its name is immediately changed to Maximilian Augustus Xavier, nicknamed MAX. Turns out that Max is not amenable to any overtures. He just stares at the wall. Family members do their best to appease; Max retaliates as only a negative cat might do. That creates an angry household and a repetition of the demands made prior to the rescue. 

The shelter lady arrives for a home check. Wanting to avoid any contact with her, boy and cat retreat to his room to take care of two of his required responsibilities. Once his room is tidied, he comes up with a brilliant idea for his reading time. Max turns out to be a fascinated, attentive listener to a book the boy reads called Millions of Cats, (first published in 1928 and still in print today). Problem solved, and a new community service is activated.   

The engaging digital art is placed on the back side of old wallpaper which affords a lovely textural feel. Expressive faces, varying perspectives, and humor built into Max's persona will certainly attract readers to this delightful story. The fact that it is a quiet homage to the power of reading is not lost on older readers. 

The following quote comes from an interview with Sophie Blackall: 'Negative Cat will be published in 2021, when Eggy is 21 and Claudia is no longer with us. Funnily enough, she became a sweet old cat and even allowed us to pet her in her final years. She continued to eat the flowers and throw up. As for me, after the past year, I may be in need of socializing, myself. I wouldn’t mind being let out of the cage, stretching out on a sunny patch of the floor, and being read to.'  J'agree!