Picture Book Reviews: Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know & The Dog’s Gardener

Are you ready for some splendid picture books? Thanks to the kind folks at Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, I have the pleasure of getting to talk about two wonderful picture books: Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh/This Is How I Know by Brittany Luby and Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley, Anishinaabemowin translation by Alvin Ted Corbiere and Alan Corbiere; and The Dog’s Gardener by Patricia Storms and Nathalie Dion. Happy reading to you all!

Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know: Niibing, dgwaagig, bboong, mnookmig dbaadjigaade maanpii mzin’igning / A Book about the Seasons written by Brittany Luby, illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley, with Anishinaabemowin translation by Alvin Ted Corbiere and Alan Corbiere is a standout: a gorgeously told and illustrated bilingual story highlighting the natural marvels of every season. In first-person narrative, a child, accompanied by their grandparent, takes readers on a tour of outdoor wonders and shows us the kinds of things that one always come to expect from each respective season. For example, how can we know when it is summer? As the child in the story tells us, they know it is summer when “yellow Bumblebee collects purple fireweed with me…”, “when insects billow black from the trees”, “when blueberries drop readily…the sand is hot enough to sting” and “the sun slips into an orange dream”. So follow respective looks at fall, winter, and spring, with the child’s respectful, enlightening looks at the wildlife, environment, and the varying lights and shadows from the sky that come with each season. Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh/This Is How I Know is deeply engaging on multiple levels: as an exploration of colours, of animals, and of nature for young readers; as an exploration of the four seasons; and also as a look at an example of a symbiotic, peaceful relationship humans can have with their natural world. Brittany Luby’s storytelling is warm and poetic, while the illustrations by Joshua Mengashig Pawis-Steckley are radiant and bold. The two picture book elements of text and art work so harmoniously here together to make Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh/This Is How I Know supremely inviting and informative reading. For any readers looking for an exceptional picture book- about seasons and so much more!- Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh/This Is How I Know is not to be missed.

Patricia Storms and Nathalie Dion’s The Dog’s Gardener is a serene and joyful picture book told from the viewpoint of a lovely, steadfast dog named Dutch. With fluid text and flourishing illustrations, The Dog’s Gardener takes readers through a typical sunshiny day involving Dutch and what their human’s day involves as they look after their garden. As the day begins, Dutch waits at the top of the stairs to be called: “she doesn’t know I’m awake. I always pretend to be asleep so I can hear her gentle voice”. After a quiet breakfast, Dutch can barely contain their excitement as they hear the “beautiful words” they look forward to every day: “Okay, Dutch. Let’s go outside”. As Dutch cheers on his beloved best friend (and patiently waits for “a warm hand to scratch” their ears), they also lend assistance by sniffing their approval of newly dug holes. Through Dutch’s happy narrative and viewpoint, readers also see the dedication and hard work that goes into creating and taking care of a garden, and how our senses can be delighted by a garden’s bounty. Nathalie Dion’s illustrations here are simply beautiful and so evocative- those memories and feelings of a hot midday sunshine! A cool, welcome spray of a garden hose!- just fly off the page. The light-filled, green and floral-centred artwork is perfectly balanced with Patricia Storms’ wholly affectionate yet restrained voice of the dog’s narration. While the book’s ending feels as though it arrives quickly given the story’s leisurely pace and feel, The Dog’s Gardener is altogether a jewel of a read. For readers who enjoy their picture books/read alouds with a tremendous amount of heart and loveliness and/or for those who may be searching for something perfectly summery (or featuring gardening!), The Dog’s Gardener is a terrific pick.

I received digital copies of these titles courtesy of Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own. Titles have been published and are currently available.

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Reference & Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

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