Two children’s titles on the review docket today! Thanks to the kind folks Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, I will be talking about the picture book Song for the Snow by Jon-Erik Lappano, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler and the wordless early fiction title Anthony and the Gargoyle by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Maja Kastelic. Happy reading!
A thoughtful, beautifully told and illustrated modern fable, Jon-Erik Lappano and Byron Eggenschwiler’s Song for the Snow takes readers on a captivating journey. A young girl named Freya eagerly waits and wishes for snow to fall again in her town. Fearing that her memories of snow and all the wonders, joys, and sounds it has brought her are disappearing, Freya contemplates what might bring it back. It has not snowed in two winters and she worries that the snow is lost. Her parents tell her that the snow may return one day again- but the conditions need to be just so. A visit at the local market one day leads Freya to a serendipitous discovery of a gorgeous melodic snow globe held by an older women at a stall- with an accompanying, extraordinary history and story. Freya ponders the story and song behind her new glittering snow globe, and soon discovers that her parents and grandparents did in fact used to know about and sing the song of the snow globe! A steady build to the story’s wonderful climax and finale are well worth the wait, and readers may breathe a satisfied sigh at the book’s end. Lappano’s storytelling is unfeigned and poignant, accomplishing a full, magically-tinged tale in a limited space. Eggenschwiler’s digital artwork is rich and textured, with a modern edge that simultaneously makes space for retro-feeling charm and colours (some of the full-page illustrative spreads are especially breathtaking!). A reflective story that works not only as terrific seasonal reading, but also smoothly and gently intertwines notes about the strength of community and global warming, Song for the Snow’s immersive storytelling and artwork makes for overall recommended reading. Readers looking for picture books along the lines of Seou Lee’s Bye, Penguin!, Kyo Maclear and Kenard Pak’s The Fog, Francesca’s Sanna’s My Earth, or Brooke Smith and Madeline Kloepper’s The Keeper of Wild Words might especially be drawn to Song for the Snow.
Written by Jo Ellen Bogart and illustrated by Maja Kastelic, Anthony and the Gargoyle is a wordless early fiction title with a tremendous amount of heart and wonder. The story begins with panels that show a home filled with family photos, including one of a young child wearing a bib and happily holding an oval rock. Readers meet the child in question- Anthony, who is now a bit older!- and see that he still has this beautifully shaped rock in his room. But when Anthony wakes up the next morning, the rock has cracked wide open, and is completely hollow. As Anthony discovers the tiny stone-coloured, sweet-faced friend who escaped from his egg, a second layer to the story is folded in. A family emergency brings Anthony and his family (and Anthony’s newfound company) to Paris- a place where not only a beloved member of Anthony’s family awaits, but also where a very lonely family member of Anthony’s tiny friend patiently sits. Kastelic’s (a former art restorer!) illustrations are a breathe of fresh air, light yet precise and meaningful, with explosions of architectural grandeur as the story settles in Paris and readers get to see iconic landmarks such as Arc de Triomphe and Notre-Dame. Referring to a book as a gem can perhaps be an overused turn of phrase- but please trust me when I say Bogart and Kastelic’s children’s title is an endearing, highly appealing gem! The graphic novel-like paneling to tell the wordless story makes for welcoming reading, while the crux of the story is just so heartfelt and cozy (and the artwork is a standout). Heartfelt and cozy, it might be argued, are not descriptors typically associated with certain aspects of French gothic architecture, and that makes the story all the more special. Readers who enjoy the work of authors and/or illustrators such as Aaron Becker, Isabelle Arsenault, or John Sobol and Dasha Tolstikova’s Friend or Foe? might especially adore this tender story.
I received digital galleys 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.