Two lovely picture books on the review docket today! Thanks to kind folks at Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, I will be talking about Nathalie Dion’s My Mad Hair Day; and thanks to friends at Pajama Press, I will be talking about Mies van Hout’s If Only… . Happy reading!
The author-illustrator debut of Nathalie Dion– who you may recognize as the illustrator of The Dog’s Gardener, with Patricia Storms!- My Mad Hair Day is an exuberant and fantastically illustrated tale of a very unique hair day. When readers meet protagonist Malie, we immediately learn that she abhors her long curly hair. With hair even longer than Rapunzel and arguably ten times as unruly and expansive, Malie, in quippy first person narrative, tells us just how tangled and messy her hair gets. Happy to stay locked away inside (as combing and hat-wearing are not options), Malie’s mama has other plans: Malie must go outside and help get some errands done. But…what about Malie’s mess of hair? How will it be possible for Malie to get anywhere or do anything with her hair? Readers follow Malie along as she huffs and makes her way to the bus stop, visits the bakery, and goes walking along paths outside, picking up…acquaintances…and other unexpected, funny, giggly things in her hair along the way. Just when you think Malie (and her growing, growing mane) have just about had it with unbelievable happenings, Dion adds not only a grand surprise (no spoilers!), but also a welcome reprieve and a possible friend. Dion’s watercolour and digital illustrations, particularly with respect to Malie’s petite face and how her truly rebellious yet gorgeous mane of hair is presented is simply stunning. The large sweeps of golden yellow stand out beautifully on every spread, making the relatively ‘smaller’ additions to Malie’s hair all the more comical and great. While a dry and humour-filled story, rich with surprise and unexpected moments, Dion also paints a story in which self-acceptance becomes a component of the story. Malie may feel the urge to hide and lament her hairy situation- and things may genuinely not be simple for her- but she does try. Through Dion’s strong, capable storytelling, My Mad Hair Day brings about an earned resolution- not everything is solved for Malie, but there is absolutely something fun and cool to appreciate about herself!
How often have have you ever wondered, ”if only things were this way, if only things were different, if only I were someone else…” things might be better? In Mies van Hout’s (From 1 to 10), thoughtful, prodding and vibrant If Only… readers are taken along for an adventure through various beautiful creatures as they each ponder how things might be better if they were or had the abilities of another creature. Showcasing and celebrating difference while kindly yet clearly emphasizing the importance of embracing our own selves, If Only… is presented as a beautifully circular story, opening with a child thinking ”if only I were a butterfly…”, and ending on an bursting outdoor scene with lovely dragonfly watching children play thinking ”if only I were a child…”. With starred book reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist and multiple positive reviews from other sites, If Only… is on the receiving end of terrific, well-earned praise. Mies van Hout’s artwork is, as ever, a pure delight: so gorgeously bright, full of eye-catching natural-world collages (that readers of Lois Ehlert and Eric Carle might especially fall in love with!), while the straightforward and limited yet melodic text will beckon readers to visit the story again and again. Back matter includes a guide for making ”Collage Art Like Mies van Hout”, as well as a glossary of the animal friends featured in the picture book. Bonus Teaching Guide is available through Pajama Press’s website! Book Note: If Only… is translated by David Colmer. Previously published by Hoogland & Van Klaveren, Haarlem, Netherlands as Was ik maar.
I received a copy of My Mad Hair Day courtesy of Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press in exchange for an honest review; I received a copy of If Only… courtesy of Pajama Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own. Titles have been published and are currently available.