Thanks to the lovely folks at Groundwood Books/House of Anansi, I have the pleasure of reviewing two fascinating and unique children’s books: the non-fiction title Iceberg: A Life in Seasons written by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Jess Racklyeft, and the picture book Boney written by Cary Fagan and illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova. Happy reading!
“In the pale morning, an iceberg calves – shears from a glacier/and plunges to the ocean in a haze of sparkle-frost. The iceberg is flat-topped, sharp and angular/and carries ancient weather in its layers of ice-clothing/a coat for each year volcanoes blew/and black ash fell like snow.” Aside from general knowledge (and what we may have gleaned from pop culture!), what do we really know and understanding about icebergs? In the transfixing and eye-opening non-fiction children’s book Iceberg: A Life in Seasons, author Claire Saxby and illustrator Jess Racklyeft take readers on an incredible voyage in the Antarctic. Readers follow the life cycle of a iceberg- which starts as it calves away from a glacier- as it makes its way through the four seasons. In crisp cool spreads- wash with blue-green and shades of white- the iceberg, the star of book, remains, while its surroundings change above ice, on ice, and below the water. Informational while beautifully, poignantly poetic, Saxby’s text is wonderfully matched here by Racklyeft’s softly dreamy yet precise, realistic illustrations and cool-leaning colour palette. Iceberg gives full life to an intimidating inanimate object, and readers may find themselves in awe as they watch and follow the iceberg navigate its way through the seasons. Complete with a glossary as well a back matter section titled “More Information About Our Polar Regions”- speaking to climate change and its effects- Iceberg: A Life in Season is highly recommended reading, and would make an excellent addition to a public library or school library’s non-fiction selection.
Boney, written by Cary Fagan and illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova, opens on protagonist Annabelle, her father, and Scoot the dog, walking in the woods one day. As they march and explore the wildlife around them, Annabelle discovers something rather unexpected- a bone! As Annabelle gently peppers her father with questions about what kind of animal this bone could possibly be from, she decides that she will name this bone Boney and take Boney home. While readers may have uncertain feelings about Annabelle’s decision, the story continues following Annabelle as she arguably takes very thoughtful, tender steps to care of Boney (once her father gives Boney a wash). After affixing a clean Boney with a ribbon, she takes Boney on a walk with Scoot, chats with her friend Lorne, rides the swings with Boney in her lap, and does everything she would normally do in day- all with Boney right there. But- something changes that night. As Annabelle drifts off to sleep, she dreams- of a bear, a wolf, and a deer all running through the woods with her. Without giving away too many spoilers, I will say that Annabelle’s perspective on Boney and where Boney might belong shifts significantly the following morning, leading to a great finale. Fagan, a prolific and acclaimed writer of stories for all ages, offers readers a wonderfully unusual and meaningful tale here- singularly poetic and profound and funny. Tolstikova’s particular cool, relaxed and perceptive art style- you may recognize their work from picture books such as The Bad Chair or Friend or Foe?!- is a tremendous match for Fagan’s storytelling. For readers looking for books that explore children’s connections with and respect for wildlife, emotional processing, or more broadly about cycles of life, Boney is a terrific picture book pick.
I received 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.