Review: Small Things by Mel Tregonning

Review: Small Things by Mel Tregonning
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Pajama Press. Thank you!
Publication: March 1, 2018 (as per publisher site; first published 2016 by Allen & Unwin)
Book Description:

A stunning graphic picture book about childhood anxiety from an extraordinarily talented illustrator. On the cusp of having everything slip from his grasp, a young boy has to find a way to rebuild his sense of self.

In this short, wordless graphic picture book, a young boy feels alone with his anxiety. He isn’t fitting in well at school. His grades are slipping. He’s even lashing out at those who love him.

Talented Australian artist Mel Tregonning created Small Things in the final year of her life. In her emotionally rich illustrations, the boy’s worries manifest as tiny beings that crowd around him constantly, overwhelming him and even gnawing away at his very self. The striking imagery is all the more powerful when, overcoming his isolation at last, the boy discovers that the tiny demons of worry surround everyone, even those who seem to have it all together.

This short but hard-hitting wordless graphic picture book gets to the heart of childhood anxiety and opens the way for dialogue about acceptance, vulnerability, and the universal experience of worry.

Small Things is one of those tremendous reads that is an experience…the same potent feelings reading and poring over the work of incredible artists/creators like Julie Morstad and Shaun Tan is what I experienced during my reading of Tregonning’s work. Mel Tregonning‘s Small Things, a wordless graphic picture book, is all at once superbly illustrated, unforgettable, extremely emotionally resonant, beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful all at once. Far too often I have had conversations with a parent or caregiver at the library who does not see merit in wordless books; an adult who tries to dissuade their child from reading a wordless picture book as ‘there are no words in it, why would you read it’. I find this crushing and a total disservice to the potent, consequential nature of wordless graphic books like Small Things.

In Small Things, readers follow the story of a young boy who we learn is dealing with snowballing stress and anxiety. He tries to fit in with a group at school that rejects him; he gets chosen last for teams in gym class; and his marks for exams are not at the A level we understand he wants them to be. We see anxiety building in the young boy, illustrated by otherworldly creatures (floating objects in abstract, graphic shapes and patterns) hovering around the young boy, swelling in size and numbers as his anxiety grows. As anxiety bleeds with anger and lashing out at his sister and those that are kind to him at school, cracks appear on the boy’s body…metaphorically and literally, the boy’s body is fracturing and falling apart. Tregonning does, however, allow for flashes of hope and the possibility of healing towards the end of the story as the young boy opens up to his family…the last few panels also offer an auspicious and weighty ending to the story when the boy goes to school the next day and sees that anxiety, stress and isolation is all around him, even with his compassionate friend.

Overall, I highly, highly recommend this title for readers young and old. The initial thoughts I had when I added Small Things to my must-read list (not knowing anything about the creator or her body of work) was how stunning it looked and how much it reminded me of Shaun Tan’s exceptional work. If you are interested in reading further, there is an article in The Guardian that discusses how Shaun Tan actually helped bring Small Things to completion and posthumous publication after the death of Tregonning. An exceptional, stand-out piece that opens the way for discourse on mental health, I hope Small Things is a title that gets shared, talked about and appreciated.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Pajama Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

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Picture Book Review: The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan & Tom Knight

9780374301231Review: The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan, illus. Tom Knight
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: February 6, 2018 by Farrar Straus & Giroux
Book Description:

From the creator of the Honest Toddler blog, The Big Bed is a humorous picture book about a girl who doesn’t want to sleep in her little bed, so she presents her dad with his own bed – a camping cot! – in order to move herself into her parents’ big bed in his place. A twist on the classic parental struggle of not letting kids sleep in their bed.

Bunmi Laditan and Tom Knight’s The Big Bed is a witty and funny story about a savvy young girl who attempts to- not so subtly!- move her dad out of the ‘big bed’ so she can sleep with her mom. As a mom with a three year old who would often like nothing more than to sleep in our ‘big bed’, I could absolutely relate and happily giggled my way through the picture book.

In The Big Bed, we meet our young protagonist who has a major issue she needs to discuss with her father: who gets to have Mommy during the night? The young girl presents her father with all the ways he’s great during the daytime, but nighttime is another matter. The little girl wants to sleep in her parents bed- well, in the big bed with her mommy- and cannot fathom why this might be a problem. Why, the girl wonders, can’t her grandma tuck her father in at night? Why does her father mind when she accidentally pees a little in bed? A little pee-pee never hurt anyone- and in fact, readers learn, pee-pee will keep scary bears away! Why can’t her daddy just- maybe, possibly- let her sleep in the big bed along with mom while he sleeps on….a cot? A COT! Yes, the perfect solution for EVERYONE, the girl thinks! We’ll even buy new nice sheets for the cot for daddy to enjoy! As her mom laughs hysterically at the idea and dad smiles (and probably marvels) his way through his daughter’s detailed presentations, readers get to go along for a very entertaining story.

Overall, what a fun read; cleverly written and perfectly matched with bright, wonderfully expressive and lively illustrations! Parents with young kids who are facing sleeping issues might especially relate and find great humour in Laditan and Knight’s story, but The Big Bed stands on its own as a genuinely witty picture book.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Review: No One Can Know (A Stillwater General Mystery #2) by Lucy Kerr

No One Can Know (A Stillwater General Mystery #2)Review: No One Can Know (A Stillwater General Mystery #2) by Lucy Kerr
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: February 13, 2018 by Crooked Lane Books
Book Description:

When a pregnant car crash victim arrives at Stillwater General, ER nurse Frankie Stapleton and the team must work swiftly to deliver the baby safely. After hours of grueling effort, they finally save the baby, but the mother dies. The staff is already rattled, but then they learn that the accidental car crash was actually deliberate.

Just when they thought the hard work was over, suspects begin rearing their heads one by one and no one is safe. There’s no shortage of motives. The victim was a social worker, and someone may have been seeking revenge. Or perhaps someone was trying to intimidate her up-and-coming politician husband. Then the baby goes missing.

Now Frankie must race to uncover the truth in time to catch a killer and save a child in Lucy Kerr’s riveting second Stillwater General Mystery, No One Can Know.

No One Can Know is the second entry in Lucy Kerr’s thoroughly entertaining and thrilling Stillwater General Mystery series. The debut, Time of Death, introduced readers to our protagonist: emergency room nurse Frankie Stapleton and her rather complicated return to her small hometown of Stillwater. In my review of Time of Death, I noted that I was captivated early on with Frankie’s voice and the series’ intriguing premise of combining suspense and murder investigation with medical emergencies and family drama. In No One Can Know, Kerr continues to excel with a tightly written mystery that manages to entertain, engage and keep the reader guessing all at once.

Still experiencing the aftereffects of her involvement in investigating the death of Stillwater community member Clem Jensen, Frankie finds herself at the centre of another highly suspicious, horrendous tragedy. When Frankie and her ER colleagues try and save the life of a highly pregnant women involved in a car wreck, the case ends up being larger than anything Frankie or her colleagues could have imagined. As Frankie learns more about the mother who lost her life and the deceased’s husband- who has high political aspirations- she finds herself deeply involved in the case and unable to let go- much to the frustration of the Stillwater police officer heading the case (who happens to be her former fiance Noah). Frankie continues her own sleuthing into the increasingly tangled murder investigation and as the media frenzy surrounding the politician’s wife’s death grows, she discovers that Noah might need her help and support more than ever. As with Time of Death, Kerr does a great job here in combining relationship drama (both family and romantic) with elements of suspense and genuine twists. The ending of No One Can Know is one of quiet surprise and reveal, leaving a lot of room open for darker and bigger directions the series could take!

Overall, a strong, more than worthy second entry in a solid mystery series that looks to have many more exciting and riveting stories in it. Though not absolutely essential to have read book one, I do recommend starting with Time of Death as it offers a lot of background and character introduction to Frankie, her family, and more details into her long history with Noah. Readers who enjoy amateur sleuth mysteries, medical dramas, or slightly darker cozy mysteries with a strong protagonist might do very well to check Lucy Kerr’s series out.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

A Valentine’s Day Picture Book Giveaway!

Something heartwarming and lovely for Valentine’s Day: a chance to win one of four adorable picture books! Courtesy of the generous folks at Raincoast Books, I have four reads to share with you; one lucky Canadian reader will have the chance to win their top picture book or board book pick. The details for the Valentine’s Day Picture Book Giveaway are at the bottom of the post, so please read on!

Let’s take a closer look at the beautiful books:

Words and Your Heart by Kate Jane Neal
Publication: December 26, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends

This book is about your heart. (the little bit inside of you that makes you, you!)
The words we listen to can affect how we feel.
Some words can do amazing things and make us happy.
And some words can really hurt us (we all know what sort of words those are).
Our words have power, and we can choose to use them to make the world a better place.

Simple, direct, and emotive, Words and Your Heart ‘s message is that words have extraordinary power-to harm and to heal; to create and to destroy; and to spread love.

“How about we use our words to look after each other’s hearts?”

Kate Jane Neal, the writer and illustrator of Words and Your Heart, has crafted something potent and poignant here. Message books for children can be tricky to pull off- I find anything too preachy or didactic tends not to land- but Words and Your Heart is a treasure. Straightforward and open, elevated by a sophisticated black, white and red colour palette, a simple but seriously important message lies in this picture book: “your words are amazing and powerful”. As readers learn, words can build someone up, tear them down, make them feel brave, make them feel scared or sad…Neal’s book asks readers to (please!) carefully consider your words and how they effect the heart of another. Fitting for Valentine’s sure, but also terrific for a storytime or read aloud on the subject of feelings and friendship!

 

This Is Not a Valentine by Carter Higgins, illus. Lucy Ruth Cummins
Publication: December 26, 2017 by Chronicle Books

This book is not a valentine. It doesn’t have lacey edges or sugary hearts. But it is full of lucky rocks, secret hiding spots, and gumball machine treasures. This is a book about waiting in line and wishing for cinnamon buns. About recognizing that if you care so much about someone not thinking you care, maybe you really do. But wait-isn’t that exactly what love is about? Maybe this book is sort of a valentine after all. A testament to handmade, wacky, bashful, honest love-sure to win over the hearts of all readers-this offering from debut picture book author Carter Higgins and children’s book veteran Lucy Ruth Cummins is the perfect gift to celebrate every relationship, from parent to child, sibling to sibling, partner to partner, crush to crush.

Even though it will likely protest this statement, This Is Not a Valentine might just be the most perfect Valentine! Readers, through the eyes of an adamant young protagonist, get to learn about all the ways that certain things (kinds of flowers, kinds of hand drawn pictures, grocery store rings in plastic cases that match your favourite shoelaces, hand-folded paper airplanes, etc.) are definitely, absolutely NOT Valentine’s… As our young protagonist explains his way through how his (actually extremely heartwarming, thoughtful and considerate) gifts to a classmate in his school are NOT Valentine’s, readers will likely feel their hearts start to soften, and their mouths turn up in a goofy, happy grin. (One of my favourite parts of This Is Not a Valentine is when we’re told that this is not a Valentine because “I like you all the days”, not only for today). So wonderfully written and matched with perfect illustrations, Carter Higgins and Lucy Ruth Cummins have knocked it out of the park with This Is Not a Valentine!

 

I Love Kisses by Sheryl McFarlane, illus. Brenna Vaughan
Publication: December 26, 2017 by Sourcebooks

I love kisses.
I’ll bet that you do too!

Wake up sleepyhead kisses
Raspberry jam and bread kisses…

There are lots of kinds of kisses in the world, and they all say something different. Award-winning author Sheryl McFarlane’s new book celebrates the best part about kisses; while each one is unique, they all say I love you!”

I Love Kisses is a very sweet and simple picture book all about…you guessed it- kisses! From “sloppy licking pup kisses”, to “baby brother drool kisses”, McFarlane and Vaughan’s totally adorable read is a perfect ode to love, families and friends, and perfect for Valentine’s Day! Easy to read text, repetition, and full colour cuddly illustrations make this one just right for toddlers, or for curling up and reading aloud with wee ones.

 

Kiss It Better by Smriti Prasadam-Halls, illus. Sarah Massini (board book)
Publication: October 24, 2017 by Bloomsbury USA

Every day has its ups and downs
Sometimes you giggle, sometimes you frown.
But the thing to remember, the secret, is this . . .
Everything feels better with the help of a KISS.

There are go-to-sleep kisses, I’m-sorry kisses, I-love-you kisses, and more. For every time of day there’s a kiss to go with it, and whether you’re big or small, young or old, it always makes you feel better. So the next time you see someone you love, just remember . . . a kiss is the very best gift of all!

A tender expression of love, Kiss It Better is the perfect gift for every parent and child who love Nancy Tillman and Marianne Richmond.

Similarly to I Love Kisses mentioned above, Kiss It Better is another lovingly sweet, encouraging (but not cloying!) read just right for Valentine’s Day. Kiss It Better, illustrated with darling bears of all kinds by Sarah Massini, takes readers through all kinds of kisses. Everything from “get-well-soon” kisses, to “I’m-sorry” kisses lets readers know that kisses can say so many different things, and help us when we’re in need. Prasadam-Halls text is light and lyrical, genuinely sweet, and any readers who enjoy their Valentine’s reads cuddly and heartening might especially appreciate this lovely board book.

 

 

Giveaway Info:

The Valentine’s Day Picture Book Giveaway is open to Canadian residents, ages 18 and up. The giveaway will run from January 31, 2018 to February 12, 2018. One winner will be randomly selected at the end of giveaway via Rafflecopter. The winner will have 48 hours to respond via Twitter or by emailing me at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com, confirming their name, their mailing address, and their one book prize pick. If the first drawn winner does not contact me within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! Thank you to all who participated!

The winning draw is: SUNSHINE H. If no response from the winner in 48 hours, another winning entry will be drawn.

Click here to enter the giveaway via Rafflecopter!

I received copies of the four titles from Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. Opinions and comments regarding the titles are my own. Prizes provided courtesy of Raincoast Books.

Children’s Non-Fiction: A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White by Barbara Herkert & Lauren Castillo

Review: A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White by Barbara Herkert, illus. Lauren Castillo
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: October 24, 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.
Book Description:

A lyrical biography of E. B. White, beloved author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, written by Barbara Herkert and illustrated by Caldecott honoree Lauren Castillo.

When young Elwyn White lay in bed as a sickly child, a bold house mouse befriended him. When the time came for kindergarten, an anxious Elwyn longed for the farm, where animal friends awaited him at the end of each day. Propelled by his fascination with the outside world, he began to jot down his reflections in a journal. Writing filled him with joy, and words became his world.

Today, Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web are beloved classics of children’s literature, and E. B. White is recognized as one of the finest American writers of all time.

How many of us growing up read and formed an intense, lifelong connection with the work of E.B. White? Whether we’re talking about Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan, or Charlotte’s Web (one of my all-time favourite books), E.B. White is arguably one of the most loved and recognized children’s writers in North America- in addition to having numerous other novels and works to his name. When I heard and read that author Barbara Herkert and Caldecott honoree Lauren Castillo were collaborating on a children’s biographical title about E.B. White, I was very excited and curious to see the end result!

The end result is a wonderful, heartfelt pictorial biography that gives younger readers (and frankly, readers of all ages!) an incisive look into the life of E.B. White and into the motivations behind his children’s classics. Readers of all ages will be taken in with Castillo’s glowing, magical, warm and perfect-for-the-story illustrations (her illustrative style is just so fitting here!), and Herkert impressively takes on the daunting task on pairing down White’s storied and celebrated accomplishments into gently poetic, readable text. From White’s childhood- where he met and befriended a bold mouse!- to his college-era adventures in writing, his vivid dreams, to his adult years on his family farm in Maine, readers are offered insight into what personally inspired White’s well-known writings and themes and his most cherished, beloved characters- unforgettable characters like Wilbur, Charlotte, Fern, Stuart Little.  A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White is as appealing as it is informative and one I definitely recommend; be sure to take a read of the Author’s Note in the back as well as the Bibliography if you are so inclined for further reading on White’s life.

Overall, a beautifully told and beautifully illustrated children’s biographical title. From Laurel Snyder and Julie Morstad’s Swan to Renée Watson and Christian Robinson’s Harlem’s Little Blackbird and a parade of others, children’s biographies are an absolute treasure trove. A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider is another excellent children’s non-fiction title that can be added to that list; readers who have enjoyed the titles mentioned above, as well as offerings such as Finding Winnie, Enormous Smallness, or The Iridescence of Birds might especially adore this title.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Blog Tour Stop: Flower Moon by Gina Linko

Welcome to one of the blog tour stops for Gina Linko‘s Flower Moon, a children’s novel full of charm and magic!

Review: Flower Moon by Gina Linko
Source: ARC courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son. Thank you!
Publication: January 2, 2018 by Sky Pony Press
Book Description:

Tempest and Tally Jo Trimble are mirror twins—so alike they were almost born the same person—and they’ve been inseparable since birth. But it’s the summer they turn thirteen, and it seems like everyone can tell something is changing between them.

Pa Charlie, whose traveling carnival is the best part of every summer, is watching them closer than ever. Digger, who sneaks poor kids onto the carnival rides for free and smiles faster than anyone, seems to be fixing for a fight. Even Mama is acting different, refusing to travel with the carnival this year even though her own twin, who she hasn’t seen since childhood, will be there.

And Tally and Tempest are the most different of all. There’s a strangeness between them, a thickness to the air, an unseen push and pull, and it’s getting stronger. It starts as a feeling, but soon it’s sputtering and sparking, hurling them backwards, threatening to explode.

When Tally learns that she and Tempest may not be the first twins in their family to be separated by whatever this force is, she realizes she’ll have to find a way to stop it—or she might lose not only her sister, but everyone she loves.

Gina Linko’s Flower Moon is a contemporary children’s fiction title that hums and sings with elements of magic, intense familial bonds and friendship.

In Flower Moon, readers follow the emotive first-person narrative of twelve year old Tally Jo Trimble. The story begins when we’re taken into a classroom where we witness the friction and complicated love between Tally and her twin sister- her mirror, her other half- Tempest. As Tally makes a decision to deflect one of Tempest’s many scientific experiments that may lead students to ridicule Tempest, Tally finds herself at the beginning of a strange cycle of growing distance and strangely potent energy that seems to be physically pulling her apart and keeping her away from Tempest. But why? Why is the world- or magic in the world- trying to keep Tally and Tempest apart?

As Tally and Tempest begin their usual summer journey with their grandpa’s traveling carnival, more and more peculiar events- dangerous, electric moments that physically hurt- spark and flicker between the twins, leading Tally to believe that there really is some bizarre, inexplicable force in the universe growing to keep Tally and Tempest apart. With the help of her wonderful and kind carnival friend Digger, Tally starts investigating her family’s history- specifically into her mother’s unexplained broken relationship with her own twin sister. The closer Tally comes to discovering just how incredibly strong the magic of her twin bond is, the closer Tally and Tempest get to discovering a way that might allow them to stay together. Linko writes an affecting story here; you can feel the intense, inextricable bond and love between Tally and Tempest almost vibrate off the page. The elements of magic (as well as exploration into the earth’s rhythm and moon cycles) that tie the mystery of the twins’ bond is an intriguing one; one that is written well, though I found myself wishing for even more explication into the reveals of ‘why’, as well as the big denouement and resolution.

Give yourself a little bit of time for the tone and pace of the story to settle and allow for the magic and unknown to makes its home; once the essence of story seeps in, you’ll be rather taken in with Tally and Tempest’s story. Overall, Flower Moon is a charming, warm story that will likely appeal to readers who like a little bit (or a lot!) of supernatural elements blended in with contemporary, family-oriented coming-of-age stories.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

And Now For Something Completely Different: Tea Time with Adagio Teas!

As the title of the post suggests (thank you, Monty Python!), this post does indeed feature something a little bit different for this site. I was recently contacted by the very kind and generous folks at Adagio Teas, asking if I was interested in sampling, trying, and putting something together about TEA!

As someone who drinks tea daily (at home, while reading, while writing, while working at the library, the list goes on…), I was delighted to have the chance to try out a brand of teas all new to me… from a company, I should add, that features some very cool literary and fandom blends! So stay along for a picture-heavy post all about some truly unique- and delicious- teas. Lovers of reading and lovers of tea, this just might be a perfect mix for you…

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I had the great chance to get to pick a variety of teas of my choosing. Those totally new to tea might be overwhelmed by the scope of selection online; but as someone who has been picking and choosing teas for years (from multiple brands and stores), I was in a bit of a heaven here. I decided to try a little bit from personal tea favourites and personal literary favourites…and one astrological-sign tea for good measure! I ended up choosing a sampler of Earl Grey loose teas; two Pride & Prejudice-inspired teas (Lizzy Bennett and Mr. Darcy!); a Gemini tea blend; and last but definitely not least, Harry Potter-inspired teas including BeerButter Tea, and three different blends from Riddle’s Tea ShoppeSherbet Lemon, Cauldron Cakes, and For the Wise Wisdom House Blend.

Let’s take a closer look!

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Any readers here interested in exploring unique gift ideas for the tea (and/or literary/fandom) aficionado in their life? Or if you’re looking for a new brand of teas to try out for yourself, Adagio Teas stocks everything from English Breakfast, Matcha, Jasmine Phoenix Pearls, to Peppermint and much, much more (loose leaf, tea bags, collections, accessories, etc.). I personally adore Earl Grey teas and have been enjoying every one of the loose teas in the Earl Grey Gift Sampler. I am still working my way through the Harry Potter fandom teas, though the ones I’ve tried so far (mmm, BeerButter and For the Wise Wisdom House Blend…) are unique and tasty. I’ve had a tough time cracking into the Lizzy Bennett and Mr. Darcy teas from this Pride and Prejudice collection – the tins and teas are so pretty!– but the Mr. Darcy blend (highly caffeinated with Earl Grey Bravo, Cream & Chestnut) is delicious and strong (can you tell I am kind of obsessed with anything Earl Grey?). Everything I have have received from Adagio Teas is- as you can see- beautifully presented and packaged so nicely; how could you not be delighted by such lovely treats?

 

I received a gift voucher courtesy of Adagio Teas in exchange for honest reviews and a post about the items. All opinions and comments regarding the items are my own. The Harry Potter books featured in the photo were gifted courtesy of Raincoast Books and are in no way affiliated with Adagio Teas. I received no monetary compensation for this post.

A Winter Holiday Picture Book Giveaway!

Something lovely for the winter and holiday season: a chance to win one of four beautiful perfect-for-winter and holiday books! Courtesy of the lovely folks at Raincoast Books, I have four seasonal reads to share with you, and one lucky Canadian reader will have the chance to win their top picture book or board book pick. The details for the Winter Holiday Picture Book Giveaway are at the bottom of the post, so please read on!

Let’s take a closer look at the books:

S is for Santa: A Christmas Alphabet (board book) by Greg Paprocki
Publication: September 12, 2017 by Gibbs Smith
From the creators of BabyLit, a Christmas board book for infants and toddlers, to evoke the wonder of Christmas. A collection of twenty-six illustrations featuring colorful Christmas-themed concepts sure to evoke a sense of wonderment for toddlers and nostalgia for parents, including Christmas carolers, kids playing in the snow, toys piled high under the tree, sparkling decorations and lights, flying reindeer, the gift of giving, more toys, and of course jolly ol’ St. Nick and his elves.

S is for Santa: A Christmas Alphabet is a bright and cheerful alphabet board book just right for the Christmas season. Illustrated by Greg Paprocki, the board book features vibrant full colour vintage-like Christmas-themed illustrations- a different scene for every letter of the alphabet. From A is for angel and B is for baking, to Y is for yummy and Z is for Zephyr, this stylish board book is perfect for those with infants and/or toddlers due to the short text. There is something so warm, happy and nostalgic about S is for Santa– it even took me back to my childhood when I would pore over my (now quite old!) Christmas-themed Little Golden Books. I have had a chance to read this one over multiple times (and a few times with my three year old who is obsessed with anything Christmas-related!) and there is something to appreciate and enjoy in every reading of it.

 

Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer, illus. Richard Jones
Publication: October 24, 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Snow is coming, and it’s time to get ready! The squirrel gathers nuts, the geese soar south, and the snowshoe hare puts on its new white coat. But what should the fox do? Each animal advises the fox that its own plan is best, but the fox thinks otherwise-yet it’s not until he meets a golden-eyed friend that he finds the perfect way to celebrate the snowfall. Stunning illustrations by the new talent Richard Jones are the perfect complement to the Newbery Honor winner Marion Dane Bauer’s lyrical and playful homage to the natural world.

Oh readers, this is a lovely, lovely picture book! With utterly gorgeous and mesmerizing illustrations by Richard Jones and lyrical text from Marion Dane Bauer, Winter Dance is a quiet gem of a picture book. With a glorious red fox as our guide, readers are taken on a journey to find out about what various animals do when the snow comes. Fox learns all about what bats and bears, and multiple other animals do- and all the various animals think the fox should follow their respective plans, but fox is not convinced! It is not until fox meets another similar red-furred friend that plans for the coming snow are decided. A beautiful read- in text and illustration- from start to finish.

 

Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter written and illus. Kenard Pak
Publication: September 5, 2017 by Henry Holt & Co.
As leaves fall from their trees, animals huddle against the cold, and frost creeps across windows, everyone knows—winter is on its way! Join a brother and sister as they explore nature and take a stroll through their twinkling town, greeting all the signs of the coming season. In a series of conversations with everything from the setting sun to curious deer, they say goodbye to autumn and welcome the glorious first snow of winter.

Readers who have previously enjoyed Kenard Pak’s Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn will undoubtedly love to read and see what the talented author-illustrator brings with Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter. With numerous well-received and starred reviews to his name, Pak’s illustrative style has become more well-known and unmistakable as his own. Like Winter Dance above, Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter uses a quieter, more hushed kind of narrative that is just as evocative and bittersweet as something roaring for attention. The story follows an older sister and her younger brother as they say ‘Hello’ to animals and objects of the natural world and listen to the various replies. Pak’s illustrations are, as ever, just wonderful- dynamic yet restrained- and the story as a whole is perfect for readers on the lookout for a lulling, soft story.

 

Santa’s Magic Key by Eric James, illus. Simon Mendez
Publication: October 3, 2017 by Sourcebooks
Unlock the magic with this book and special keepsake key to start a new family tradition.

It’s an age-old question. How does Santa get into every house around the world… no matter what doors, locks, chimneys, or windows exist? Find the answer to this question in Santa’s Magic Key! In this unforgettable holiday story, a boy realizes on Christmas Eve that his new house does not have a chimney, and with the post office closed and Santa coming bythe end of the night, he has no way of telling Santa. But when the boy finds a mysterious key, he’ll soon discover just how this key will solve his problem. Add a new classic to your holiday collection with this magical tale that reveals how Santa can always spread gifts and joy on Christmas Eve by using his magical key. This beautiful book comes with Santa’s special key just for you to hang on your Christmas tree as an ornament or outside your door!

Santa’s Magic Key written by Eric James and illustrated by Simon Mendez is a seasonal parcel that contains a picture book as well as a keepsake item. In this case, the keepsake item is a special key for Santa that corresponds with the story of a young boy who discovers more magic of the season through a chance meeting with Santa and the giving of a golden key. The hope or idea of Santa’s Magic Key is to start a tradition of hanging the special keepsake key on your own tree or outside your door, as a way to welcome Santa into your home- no matter if you don’t have a chimney! For any families who have enjoyed Elf on the Shelf– and are perhaps looking for something lower maintenance or simpler- or families just looking for a kindhearted, sentimental Christmas read with a suggestion of new tradition, then Santa’s Magic Key might be one to try out!

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Giveaway Info:

The Winter Holiday Picture Book Giveaway is open to Canadian residents, ages 18 and up. The giveaway will run from December 12, 2017 to December 20, 2017. One winner will be randomly selected at the end of giveaway via Rafflecopter. The winner will have 48 hours to respond via Twitter or by emailing me at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com, confirming their name, their mailing address, and their one picture book prize pick. If the first drawn winner does not contact me within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

Click here to enter the giveaway via Rafflecopter!

Update: December 23rd, 2017:

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! Thank you so much to everyone who participated.

The winner is MARIE S.! Congratulations! Please email within the next 48 hours with your prize pick and Canadian mailing address.

 

I received copies of the four titles from Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. Opinions and comments regarding the titles are my own. Prizes provided courtesy of Raincoast Books.

Picture Book Review: The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Review: The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett, illus. Jon Klassen
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada and Candlewick Press. Thank you!
Publication: October 10, 2017 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

Early one morning a mouse met a wolf and was quickly gobbled up.

When a woeful mouse is swallowed by a wolf, he quickly learns he is not alone: a duck has already set up digs, and, boy, has that duck got it figured out! Turns out it’s pretty nice in there, with delicious food and elegant table settings, courtesy of the wolf’s unchecked gluttony. And there’s something even better: no more fear of being eaten by a wolf! In fact, life is pretty good, until a hunter shows up. . . . With a nod to traditional fables and a wink to the reader, the award-winning Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen offer a tale of cooperation and creative cuisine that is sure to go down easy.

“I may have been swallowed,” says the duck, “but I have no intention of being eaten.”

Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen have, together and separately, published some of my favourite picture books…From their joint work in Extra Yarn to Sam and Dave Dig a Hole; from Barnett’s Leo: A Ghost Story (illustrated by Christian Robinson), to Klassen’s The Dark (written by Lemony Snicket), Barnett and Klassen are a decorated and first-rate duo. Joining their roster of works is their latest effort, The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse, a darkly funny, peculiar fable that takes on some familiar fairy tale tropes and twists them in successful (and surprising) ways.

We have likely read a fairy or folk tale in which a villainous animal gobbles up a meeker or smaller animal of sorts. But what happens when two bedfellows meet in the belly of the beast? In The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse, readers meet a wolf who happens upon little mouse in the woods and greedily eats him up. As mouse ponders his existence in the caverns of Wolf’s spacious insides, he discovers he is not alone in there…for a duck has made rather comfortable quarters for himself inside of Wolf. As the duck and mouse forge their new, unexpected- and safe, protected– life together in wolf’s insides, they find that the outside world still poses a threat to their existence. As wolf finds himself in throws of a terrible bellyache (as mouse and duck party on rather lavishly), a hunter sees the chance for himself to take down the wolf. But alas, what the hunter has not prepared for- and how could he, really?- is the measures that duck and mouse will now take to defend their new home.

Wonderfully disquieting, macabre and funny- think a multiplication of I Want My Hat Back– but told in the style of a unusual folk tale, The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse is another terrific read from Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. The New York Times Book Review noted, in their review of this title, that ‘no one does perturbed animals better’ than Klassen, and I wholeheartedly agree. I would also add that Klassen’s expertise of shifty-eyed animals in tandem with Barnett’s ability for ingenious, crafty, malleable storytelling style make for a sublime experience here in The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada and Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Picture Book Review: Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow by Michelle Cuevas & Sydney Smith

Review: Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow by Michelle Cuevas, illus. Sydney Smith
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Tundra Books, imprint of Penguin Random House Canada. Thank you!
Publication: September 12, 2017 by Tundra Books.
Book Description:

Smoot the shadow has been living a yawn-filled life for years. His boy never laughs and never leaps, so Smoot never does either . . . until the day he pops free, and decides to hit the road in search of the life he dreams about. And as he enjoys his first colorful day–singing, dancing and playing–other shadows watch him, and they become brave too. The frog’s shadow takes the shape of a prince, the dragonfly’s shadow that of a dragon. Even the rock’s shadow gets in on the excitement. But what will become of the timid beings their shadows have left behind? Will they finally be inspired to find their own daring?

Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow comes from the writing talent of Beyond the Laughing Sky author Michelle Cuevas, and award-winning Sidewalk Flowers illustrator Sydney Smith. A wondrous and fable-like tale of a shadow wanting to live a bright, dancing, laughter-filled life beyond his shy, timid boy, Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow is a fantastic read.

When readers meet Smoot, we see that the shadow is aching to break out from his boy’s quiet, quiet life. Smoot longs so much to laugh, dance, take risks, and do something beyond the still life of his young boy. So when Smoot manages to break free from his boy- with a surprising ‘pop!’- Smoot thinks ‘This is my chance!’. So Smoot packs a few things including ‘some shade, some moonlight, a change of underpants’ and goes forth. Through full-page, glorious, detailed and loose ink and watercolour illustrations, we see Smoot experience exciting, vibrant activities: climbing trees, jumping rope, going on a merry-go round, and more. Then, something seemingly small but significant happens: a dandelion’s shadow- so inspired from watching Smoot- flies away from its flower, followed by the shadows of a grasshopper, cricket and frog. As Smoot watches more and more- and larger, intimidating shadows break free- he wonders how out of hand or dangerous uncontrolled shadows might make things for living beings… so Smoot very cleverly puts together a plan that leads the shadows to contentedly return to their old lives. Without spoiling the lovely culmination, I will say that even Smoot and his boy find a way to make wishes old and new meet in an exciting middle.

Overall, Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow is a beautiful and unexpected story that shines due to Cuevas’ penchant for fantastical storytelling and Smith’s stunning art. The combination here of Cuevas’ magical, unusual, Norton Juster-like writing with that of Smith’s incredible, unique style and use of vivid colour and contrast makes for something noteworthy here. The essence of the story- that of dreaming of a life beyond the quiet shadows- may be something we have read before, but Cuevas and Smith truly create something marvelous and out of the ordinary here with their combined exceptional writing and illustrative efforts.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Tundra Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.