Review: Bloom by Kyo Maclear & Julie Morstad

Review: Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Kyo Maclear & Julie Morstad
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada & Tundra Books. Thank you!
Publication: February 6, 2018 by Tundra Books
Book Description:

Here is the life of iconic fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who as a little girl in Rome, was told by her own mamma that she was brutta. Ugly. So she decided to seek out beauty around her, and found it everywhere. What is beauty? Elsa wondered. She looked everywhere for beauty until something inside of Elsa blossomed, and she became an artist with an incredible imagination. Defining beauty on her own creative terms, Schiaparelli worked hard to develop her designs, and eventually bloomed into an extraordinary talent who dreamed up the most wonderful dresses, hats, shoes and jewelry. Why not a shoe for a hat? Why not a dress with drawers? And she invented a color: shocking pink! Her adventurous mind was the key to her happiness and success–and is still seen today in her legacy of wild imagination. Daring and different, Elsa Schiaparelli used art to make fashion, and it was quite marvelous.

Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad, the dynamic duo who created the critically acclaimed Julia, Child, team up again to bring to life the childhood memories and the inspiring milestones of the legendary Elsa Schiaparelli. With its warm, lyrical text and enchanting illustrations, Bloom shows readers how ingenuity, vision and self doubt all made Schiaparelli truly beautiful. A gift for her older fans and younger audiences who have yet to discover her genius, Bloom is sure to be an enthralling classic.

Bold beauty. Quiet beauty. Hidden beauty.
By the age of seven, I wonder: What makes something beautiful?

Canadian author and artist duo Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad have worked together previously- on the delightful and beautiful picture book Julia, Child– and return here in glorious , vibrant and poetic fashion with Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli. A biographical picture book about the life of the illustrious, rule-breaking and rule-bending designer Elsa Schiaparelli, Bloom takes readers through major moments, breakthroughs, and legacies in the designer’s life.

Bloom is told in the first-person narrative of Elsa, and opens to a scene in which a newborn Elsa looks up to frowning parents who, we are informed, had been hoping to have a boy. As we soon learn, Elsa’s older sister Beatrice- apparently favoured by their mother- is recognized as the bella in the family, while Elsa is called brutta- ugly.  This harsh judgment of ugliness by her own immediate family seems to remain a relatively constant cloud in much of Elsa’s early (and perhaps later) life. It is through a failed experiment involving flower seeds, as well as the encouragement from an innovative and kind uncle, that ‘a seed of wild imagination’ and artistry is planted in Elsa- something that moves her and propels her life and life’s work to be ‘daring, different, and whole…[to] plant a new seed of beauty’. With Maclear’s beautifully melodic, empathetic storytelling style leading the way, Morstad’s incredible, meaningful illustrations follow to highlight just some of Elsa’s significant moments: her stirring time with artists such as Picasso and Dahli; her Trompe l’oeil design breakthrough; the mixing and making of her signature shocking pink; and ‘why not’ approach to making fashion for women extravagant, unusual, bold, colourful, talked-about- and unforgettable.

Overall, Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli is a gorgeous work that balances biography, lyricism, and art in picture book format. For readers who adore biographical picture books, or simply love Kyo Maclear’s and Julie Morstad’s respective (or joint!) work, Bloom is a sensorial feast whether read quietly or shared aloud. Those both familiar and unfamiliar with Schiaparelli’s life and continuing influence in fashion will likely find something- or many things!- to appreciate and savour about Bloom. At the back pages, A Note from the Author and the Illustrator mentions that ‘it is difficult to express everything [Schiaparelli] was and did in such a short book’; Maclear and Morstad have added a concise yet rich catalog of the designer’s contributions, as well as a list of Sources and Further Reading for those interested.

 

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

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Must Read Monday (77): Children’s Non-Fiction & Biographical Picture Books from Jason Chin, Jeanette Winter & more!

Welcome to the first 2018 edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

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This week: all about non-fiction children’s titles and biographical picture books! Incredible looking and sounding and wonderfully reviewed and buzzed about titles here. While I did make my way through a number of non-fiction/biographical children’s titles, I still feel terribly behind in my reading in those areas. Taking a look through other blogger, librarian and author best of 2017 lists, and looking ahead to early 2018, I can see there is SO MUCH that I need and want catch up on and get to! Let’s get into the titles right away, in publication date order:

 

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
Publication: February 21, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Rivers wind through earth, cutting down and eroding the soil for millions of years, creating a cavity in the ground 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and more than a mile deep known as the Grand Canyon.

Home to an astonishing variety of plants and animals that have lived and evolved within its walls for millennia, the Grand Canyon is much more than just a hole in the ground. Follow a father and daughter as they make their way through the cavernous wonder, discovering life both present and past.

Weave in and out of time as perfectly placed die cuts show you that a fossil today was a creature much long ago, perhaps in a completely different environment. Complete with a spectacular double gatefold, an intricate map and extensive back matter.

 

Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books by Michelle Markel, illus. Nancy Carpenter
Publication: April 4, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

This rollicking and fascinating picture book biography chronicles the life of the first pioneer of children’s books—John Newbery himself. While most children’s books in the 18th century contained lessons and rules, John Newbery imagined them overflowing with entertaining stories, science, and games. He believed that every book should be made for the reader’s enjoyment. Newbery—for whom the prestigious Newbery Medal is named—became a celebrated author and publisher, changing the world of children’s books forever. This book about his life and legacy is as full of energy and delight as any young reader could wish.

 

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illus. Dow Phumiruk
Publication: May 2, 2017 by Christy Ottaviano Books
Book Description:

As a child, Maya Lin loved to study the spaces around her. She explored the forest in her backyard, observing woodland creatures, and used her house as a model to build tiny towns out of paper and scraps. The daughter of a clay artist and a poet, Maya grew up with art and learned to think with her hands as well as her mind. From her first experiments with light and lines to the height of her success nationwide, this is the story of an inspiring American artist: the visionary artist-architect who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

 

What Makes a Monster?: Discovering the World’s Scariest Creatures (The World of Weird Animals) by Jess Keating, illus. David DeGrand
Publication: August 8, 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

Some people think monsters are the stuff of nightmares–the stuff of scary movies and Halloween. But monsters can also be found right in your backyard. Animals like aye-ayes, goblin sharks and vampire bats may look scary, but they pose no threat to humans. Others, such as the prairie dog, seem innocent–cute, even–yet their behavior could give you goose bumps.

What makes a monster? Read this book to find out, if you dare. . . .Jess Keating and David DeGrand, the author illustrator team behind Pink Is for Blobfish will have readers shrieking with laughter at this latest installment to the World of Weird Animals series.

 

The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter
Publication: August 22, 2017 by Beach Lane Books
Book Description:

Get to know Zaha Hadid in this nonfiction picture book about the famed architect’s life and her triumph over adversity from celebrated author-illustrator Jeanette Winter.

Zaha Hadid grew up in Baghdad, Iraq, and dreamed of designing her own cities. After studying architecture in London, she opened her own studio and started designing buildings. But as a Muslim woman, Hadid faced many obstacles. Determined to succeed, she worked hard for many years, and achieved her goals—and now you can see the buildings Hadid has designed all over the world.

 

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. Eric Velásquez
Publication: September 12, 2017 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

Where is our historian to give us our side? Arturo asked. Amid the scholars, poets, authors, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance stood an Afro-Puerto Rican named Arturo Schomburg. This law clerk’s life’s passion was to collect books, letters, music, and art from Africa and the African diaspora and bring to light the achievements of people of African descent through the ages. When Schomburg’s collection became so big it began to overflow his house (and his wife threatened to mutiny), he turned to the New York Public Library, where he created and curated a collection that was the cornerstone of a new Negro Division. A century later, his groundbreaking collection, known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, has become a beacon to scholars all over the world.

 

How to Be an Elephant by Katherine Roy
Publication: September 19, 2017 by David Macaulay Studio
Book Description:

The savanna is not an easy place to live, even for African elephants, the largest land animals on earth. If it’s a challenge for these 7,000-pound giants, what’s it like for their newborn babies?

An infant elephant has precious little time to learn the incredible array of skills that are necessary to keep up, from projecting her voice across a 10-octave range to using the 100,000 muscles in her trunk to stay hydrated. But this giant-to-be has the perfect classroom–a family herd made up of her mother, sisters, cousins, and aunts. With their help and protection, she’ll learn how to survive, how to thrive, and how to be an elephant.

Award-winning author-illustrator Katherine Roy’s How to Be an Elephant delves into the intricate family dynamics at play in a typical African herd. Drawing upon the latest scientific research and Roy’s own expedition to Kenya, and brimming with lush watercolor illustrations and detailed diagrams, this book vividly portrays the life and development of an elephant from an uncertain newborn into a majestic adult. As informative as it is beautiful, Roy’s unique portrait of an elephant’s life will captivate young explorers and animal lovers alike.

 

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illus. Gordon C. James
Publication: October 10, 2017 by Agate Bolden
Book Description:

The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices.

A fresh cut makes boys fly.

This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair–a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world. The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is a high-spirited, engaging salute to the beautiful, raw, assured humanity of black boys and how they see themselves when they approve of their reflections in the mirror.

 

Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins, illus. Bryan Collier
Publication: November 14, 2017 by Little, Brown
Book Description:

Six-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and four-time Caldecott Honor recipient Bryan Collier brings this classic, inspirational poem to life, written by poet Useni Eugene Perkins.

Hey black child,
Do you know who you are?
Who really are?
Do you know you can be
What you want to be
If you try to be
What you can be?

This lyrical, empowering poem celebrates black children and seeks to inspire all young people to dream big and achieve their goals.

 

Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen by Deborah Hopkinson, illus. Qin Leng
Expected publication: January 23, 2018 by Balzer + Bray
Book Description:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is one of our greatest writers. But before that, she was just an ordinary girl.In fact, young Jane was a bit quiet and shy; if you had met her back then, you might not have noticed her at all. But she would have noticed you. Jane watched and listened to all the things people around her did and said and locked those observations away for safekeeping.

Jane also loved to read. She devoured everything in her father’s massive library, and before long she began creating her own stories. In her time, the most popular books were grand adventures and romances, but Jane wanted to go her own way . . . and went on to invent an entirely new kind of novel.

Deborah Hopkinson and Qin Leng have collaborated on a gorgeous tribute to an independent thinker who turned ordinary life into extraordinary stories and created a body of work that has delighted and inspired readers for generations.

 

Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Kyo Maclear, illus. Julie Morstad
Expected publication: February 6, 2018 by HarperCollins
Book Description:

By the 1930s Elsa Schiaparelli had captivated the fashion world in Paris, but before that, she was a little girl in Rome who didn’t feel pretty at all. Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli is the enchanting story for young readers of how a young girl used her imagination and emerged from plain to extraordinary.

As a young girl in Rome, Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973) felt “brutta” (ugly) and searched all around her for beauty. Seeing the colors of Rome’s flower market one day, young Elsa tried to plant seeds in her ears and nose, hoping to blossom like a flower. All she got was sick, but from that moment, she discovered her own wild imagination.

In the 1920 and ’30s, influenced by her friends in the surrealist art movement, Schiaparelli created a vast collection of unique fashion designs—hats shaped like shoes, a dress adorned with lobsters, gloves with fingernails, a dress with drawers and so many more. She mixed her own bold colors and invented her own signature shades, including shocking pink.

 

Recently Read: Great Picture Books!

Welcome to another Recently Read round up of great- and I mean tremendous- picture books! This entry features what I would more broadly categorize as children’s lit: there are picture books for the preschool and under crowd, but there are also some slightly longer and more mature illustrated children’s titles as well. In this round up are incredibly written and illustrated titles recently nominated for 2017 Canadian literary awards: the Governal General’s Literary Award nominated When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett; and the Governor General’s Literary Award nominated When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Matt James. There are also wonderful new titles by authors and illustrators including more brilliance from Kyo Maclear and Esmé Shapiro, Julie Kraulis, and much more! I hope you have the time to peruse these wide-ranging beautiful titles:

When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson, illus. Julie Flett
A Day with Yayeh by Nicola I. Campbell, illus. Julie Flett
When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illus. Matt James
Yak and Dove by Kyo Maclear, illus. Esmé Shapiro
A Pattern for Pepper by Julie Kraulis
Little Home Bird by Jo Empson
Boat of Dreams by Rogério Coelho
His Royal Highness, King Baby: A Terrible True Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illus. David Roberts

Recently Read: Great Picture Books!

I have had the great luck- again!- to have read through another stash of tremendous, unique, and fun picture books. You will see some returning favourites here including: the latest from Kyo Maclear and Kenard Pak with the stunning The Fog; the newest (and wonderfully madcap) collaboration from Philip C. Stead and Matthew Cordell; a new and awesome Olivia from Ian Falconer; more Nerdy Birdy; the latest from Canadian author-illustrator Ashley Spires; a fun and lovely cat counting book from Viviane Schwarz; and a follow-up of sorts to the very funny Creepy Carrots. There are also some utter gems from newer author and/or illustrators here, so be sure to take a look through the whole list!

The Sheep Who Hatched an Egg by Gemma Merino
Shawn Loves Sharks by Curtis Manley, illus. Tracy Subisak
Counting with Tiny Cat by Viviane Schwarz
Lily Wool by Paula Vásquez
Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani
Nope! by Drew Sheneman
The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires
The Only Fish in the Sea by Philip C. Stead, illus. Matthew Cordell
Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds, illus. Peter Brown
The Teacher’s Pet by Anica Mrose Rissi, illus. Zachariah OHora
Nerdy Birdy Tweets by Aaron Reynolds, illus. Matt Davies
Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex
Olivia the Spy by Ian Falconer
The Fog by Kyo Maclear, illus. Kenard Pak
This Beautiful Day by Richard Jackson, illus. Suzy Lee

Top Ten Tuesday: Unique Books I’ve Read…

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. I have not been doing a great job with keeping up and participating, but I have been inspired this week’s topic: the most unique books we’ve read!

With the caveat that I have probably/most likely missed a number of unique titles here, I’ve picked ten titles- mostly all children’s titles- that, to me, stand out. Are unusual. Out of the ordinary. Seriously unexpected and seriously unforgettable. Perhaps even peculiar. In no particular order, here are my picks:

 

 

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
A picture book written all in imagined bug language (yes, indeed!), with gorgeous artwork…

The Liszts by Kyo Maclear, illus. Júlia Sardà
Kyo Maclear is up there as one of my favourite wordsmiths/storytellers. The Liszts is a newer title: a story about a list-making family that is beyond one’s expectations and imaginings. Sardà’s illustrations are…extraordinary…

Lost & Found by Shaun Tan
I am rather obsessed with Tan’s work. This was one of my first introductions to his work, and I haven’t stopped reading and poring over his incredible work since…

Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard
The combination of Orchard’s unusual and beautiful style of artwork with the darker fairy-tale feel- a stand-out graphic novel…

The Sleepwalkers by Viviane Schwarz
Ah, The Sleepwalkers! I read this graphic novel after falling in love with Schwarz’s picture books. A genuinely unusual, offbeat but lovely and hypnotic story about a team of heroes who rescue children from nightmares…

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston
A feat in storytelling, visuals and typography, this picture books is also a love letter to the power of books and words…

Press Here by Hervé Tullet
One of the first interactive perfect-for-storytime picture books I remember reading and arguably still one of the best…I would argue this was a game-changer and paved the way for more delightful interactive picture books to follow…I can’t imagine storytime with interactive books…

Art & Max by David Wiesner
David Wiesner, as with many authors and artists on this list, is a favourite. While most anything and everything by Wiesner is breathtaking and innovative, I must confess to a particular soft spot for Art & Max: a picture book about art, art styles, and two friends who test and bend art between the pages of this book that cemented Wiesner’s place on my roster of favourites.

Shadow by Suzy Lee
One of the first wordless picture books where I had a serious ‘aha’ moment about the beauty and signficance of the genre…Also: why isn’t everyone just as bananas about her work as I am?!?

Milk Teeth by Julie Morstad
This is a small book/collection of Morstad’s artwork. Surreal, dreamy, so strange and so beautiful…As with Shaun Tan’s work, I could forever be breathing in Morstad’s exquisite work…

Bonus mentions:

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, illus. Isabelle Arsenault

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

What titles are on your top ten this week?

Coming Up: Blog Tour for The Playbook by Kwame Alexander!

Sometimes, one can feel a little bit like poor Charlie Brown up there getting duped yet again by Lucy and the football! I’m not getting all maudlin or dramatic, I promise, it’s just been yet another bit of a bumpy stretch with health issues and a genuine lack of time for reading or reviewing! Some really awesome bookish bits in the midst of everything, though: new books I’ve bought include Adam Silvera’s History Is All You Left Me and Lisa Lutz’s The Passenger; I received lovely books from Penguin Canada including Lauren Graham’s Someday, Someday, Maybe, Kyo Maclear’s Birds Art Life; and I also received some stunning picture book goodies from Raincoast Books including Tony by Ed Galing and Erin E. Stead (a favourite illustrator).  Mr. Fab and I also finished (the original) Broadchurch series, season 2. Holy smokes, terrifically acted and put together- and intense. I would argue that it was even sharper, even better than the already stellar season one. We’re back to making our way through Psych now as I needed something a bit lighter to watch!

Next week, I am participating in the Raincoast Books organized tour for award-winning author, educator and poet Kwame Alexander‘s latest book The Playbook! Thrilled to be part of the tour as I am a BIG fan of Kwame Alexander’s work! Take a look below to check out the lineup of bloggers; the tour stops here on January 26th. Look forward to that coming up as well as a few new reviews I’ve got cooking!

 

the-playbook-blog-evite

Picture Book Review: The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear & Chris Turnham

wishtree9781452150659Review: The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear, illus. Chris Turnham
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 27, 2016 by Chronicle Books
Verdict: Very Good
Book Description:

Charles wants to find a wish tree. His brother and sister don’t believe there is such a thing, but his trusty companion Boggan is ready to join Charles on a journey to find out. And along the way, they discover that wishes can come true in the most unexpected ways.

The poetic text and heartwarming illustrations evoke the true essence of the holiday season and will inspire wishers everywhere. This gem of a book deserves center stage year round.

“La-di-da-di-da-di-daaaa,” sang Charles.

“Whishhhhh,” sang Boggan.

From the time I first read a picture book written by Kyo Maclear– I believe it was Spork a number of years ago!- I have been a major fan of her work. Every time I hear or see the news that the author has a new book out, it is immediately added to my must-read list. The Wish Tree– written by Kyo, and the illustrative debut of Chris Turnham– was, of course, included right away on my reading list! Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Kyo recently for a library event. The event was for a talk about her background, her picture book process, and her latest picture book, The Wish Tree. It was one of those surreal and wonderful moments for me (as a book enthusiast, reviewer, librarian, lover of books) to meet someone whose work I’ve held in high esteem for years! Now back to my thoughts on The Wish Tree…!

In the opening of The Wish Tree, we meet Charles and his friend Boggan (a smiling, thoughtful toboggan). Charles is on the search for a wish tree, and while his brother and sister do not believe such a thing exists, Boggan thinks there must be such a thing. So off the two of them go together, deep into the snowy woods. On their way to find a wish tree, Charles and Boggan kindly stop to help animals in need: they help beavers gather birch wood, they help foxes gather berries, and they help a squirrel bring hazelnuts to his home.  While it seems as though Boggan and Charles will never find their wish tree before night falls, something wondrous happens involving the animals they have helped that leads to the final search for their wish tree and a celebration in the wintry woods.

Chris Turnham’s illustrations-  engaging and darling, with an eye for both detail and background- are a terrific match for Kyo’s quietly rhythmic, beguiling text. Just one look at Boggan’s cheerful can-do face against the backdrop of the snowy woods, with he and Charles singing their song together is but one prime example of how the two artists have melded their vision together. A delightful tale with a dose of magical elements, The Wish Tree is a also a story where parts are left up to the reader and/or listener; certain elements involving Charles’ and Boggan’s journey to the wish tree and the time with the animals are free to the imagination and thoughts of the reader. I initially had some doubt about how, about two-thirds of the way in, the story seems to swiftly shift gears to the even more fanciful and dreamlike. However, upon rereads and reflection, I find myself more and more appreciative of the wondering and open nature of the story’s climax and end.

Overall, The Wish Tree is a winsome picture book about kindheartedness and wonder. It could make for a great seasonal read aloud, a cozy quiet read, or for an on-theme read about friendship and thoughtfulness…and it may even inspire some to create their own variations of a ‘wish tree’! Readers who have already read and loved Kyo Maclear’s previous titles will undoubtedly enjoy this. Readers who love the slightly fantastical and lovely in their picture books- along the lines of Extra Yarn, Lenny & Lucy, or The Tea Party in the Woods– might especially savour this enchantingly told and adorably illustrated 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.

Reviews: The Tea Party in the Woods & The Good Little Book

theteapartywoods25583502Review: The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi
Source: Digital galley courtesy of Kids Can Press via NetGalley. Thank you!
Expected publication: August 1, 2015 by Kids Can Press
Verdict: Very Good

Book Description:

Kikko sets out after her father with a forgotten pie for Grandma. When she arrives at a strange house in the wintry woods, a peek in the window reveals that the footprints Kikko had been following did not belong to her father at all, but to a bear in a long coat and hat! Alice in Wonderland meets Little Red Riding Hood in this charmed tale.

Miyakoshi’s The Tea Party in the Woods is an elegantly illustrated, softly told tale that has- like many classic children’s tales- surreal undercurrents. When we begin the story, we’re introduced to young Kikki who goes running off after her father into the snow covered woods. She has with her a delicious pie and struggles to catch up to him. Someone wearing a distinguished coat appears in the distance and Kikko runs to them believing them to be her father. But it is, as the book description tells us, not her father but rather a bear…

The Tea Party in the Woods is indeed a charming story, but one that I think also tickles the imagination into thinking of darker fairytale endings. Kikko sits among wondrously friendly and helpful animals, each offering help to make a pie. But is everything really as it seems? I cannot help but feel that Miyakoshi’s muted and grey-leaning colour palette only works to add to the eerie atmosphere and almost shadowy feel of the story! In the end, Kikko does not meet a grim fate at the hands of devious or duplicitous creatures and The Tea Party ends in a rather lighthearted fashion. Even so, there is just something about Miyakoshi’s narrative approach and illustrative style that recalls an almost phantasmagorical way of storytelling!

Overall, The Tea Party in the Woods is a lovely and understated picture book. It reads quite similarly to that of a fairytale, albeit one that gets turned on its head in unexpected and charming ways. Readers who enjoy innovative retellings of classics, or picture books along the lines of Marianne Dubuc’s The Bus Ride or Kyo Maclear’s Virginia Wolf might especially enjoy this title.

I received this book as a digital galley from Kids Can Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

thegoodlittlebook23602710Review: The Good Little Book by Kyo Maclear, illus. Marion Arbona
Source: Digital galley courtesy of Tundra Books via NetGalley. Thank you!
Expected publication: August 11, 2015 by Tundra Books
Verdict: Very Good

Book Description:

Boy meets book. It’s not quite love at first sight, but a good little book grows on a boy, soon becoming his loyal companion . . . until, one day, the book is lost. Will the boy get back his good little book? Will the good little book survive on its own without a proper jacket? Open up this good little book to find out.

Having had the pleasure of recently reading Kyo Maclear’s & Katty Maurey’s The Specific Ocean, I couldn’t wait to jump into another picture book written by Maclear.

I have read a number of picture books about books; ones that talk about love of reading and praise the power and memory of books. So how does The Good Little Book fare among other similarly themed picture books? Very well, I think! While, on the face of it, it may seem like we have read this tale many times before: a young boy finds one seemingly not-so-special book that becomes his literary guiding light and alters his views on reading and books. But wait! The Good Little Book is just so much more than that message. It stands up and out from the pack due to two major things: Maclear’s narrative and Marion Arbona’s artwork.

Kyo Maclear has, I think, such an smooth and irresistible writing style in her picture books. Her narrative voice in The Good Little Book does not come across as heavy-handed or as trying too hard to impart a message. The Good Little Book reads like an adventure, a bedtime story, and fantasy all at once. Along with Maclear’s text, Marion Arbona’s illustrations are something to behold. Arbona’s fantastical and vivid images and colours add a dimension of vivaciousness and weight to Maclear’s words and so beautifully emphasize the reach and extraordinary scope of how books can impact our mind and world.

Overall, The Good Little Book is lovely to read and a wonder to the eye. Maclear has written another beautiful picture book, and Arbona’s illustrations are dynamic and fresh. Arbona’s illustrative work is new to me and now something I will have to follow!

I received this book as a digital galley from Tundra Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Specific Ocean by Kyo Maclear & Katty Maurey

thespecificocean25737282Review: The Specific Ocean by Kyo Maclear, illus. Katty Maurey
Source: Digital galley courtesy of Kids Can Press via NetGalley. Thank you!
Expected publication: August 1st 2015 by Kids Can Press
Verdict: Excellent

Book Description:

A young girl does not want to go away for summer vacation; she wants to stay in the city with her friends. But after a few days at the beach, she falls under the ocean’s spell and begins to wonder how she can bring it and its magic back home with her. A lyrical, thoughtful look at the deep connection to be made with the natural world.

A quiet book, such as The Specific Ocean, can be just as moving, as feeling, and as sensory as a loud or demonstrative book. I have long been a fan of Kyo Maclear; author of terrific picture books like Virginia Wolf, Spork and Julia, Child. In this latest picture book, she has teamed up with Katty Maurey, illustrator of Francis, the Little Fox, whose work reminds me a bit of Giselle Potter, Carson Ellis and Isabelle Arsenault (all incredible artists).

There is so much to enjoy with The Specific Ocean– a picture book that I hope gets enjoyed by as many readers as possible. Through Maclear’s pitch-perfect verse and Maurey’s drawings, the picture book captures: the rolling emotions of being dragged away on holiday as a child; of despairing how to fill vacation days; of then finding joy in something as grand as the Specific (Pacific) ocean; and of falling deeply in love with something bigger than oneself and too majestic to hold captive.

The combination of Maclear’s unadorned and lulling storytelling voice works so wonderfully here with Maurey’s clean illustrations and restrained palette. During my reading of this picture book, I was taken back to my own childhood memories of time at the beach with my parents and how grand and radiant everything- the sand, the waves, the rocks, the crabs- even the seagulls!- seemed to be.

Overall, I am enamoured with The Specific Ocean. I can safely say that my love affair with Kyo Maclear’s work continues, and that was a pleasure to read another picture book with Katty Maurey’s distinctive and evocative illustrative style. I hope to see many more works from both in the future!

I received this books as a digital galley from Kids Can Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.