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.

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Must Read Monday (45): Picture Books from Elanna Allen, Ben Clanton, Adam Rex & Christian Robinson and more!

Welcome to another 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!

This week is all about picture books- five titles, to be exact! The following picture books listed below are ones that: have received terrific praise from review journals; are the work of authors and illustrators I adore; titles I’m utterly curious about; or a combination of any or all of the above!

POORLITTLEGUY26796307Poor Little Guy by Elanna Allen
Publication: June 7, 2016 by Dial Books

What do you do when you’re so tiny that the bigger ocean creatures think you might even taste adorable?

An itsy-bitsy, glasses-wearing fish is minding his own business when a playful (and hungry) octopus snatches him right up. Luckily, this poor little guy is not quite as innocent as he seems…and he has a BIG surprise up his sleeve!

Told with wit, a wink, and a delightfully dark sense of humor, Poor Little Guy celebrates the very smallest…and all of their giant victories. Hand this cute but mighty book to fans of Bob Shea and Dan Krall.

 

ITCAMEINTHEMAIL27206403It Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton
Publication: June 21, 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

From the author-illustrator of Something Extraordinary comes a tale filled with dragons, pickles, friendship, and lots of mail—perfect for fans of Mo Williams and Bob Shea.

Liam really wants some mail, so he writes a letter to his mailbox asking for something in return. His mailbox delivers, sending Liam more than he could have hoped for…and how! But as the mail starts to pile up, Liam realizes that the best packages and parcels are even better when shared with friends.

 

SCHOOLSFIRSTDAYOFSCHOOL25689022School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illus. Christian Robinson
Publication: June 28th 2016 by Roaring Brook Press

It’s the first day of school at Frederick Douglass Elementary and everyone’s just a little bit nervous, especially the school itself. What will the children do once they come? Will they like the school? Will they be nice to him?

The school has a rough start, but as the day goes on, he soon recovers when he sees that he’s not the only one going through first-day jitters.

 

UNCORKEROFOCEANBOTTLES28008154The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas, illus. Erin. E Stead
Expected publication: August 23, 2016 by Dial Books

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, who lives alone atop a hill, has a job of the utmost importance. It is his task to open any bottles found at sea and make sure that the messages are delivered. He loves his job, though he has always wished that, someday, one of the letters would be addressed to him. One day he opens a party invitation—but there’s no name attached. As he devotes himself to the mystery of the intended recipient, he ends up finding something even more special: the possibility of new friends.

 

ACHILDOFBOOKS28686931A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
Expected publication: September 6, 2016 by Candlewick Press

A little girl sails her raft across a sea of words, arriving at the house of a small boy and calling him away on an adventure. Through forests of fairy tales and across mountains of make-believe, the two travel together on a fantastical journey that unlocks the boy’s imagination. Now a lifetime of magic and adventure lies ahead of him . . . but who will be next? Combining elegant images by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston’s typographical landscapes shaped from excerpts of children’s classics and lullabies, A Child of Books is a stunning prose poem on the rewards of reading and sharing stories—an immersive and unforgettable reading experience that readers will want to pass on to others.

Must Read Monday (22): The Story of Diva and Flea & Confessions of an Imaginary Friend

Welcome to another 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!

This week: a new children’s title from popular authors/illustrators Mo Willems and Tony DiTerlizzi and the latest children’s novel from author Michelle Cuevas. The Story of Diva and Flea is one book I have been so looking forward to. Many of Willems’ picture books are personal favourites and most all are wins for storytimes! DiTerlizzi’s work is not as familiar to me, but I know that his illustrative work is just stunning. I cannot wait to see the melding of these two greats. I recently finished reading Michelle Cuevas’s Beyond the Laughing Sky and absolutely adored it- I would highly recommend it for fans of Kate DiCamillo. or. I was initially drawn to the title because I had read that another favourite Julie Morstad illustrated the book; happily, I was taken in both the art and the gorgeous writing. Immediately after finishing Beyond the Laughing Sky I knew I would have to read the author’s latest, Confessions of an Imaginary Friend.

DIVAANDFLEA24820301The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems, illus. Tony DiTerlizzi
Publication: October 13, 2015 by Disney-Hyperion

Diva, a small yet brave dog, and Flea, a curious streetwise cat, develop an unexpected friendship in this unforgettable tale of discovery.

For as long as she could remember, Diva lived at 11 avenue Le Play in Paris, France. For as long as he could remember, Flea also lived in Paris, France-but at no fixed address. When Flea flaneurs past Diva’s courtyard one day, their lives are forever changed. Together, Diva and Flea explore and share their very different worlds, as only true friends can do.

ConfessionsImaginaryFriend24041359Confessions of an Imaginary Friend by Michelle Cuevas
Publication: September 8, 2015 by Dial Books

Jacques Papier has the sneaking suspicion that everyone except his sister Fleur hates him. Teachers ignore him when his hand is raised in class, he is never chosen for sports teams, and his parents often need to be reminded to set a place for him at the dinner table.

But he is shocked when he finally learns the truth: He is Fleur’s imaginary friend! When he convinces Fleur to set him free, he begins a surprising, touching, and always funny quest to find himself—to figure out who Jacques Papier truly is, and where he belongs.