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.

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.

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.

Picture Book Review: Wild One by Jane Whittingham & Noel Tuazon

Review: Wild One by Jane Whittingham, illus. Noel Tuazon
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Pajama Press. Thank you!
Publication:
Book Description:

Can you stretch like a cat or hang like a bat? This little one can do those things and so much more as she bounds energetically through her day. Author Jane Whittingham‘s sprightly couplets take her from the park to the pool, to dinner and bed, while Noel Tuazon cleverly illustrates the animal companions of a child’s imagination.

Published in a sturdy format with a padded cover, rounded corners, and extra-heavy paper, this picture book is perfect for sharing with wiggly, little wild ones of your own. And as the last pages are turned, the story’s final, sweet “goodnight” will leave the liveliest listeners ready to snuggle like a bear at bedtime.

Canadian librarian and writer Jane Whittingham (who you might know from the terrific review blog Raincity Jane) and Canadian illustrator Noel Tuazon have teamed up to bring readers the exuberant, fun and all-around winning picture book Wild One. Written in rhyming couplets- a form in picture books I absolutely adore when done fittingly – Wild One tells the story of a young girl’s very busy, very active day, with actions mirroring those of animals. Accompanied by Noel Tuazon’s soft yet sunny and bright illustrations, Wild One is a lovely treat.

When we meet the young heroine of our story, she is “in the park, stretching like a cat”, then moving on to monkey bars, “hanging like a bat”. From the park to the pool, to supper time and snuggling in bed, we follow the little wild one about her dynamic day- well mostly all dynamic! When she has to leave her play time fun and head home with her mom, wild one slows down considerably…but not for long! Wild one goes through her mightily busy day with highlighted actions and activities accompanied by corresponding animal actions (energetically and sweetly brought to life by Tuazon’s drawings). In a sweet closing spread, after snuggling down in her bed “like a bear”, Wild One ends on a loving and continued happy tone, with the young (now sleeping) girl being wished a good night from her parents.

Overall, a joyful, fun and charming picture book. Perfect for a preschool age and under crowd, I think Wild One would go over tremendously well as a read aloud with busy, wiggly and active toddlers. It could even be used by a willing reader to facilitate an action/movement read aloud with everyone acting out the animal movements in the story! Wild One is a picture book that begs for reading aloud and having fun with, due its ideal compact length, clarity, perfectly fun rhymes, and complementary (adorable) illustrations.

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

Must Read Monday (74): Children’s Titles from Pam Smy, Natalia O’Hara and Lauren O’Hara & Lorena Alvarez

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 feature has been absent for a few weeks as I’ve been working my way through my already lengthy to-read pile and reviews! But it is back this week, with some new and intriguing titles. On the roster this week are three mysterious, wondrous looking and sounding children’s titles: Thornhill by Pam Smy; Hortense and the Shadow by Natalia O’Hara and Lauren O’Hara; and Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez.

 

Thornhill by Pam Smy
Publication: August 29, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as Ella unravels the mystery of the girl next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she’s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2016: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past.

 

Hortense and the Shadow by Natalia O’Hara, illus. Lauren O’Hara
Publication: October 5, 2017 by Puffin
Book Description:

A haunting, original fairy tale from two dazzling debut picture book talents, in the spirit of Neil Gaiman and Carson Ellis.

Hortense is a kind and brave girl, but she is sad–even angry–that her shadow follows her everywhere she goes. She hates her shadow, and thinks her shadow must hate her too. But one cold, dark night, when bandits surprise her in the woods, Hortense discovers that her shadow is the very thing she needs most.

This stunningly illustrated story stirs the soul with its compelling, subtle exploration of self-esteem, self-identity, and finding inner strength.

 

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez
Publication: March 14, 2017 by Nobrow Press
Book Description:

Every night, tiny stars appear out of the darkness in little Sandy’s bedroom. She catches them and creates wonderful creatures to play with until she falls asleep, and in the morning brings them back to life in the whimsical drawings. When a mysterious new girl appears at school, Sandy’s drawings are noticed for the first time…but Morfie’s fascination with Sandy’s talent soon turns into something far more sinister.

Nightlights is a beautiful story about fear, insecurity, and creativity, from the enchanting imagination of Lorena Alvarez.

 

 

Picture Book Reviews: Professional Crocodile & Lines

Two glorious wordless picture books on the review docket! But first, a slight preamble:

I think I have previously reflected that authors and illustrators perform incredible feats in carrying out wordless picture books: plotting and mapping a story, holding interest, moving from beginning, middle, climax/reveal, to end, all without words to propel and prompt. Wordless picture books can be somewhat of a misunderstood/under-read category of picture books, and when I read treasures like Professional Crocodile and Lines, it pains me to think readers might miss out on so much! In my time so far as a children’s librarian I have heard kids being discouraged from checking out wordless picture books by adults saying they’re “too easy” or “not challenging enough”– essentially, boiling down to the argument of ‘without words to test you, what’s the point?’ Well, as someone who advocates and adores the category, I would like make the case that there is indeed marvel, challenge, curiosity and joy in sharing and experiencing wordless picture books! Let’s take a closer look now at two stellar examples:

 

Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli illus. by Mariachiara Di Giorgio
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: August 1, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

Mr. Crocodile loves his job. Every morning he gets up with an alarm. He brushes his teeth. He chooses the right tie to match his outfit, eats a quick slice of toast, and heads off to work on a crowded train. But what exactly is his job? The answer may surprise you! Readers will want to pore over this witty, wordless book again and again, finding new details and fresh stories with every reading.

Professional Crocodile is one of those picture books that I am delighted to have read and experienced. Prior to reading this wordless picture book, I had seen snippets of the book from other reviewers, thought the book looked gorgeous and added it my must-read. I was very fortunate to be surprised with a copy of it and can now quite confidently say that it is indeed a marvelous picture book.

We meet Mr. Crocodile as he wakes up to a new day in his dapper pajamas. As we join Mr. Crocodile and follow him about, readers see that by all accounts, he is a careful, elegant, well put together character. We see Mr. Crocodile do everything from taking a crowded train, to enjoying a whiff of food stuff so fragrant and delicious that it begs his purchase, to purchasing lovely flowers to surprise a young woman. But where exactly is Mr. Crocodile’s day taking him? We then get our answer as Mr. Crocodile surprises with a reveal of where he works and what his job is! A straightforward premise told in a supremely innovative and clever way here, Professional Crocodile is one of those reads that begs for multiple reads and studies. I have pored over this book now multiple times beginning to end and have found new facets and details each time that make Professional Crocodiles ending that much more marvelous.

Some of my personal favourites in children’s lit- Shaun Tan, Molly Idle, David Wiesner, Suzy Lee, to name but a few- are masters of the wordless book, and Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio’s work here is on par with that excellence. Professional Crocodile is a truly exceptional, clever, out of the ordinary story and experience for readers of all ages.

 

 

Lines by Suzy Lee
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 5, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

It starts with a line. Whether made by the tip of a pencil or the blade of a skate, the magic starts there.

And magic once again flows from the pencil and imagination of internationally acclaimed artist Suzy Lee. With the lightest of touches, this masterwork blurs the lines between real and imagined, reminding us why Lee’s books have been lauded around the world, recognized on New York Times Best Illustrated Books lists and nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international honor given to children’s book creators. This seemingly simple story about a young skater on a frozen pond will charm the youngest of readers while simultaneously astounding book enthusiasts of any age.

Since first reading (and rereading) Suzy Lee’s award-winning wordless picture books Wave, Mirror, and Shadow in succession, I have been a dedicated fan of the author-illustrator’s work. Sophisticated, experimental yet approachable for all ages of reader, Lee’s work is sublime, surprising and something to behold. In her latest wordless picture book Lines, Suzy Lee starts with the glide of a pencil tip to tell a gently- quietly- ebullient and ingenious tale.

Like a story within a story, Lines has layers and dimensions that draws the reader in and plays with perceptions about a story’s narrative, artwork, interruptions in reader experience, and how artists can turn a supposed slip back into something picture-perfect. Readers fall under the spell of an ice skater, watching as their blade cuts more and more lines of various width, shape, and weight into the ice. As the skater’s moves become more complicated, we see the ice become a patchwork of busier and busier carved lines until the ice skater leaps into a jump, spins in the air and— then– the story stops, restarts, and finishes in wonderful and surprising ways. Lee plays here so well with format and dimension, testing and nudging the reader into experiencing the story as both a journey of an artist working their way through a story and a standalone wintry narrative.

Lee’s work in Lines is terrific, thoughtful and understated brilliance, and I continue to be such a fan of her work. If you haven’t yet had a chance to explore Suzy Lee’s work, I highly recommend taking a look through the artist’s entire oeuvre up to and including this latest treat.

I received copies of Professional Crocodile and Lines courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.

Picture Books: More Halloween Ready Reads!

A few years ago, I put together a book list just in time for Halloween called, ‘Picture Book Picks: Halloween Ready Reads‘. Given the number of spooky seasonal reads I’ve had the chance to pore over since then, I thought it high time to do an update of sorts!

Here are some of my newer picks- a mix of Halloween reads, as well as goofy, monsterly, fun and spooky selections. (The picks from the original post are single spaced at the bottom of the post!)

Pug & Pig Trick or Treat by Sue Lowell Gallion, illus. Joyce Wan

I Am Bat by Morag Hood

Superbat by Matt Carr

Rapunzel by Bethan Woollvin

Monster Trucks by Joy Keller, illus. Misa Saburi

Peep and Egg: I’m Not Trick-or-Treating by Laura Gehl, illus. Joyce Wan

Mouse’s First Night at Moonlight School (Moonlight #1) by Simon Puttock, illus. Ali Pye

Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds, illus. Peter Brown

Jampires by Sarah McIntyre, illus. David O’Connell

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, illus. Zachariah OHora

Go to Sleep, Monster! by Kevin Cornell

Giant Pants by Mark Fearing

Wee Sister Strange by Holly Grant, illus. K.G. Campbell

Penguin and Pumpkin by Salina Yoon

What Is Chasing Duck? (The Giggle Gang #1) by Jan Thomas

The Baby That Roared by Simon Puttock

The Black Rabbit by Philippa Leathers

Room on the Broom by by Julia Donaldson, illus. Axel Scheffler

Fright Club by Ethan Long

The Monsterator by Keith Graves

I Will Not Eat You by Adam Lehrhaupt, illus. Scott Magoon

Quit Calling Me a Monster! by Jory John, illus. Bob Shea

I Want to Be In a Scary Story by Sean Taylor, illus. Jean Jullien

The Scariest Book Ever by Bob Shea

The Hallo-Wiener by Dav Pilkey

Night Animals by Gianna Marino

I Don’t Like Koala by Sean Ferrell, illus. Charles Santoso

Rattlebone Rock by Sylvia L. Andrews, illus. Jennifer Plecas

Eek! Halloween by Sandra Boynton (board book)

Boo Who? by Ben Clanton

If Your Monster Won’t Go to Bed by Denise Vega, illus. Zachariah OHora

Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett, illus. Christian Robinson

Little Blue Truck’s Halloween (A Lift-the-Flap Book) by Alice Schertle, illus. Jill McElmurry

 

Titles from original post:
Bedtime for Monsters by Ed Vere
Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds, illus. Peter Brown
The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot! by Scott Magoon
The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell
That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems
Crankenstein by Samantha Berger, illus. Dan Santat
Moonlight the Halloween Cat by Cynthia Rylant, illus. Melissa Sweet
Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
The Doghouse by Jan Thomas
There’s a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty
Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas
Buddy and the Bunnies in: Don’t Play With Your Food by Bob Shea
Robot Zombie Frankenstein! by Annette Simon
Ghost in the House by Ammi-Joan Pacquette, illus. Adam Record
Bear Feels Scared by Karma Wilson, illus. Jane Chapman
The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone, illus. Michael J. Stollin
The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illus. Jon Klassen
Ollie’s Halloween by Olivier Dunrea
Vampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace, illus. LeUyen Pham
Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, illus. Megan Lloyd