Review: Knockout by K.A. Holt

Review: Knockout by K.A. Holt
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: March 6, 2018 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

Levi just wants to be treated like a typical kid. As a baby, he had a serious disease that caused him respiratory issues. He’s fine now, but his mom and overprotective brother still think of him as damaged, and his schoolmates see him as the same class clown he’s always been. He feels stuck. So when his dad-divorced from his mom-suggests he take up boxing, he falls in love with the sport. And when he finds out about a school with a killer boxing team and a free-study curriculum, it feels like he’s found a ticket to a new Levi. But how can he tell his mom about boxing? And how can he convince his family to set him free?

I make them laugh.
I make them point.
That way
the tightrope is mine
to control.

The excellence of middle grade literature continues! So far this year, I’ve had the pleasure of reading a number of terrific, moving, unique children’s fiction titles, and that train of awesome continued with my back-to-back reading of K.A. Holt’s House Arrest and Knockout. A companion novel-in-verse to 2015’s House Arrest, Knockout tells the story of twelve-year-old Levi Davidson as he begins a tumultuous and audacious year.

Knockout is told in the first-person narrative of Levi. We are introduced to Levi and his world as he sets himself up to begin grade seven alongside his best friend Tam. Levi and Tam met back in kindergarten and discovered commonalities: both were born premature at two pounds and required an inhaler. However, as Levi tells us, the differences are vast. Levi had a trach as a child; his life has been in and out of hospitals, with him still having to go for major annual checkups. His mom (divorced from his dad) and Timothy continue to hover and set boundaries, watching, warning, and pleading with Levi to be careful. To always be safe. When Levi’s dad suggest that Levi try a sport, he doesn’t expect to fall in love with boxing, but he does. Levi discovers a raw aptitude for boxing; surprising everyone with tenacity and lightening speed that make up for his lack of height and slight build. As Levi’s year marches on, he continues to hide boxing from Tam, his mom and brother-who would be terrified for his health- until one boxing accident lands him in the hospital, injured, vulnerable and with lies unveiled. As with House Arrest, Knockout is utterly compelling from opening to ending- Holt’s writing is beautiful and seamless. Levi’s voice is unforgettable here, and readers get to experience his fears, his mistakes with Tam, his highs, and hopes for a more independent future at a sports-focused school through dynamic and heartbreaking verse. Especially moving throughout the novel are the extraordinary moments and reveals between Timothy and Levi, which we get to read via their written exchanges to one another.

I take out an earbud
offer it to Timothy
and we listen together
head to head,
song after song,
the same music as always, and yet…
different now.

Overall, Knockout is terrific- profound, wise and funny, told in a blistering pace that wonderfully allows for both consequential and quiet moments to permeate. Readers who previously read and loved K.A. Holt’s House Arrest might definitely be itching to read more about the Davidson boys- and to find out what Timothy is up to in his twenties! It is probably not necessary to have read House Arrest prior to Knockout, though I personally loved having read Timothy’s story first and having been introduced to Levi when he was a baby. It’s a win either way to get to read two tremendous, affecting and memorable books! Readers looking for more novels in verse in the vein of Kwame Alexander, or those who like authors such as Kate Messner, Beth Vrabel, Leslie Connor or Lisa Graff might especially love K.A. Holt’s Knockout.

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


Picture Book Reviews: Things to Do & My World: A Book of First Words

9781452111247Things to Do by Elaine Magliaro, illus. Catia Chien
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: February 7, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

With playful prose and vivid art, Things to Do brings to life the small moments and secret joys of a child’s day. There are wonders everywhere. In the sky and on the ground-blooming in a flower bed, dangling from a silken thread, buzzing through the summer air-waiting … waiting to be found. In this thoughtful and ingenious collection of poems, Elaine Magliaro, an elementary school teacher for more than three decades and a school librarian for three years, and illustrator Catia Chien provide a luminous glimpse of the ordinary wonders all around us.

“Things to do if you are a honeybee
Flit among flowers.
Sip nectar for hours.
Be yellow and fuzzy.
Stay busy.
Be buzzy.”

Things to Do, written by poet Elaine Magliaro and illustrated by Catia Chien (My Blue is Happy), is a lively verse-filled picture book about marvels- big and small- found in the world around us. With a young child and her canine companion as our guides, readers are taken into a world of poetry and wonder as we look at everything from the dawn to an acorn, the sky to an eraser.

Starting with waking up in the morning and considering the dawn and ending with a nighttime contemplation of the moon, child and pup traverse and explore the world around them and things various objects should do. Chien’s illustrations, rich and colourful yet soft and gauzy (and making such terrific use of perspective and angles) just perfectly compliment Magliaro’s sometimes rhyming, sometimes free, gorgeously lilting poems. Initially, I had wondered whether a consistent, repeated rhyming pattern would have made the flow of the story smoother. However, after some reflection and rereading of passages, I find that the variable nature of the poems to work very well here, as Magliaro alters tone and rhyme (as well as font size and style) to suit each object so wonderfully. As an example, the honeybee poem quoted above features shorter, to-the-point sentences that allow for a quicker reading- just as one might imagine honeybee might be! In contrast, the poetry for ‘Things to do if you are a snail’ uses ‘s’ words to great effect…drawing out sentences such as ‘slowly…slowly…’ and ‘slide along your trail of slime‘. I would argue that a more strict pattern of precise rhyming might not fit so well with the overall style and voice of the story!

In all, Things to Do is a beautiful meld of picture book and poetry. Readers who enjoy or are looking for something a little more contemplative and challenging, or those who enjoy work by authors such as Jon J. Muth, Joyce Sidman, Julie Fogliano, Helen Frost or Kate Coombs might especially adore this enchanting title.


9781627795302My World: A Book of First Words by Frann Preston-Gannon
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: February 28, 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.
Book Description:

A beautiful and entertaining visual catalog for toddlers – including things that go, cute fruits and veggies, undersea creatures, and more!

There’s no end to the fun in finding and naming each object in these chockablock spreads! Beautiful birds, adorable mommy and baby animals, colorful clothing, musical instruments, and more fill each page, with objects labeled and grouped by theme. A fun, gorgeous visual dictionary for the very youngest of readers.

If you are not yet familiar with Frann Preston-Gannon’s work in children’s lit, I recommend checking out any one of her gorgeous, vibrant books! From the board book Deep Deep Sea to the adorable picture book Pepper & Poe and many more, Preston-Gannon’s artwork and style is totally singular and recognizable.

Here in My World: A Book of First Words, the author-illustrator approaches a multitude of objects grouped by themes (e.g. Birds, Plants, Prehistoric Creatures, Fruits and Vegetables) in a spectacularly bright and lively fashion. For example, in the ‘Plants’ spread, Preston-Gannon illustrates everything from cattails and bluebells to a Venus flytrap and a stout cactus with enigmatic eyes- comparable to the all-knowing eyes found on Jon Klassen’s animals. Each and every object presented in this engaging, educational and FUN read is drawn ebulliently- children (and adults!) will undoubtedly love to pore over the illustrations large and small as well as find joy in learning new words. My World contains a tremendous variety of words for a range of ages- from words like kittens, chicken and car to very cool and tricky dinosaur names like Diplodocus and Prenocephale!

Overall, My World is a delight. Picture books and board books on ‘first words’ can indeed become repetitive or same-y, but this book from Preston-Gannon is indeed a treat. Perfect for a wider range of ages, with fresh and vivacious illustrations that will likely delight toddlers, preschoolers and adults, My World is definitely one to check out and add to your collection!

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

Picture Book Reviews: Samson in the Snow by Philip C. Stead & Tony by Ed Galing and Erin E. Stead

samson27414441Samson in the Snow by Philip C. Stead
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 13, 2016 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

One sunny day Samson, a large and friendly woolly mammoth, encounters a little red bird who is looking for yellow flowers for her mouse friend (whose favorite color is yellow). As she flies off with the flowers, Samson wonders what it must be like to have a friend. He wonders this for so long, in fact, that he falls asleep and wakes up to a world covered in snow. In the midst of a blizzard, Samson finds and shelters the little red bird and flower-loving mouse in a tender tale of kindness and unexpected friendship.

Philip C. Stead does picture books about friendship and kindness so well. From the award-winning and beloved A Sick Day for Amos McGee (illustrated by Erin. E. Stead) to A Home for Bird, Stead’s approach to the writing and illustrating of friendship is nothing short of splendid; always reading as unfeigned and sincere. Stead’s Samson in the Snow is another winning picture book: a quietly gorgeous and heart-warming story of one mammoth’s considered acts of compassion and kindness.

Looking after his dandelion patch on a sunny day, Samson is surprised by a tiny red bird. Searching for some yellow flowers to cheer up her friend, Samson helps the little bird select the most beautiful dandelions and off she flies to visit her friend. When sudden and angry snowfall blanket the ground and sky, Samson sets off, concerned about the little red bird. On his way through the deep and dangerous cold and snow, Samson helps and befriends a mouse who is also looking for someone. A miraculous discovery, aided by spotting some bright dandelions in the snow, leads to beautiful and moving reunion- and the start of new friendship. Stead’s work, as ever, is elegant and stirring, all the while tranquil- the kind of quietly powerful and moving picture book that I love deeply.

Any readers who have previously adored Philip C. Stead’s work- either as author or solo work as author/illustrator- will undoubtedly find much to appreciate and love here. The story holds much to explore, read and share in a quiet study or one-on-one read aloud, or for a shared read aloud with an older group. Readers who enjoy the work of authors and illustrators such as Pamela Zagarenski, Marla Frazee, Lane Smith, or David Ezra Stein might especially adore the restrained beauty of Samson in the Snow.

tony29102892Tony by Ed Galing, illus. Erin. E. Stead
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: February 7, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Tony was all white,
large, sturdy,
with wide gentle eyes
and a ton of love . . .

Follow this touching tale of a boy and his friendship with a horse, by the late poet Ed Galing and illustrated with remarkable tenderness by Caldecott-winning artist Erin Stead.

While Erin E. Stead’s award-winning work as illustrator is much-known to me- and much adored-, (the late) Ed Galing‘s work and poetry is something completely new. Their collaborative work in Tony, a picture book centred around a gorgeous white horse, is surprising, beautiful, and unique.

Reading through Tony, poring over Galing’s words and Erin E. Stead’s incredible drawings, I was faintly and happily reminded of the work of poet Robbie Burns…and of William Carlos Williams…the honest and arguably bare, uncluttered style of writing. Galing’s poetry here in Tony is just that: unfettered and uncomplicated. A relatively simple tale of a narrator’s love and admiration for a glorious, gentle white horse that pulls a dairy cart for a young driver named Tom, Tony is one picture book that could be missed at first glance. But do not miss this one for there is much to love and exclaim over! In particular, the remarkable illustrative work of Stead here. Stead’s work is breathtaking, giving texture, aura, and atmosphere to Galing’s words and, in fact, to Tony the horse. The careful colour palette is mostly lighter green/teals with some washes of yellow; the early morning setting of the story leads to the overall hushed and hazy feel of the story. The relatively simple nature of the poem’s focus, along with details of setting, suggest a story set in a bygone era…

Overall, what a surprise! If you’ve seen and experienced Erin E. Stead’s illustrative work before, then you already know you are in for a treat. Stead’s artwork combined with Galing’s poetry makes for a special and unexpectedly rich picture book. While on the face a simple story about a ‘large, sturdy’ horse, Tony is story that may beg for a read or two or more to sift and settle: an unadorned, wonderful, wholly felt tale that strums the senses. If my words here and enthusiasm haven’t compelled you yet, you can also read this radiant starred review of Tony here from Kirkus Reviews! You can check out the book’s page over on Macmillan to see a few pages of the picture book- well worth a look!

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

Picture Book Reviews: Before Morning & First Snow

beforemorning23719206Review: Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, illus. Beth Krommes
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: October 4, 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Book Description:

There are planes to fly and buses to catch, but a child uses the power of words, in the form of an invocation, to persuade fate to bring her family a snow day – a day slow and unhurried enough to spend at home together.

In a spare text that reads as pure song and illustrations of astonishingly beautiful scratchboard art, Sidman and Krommes remind us that sometimes, if spoken from the heart, wishes really can come true.

“Let the air turn to feathers,
the earth turn to sugar,
and all that is heavy
turn light.”

That quiet, resonant hush- perhaps even a shiver- that comes with reading something so beautiful that it makes your heart sing? I had that feeling throughout my reading/study of Joyce Sidman and Beth Krommes’ sublime picture book Before Morning.

In an author’s note at the very back of the book, Newbery Honor winner Joyce Sidman writes that Before Morning is “written in the form of an invocation– a poem that invites something to happen…”. Like the expectant pause before an orchestra conductor begins, Before Morning opens with a few wordless pages of Caldecott medalist Beth Krommes’ stunning artwork before the poetry begins. A story centering around a child’s wish for snow transforms into a most beautiful, profound tale about wishes, love, and togetherness. The combination of Joyce Sidman’s poetry and Beth Krommes’ unique scratchboard art is superb- deeply affecting, heartwarming and truly something magical. Before Morning is a read perfect for the wintertime, of course, but also a read worth savouring at any time of the year.


firstsnow28645701Review: First Snow by Bomi Park
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 6, 2016 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

Look out. Now look up. From the sky one flake falls, then another. And just like that-it’s snowing.

In this beautiful book from debut creator Bomi Park, a young girl wakes up to the year’s first snowy day. From her initial glimpse out the window to her poignant adventures-rolling a snowman, making snow angels-the girl’s quiet quests are ones all young readers will recognize. Simple, muted text and exquisite, evocative art conjure the excitement of a day spent exploring the wonder of snow-and the magic that, sometimes literally, such a day brings. As subtly joyful as a snow day itself, this book will find its home in the hearts of young adventurers everywhere.

“Shhhh, listen…
do you hear something?”

With these few engaging words, readers are taken into author and illustrator Bomi Park’s lovely picture book debut First Snow. I have a soft spot for wintry picture books and have read a fair number of them- but it never ceases to delight when something new, surprising and fantastical about the winter season crosses my path.

Beginning with a young child waking up to their first snow, we follow along the soft, lush, predominately black and white illustrations as the young child’s play with snow grows and grows to a whimsical and unexpected finale. Bomi Park has crafted an unusual and dreamlike narrative in First Snow: starting with something as unassuming as a child’s quiet, quiet pad into a snowy yard turns into a fantasy-filled wander, ending with a snow and snowman-filled world with red-hatted and red-scarfed adorned children. A little leap of curiosity and imagination is needed here, but do take that leap- Bomi Park’s work is truly enchanting. Any readers who love the understated and dreamy elegance of picture books by authors and illustrators such as Komako Sakai, Sara O’Leary, Sydney Smith, Kyo Maclear, or Giselle Potter might especially delight in First Snow.

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

Top Ten Tuesday: Required Readings from Elementary and High School

toptentuesday2Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week is all about back to school, and I have chosen to go with the the top ten required readings during my elementary and high school years. Some of the titles on this list are long-time, ultimate favourites; some of the titles on this list I have not read since that read in school but- for various reasons- have stuck with me for years and years.

In no particular order, here are my top ten required readings/authors/playwrights/poets:

The Witches by Roald Dahl, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, and Bridge the Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. A kind of triumvirate if you will of the three books (required reading in elementary school) that made a HUGE, indelible impact on me. The Witches because of the humour, the strangeness, the sadness, and joy; Harriet M. Welsch became a hero, someone I loved and felt kinship with; and Bridge to Terabithia because I did not know just how much a book (and thus characters within a book) could hurt your heart and stay with you forever.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I have not read this since my reading way back in high school, but my memories of it remain: how terrifying, primal and visceral the book felt. It really shocked me and I could not get it out of my head. I still think of certain moments to this day and…shudder.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. What a strange reading experience this book was! I was in awe of this story; even more surprised that a high school English teacher had us write our own version of the story ‘With Apologies..’ to Franz Kafka. I remember that the experience of writing my version of the story was joyful…

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Ah yes, reading Pride and Prejudice in grade eleven was interesting- especially when we were treated to view some portions of the Jennifer Ehle-Colin Firth adaptation and that seemed to be THE highlight for all of us. In all seriousness though, this classic remains a personal favourite (incredibly relevant, insightful, gorgeous), though I don’t often do a reread.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare. How much of this play did I really understand while in grade twelve? I don’t know, but I do remember not only the beautiful soliloquies but also how much I was moved (and terrified) by Ophelia. It was, quite simply, an awful tragedy.

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde & Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. These were two plays, both read aloud in class, that actually ended up being terrifically fun, memorable experiences! It helped to have a wonderful teacher who could guide us and make us see the brilliance in the language we might have missed.

The poetry of Emily Dickinson & e.e. cummings. In grade twelve, I was in a literature class as well as a double session of English: I was simply surrounded by words and books and plays and…poetry. Dickinson and Cummings are two poets that I recall being absolutely moved by in high school. I could not get over the effortlessness of their poems and how peculiarly close I felt to them. To this day, the poets and their poems are still absolute favourites.

What books are on your TTT this week? Be sure to check out more of this week’s lists here!

Review: Booked by Kwame Alexander

BOOKED25897953Review: Booked by Kwame Alexander
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: April 5, 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
Verdict: Excellent
Book Description:

Twelve-year-old Nick is a soccer-loving boy who absolutely hates books. In this follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel The Crossover , soccer, family, love, and friendship take center stage as Nick tries to figure out how to navigate his parents’ divorce, stand up to a bully, and impress the girl of his dreams. These challenges-which seem even harder than scoring a tie-breaking, game-winning goal-change his life, as well as his best friend’s. This energetic novel-in-verse by the poet Kwame Alexander captures all the thrills and setbacks, the action and emotion of a World Cup match!

Poet and author Kwame Alexander won the Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Honor Award for his critically-lauded middle grade novel-in-verse The Crossover. In his latest novel, Booked, also told in verse, Alexander turns his eye to twelve year old Nick: master talent at word play and soccer star who is also having major upheavals in other areas of his life.

Nick has a few great things going on in his life: his soccer playing, his strong relationship with his Ping Pong playing mom, his loyal best friend Coby, the mentorship of a most fascinating librarian, and the possible interest of a classmate named April. On the flip side Nick has: a linguistics professor dad he can’t really understand (who makes Nick read his own authored dictionary), a few horrible classmates who physically and verbally bully him and Coby, and the hard realization that his parents marriage might just be over. In luminous and impressively constructed fashion that tackles a serious array of subjects, Alexander takes readers on an unputdownable journey with Nick as he navigates his way through some major, major highs, and serious lows. At once a story about sports, a young boy’s first steps into love, dealing with bullies, racism, standing up for friends, and coming to grips with parents as individuals, Booked is a full read; vivid and unforgettable- not to mention a brilliant study in how an author can play with form and language.

Overall, Booked is…flawless. Having had a hot and cold relationship with novels told in verse, I was both excited and terrified to read this work. Any doubts I had about how seamless, affecting and electrifying verse novels could be, were completely obliterated with this read. I read Booked in just about one sitting (sadly, life got in the way), and it is a joy of a reading experience. Readers looking for a meaningful, unrepeatable read, or those looking for a contemporary middle grade read revolving around family, sports, learning about love and growing up- I highly recommend giving Booked a try.

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

Must Read Monday (30): Raymie Nightingale & When Green Becomes Tomatoes

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: two new titles from authors and illustrators I fervently admire! First up is Raymie Nightingale, the latest from the award-winning, critically acclaimed Kate DiCamillo. Save for one or two Mercy Watson titles, I have read everything DiCamillo has written and adore her work. Her writing is transcendent. Sublime. I cannot even express just how much The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane means to me- it remains one of my all time favourite reads. Needless to say, I am beside myself with anticipation to read DiCamillo’s latest! Second up is a poetry collection, When Green Becomes Tomatoes, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Canadian artist Julie Morstad. Fogliano’s picture book work is stunning, her writing expressive- If You Want to See a Whale is an example; and, as frequent readers of this site may know, Morstad is one of my most read and esteemed author-illustrators. The collaboration of these two Julies is an occasion to be excited about!


Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
Expected publication: April 12, 2016 by Candlewick Press

Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.


WHENGREEN25332008When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, illus. Julie Morstad
Publication: March 1, 2016 by Roaring Brook Press

december 29
and i woke to a morning
that was quiet and white
the first snow
(just like magic) came on tip toes

Flowers blooming in sheets of snow make way for happy frogs dancing in the rain. Summer swims move over for autumn sweaters until the snow comes back again. In Julie Fogliano’s skilled hand and illustrated by Julie Morstad’s charming pictures, the seasons come to life in this gorgeous and comprehensive book of poetry.


Board Book Look: The Swing & Saffy and Ollie

theswing13593674The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson, illus. Julie Morstad
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Simply Read Books. Thank you!
Publication: November 5, 2012 by Simply Read Books
Verdict: Excellent

“How do you like to go up in a swing,
   Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
   Ever a child can do!” – from the poem The Swing


One word immediately comes to mind when I think about The Swing and that word is joy! This is an utter gem of a board book, featuring glorious illustrations by Morstad to accompany the charming poem by Robert Louis Stevenson. There is something about this poem that takes me back to my childhood- perhaps I had it read to me when I was young, or it could be that it just exudes a feeling of happy nostalgia. That nostalgic feeling may also exist because this poem- perhaps due to certain key words or imagery- makes me think back to a beloved passage I read over (and over) again as a child: that of Winnie-the-Pooh, holding onto a balloon, sweetly singing ‘every little cloud, always sings aloud‘.
The lilting, uninhibited verse of Stevenson’s poem is, I think, perfectly expressed by Morstad’s buoyant yet serene illustrations. You can take a peak at some more of the delightful illustrations here on Morstad’s site. Overall, I just love this board book and would highly recommend it to little ones and adults alike.



saffyandollie12527320Saffy and Ollie by Paola Opal
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Simply Read Books. Thank you!
Publication: January 10, 2012 by Simply Read Books
Verdict: Good/Very Good

Saffy and Ollie is an adorably illustrated board book from Poala Opal’s Simply Small series of titles. We have a cute-as-can-be giraffe, Saffy- rolling a rock along a green hill- who meets a cute-as-can-be elephant, Ollie, who asks to join in on the playing and fun. Will Saffy share and welcome a friend?

While I usually prefer board books for babies to be light on text, I actually think that this title in particular may have benefited from more detail. It might be because the illustrations are so dreamy and darling that the limited text reads as a bit blunt- especially as Saffy does not allow Ollie to join in on her fun with a ‘no, it’s my rock’ but then almost immediately needs Ollie’s help when her rock gets stuck. Everything turns out well in the end when Ollie, clearly understanding and demonstrating very good friend behavior, comes to Saffy’s rescue. Saffy then learns how nice it can be to play and share with a friend, and how meaningful a ‘please’ can be.

I will say that overall, even though I personally found the text a tad clipped for this sweet story, Saffy and Ollie is undoubtedly the kind of board book that will make you go ‘aww’ and one that would likely be popular at libraries and homes for its winning appearance and well-meaning message. I am very interested in exploring the rest of the titles in the Simply Small series- there looks to be a great variety in titles and learning themes (and plenty more adorable animals!).


*Hardcopies were provided courtesy of Simply Read Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own*