Picture Book Reviews: Forever or a Day & The Boy and the Blue Moon

Forever or a Day by Sarah Jacoby
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: March 27, 2018 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

What does time mean to you? Sometimes it feels like it could last Forever or a Day .

The seconds that count in catching the bus;
The idyllic hours that slip by so quickly during a perfect day on the lake;
The summer days that disappear into blissful happiness . . .

Sarah Jacoby’s debut picture book as an author and illustrator is as elegant as a poem and as perfectly paced as a mystery. This beautiful picture books follows an unassuming narrator through a meditation on time through the course of a single day. Inviting comparisons to Virginia Lee Burton and Margaret Wise Brown, this book’s musings on time are at once simple, peaceful, and profound-the work of a truly genius picture book maker.

“The more you try to hold it…the better it hides.”

This is an enchanting picture book, readers! The debut picture book from award-winning artist Sarah Jacoby, Forever or a Day is a wonderfully illustrated and told story about meditations and thoughts about time. A big subject to be sure, but Jacoby writes- much like Sara O’Leary, see below- in a lyrical, hushed sort of fashion that creates this simultaneously poetic and lucid air for the reader/audience. Jacoby takes us through various contemplations about time- how we might perceive it, absorb it, experience it, appreciate it and more. The text is refined, sophisticated and ultimately perfect for a read aloud for a great span of ages (think preschool, kindergarten and elementary grades). Moreover, Jacoby’s artwork is gorgeous and varied. Varied in the sense that for every musing about time the narrator goes through over the course of their day, there is an illustration to reflect it. For example, with the thought ‘Some people pay a lot of attention to it’, we’re taken into a terminal where we see people dressed in charcoal, muted shades standing in lines, watching the information display, or racing around. For the thought ‘It is a drumbeat, ba dum, ba dum, ba dum.’, we’re taken inside a train compartment with the narrator, watching multiple occupants all doing different things as the scenery tick ticks by. Forever or a Day offers much to imagine and think about, and ends rather fittingly with a warmhearted, genuine sentiment. Overall, a terrifically written debut with standout illustrations. A slight side note here- if you have a chance, do take a look through Jacoby’s amazing, out-of-the-ordinary art! I hope we get to read and see much more from this artist in future projects.

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The Boy and the Blue Moon by Sara O’Leary, illus. Ashley Crowley
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: February 13, 2018 by Henry Holt and Co.
Book Description:

On the night of a blue moon, a boy and his cat set out for a walk and find themselves on a magical adventure. Together they travel through fields of flowers, forests of towering trees, and lakes of deep dark blue. Flying through starry blue skies, they reach the blue moon. But the blue planet, Earth, calls the explorers home. Safely back in bed, the boy wonders-was it only a dream?

“The cat and his boy walked through the bluebells toward the forest. A hundred thousand tiny bells were ringing out a song that no one had ever heard before.”

Picture book enthusiasts might recognize Sara O’Leary‘s name immediately- she is the Canadian author behind the brilliant children’s titles This Is Sadie, When I Was Small (illustrated by Julie Morstad), and A Family Is a Family Is a Family (illustrated by Qin Leng). O’Leary has teamed up with English artist Ashley Crowley for a lovely, lulling story about a young boy’s (and his cat’s!) nighttime adventures during a rare blue moon. As ever, O’Leary’s writing is so beautiful: softly, gorgeously poetic and something to be savoured by both children and adults. Readers who have dreamed or wondered about the moon might enjoy following along the journey the boy and his cat take as they somehow find themselves on an incredible yet desolate new place far, far away from the coziness of home. O’Leary has often teamed up with artist (and fellow Canadian) Julie Morstad for her picture books, so having another illustrator collaborate with O’Leary is interesting to experience. Crowley’s illustrations match the tone and subject matter of the story well- the cat, boy and earth-set scenes are so saturated and rich- though I do wonder if an audience might find the colour palette itself a tad unvarying or the space-set scenes towards the end lacking some kind of necessary warmth to fully gel with O’Leary’s writing. Overall, I do recommend taking a read of this title; it is indeed a beautiful story, and one likely to be much appreciated at bedtime!

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I received copies of Forever or a Day and The Boy and the Blue Moon courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.

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Picture Book Review: A Family Is a Family Is a Family by Sara O’Leary & Qin Leng

Groundwood Logos SpineReview: A Family Is a Family Is a Family by Sara O’Leary, illus. Qin Leng
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Groundwood Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 1, 2016 by Groundwood Books
Book Description:

When a teacher asks the children in her class to think about what makes their families special, the answers are all different in many ways — but the same in the one way that matters most of all.

One child is worried that her family is just too different to explain, but listens as her classmates talk about what makes their families special. One is raised by a grandmother, and another has two dads. One has many stepsiblings, and another has a new baby in the family.

As her classmates describe who they live with and who loves them — family of every shape, size and every kind of relation — the child realizes that as long as her family is full of caring people, it is special.

A warm and whimsical look at many types of families, written by award-winning author Sara O’Leary, with quirky and sweet illustrations by Qin Leng.

Sara O’Leary and Qin Leng’s gorgeous and affecting new picture book, A Family Is a Family Is a Family, centers around a very big question: what is a family?

The story opens to a classroom where a teacher, facing a group of young students, asks them what they think makes their family special. One of the students- our narrator through the story- goes last as their ‘family is not like everybody else’s’ and they are not sure quite what to say. However, as student after student goes on to talk openly about their own family, it becomes evident that every family, no matter the makeup, is not only unique but also, quite simply, is a family. Striking a wonderfully fanciful, sweet and stirring note here- which lessens what could be a ‘message’-type tone- is the combination of Sara O’Leary’s writing with Qin Leng’s illustrations. As the story unfolds and each student shares a uniqueness about their family, readers are treated to: a singular (often funny), short narrative from the student as well as an illustrated depiction of the student’s narration. Sara O’Leary’s gently sparkling text and Qin Leng’s playful ink lines capturing each family wonderfully balance a light yet ultimately meaningful story.

Overall, A Family Is a Family Is a Family is lovely; movingly told and upliftingly illustrated. In my day-to-day as a children’s librarian, I can say that this title has already been added to ‘family’ booklists and recommended multiple times- and it has already been loved and shared by our patrons. Sometimes the brightest and most consequential tales in picture books are those told with a deft hand- and the already-acclaimed Sara O’Leary and Qin Leng have absolutely shone here.

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

Review: This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary & Julie Morstad

thisissadie22926713Review: This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary, illus. Julie Morstad
Source: Digital galley courtesy of Tundra Books, imprint of Random House of Canada Limited, via NetGalley. Thank you!
Expected Publication: May 12, 2015
Verdict: Excellent

Book Description:

Sadie is a little girl with a big imagination. She has been a girl who lived under the sea and a boy raised by wolves. She has had adventures in wonderland and visited the world of fairytales. She whispers to the dresses in her closet and talks to birds in the treetops. She has wings that take her anywhere she wants to go, but that always bring her home again. She likes to make things — boats out of boxes and castles out of cushions. But more than anything Sadie likes stories, because you can make them from nothing at all. For Sadie, the world is so full of wonderful possibilities … This is Sadie, and this is her story.

It is no secret that I have adored the illustrations and artwork of Julie Morstad for a number of years; her joint book efforts with author Sara O’Leary however, are something I have recently become acquainted with!

In their latest children’s picture book This Is Sadie, readers get to dive into memories and experiences of childhood- and see or be reminded of how limitless imagination IS for us all. Sadie has wings, she flies, she sails the seas, visits Wonderland, and has lived with wolves and as a mermaid. Readers of all ages will undoubtedly be able to relate to Sadie’s fantastical adventures, or be inspired to fall into their imagination like she does. During my multiple readings of this title I have been sparked by the little sprite’s adventures and found myself thinking back to the many, many adventures (in my real life, within the pages of books, and within my own imagined creations) that I had as a child.

O’Leary’s text is conversational, understated and wholly beguiling. How Morstad brings Sadie and her world to life is blissful and so lush- I can see Sadie breaking through and over the edge of the pages, grabbing our hands and taking us back to her world and her magical cardboard box. This is a picture book that a reader can return to again and again, and one that I highly recommend reading and exploring. This Is Sadie is, quite simply, enchanting. Having now read this title as well as When I Was Small by O’Leary and Morstad, I must go back and read the rest of their co-authored works!

I received this book as a digital galley from Tundra Books, imprint of Random House of Canada Limited, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.