Jack and Holman Wang

Raincoast Books invited me to speak with Vancouver twins Holman and Jack Wang, whose new series Star Wars Epic Yarns came out April 14.
The pair are behind the Cozy Classic series, which recreated classics such as Moby Dick and Tom Sawyer into 12-word books using needle-felting.

The series includes A Star Wars Epic Yarns: A New Hope; Star Wars Epic Yarns: Return of the Jedi; Star Wars Epic Yarns: The Empire Strikes Back and each volume features 12 iconic scenes, handcrafted in felt and summarized in just a single word.
The books retail for $13.50 and are available now.

I was able to speak with Jack and Holman about their new venture as well as their upcoming projects.

Star Wars Epic Yarns
Q: The Star Wars Epic Yarns series is the first I have seen with your creations. I have now gone back and looked at your classics in felt. They are impressive works of art. How did you come up with the idea to use felt? And why baby books?
Jack: After my older daughter was born, I read a lot of word primers about colours, shapes and barnyard animals, which got a little old. I started thinking about how board books might appeal to adults and children alike, and that’s when I came up with the idea of abridging classics into word primers.

Holman: The idea of photographing needle-felted figures came to me in a moment of inspiration. It seemed like a fresh idea, which we hoped would give us a signature style. We felt that the fuzziness of the figures would appeal to children, while the craftsmanship would appeal to adults. We gave needle-felting a try and we haven’t looked back.

Q. I have read other interviews about your classic felt series and someone mentioned they didn’t think your books would inspire children to turn to the classics. Was that the idea behind the books, to inspire children, and their parents, to read the classics?
Jack: Our main goal has always been to make early literacy fun. We want parents to be excited about reading to their children and, hopefully, that in turn will spark kids to love books. We’d be thrilled if Cozy Classics inspired kids (and parents) to seek out the classics, but that’s not necessarily the goal. We’re not being prescriptive about what people “should” read.

Holman: As for the critics, no one can possibly know how Cozy Classics will affect children’s reading choices decades from now, so we try to ignore the naysayers. What we do know is that Cozy Classics features characters that kids don’t have to outgrow, so hopefully they won’t because they’ll have positive associations.

Q. Why did you choose the classics as your first felt creations?
Holman: Classic novels were a natural starting point since many are already in the public domain, so we didn’t need to acquire rights to produce adaptations. But more importantly, classics like Pride and Prejudice and Les Misérables remain beloved stories that are very much part of our popular culture, even today. The idea is to let adults share stories they love with children from an early age.

Q: After the classics, why did you turn to Star Wars as your next project? Did you throw other ideas around as well?
Jack: We grew up huge fans of Star Wars, so adapting the original trilogy was a dream project that we had always talked about and wanted to make happen. We were also eager to challenge ourselves technically and artistically, and to broaden the audience for our books.

Q: Was it difficult to get the George Lucas film stamp of approval? Did they have many demands or were you able to do what you wanted?
Holman: We pitched the idea of 12-word, needle-felted Star Wars to Chronicle Books, who in turn pitched Lucasfilm. Lucasfilm then asked us to produce a sample figure, which turned out to be Luke in his X-wing uniform. They loved it, and the project was a go from there.

Jack: Even though Lucasfilm had to give final approval for every aspect of the books, they were a pleasure to work with. The changes they wanted mostly related to word selection. Lucasfilm gave us a lot of freedom to create the illustrations.

Q: Are you a self-taught needle-felter? Have you always been into crafts and art? What is your background?
Holman: We’re self-taught needle-felters. I taught myself first, then I flew out to New York a couple to years ago to visit Jack and show him what I’d learned through trial and error. When I first starting working on Cozy Classics, I was moonlighting, as I had a busy corporate litigation practice. But I’ve since left law and I now work on children’s books full time.

Epic Yarns Return of the Jedi
Jack: We’ve always loved art and studied and practiced a lot when we were younger. I wound up expressing myself creatively through writing – I have an master of fine arts and Ph.d in creative writing – so it’s nice to come back to my first love.

Q: My coworker and I were looking at the Star Wars books and we were amazed by the felting. You can’t see the stitches. We need to know, how you do it?
Holman: You wouldn’t see any stitches because needle-felting doesn’t involve any thread. Instead, you stab loose wool hundreds or thousands of times with a specialized barbed needle. This entangles the wool fibers, making the wool firmer, which allows you to sculpt the wool.

Q: In addition to the felt pieces, I was equally impressed about how one word (12 in total) did indeed tell the entire Star Wars story. It was amazing. When creating each of these books, how did you choose the word to use and then the creation attached to it?
Jack: When we choose words, they need to meet several criteria: they need to be kid-friendly, concrete enough to be illustrated and able to advance the narrative. For example, the first words in A New Hope are “princess” and “trouble.” These are kid-friendly words that set up the story: a princess needs help. The next words are “boy” and “learn.” These words summarize Luke’s story arc for the whole trilogy: he learns to become a Jedi. R2-D2 appears in the images for both “princess” and “boy,” which links the two storylines and so on. Simply re-creating the 12 most iconic or famous scenes from a novel or movie likely won’t make for the best abridgement. Instead, we pick the scenes that we think do the most work in terms of conveying the story.

Q: How long, on average, does it take to do a page found in these books? Once the word is chosen, what are the steps involved in coming up with the idea and making it? Do you each felt? Do you each have specialties when it comes to felting?
Jack: For Epic Yarns, all the words and proposed images were decided on right from the start. Unlike Cozy Classics, where we have a lot of license to create scenes as we like, for Epic Yarns we were trying to re-create movie scenes as closely as possible for the discerning eye of Star Wars fans.

Holman: It’s hard to say how long it takes to create one image. It took us anywhere from 20 to 60 hours to felt each figure, and one to four days to build a set. Creating 36 interior images, plus three covers, for the whole series took us nearly a year. About half that time was spent making felt figures and spaceships, while the other half was devoted to set-making and photography. Let’s just say it was labour intensive! We both made felt figures and spaceships for Epic Yarns, but I did the set-building and most of the photography.

A scene from one of the Star Wars Epic Yarns: Empire Strikes Back book.
10. Why 12 words?
Jack: We just want to trace the main narrative arc of each story. With more than 12 words, you start to venture into subplots, which becomes confusing. Of course, the idea was to invigorate the genre of the word book, so our books have to serve their primary function, which is to introduce words and concepts.

Q. What other words and scenes did you have in your book and that were cut?
Holman: The interior images were carefully selected from the start, so none of them were made only to be cut later. However, we did do some cover images for Empire and Jedi that Lucasfilm thought were too quiet and lacking in action, so there are a few outtakes.

Q. What is (are) your favourite scenes in these books? What was your favourite location to shoot?
Holman: I really love the shot of Luke on the Tauntaun, the Trash Compactor scene, and the X-Wing trench run scene. But Epic Yarns contains so many iconic Star Wars scenes it’s hard to choose! Shooting the desert scenes down in Arizona and California was definitely the most fun.
Jack: Yeah, meeting up in Tucson was definitely fun. For that reason, I like the cover of A New Hope. But I’m also partial to the shot of Luke running away from an AT-AT, not only because it was shot on location on one of the mountains outside of Vancouver, but also because it was the very first image we produced – we had to shoot the scenes on Hoth before the snow melted.

Q: What is next in the world of felting? Have you had suggestions? (Someone I talked to suggested you tackle the Russian classics next, particularly Doctor Zhivago.) Do you have something you really want to do?
Jack: We’re coming out with three new Cozy Classics titles starting next year: Great Expectations, The Nutcracker and The Wizard of Oz. After that, who knows? But we do get suggestions from readers all the time for next titles, everything from Homer to Shakespeare to more Jane Austen.
Holman: Now that we’ve ventured into sci-fi, it might be fun to do fantasy. Lord of the Rings is a franchise that Jack and I would both love to tackle.

Q. What does the future hold for each of you?
Holman: I hope to just keep doing what I’m doing! There are very few people in the world who can make a living being a full-time children’s author and illustrator, so I hope I can be one of the lucky ones.
Jack: I’m currently the David T.K. Wong Creative Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, where I’m at work on a literary novel. It’s just getting off the ground, so I’ll be working on it for the foreseeable future – along with children’s books, of course!

Visit www.starwars.com/video/star-wars-saga-children-s-books-meet-the-authors for more.

New Releases
by Etobicoke resident Brian Gottheil, http://www.briangottheil.com
For months, the Continent has been mired with devastating war: artillery barrages lasting days and the death rattle of machine guns. Caryn Hallom, the foreign minister of the Republic of Deugan and the first woman to have achieved such a powerful position, is horrified she failed to prevent the war from breaking out on her watch. When Caryn finds herself trapped with Michael Ravencliffe, a member of the royal family of Deugan’s main enemy in the war, she seizes on the opportunity to try and negotiate an end to the fighting. Little does she know that a new faction is about the enter the conflict armed with a frightening magical weapon or that it will be led by the one person on the continent who knows the truth about Caryn’s past.
Editor’s Note: I ran out of time to finish this book, which I am enjoying. You get pulled into Caryn’s life – both past and present – immediately, and I am left wanting to know more.
Gateways is available through all of the major ebook retailers (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Kobo), and the print version is available for order at Amazon or Createspace.

Edouard Mancéau
OwlKids, http://www.owlkidsbooks.com
Take a LOOK! And see the world in a new way.
Editor’s Note: People’s imaginations never fail to amaze me. Look has a giant hole in the middle and each page encourages the reader to look through the hole and see the world in a new way. I sat in the my office and looked through the rectangle to discover a lot of grey, with hope that green will come soon. Super fun. When I got home, I held it up for my six-year-old, who stopped what he was doing to take it. I watched him read through it and try it out, showing it to me several times to tell me to feel this and watch how that moved.

Outstanding in the Rain, A Whole Story with Holes
Frank Viva
Tundra Books, http://www.tundrabooks.com
Step right up to the amusing amusement park. It’s a whole story and the pages have holes. The holes make pictures. Turn an umbrella into cake and balloons into ice cream. See the holes make words.
Editor’s Note: This book seems old, which I am sure is the intention – an old-fashioned day at an old-fashioned amusement park. I am thinking Cooney Island. The colours are bright and vibrant. The illustrations are not for me. It’s interesting, but not my favourite.

Peace is an Offering
Annette LeBox
Penguin Books, http://www.penguin.com/youngreaders
Peace is an offering.
A muffin or a peach.
A birthday invitation.
A trip to the beach.
Follow these neighbourhood children as they find love in every day things.
Editor’s Note: What a beautiful book (which is exactly what I said to my six year old after I read it to him). It still offers me a sense of peace, long after I read it.

Tap to Play
Salina Yoon
HarperCollins, http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com
Blip has to reach the bar to win his game, but he needs your help. If he wins, he gets a surprise. Bounce Blip, shake Blip, tilt him and tickle him.
Editor’s Note: There are so many interactive books, but each of them are so different. Blip is pretty cute. We have helped him win over and over again.

Small Adventures Journal, A Little Field Guide for Big Discoveries in Nature
Keiko Brodeur
Chronicle Books, http://www.chroniclebooks.com
For nature lovers (and even nature likers) who rarely find time for a major excursion, this low-commitment field guide makes exploring the outdoors easy and immediate. Fully illustrated-with visual reference pages, checklists and more, the journal packs in tons of drawing and writing prompts to document discoveries made as close as the front steps.

A Nest is Noisy
Dianna Aston
Chronicle Books, http://www.chroniclebooks.com
This informative book looks at the fascinating world of nests. From the tiny hummingbird to orangutan nests high in the rainforest, a variety of nests is showcased in this book.
Editor’s Note: My six-year-old son wasn’t interested in this book, but I was. There is tons of information and beautiful illustrations to show some of the nests in the world. Animals are amazing creatures.

Animal Antics
DK Publishing, http://cn.dk.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9781465434784,00.html?ANIMAL_ANTICS_DK_Publishing
Kids love animals – they love the silly, funny and crazy ways they behave, eat and play. Animal Antics is full of fascinating facts that takes a look at the most engaging, informative, humorous and intriguing aspects of animal behavior including why blue-footed boobies like to dance, why a goose whiffles or why penguins like to steal food.
Editor’s Note: Animals are fascinating creatures and DK Books makes the information easy to digest and makes you want to keep reading.

Cat High, The Yearbook
Terry Deroy Gruber
Chronicle Books, http://www.chroniclebooks.com
It was wild year for the felines at Cat High: The Glee Club Meowlers recorded their first album, “Songs to Lick Fur To”, Sophie McMeow was voted “Most Chased”, the drama club performed Cat on the Hot Tin Roof and the seniors danced their tails off at their Paris in April-themed prom.
Editor’s Note: When Raincoast Books added this book to their email blast, I laughed out loud and knew I needed to see this book for myself. When it arrived, I flipped through it and laughed some more – absolutely ridiculous, and I am sure people will love it. Everything you would see in most high school yearbooks, including a principal message from a disturbingly ugly and frightening no-haired cat, graduation photos of cats in clothing and photos of clubs and cats, is in this book. The author must have a great sense of humour and a love of cats. Of course, the book became even more funny after watching this YouTube video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1D9RXSsc6Q
I laughed so hard I was crying. No wonder the cats looked ticked off in their graduation photos.

DK Smithsonian Everything You Want to Know About Bugs
DK Books, http://www.dk.com
This is no ordinary book. This is everything you need to know about all kinds of bugs and other creepy crawlies that fly, jump, crawl, march, buzz, hiss and sting.
Editor’s Note: Why do I think a book about bugs is a good idea? Despite a co-workers fascination of all things creepy and crawly, particularly spiders, I don’t have the same fascination. Correction, I don’t mind hearing about the trapdoor spider that leaps out when its prey walks over top of its burrow or a phorid fly that will lay an egg on an ant’s head with the hatchling maggot finding it an easy meal (yuck), but I don’t like to see a four-eyed red, blue and yellow giant spider starring at me from the front cover. Despite that, I got pulled into the book, getting more and more grossed out and learning more about creepy crawling insects then I ever need to know.

H is for Hawk
Helen Macdonald
Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Books, http://www.penguinrandomhouse.ca
As a child, Helen Macdonald was determined to be a falconer. She learned the terminology and read all the classic books, including T. H. White’s tortured masterpiece The Goshawk, which describes White’s struggle to rain a hawk as a spiritual contest. When her father dies and she is knocked sideways by grief, she becomes obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk. She buys Mabel for 800 pounds and takes her home to Cambridge. Then she fills the freezer with hawk food and unplugs the phone, ready to embark on the long, strange business of trying to train this wildest of animals.
Editor’s Note: I always feel pressure when countless people fall in love with a book and I struggle to finish it. What I loved about the book was the information about T.H. White and how his book, The Goshawk, had a huge influence on Macdonald. I feel badly for White; I can’t imagine what it must be like to hide who you are your entire life. I also liked the information about goshawks, but I must admit when I stopped to look them up and discovered they are in Canada (I just assumed they were a rare bird found only in Britain) and about the size – and look – of our beautiful red-tailed hawks, they sort of lost their lustre, and their fierceness. I guess I was expecting more from the goshawk. But I don’t like starting a book and not finishing it, and I feel less than a 100 pages was not giving it a good enough chance so like the Incomparables – http://www.insidetoronto.com/blogs/post/5272998-book-time-reviews-green-vanilla-tea-laughing-at-my-nightmare-and-other-memoirs-and-fantasy-books/ – I will go back and finish this book.

Head Lice
Elise Gravel
Tundra Books, http://www.tundrabooks.com
Another book in Gravel’s Disgusting Creatures series, this one look at head lice.
Editor’s Note: While The Rat and The Spider made us laugh, this one made my head itch. Ugh, how I dread lice. Spoiler alert: I was so happy to read that Gravel doesn’t actually like lice.

Hoot Owl Master of Disguise
Sean Taylor
Candlewick Press, http://www.candlewick.com
Hoot Owl is no ordinary owl. He is a master of disguise and he will use his skill at camouflaging himself to trick unsuspecting prey. But somehow his prey keeps escaping. Will he ever succeed in catching himself dinner?
Editor’s Note: I love the chunky illustrations and the font (yes, that is important to me). But the best reaction comes from my six year old who said the book is so funny, he can’t stop reading it. And read it he does. Several times in a row, night after night and he laughs. And we read it again. And again.

How to Save a Species
Marilyn Baillie, Jonathon Baillie and Ellen Butcher
Owl Kids, http://www.owlkidsbooks.com
How to Save a Species introduces readers to some of the most threatened species on Earth.
Editor’s Note: Each two-page spread of this book offers beautiful photos of the endangered species, information about it, as well as some fast facts. There is the spoon-billed sandpiper (about 400 adults left, being hunted on wintering grounds with fewer coastal habitats left), the wild yam (there are only 200 left as it’s been collected for medicine) and the humpback whale (with only 60,000 left in world and commercial whaling endangering them). The book also offers a list of the worlds’ 100 most threatened species.

It’s Only Stanley
Jon Agee
Penguin Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca
Have you often wondered what your pets do when your not around? Jon Agee attempts to find the answer in this new picture book.
Editor’s Note: I must say was disappointed when I got this book. A book about a dog named Stanley who does things when you’re not around. It sounds very similar to Linda Bailey’s Stanley books (Stanley’s Party has been a favourite for years – http://www.lindabaileybooks.com/stanley.html). However, this Stanley’s book is nothing like the other Stanley book and I have found I can forgive Agee for not finding another name for his dog. The two books are completely different. It’s Only Stanley book rhymes, and Stanley is one smart dog. I have lost count of the times I have read it and have it almost memorized.

National Geographic Angry Birds Animal Showdown
50 Wild and Crazy Animal Face-Offs
Mel White
Ravio Books
First the birds were angry, now the rest of the animal kingdom is getting heated up to. In this fact book, learn the truth about some of the world’s fieriest and most unusual animal face-offs. As a bonus, each level showcases the Angry Birds, and the real reasons why they’re always at war with the Bad Piggies.
Editor’s Note: I understand why one would put Angry Birds into a book – they sell. However, they are not needed in this book. The information speaks for itself. I would put the book down and then be drawn back to some amazing fact about one of the animals featured in the book including in Testy, the tiger who eats wild boars or the tarantula hawk wasp, whose sting will cause instant paralysis to the victim, in this case a tarantula, which then lives the rest of its life in a zombiefied coma. Awful.

Noisy Animal Peekaboo
DK Books, http://www.dk.com
Trumpty trump! Roar! Roar! Lift the flaps and listen to the elephants, lion and other noisy animals in this amazing, light-activated sound book.
Editor’s Note: Leave it to DK Books to create such a beautiful and fun book. Each double-page spread has a variety of pictures of real animals. One animal is hidden behind a flap. When you lift it, you see the animal and hear the sound. I tried out the book as soon as it arrived, and the office was filled with roaring, splashing and trumpeting.

Smithsonian Eyewitness Explorer Bug Hunter
Dk Books, DK.com
Become an explorer of the creepy-crawly kingdom. Discover the world of bugs with more than 30 easy-to-do, fun activities, plus stunning pictures and amazing facts.
Editor’s Note: My six-year-old son is looking forward to training honeybees to find food and raise his own caterpillars. Two of the activities he read at the back of the book. Personally, I could go without bugs, but they are fascinating, disgusting creatures.

Top 10 Pets For Kids
Firefly book, http://www.fireflybooks.com
Join Team T-10 as they explore the world of pets in ways you have never imagined – more than 200 pets from across the globe.
Editor’s Note: This book is laid out in a list format with more information in short, easy-to-read blurbs. My six year old particularly liked most popular names (cats and dogs, males and females) as well as most richest pet, including a hen named Gigoo, worth $9,709,376 – or a lot richer than us.

The (happy) angry little penguin (puffin)
Timothy Young
Schiffer Publishing, http://www.schifferbooks.com
“Look at the funny little penguin” and “what a silly-looking penguin.” Hearing this all day long is enough to make any little bird angry, especially when he is not a penguin.
Editor’s Note: What a fun book. My six-year-old son and I both loved it and we read it twice in a row and laughed both times. Poor little puffin. I can understand why he loses it and yells. Lots of information in this book, but presented so it’s fun, and funny.

The Spider
Elise Gravel
Tundra Books, http://www.tundrabooks.com
Part of the Disgusting Critters series, this book looks at the spider, an eight-legged creature, which is not an insect, but can scare creatures much bigger than itself.
Editor’s Note: We received a copy of the Rat, another in the series by Gravel, and loved it. This one had my six-year-old son laughing hysterically and making me read it over and over again. He found the part about the female spider eating her husband particularly funny. It was so fun to watch his reaction, even the fourth time in a row.

The Wolf Border
Sarah Hall
Faber & Faber, http://www.faber.co.uk
For almost a decade, Rachel Caine has turned her back on home, kept distant by family disputes and her work monitoring wolves on an Idaho reservation. But now, summoned by the eccentric Earl of Annerdale and his controversial plan to reintroduce the grey wolf to the English countryside, she is back in the Lake District. The earl’s project harkens back to an ancient idyll of untamed British wilderness and the return of the Grey after hundreds of years coincides with her own regeneration: impending motherhood and reconciliation with her estranged family.
Editor’s Note: Yikes. I am surprised Rachel is a functioning adult. I go from feeling sorry for her to wondering about people’s choices. But her love of wolves, and the desire to see them survive, I understand. There are some truly descriptive parts in this book that haunt me.

Wandering Whale Sharks
Susumu Shingu
Owl Kids, http://www.owlkidsbooks.com
If you ever met a whale shark, don’t be afraid. Although they are the largest fish in the ocean, their size is matched by their gentleness.
Editor’s Note: I want to wander with the whale shark, although I might be afraid if I were scuba diving and it came up beside me. The illustrations are kind of cool, different than what I have seen before.

Wild Ideas, Let Nature Inspire your Thinking
Elin Kelsey
OwlKids, http://www.owlkidsbooks.com
Problems. Every living creature has them. And just like you, they invent solutions. Wild Ideas explores how animals show an immense capacity for innovation and encourages readers to seek inspiration from the world around them.
Editor’s Note: My six-year-old son got halfway through the book and asked to read another. When I asked if we could at least finish the story, he said no. When I asked if we could give the book to his cousin who might enjoy it more, he said yes; much like me, my son never wants to give up books, even those he doesn’t love. I thought the book was pretty neat. I like the illustrations, a mix of cutout animations, real and fake. The information is interesting as well, but I could see why my son may not like it – it was told in way that was obviously teaching you. The author is right, though, if animals can come up with innovative way to solve problems, there are is no reason why we can’t either. The humpback whale blowing bubbles to catch fish (www.owlkidsbooks.com/wildideas) and squirrels watching us cross the street to learn how to do it safely? Amazing. It will be interesting to see what an older child’s reaction is.

You are My Baby Meadow
Lorena Siminovich
petitcollage, Chronicle Kids, http://www.chroniclekids.com
Two books in one. Turn the pages of the little book nestled inside the bigger book to match the baby animals to their parents.
Editor’s Note: I am sure there is a joke in here, but it actually took me a while to figure out how to read this book. The two book in one concept didn’t work, nor did I think it really added anything to the story, which is super cute by itself with lovely illustrations.

Wild Robots Inspired by Real Animals
Helaine Becker
Kids Can Press, http://www.kidscanpress.com
What do you get when you cross the pill bug with the mechanical power of a robot? The fire-fighting Ole zoobot, whose heat-resistant armor allows it to walk over burning ground. While it might sound like science fiction, today’s robot scientists are developing robots based on actual animals.
Editor’s Note: For some reason, this book creeps me out. I realize these creatures are being created to help us, but I think I have seen, and read, too many sci-fi movies and books and fear the outcome.

Other books

Atlantic Puffin
Kristin Bieber Domm
Nimbus Publishing, http://www.nimbus.ca/Atlantic-Puffin-P4963.aspx
The Atlantic Puffin is a familiar symbol of the Atlantic region, earning it the nickname “Little Brother of the North.” This wonderful story is told from the point of view of a puffin, drawing the reader effortlessly into the natural habitat of a puffin’s world. Accompanied with beautiful illustrations, Atlantic Puffin details habitat, breeding cycles, eating and nesting habits and more, about the life of this fascinating animal.

Cat and Bunny
Mary Lundquist
Edelweiss, HarperCollins, http://edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com/ProductDetailPage.aspx?sequence=22&group=catalog&mailingID=0&mailingGroupID=0&catalogID=384639&org=HCCA&sku=006228780X
Cat and Bunny. Bunny and Cat.
It’s always been just the two of them – daydreaming, having adventures, playing their special game. Until the day someone else asks, “Can I play?”

Sheniz Janmohamed
Mawenzi House, http://mawenzihouse.com/Mawenzi_Firesmoke.htm
The highly evocative and personal poems acknowledge the restorative power of the Mother Goddess and the alchemy of Nature. It explores the meaning of truth and self.

From Cat Lover to Prophet
Gerald Champagne
Tate Publishing, http://www.tatepublishing.com/tipsheet/book.php?key=27717
Gerald Champagne doesn’t know the role his new feline friend will play in his spirituality. In fact, he doesn’t like cats at all initially. After his roommate offers to adopt a cat from the landlord, Gerald and the cat become inseparable. It isn’t until years later, when Gerald’s cat dies, that he realizes his strange dreams might be cluing him in to a greater purpose.

Hope for the Elephants
DK Readers, http://www.dk.com
This Level 2 book follows David and his grandmother as they spend a week as volunteers at an Asian elephant sanctuary. Then they fly to Kenya to meet the anti-poaching patrol, staff and researchers at a nature reserve.

Galloping Through History, Amazing True Horse Stories
Elizabeth MacLeod
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com
From the time people first rode horses, these magnificent animals have changed the way humans live, travel, fight, work and play. History comes to life in six fascinating stories about how these creatures have changed the world.

I Spy a Bunny
Judy Dudar
Nimbus Publishing, http://www.nimbus.ca/I-Spy-a-Bunny-pb-P6533.aspx
Mandy and her Aunt Carla are spending the day at White Point Beach. They are playing I Spy, but Mandy is too busy climbing rocks, building sandcastles and watching surfers to find the white-nosed bunny rabbit Aunt Carla spies.

Let’s Explore: Farm
Elizabeth Bennett
Let’s Explore: Farm is a hands-on opportunity for children to learn about farms and the hard work that goes into keeping animals healthy and happy.

Magical Animal Adoption Agency, Clover’s Luck
Kallie George
HarperCollins, http://www.harpercollins.ca
Clover has always found herself unlucky. So when she stumbles upon a mysterious cottage in the woods, she can hardly believe her good fortune. It’s the Magical Animal Adoption Agency and it houses fairy horses, unicorns, young dragons and more. Clover gets hired to work at the agency. But when she is left alone, a sneaky witch comes after the magical creatures. Will Clover outsmart her in time to protect the animals?

Maisy’s Seaside Adventure Sticker Book
Penguin Books, http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/249426/maisys-seaside-adventure-sticker-book#9780763677343
Lucy Cousins
Follow Maisy and all of her friends on a sunny day at the beach, using stickers to add to the fun on every page. Find Maisy’s towel and bathing suit, build castles in the sand, have a picnic, fly a kite and more.
Also available is Maisy’s Birthday Party Sticker Book (http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/249425/maisys-birthday-party-sticker-book#9780763677350)

Nighttime Animals
DK Readers, http://www.dk.com
This Level 1 books introduces kids to the fun and exciting world of nocturnal creatures.

My Goat Gertrude
Starr Dobson
Nimbus Publishing, http://www.nimbus.ca/My-Goat-Gertrude-pb-P6535.aspx
Starr Dobson is a little girl living in a big, rambling house in the country with her family and lots of pets, including a mischievous goat, Gertrude Allawishes, who is known for eating anything and everything. One day Starr’s cousin Leanne comes to visit, but this time, she’s only brought one chocolate bar and doesn’t want to share with Starr. Before either Starr or Leanne realize what is happening, Gertrude arrives and solves the problem! Although names have been changed to protect certain cousins (who usually shared their chocolate just fine), Starr’s account of Gertrude Allawishes and her bizarre tastes is absolutely true!

Snappy Crocodile Tale
DK Reader, http://www.dk.com
In this Level 3 book, readers follow the adventures of Chris Cros through is life in Kakadu National Park in Australia and meet the Australian wildlife through the crocodiles encounters with them.

Snuggle Bunny
Emma Goldhawk
Silver Dolphin, Raincoast Books (www.raincoastbooks.com)
It can be hard to convince kids to go to sleep. But with a soft, snuggly bunny is involved, bedtime can be fun. With a bunny puppet that parents can animate and adorable animal illustrations, Snuggle Bunny is a treat for every kid.

The Secret Garden
Jennifer Adams
Gibb Smith, Raincoast Books (www.raincoastbooks.com)
BabyLit is a way to introduce your toddler to the world of classic literature.

Welcome to the Neighborwood
Shawn Sheehy
Penguin Books, http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/246900/welcome-neighborwood#9780763665944
In this pop-up book, meet seven animal builders and see how their unique skills help them survive – and to live together in harmony in the neighborwood.

~ This article was first posted at insidetoronto.com