Q. How did you come up with the idea for The Wish Tree?
A. Chris Turnham’s agent sent me an image of a boy and a toboggan in front of a snowy tree at nighttime. It was a very sweet and entrancing image so when I was asked if I might consider writing a story to accompany it, questions started forming. Who is this boy? What does he want? I decided the boy’s name was Charles, his best friend’s name was Boggan (a toboggan) and that he wanted to find a wish tree. I added two naysaying siblings for good measure.
Q. Have you been to any of the wish trees you mentioned in a recent post on your blog?
A. As a child I often went to the Tanabata festival in Japan. The custom is to write wishes on small pieces of paper and hang them on bamboo “wish” trees.
Q. What would your wish tree look like? Would you like to share any of your wishes?
A. My wish tree would probably look like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree — a little saggy, threadbare and forlorn but, eventually and with any luck, bolstered by love and friendship.
Q. How does your family influence or inspire your writing?
A. My sons are my sounding boards, my first editors, my toughest critics, and also my muses. My husband and older son are both music-minded and my younger son is a budding filmmaker so there’s a lot of creative cross-pollination.
Q. How did your first children’s book come into being?
A. I wrote Spork when I was pregnant with my first son. I wanted to tell a story that could reflect the experience of being a little bit “spoonish” and a little bit “forkish” because my son is very racially mixed. My husband and I handmade copies for our friends and family and it grew from there.
Q. Your children’s books are so varied, and quite unique in topic and style. I suspect you must also have a unique way of looking at the world and finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Where do you find your ideas? Are there questions you ask to figure out if an idea is worth a story?
A. All my stories grow from tiny seeds. The seeds usually come out of an everyday experience (e.g. a trip to the Pacific Ocean or a bout of wolfishness.) I tend to all my seedlings equally, but eventually I commit to the one that feels the most enticing and robust.
Q. What do you hope children come away with from the stories you tell? What do you help the adults reading those stories to the children get from reading your stories?
A. I hope my books convey my love of language, art and nature. I like to tell quirky and fanciful stories so I also hope big and little readers feel dislodged from boxed-in ways of viewing the world. If there is one thematic that runs through most of my books it’s the idea that we should be hospitable to the small, the seemingly strange, the wild (including wild wolfish humans), and the unexpected.
Q. You have also published two adult books, multiple essays and edited other’s works. Do you have a favorite – children’s or adult books? Why?
A. I have so many favourites! I love Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad series and Tomi Ungerer’s Moon Man and The Three Robbers. With both Lobel and Ungerer, I like the way the unusual worlds they create seem entirely plausible and emotionally real — even if that means a little cruel, sorrowful, and non-redemptive.
Q. What do you enjoy about editing? How does editing help with your own writing? Are there more or less edits when it comes to children’s books versus adult ones?
I don’t do as much editing as I used to, but editing has taught me to cultivate a certain healthy detachment when revising a text. It’s always easier to have more clarity and discernment when it’s someone else’s story so I try to always put my work in a drawer after I write a draft to gain a little distance and perspective. Several months are ideal and enough to make me a little ruthless.
Q. What is your writing process? Do you write every day? What do you write about? Once you have an idea for a children’s book, how long does it take to write it?
A. I wish I could write every day but I spend a lot of time on secretarial and administrative tasks. That said, I usually have a few projects on the go. You know how kindergarten classes have different work-play stations? I try to approach my work in a similar way so I can go where the mood and flow take me.
A picture book text might take me a few weeks to draft but I work collaboratively so that’s just the beginning. The words remain open and moveable throughout the art process. Image and text are constantly sharpening and refining each other.
Q. Do you get to choose who the illustrator is for your books? How does that process work?
A. My magnificent editor Tara Walker and I are simpatico in so many ways and especially when it comes to visualizing my stories. We almost always agree on who will add the most depth, flair, pizzazz to the story. We also share a deep respect for the illustrative process and believe in maximum space and freedom for the artist to interpret, express and add to the words. Honestly, I feel so humbled and lucky to work with such staggering talent.
Q. What’s next for you?
A. I have two books out next year with Tundra Books. The first is a parable about a changing world. It’s called The Fog and Kenard Pak’s art for it fills me with boundless awe and happiness. The other is a trio of odd-couple stories called Yak and Dove, illustrated by the beautiful, maverick and singularly imaginative Esmé Shapiro.
The Wish Tree
Chronicle Kids, chroniclekids.com
Charles wants to find a wish tree. His brother and sister don’t believe there is such a thing, but his trusty companion Boggan is ready to join Charles on a journey to find out. And along the way, they discover that wishes can come true in the most unexpected ways.
Editor’s Note: Charles’ day looked like the perfect one – and it ended beautiful. The illustrations made it magical.
A Halloween Scare at My House
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, http://www.jabberwockykids.com
It’s Halloween night, and creatures and critters from near and far are starting to gather outside the front door. And now here comes a whole army of monsters, on broomsticks, buses, and bikes, all clamoring in the darkness. What is it they want? Are they coming for you?
Editor’s Note: We have A Halloween Scare in Canada, which is basically the same book with Canadian references rather than American ones (a Quebec license plate, a mountie on the wall in the house) as well as a few different lines.
Agatha Parrot and the Odd Street School Ghost
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, http://www.hmhco.com
A mysterious bell tolls at night and a glowing face is seen in a distant window-is Odd Street School haunted? Agatha and her gang of friends are determined to help their teachers find out. Add in a turtle named Tony, a strangely smelly snack food, and the pranks of one Gwendoline Tutt, and things at Odd Street School are about to get even odder than usual.
Editor’s Note: This a pretty hillarious book. I was laughing as I read it aloud to my son, who himself was laughing. The titles of the chapters are also pretty fantastic and encourages a lot of ‘Mommy, just one more chapter.”
Bad Kitty Scaredy-Cat
Roaring Brook Press, mackids
Kitty wasn’t always such a scaredy-cat. She used to be brave and lionhearted and nervy. That is, until one late October day a group of terrifying monsters showed up on her doorstop and Kitty became VERY scared. Then she decided to take matters into her own paws.
Editor’s Note: We like Bad Kitty. She is always good for a laugh. I found the abc of creatures that comes to Kitty’s door on Halloween rather boring, by my seven year old thought it was funny and said he loved the book.
Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister’s sake -and her own.
Editor’s Note: Loved this book. I loved Cat and Maya and their relationship, and the relationship of Cat and her new friends and the boy she doesn’t want to like, but… I love that you learn about cystic fibrosis, as well as Cat’s side of watching someone who love get sicker and sicker. I love the Mexican culture and the Cat’s struggle to believe (and admit she believes) in all that is the Day of the Dead.
Hooray for Halloween, Curious George with stickers
Margret & H. A. Rey
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, http://www.hmhco.com
It’s Halloween! When George and his friend the man with the yellow hat go to a party at Mrs. Gray’s house, George is excited to find out that it is a costume party. After seeing his friends dressed up as astronauts, mummies, witches, and more, George gets to pick out his own costume. But George accidentally wraps himself up in a tablecloth and gets mistaken for a ghost! Will everyone enjoy George’s Halloween trick, or will he scare away the party guests?
Editor’s Note: We have read this one before. You can’t go wrong with Curious George and the trouble he finds himself in.
Hungry, Hungry Monsters with 10 Monsterous Lift-the-Flaps
Silver Dolphin Books, http://www.silverdlophinbooks.com
What do hungry monsters like to eat? Some prefer one spider swallowed whole while others like three entire whales! And for the monster called Mr. One-Eye? He thinks four mice are very nice!
Editor’s Note: What an interesting way to help kids count to 10. The monsters are rather scary looking and you have to look in their mouths to find out who – and how many – they have eaten.
It’s Raining Bats & Frogs
Feiwel and Friendsm mackids.com
A little witch named Delia has been looking forward all year to flying in the annual Witch Parade. When the rumors of rain come true and the other witches start complaining, Delia takes action. Using her best magic, Delia changes the rain to cats and dogs. At first this goes over quite well, but she quickly realizes the animals cause a few issues. She must change the rain again! This time to hats and clogs. And finally, she tries bats and frogs. But each new type of rain brings its own set of problems. How will Delia save the day?
Editor’s Note: A fun book for Halloween with a fun way of telling kids to be happy with what they have.
Lila and the Crow
Annick Press, annickpress.com
Lila has just moved to a new town and can’t wait to make friends at school. But on the first day, a boy points at her and shouts: “A crow! A crow! The new girl’s hair is black like a crow!” Lila’s heart grows as heavy as a stone. The next day, Lila covers her hair. But this time, the boy points at her dark skin. Meanwhile, the great autumn festival is approaching. While the other kids prepare their costumes, Lila is sadder and lonelier than ever. At her lowest point of despair, a magical encounter with the crow opens Lila’s eyes to the beauty of being different, and gives her the courage to proudly embrace her true self.
Editor’s Notes: What beautiful illustrations in this book, particularly Lila, the main character, who is absolutely beautiful – inside and out. I am not a fan of books that show bullying particularly when it involves skin colour. It happens, I know, but skin colour is not something we make issue about. I don’t want my seven year old to know that skin colour is something other than just that.
Little Blue Truck’s Halloween
Houghton Miflin Harcourt, wwww.hmhco.com
Editor’s Note: What an adorable book. This would have been my son’s favourite when he was younger – lift flaps. As it was, we quite enjoyed the read – and the illustrations – and thought it would be a perfect book for his toddler cousin who could guess who the animal is behin the mask. Super cute.
Los Gatos Black on Halloween
Editor’s Note: Square Fish, mackids.com
Under October’s luna, full and bright, the monsters are throwing a ball in the Haunted Hall. Las brujas come on their broomsticks. Los muertos rise from their coffins to join in the fun. Los esqueletos rattle their bones as they dance through the door. And the scariest creatures of all aren’t even there yet!
Editor’s Note: Cool illustrations in this book. I would have liked it better if the words were a mix of English and French rather than English and Spanish. But I struggled through, and we understood what the Spanish words meant. My son thought the books was odd, and I had to agree.
Monster Science, Could Monsters Survive (and Thrive) in the Real World
Kids Can Press, kidscanpress.com
In a completely original approach to exploring science, award-winning author Helaine Becker places six different kinds of monsters – Frankenstein, vampires, bigfoot, zombies, werewolves and sea monsters – under her microscope to expose the proven scientific principles behind the legends.
Editor’s Note: Considering my seven year old asks me every night if zombies are real, I was surprised when he showed no interest in reading this book. Instead, I found myself flipping through the pages reading about the origin of the zombie, real-world zombies, deadly diseases that caused their own pandemics as well as equally interesting information about vampires, werewolves and sasquatches, among other things.
Night of the Living Shadows
Henry Holt & Co.
After sleeping off his adventure battling the evil Nightcrawlers, Speed Bump joins Slingshot on a quest to earn their Scavenger Hunt badge. Once they complete their last challenge, they’ll no longer be Bird Scouts – they’ll be Eagle Scouts! But, as is always the case with these two birds, their adventure turns into a misadventure when they end up at a shopping mall. Trapped inside, what crazy scheme will they come up with to get out?
Editor’s Note: My son didn’t want to read this book but I eventually convinced him. I laughed at a couple of parts in the first half we read, but it wasn’t as great as I had hoped. My son hasn’t asked to finish it, and I don’t care to either.
Some houses are more than just haunted… they’re hungry. Dash, Dylan, Poppy, Marcus, and Azumi don’t know this at first. They each think they’ve been summoned to Shadow House for innocent reasons. But there’s nothing innocent about Shadow House. Something within its walls is wickedly wrong. Nothing – and nobody – can be trusted. Hallways move. Doors vanish. Ghosts appear. Children disappear. And the way out?
Editor Note: It was the really cool packaging that made me pick up the Shadow House. But when I got to the creepy front cover, I wondered if I would be able to read it. (I admit it; I am a wimp.) However, the book wasn’t so bad. My seven year old, who loves Goosebumps, wondered if he could read it and I think it will be fine for him. The book was a quick read, and while creepy, wasn’t terrifying. I didn’t see the one part coming and without spoiling the ending, which I didn’t like, but can’t tell you why. Cool thing about this book is that it is interactive. The images in the book unlock ghost stories in the free app. Check out the webiste for more.
Strikeout of the Bleacher Weenies and other warped and creepy tales
Tom Doherty Associates, tor-forge.com
Welcome to the Weenie Zone! Here are thirty hilarious and harrowing stories that will scare you, make you laugh, or get you to see the world in a whole new way. Find out where the author got the idea for each story at the end of the book.
Editor’s Note: the stories are certainly short and varied. Some are a little too dark and strange for me. Others I quite liked and didn’t see the end coming. Most are only a few pages long. Despite that, Lubar’s characters are quite developed.
A Squiggly Story
Kids Can Press, kidscanpress.com
A young boy wants to write a story, just like his big sister. But there’s a problem, he tells her. Though he knows his letters, he doesn’t know many words. Every story starts with a single word and every word starts with a single letter, his sister explains patiently. Why don’t you start there, with a letter?? So the boy tries. He writes a letter. An easy letter. The letter I. And from that one skinny letter, the story grows, and the little boy discovers that all of us, including him, have what we need to write our own perfect story.
Editors Note: A book about a big sister showing her brother how to write a story – I love it. I love that the boy’s story was full of imagination and adventure – without any words at all. I had hope it would encourage my son to do the same – no such luck.
Abigail the Whale
Davide Cali and Sonja Bougaeva
Owl Kids, wwww.owlkidsbooks.com
Abigail dreads swimming lessons. Every time she dives into the pool, she makes a big splash, and all the girls in her class shout: “Abigail’s a whale!” Abigail can see that she is larger than the other girls. She feels huge, heavy, and out of place. Abigail’s swimming teacher takes her aside and points out: we can change how we see ourselves. He offers a creative visualization technique she can use to feel bolder, more confident, and more accepting of herself.
Editor’s Note: Just the title made me cringe, but sure enough kids in Abigail’s swimming class call her a whale when she jumps in the water and makes a big splash. Thanks to a wonderful swimming coach who teaches Abigail she is what she thinks she is does she realize she is so much more – until she wants to be a whale.
Angela’s Airplane (board book)
Annick Press, annickpress.ca
While looking for her lost father at the airport, Angela ends up in the front of the plane. She decides to push just one button, and then another … and another …
Editor’s Note: This book is new to the board book format. My seven year old received a number of Robert Munsch’s board books when he was little and I actually quite like them – so much less to read, but still funny and keeps everyone’s attention, including those who have to read it over and over again.
As a Boy
Second Story Press, secondstorypress.ca
Boys around the world are treated differently than girls just because of their gender. They are given an education and choices that girls are not, and their needs and success are often put above the needs of the girls and women in their families and communities. But boys are also given special burdens. They are expected to “be a man”, to work, to fight, to be brave. Once again amazing photographs from Plan International are paired with simple text to convey a message: that boys want to see the same choices and freedoms that they have been granted being given equally to the girls and women in their lives. As a Boy is a perfect companion to Because I am a Girl: I Can Change the World.
Editor’s Note: I had my seven-year-old son read this book to me in the car. After we talked about Phow some children have to travel to get to school. How in some parts of the world, girls aren’t allowed to go to school and boys have to more than just children. We talked about Malala Yousafzai and the choices she made, and how that even though he is seven years old, he has a voice and he can make change.
Du Iz Tak?
Candlewick Press, candlewick.com
Du iz tak? What is that? As a tiny shoot unfurls, two damselflies peer at it in wonder. When the plant grows taller and sprouts leaves, some young beetles arrive to gander, and soon—with the help of a pill bug named Icky—they wrangle a ladder and build a tree fort. But this is the wild world, after all, and something horrible is waiting to swoop down—booby voobeck!—only to be carried off in turn.
Editor’s Note: This book, spoken in bug language, didn’t do it for my seven-year-old son and I. It was too hard trying to pronounce bug, nor figure out what they were trying to say. The illustrations were lovely though and by a few pages in, we skipped reading the book and just spent time pouring over the pictures, which told the story any way. I particularly liked the giant spider – at least the even bigger bird eating said spider.
How to Find a Fox
Feiwel and Friends, mackids.com
Equipped with a camera and determination, a little girl sets out to track down an elusive red fox. But foxes are sneaky, and it proves more difficult than she thought.
Editor’s Note: What a cute book. We laughed as the little girl kept missing that fox.
How to be a Hero
Florence Parry Heide
Chronicle Kids, chroniclekids.com
Once upon a time, there was a nice boy and his name was Gideon. He lived in a nice house, and he had nice parents and lots of toys. But Gideon wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to be a hero. You know, a hero, with his name on the front page of the newspaper. That sort of thing. So how does anyone get to be a hero, anyway? Heroes have to be strong. Heroes have to be brave. Heroes have to be clever. Don’t they? With wry humor, Florence Parry Heide and Chuck Groenink explore how we choose our idols in a witty story that leaves it to readers to decide the real nature of heroism.
Editor’s Note: I liked how the boy in this book acknowledged how each of the heroes in fairytales weren’t all that heroic but instead was at the right place at the right time to kiss the girl to wake her up and climbs up her hair to rescue her. The ending was pretty fantastic. I don’t think kids will get it, or at least my son didn’t, but it makes it a fun read for adults.
Hurry Up, Henry
Puffin Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca
Henry’s mother and father and sister are always telling him to hurry up, and his best friend, Simon, never slows down. Henry doesn’t like to be late. But he doesn’t want to hurry, either. He likes to take his time and often sees things that his family miss in the rush. For Henry’s birthday, Simon arranges for a special present that lets Henry take the time he needs — with his whole family!
Editor’s Note: My seven-year-old son looked at the front cover and told me he hated the book. I asked why and he told me he hated the pictures. I have to agree with him, the illustrations aren’t my style either. But I wanted to give the book a chance so I read it to him any way and within a few pages, he didn’t notice the pictures any longer and just enjoyed the story. I try not to hurry up my guy all the time. Sometimes it is important to move slow and find time to enjoy.
Leave Me Alone
Roaring Brook Press, mackids.com
One day, a grandmother shouts, “LEAVE ME ALONE!” and leaves her tiny home and her very big family to journey to the moon and beyond to find peace and quiet to finish her knitting. Along the way, she encounters ravenous bears, obnoxious goats, and even hordes of aliens! But nothing stops grandma from accomplishing her goal―knitting sweaters for her many grandchildren to keep them warm and toasty for the coming winter.
Editor’s Note: Poor Grandma just wants to knit, but everytime she turns around someone – or something – is playing or eating (this one makes me laugh) her wool. So she leaves, getting further and further away. My seven year old and I guessed the end, but still had a laugh about poor grandma.
Lucy & Company
Kids Can Press, kidscanpress.ca
This compilation of three, short, cozy stories features a little girl named Lucy and her four animal friends: Marcel the mouse, Henry the rabbit, Dot the turtle and Adrian the snail. (Anton the bear also makes two surprise appearances!) Readers will be delighted to spend time in Lucy’s world, as the friends share snacks on a picnic, celebrate a special birthday with a treasure hunt and find a new home for some lost baby chicks.
Editor’s Note: We like Marianne Dubuc’s work – there is always lots to see in her illustrations and some of her characters make an appearance in all her books. in this book, there are four short stories connecting Lucy and her friends. Perfect length for quick bedtimes.
Maggie McGillicuddy’s Eye for Trouble
Kids Can Press, kidscanpress.com
Unlike her neighbors, Maggie McGillicuddy has an eye for trouble. And while she’s knitting on her porch swing, she manages to spot it – everywhere! With the “tickety, tickety, tack!” of her knitting needles, the elderly Maggie scares off a prowling tiger! And with the “whickety, whickety, whack!” of her walking stick, there goes a slithering snake! Of course, readers can see the tiger is really just a cat and the snake is only a tree root, so they’ll be as delighted as Maggie when Charlie, the boy who just moved next door, seems to have an eye for trouble of his own!
Editor’s Note: It’s nice to have an adult who is looking for as much trouble as a little boy with lots of energy – and has as great an imagination.
On the Farm, At the Market
G. Brian Karas
Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, mackids.com
On the farm, workers pick vegetables, collect eggs, and make cheese. At the market the next day, the workers set up their stands and prepare for shoppers to arrive. Amy, the baker at the Busy Bee Café, has a very special meal in mind-and, of course, all the farmers show up at the café to enjoy the results of their hard work.
Editor’s Note: What a great book. While we know how food gets to our table (grown by farmers), it was interesting to read how it breaks down. I liked how local it was – farmers pick it, the local café owner buys it from the market and serves it to the farmer. A great read, and one we’ll read again.
Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca
Ooko has everything a fox could want: a stick, a leaf and a rock. Well, almost everything . . . Ooko wants someone to play with too! The foxes in town always seem to be playing with their two-legged friends, the Debbies. Maybe if he tries to look like the other foxes, one of the Debbies will play with him too. But when Ooko finally finds his very own Debbie, things don’t turn out quite as he had expected!
Editor’s Note: My seven year old thought Ooko was an odd name for a fox and while he liked the story, he didn’t love it. However, he wants to read it again. The illustrations aren’t my favourite, but the story is nice – and made us laugh.
Pablo Finds a Treasure
Andree Poulin and Isabelle Malenfant
Annick Press, annickpress.com
In some unnamed town in Latin America, Pablo and his sister spend every day at “Treasure Mountain,” the local dump. There, they rummage through the mounds of garbage looking for items that their mother can sell in order to provide food for the family. Occasionally, they find a “real” treasure like some still-edible food or a picture book that Pablo delights in, even though he can’t read. The work is exhausting, and sometimes not very lucrative, but the worst thing they have to contend with is Filthy-Face, a brutish bully who steals the finds of all the children. But one day, Pablo discovers a real treasure: a gold chain. Will he be able to keep it from falling into the hands of Filthy-Face?
Editor’s Note: What an awful story – awful because the thought of children having to spend the day going through a dump to find things they can sell in order to eat that day is heartbreaking; having children finding our waste in the garbage and having to eat it is disgusting; and the fact that bullies exist everywhere is infuriating. And while the ending is happy, it’s an overwhelming sad story.
Pablo & His Chair
Princeton Architectural Press, papress.com
For his birthday, Pablo receives exactly what he doesn’t want: a chair. Disappointed and angry, he locks himself in his room, determined not to sit on his new chair. But he starts to play around with it and, by the end of the day, becomes a chair acrobat. Pablo sets out into the world, performing in amazing places and drawing great crowds. Eventually, he returns, chair in hand, having learned that the greatest gifts aren’t always the most obvious and often lie in our imagination.
Editor’s Note: Who knew a chair would bring you to so many places, but most importantly home. An interesting book about Pablo and his birthday present – a chair.
The Bear and Piano
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, hmhco.com
One day, a young bear stumbles upon something he has never seen before in the forest. As time passes, he teaches himself how to play the strange instrument, and eventually the beautiful sounds are heard by a father and son who are picnicking in the woods. The bear goes with them on an incredible journey to New York, where his piano playing makes him a huge star. He has fame, fortune and all the music in the world, but he misses the friends and family he has left behind.
Editor’s Note: My son thought this book was OK. I thought it was lovely, although the illustrations were not my favourite.
Kids Can Press, kidscanpress.com
When a branch from her beloved tree snaps off in an icy storm, a plucky girl refuses to let it be hauled away. Her neighbor, Mr. Frank, says it’s full of potential. So with imagination and spirit (and Mr. Frank’s help), the girl creates something whole and new out of the broken branch, to be enjoyed again and again!
Editor’s Note: I love this book. I love that Frank helped the character see the possiblilities of the broken branch.
The Day I Became A Bird
Ingrid Chabbert Guridi
Kids Can Press, kidscanpress.com
The day he starts school, a young boy falls in love for the very first time. Sylvia sits in front of him at school, and he’s so in love with her, she’s all he can see. But sadly, Sylvia doesn’t see him. In fact, it seems the only thing Sylvia has eyes for is birds. “There are birds on her pants and dresses. She wears bird barrettes in her hair. She draws birds on her notebooks and folders. And when she speaks, her voice sounds like birdsong.” So in a bold attempt to get Sylvia’s attention, the boy decides to go to school dressed up as a bird. He endures the stares and giggles of his classmates, and a great deal of discomfort, but the boy doesn’t care. Because when it comes to love, sometimes you have no choice but to follow your heart and spread your wings.
Editor’s Note: My seven year old took a look at the cover and declared he wasn’t going to like it. I reminded him that we often like what it is inside the book, even if the cover isn’t to our liking. He still didn’t like after I read it. I had to agree, it was kind of weird. Not sure I liked the lesson either – I don’t want my son to dress up like a bird – or anything else for that matter – to have a girl notice him.
The Fox Who Ate Books
Annick Press, annickpress.com
Meet Mr. Fox, who loves books so much that every time he finishes one, he eats it (with a little salt and pepper, of course)! His insatiable appetite drives him to seek more and more books, until one day, he discovers the local library, where he can “devour” books to his heart’s content. Eventually, the librarian catches him “sampling” from the collection and bans him from the library. Down on his luck, the crafty Mr. Fox must find other ways to satisfy his cravings. His attempt to rob the local bookstore, however, ends badly. Arrested for stealing, Mr. Fox lands in jail, where he discovers a surprising way to satisfy his literary cravings (and become rich and famous).
Editor’s Note: I am puzzled. Why eat books, Mr. Fox? Strange book. My seven year old said I wouldn’t like it because the fox is eating the books. It’s true. Mr Fox isn’t getting any where near my books.
The Mouse and the Moon
Henry, Holt and Company, mackids.com
This is the story of a little mouse who lives in a dark and wild wood. He is all alone, except for his friend the moon. Each night the mouse tells the moon all of his news, his hopes, and his fears. But the moon never replies. So the little mouse ventures out to find his friend—and finds someone unexpected instead.
Editor’s Note: What a cute book and a lovely story. I liked that everyone was in black and white – except for the main character mouse – until the end. It would have been a more fun read for me except my son made me take out the word mouse and add Jerry. I stumbled over it each time.
The Pruwahaha Monster
Kids Can Press
A five-year-old boy has gone with his father to swing on his favorite swing near the woods. But while he’s been having fun swinging, a huuuuuge monster has woken up nearby from a very long nap. The monster is ravenous, and there’s only one thing that will satisfy its hunger: little children! At first, the monster has no luck as it searches the woods for food. Then, oh, no! The monster spies the little boy on the swing! But when the monster creeps closer and tries to scare the boy with its fierce cry, “pruwwwahhahaha!” the boy isn’t frightened at all. In fact, he only laughs at the monster and keeps swinging! Is the boy fearless? Or does he know something about this monster that we don’t know?
Editor’s Note: Poor monster. It’s not the first creature to realize kids don’t scare as easily. Here’s hoping he learns leaves are a tasty alternative to children.
They All Saw A Cat
chronicle kids, chroniclekids.com
The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws . . . In this glorious celebration of observation, curiosity, and imagination, Brendan Wenzel shows us the many lives of one cat, and how perspective shapes what we see. When you see a cat, what do you see?”
Editor’s Note: What a cool perspective. Each page shows us what a cat looks like in the eye of the beholder – the honeybee (dots), the snake (thermal), the skunk (black and white) and even the cat himself. Super cool.
When The Rain Comes
Pajama Press, pajamapress.com
t is time to plant the rice crop in Malini’s Sri Lankan community, and the little girl is both excited and nervous to help for the first time. What if she does it wrong? Will she be responsible if the crop fails? When the oxcart rumbles in loaded with seedlings, she reluctantly agrees to watch the big, imposing animal while the driver takes a break. Suddenly, the skies go dark with monsoon rain. A flash flood pours down the road, separating Malini from the driver and her family. They are shouting for her to run for higher ground, but what about the rice? Summoning up courage she never dreamed she possessed, Malini resolves to save ox, cart, and seedlings, no matter what it takes.
Editor’s Note: What a beautiful book. The illustrations are different, both from anything else I have seen to within its pages. Sometimes it’s fast and swirling, other times Malini and the other characters in the book are smooth and more lifelike. It’s a cool effect. The story was also pretty amazing. My heart started racing and I could feel Malini, and the ox’s, anxiety rise and settle down. A beautiful book.
You are Two
Owl Kids, owilkidsbooks.com
A baby’s second year is full of memorable milestones. Walking, running, understanding more words, speaking their names, and forming first memories are all exciting achievements. You Are Two picks up where You Are One left off and looks back on each of these moments and more, inviting little ones and their parents to celebrate how much they have grown and discovered.
Editor’s Note: Ah, two. I like two-year-olds, and this book is a good reminder of what that age group is like. I am not a fan of the illustrations in this book.
Crafts and activities
The Big Book of Activities Totally Toronto
Puzzles, Games, Colouring and more
Sourcebooks jabberwocky, jabberwockykids.com
Editor’s Note: What a fun book. We like doing mazes, word searches, codes, spot the differences and – in this case, crosswords. The crossword were too hard for my seven year old, but I was finally able to do one. This will keep us busy for the summer.
This annoying Life, A Mindless Coloring Book for the Highly Stressed
Here at last is the stress-reducing coloring book that lets adults of all ages color their way through the funny and true annoyances of everyday life. From trying to assemble flat pack furniture to clearing an office paper jam, juggling remote controls, dropping contact lenses on the bathroom floor, and nudging the cat who absolutely won’t let you read your book, the dozens of witty and sympathetically amusing illustrations offer real therapy and poke gentle fun at the meditative coloring craze.
Editor’s Note: On one hand I wonder why you would want to colour the frustration clearly found in the pages of this book (hair found in your food, the disaster known as your child’s bedroom, wide awake in the middle of the night, spilt milk), on the other hand it feels pretty fantastic to scribble – or perhaps colour firmly – the splatter of a blender gone wild (and the contents all over you and the house) and the smelly guy on the subway.
Angel’s Touch: Sweet and Savoury Delights
The cookbook consists of more than 100 recipes including Grandma’s Sneaky Tomato Sauce, Caramelized Blueberry Panini and Chocolate Pecan Pie, plus Blainey’s stories about The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), photos and artwork. The cookbook is a way for Blainey to give thanks for the care and support she is receiving at SickKids.
Visit http://www.insidetoronto.com/news-story/6912862-north-york-resident-launches-cookbook-in-support-of-sickkids-foundation/ for details.
Other Halloween books
8 Rivers of Shadow
Candlewick Press, penguinrandomhouse.com
It’s been a few months since Luke Manchett inherited a Host of eight hostile spirits from his dead father and made a deal with the devil to banish them. Luke’s doing his best to blend in to the background of high school, to ignore the haunting dreams spawned by his father’s Book of Eight, and to enjoy the one good thing to come from the whole mess: his girlfriend, Elza. And then it all begins again. Ash, a strange new girl with stark white hair, requests his help — and his Book of Eight — to save her twin sister, who was attacked by a demon. Ash knows a lot more about necromancy than Luke and seems to know what she’s doing, but can she be trusted? As Luke is drawn into a spiral of ever more dangerous favours, he finds himself not only summoning the deadliest members of his father’s Host, but returning to Deadside in a terrifying quest to save what he holds dearest — or die trying.
Haunted Canada 6, More Terrifying True Stories
Joel A. Sutherland
For his new story collection, author Joel A. Sutherland has scoured the country for more creepy and chilling tales.
Kubrick Red: A Memoir by Simon Roy
Anvil Press, http://www.anvilpress.com/
Simon Roy first saw The Shining when he was ten and was mesmerized by a particular line: How’d you like some ice cream, Doc? He has since seen the movie at least 42 times, because “it encompasses the tragic symptoms of a deep-seated defect that has haunted [it] for generations.” The painstaking bond he has knitted with this story of evil has enabled him to absorb the disquieting traits of its “macabre lineage: and fully reveal its power over him. This is an unusual and astonishing book. This memoir will appeal not only to Kubrick fans but also to readers who are attuned to life’s harships and mindful of the strength needed to overcome them.
Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin. The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland.
Other Children’s Books
Inside Your Insides
A Guide to the Microbes That Call You Home
Kids Can Press, kidscanpress.com
Wherever you go, tiny hitchhikers tag along for the ride,? this intriguing illustrated nonfiction book begins. ?The hitchhikers are actually microbes – tiny living things so small that you need a microscope to see them. And every person carries around trillions and trillions of these critters.? Six of the most common ?critters that live in and on our bodies are introduced here: bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, protists and mites. Each one has its own preferred environment, and readers will be startled (and likely a little grossed out!) by the many places they live, including the hair follicles on our faces, the folds of our tongues and the lengths of our guts.
The Iron Hand, Tree Thieves Book 7
Kids Can Press, http://www.kidcanpress.com
This final installment in the series delivers danger, deception, rip-roaring action, and plenty of derring-do.
Harry Potter illustrated editions
These magical new editions feature never-before-seen illustrations by artist Jim Kay. Books 1 to 7 are in hardcover and paperback and you can purchase slipcovers. both are available at Chapters, Amazon and independent book stores.
Don’t I know You?
Flatiron Books, http://www.flatironbooks.com
What if some of the artists we feel as if we know―Meryl Streep, Neil Young, Bill Murray―turned up in the course of our daily lives? This is what happens to Rose McEwan, an ordinary woman who keeps having strange encounters with famous people. In this engrossing, original novel-in-stories, we follow her life from age 17, when she takes a summer writing course led by a young John Updike, through her first heartbreak (witnessed by Joni Mitchell) on the island of Crete, through her marriage, divorce, and a canoe trip with Taylor Swift, Leonard Cohen and Karl Ove Knausgaard. (Yes, read on.)
A Fight to Learn, The Struggle to Go To School
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com
In many countries around the world, universal access to education is a seemingly unattainable dream; however, determined individuals with vision and drive have made this dream come true for many. This book highlights people who were undeterred in their fight to bring education to children will leave young readers with excellent models of how to mobilize support when fighting for social justice.
All the Dirt, A History of Getting Clean
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com
Cleanliness is next to godliness. At least that was the point of view espoused by John Wesley in 18th century England. But accounts of people bathing go back to the Bronze Age in the Indus Valley. All the Dirt on Getting Clean is a lively, informative exploration of the evolution of keeping clean.
Bad Girls of Fashion, Style Rebels from Cleopatra to Lady Gaga
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com
The title says it all: Bad Girls of Fashion explores the lives of ten famous women who have used clothing to make a statement, change perceptions, break rules, attract power, or express their individuality. Included are Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. Sidebar subjects include: Elizabeth I, Marilyn Monroe, Rihanna, and Vivienne Westwood.
Marion Dewar, A Life of Action
Second Story Press, http://www.secondstorypress.ca
Marion Dewar could never ignore a person who was begging in the street. Along with money, she would offer words of encouragement and friendship. Perhaps it was her training as a nurse, her devout Catholic upbringing, or maybe it was simply because she was a genuinely compassionate woman. As mayor of Ottawa from 1978-1985, Marion Dewar worked tirelessly to bring about non-profit housing, better public transportation, support and encouragement for the arts, for peace, and for women’s rights. She advocated for visible minorities, gays and lesbians, and was the driving force behind the initiative to bring 4,000 boat people to Ottawa from Vietnam and Southeast Asia. She was a prominent member of the New Democratic Party and sat as a Member of Parliament in 1987-1988 – all while raising four children. Accompanied by archival and personal photos, an intriguing look at a woman who took action when it counted most.
Making it Right Building Peace, Settling Conflict
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com
Making It Right relates true stories of young people who are working in innovative ways to further conflict resolution and heal past wounds. The book begins with individual injustices, such as bullying, and works up to collective ones, like wars. Each chapter begins with a dramatic fictional account, making the topic engaging and relevant for kids.
This article was first posted at insidetoronto.com