As mentioned here, I received so many beautiful picture books, I had to divide my reviews into two posts. I am not sure if I could pick just one favourite as they were all great for various reasons. The Elephant Keeper is a favourite because, initially, it seemed so long I had debated not reading it at all (my eight year old actually refused to let me read it to him), but I am glad I did because it was such a wonderful story. Nothing Rhymes with Orange makes me laugh and I can’t wait to read it to as many children as I can. Baby Cakes is adorable. The Way Downtown was unique.
So what is your favourite?
The Elephant Keeper
The Elephant Keeper by Margriet Ruurs ($19.99, Kids Can Press) is based on the true story of Aaron and Zambezi and the bond that forms at Lilayi Elephant Nursery in Zambia. Aaron saves Zambezi when he fell into a hotel swimming pool and almost drowns. Although Aaron has been raised to think of elephants as dangerous to humans, the relationship he sees between people and animals at the sanctuary changes his views. My son refused to let me read this book too him because of how many words were on the page. Sadly, I almost didn’t read it for the same reason. I am glad I went back and read it because it’s a a beautiful story with wonderful illustrations. I also like that there are several pages of real elephant pictures with information about these wonderful creatures in addition to a picture of both Aaron and Zambezi, who is learning how to live in the wild, although this makes me nervous. I wonder how successful they will be as Zambezi is so used to kind humans.
Read an interview with Margriet Ruurs here.
Nothing Rhymes with Orange
Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex ($23.99, Raincoast Books, Chronicle Kids) made me laugh out loud throughout the entire read. The author is creating a rhyme about the fruit in the book (real fruit with drawn-on faces) and orange is to the side making snide, passive-aggressive comments. Poor Orange knows he is going to be left out because nothing rhymes with orange, but it’s just as well because the book is going off the rails and he wants nothing to do with it any way, which is a lie because it’s wonderful. A great book and another to add to my to-buy list.
A Walk in the Forest
A Walk in the Forest by Maria Dek ($24.95, Raincoast Books, Princeton Architectural Press) shows you what happens when you take a walk in the forest. You might find treasures, hear the secrets of the trees and, if you are patient, meet a fox. Author and illustrator Maria Dek captures the beauty and imagination of walking and playing in a forest. I loved the words and the feelings they evoked, but not all of the illustrations.
Baby Cakes Theo Heras ($15.95, Pajama Press) is an absolutely adorable book in both words and illustrations. We get to watch as an older sister and her brother – and super cute kitten – make cupcakes for their tea party. Here’s a book parents can read over and over and over and not get bored. Plus, there are recipes for both vanilla cupcakes and icing.
Bugs from Head to Tail
Bugs from Head to Tail by Stacey Roderick ($18.99, Kids Can Press) offers a paper craft up-close look at a bug (although my son informs me they are actually not all bugs, some are arachnids, although in fairness to the author she noted at the end that she covers creatures that fall under the anthropoid name) and asks you to guess what it is. You turn the page to discover a millipede at the base of a tree along with information such as the fact it has 750 legs. Even in paper art the bugs here are creepy, crawly and disgusting. But the information is interesting and I always learned something.
Goodnight, Hockey Fans
Goodnight, Hockey Fans by Andrew Larsen ($18.99, Kids Can Press) is a story of a boy who is worried he won’t be able to fall asleep. He turns on the radio to a hockey broadcast and as the announcer says “Welcome back, hockey fans from coast to coast. What a game we have tonight,” the boy drifts off to sleep and finds himself at the centre of the action. I read this book to my hockey-obsessed six-year-old nephew, who told me he didn’t like it and it was weird but I feel this has less to do with Larsen’s writing and more to do with the fact if my nephew isn’t playing hockey, he is not interested.
I thought it was a fun story and captured the essence of our obsession with hockey.
Me, Me, Me
Me, Me, Me by Annika Dunklee ($18.99, Kids Can Press) is about Annie and her best friends Lillemore and Lilianne, who decide they are going sing in their class’ upcoming talent show. But things start to go bad when Annie, who came up with the initial idea, makes herself the star and doesn’t take her friends’ ideas into consideration. The two friends decide to do things on their own, leaving Annie to be the star by herself. She realizes, however, things aren’t the same without her friends, but is it too late to make it right? My eight-year-old son didn’t like the story. I didn’t like the story either – things like that always makes me uncomfortable – but I liked the way it was told, the illustrations and the fact that there was some words in Swedish and French in it.
Middle Bear by Susanna Isern ($18.99, Kids Can Press) is the story of Middle Bear who is in middle child of two brothers. He eats middle-sized portions on middle-sized plates and cries middle-sized tears. He doesn’t want to be the middle child until he realizes that middle is best. It’s a cute story illustrated in paper art, but I really hated the one part when the dad is out gathering nuts with his older brother and his mom is having a nap with the younger brother and Middle Bear is by himself reading in his room. How awful. I wanted to cry middle-sized tears, too.
Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament
Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament by Anne Renaud ($18.99, Kids Can Press) is a really neat story about the invention of the potato chip. The illustrations aren’t my favourite, but I really enjoyed the story about George Crum, who makes paper thin potatoes after a picky customer, Filbert P. Horsefeathers, sends his potatoes back because they’re too thick. I enjoyed the author’s note at the end that gave more information about George Crum and his creation.
No Room for Baby
No Room for Baby by Emile Jadoul ($18.99, Kids Can Press) would be a great book to give someone who just had a second baby. Leon, a cute penguin, suggests there is no room in their family for his new baby brother, Marcel. His mom’s arms are perfect for cuddling him and there is certainly no room on his mom’s lap for him and a baby. But when Marcel cries, Leon has the perfect place for his brother. It’s a nice book with cute illustrations.
The Way Downtown
The Way Downtown by Inna Gertsberg ($18.99, Kids Can Press, www.kidscanpress.com/products/way-downtown) follows the story of five characters – from a family of travelling street performers to a spy – as they use public transit to get from various points of the city Zoom to its downtown. The characters take the ferry, bus. Light rail and subway and the book includes a subway map, each character’s route, information about public transit as well as a graphic novel type story. It’s a cool book that was fun to read and follow along.
A copy of these books were provided by Kids Can Pres,s Pajama Press and Raincoast Books for a honest review. The opinions are my own.