The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden may be my favourite of the books that I read this month, some of which make their appearance in book stores Oct. 1.

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden by Heather Smith ($19.95, Orca Books) was beautiful, but so sad.

The book is based on the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which killed more than 28,000 people. In this book, Mr. Hirota and Makio sat at the edge of his garden watching his daughter and Makio’s father unload the morning catch in the harbour below.

But then one day, the pair watched as a big wave came, stealing everyone with it.

“Everyone lost someone the day the big wave came.”

Silence descended on the village until one day Makio heard a noise and watched as Mr. Hirota build something in his yard – a phone booth where he spoke to his daughter every day. Soon people throughout the village came to the phone booth to speak to their lost loved ones.

So beautiful and moving.

According to the author’s note, in 2010, Itaru Sasaki built a phone booth as a way to deal with the grief of losing his cousin. A year later, the tsunami struck and thousands of villagers came to Sasaki’s phone booth to connect to their missing family members.

“It was this sense of hope and resilience that inspired me to fictionalize the story for a young audience. I hope that, like Makio, readers will see that sometimes in sadness there is beauty. In this case, it is found within the walls of Mr. Hirota’s phone booth.”

The illustrations by Rachel Wada were also amazing. In a note about this Vancouver, B.C., illustrator, it said she combined traditional Japanese art forms and techniques such as sumi-e and calligraphy with her own personal twist. I enjoyed the illustrations.

As a note, I highly recommend Smith’s The Agony of Bun O’Keefe. Read a review here.

Illustration of a family in front of a T-rex skelton at a museum with a boy running off.
Explorers is by Matthew Cordell


Explorers, by Matthew Cordell ($25.99, Raincoast Books, Feiwel and Friends), is a wordless book, which isn’t my favourite style of book. I didn’t really get what the book was trying to say until I read the back cover.

“One family’s visit to a museum leads to an unexpected adventure when a boy loses something important. With the help of a stranger, an act of forgiveness and kindness brings two families – and two new friends – together.”

I also feel that the parents should have not allowed their child to throw a toy in a museum.

Image of a squirrel reaching for one acorn.
One is a Lot (Except when it’s Not) talks about numbers and perspective.

One is a Lot (Except when it’s Not)

“Two is a little. Zero is nothing. And one is not enough. Except when…One is a lot. One sun is a lot. One tree is a lot. One nut (when you’re a squirrel) is a lot.”

So goes the book by Muon Thi Van (releases Oct. 1, $18.99, Kids Can Press) that talks about numbers in perspective. One is a lot when it’s a hello to a new friend. And one dark storm cloud is also a lot. And when you have a friend who shares, one umbrella is a lot as well.

I like the idea of this book and the way it’s told and illustrated (by Pierre Pratt) to make an obvious point.

Imagine of a boy in his car PJs outside with a stuffed bunny looking at a traffic light.
My Bright Friend is a picture book for three to five year olds.

My Bright Friend

Ludo’s parents are separated – his mom lives in the country in their old home and his dad has an apartment in the city. Ludo misses his friends while he is with his dad, but soon become fascinated by the traffic light outside his house and becomes convinced it is run by a patient little man who sits inside. Ludo begins talking with the man in the light pole, delivering him Ludo’s favourite sandwiches (I must agree with the little man; a relish sandwich sounds awful).

It’s a bit alarming to me that Ludo, who must be younger than he looks, sneaks outside in his pyjamas at night in the city to deliver his favourite sandwiches to the man who changes the traffic lights. If I was reading this book to my three to five year old, I would be ensuring he knew that going outside by himself at night is a bad idea. I am also not sure how I feel about the reasons why Ludo’s parents are separated or the fact that at his dad’s he is lonely and alone. Ludo is excited to come back to the city, not to see his dad, but to talk with his friend in the traffic light.

My Bright Friend is by Simon Boulerice ($19.95, Orca Books).

Illustration of a black and white puppy holding his leash in his mouth at the front door of an apartment.
Cute story about being grateful for what you have.

No Room for a Pup!

No Room for a Pup! by Elizabeth Suneby (releases Oct. 1, $18.99, Kids Can Press) is about Mia, who really wants a puppy but her mom tells her they don’t have any room for a dog in their small city apartment. Mia, with the help of her grandmother, hatch a plan that may involve a talking parrot, a rabbit and even pig, that will help her mom see there is a room for a tiny pup.

The book was cute – both in story (“a modern twist on a Yiddish folktale that highlights the importance of gratitude”) and illustrations. I particularly liked the end – the “small pup” and the the relationship between child and dog.

Image of a black girl with gloves planting daises with a salamander in a dress
Smell the Daisies is a collection of small stories with big words.

Smell the Daisies

Smell the Daisies is a series of books written by Judith Henderson (releases Oct. 1, $14.99, Kids Can Press) that offer big words in small stories. (You can read a review of Traveling Dust Ball here.)

In this book there are six stories that features a little girl named Oleander, who likes to keep busy, and Sally Mander, a salamander (get it!), who take it easy. The pair go on adventures and along the way meet the Sprinkle Fairy, who owns a word factory in Sicily (where the best words come from) and the Sprinklers, the Sprinkle Fairy’s helpers who pop up when a big word is coming.

Each story, told in graphic novel style, but without the boxes, features one word including some fun ones such as regurgitate (with pronunciation guide and definition); flabbergasted; and procrastinating, among others.

It stories are short and offer a fun way to introduce these Big Words.

A copy of these books were provided by Kids Can Press, Orca Books and Raincoast Books for an honest review. The opinions are my own.