The Word for Friend

The Word for Friend is one of my favourites this month. Kemala is in a new house, in a new town and in a new country and is looking forward to going to school where she is certain there will also be new friends. They are, but Kemala soon realizes she doesn’t understand what her classmates are saying because they speak a different language. Soon, outgoing, talkative Kemala curls into a ball (she is a pangolin after all) and hides up in a tree, away from the other children. She is cutting leaves into animals when a classmate appears and introduces herself. They create leaf art together, but Kemala still doesn’t know what her knew friend is saying until one day, Kemala is brave enough to try to speak in her new language.

I thought this was a great way to share the story of people who are brave enough to come to a new country without being able to speak the language. I also liked that the language spoken is a real one: Esperanto, created in 1887, has about two million speakers.

“Because it is not associated with any particular country, it was chosen to make Kemala’s new home feel like it could be anywhere, while probably feeling like a foreign language to most readers,” writes author

Aidan Cassie. I loved the illustrations, too. I interviewed Cassie. Read it here. The Word for Friend is $25.01 and is from Raincoast Books.

Once Upon an Hour

What a neat book by Ann Yu-Kyung Choi and illustrated by Soyeon Kim. It’s a story of a young child who can’t tell time. Her mother helps her by sharing a story she heard about a child who is lost in the mountains trying to find a special plant that will help her sick mother survive. At first, each of the animals of the morning, afternoon and night refuse to help until the child’s song compels them into action. While not the most practical way to tell time – I would expect memorizing a clock would be easier than trying to remember which animal goes where – it was a neat way to explain it. I loved the illustrations – 3D dioramas. What a cool effect.

Once Upon an Hour is from Orca Books and retails for $19.95.

My Day with Gong Gong

A little girl’s mother drops her off to spend a day with her grandfather, but she doesn’t want to go because she doesn’t speak Chinese and her grandfather doesn’t speak English. The day continues badly – Gong Gong falls asleep watching TV and when the little girl flips it to her show, he wakes up and shuts the TV off. She goes to the market, but doesn’t get anything to eat. She hangs out with Gong Gong’s friends, but they laugh at her when she wasn’t trying to be funny. When pigeons poop on her, the little girl’s frustration comes out in tears, but then she realizes her grandfather was listening all along.

My Day with Gong Gong is from Sennah Yee is a lovely story about the importance of love and family. I liked the illustrations by Elaine Chen.

My Day with Gong Gong is from Annick Press and retails for $21.95.

My Pencil and Me

In My Pencil and Me, an illustrator is staring at a blank wall when her dog asks her what she is doing. She tells the dog she is looking for inspiration for a book and it’s suggested she ask her pencil. The pencil always gives great advice such as to look around for ideas and forget about erasers as things don’t have to be perfect. Pencil helps the illustrator create a story using a baseball game they went to last week. But when pencil breaks, the illustrator is not sure she can create a book without her favourite pencil, until her friends help out. The illustrations aren’t my favourite. What I did like, however, is the ending when there are real pictures and illustrations mixed together including seeing Sara Varon in action in her home studio, with her real and imagined friends beside her.

My Pencil and Me is from Raincoast Books and retails for $25.99.

On Account of the Gum

On Account of the Gum by Adam Rex made me laugh for multiple of reasons. The child’s expression as more and more things get stuck in his head as parents, aunts and grandparents attempt to get the gum out is fantastic. I loved the part about finding solutions for gum being stuck in your hair on the internet, only to discover, fairly quickly, the internet lied. Ha. On the Account of the Gum made me think about Stuck by Oliver Jeffers and while it was similar, it was also quite different. How the gum got out was great, too.

On the Account of the Gum is from Raincoast Books and retails for $24.99.

Room on The Broom

I was quite late to the Julia Donaldson books: my son received the Gruffalo when he was in grade school and we continued to find her books after that.

Room on The Broom is about a witch and her cat flying through the air on her broomstick when the wind knocks off her hat. She lands and searches but with no luck. Luckily, a dog runs out with the hat in his jaws. The dog asks if there is room on broom for a dog, of which the witch replies there is. The adventure continues as the witch loses a number of things only to be found by various creatures who ask to come aboard. That is until the broom breaks and the real adventure begins.

I received both the board book and picture book version and it looks like they are the same story. While I liked many parts of this, including the end, I found it was too repetitive. If I was reading this story to my son, I would like skip chunks of text to get to the main part.

The illustrations by Axel Scheffler are easy to recognize. All the books I have read by Donaldson have been illustrated by Scheffler.

Room on the Broom is from PGC Books. The board book is $13.85, while the hard cover is $23.99.

Superhero vs School

In this book by Ethan Long, superhero Scotty is facing his one fear – the first day of school. “Just when Scotty thinks all hope is lost, he realizes that school is no match for a whole team of heroes – his new friends.” The idea of the book is good, I am just not sure portraying school as this scary, nasty thing with big teeth is the way to get there. It certainly isn’t the first-day-of-school book I would be reading to my student. The illustrations are big and colourful, but not my favourite.

Superhero vs School is from Raincoast Books and retails for $24.50.

The Teeny Weeny Genie

And just like that I read a book by Julia Donaldson that was not illustrated by Axel Scheffler. The Teeny Weeny Genie is illustrated by Anna Currey and it’s a completely different style. I like it.

In this book, Old MacDonald lived on a farm with a genie who lived in a teapot on the farmer’s shelf. But one day the farmer decides to clean the teapot, and out comes a blue genie who grants him a wish – first a new tractor, then a wife and a baby, a cat and a dog, until wishes – particularly loud wishes – get out of hand and the genie gets a headache and wishes he was away from the noise. But genies can’t grant their own wishes. Can they?

The Teeny Weeny Genie is a cute book with a great ending.

The Teeny Weeny Genie is from PGC Books and retails for $25.85.

A copy of these books were provided by Annick Press, Orca Books, PGC Books
and Raincoast Books for an honest review. The opinion are my own.