This posting features recent CANADIAN publications, each worthy of praise. What talented children’s authors and illustrators we have, eh?
Let’s hear it for “I READ CANADIAN DAY” (November 8th, 2023) .. and many days beyond!!!
CHAIWALA by Priti Birla Maheshwari; illus. Ashley Barron
In the introduction to this picture book, readers learn that Chaiwala ‘tells teh sweet and comforting story of a young girl and her mother bonding over an aromatic cup of chai at a train station in Jaipur, India. Delightfully caputreing the richness of Indian, culture, the story teachers young readers the importance of taking time to celebrate the pleasures of family, food, and tradtion.’ This publication is noteworthy for being the TD Grade One Book giveaway. Every grade one student across Canada will be given a copy of Chaiwala. Hip, Hip, Hooray! for TD bank. Hip, Hip, Hooray! to Priti Bilra Mahesawari and Ashley Barron. Hip, Hip,Hooray for chai!
DO YOU REMEMBER? by Sydney Smith
The striking cover image of a pensive boy caught my attention. The questioning title Do You Remember? caught my attention inferring that this would be a book of memories, stories and significant life events. Seeing the author’s name at the top of the cover was reason enough to grab this picture book for purchase. A boy and his mother are cozily tucked together in the bed of an apartment that they just moved into, trading memories of special times they had experienced in the past (a picnic with Dad, a fall from a bicycle, a rainstorm). The format of the book is intriguinng: memories are shared in mostly 1/4 page text which are surrounded by 6 illustrated panels illuminating the happy and sad memories – a scrapbook of sorts. This is a book to foster connections, to ignite stories and to ignite emotional connections. This is a book that deserves repeated visits. This is another masterful book by the masterful award winning author, illustrator Sydney Smith.
DO YOU WONDER? by Wallace Edwards
Thia book presents ponderances big and small that encourage about some world’s mysteries for readers to wonder about. A reptetious pattern appears page by page inviting young people to answer in their heads, with some friends, or alongside an adult. (‘Sometimes I wonder why some songs make me happy. ‘/ ‘Sometimes I wonder why it feels good to help a friend.’ / ‘Sometimes if I can finish what I’ve started.’ Wallace Edwards staggering art work featuring comical animal characters (e.g., elephant, flamingo, penguin, porcupine) are sure to delight as much as the Sometimes I wonder statements that give food for thought. This book is the definition of “Imagination” with a capital ” It is indeed WONDERful!!
DRAGON’S DILEMMA by Catherine Little; illus. Sae Kimura
This is an exquisite companion book to the author’s and illustrator’s picture book Twelve in a Race where the Chines Zodiac animals enter a competition to determine who is the mlst powerful runner. In this title, Dragon boasts, ‘I am by far the biggest, by far the fastest and I am the only one who can fly.” The race provides the opportunity for Dragon to see the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. When he passes over a village in peril of a drought, Dragon faces the dilemma of winning the race or helping a people in need. Catherine Little tells a great adventure story and artist Sae Kimura provides exquisite illustrations that fill the pages. This is a fantastic story to shine a light on dragons that are significant to Chinese culture. This is a great story to have student think about ethical deeds and kindness. Dragon’s Dilemma is a treasure!
IF YOU SEE A BLUEBIRD by Bahram Rahman, Gabrielle Grimard
Ali and his family are safe in their new home, but the young boy has strong wishes to go back to Afghanastan. Although his story has Ali recalling nightime flight, a crowded bus and a flight to immigration, Ali has fond memories of the home he once knew of. When Nana spot a bluebird, she suggests that Ali make a wish and though he wishes to return ‘home’ Ali realizes that a home is a place of where families live and love together. This is another great title from Pajama Press by award winning author of The Library Bus and A Sky-Blue Bench. Inspiring!
THE IMAGINARY ALPHABET by Sylvie Daigneault
I love alphabet books. I love books that celebrate words. I love books with illustrations that enrich curiosity, wonder and imagination. this is a triple crown winner for me. On one side of the page we see an alphabet letter adorned with visual images (‘C’ features cactus, ‘L’ features lemons) and each letter is accompanied with playful alliterative sentences. On the right hand page, Daigneault ‘illustrates’ the whimsical sentence in addition to a number of pictures that start with the same letter as the one featured in the large illustrations. At the conclusion of this book there is a sit of about 300 words that have been ‘hidden’ throughout. 26 letters. 26 whimsical alliteratuve descriptions to accompany the letters. 300 words and one glorious trip to an art gallery with Sylvia Daigneault’s exquisite, fantastical illustrations. This is a WOW! of a book (to be released in September 2023 from Pajama Press.
G = Grumpy Gorillas Guarding the Garden Gate. Can you spot the gargoyles, gerbils, giraffe, gravel ground and gold hidden in the picture?
IMAGINE A GARDENby Rina Singh; illus. Hoda Hadadi A tribute to everyday heroes who calm fears and foster hopes
This book is a collection of 7 stories (vignettes) of courage and changing the world. Each concise story is presented over two pages in free-verse style. Each story is based on a real life stories from across the globe (e.g., Rio di Janero, India, South Africa, Greece and Northern Ontario). The narratives of ordinary people doing extraordinary things (e.g., a mother plants gardens in the canistars of spent grenades; the children of migrant workers gather under a bridge to get an education; an artist dismantles illegal weapons to transform them into musical instruments; a ballet teacher encourages her students to dance in spite of the sounds of shooting guns). show a troubled world through the lens of love, courage, and compassion . The cut-paper art work is spectacular. I would love to have any one of these images hanging on my walls. Background information about each of the stories is provided as notes at the end of the book. This book was given as a gift from a friend. Imagine a Garden is a gift for any readers who encounter the poignant stories and exquisite art work I’ll cherish this book and hope it gets awards it deserves.
Author’s note: “Our world is not always an easy place to live in. There is war, poverty, and violence in many parts of our planet. The news mostly puts a spotlight on what is wrong with our world. But there is a lot that is right too. There are people who get out of bed every morning and spend their days thinking of others and making things better for their communities
EVERYONE IS WELCOME by Phuong Truong; illus. Christine Wein (2023)
I strongly believe that children’s literature can offer students significant insights into hate and discrimination. Everyone is Welcome is a story of an 8 year old girl (almost 9) who learns stories about her mother who was taunted with anti-asian racial slurs (“Ching chong”) when she was younger and a friend of her grandmother’s, Mrs. Lee, who was under attack and pushed onto the road. The girl’s brother has joined the Asian Student Association designed to bring Asians together but also have a goal to help accompany other who feel cared to walk to school. Finally, one of the girl’s friends tells her that he is forbidden to play with her any more since everything that’s happened in the world is the fault of Asians. This is an honest and brave story of Anti-Asian racism. Kudos to author Phuong Truong for a rich story that is centred on community, compassion and caring. This is a absolutely a worthy contribution to titles that invite readers to think about inclusion, where everyone is welcome. Note: Christine Wei’s colourful illustrations not only compliment the verbal text but present a window and mirror into Asian culture.
LOOK UP HIGH! THINGS THAT FLY by Victoria Allenby
“Look up high! Toy planes fly. How? Where? Look up there?” This is another terrific concept book by Author Victoria Allenby (Shape Up, Cosntruction Trucks, Listen Up! Train Song!). A repeated pattern of text invites young readers to “Look up high!” and gaze at balloons, helicopters, jet planes and other things that soar through the clouds. The information about things that fly and the vivid photographs make this a captivating title to share with toddlers. Wonderful!
MINA by Matthew Forsythe
Mina is a mouse. She lives happily in the woods with her father and looks forward to the random surprises he brings home to her from the outside world. Mina is concerned when father brings home a cat (he insists it’s a squirrel). This is a funny, whimsical ‘cat and mouse’ story with staggering, glowing, patterned artwork that fills the pages. Mina is the winner of the $20 000 2023, Marilyn Baillie prize for best picture book. Well deserved, I’d say.
MOLLY MISSES NAINAI by Emma Chan: illus. Sean Huang
Because her Visa is up., Molly’s grandmother must return to China. Molly misses Nanai terribly and remembers good times that they spent together. Despite the distant sepearation, a familiar lullaby, shared through screen time brings granddmother and granddaughter together. (“When Grandma starts to sing the lullaby, Molly closes her eyes. They sing softly togethr, and Molly feels warm in her heart and her eyes. Nainai is back.” A heartfelt story about immigration and family bonds. The glorious artwork Sean Huang is evocative beautifully capture time and place. This is a special picture book creation filled with song, warmth and heart.
PIGS CAN’T FLY by Wallace Edwards
The title of this book serves as a testimony to the whimsical and wonderful imaginative world of Wallace Edwards. Through rhyne and art Pigs Can’t Fly creates a world of possibilities With Wallace Edwards the impossible becomes possible: Who says worms don’t dance? Swans don’t wear shoes? Fish never sing? Frogs don’t play bagpipes? Alligators don’t like snow. I was lucky to have recently attended an art gallery showing of Edward’s illustrations, an event to honour the celebrated artist who passed away in 2022 . The author bio of the book states that ‘his art and words invite children to find wonder and delight all around them every day. Mission accomplished, Mr. E. Thank you for your talent, your book gifts.
They say that nothing lasts forever.
I don’t know if that’s true.
But I know, between now and never –
And I know this now, more than ever-
Love will see you through.
THE YELLOW LEAVES ARE COMING by James Gladstone; illus. by Francois Thisdale
A young boy dreams about the glorious leaves of autumn. As teh book – and the seasons – unfold – this young poet and his little sister engage in activites that celebrate nature, nighbourhoods and wonder. James Gladstone presents concise poetic text (“The yellow leaves are coming, though the last leaf just fell. I know the leaves will come again. But first, there is the rain and the chill wind that blow… while empty branches wait alone.” Illustrator, Francois Thisdale once again reveals himself to be a masterful illustrator.
WACI! DANCE! by Sage Speidel; illus. Leah Dorian
A mother shares Lakota cultural experiences with her daughter introduducing her (and readers) to ‘waci’ (dance) as a way to celebrate life. The ‘Wacipi’ (powwow) is the place where the dancing occurs, a setting for Indginous song, dance, food and crafts. Sage Spiedel, who comes from the Stadning Rock Hunkpapa Lakota nation, shares the joy of being together and caring as she passes along the teachings of Powwow from Kunsi (grandmother) to michunski (grandaughter. The verbal text is presente rhythmic language (“On the morning of. a hot summer day, ou heard the powwow drums over the hill Boom Boom Boom Boom” )and words are accompanied by brightly decorative full-page illustrations by Leah Dorion that ‘dance’ off the page. Beautiful!
WE BELONG HERE by Frieda Wishinsky; illus. Ruth Ohi
When author, Frieda Wishinski and illustrator, Ruth Ohi met one day in a cafe, they ended up sharing family stories. Frieda’s family died in Worl War Ii at the hands of the Nazis. Ruth told her friend about her gandfather who had difficulty as a Japanese Canadian finding employment and who was eventually hired as a caretaker by a Jewish man. This picture book grew out of that cafe conversation. In We Belong Here, Eva Bloom is taunted for being a newcomer and Mark Nakamura is taunted by others for being different. Eva and Mark become close friends and when Mark’s father is unemployed he his hired to fix up up the Bloom’s store. Mr. Nakamura can build anything and his carpentry talents are well used in the community. Set in the 1950’s, this is a story of both discrimination and acceptance. Frieda Wishinsky tells good stories and Ruth Ohi paints womderful clear illustrations that depict time, character and emotions. We Belong Here is an important contribution to help today’s young readers think about friendship, acceptance and belonging. Every primary classroom bookshelf needs this book!
CANADIAN CHILDREN”S BOOK CENRE AWARDS 2023