PICTURE BOOKS: Spring 2021

Several  of the  dozen picture book titles listed in this posting are sure to be on my year-end list of favourites.  They have touched my heart, made me smile and made me very excited about sharing them with students, young and old, someday. Most of these books were 2021 publications. 


OUTSIDE YOU NOTICE by Erin Alladin; Illus. Andrea Blinick (2021)

A wonderful celebration of life outdoors and the wonder of nature.
A book to stir the imagination, arouse curiosity and pay tribute the world outside. (plants, soil, water, vegetables. This is a top-notch nonfiction picture book where each fact is succinctly and clearly presented in simple boxed text.

HAIR LOVE by Matthew A. Cherry; illus. Vashti Harrison (2020)

I ordered this title pre-pandemic but it just arrived in my office. Zuri loves ‘that my hair lets me be me!”.  An engaging story about curly, funky, puffy hair. Moreover it is a story about love as Zuri’s dad septs in to help his daughter find the perfect hair fit.  This book is based on the Oscar-winning animated film.

NO MORE PLASTIC by Alma Fullerton (2021)

Set in Prince Edward Island, a young girl takes action against ocean pollution by stirring her family into adopting a zero-waste lifestyle. No More Plastic inspires readers to thing about the fact that the health of our oceans, our planet, is in our hands. The memory of a beached whale inspires Isley to make change that will last. The art is made from repurposed plastic, sand, and moss. Another fine – and important – picture book creation by Alma Fullerton.

STORY BOAT by Kyo. Maclear; illus. Rashin Kheiriyeh (2020)

A young girl and her brother are forced to flee the home they’ve always known. This picture book is a very fine addition to stories about the migration crisis and the hopes of finding a new home where dreams can be realized.  The narrative beautifully follows a patterned format that mark significant events and belongings in the life of refugees.  ((Here is a blanket, patterned and soft, color of apricots/ Here is a lamp. Big and bright, powered by. the sun./ Here is the song thate everyone can singThe art work has a limited palette of orange, pale blue and black but the details, facial expressions and artifacts that are displayed on each page each tell a story. A beautiful picture book creation, a recent favourite. 

SHOUT OUT: THE BRAVE PRINCESS AND ME by Kathy Kacer; illus. Juliana Kolesova

 n 1943, the Nazis had taken control over most of Europe, Including Athens. Princess Alice of Greece kindly accepts people of all differences.  Born deaf, she knows what it is like to be discriminated against.  When the Jews in Greece find themsleves in danger, Princess Alice finds them a safe place to hide, even though it means putting her own life and the lives of others in danger. A real-life hero, Alice was the mother of Prince Phillip, the grandmother of Prince Charles and grandmother to William and Harry. Kathy Kacer tells a suspenseful story and recount history in a meaningful way in this picture book  (published in 2019 from Second Story Press).  Special books like this one provide readers with important background of the Prince as well as another story of courage and bravery  during the Holocaust. 

A LAST GOODBYE. by Elin Kelsey; illus. Soyeon Kim (2020)

Species from throughout the planet express grief and care for each other at the end of life. Though text is simple, this nonfiction picture book, shares the ways and emotions animals mark death, helping readers to celebrate those who will we love who will always be with us. Text on each page is sparse, but the art work fills each spread with movement and connection of such animals as the Mountain Gorilla, The African Elephant, The Black Billed Magpie and Killer Whales. 

THE ROCK FROM THE SKY by Jon Klassen (2021)

In the early pages, we are introduced to a spot. It is a good spot. It is the perfect spot to stand. Or is it?  The threat of a falling rock from the sky, urges the narrative on.  “Move from that spot!”1`A review in the New York times compared this book to Waiting for Godot (why not get them thinking about life’s absurdities at any age.) In an interview on the CBC, the author/ illustrator suggested that he was inspired by Alfred Hitchock. For me, the stories stand on the shoulders of the rascally animals in I Want My Hat Back.  Suspense. Wonder. Strangeness. Waiting. the book is told in 4 different chapters with monochrioamtic illustrations, dialogue statements alternating in black and gray font, wide open spaces and enough tension to move each of the stories forward 1. TheRock; 2. The Fall; 3. The Future 4. The Sunset.  Mr. Klassen you make good books. 

THAO by. Thao Lam (2021)

Everyone has a name. Everyone has a story about their name. The author’s name has perpetually been misspelled mispronounced and misunderstood and now, through the words and pictures is going to do something about it.Many readers will identify with  this Vietnamese artist’s  name story and for that the book is worthy of applause. The end page portrait galleries also are especially worthy of ovation!

SHOUT OUT: THE ONE THING YOU’D SAVE by Linda Sue Park; illus. Robert Sae-Heng (2021)

“Imagine that your home is on fire. You’re allowed to save one thing. You family and pets are safe so don’t worry about them.” Thus begins a school homework assignment where each student has in Ms. Chang’s class has to pick a single object to save in a an emergency. Any reader is sure to contemplate how they would rise to the challenger (a phone, a photograph, medicine, an article of clothing. As students present their choices, they are reminded that suggestions should have no judgements.  (WE PROTECT, AFFECT, RESPECT ONE ANOTHER).   The further challenge is to use the line structure form SIJO (SHEE-ZHO), an ancient form of traditional Korean poetry. (i.e., three lines of thirteen to seventeen syllables. Sometimes the lines are divided into six shorter ones.  This book is s hybrid of poetry, free verse narrative and picture book. The art images would inspire students to create their own to accompany their own ONE THING YOU’D SAVE pieces.  And, I’m sure the shared stories would lead into other stories about family, possessions and fire. Another gem from Newbery Medalist Linda Sue Park.

Sample SIJO  poem

My laptop. The whole universe on a thirteen-inch scren.

It’s like having an extra brain. Besides, they cost a bomb –

just makes sense to pick something expensive over something cheap.

CARRY ON: Poetry by Young Immigrants,  illus. by Roge (translated from the French in 2021)

Children’s book author, Simon Boulerice had the opportunity to run creative writing workshops with migrant adolescents in Outremont Quebec. Each of the voices in this picture book collection were composed by newcomers to Canada. The one-page poems (less than 20 lines) were each illustrated in soft watercolour portraits where the spirits, hopes and identities of the youth shine through. 

This is a very special picture book. 


I couldn’t get my head around

The changes in my fate to come

What waits for us int his place?
What path will my life take?

IF ONLY by Miles Van  Hout (2021)

Sometimes we let our imaginations run loose and dream of becoming someone, or something else, perhaps an animal. This book invites children to wonder about the wonder of the life of bugs who might also dream of becoming something else…’if only’. The butterfly thought, If only I were a stick insect/ The stick insect thought if only I were a whirligig beetle. The whirligig beetle thought… The vibrant expressive art is terrific. The glossary of creatures and instructions for making collage art are a bonus.

ROOM ON OUR ROCK by Kate & Jol Temple; illus. Terri Rose Baynton (Released in Canada in 2021)

Two years ago, my friend brought this picture book from Australia as a gift. I was thrilled to see that it has now been published in Canada. It is a simple but powerful story about immigration and finding a place of welcome where there is ‘room on the rock’ for all who seek itVery cleverly the book is to be read to the end, then back again. A gem.