Resource Links, published 5 times a year is Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian resources for children and young adults.
Resource Links reviews new information books, picture books and novels for children and young adults, audio-visual materials, computer software, and Internet resources for young people and professional literature of interest to teachers and librarians.
Resource Links informs you about Canadian writers, awards and announcements. Everything of interest to a Canadian audience.
Resource Links is written by educators, librarians and writers working with young people across the nation. Our reviewers span the country from British Columbia to Newfoundland.
For subscription information, feature columns, excerpts, and a comprehensive index visit the Resource Links website at www.resourcelinksmagazine.ca.
With so many wonderful picture books being published in recent times we thought it only fitting that we should feature some of them in a column which highlights those that spark inquiry. Many picture books today focus on some aspects of nature, science, history and mystery which can inspire young minds to ask questions and want to find out more information about topics in which they might have an interest. The following picture books were reviewed in volumes 23 and 24 of Resource Links and we hope will be a starting point for you in introducing these kinds of books to your young readers.
Nuptse and Lhotse Go to the West Coast
Rocky Mountain Books, 2017. Unp. Gr. K-3. 978-1-771602327. Hdbk. $18.00
Nuptse and Lhotse are back for another adventure, and this time they are headed to the West Coast in order to return their new friend Salish, a purple ochre starfish, back to its home. On the way, the trio travel across mountains, through rainforests, and below the Salish Sea. They visit a West Coast city, and take a ride on a ferryboat. Each night, they see the sun fall into the ocean, and they also meet many wonderful sea creatures such as whales, an octopus, crabs, and otters. Strangely enough, however, they encounter no other starfish along the way. When they come to the home of Kermode the Great Spirit Bear, he takes them through the Islands of the People to Chief Raven’s longhouse, in the hopes that Raven will be able to aid them in finding the other starfish.
The illustrations in this wonderful story are very colourful, stylized, multimedia works, and make use of elements such as maps, fabrics, books etc. within. Each page is a treasure to examine, and children will be sure to pour over all of the details they see.
With an infusion of First Nations art and storytelling style, along with the fun language choices and engaging characters, this is a story that will draw children in and keep them focused for its entirety. Learning facts about ocean life and the geography of the Western Canadian coast is a bonus that will not be lost on readers. A short author’s note discusses the very real endangerment of starfish, as well as the 2015 Hurricane Oho.
Thematic Links: Pacific Northwest Coast; Ocean and Marine Life; First Nations Legends; British Columbia; Cats; Adventure Stories
(Reviewed in Vol. 23, # 2 by Nicole Rowlinson)
Once in a Blue Moon
Groundwood Books, 2017. 56p. Illus. Gr. Preschool – 2. 978-1-55498-975-1. Hdbk. $17.95
This is Canadian Métis author/illustrator (and former teacher) Danielle Daniel’s second children’s book. Inspired by the phrase “once in a blue moon”, she has created a very accessible book of poetry for children. Each two-page spread includes a four-line poem (and an accompanying illustration) describing a rare event that makes extraordinary an otherwise ordinary day. The overall topic is an exploration of nature and encountering awe-inspiring events such as the northern lights, a double rainbow, a whale breaching, or a butterfly landing on your nose.
This book would make an excellent and accessible entry point for sampling poetry (in the classroom or at home) and the simple four-line poems with accompanying illustrations would be easy for children to use as model for their own poetry. Children of many races are clearly portrayed, as are scenes from nature that would be visible from across Canada. It is an excellent selection for personal, classroom and library collections.
Thematic Links: Nature and the Natural World; Animals; Things That are Rare; Indigenous; Poetry
(Reviewed in Vol. 23, # 2 by Erin Hansen)
The Night the Forest Came to Town
Illustrated by Annie Wilkinson. Orca Book Publishers, 2018. 32p. Illus. Gr. Preschool – 3. 978-1-459816503. Hdbk. $19.95
The Night the Forest Came to Town is an exquisite poem cleverly illustrated to evoke feelings of wonder and awe. Charles Gingha uses descriptive language to tell the tale of nature arriving and changing a city for the better overnight.
The story begins on a warm summer night in an unnamed city. “… there came a wind out of the night that rode the shadows home.” While adults are preoccupied with their technological devices, the children observe “…a sudden rush of green that spread throughout the city like a swirling figurine.” Birds arrive. Seeds quickly sprout into gardens. Animals frolic. By morning the city has transformed into a friendly inviting world. As the transformation progresses, the illustrations contain more colour and conclude with people interacting with one another and nature. The illustrations show the positive effects of nature.
“Morning broke, the sun burned bright,
the sky turned azure blue,
and everywhere the children played
the city grew and grew.”
The book depicts a quick magical change of a city and the attitudes of the inhabitants. It is a fantastic concept based on the reality of the benefits to all to be mindful of each other and to appreciate nature in every day life.
The Night the Forest Came to Town is highly recommended for both public and school libraries as well as a gift for preschoolers and young elementary school aged children. It is a delight to read aloud at story time. The language is age appropriate with just enough variety of words to inspire curiosity and to expand vocabulary. The drawings invite contemplation.
The book would be suitable as a centrepiece for art projects and language arts as well as class projects on ‘greening’ the local community be it classroom, school, school yard or community.
Thematic Links: Urban Gardens; Nature; Poetry; Mindfulness
(Reviewed in Vol. 24, # 1 by Laura Reilly)
Illustrated by Karen Reczuch. Groundwood Books. 2018. Unp. Illus. Gr. K-3. 978-1-55498-910-2. Hdbk. $18.95
Turtle Pond is a beautiful book. A boy and his family visit a turtle pond throughout the year at an indoor public garden. With deceptive simplicity, James Gladstone combines poetry with factual information about turtles throughout the seasons and the joy of observing turtles. The glorious watercolour paintings by Karen Reczuch depict the red-eared sliders in and out of the water and at different angles and doing what turtles do: swimming, sleeping, eating, walking, watching…and talking?
their mouths are moving.
Are turtles speaking?
We try to hear them,
the sounds they’re making at turtle pond.”
The writer offers information about turtles but also poses questions prompting further research for curious young readers. The illustrator offers detailed illustrations of the turtles in their lush environment where curious humans of all ages visit.
Turtle Pond is highly recommended for both school and public libraries. It would be a wonderful gift for any child. (Isn’t everyone curious about turtles?) The book could be a focus for many elementary school curriculum units: turtles, poetry, art, and family outings.
Thematic Links: Turtles; Poetry; Public Gardens; Family Outings
(Reviewed in Vol. 23, # 4 by Laura Reilly)
The Eleventh Hour
OwlKids Books, 2018. Unp. Illus. Gr. 2 up. 978-1-77147-348-4. Hdbk. $19.95
Two Canadian friends, Jim and Jules, one born just two minutes after the other, enlist the Canadian Expeditionary Force to the Great War (1914-1918), imagining that their adventure will be full of epic battles and reflected glory.
What the two discover is anything but, as they end up in the trenches fighting together although Jim is a natural leader and is always about two minutes ahead of Jules, which means that only one of them will see the Armistice begin on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.
In a style reminiscent of the great Quentin Blake, Jacques Goldstyn’s wonderfully inventive and amusing cartoons create an eloquent and compact story of war that can be appreciated by anyone from seven to seventy plus.
This is a story of enduring friendship set against a horrendous backdrop. Jim seems to garner all the military attention and Jules is always left behind with the leftovers – the uniform that doesn’t fit, chores in the trenches. One gets the medals, the other peels potatoes.
While the illustrations are both charming and funny, as they proceed, they become darker and darker arcing across the pages with more and more explosive violence and depictions of the reality of war both in the trenches and at home.
There will be lots to talk about after sharing this very fine picture book; highly recommended especially for elementary school library collections.
Thematic Links: Remembrance Day; World War I;
(Reviewed in Vol. 24, #2 by Anne Letain)
Les Inventions de Malia
Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie. Éditions Scholastic, 2018. 30p. Illus. Gr. K-3. 978-1-4431-6865-6. Pbk. $11.99
Malia loves inventing new things, and rarely leaves home without her toolkit so she’s always ready when inspiration hits. When a few of her inventions go haywire, Malia is ready to give up and heads out with her toolkit to clear her head. While out Malia hears a bird cry for help and stumbles upon an injured bird who cannot fly. Malia is determined to help this bird fly again and sets of on a wild hunt for parts and engines to get the raven airborne. After many failures Malia is successful and proves that perseverance and belief in oneself makes all the difference. This picture book is encouraging for all budding inventors and has a beautiful message encouraging children to keep trying even when they fail. The illustrations are eye catching, bright and go perfectly with this story.
Thematic Links: Inventions; Perseverance
(Reviewed in Vol. 24, # 2 by Holly Rainville)
A Boy and a House
Annick Press, 2018. Unp. Illus. Gr. Preschool – 2. 978-1-77321-055-1. Hdbk. $21.95
Maja Kastelic is an award-winning illustrator from Slovenia. A Boy and a House was selected for the White House Ravens Collection, International Youth Library, Munich.
A boy leaves his house to walk along a city street one evening. He takes note of the interesting sights, including shadowy people walking their dogs, and the faces of people peeking out their windows and around doorways. At one open doorway he sees a cat that seems to be beckoning him to come in. As he follows the cat, he passes through a cluttered vestibule with signs and notes posted on grimy walls. His eye is caught by a child’s artwork lying on the floor. He picks it up. Watching the vanishing tail of the cat going up a set of stairs encourages the boy to continue his journey. At the top of a winding staircase, we have a bird’s-eye view of another open door and another picture on the floor. Again the boy picks up the artwork and continues down a hallway, following the cat. He passes through a small room, by a table set for tea, and discovers more artwork that he scoops up. He continues through the home’s library, acquiring another picture. The boy sees the cat ascending a spiral staircase and this time, a piece of paper is floating down from above. Now, visibly excited, the boy runs to follow the paper trail, through a room where famous paintings are hung alongside a child’s artwork. He speeds up, follows the cat up another staircase, collecting papers, through a storage room filled with old newspapers and magazines, up one final set of grungy stairs to the attic. There he finds a girl folding paper airplanes from a stack of drawings she has made. At the end of the book, we see the two children happily tossing paper airplanes out the attic window to join the birds flying over the city rooftops. The journey must have taken the whole night because the sky looks like dawn is breaking.
This is a beautiful book to share with a preschooler or early year’s student. Teachers and caregivers can use this book to develop prediction skills. Young students can use their observation skills to anticipate what will happen next before each page is turned. There are many details in the illustrations to encourage discussion and vocabulary building. It is a good book to describe a simple plot: beginning, middle, and end.
Thematic Links: Homes; Friends; The City; Neighbourhoods
(Reviewed in Vol. 24 # 3 by Elizabeth Brown)
Be a City Nature Detective: Solving the Mysteries of How Plants and Animals Survive in the Urban Jungle (Be a Nature Detective Series)
Nimbus Publishing, 2018. 56p. Illus. Gr. K-3. 978-1-77108-572-4. Pbk. $14.95
“City dwellers may not realize the number of plants and animals with which they coexist.”
Be a City Nature Detective looks at the night sky and sixteen plants and animals common to most North American cities by posing a question and then answering with a well researched answer in age-appropriate text and relevant illustrations.
The organisms featured in the book are: bedbugs, cockroaches, rats, grey squirrels, red fox, coyotes, starlings, pigeons, gulls, lichen, goldenrod, burdock seeds, Queen Anne’s lace, dandelions, ginkgo tree, ailanthus and the night sky. The presentation of each organism is done in a consistent manner with a full-page illustration and the mystery question highlighted in a yellow box. A one to two-page text and illustration chapter follows each question. “Hmmm…Why aren’t the gulls in the city out at sea? Let’s look closely and find out.” The answer: “Living in the city allows these birds to nest on the roofs of buildings. This way, they avoid a lot of predators and more young seagulls survive.” (Earlier in the text “seagull” is identified as the most common gull, the herring gull.) Observations are made concerning interaction between organisms and humans, effects of importing species from other countries, sensitivity to pollution and quirky facts such as “Fossils show that ginkgo trees were alive 270 million years ago in the era of dinosaurs.”
Words contained in the glossary are printed in bold within the text. The book has no table of contents or index but does have a glossary, and a resources section of books, magazines and websites. The introductory illustrations are lovely, placing the organisms within an urban context. The illustrations within each chapter are detailed and easily understood.
This book is highly recommended for public and school libraries. The book is a good resource for families with young children to use on simple outings within their community. Educators as well can use this book for exploration within the schoolyard as well as class walks through the local community.
Thematic Links: Urban Animals and Plants; Urban Ecology; Observing Nature; Invasive Species
(Reviewed in Vol. 24, # 1 by Laura Reilly)
Little Otter Learns to Swim
Illustrated by Guy Hobbs. Ohio University Press, 2018. 32p. Illus. Gr. Preschool – 2. 978-0-8214-2340-0. Hdbk. $15.95
A mother river otter encourages her baby otter to swim for the first time. She watches from the shore, with all the other creatures (frogs, turtles, cardinals, butterflies) before jumping in to play swimming games with her. Little Otter masters floating and diving before she takes a rest with her mom. Instinct kicks in when a young bobcat and bald eagle see her, but the otter can find her way home and wait for her mom in their underground den. The book ends with the otters falling asleep to the sounds of wolves and coyotes, and then a morning swim at dawn with new friends.
The realistic illustrations by Canadian artist Guy Hobbs are painterly in style. They show the North American river otters’ natural habitat in, under, and around a river. Lots of bubbles appear around their bodies when they are underwater. The water includes lily pads, salmon, crustaceans, and a variety of seaweed. Double page spreads show the otters playful side as they chase after frogs and each other. The rhyming text is descriptive and does not include dialogue. Back material consists of facts (i.e. size, life span, weight) and websites about North American river otter projects, videos, and photographs. This is a great resource for early elementary school projects and story times relating to wildlife or first experiences.
Thematic Links: North American River Otters; Rivers; Animals in Infancy; Animals Learning to Swim; Natural World
(Reviewed in Vol. 24, # 2 by Tanya Boudreau)
The Hue In You
Illustrated by Sari Richter. Love To Be Publications, 2016. 32p. Illus. Gr. K-3. 978-0-9918941-2-3. Hdbk. $18.95
This beautifully illustrated text is told from the perspective of ‘Hue’, a small star in our vast universe. Feeling small and lonely, he begins to describe what lights the universe around him. In the night sky the North Star is the brightest. He also sees the Northern and Southern Lights, the Big Dipper, shooting stars and other phenomenon, as well as the light of the full moon and sunlight on the planets. Amid all the surrounding beauty Hue realizes that he can help light up the night sky as well with the light in him.
Each 2-page spread is filled with wonderful, softly coloured illustrations of the night sky, including meteor showers and shooting stars. The text is short and concise, conveying not only an appreciation for the universe, but also a sense of encouragement to the reader. Both the story and illustrations should prove a starting point for conversation and questions. This book should be useful for both a classroom and elementary school library collection.
Thematic Links: Stars; The Universe; Light; Self-Esteem
(Reviewed in Vol. 24, # 1 by Carolyn Cutt)
Auntie Luce’s Talking Paintings
Illustrated by Ken Daley. Groundwood Books, 2018. 36p. Illus. Gr. 1-4. 978-1-77306-041-5. Hdbk. $18.95
This vividly illustrated picture book is a feast for the eyes. The colourful pages evoke the bright colours and feel of Haiti – the seascape, town life and mountain homes. Inspired by the works of Haitian artist Luce Turnier, the book follows the story of an unnamed young American girl who travels to Haiti each year to visit her aunt and the former homeland of her parents. The themes covered would strike a familiar chord with anyone whose family has travelled to a new land to seek better fortunes and it is an effective window into how to pass on one’s heritage and culture to the next generation. Sharing pieces of Haiti’s complex past, the aunt helps deepen her niece’s understanding of her family homeland (“the truth is a hard thing to untangle”).
A note: Some of the illustrations use deep and dark shades and the black text is quite small, making the words very hard to read on some page spreads. The book would be best as a read-aloud for younger readers accompanied by discussion and assistance with processing the deeper themes, as the topics discussed are nuanced and layered (e.g. portraits of famous Haitians are opportunities for further learning) and the lyrical prose is at times advanced. There is a helpful author’s note at the end, as well as a pronunciation and translation guide for some of the Kreyol phrases used within the text. This is a solid addition to libraries, especially ones serving immigrant families.
Thematic Links: Caribbean & Latin America; Art; Haiti; United States of America; Family Heritage and Culture; Aunts; Nieces; Immigrate/Emigrate
(Reviewed in Vol 24, # 3 by Erin Hansen)
Ponik, le monstre du lac
Illustrated by Fabrice Boulanger. Éditions Auzou, 2017. 20p. Illus. Gr. 1-4. 978-2-7338-4767-1. Pbk. $4.95
The book, Ponik, le monstre du lac, is the retelling of an old folktale about a lake monster that lives in the water of Quebec’s Lake Pohenegamook. The story and illustrations in the book show adults passing the story on to their children and grandchildren over time. The local folklore of the monster was epic. Since the first sighting of the monster in 1874, children were warned by their parents not to go near the water’s edge and grown-ups worried about going out on the lake in boats. In the 1950s, builders used dynamite to develop the roads around the lake and this disruption led to more sightings of the monster. Word of the monster started to spread and many people wanted to see it. Rewards were offered to anyone who could capture a photo of the monster, though no one did. Because no one had ever seen the monster, the stories about it grew and grew. It became more than just a lake monster, it became an enormous, snake-like lake monster with humps on its back and the head of a cow. People came to the town from the big city and, using sonar, were able to detect an eight-meter long mass in the water; suddenly they wondered if the reports of the monster were true. In 1974, the monster was given the name “Ponik”. To this day he remains a fascination and a mystery, and people continue to visit the lake in the hope of catching a sight of the great monster, Ponik.
This book allows both the student and the parent, teacher, or caregiver to creatively use their imaginations to conjure their own idea of what the monster, Ponik, might be like, and to ponder if he really exists. The story highlights how folktales go relatively unchanged over time, and rarely lose their magic. It is an engaging story that can leave the reader asking more questions: is the story of Ponik true? Is the lake real? Are there any other stories that might be like this one? This book could lead students to do further research on sea monsters and folk tales. Children of all ages could be asked to draw the sea monster of their imaginations.
Thematic Links: Folktales; Oral Tradition; Magic; Mystery
(Reviewed in Vol. 23, # 3 by Erin Dagenais)
MCALLISTER, Ian & Nicholas Read
A Whale’s World (My Great Bear Rainforest Series)
Orca Book Publishers, 2018. 32p. Illus. Gr. K-3. 978-1-459812734. Hdbk. $19.95
“It’s a beautiful day on the Great Bear Sea.” Thus begins the enthralling description of the daily journey of a small pod of orcas as they search for food along the west coast of Canada.
A Whale’s World is the fourth book in the non-fiction picture book series for young readers, My Great Bear Rainforest. The books combine the wonderful photography by Ian MacAllister with the engaging text by Nicholas Read. This winning combination evokes an appreciation of nature and curiosity to learn more about the marine and land animals and how they interact with their habitat and each other.
In A Whale’s World readers are hooked immediately with the two-page spread of the sea “spreading out like a big blue blanket”. An orca spy-hops to look around for seals and sea lions and each time she does so she sees all sorts of interesting animals also searching for food: a grizzly bear, black bear, wolf, fin whale, dolphin, bald eagles, puffins and more. Each ‘siting’ is accompanied by a photograph and interesting facts deftly incorporated into the story.
When the orca looks underwater she sees a Pacific octopus “…the largest octopus in the world. Pacific octopuses are as long as alligators. They’re also very smart. They’ve even been known to use primitive tools.”
On this day the orcas do not find any seals or sea lions. “So the orcas keep swimming south. In no time, they’ve vanished. Not so much as a ripple remains.” The story concludes with a harbour seal coming out of hiding and relaxing on the rocky shore.
This book is highly recommended for both school and public libraries as well as a gift for any child. What fun it would be to read this story in story time enacting the wolf digging for clams “…with his front paws spinning like a wheel” and depicting the different sizes of animals from tiny to huge. The book would be a welcome addition to any study unit about the natural environment, the food chain, and the inter-connectivity within ecosystems.
Thematic Links: Great Bear Sea; Orcas; Marine and Land Animals; Coastal Environment; Food Chain; Wildlife Photography
(Reviewed in Vol. 24, # 1 by Laura Reilly)
MCALLISTER, Ian & Nicholas Read
The Seal Garden (My Great Bear Rainforest Series)
Orca Book Publishers, 2018. Unp. Illus. Gr. K-3. 978-1-459812673. Hdbk. $19.95
“Where do seals seek shelter in the sea?” With stunning photography and engaging text Ian McAllister and Nicholas Reid answer that question. Seals, along with sea lions and otters, seek shelter in seal gardens. Seal gardens are naturally occurring rock arrangements that allow for entry of small animals and prohibit entry of predatory animals. The seal gardens have an abundance of kelp and fish.
The book reads like an exciting story. The book opens to a big storm in the Great Bear Sea. How forest animals protect themselves from the storm is described succinctly. Then the story travels underneath the waves, a world revealed by rare underwater photography. When the storm dissipates, the seals surface and see a pod of orcas. The seals return to the garden, the orcas move on and all is calm.
As with Wolf Island and A Bear’s Life the bold layout of beautiful wildlife photography combined with adroit text gives the reader a glimpse into a magical world that inspires a sense of wonder. The writing skillfully incorporates facts with a story that promotes understanding of nature.
This book is highly recommended for school and public libraries. It would be an appropriate gift for any child. Children are curious about nature and love a good story. The Seal Garden provides for both.
Thematic Links: Great Bear Sea; Seals; Marine Mammals; Pacific Ocean; Ocean Ecosystem; Wildlife Photography
(Reviewed in Vol. 23, # 3 by Laura Reilly)
MALLET, Chantal Duguay
Sous mon arbre
Illustrated by Danica Brine. Bouton d’or Acadie, 2018. 32p. Illus. Gr. Preschool – 1. 978-2-89750-130-3. Pbk. $8.95
This book uses short, silly, rhyming sentences to describe different birds doing a variety of activities under a tree. A crow wears sunglasses, a swallow does dishes, a dove paints a rainbow. But all along, a cat has been watching… the birds sing their melodic songs to put the cat to sleep. The book’s final page asks the readers to imagine what they would hear from the spot under their own tree.
This is a light book which provides readers with great vocabulary words and allows children to use their imaginations to describe what other things they might see and hear in their own backyards, playgrounds, or parks. This book can help novice readers recognize words through rhyme. This book would be an excellent addition to a preschool or young elementary classroom or library.
Thematic Links: Birds; Backyards; Rhyming Words
(Reviewed in Vol. 24, # 3 by Erin Dagenais)
Moi, La Terre: Mes premiers millards d’années
Illustrated by David Litchfield. Éditions Scholastic, 2018. Unp. Illus. Gr. 1-4. 978-1-4431-6949-3. Pbk. $12.99
This adorable picture book takes readers through the history of the earth as narrated by the earth itself. From the time when the earth was just a watery sphere to when the dinosaurs roamed, all the way to when humans started making their way across the lands, this book illustrates how the earth deals with animals, humans and even how the earth interacts with the other planets in our solar system. The creators of this book managed to make learning about the earth’s history a fun filled yet educational journey. With additional information snuck in after the story, Moi, La Terre, is sure to be a hit with kids of all ages.
Thematic Links: Earth
(Reviewed in Vol. 24, # 2 by Holly Rainville)
Fatima and the Clementine Thieves
Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard. Red Deer Press, 2017. 32p. Illus. Gr. K-3. 978-0-88995-529-5. Hdbk. $18.95
Fatima and her grandfather tend to their clementine orchard. At the beginning of the story Fatima shares clementines with her friends the spiders. She tells them “You may be small, but thanks to you there are no bugs eating our trees!” Just as the crop is to be harvested mysterious thieves damage the orchard. Fatima and her grandfather discover that the thieves are three hungry elephants. Through a series of trial and error, the elephants are eventually deterred by strong webs woven by the spiders. At the end of the story Fatima and grandfather happily tend their orchard again.
The text is descriptive with easy to understand dialogue between granddaughter and grandfather. Repetition of some phrases and words heightens the drama of the story. This story combines the reality of families dependent upon the land with the fantasy of magically understanding spiders. The book concludes with an African proverb “When spider webs unite, they can stop elephants.” This is a variation of the Ethiopian proverb: “When spiders unite, they can tie up a lion.”
The accompanying pictures, many on two-page spreads, are beautifully rendered with watercolour and a hint of pencil. Each painting contains a variation of the colour orange. Gabrielle Grimard captures the lusciousness of the fruit, the dark of the night, the sweep of the webs, the emotions of the characters.
Although the story is a work of fiction with a bit of fantasy, Mireille Messier addresses many non-fiction concepts: the bond and mutual respect between generations (Fatima and her grandfather); the hand to mouth existence of third world farmers ( if the crop is damaged there is no money to buy food or clothes); the concept of peaceful problem solving (not killing the elephants); the use of natural pesticides in food production ( the spiders eating harmful bugs).
This book is recommended for both public and school libraries. The book can be used as an example of the use of colour for art lessons. The story would be a welcome addition to units on family, farming, fruit production, spiders and elephants. Enquiring minds may want to investigate what could happen to the elephants and look at elephant rescue organizations.
Thematic Links: Grandparent and Child; Clementines; Orchards; Spiders; Elephants; Africa
(Reviewed in Vol. 23, # 2 by Laura Reilly)
Illustrated by Veselina Tomova. Running the Goat Books and Broadsides, 2018. 32p. Illus. Gr. K-1. 978-1-927917-12-1. Pbk. $14.95
PB the lamb likes to look at the stars and sky. After a few calculations, she believes she will see a comet. The grumpy goat she grazes with doesn’t think so, and he does some sneaky things to ensure she won’t see any comet pass by their way. Their disagreements are told in rhyming verse. Goat changes his mind about the night sky when he sees a beautiful constellation of his own and learns he too can be a studier of the skies.
Inspired by a real astronomer who visited Newfoundland in 1700, this picture book is an ode to the mystery and beauty of the night sky, and the importance of holding onto your beliefs and dreams because they can benefit more than just one person. The painterly illustrations add a folklore look to this story; and they show early maps, spy glasses and telescopes. This whimsical book would be a welcome addition to any Canadian elementary school or public library.
Thematic Links: Goats; Sheep; Comet; Astronomer; Newfoundland
(Reviewed in Vol. 24, # 3 by Tanya Boudreau)
My Wounded Island
Illustrated by Marion Arbona. Translated from the French by Sophie B. Watson. Orca Book Publishers, 2017. Unp. Illus. Gr. 1-3. 978-1-459815650. Hdbk. $19.95
My Wounded Island is written from the perspective of an Inupiat child named Imarvaluk which means “the song of the waves.” Imarvaluk lives with her family on a small island, Sarichef, near the Arctic Circle. Imarvaluk is frightened by the rising sea level and how it is affecting the lives of the people on the island. Outsiders present the scientific explanation of climate change. “Because of the warmer temperatures, glaciers are melting and the water is rising.” Imarvaluk views the problem from a mythological perspective and has nightmares about it. She thinks that a monster is hurting the island. “This creature is greedy and invisible.” Imarvaluk wonders “Why isn’t the goddess of the sea, Sedna, protecting us?”
Throughout the story, Imarvaluk describes the island way of life and the changes that are happening. For example the protective winter pack ice is no longer stable and inhibits hunting. As the story concludes plans are in place to move shore houses like Imarvaluk’s to the centre of the island. The solution is temporary and Imarvaluk’s family, in particular her grandfather, ponders the continued existence of their traditions and customs if they move off the island.
The text of My Wounded Island is done well conveying information from the convincing voice of a thoughtful child. The description of Imarvaluk’s fears and nightmares may prompt questions and concerns from young readers. The artwork, of gouache, ink, pencil and toothbrush, is exquisite in its depiction of contrasts of the daily lives of the Inupiat people with that of the disruptive phantom creature in the sea.
This book is recommended for school libraries. Although it does not offer solutions, it would be useful in a study of climate change. It is a thought-provoking depiction of causes and effects of climate change on a physical environment and the people inhabiting that environment. The book includes a glossary. My Wounded Island could also be incorporated into a study unit on northern indigenous cultures. The book could be used as an inspiration for art projects expressing perceptions of problems and fears. Exploring the use of a toothbrush in creating art would be intriguing as well.
Thematic Links: Climate Change; Rising Sea Levels; The Inupiat; Northern Indigenous Communities; Nightmares
(Reviewed in Vol. 23, # 1 by Laura Reilly)
Picture the Sky
North Winds Press, 2017. 32p. Illus. Gr. Preschool-3. 978-1-4431-6302-6. Hdbk. $19.99
When you picture the sky, what do you see? The sky can be many different things to many different people: a rainbow, a blanket, a story, a storm, or dancing northern lights. In Picture the Sky, the companion to the award-winning bestseller Picture a Tree, Barbara Reid uses her signature plasticine illustrations to convey all of the many ways that we relate to the sky over our heads.
The text in Picture the Sky is minimal, but that is because most of the storytelling is done through the illustrations. As I progressed through the book, I noticed many little characters and scenes that told their own stories, like the happy dog who pictures a rainbow, the unhappy pair in the rained-out campground, or the grandmother and grandson connected to each other by the shifting sky. This is the type of book that will make readers want to take a long look at each page, rather than read through it quickly. It could also be a starting point for a conversation with kids about how they view the sky and how it changes throughout the day or the year.
Reid’s plasticine illustrations are breathtaking, capturing both the vastness of the sky and the details of the world below it. Reid creates scenes that I wouldn’t have thought were possible to create with plasticine, including tiny details, deep perspective, textures, reflections, bright colours, and emotions. One of my favourite parts of the book were the endpapers, which are made up of dozens of small vignettes of the sky, including some references to famous works of art. Picture the Sky approaches a subject that every person on earth can relate to, and reveals all of its many faces through beautiful and energetic artwork.
Thematic Links: Skies; Imagination
(Reviewed in Vol. 23, # 1 by Alice Albarda)
Made By Maxine
Illustrated by Holly Hatam. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018. 32p. Illus. Gr. K-3. 978-0-399-18629-5. Hdbk. $22.99
Essentially, Made by Maxine is a targeted niche picture book written to endorse STEM activities in schools such as Makerspace. The author, Ruth Spiro is already well known for her early years picture book series – Baby Loves Science.
Maxine is a little girl who loves making things – she’s a natural inventor. When her teacher announces a pet parade, Maxine is faced with the dilemma of how she is going to bring her pet fish Milton to school and how they can participate in the pet parade. So, Maxine of the good imagination goes to work with all sorts of ideas and recycled items because as she says, “If I can dream it, I can make it.” and ultimately Milton goes to school and wins the award as the best-behaved pet in the parade.
The story is strongly supported by whimsical detailed illustrations done by the talented Holly Haslam. Children will definitely wish to return to them for more careful examination.
The book is a good fit for schools, but the question does arise as to whether this trend is merely a commodification of something parents have always provided for kids to play with – the shoebox of toilet paper rolls, popsicle sticks, stray buttons, cotton batting, glue etc. There’s a new vocabulary as well and it’s worthy of wondering whether primary aged children really understand words such as “repurpose”.
Still, Made By Maxine is an attractive, pleasant book and an excellent addition to any school which has a STEM curriculum.
Thematic Links: STEM; Inventions
(Reviewed in Vol. 24, # 3 by Anne Letain)
They Say Blue
Groundwood Books, 2018. 40p. Illus. Gr. Preschool – 2. 978-1-77306-020-0. Hdbk. $19.95
This debut picture book title from Caldecott Honor Winning illustrator Jillian Tamaki is a delight. Using sweeping watercolour brush strokes and black ink, the author/illustrator conveys layers of mood and emotion as a young Asian girl discovers the subtle variations in colour in the big world around her. The images are full of the action typical of young children and the youngsters this reviewer read it to were inspired to jump up and reach for the sky in the same way as the young girl exploring the growth and green of a tree, among other actions they were inspired to emulate. The illustrations also clearly communicate the wide emotional landscape experienced by young children – joy, wonder, contemplation, exhaustion, etc. The text is reminiscent of poetry without tightly adhering to a particular style. The language is lyrical and soothingly descriptive as the girl explores the turning of the seasons and the natural world around her. The explorations in the variety of shades of colour – for example, blue (the sky, the ocean, a blue whale, water seeming blue in vast quantities but clear when held in the hand or examined from up close) are compelling. Also explored are the simple ways of knowing things have different shades without having to “see” them (by using memory and prior learning) such as the fact that egg yolks are yellow (even when in the shell) and the blood in our bodies is red without having to see someone bleed each time.
This book provides many discussion points for young readers in a read-aloud setting and would make a wonderful book to use when investigating colour and seasons and the bigger world around us as well as exploring the emergence of critical thinking in children. Highly recommended for personal, public, classroom and school libraries.
Thematic Links: Nature and the Natural World; Colours; Animals
(Reviewed in Vol. 23 # 4, by Erin Hansen)
WINTERS, Kari-Lynn, and Lori Sherritt-Fleming
Hungry for Science: Poems to Crunch On
Illustrations by Peggy Collins. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2018. Unp. Gr. 1-3. 978-1-55455-396-9. Hdbk. $18.95
As society recognizes that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields need to become more diverse and inclusive, and as creative people increasingly add “art” to STEM fields to produce STEAM (art-influenced science-based thinking), a volume like Hungry for Science represents a welcome addition to libraries and book shelves.
The poems in this short picture book speak to basic scientific concepts such as magnetism, chemistry, life cycles, and sustainability; they’re intended for pre-readers and beginning readers. The chunky, boldly coloured illustrations accompanying the poems are pleasant and inclusive. Some of the little scientists are girls. Some are people of colour. Some are people with disabilities. All playfully suggest that science is for everyone – an important idea, particularly for early learners (who, research shows, are likely to represent scientists as male and able-bodied). The bouncy, playful verses will encourage repeated reading aloud, and the scientific concepts introduced in the poems are supported by a brief back matter to point scientists-in-the-making to further topics for investigation.
Hungry for Science makes science fun and appealing. It’s a great addition to school and classroom libraries, with lots of potential contact points for extension in math, science, ecology, and health lessons. It would also make a strong addition to public libraries, particularly in low-income neighbourhoods where young readers may need encouragement to see themselves in creative, innovative futures.
Thematic Links: Poetry; Science; STEM; Knowledge and Learning; Experiments; Concept Books
(Reviewed in Vol. 24, # 2 by Leslie Vermeer)
Translated from the French by Talleen Hacikyan. Tradewind Books, 2017. 32p. Illus. Gr. 1-4. 978-1-926890-05-0. Hdbk. $19.95
Pikiq, and his friends Kri, the crow, and Bou, the snowy owl, who live in the Far North, discover an old box buried in the snow. Magically it contains a book filled with pictures of trees and animals Pikiq had never seen before, along with coloured pencils, paper, brushes and paints. Immediately Pikiq begins drawing the pictures and filling the pages with brilliant colours. Finally running out of paper, he continues drawing on the snow, then falls asleep, dreaming about the new trees and animals that he had seen in the book and planning to find them.
This beautifully illustrated book focuses on the delights of the imagination. The vast white and barren landscape of the North is contrasted with bright colours as Pikiq draws and dreams. The brief text guides the reader through Pikiq’s imaginary adventures, however the story is expanded through the large, dramatic and interesting illustrations, furthering the readers’ imagination and promoting discussion. This text should also prove to be a useful reference for a social studies project, contrasting through illustration, two different environments. It is recommended for both a classroom and school library collection.
Thematic Links: Imagination; Colour; Contrast; Environment; Art
(Reviewed in Vol. 23, # 2 by Carolyn Cutt)
At the Pond
North Winds Press, 2018. 32p. Illus. Gr. K-2. 978-1-4431-4287-8. Hdbk. $19.99
This gorgeous new book by renowned author/illustrator Werner Zimmerman has already been short-listed for the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature – Illustration, 2018. At first glance, it may seem deceptively simple and repetitive, but upon further examination, there is a lot going on within the pages. Just as one can miss a lot by quickly glancing about in nature, it is only by sitting and intently watching that the observer gleans the subtle activity occurring all around them. Our setting is an up-close slice of a pond and sparse text shows the reader counting small fish (goldfish) as they appear in the field of view. We notice the sun-dappled water and other wildlife that happen by. The fish scatter and hide when a predator appears and poke their heads back out when the threat disappears. Though mainly a book about counting, it is also a powerful illustration of scientific observation skills. The learning journey is continued at the end of the book, where more information is provided on all the animals that call the pond home.
The back cover explains that Zimmerman was inspired to create this book by his young granddaughter’s fascination with his backyard pond.
Highly recommended for personal, elementary school and public libraries.
Thematic Links: Nature – Pond Life; Early Learning – Counting; Science Skills – Observation
(Reviewed in Vol. 24, # 2 by Erin Hansen)