Be Grateful Little Bear by Kara Evelyn-McNeil, illustrations by Max Scratchmann
Kara Evelyn-McNeil, a children’s entertainer from Whitby, Ontario wrote her first book Be Grateful Little Bear in hopes that parents will start a discussion with their children about being grateful for the blessings in their own lives. Little Bear finds himself alongside the proverbial fence, looking over at what appears to be greener pastures, but his loving parents remind him of the many wonderful traits that make him a special bear. The message, be proud of who you are, resounds loud and clear and served the purpose the author intended. My three boys sat around after the oldest had read the book aloud, and (yes, at my prompting) listed the things that make themselves and their brothers special.
Dinosaur Farm by Frann Preston-Gannon
Preston-Gannon, the first UK recipient of the Sendak Fellowship, spent one month living with and learning from Maurice Sendak, and Dinosaur Farm proves she is worthy of such an honour. This beautifully illustrated story tells how hard life is on a farm: waking up early, caring for your animals and tending to the earth but in a whimsical twist the animals that populate this farm are not chickens, cows and pigs . . .they are dinosaurs! The creative way the text is displayed makes reading with expression much easier for budding orators. My middle son spoke in a loud voice when reading BIG and a much quieter voice when reading small. But perhaps it is the textless illustrations that tell the reader the most. The last image we’re left with is of the farmer fast asleep tucked in his bed with his dinosaurs that have crept in through the open gate, asleep all around his bedroom. My boys were quick tell the “story” on that final page and to make a connection to another of their favourite bedtime stories, Goodnight ,Gorilla.
Santa’s Zany, Wacky, Just Not Right Night Before Christmas by DK Simoneau and David Radman, illustrations by Brad Cornelius
When Santa’s Zany, Wacky, Just Not Right Night Before Christmas arrived at our house there were enough squeals of delight from my youngest to trick one into believing that it was Christmas morning and not a hot, humid July day. To say that my three boys are obsessed with Christmas, Santa and all things related would be a gross understatement. In fact, as I type this now, my youngest (age 3) is watching Barney’s Christmas on Netflix (reserve your judgement, I needed some time to hammer this out). DK Simoneau and David Radman have written a Christmas tale that must be added to your night before Christmas reading list. In this story, nothing is quite right on Christmas Eve. The elves are now 7 feet tall trolls, the stockings have been replaced with long underwear and most concerning, Santa’s suit is not red! It’s purple! My boys loved this book and everything about it – the whimsical fonts, the twists on the traditional and the illustrations. Santa’s Zany, Wacky, Just Not Right Night Before Christmas now has a place in our Christmas tales reading box . . . after my youngest slept with it in his bed for three nights.
Kitty Hawk and The Curse of the Yukon Gold by Iain Reading
The first book in the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective series will have you hooked! What’s not to love? Canadian adventure, a fearless heroine and endearing characters . . . the Kitty Hawk series by Iain Reading is a breath of fresh air among the vampires, werewolves and teen angst that have dominated the young adult genre for the past few years. What’s more, the author has included an additional reading list and two websites for adventure enthusiasts to explore.
We continue to (try to) make time for creating art hereabouts, and I am newly inspired. I was at the Cabbagetown Outdoor Art Festival on the weekend and fell in love with the art of Judy Anderson of Kukucaju, which captures wonderfully the subversive violence of children’s stories and imaginations. Her Big Sister caught my eye; art that endorses eating one’s siblings is something that would go over well in our house, where it’s not all brotherly love. Check out her website. You can have you own kids’ drawings turned into a custom-made piece of 3-D art.
One great book in our art adventure is the Big Book of Everything Manga. Youngest (6) has had great success with the manga monsters and robots, and the drawings range from very simple to complex. It’s a great art instruction book for artists of varying levels of ability.
Middlest (9) is awash in bookish goodness: two new releases in his favourite series. Last month, it was the sixth book in Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series, Escape from Lucien. Until we went to hear him speak, I had not read the Amulet books, but Kibuishi was such a great speaker that I read all of the books in the series in a single sitting. They feature a really plucky heroine, who is brave and good and flawed. She wears an amulet that gives her power, but whether it is for good or evil is still unclear. In a world of kids’ books that are starkly black and white with respect to good and evil, I like how Kibuishi keeps us guessing about his plot and characters.
One thing I’ve noticed with his consumption of these graphic novel series is that he re-reads them over and over again. I used to fret about his re-reading these instead of trying out new chapter books, but it’s obvious that he has a real love for these books. He’s rushed out to get the new books in the series, bless him, and now makes a habit of asking me to check publication dates for his favourite authors. That’s some serious book love right there.
Middlest is also reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Perhaps you’ve heard of that one. I’m reading the Harry Potter books aloud to Youngest and Middlest, and then Middlest goes off and reads ahead. I’m really enjoying myself with these books. Youngest keeps stopping me to ask what words mean, which is sometimes frustrating, but, then again, he keeps stopping me to ask what words mean. He’s listening! He’s engaged! He’s learning! Coincidentally, Kazu Kibuishi has done the cover art for the latest edition of the Harry Potter books. Cue my collector’s obsession….
Finally, Eldest (13) is reading The Name of this Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch.
Nathalie: What book did you choose?
Eldest: The Name of This Book is Secret.
Nathalie: Ooooh! I liked that one. It’s very meta-textual. Why did you pick that one?
Eldest: It fell on my head.
Nathalie: Seriously, why did you choose it?
Eldest: Seriously, it fell on my head.
Here endeth the attempt at intelligent discussion about books. You win some, you lose some.