Clive McFarland. Harper Collins, 2017
Every time I read this book an ‘awww’ shoots out of me on the second last page–its timeless theme is charming. Henri is a very small caterpillar with a big dream–to fly. Henri wants to see the world outside the garden and have an amazing, incredible, impossible-seeming adventure. He has no idea of the transformation that is in store for him, so he leaves his friends in the garden and sets out for adventure. Eventually, as caterpillars do, Henri soars. I won’t reveal where Henri’s wings finally take him, but will say that his adventure was indeed amazing, incredible and impossibly possible. The white backgrounds on each page allow for children to zoom in on the adorable critter illustrations (check out those eyes!). As Henri flutters off the final page, readers are reminded to never stop chasing their dreams.
James Burks. Carolrhoda Books, 2012
Beep and Bah is what I’ve been waiting to cross my path – I love a laugh out loud picture book with a surprise ending. Although published in 2012, I’ve just discovered it. My daughter was quick to point out that James Burks is also responsible for the also very witty graphic novel series, Bird and Squirrel.
Beep declares adventure as he and Bah set out to look for Bah’s missing sock. All that Bah says is “Bah”, leaving much open to interpretation by Beep, whose commentary never ceases. They journey far and wide, interview many creatures and finally reach the end of the road (literally), without finding the missing sock. But when they turn around to go back to the beginning–the sock is found, at least by the reader, who will also want to go back to the beginning and read this gem of a picture book again.
Joanne Schwartz, author; Sydney Smith, illustrator. Groundwood Books, 2017.
A boy recounts how his day passes in a small town by the sea. The sea is the constant focal point; its sparkling expanse is contrasted by the confined coal mine that lies beneath it. The protagonist shares that he will be a third generation coal miner. He’s not bitter about his certain future, only acknowledges it. The illustrations fully carry the rising tension, and the reader begins to wonder if the father survived the collapse of the coal mine that day. A happy ending ensues. Phewf!
The word choice is soothing and poetic and left me mesmerised. I was also left with a melancholy feeling–although the tranquility and simplicity of small town life may be enviable, the boy does not even think to dream of a different future or a world beyond his town by the sea. Nonetheless, for this proud Canuk, this picture book is beautiful, haunting Canadiana at its best.
David Ezra Stein. Candlewick Press, 2014
I’ve been waiting for a picture book to*wow* me, because I only post about picture books that knock my socks off. Enter David Ezra Stein’s I’m My Own Dog. I read this with my daughters a few years ago, and recalled it being very funny, so I sought it out again. Now further established in my picture book tastes, I appreciate this book even more and recognize what a standout it is–sock removing for sure.
The main character is a confident bulldog, who informs the reader of how his relationship with man really is. It is the bulldog that must deal with the little fellow who follows him home, lead him on a walk and clean-up his messes. The ending is sweet, satisfying perfection, reminding us that man and dog really are best friends.
This picture book is not only a fun frolic for dog lovers, any child will take delight in catching on to the perspective that the book is written in and laughing at the cleverness of the prose. Cute illustrations round out the book making it a winner for all ages.
Julia Denos. Balzer + Bray, 2016
This picture book presents Swatch, a colour tamer. A unique premise, to be sure!
I love, love, love the illustrations on white backdrops with loose brushstrokes of gorgeous colours throughout. But more so, I adore the images of Swatch. She has a sparkle in her eye, a spring in her step, wild hair and paint smears, splatters and lines on her body that change with each page turn. Swatch tames colours, luring them into jars. She finds in-between gray between her kitten’s legs and just-laid blue in a robin’s nest. The last colour that she needs to catch is yellowest yellow, but it refuses and fiercely reminds her that colours are wild. If Swatch would just open up those jars, a masterpiece could be born.
For creative souls, free spirits and adults who need a reminder to let their own little bursts of colour fly free.
Matthew Cordell. Disney*Hyperion, 2015.
Two elephants want to expand their family, but learn that wishes come true on their own time. Although the elephant couple makes plans for a new arrival–they learn, they build, they journey–their bundle of joy does not arrive. So they wait and listen patiently. Their new family member is still not on the horizon. Eventually, the elephants stop making plans and carry on with life, still hoping to one day have a child of their own. Then, suddenly, everything happens. This picture book powerfully ends with the repetition of these words paced over three different spreads: you are here.
The whimsical water colour illustrations and sparse text beautifully and gently address the sensitive topic of the uncertainty and challenges of starting a family, be it through adoption or procreation. Wish would be a fitting read for adults and children waiting to add to their family.
Ryan T. Higgins. Disney*Hyperion, 2015
Bruce is a grumpy adult bear who likes one thing–eggs. But not raw eggs. Eggs prepared according to the recipe that has most recently caught his eye on the internet. He sets off and finds goose eggs, but before he can cook them, the unthinkable happens. They hatch! Bruce soon finds himself being called ‘Mama’ and followed everywhere by his unexpected brood, whose real mother has flown south. Bruce cannot bring himself to eat the adorable goslings. So he tries to shake them, to no avail. Bruce soon realises that he must make the best of the situation and embarks on caring for the energetic youngsters.
Humorous illustrations + clever writing = an all-ages family favourite picture book in my house.
Mother Bruce has been republished by Scholastic in paperback form–look for it in catalogues for an unbeatable price.