Journey Quest Return (Aaron Becker; Candlewick, 2013, 2014, 2016)

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I almost didn’t blog about these books because I am intimidated to try to capture their magic and message in a few hundred words. These books are a visual marvel. Although there are no words-not a one-this trilogy tells a story that is exciting and emotionally charged.

A bored child of a busy family uses a coloured crayon to draw a door and enter into a new world. At the end of her heroic adventures to save the purple bird from the evil soldiers in Journey, she meets a boy with an equally powerful purple crayon. In Quest, they achieve their mission to find the other four magical crayons and return them to the king. Return completes the trilogy’s emotional story as the distracted father realises his folly and follows his daughter into her secret world. Initially she is angry with him but he eventually saves the purple bird and the kingdom from the villains. All is forgiven.

There are many fine details sketched into each and every page. In an interview, Becker shared that he moved to Europe for a number of months so that he could become a better drawer; the intricate land of castles and kingdoms that the reader is transported to demonstrates the success of his experiment. The palette’s change from sepia tones to brilliant colours as the crayons are found and their powers unleashed adds a layer of visual interest. These books could be poured over for hours by children and adults. It’s no wonder that Journey received a Caldecott honour in 2014.

Caterina and the Best Beach Day

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Caterina and the Best Beach DayCaterina and the Best Beach Day (Erin Eitter Kono, Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015)

Caterina did not disappoint this fan – she remained true to her character in this third book in the series, having planned and programmed a full day at the beach with her little brother, Leo. All that Leo wants to do is see a whale, but Caterina is too busy to help him look for one. Children will enjoy spotting the whales that Caterina misses and studying the mixed-media, collage-like illustrations. The message in this book will resonate with many busy parents; Leo’s expressions, changing from excited, to hopeful, to forlorn, served as a heart-tugging reminder to me to do less and ‘be’ more. Caterina is becoming a favourite picture book character in my house – I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book in this series!

Little Chicken’s Big Day

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Little Chicken's Big DayLittle Chicken’s Big Day (Katie Davis and Jerry Davis, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2011)

When Big Chicken’s plans are slowed down by Little Chicken, Big Chicken is reminded that the simplicity of watching a butterfly and reading a book are the most rewarding things of all, especially when they’re done with Little Chicken.

Favourite picture books in my home are those with unstated themes that I can contemplate, but do not douse my children in lessons.  Instead, they have a character, plot, and/or humour that my daughter’s can enjoy. Little Chicken’s Big Day has these characteristics. “I hear you cluckin’ little/big chicken” is such a repeatable line for both parent and child, that my daughters and I have started calling this out to each other throughout the day, and for some reason we say it with an accent, which increases its giggle potential.