SUPERHERO SCHOOL

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Superhero SchoolAaron Reynolds, author. Andy Rash, illustrator.                Bloomsbury, 2009

Behold another favourite picture book of my precocious five year-old. She loves the illustrations of the monsters attacking the city outside the classroom window and the numerous comic-like characters. But more so, she wants to show anyone within earshot that she understands math beyond the counting and patterning she is doing in kindergarten (i.e. she likes to show off). The math in this book is cleverly disguised as a special mission for Leonard and the other students at superhero school. The math lessons that have been forced upon them suddenly become useful when ice zombies kidnap the teachers. To save them, the students must calculate the heat vision needed to blast through the fifteen foot ice wall, divvy up the ice zombies between them in order to attack, and more! When Mr. Tornado gives everyone an A+ on the math quiz, Leonard realizes he’s been duped. SUPERHERO SCHOOL runs a bit on the long side at 833 words, but is an energetic and entertaining read. There are even a few lines written in for adult entertainment. This picture book will inspire parents and educators to stealthily integrate math into the lives of their own budding superheroes, cooks, artists, athletes and ninjas.

PIRATE’S PERFECT PET

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Pirate's Perfect PetBeth Ferry, author. Matt Myers, Illustrator. Candlewick, 2016

My 5 year-old has chosen PIRATE’S PERFECT PET as her bedtime story every night for the last week. The pirate lingo is lost on her, and she doesn’t laugh at the line “shiver me Shih Tzus”, but she loves the bossy goose that makes Captain Crave walk a plank and the repeating line throughout. All ages will enjoy the clever language and detailed, hilarious illustrations in this rollicking read aloud about a pirate in search of the perfect pet. Although you may guess the pet that Captain Crave ends up with, the journey to find it is well worth the read (seven times over . . . and counting!).

My family loved Ferry’s picture book, LAND SHARK (Chronicle, 2015) and are now eagerly awaiting her future publications– according to her website, we have many to look forward to.

LIFE

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LifeCynthia Rylant, author. Brendan Wenzel, illustrator. Beach Lane Books, 2017

Life begins small . . . and grows. In much the same way this small picture book–it’s only 189 words–stirs then swells inside the reader. Animals of all types tell us that there is much to love about life, especially the day-to-day: I love the line: “. . . the turtle loves life. How could it not, with so much rain on its back?”

The various animals used to tell this tale of life’s joys, sorrows and perseverance through the wilderness to the Life_Whalescertain, happier times ahead add lightness and create child appeal. This poetic, meditative picture book will also resonate with adults facing challenges and bringing new life into the world.

 

 

Valentiny Writing Context

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Valentine ContestI have entered Susanna Leonard Hill’s Annual Valentiny Contest. The rules were to create a story in which someone is hopeful, using a maximum of 214 words. Here goes!

 

CAKE CHEMISTRY

Hazel’s mom loved chocolate. Hazel loved Mom.

Hazel took secret notes when they baked chocolate cake together.

On Valentine’s Day, Hazel awoke early to cook up Mom’s surprise.

One cup milk. One cup warm water. Halfway with oil.

Crack, plunk. Crack, plunk.

Sniff. Sni-i-i-f.

“Mmmm.”

Drip, drip.

Whisk, whisk, whisk.

Two scoops flour. Two scoops sugar. One scoop cocoa powder.

Mix, mix, mix.

Hmmm, was something missing . . .?

A dash of salt!

Hazel stirred until the ribbons of white disappeared.

Buttering the pan was Hazel’s job. But using the oven was not.

Knock, knock, knock.

“Hello, Hazel,” said Mrs. Wilson.

“Can I bake a cake in your apartment? It’s a surprise for Mom.”

Baking required a large serving of patience.

Between a bowl of porridge and a game of Go Fish, Hazel dashed to the oven window.

“It must need to cook longer.”

“Is the oven hot enough?”

“It’s still flat!” said Hazel. “Rise, cake. Rise!”

Eventually, the timer sounded: beep, beep, be-e-e-p.

“Mom’s cake is a flop!”

Knock, knock, knock.

“Is Hazel here?” said Mom.

“Yes. Come in, the coffee is on,” said Mrs. Wilson.

“Something smells good,” said Mom.

“I wanted to surprise you with a chocolate cake. But instead, we’re having . . . brownies. Happy Valentine’s Day!”

 

THE END

A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE

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A Cooked-Up Fairy TalePenny Parker Klostermann, author. Ben Mantle, Illustrator. Random House, 2017

This clever fairy tale mash-up brings together not only characters from our favourite fairy tales, but also foods. Make those foods transformed by William, a budding chef who’s having difficulty finding his niche in fairy tale land. Snow White’s apple, Jack’s beans and Cinderella’s pumpkin all get made into gourmet dishes, altering the course of the fairy tales they are part of. Judy, the commander of fairy tale headquarters, is outraged. “Don’t you know anything about fairy tales?” she asks. Alas, William reads cookbooks, not fairy tales! When one of William’s concoctions creates a true recipe for disaster, he steps in to cook up a happy ending, which leads to his own happily ever after.

Ben Mantle’s illustrations are just as delicious as the text–bright, clear and filled with fairy tale tidbits children will devour. Pint-sized Judy, with her horn-rimmed glasses and grey hair streaks, adds a dash of wit to this delectable picture book.

Love Is

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Love IsDiane Adam, author; Claire Kean, illustrator.

Chronicle, 2017

I love, love, love ‘adult’ picture books à la LOVE YOU FOREVER (Munsch, 1995) and SOMEDAY (McGhee, 2007), where the parents watch in wonder as their child grows and learns to navigate the world on their own. They turn my heart to mush, but my children find them much less engaging. LOVE IS has skirted this problem brilliantly. To a child, it is the story of a girl raising a duckling. To a parent, the story is clearly about raising, holding on to and letting go of your child(ren). The child protagonist holds the fragile duckling, experiences noisy midnight feedings and must eventually accept that her baby is ready for a bigger pond (pass the tissues, please!). But never fear, the ending is happy and satisfying. The illustrations use a simple palette and are filled with action and emotion. This picture book would make a wonderful gift to new parents and those with children getting ready to fledge the nest.

Caterpillar Dreams

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Caterpillar DreamsClive 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.