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.
Steve Light. Candlewick Press, 2016
A young pirate begins a series of swaps for the materials needed to repair his gloomy friend’s decrepit ship. A single button is traded for two teacups. At first I as confused as to what teacups had to do with the ship. But I wasn’t in the dark for long. The sparse text and pen and ink illustrations highlighted with bursts of colour take the reader through this well-paced tale of resourcefulness and friendship. Teacups for coils of rope: SWAP! Coils of rope for oars: SWAP! The routine continues, until the ship is seafaring once again.
Trades for items key to any pirate and his ship–hats, birds, flags and a figure head–add an element of playfulness.
My children really enjoyed this book, and my 4 year-old ‘read’ it herself, which was a confidence builder for my beginning reader!