The world is divided on whether they love, hate or just don’t get these books by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. I fall firmly in the former camp. Square is visually innovative 0763696072.medand brings in a bit of philosophy for kids, to boot.

Square does the very same job every day, but when Circle comes along and declares him an artist, a sculpture, a Genius!, Square doesn’t know what she’s talking about. He tries to measure up to those things she called him. He fails, miserably, though when Circle comes back, she thinks he’s outdone himself.

What does it mean to be a genius? If someone labels you a genius, or any other label, does it mean it’s true? This picture book tackles this in a funny and aesthetically stunning way.

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Forever, or a Long, Long Time

Flora and her brother, Julian, live with Person and Dad, their forever family after being in several foster placements that are hazy in their memory. Person is the name Flora secretly calls her adoptive forever mom, because she’s had too many moms and 9780062385680_viewtherefore calling someone “Mom” has lost any special meaning.

In fact, Flora and Julian believe they never had a biological mom–the book is sprinkled with theories on how they came to be. Maybe they came from the television, or the horizon, or crabs. “We come from the chaos, my brother and me. We were born out of the screams of other kids. We’re made of their tears. We grew from their temper tantrums.”

These theories are an attempt to create an origin story, because somewhere in the foster system, records, pictures and life books of the two siblings were lost. Heartwrenching and honest, Forever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter is a complex and poetic look at what makes a family, what forever means and how we can heal after trauma.

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Harriet Gets Carried Away

What does it mean to get carried away? Is that an idiom? Well, Harriet does get carried away with her varied costumes, as the idiom suggests. And she gets carried away, harrietcoversquare.pngliterally, by penguins! (It’s not really a spoiler if the cover image shows it first.)

There are many little treats in the text where the idioms mean both the idiomatic and the literal, and there were so many times the book made me smile for other reasons that I had to include it on this blog of must-read books for kids. Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima is full of adventure, imagination and humour.

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All the Animals Where I Live

Philip C. Stead‘s picture book, All the Animals Where I Live, wanders through life in the 9781626726567.jpgcountry, stream-of-conscious-style, and introduces us to the characters the author (and his ninety-year-old neighbour) sees on any given day. The quiet life, the artistic life, meanders, and so does the story-line of this book, in perfect symmetry to its subject.

And the art is beautiful–that’s truly one of the big joys of picture books, isn’t it? That there’s a story and an art book in one.

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A Different Pond

A gently nuanced story of an early morning fishing trip shows the beauty and struggle of 9781479597468.jpga Vietnamese American family. It’s a quiet story, but the words and images are so lovely, it conjures a pure picture of one day in one family’s life.

Based loosely on the boyhood of author Bao PhiA Different Pond is brought to life by Thi Bui’s graphic novel style illustrations. Both the author and illustrator have informative notes at the end, along with photos from their childhoods.

Watch the book trailer from Capstone below and visit Joanne Roberts’ blog for more picture books surrounding Vietnam and immigration.

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Waiting for Normal

When Addie and Mommers move into a lonely trailer across from a parking lot filled 1451241619926.jpegwith potholes and a minimart gas station, Mommers is less than thrilled, but Addie makes the best of it. In fact, Addie does almost everything, from making toast dinners to cleaning up. Mommers chats on the Internet and watches her favourite TV shows, and sometimes goes on “business trips” for days.

Addie has another family, too: Dwight, her ex-stepfather, and Katie and Brynna, her little sisters. They only visit once or twice a month, depending on Dwight’s work schedule, and though Addie feels best when she’s with them, she knows Mommers depends on her, and besides, Mommers is her legal guardian.

What’s great about this novel is Addie’s loyalty and tenacity. The reader knows something has got to change for Addie, but Addie has to come to this realization herself. Also, there’s a fabulous cast of interesting characters that come alongside Addie and round out the story.

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor is inspiring and authentic.

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Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli

A little girl in Rome who hates having her picture taken grows up into an international 88158baa18d921ca5416e22fe14c5c7c-w204@1xfashion designer. Inspired by beautiful, bold flowers, Elsa Schiaparelli imagines many amazing scenarios and when she’s grown, she becomes an artist–a dressmaker.

“To be an artist is to dream big and risk failure.”

Her dresses and clothes “invite women to express their imaginations fully” in how they dress. This remarkable story shows transformation and beauty that grows from the inside. Extensive notes from the author (Kyo Maclear) and illustrator (Julie Morstad) inform the reader of Elsa Schiaparelli’s many contributions to the world of fashion design: the jumpsuit, folding eyeglasses, shocking pink, ice blue, bureau drawer pockets.

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Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs

The title tells you everything you need to know. This is indeed a picture book about yakcover150dpi.jpganimal word pairs, and a pair of yaks yakking fills the first double page spread. Jennifer Black Reinhardt‘s clever illustrations show the yaks having tea, and a clever frame defines to yak = to talk. Each page spread is its own little narrative, and the fun is in the word play and the animal actions.

It reminds me of that old preschool song, Animal Action, except in picture book form. And it’s fun to act like the animals while you read. An added bonus is Linda Sue Park‘s extensive backmatter, which defines homographs, and lists the etymology of each animal name and each corresponding action.


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Mo’s Mustache


When Mo got a Mustache, everyone else did too. So Mo got a scarf, and everyone else did too. “Ack!” is just the beginning of Mo’s frustration, until the Greek chorus explains and Mo comes up with a great idea.

The humour in this picture book comes from Ben Clanton‘s illustrative style and the funny speech bubble exclamations. And, of course, the fact that everybody looks better with a mustache.

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Usually, I focus on new books, but today, I need to present a classic: Frederick by Leo Lionni. Published in 1967, this book is still in print and it still speaks to all of those 9780399555527.jpegdreamy, quiet kids out there who might just be poets.

Now we all know that everyone is supposed to help clean up, do their fair share and, if you are a field mouse, that means you are supposed to help store food for the long winter. But Frederick sits with his eyelids closed, collecting the sun’s rays, or staring at the meadow, collecting colours while his mice siblings bustle about. He doesn’t look like he’s doing much, but he is. He’s saving up all his words for the thick of winter when their food supplies are dwindling. His words and poems enable them to envision spring. Hope.

I love the Fredericks of the world, and this book is a great introduction to the different roles in society, or even a touchpoint for beginning philosophy.


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