I Just Ate My Friend

I Just Ate My Friend is the title and first line of this picture book by Heidi McKinnon, so you already know quite a bit about the plot. It follows the classic pattern of the “Have you seen my mother?/Will you be my friend?” books and is a great read for fans of Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back. The art is bright and expressive with the beautiful starry sky as the backdrop for each double page spread. 

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The Little Barbarian


I do love wordless picture books, but I’ve avoided them a bit the past few years since it seems to be a micro-trend within the picture book world, and wordlessness just doesn’t work for many narratives. Wordlessness has to be a choice the illustrator makes because it is the best choice, which is exactly what Renato Moriconi does in The Little Barbarian.

A sword and shield-bearing barbarian is unfased through attacks of birds, arrows, monsters and more, until…nothing. The barbarian looks up at the emptiness, and for the first time, there is emotion on his face: surprise, then sadness. Reading through initially, I thought this was the end, and it would be a good ending. But wonder of all wonders, the next two double page spreads change the narrative entirely. It’s delightful, and would be fun to compare this book’s ending to the ending in Julie Roach’s The Bear Ate Your Sandwich.

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Marigold & Daisy

9781454922933-1There are a lot of new sibling books out there, but Marigold & Daisy covers the topic in a completely fun and original way, and even subverts the expected sweet ending. Andrea Zuill‘s genius is in the melding of narration and dialogue (the dialogue is in text bubbles), which allows for a really strong and spare text. But there’s also genius in Zuill’s adorable, expressive insects–yes, this is a book about snails, and how Marigold is tired of her cute little sister who gets all of the attention. There’s a bit of Judith Viorst’s Alexander in Marigold, but it’s endearing. Discuss this book alongside Bad Guy and other picture books about siblings.

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Orphan Island

Jinny is one of nine kids on Orphan Island where each year, the oldest leaves the island x400.jpgwhen a green boat magically appears with a new child to take his or her place. The nine children on the island are each about a year apart, and life on the island is idyllic. They eat together and read stories around the fire. There are rules and chores, and for the most part, the children get along. So of course, Jinny doesn’t want to go when the boat comes for her.

The plot moves along carefully, and it’s pretty much the opposite of the TV show Lost, where all of the characters want to leave the island. Much like childhood itself, these orphans don’t want to leave. By the end, much is also left unanswered about why these children are here and how the boat knows when to come, but it’s a lot like life, in that sense, when we can’t really explain the past and we don’t know what the future holds, we focus on the present, and doing what’s right for those around us. Laurel Snyder weaves an intricate and compelling story that invites discussion.

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The Mushroom Fan Club

The cover and the title drew me to this book. The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel is 51f9OEOpRsL._SX362_BO1_204_203_200_.jpgshelved under graphic novel at my library, looks more like an easy reader, but I think it’s most like a picture book–an incredibly interesting and fun nonfiction book.

You don’t have to love mushrooms to read this book. It’s about the author and her family and their mushroom hunts. Sounds fun, no? Imagine tromping through the forest, looking for puffballs or polypores. After a brief introduction (and a fancy word, mycologist, which is a mushroom expert), Gravel shows us several varieties of mushrooms (one per double page spread) and sprinkles it with delightful details. For example, Morels. “Aaaah, morels. They are so cute. They look like an alien’s brain.” It’s like having a conversation with someone who is really excited about something you know nothing about, but their enthusiasm makes you excited too.

In the back, there’s a few activities, including how to make a spore print. Spores are the dusty seed-like stuff that comes off of mushrooms.

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All Around Us

I may be on a shape picture book kick. All Around Us by Xelena González and productsprimary_image_291_t.jpgillustrated by Adriana M. Garcia is all about circles, the third shape book in a row that I’ve blogged about. Though geometric circles in this book are woven beautifully into the stunning art, circles also figure into the theme: the circle of life. The story follows a grandpa and grandchild as they plant seeds and talk about ancestors.

I’ve never quite seen art like this in a picture book. Do check it out. The author’s note in the back explains her family’s customs and what she fictionalized in the book.

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Circle Rolls

Just when I thought books about shapes were at their limit, along comes Circle Rolls by 9780714876306-57-1527840168Barbara Kanninen and illustrated by Serge Bloch. When Circle rolls through the neighbourhood, every shape is affected. Each shape acts according to character, too! For example, “Triangle points without any hands” and “Octagon says, ‘SHAPES! STOP!'”

My only quibble is that Line is not a shape, and as all of the four-year-olds I’ve worked with recently will tell you, it’s not a diamond, it’s a rhombus! (Yep, preschoolers are learning their stuff here in Michigan.) But this story is so innovative and fun, that I don’t mind all that much. Also, if you’re reading this for math concepts, then those points of contention can offer a good discussion.

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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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