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.

Posted in Books with science links, Canadian author/illustrator, Easy Readers, Love that art, Nonfiction, Picture books, Uncategorized, Voice | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

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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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.

Posted in Love that art, Michigan author/illustrator, Picture books | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

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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