Maine has a week long vacation in February, so I’m up in Canada visiting my husband’s relatives and exploring one of our favorite cities, Toronto. We stopped in at a bookstore yesterday so I could do some exploring and read some of the newest picture books — including these five fabulous Canadian finds!
Title: I Hear You, Forest
Author: Kallie George
Illustrator: Carmen Mok
Publisher/Date: Greystone Kids (September 6, 2021)
The “gist”: There’s a lot going on in the forest if you use your senses!
My favorite part: I love the imagery of the trees reaching up to tickle the clouds!
My response as a reader: This book reminded me of my childhood playing in the backyard and listening to the trees creaking, the birds singing and the frogs croaking. My kids are fortunately also growing up near the forest and I hope they stop to listen as well!
My “take-away” as a writer: This is a very minimal book and a good mentor text for keeping the imagery strong and the text sparse! It’s not a book with a problem to be solved, so it is a “rule breaker”, but quiet books get published, too!
Title: I’m Sorry
Author: Michael Ian Black
Illustrator: Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (September 7, 2021)
The “gist”: Flamingo’s feelings are hurt and Potato wishes he could do anything but say he’s sorry.
My favorite part: I love how Potato starts out immediately saying “It’s not my fault,” and two seconds later cries “It’s all my fault!”
My response as a reader: In all the books of their “I’m…” series, Black and Ohi are masters of getting at the drama behind very real emotions. These books came out just a touch too late for my boys, but they’re so good and important for the social-emotional-learning of kiddos!
My “take-away” as a writer: This is a great text for presenting a real problem right at the beginning and then solving it without any earth shattering action. It’s enough that the friends are together and working through their feelings. (It’s also funny, which is a huge plus!)
Title: Petal the Angry Cow
Author: Maureen Fergus
Illustrator: Olga Demidova
Publisher/Date: Tundra Books (January 11, 2022)
The “gist”: Petal tries to manage her angry feelings, but she just can’t help exploding from time to time.
My favorite part: There’s a great silliness about the thought of the farmer promising to take the animals to a water park!
My response as a reader: I loved the fact that Petal was described as a talented cow with a kind heart who just HAPPENED to have a temper. Kids can get pigeonholed into feeling they are “bad kids” because they have angry or explosive feelings, but Petal is loved and with some patient lessons does learn how to manage her anger.
My “take-away” as a writer: At my last critique group meeting, I told one of our writers that I wasn’t too sure about having a horse who wore high heels — but having just read a book with farm animals who go to a water park…well, certainly the farm animals in her manuscript would work perfectly in this world! I think I owe her an apology!
Title: Song for the Snow
Author: Jon-Erik Lappano
Illustrator: Byron Eggenschwiler
Publisher/Date: Groundwood Books (September 7, 2021)
The “gist”: Freya loves the snow, but they haven’t had a good snowstorm in so long, she wishes there were a way to bring snow back to her town.
My favorite part: I adore snow globes and music boxes, so having a snowglobe and music at the center of this story makes it very magical.
My response as a reader: It’s a pretty predictable story, really, but that doesn’t make it any less sweet — you are cheering for Freya as she helps the whole town feel the magic of waiting for snow.
My “take-away” as a writer: I wish I could put my finger on what makes this have such an old world feel (reminds me of “Extra Yarn”)– it’s probably got a lot to do with the almost sepia toned sketchy illustrations, but it’s also the far-away and timelessness of the language– definitely a vibe I’d like to emulate!
Title: Le Long Chemin
Author: Jean Little
Illustrator: Gabrielle Grimard
Publisher/Date: Éditions Scholastic (Feb. 1 2022)
The “gist”: Maya is a refugee to Canada who makes friends with Jane. Together they make a pact to save the endangered Monarch Butterflies.
My favorite part: I adored how Maya saw the connection between her long path to Canada as a refugee and the Monarch’s long path to Mexico.
My response as a reader: In looking for Canadian books to review, this was on the shelf and I was pleased to read one in French since I don’t get that chance very often. However, I realize most of my blog readers probably don’t read French, so I can heartily recommend you find it in English– it is also published as “A Long Way Home.”
My “take-away” as a writer: Reading a picture book in French reminded me that picture books are not necessarily written in simple language! I did not know the word milkweed, for example (one of the favorite flowers of the Monarch butterfly). But with photos and context, new words do not interrupt a young — or old- reader! Don’t censor yourself if it’s just the right word!