All the World

Review: All the World

All the World EditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book (also available as a board book)
Ages: 1-6
Author: Liz Garton Scanlon
Illustrators: Marla Frazee
Publisher: Beach Lane Books (published September 2009)
Pages: 40
ISBN-10: 1416985808
ISBN-13: 978-1416985808

Rock, stone, pebble, sand.

Marla Frazee’s illustrations always catch my eye when I see them. I’ve already talked about The Seven Silly Eaters and Everywhere Babies, two of my favourite Frazee-illustrated books, so perhaps I should move on to other artists, but she chooses the best books to illustrate. And also, she has the best name. Frankly, I wish my name was Marla Frazee. And not only because that would make me a two-time Caldecott medalist.

All the World is another book-that’s-really-a-poem. And, not unlike When I Was Born, it’s about life. But this book takes a broader perspective.

Body, shoulder, arm, hand
A moat to dig, a shell to keep
All the world is wide and deep.

Simple but profound ideas are brought to life in Scanlon’s tidy rhyming couplets and Frazee’s exuberant illustrations: a day at the seashore is rained out (Slip, trip, stumble, fall / Tip the bucket, spill it all / Better luck another day / All the world goes round this way) and we are reminded that some days are good, and some days are not so good.  Three children clamber into the branches of a massive tree, a young sapling in their red wagon ready to plant: All the world is old and new. Characters recur throughout the pages, widening the focus from one family all families, all people, all part of the world.

Everything you hear, smell, see
All the world is everything
Everything is you and me.
Hope and peace and love and trust
All the world is all of us.

A poem for everyone to enjoy. Is it weird that I want to buy children’s books and give them to grown-ups too? This is one I would love to share with my older friends as well as the younger crowd.

 

 

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Review: Sleep Like a Tiger

Sleep Like a Tiger EditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 3-8
Author: Mary Logue
Illustrator: Pamela Zagarenski
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (October 2012)
Pages: 40
ISBN-10: 0547641028
ISBN-13: 978-0547641027

Once there was a little girl who didn’t want to go to sleep even though the sun had gone away.

Sound familiar?

“Does everything in the world go to sleep?” she asked.

Her parents say yes, everything in the world goes to sleep. Even their dog, “curled up in a ball on the couch, where he’s not supposed to be.” Caldecott Honor winner Pamela Zagarenski’s exquisitely surreal dreamscapes bring to life the dozing animals, from the majestic whales who “swim slowly around and around in a large circle in the ocean and sleep” to tiny snails: “They curl up like a cinnamon roll inside their shell.”

Sleep Like a Tiger

The little girl, who is of course still not at all sleepy, lies in her bed “warm and cozy, a cocoon of sheets, a nest of blankets. Unlike the dog on the couch, she was right where she was supposed to be.”

She wriggled down under the covers until she found the warmes spot, like the cat in front of the fire.
She folded her arms like the wings of a bat.

She circled around like the whale . . .
and the curled-up snail. 
Then she snuggled deep as a bear, the deep-sleeping bear,
and like the strong tiger, fell fast . . . asleep.

The words are reassuring, rhythmic, and gentle. The illustrations, made through a combination of digital artwork and mixed media paintings on wood, are luminous, beautiful enough to be hung in a gallery. There are details to enjoy on every page, from the crowns the family wears to the bunting in the girl’s bedroom that reappears throughout the dreamy animal scenes to the daytime and nighttime scenes of enchanting dream trains on the endpapers. Reading Sleep Like a Tiger may resolve even stressed-out parents’ insomnia troubles. Hands down, our favourite new bedtime book.

Review: Life is like the Wind

9781760060558

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 4/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 3-7
Author: Shona Innes
Illustrator: Írisz Agócs
Publisher: Barron’s Educational Series (published August 2014)
Pages: 32
ISBN-10: 0764167472
ISBN-13: 978-0764167478

Little E has been all about death in the past few weeks. We’ve been hearing a lot about how “pirates cut you til you’re dead” and how “dead means you’re not around anymore.” That last one is a direct quote from me, because when she asked me what it meant when someone was dead, I was caught completely flat-footed. Those are the words that came out of my mouth, but afterward I wish I had come up with something a little better. Someday I know this question (and the answer we give her) will mean more to her, but fortunately at the moment it’s a relatively trivial matter in her mind. But I was reminded that on the day the question “What does it mean when someone dies?” actually matters to her and her sister, we’d better have something to say.

This book is a great introduction for children to the idea of death and what it means when someone dies. Author Shona Innes, a clinical and forensic psychiatrist with experience working with children experiencing trauma and death, compares life to the wind: “We can’t see the wind, but we know when the wind is there. / The wind makes leaves flutter, / and fur fly, and kites soar high in the sky. / When the wind goes, things are very still. / They don’t flutter or blow or fly or soar anymore.”

“Where does the wind go when we can’t see it moving things?”

“Where does life go when it leaves the body?”

The book leaves plenty of room for discussion and thought, offering simple explanations about different people’s ideas about what happens after death. “Some believe the life enters another body, to give life to a new creature. / Others believe the life goes to a happy place called heaven, / where the life can enjoy its favorite things.”

“And some believe that a little bit of the life stays behind. / Even when the body is gone, / people remember and feel the life, still loving the life deep inside their hearts.”

[Tear.]

Actually, I was okay reading this book until I got to the page “But, like the wind, the life must leave.” Last week was the anniversary of the day my amazing aunt Beth was taken from us by uterine cancer and I will readily admit that this book gave me the ugly cries. I think it was the picture of the rabbit letting go of the red balloon and watching it float up to the sky.

The friendly, calming illustrations do a great job of bringing the words to life without distracting from the admittedly challenging topic. The book is part of a series called Big Hug Books that came out of Innes’s work with families facing challenges; I’m intrigued to read Friendship is like a Seesaw and The Internet is like a Puddle as well.

I haven’t read Life is like the Wind to Little E yet but, when we’re both ready, we can read it together so that maybe she’ll be better prepared for the losses that will come in her life. Or at least, I hope, I’ll be better prepared to talk about them with her.

Review: Open This Little Book

OpenThisLittleBook

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 3-7
Author: Jesse Klausmeier
Illustrator: Suzy Lee
Publisher: Chronicle Books (published December 2012)
Pages: 40
ISBN-10: 0811867838
ISBN-13: 978-0811867832

Welcome back! I hope everyone got to have a wonderful holiday and that the holiday hangover has come to an end for all you parents out there. I don’t mean a headache from all that bourbon you snuck into your eggnog, but rather the brutal whininess that seems to come on the heels of any period of relaxed rules, of which the period between about November twenty-fifth and January tenth seems to be, at least around these parts. Candy, toys, gifts, cake, too much excitement and not enough sleep — it’s a perfect storm for meltdowns. We’ve gone into simplicity boot camp around here as part of our recovery from the madness of Christmastime: we’re doing less, taking things a bit more slowly, and simplifying our activities as we try to get back into routine. (If you haven’t read Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, it’s a great read about how doing less and simplifying your life can make a huge impact on you and your kids.)

Anyway, as we return to simplicity, I wanted to share a book with everyone that celebrates something quite simple: the magic of the simple, physical existence of a book. Open This Little Book turns traditional book construction upside down…to celebrate the wonder of books themselves. The book begins with a purple book-inside-the-book, which invites the reader to “Open this…Little Red Book,” another book-inside-the-book. The nested books get smaller and smaller as we read a story about a ladybug, who reads a story about a frog, who reads a story about a rabbit, who reads a story about a bear, who reads a story about a giant, whose friends read her a story about…” Well, you’ll have to pick up the book to find out. Little E loves “reading” this book on her own, utterly tickled by the pages that shrink and grow and by the joke about the giant whose hands are too big to read her Little Rainbow Book. She is also captivated by the endpapers, which are a little bit unusual. The whole book, which could easily be a gimmicky throwaway, has been thoughtfully put together and charmingly illustrated to capture the attention of big and little readers and to celebrate all the wonder of reading in one little book — well, several, one inside the other.

Review: Oh, No!

ohno EditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 2-6
Author: Candace Fleming
Illustrator: Eric Rohmann
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (published September 2012)
Pages: 40
ISBN-10: 0375842713
ISBN-13: 978-0375842719

One of the hallmarks of richly rhythmic language in a children’s book is if it gets stuck in your head like a catchy song.

For me, anyway. Maybe you lot don’t hear voices the way I do.

What? Stop looking at me that way.

Oh, No! is set in the Asian jungle, inexplicably a less attractive setting for writers and illustrators than the African jungle. For parents who have tired of reading books about lions and giraffes, the location offers a refreshing change of pace as well as several creatures children may not have encountered before, such as a loris and a sun bear. There is a deep, deep hole in the jungle floor, and one by one, the animals fall in and become trapped: a frog, a mouse, a loris, sun bear, and a monkey. Lurking nearby is a hungry tiger who is pleased to find a generous meal conveniently trapped for him. But before he can get to any of the terrified animals “[… the ground bumble-rumbled and began to shake. / BA-BOOM! / BA-BOOM! / … The ground bumbled-rumbled and quake-shake-quaked.” The heroic elephant arrives just in time to help his friends out of their predicament — and the tiger finds himself at the bottom of the deep, deep hole. “Oh, no!”

Children will love chiming in with the repeated refrain — “Oh, no!” — as the animals tumble into the hole, and small details such as the loris’s allergy to cats (including tigers) and the fate of the careless monkey will delight readers of all ages. Eric Rohmann’s striking illustrations make an absolutely perfect accompaniment to the text: Rohmann plays with perspective so that much of the book looks up from the bottom of the deep, deep hole, plunging the young reader right in there with the trapped animals (is that the tip of the tiger’s tail we see?). Refreshingly, the writing is musical without rhyming, and the animal sounds are vividly captured ( though the monkey’s cry of “Wheee-haaa!” was offensive to Little E, who insists that monkeys can only say “ooh ooh ah ah.”). And if you’re like me, you might find yourselves washing dishes while mumbling “Loris inched down from his banyan tree. Soo-slooow! Soo-slooow!….” But I’m starting to think that might just be me. Well, it’s better than the six-month period I spent with “99 Luftballons” ricocheting around my head, or listening to Tall Dude whistling his perennial earworm, the theme song to Super Mario Brothers 2.*

Incidentally, if you or your wee one find yourselves unhappy with the ending, in which the animals head off together and leave the tiger trapped in the deep, deep hole, look carefully at the last illustration: the tiger escapes to live another day.

*It’s been stuck in his head since we started dating. Twelve years ago.

Review: A Second is a Hiccup

second-is-a-hiccup EditorsPick (2)

EDITOR’S PICK
GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Age: 3-8
Author: Hazel Hutchins
Illustrator: Kady MacDonald Denton
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (March, 2007)
Pages: 40
ISBN-10: 0439831067
ISBN-13: 978-0439831062

I don’t know about you, but I’m forever saying things like “Five minutes to bedtime,” “I’ll be off the phone in thirty seconds; please be patient,” and “Grammie is coming to visit us in two weeks!” But anyone who has tried to get a preschooler out the door in a timely fashion knows that children are not born with an innate sense of time. So how does a child come to learn the difference between a second, a minute, and a week? How do they unravel the mystery of how we track time? If they’re lucky, they’ll learn these secrets, or at least begin to learn them, through Hazel Hutchins’ wonderful book A Second is a Hiccup.

How long is a second? “A second / is a hiccup — / The time it takes / To kiss your mom / Or jump a rope / Or turn around.” With bouncy rhymes and lively watercolour illustrations, the author and illustrator take the reader from seconds to minutes to days to weeks to months to years…and finally to the measure of a childhood: “Changes come and changes go / Round and round the years you’ll grow / Till you’re bigger, till you’re bolder / Till you’re ever so much older / And through all the hours and days / As time unfolds in all its ways / You will be loved — / As surely as / A second /is a hiccup.”

The book introduces the beginnings of some basic math and time concepts for children who are starting school. The explanations in this book are more metaphorical than concrete, however, so children who are actually studying units of time in school may not find that the words match what they are learning. I hope very much that it will give them a different perspective on time and its passage, though, so that perhaps they will learn that a minute is not just sixty seconds but “A happy, hoppy little song / Chorus, verses, not too long / Just enough to fill / A minute.”

Parents will enjoy this book as much as their kids. Every time I read it I am made even more keenly aware of how quickly the seconds and minutes with my young children are slipping by. “Sunshine, snow and rain and squall / Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall / Twigs on trees grow leaves and peaches / See how far a whole year reaches.” And how quickly it zips by.

Review: Hippoposites

hippopposites

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 4/5 aardvarks

Format: Board book
Age: 1-4
Author and illustrator: Janik Coat
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (May 2012)
Pages: 38
ISBN-10: 1419701517
ISBN-13: 978-1419701511

Here is a book your graphic design friends will love, your word nerd friends will go bananas for, and your kids might even enjoy.

Many of us have several books about opposites in our kiddos’ libraries: Sandra Boynton’s Opposites is a classic, but you could fill an Ikea Billy bookshelf with the range of opposite books available at any big ole box bookstore. Here’s one that’s a little different. Author and illustrator Janik Coat presents us with a simple, red, boldly illustrated hippopotamus on each page, corresponding to his opposite on the facing page. The opposite pairs work well together, often with a touch of humour: the light hippopotamus is floating away in a hot air balloon, while the heavy hippopotamus sinks to the bottom of the ocean. There are innovative tactile experiences to enjoy on many of the pages — feel the difference between soft and rough with plush and burlap — and no assumptions are made about the young reader’s ability, or more precisely lack of ability, to grasp more complex words (there’s an opaque/transparent pair and an invisible/visible pair). Some of the pages will work better for the parent than for the child they might be reading to: the front/side pair shows that the one-dimensional hippopotamus is reduced to a single line when he turns sideways. But if you’re tired of reading “high and low, fast and slow,” give this book a try and you’ll find yourself reading and explaining more interesting concepts like “clear and blurry” and “positive and negative.” The design is very modern and should appeal to hipster parents everywhere.