This week we have a global perspective as Maureen Mann shares some special finds while exploring libraries and bookshops in Canada. There are some great authors and illustrators to discover!
I’m back in Canada visiting family and have some spent some enjoyable time browsing the local bookstore (Part of a large chain, with a large children’s section), chatting to the staff and coming up with some books to share with you. It’s always interesting to see how bookshops in different parts of the world create and organise their displays.
Lizzy and the Cloud by The Fan Brothers (Terry and Eric).
Simon & Schuster (2022)
Lizzy buys a plain cloud complete with tethering string, as her pet, and Milo (as she names him) comes with an instruction manual, which she follows carefully. Even though he waters her collection of rare plants, and is useful inside, like all pets, Milo grows. And that’s what Lizzy does: releases him to the sky. From then on, she wonders if he returns to visit her, and hopes to see him again. Beautiful soft illustrations with bursts of colour, indicating mood. It’s a gentle book, with a message and sparks of humour.
In the Clouds by Elly MacKay
Penguin Random House (2022)
Though this is essentially a book of fiction it is filled with curiosity about clouds. Where do they come from? Do they float? Where do they go when they disappear? There are other scientific and philosophical questions. The small child flies into the sky on the back of a bird, to be nearer the clouds. As she journeys the questions are posed, answered and reflected upon. It’s more than a bedtime story book and primary-aged children will enjoy the challenges of the questioning. Lovely sometimes ethereal illustrations. MacKay has included a bibliography and answers to some of her questions.
I’m Not Sydney by Marie-Louise Gay
Groundwood Books UTP Distribution (2022)
A group of children are playing outside, their imaginations take on the persona of animals and they venture into a huge spider’s web. Sydney becomes a sloth; Sami is a spider monkey. Others join them sharing the banter of a group playing together in this magical world. But when Edward becomes an elephant he fills his trunk with water, destroys the tenuous spider web and sends them all home “like a herd of small wet animals”. However, there’s always tomorrow … The illustrations are whimsical and fun. I wonder which animal I’d be.
The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield and the Fan Brothers
Penguin Random House (2018)
This is inspired by Chris Hadfield’s own childhood when he was fascinated by the moon and the universe, and pretends to be an astronaut. At the same time, he was scared of the dark and possible aliens hiding under his bed; unable to sleep alone and returning to share his parents’ bed. This continues until he watches the landing of the first man on the moon. From then on, he realises that the darkness holds secrets and adventure. Chris Hadfield went on to become an astronaut, highly respected space photographer and NASA director. The illustrations reflect the darkness of the night but maintain the excitement that night-time can bring.
The Worm by Elise Gravel
Penguin Random House (2016)
This is one of the Disgusting Critters series of books by Gravel which takes one of nature’s less likeable animals and presents information in easily readable formats for the early childhood age group. Each looks at the habitat (inside and/or outside the human body), its anatomy and role in the environment. Facts are presented with humour and accuracy, so readers find they are learning as well as being amused. Other critters are headlice, spider, rat, slug, toad and the fly.
Everybody by Elise Gravel
Scholastic Canada (2022)
Gravel uses quirky monsters to show that we are all different but we all share the same things: fear and joy; sadness; making mistakes and we can learn from them; the need to be valued and feel safe. At first, I felt the book was too didactic, but the humour and the situations became very child-centred and empathetic.
The Most Magnificent Idea by Ashley Spires
Kids Can Press (2022)
The girl loves to make things and spends her days creatively, until one day she runs out of ideas, and panic and depression set in. She tries to convince herself that the inspiration will return but it seems to have deserted her, despite her brainstorming, changing location, gathering new supplies. Not even her faithful pet can help her, until … Creativity and her mojo return just as she is beginning to think she will never be able to build again. Spires’ illustrations are great complements to the text, leaving plenty of white space for the reader to fill in some of the details.
I’s the B’y: The beloved folk song illustrated by Lauren Soloy
Greystone Books (2022)
This is a very Canadian song, from Newfoundland. The boy (b’y) comes in with his catch and takes it to guitar-playing Liza, and is accompanied by other creatures – violin-playing fish, dancing people, humpback whales, moose. All dance in circles. The sky and the sea suggest movement. Everything is full of energy. The illustrations are digitally produced but give an impression of being hand-created. I was impressed as a newcomer to the song, because there is an explanation at the end of the book of the relevance of the main items on each page and their place in society. The book also includes the music and all the words
I hope you’ve enjoyed my brief look at some Canadian children’s books. I’ve certainly had fun finding them and look forward to discovering some more while here.
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader