Monday, 10 May 2021

The Big Orange Splot

The Big Orange Splot
By Daniel Manus Pinkwater

Mr. Plumbean lives on a street where all the houses look the same. Everybody liked it that way. "This is a neat street," they would say, but everything changes when a seagull flying overhead drops a big, orange splot of paint on Mr. Plumbean's roof. (No one knows why he was carrying the bucket of paint.)

At first Mr Plumbean mutters that he will need to repaint, but the more and more his neighbours urge him to do so, he realizes he doesn’t want to have a regular house. He takes the plunge and decides to paint his house to reflect his colourful dreams. "Mr. Plumbean's house was like a rainbow. It was like a jungle. It was like an explosion" and it made people furious. "Plumbean has popped his cork, flipped his wig, blown his stack, and dropped his stopper." One by one, the neighbours sent each other to go talk some good sense into the man. And one by one, another house on the street exploded into people’s colourful dreams. There were castles, ships, and crocodiles!

This is the story of a man embracing his individuality in a conformist society. The message that it is brave and good to break away from conformity and embrace one’s own individuality is a really fun one to learn with Mr. Plumbean!

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners


Eyes That Kiss in the Corners
By Joanna Ho

When a little girl notices her eyes look different from her friends’ eyes, she wonders why she has to be different. They all have big, round eyes "like sapphire lagoons with lashes like lace trim on ballgowns". She realizes that her eyes are like her family's eyes, and she slowly gathers strength and power in the knowledge that mother, her grandmother, and her little sister all have eyes that "kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future." Indeed, she is set down the path of self love, strength and acceptance.  

We all need stories like Eyes That Kiss in the Corners no matter what our race. If our eyes kiss in the corners, then this book can act as a mirror, a place one can see themselves. If our eyes do not kiss in the corners, then stories such as this one act as a window to the world and facilitate acceptance.

The illustrator, Dung Ho, presents vibrant images that have been digitally created and pair beautifully with the poetic prose. The author, Joanna Ho has an author page where she talks more about her own struggle with not feeling as if she fit into the world's standard of beauty. As she explains, this is essentially a book about love. "It is the story of the love shared between generations, the love we must develop for ourselves, and the love that we use to create change in the world."

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

The Rock From the Sky

The Rock From the Sky
By Jon Klassen

Deadpan humour for the picture book crowd? Author and illustrator Jon Klassen is your go-to. The Rock From the Sky is his newest, following the crowd-pleasing trilogy of I Want My Hat Back, then This Is Not My Hat which won both the Caldecott and the Kate Greenaway Medals, and last We Found a Hat

The Rock From the Sky brings together adorable characters -- a turtle, an armadillo, and a snake. Turtle and armadillo sport bowler hats, a nod to surrealism as well as to Laurel and Hardy. Visually, here is another Klassen masterpiece, with the illustrations telling much of the story. This helps the reader to always stay two steps ahead of the characters, adding the perfect amount of tension. In this story, a rock, nay a giant boulder, is falling from the sky, and armadillo finally convinces turtle to move away from his favourite spot seconds before the big boulder crashes there. 

That's only part one out of three. Filled with emotions and comedy, this 96-page book presents a contemplation on friendship, fate, and intuition. A dry humour delight for kids and grown ups both.

Monday, 12 April 2021

Dragons in a Bag

Dragons in a Bag
By Zetta Elliott

A fresh, new, chapter-book fantasy series in an urban setting, Dragons in a Bag follows Jaxon as his mom leaves him with Ma, an older woman he's never met. He soon discovers Ma is not his grandmother, but a witch! And his mother was her apprentice. Ma tells Jaxon she needs help delivering baby dragons to a magical realm, but there are two important rules: do not open the bag they are in and do not feed them anything sweet. His friends, Vikram and Kavita, become involved in the adventure by freeing the baby dragons and sharing their sweets. Oops.

This is a perfect introductory fantasy novel for young readers. Because of the detailed world-building, it's a great primer to reading the Harry Potter books.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Deadman's Castle
Deadman's Castle

By Iain Lawrence

Igor and his family have been on the run since he was a young boy.  After witnessing a terrible crime, his father had to take his family into hiding to avoid the terrifying Lizard Man, who seems to track them down wherever they go.  Igor and his family have lived in many different places.  Eventually they always “bug out”, leaving town in the middle of the night so that they won’t be found.

But as Igor gets older, he craves a more normal life.  At age twelve, he finally starts attending regular school.  Although he dresses differently than the other kids and he lives by very strict rules, he starts to make some friends.  Both Angelo and Zoe accept Igor’s weirdness, but sometimes they also push him to break the rules.

Unbeknownst to his parents, Igor and his friends make several trips to Deadman’s Castle, a creepy, abandoned place in the woods.  Zoe knows all the ins and outs of Deadman’s Castle, and although Angelo and Igor aren’t too keen, they begin exploring it with her.

As time goes on, Igor begins to break more and more of his parents’ rules.  After all, he just wants to hang out with his friends and be a normal kid.  Little does Igor realize that he’s putting himself and even his friends in danger.  Will he ever get to live life without fear of the Lizard Man?

Monday, 29 March 2021

In a Jar

In a Jar
By Deborah Marcero

Deborah Marcero studied visual arts at university and creative writing in graduate school, and although she did not set out to write children’s books, she can now look back and clearly connect the dots that led her to such tour de forces as her latest, In a Jar.

Llewellyn is a collector. Into glass containers he stores regular collectables such as leaves and heart-shaped rocks until the day he walks down to the river and meets a new bunny friend, Evelyn, sharing with her a jar full of “the color of tart cherry syrup”. This “cherry light” is just one of the intangible things Llewellyn and Evelyn begin to gather together, as their world fills with friendship, the sound of the ocean, the wind just before the snow falls, snowball fights and rainbows.

On the fateful day Evelyn tells her friend their family is moving; the two bunnies’ friendship becomes even more resilient. When Llewellyn sends Evelyn a jar stuffed with a meteor shower and it explodes all around her in a burst of magical realism, we see the strength of friendship. Alluring language, sophisticated drawings, and a marvelously vivid experience for all!

Monday, 22 March 2021

The Tree In Me

The Tree In Me
By Corinna Luyken

With a colour palate brimming with playfulness, the neon pinks, dark browns, mustard yellows and blues in The Tree In Me all help unfurl the idea that people are strong and connected to each other, just as trees are. Poetic and lyrical, Corinna Luyken's joyful meditation may be just what we all need in 2021. Even when we do not see it or realize it, our friends and community are closely tied to us - the same as tree roots that stretch and reach for each other underground. Without any touches of green, Luyken's imaginative illustrations portray our indelible link to nature, and the endless nourishment it provides.