Favourite Finds for Everyone

November

It was hard to narrow the list down to ten books; I was fortunate to read so many stellar picture books this past month. There are just so many fabulous picture books! As promised, I will highlight some Canadian books today. So here they are in alphabetical order.

A Stopwatch from Grampa: by Loretta Garbutt, illustrated by Carmen Mok,
Kids Can Press 2020

A little boy who has lost his grandfather goes through the stages of grieving after losing his grandfather and receives his stopwatch to keep his memories with him. Dealing with the loss of a loved one with children is not an easy topic. A Stopwatch from Grandpa does it with sensitivity in the word choice and the illustrations that match the emotions of the child. I also appreciated the fact that the character was gender-neutral, so all children can see themselves, relate and connect to the child in the story.

Bobby Orr and the Hand-Me-Down Skates: by Bobby Orr & Kara Kootstra, illustrated by Jennifer Phelan, Penguin Random House

Author Bobby Orr takes us on a trip down memory lane, remembering when he wished for a brand new pair of skates only to receive hand-me-downs. It is a connection that we all have experienced; wishing for something and being disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Despite the disappointment, Bobby ends up loving his hand-me-downs and when he does get new skates, what happens to his second-hand skates? Illustrations make the story come alive, and those who live with winter will appreciate the outdoor scenes and descriptive writing. A book that not just hockey fans will enjoy and perhaps give other readers a trip down memory lane.

The Bug Girl: by Sophia Spencer & Margaret McNamara, illustrated by Kerascoët,
Penguin Random House

A story about following your passions no matter what others say and being true to yourself. As a small child, Sophie discovered a love of bugs. When Sophie started school, her friends were supportive, but as she grew older, she was teased and bullied so much that she put her interest in bugs on hold. The fact that a nine-year-old has written the book is powerful, and know young readers will be surprised and empowered by this fact. I liked the fact that she discovered other things she was passionate about and still returned to her bugs. A reminder to all of us, follow our passions and not worry about the opinions of others.

Find Fergus: by Mike Boldt, Doubleday Books for Young Readers

Fergus the Bear is trying to play hide and seek with the reader, except Fergus is not very good at it. Sometimes you need a book that makes you feel good, and this one made me laugh out loud. The illustrations, like the main idea, are fun and playful. Readers will enjoy making predictions about what Fergus will do to try to hide. I know this will be an engaging and fun read-aloud.

The Girl with the Cat: by Beverly Brenna, illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan, Red Deer Press

A young girl named Caroline, new to town, and lonely visits the local art gallery and discovers a bronze sculpture of a girl (Nina) in a rocking chair with a cat (Sammy) on her lap. The sculpture becomes almost like a friend, with Caroline speaking to it on her weekly visits. On one visitation, a sign on Nina and Sammy states it is going to move soon. Caroline is distraught and determined to keep the bronze display. With Caroline’s letter writing and advocacy, the people of the city help her, and the sculpture remains in the gallery. Biased, as this is a true story where I live, so I have connections and am familiar with the art piece. That said, you don’t need to be from Saskatoon to celebrate the descriptive writing, the soft illustrations, the feeling of loneliness, and the power one voice can have to make a difference.

The One with the Scraggly Beard: by Elizabeth Withey, illustrated by Lynn Scurfield,
Orca Book Publishers

A little boy sees a man who appears to be homeless and questions his mother about it. Scenes that are common in cities and perhaps for many awkward to discuss with children, finally we are beginning to see books to help with these conversations. I appreciated that Ms. Withey used her experiences to share how she showed readers the many ways the boy and the man had things in common, showing readers that we are more similar than we are different and how everyone has their own path. The illustrations are not what one might expect as they are very colourful, with a few that have darker tones, for example, where the man is sleeping under the bridge. A compassionate and realistic situation, we need more stories like this one and available in classrooms and libraries.

The Paper Boat: A Refugee Story: by Thao Lam, Owlkids Books

This wordless book depicts the story of a Vietnamese family fleeing from their country due to war. A side-by-side story has ants experiencing the same events and emotions. When the family exits, they become separated, and the mother and child follow ants to the ocean. From this point, we only see the horrific journey the ants take and the suffering they endure. Once the surviving ants reach the shore, they start to build a new colony, and we see them once again in the home of the family members who survived. Like the ants, they too are making their way in the new city with other cultures that exist. The collage illustrations and sparse colour palette add to the turmoil and emotions. A book that will make readers think and ask questions.

Terry Fox and Me: by Mary Beth Leatherdal, illustrated by Milan Pavlović,
Penguin Random House

Terry Fox is a national hero, and many books have shared their story, none from the point of view of his best friend Doug Alward. From Doug’s perspective, we get to know a different side of Terry – as he was growing up, wanting to play basketball and being short, and how the two individuals not only became friends but how they pushed one another to do their best. The story takes us to the start of the Marathon of Hope, and the back matter includes more information about running and the Marathon itself. Another book that educators and readers will request, especially in September.

Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White by Saumiya Balasubramaniam, illustrated by Eva Campbell, Groundwood Books

A mother and daughter are returning home from school, the mother missing the warmth of the country she calls home and the daughter reminding her of the beauty of what now is home. The bright illustrations show the beauty of living in a place with a lot of snow – the wintry setting is offset with reds and blues that sparkle and delight. Allowing the little girl to show her mother how to appreciate winter and where home is now is empowering.

When We Are Kind: by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Nicole Neidhardt, Orca Books

Using single sentences, Ms. Gray Smith delivers a powerful message and reminder to its readers. The book begins with Ms. Smith sharing a variety of ways how we can be kind one to one another, including ourselves, then transitions into how we feel when others are kind to us and ourselves. I love how Ms. Gray Smith includes elders, the earth and ourselves as ways we can be kind but also how we feel when kindness is reciprocated.  

There you have it – a variety of some of the picture books from my month of reading. I hope you found some new titles to enjoy. 

Laurie

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