Monthly Archives: December 2012

A miracle

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“It is a miracle if you can find true friends, and it is a miracle if you have enough food to eat, and it is a miracle if you get to spend your days and evenings doing whatever it is you like to do, and the holiday season—like all the other seasons—is a good time not only to tell stories of miracles, but to think about the miracles in your own life, and to be grateful for them.”
Lemony Snicket, The Lump of Coal

Malcolm
April 19, 2001 – December 24, 2012
our miracle dog, every day of his life

For late nights with little insomniacs: Bedtime is Canceled

bedtimecanceeldIt’s every kid’s dream (and every parent’s nightmare): a night without bedtime. In Bedtime is Canceled, author Cece Meng imagines this reality with illustrator Aurelie Neyret striking digital visuals, creating a fun book that may, unfortunately, give the small people a few ideas.

When a brother and sister team write a note for their parents to inform them that BEDTIME IS CANCELED, it doesn’t really work, at first. The paper ends up in the trash, until the wind gets hold of it. It floats out the window, all the way across town, straight onto the desk of a reporter. This is how it becomes the front page headline the next day. The news spreads via print and TV and email and text until it seems to be official. The parents have temper tantrums and the kids have a blast, just as you would expect. The next day, everyone is so worn out that the kids make the decision to plant the seed of that evening’s top story: BEDTIME IS NOT CANCELED. This doesn’t mean they have to go to bed though, FYI. Any parent would confirm that, right?

This is a cute premise that just about every child and parent can relate to. (Except for kids like me. I was bedtime’s biggest fan. Still am). Meng’s text is peppy, with understated humour. The plot plays on the speed of digital communication in a sly way that will certainly entertain grownups. Neyret’s modern, cartoony style captures scenes from daily life that young families will recognize. Nice for little insomniacs and precocious plotters, Bedtime is Canceled is a sweet celebration of ingenuity, playfulness, and the magic of staying up past your bedtime.

Bedtime is Canceled is published by Clarion Books.

A wild new Narnia: Wildwood by Colin Meloy

wildwoodThere is something extra nice about a thick book, don’t you think? There’s the promise of having lots of story in there to draw out over many wintry evenings. That’s exactly what I did with Colin Meloy’s Wildwood. I missed this one when it came out, but now I’m lucky to be able to follow it up right away with the second in the series, Under Wildwood.

I had a good feeling as soon as I read the first line of this story. It’s a great opening:

How five crows managed to lift a twenty pound baby boy into the air was beyond Prue, but that was certainly the least of her worries.

After her little brother is kidnapped by the crows, Prue must travel into the Impassable Wilderness in search of him, a vast and mysterious area on the edge of Portland. She doesn’t go alone. On her way she runs into Curtis, a boy from school, who travels with her into the woods. What they find there is beyond belief, a whole other world peopled with talking animals, powerful and dangerous people, and magic. Curtis is captured, taken prisoner by the Dowager Governess, who has evil plans that don’t stay secret for long. Prue soon discovers that war is brewing in Wildwood, and her brother’s fate is tied to the outcome.

The story is quirky and lively, with a cast of characters who are modern and familiar all at once. You will cheer for Prue and Curtis, as they transform from believable ordinary kids who might live down the street from you, into the heroes of a remarkable adventure. The Dowager Governess will certainly remind you of the White Witch, but as much as there are shades of Narnia here, it’s not too much, it just creates a comforting feeling, like a new pair of slippers that feels a little like your favourite old pair. Meloy’s tale is an original, and one that seems perfect for reading aloud, close to a Christmas tree. Carson Ellis’s illustrations could not be a better fit for such a cool, memorable book. It will certainly be just right for any ten-year olds on your list this year (and maybe even for their hip parents).

Wildwood is published by Balzer + Bray.

Funny things kids say at the library

I would be lost without my grade 7 and 8 library helpers. Seriously. They are in all ways awesome. Not only do they shelve a kazillion books everyday, even in the Dreaded Dewey section, but they also keep me laughing by saying funny stuff all the time. Here’s a good one from this week.

“Hey Ms Millar?”

“Yes.”

“There’s a pattern in these pink books.” (Squinting at pink-themed picture book display)

“Oh really?”

“Almost all of them are about little brats.”

Guess what? She’s right. Publishers take note. Enough with the bratty pink books already. Please.

Shhh! Not a creature was stirring: The Christmas Quiet Book

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Hey, look! It’s once again the time of gently falling snow at Shelf Elf. While I can’t see any snowflakes outside, I’ll take them at my blog. I’ll also happily take one in the form of my gorgeous paper snowflake lantern, pictured above. You know you want one (and if you live in Toronto, you can get one here). I’ve already spent a little time all cozy on the couch reading and snoozing by its golden glow. Here’s what I suggest to create your own little bit of Christmas magic, with or without the actual white stuff:

1) Turn on snowflake lantern.

2) Warm up the hot chocolate.

3) Add marshmallows.

3) Call the cat.

4) Wrap cat and self in your favourite woolen blanket.

5) Read him a Christmas story. He will probably fall asleep. This is fine. It does not mean he is not listening. I recommend this book, one of my new favourite Christmas offerings:

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I am such a fan of Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska‘s first two books, The Quiet Book, and The Loud Book. They define the magic that can happen when you match a simple, sweet concept that has equal kid and grown up appeal, with illustrations that are in every way perfect for the text. The Christmas Quiet Book turns Underwood and Liwska’s work into a perfect three for three. You will not be able to resist the loveliness here, because this book captures what I think almost everyone hopes Christmas can be: a peaceful, celebratory time, filled with family traditions, laughter, and days that seem to stretch on forever. The variety in Underwood’s ideas really makes the book work for everyone. There are types of quiet that kids will especially relate to: “Searching for presents quiet,” and “Trying to stay awake quiet.” And then there are the types that will get parents and grandparents grinning: “Blown fuse quiet,” and “Someone’s dad is a costume designer quiet.” Liwska’s soft, practically huggable little creatures make you wish that Christmas would just hurry up and get here already.

Here’s the lovely trailer:

Enjoy with your cat or your kid, this one is a lovely Christmas treat.

The Christmas Quiet Book is published by Houghton Mifflin.