Tag Archives: Candlewick

Adorably Odd: Oliver by Birgitta Sif

oliverI loved Birgitta Sif’s new picture book, Oliver, instantly. You know this kind of love. It happens when every little thing about something just feels perfectly right, like finding a new sweater that is exactly the colour you wanted – better even – and it feels super cozy and makes you look dazzling and is locally made and affordable and is machine washable. You see it, and you know it might as well have been created just for you.

Every aspect of this book makes me happy, starting (and ending) with the end pages. The end pages are drawn to look like a wallpapered family portrait gallery, full of small framed pictures, except the pictures are of funny things like a tiny sheep and a single sneaker and a pig with cat eye glasses. You look at them, and you know you are entering the realm of all things adorable and quirky.

“Oliver felt a little bit different.”

This is where the story begins. It’s really a tribute to uniqueness, as odd-but-sweet Oliver, who enjoys living in his own world and adventuring with his puppets, finds that sometimes even someone who is different longs for another person, and being alone can be difficult. In the end, he finds someone who gets him, and who is a little bit different herself. We know it’s not the end, rather the beginning of the best kind of friendship.

The artwork, oh the artwork! I want Birgitta Sif to come to my house and fill up a wall with her work. The pictures have a muted palette and Sif’s style is very fine in places – take a look at the detail in the little puppet’s faces and expressions, and looser, more free, even a little scribbly in others. There’s so much texture and warmth. Amazing.

I plan to give this one to my fella for Valentine’s Day, because we are both “a little different” and so together, we are just right.

Here is the author, being lovely and looking lovely, talking about her book:

Oliver is published by Candlewick Press.



Don’t Steal Stuff Kids. This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen, a cautionary tale

This week in the library, one of the Grade 3 teachers came to see me for some picture books that could tie in with a responsibility theme. I did my usual speedwalk-around-the-library-grabbing-stuff routine, and one of the books I picked up was Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back. Once I had a good stack, we sat down and went through them together. When we got to Jon Klassen’s book, I just read it to her, because it is short, and because it is awesome. She laughed (proving she is awesome). When I’d finished, she said, “I like it, but I’m not sure it’s the best for responsibility.” I said, “Sure it is. The Rabbit steals the Bear’s hat and he tries to get away with it. He doesn’t take responsibility and so…” “He gets eaten?” she said. “Exactly,” I said, “So kids, don’t steal stuff, cuz when you do, you get eaten, ‘kay?”

She took the book.

Jon Klassen’s new book, a follow-up of sorts to I Want My Hat Back, is This is Not My Hat, which has pretty much the same moral as the first book: Stealing is bad. You will get eaten if you do it. Be warned. I cannot wait to read it to the small people. They will approve. I am sure of it. I’ll bet I can even get another teacher to take it, maybe someone looking for an honesty book, or a book for a Never Trust a Crab theme?

Here’s the perfect trailer:

Every complimentary thing everybody said about I Want My Hat Back is also true for This is Not My Hat: understated, genius design, super pacing, darkly funny, a hoot.

I’m thinking we will keep buying books about hat-stealing animals for as long as Mr. Klassen wishes to create them.

This is Not My Hat is published by Candlewick.

An adorable new duo: Rabbit & Robot

It makes me happy whenever I think about how there were so many brilliant books that I discovered for the first time when I worked at The Flying Dragon Bookshop. Goodnight Mr. Tom, Millions and Framed, How I Live Now, Clementine, Bark George… I could fill a post with only the titles. I love that if I close my eyes, I can picture where those books lived in the store and remember going over to the shelves to pull out just the right one to share with a customer. I hope I am able to conjure the store in my mind for my whole life.

The reason I mention this, is that I was thinking about the store today as I was remembering one of my favourite “Flying Dragon Finds”: Cynthia Rylant’s Mr. Putter and Tabby series. Talk about perfect early readers. What makes a perfect early reader? For me, it’s memorable characters, gentle humour, dynamite illustrations that enrich the narrative world beyond the words, and text that manages to still be cleverly crafted and lovely to read even though there aren’t as many words on the page. Cece Bell’s new reader, Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover has all of these qualities, which means I’ve got my fingers crossed that there will be more installments featuring these two quirky buddies.

When Robot comes over to Rabbit’s place for a sleepover, Rabbit has a To Do List prepared for his visit:

1.Make Pizza
2.Watch TV
3.Play Go Fish
4.Go to bed

When Robot suggests shaking things up a little with a game of Old Maid or Crazy Eights, Rabbit is not into it. He is determined that they will stick to the list. When Robot doesn’t want to have the kind of pizza Rabbit planned, Rabbit freaks out. You can see where this is going. The push-pull, give-take of this strange friendship makes for hilarious scenarios that kids are sure to love. The little book is packed with dialogue, which brings the characters’ contrasting personalities vividly to life. Bell’s bold illustrations capture the warmth at the heart of this wacky little relationship. A sweet tribute to the way that the best friendships can stretch us and bring us new experiences and plenty of laughter along the way, Rabbit & Robot is delightful from beginning to end.

Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover is published by Candlewick.

Day 19, book 19: Big Mean Mike by Michelle Knudsen

Q: Who doesn’t like tiny, cute, fuzzy bunnies?

A: Big Mean Mike.

Michelle Knudsen’s new picture book is all about Big Mean Mike and his journey towards embracing his inner bunny-lover. A dog this big, this spiky, and this tough, has his image to worry about. Having a big, mean car that makes a big, mean noise whenever he revs the engine really helps out with Mike’s image. You know what doesn’t help? Having tiny, cute, fuzzy bunny stowaways in said car. This is a BIG problem, and Mike doesn’t like it. Not One Bit. But, if this story teaches us anything, it’s that bunnies are irresistible, even if you are the type of character to wear a spiky collar.

I like how over the course of the first few pages of text, Knudsen gets in as many “big, mean”s as she possibly can. Readers start smiling because we’re getting the feeling that Mike is trying awfully hard to be big and mean, from his bark, to his combat books, to his souped up car. This makes the picture of Mike discovering the first sweet, little bunny in his trunk particularly hilarious. Kids will be laughing as soon as the page turns. It doesn’t matter at all that we don’t know why the bunnies have shown up in Mike’s car. It makes it funnier, actually.

Scott Magoon‘s illustrations capture Mike’s macho attitude perfectly. Mike’s posture, his clenched fists, his very angry eyebrows – all of these details bring Mike to life and convey his increasing frustration with his bunny problem. And the bunnies are adorable. They look soft around the edges up against Mike’s very defined lines, and their little pink cheeks could not be any cuter. Surely little boys will love Mike’s car, which looks like one of my nephew’s favourite Hot Wheels. When the other tough dogs show up for The Monster Truck Show, there are plenty of laugh out loud details in Magoon’s pictures that poke fun at the tough guy crowd.

Big Mean Mike proves that just about everyone has room in their hearts – and lives – for some fuzzy cuteness. Just when you think you’ve worked out your image, sometimes life puts a bunny in your glove compartment.

Big Mean Mike is published by Candlewick.

Day 9, book 9: Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds

There are some picture books that I buy for the library with a particular teacher in mind, something that might not find its way into everyone’s classroom, but that will be just perfect for that one person’s program. And then there are books like Sky Color, the third in Peter H. Reynolds’ “Creatrilogy,” after The Dot and Ish. It’s going to get snapped up before I can even put it out on display. This I know for sure. Teachers have a lotta love for The Dot and Ish. I will be a hero when they find Sky Color in the library.

“How am I going to make the sky without blue paint?” This is Marisol’s problem when she agrees to paint the sky for the library mural, but finds that there isn’t any blue in her box of paint. So, quite literally, she is forced to think outside the box. Where else to look for answers than out the window? This is exactly what Marisol does on the way home, and that night she dreams of a whole different kind of sky, “swirling with colors.” In the end, Marisol finds her way, and she finds sky color.

Reynolds loves exploring the notion of self-expression and the individual’s creative journey beyond perceived limitations and rules. On the last page, he dedicates the book to someone in his life who “took the blue paint away and helped me paint – and think – in sky color.” I like that while Reynolds’ books are certainly about creation and art, the ideas and lessons in them can be extended beyond these areas, informing how kids think and see the world in general.

The illustrations start off quite muted, mostly black and white and shades of grey with only touches of colour, until the sky comes in, and then Reynolds shows off a gorgeous wash of orange and yellow and pink and purple. The last two pages contain the children’s mural, in a wordless double-page spread filled with colour, and all of the young artists standing in front of it, taking it in. I’m sure Sky Color will inspire a similar response in all who read it. If you need a little awe in your day, look no further.

Sky Color is published by Candlewick.

My own little celebration: 30 days, 30 Picture Books

Are you as jazzed as I am about Candlewick’s awesome initiative, We Believe in Picture Books? 365 videos all in celebration of the fabulosity of picture books? This is going to make every day for the next… 363 days, that little bit sweeter.

Here’s the deal:

So today I thought I would begin my own little elfy celebration as my way of saying, “Candlewick, you’re speaking my language.” For 30 days, every day of September, I am going to be posting a review of a picture book that makes me happy and shows everyone why we should all believe in picture books.

Let the believing begin!