Summer, by Wenxuan Cao, illustrated by Rong Yu (2015, 2019)

Picture Book | 3-7

When a hot summer day on in the grasslands leaves a group of animals squabbling over the only spindly tree, it takes the simple scene of a father and son walking to give them a good solution – have each animal create shade for the next smaller one. Sure, the elephant ends up in full sun, but that’s exactly where he started anyway! This is a sweet story with big bold illustrations that will appeal to young readers, who will want to linger on the pages and study how each animal reacts to the changing storyline.

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Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Go to School (#1), by Julie Falatko, illus. by Colin Jack (2018)

Humourous Fiction
7-10

Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Go to School, by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Colin Jack (2018)

Sometimes a title just grabs you and says Read Me. This is one of those titles. It’s the first of two reviews I’m doing this week, both of them books for children. There are three books in the “Two Dogs in a Trench Coat” series; this is the first. Sassy and Waldo are two dogs whose lives are devoted to eating food, protecting the household from the evil squirrels, and napping in the sun. Until they realize Stewart, the boy in their house, needs saving from a place called School, a place he goes every day and returns dejected and bored. Thanks to Waldo’s surprising ability to speak English, the two dogs finagle their way into the classroom, where they learn just how exciting school is, and help Stewart make a friend along the way.

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The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City, by Jodi Kendall (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
8-13
The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City, by Jodi KendallMiddle-schooler Josie Schilling feels invisible in her big family – she’s neither the eldest nor the youngest, and is often overlooked in the bustle of crowded life in a small city townhome. She focuses her energy on her gymnastics, but is struggling to manage the moves as her too-tall body makes it difficult. When her brother Tom comes home from college with an unwanted runt piglet, Josie’s love for animals kicks in and she convinces her parents to give little Hamlet a temporary home until she can find someone to adopt her. Read More »

Krista Kim-bap, by Angela Ahn (2018)

Contemporary Fiction
9-13
Krista Kim-bap, by Angela AhnLibrarians and writers often share the same circles, but it might surprise you to learn how many writers ARE librarians. Lewis Carroll, Sarah Ellis, Kit Pearson, Bill Richardson, Beverly Cleary, to name just a few. And now Angela Ahn joins this fine group. As she and I went to library school together at UBC, I was both delighted and secretly a bit apprehensive when her publisher, Second Story Press, agreed to provide me with a digital copy for review. What if I don’t like it? But I’m happy to report this is a truly enjoyable story that celebrates culture, friendship, and family. Krista Kim is almost 12 years old and lives with her Korean-Canadian mum, dad, and sister Tori in Vancouver. Read More »

Cry, Heart, But Never Break, by Glenn Ringtved (2001, 2016)

Illustrated Book
4-9
Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn RingtvedThis is the second of two books I’m reviewing today on grief and death. They are challenging issues for any of us, and when children are involved, books can offer a way for adults to help kids grasp an understanding of death and accept the pain of loss. This tender and sensitive book offers an honest and gentle approach to an impending loss. Four children are sharing a kitchen table with Death, who has come for their beloved grandmother. Death is presented as a visitor, a kind one, whose heart is surprisingly full of a love for life. The children naturally try to deter Death from his task. Read More »

The Funeral, by Matt James (2018)

Children’s Fiction
3-8
The Funeral, by Matt JamesThis is the first of two children’s picture books dealing with death I’m reviewing today. Matt James is the Canadian illustrator who so beautifully created images to accompany the words of the Stan Rogers ballad, Northwest Passage, for a picture book that I reviewed several years ago now. (He won a Governor-General’s Award for that one!) This is his first foray into both writing and illustrating a children’s picture book, and he does it brilliantly. Funerals are difficult for children, both conceptually and emotionally, so I was expecting images of frowning and shushing grown-ups. But James captures the conflicting emotions perfectly – Norah really is sad that her Great-Uncle Frank is dead, and practises her “sad face,” but she is secretly happy to have a day off school. Read More »

Duck Soup, by Jackie Urbanovic (2008)

Picture Book
4-8
Duck Soup, by Jackie UrbanovicThis delightful and comical picture book is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and is still in print – it’s easy to see why! The book was first published in 2008, when it earned a starred review from Kirkus. I recently discovered it on my library’s bookshelves and immediately fell hard for this funny and silly story that will appeal to young children. Max the Duck likes making soup and has had both hits and misses, from the yummy-sounding squash gumbo to the Cracker Barrel Cheese and Marshmallow soup. But this time, this time Max is about to create his culinary masterpiece. Read More »