Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Wishing everyone all the best for 2015.

I'll be back January 12th.


Monday, December 22, 2014

The foodie edition

Okay, with Christmas just around the corner a good part of my time is wrapped up with food – reading recipes, planning meals,  grocery shopping, going out with friends for meals, baking, eating, eating and more eating – you get the picture.

So, I got to thinking, what would a Christmas day meal look like based on children’s books titles?

Here’s what I've come up with:


       Dancing Pancakes (Spinelli) 

          OR Unlucky Charms (Rex)


       Nuts to You (Perkins)  


  Toads on Toast (Bailey)

Christmas dinner:

       Octopus Soup (Mayer)

    Tumbleweed Stew (Crummel)

   Creepy Carrots (Reynolds)

       Little Green Peas (Baker)

        Mice and Beans (Ryan)


        Ugly Pie (Wheeler) 


   Sweet Dream Pie (Wood)


   Fortune Cookies of Weevil (Reynolds) .

 (I just couldn't make up my mind.)


 I’d serve  Everything on a Waffle (Horvath) – of course.

Not necessarily traditional Christmas fare but it would give guests lots to talk about.

How about you?  Any ideas for your perfect holiday meal?

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Welcome to my world

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Really, I don't think this needs much explanation.  Enjoy.

Don't you love the eyebrow action?

Monday, December 8, 2014

A quick pick

Sam & Dave dig a hole  by Mac Barnett , illustrated by Jon Klassen has been getting lots of good press and being a fan of Jon Klassen (see I want my hat back and This is not my hat) I was eager to read it.

And, now it has finally arrived in the Doucette Library.

 I can remember wanting to dig to China when I was very young and thought it was on the other side of the world, having no clue as what that entailed geographically speaking.  I could be there in no time – a mere morning of digging and I’d be there.   An early desire to see more of the world foreshadowed here, perhaps.

And this ties into the premise of this picture book.  Two boys and a dog, decide to dig a hole.  Which they do.  But when do they stop?  They are on a mission and won’t stop until they find something ‘spectacular’.

Sounds exciting, doesn't it?  I wonder how far they’ll have to dig?  I wonder what they’ll discover?

The reader’s anticipation is tapped into as we’re allowed to ‘see’ what the boys are almost about to uncover – but then don’t!  ARGH!  Don’t you just hate when that happens?  The wryness of the text with the deadpan expressions of the characters all play into the understated humour of the story.

However, the dog who must have extra super-dooper, spidey senses, does seem to know where the treasures are -- showing us the potential for success.  The boys who blithely go about their digging business are oblivious to the dog’s extrasensory perception.

So, down and down and down they go, missing several increasingly large-sized diamonds along the way, strategizing as they go (change directions, splitting up) and hoping that soon they’ll strike the mother lode.

Where will it all ends?

This isn't so clear cut as it may seem. The ambiguous ending leaves us guessing as to whether the boys have dug themselves back home or if they've fallen into an almost exact replica of home, some kind of alternative universe, maybe.

It’s easy to enjoy this gem, which is all the better for not having to dig even one spade’s worth of dirt.

Recommended for grades K to 3.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Art with a story

Migrant by Jose Manuel Mateo and Javier Martinez Pedro is an intriguing bilingual (English/Spanish) accordion-style folding book that looks to generate awareness about children who take huge risks in trying to enter the United States illegally, either alone or with their families.

In this story, short narratives from a child’s perspective accompany specific sections of the unfolding mural-like codex.  In the beginning life is good, with people in the village leading hard but fruitful, peaceful lives growing crops for a landowner.  But things change when some of the men leave to find work.  Eventually, the father of the boy telling the story also leaves the village, sending money back home occasionally.  But when the money stops coming and the mother finds it too difficult to survive in the village without work, she makes the decision to leave as well.

The main part of the story is the journey to reunite with the father. The family travels long distances and takes great risks jumping on trains, scaling walls, and evading police, capture and ‘disappearing’, all along way until they arrive outside Los Angeles.  Here they will find jobs cleaning houses and search for the father.

The art work is what predominates here.  Nine panels ‘unfold’ this story in black and white illustrations with exacting detail that fills up every panel.  For example, the village scene is packed with people, vegetation, animals, houses, mountains, a starry sky and a beaming sun.  We can see the watermelons, maize, and papayas being grown and harvested from the fields, while the bordering sea provides fish and fun.  It’s a bustling place.

In the artist’s note he tells us that he is following in the artistic tradition of the Mexican state of Guerrero and the work does have a folk art feel. However, I was also reminded of Peter Sis’s illustrations, as well, with tiny details conveying a multitude of life’s minutiae.  Our main character is discernible by the distinctive cap that he wears so the reader is able to keep track of him in each section (though I did have to hunt a couple of times).

The book is gorgeous, striking and provocative.  It conveys a child’s sense of home, fear, excitement, hopefulness and home-sickness.  The illustrations express the movement of people and the tension that such a situation naturally produces.  One review I read suggested looking at this book panel-by-panel and I would agree with this for the first reading.  But do open up the whole book, otherwise you’ll miss seeing the patterns of ‘lines’ that convey the sense of movement.  You have to spend time with this book.  It’s not a ‘quick read’.

Reviews are suggesting that young children are the target audience for Migrant but I would disagree.  The amount of detail, the black and white illustrations and the content of the story would be too much for the primary grades, in my opinion.  You could have young children track the protagonist throughout the story but then the point of the story would be misdirected.  If a child has been through a similar journey, then they would have some context for the story and this might work. The actual written story would be easily understood but I think the illustrations wouldn't hold young readers attention.

I’m recommending this book for older students, grades 9 and up, who would derive more from the whole book and would likely have the staying power required to work through and revisit the story. However, a co-worker thought that grades 5/6 could use it to model their own work on.

For extra interest, try pairing this with Tsunami  by Joydeb Chitrakar another accordion-style narrative about the 2004 tsunami that devastated vast areas of coastline in Southeast Asia.  I blogged about this one back in 2010.

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