Showing posts from 2015

2016 Picturebooks Preview

This post is mostly pictures, but pictures of what are sure to be incredibly entertaining children's picturebooks coming out in 2016. Any others you're looking forward to? Let me know!

We Are the Ants - Shaun David Hutchinson

Henry Denton doesn’t know why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button. But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

Since the suicide of his boyfriend, Jesse, Henry has been adrift. He’s become estranged from his best friend, started hooking up with his sworn enemy, and his family is oblivious to everything that’s going on around them. As far as Henry is concerned, a world without Jesse is a world he isn’t sure is worth saving. Until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given h…

Apologies and Updates on Life

Hello Followers:

Today I want to take a moment to apologize for my absence over the last month. As the year comes to a close and Christmas seasons rears its glittery head, I once again realize that I may possibly have ended up saying "yes" to a few too many things this year. Once I finish grading papers mid-month, and have recovered from dental surgery, I will do my best to get back on track!

Part of the problem this year has been that I am unable to review any Printz-eligible titles, which sort of takes away a HUGE portion of what I have been reading. Once I am finished with my Printzly duties (Get it? I made a pun!) I will try to get back to my weekly or twice-weekly reviews. In the meantime, I leave with a few fun photos from my latest trip to NCTE/ALAN. It was a really fun trip, and reminded me of how amazing the YA/Children's literature community can be!

That's it for now! Thanks to everyone who keeps following amidst the absences! You are all wonderful and I can&#…

Kill Shakespeare (Backstage Edition) - Conor McCreery, Antholy Del Col, Andy Belanger, and Ian Herring

An epic adventure that will change the way you look at Shakespeare forever. 

In this dark tale, the bard’s most famous heroes embark upon a journey to discover a long-lost soul. Hamlet, Juliet, Othello, Falstaff, Romeo and Puck search for a reclusive wizard who may have the ability to assist them in their battle against the evil forces led by the villains Richard III, Lady Macbeth and Iago. That reclusive wizard? William Shakespeare.

A combination of “Fables”, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and “Lord of the Rings”, Kill Shakespeare offers a remixed re-envisioning of the greatest characters of all-time, featuring action, romance, comedy, lust, drama and bloody violence. it is an adventure of shakespearean proportions.

This is a brilliantly dark and unique reimagining of the worlds within Shakespeare's plays, featuring familiar characters as you've never seen them before!
I had the pleasure of meeting one of the creators (Andy Belanger) a number of years back at an America…

Little Robot - Ben Hatke

When a little girl finds an adorable robot in the woods, she presses a button and accidentally activates him for the first time. Now, she finally has a friend. But the big, bad robots are coming to collect the little guy for nefarious purposes, and it's all up to a five-year-old armed only with a wrench and a fierce loyalty to her mechanical friend to save the day!

Ben Hatke is a fantastic illustrator, storyteller, and speaker (and he's pretty darn adorable, too!) Perhaps best known for Zita the Spacegirl, Hatke has constructed a beautiful and heartwarming story of friendship between a young girl and a newly awoken robot. The colour palate is rich and warm, even in night time scenes.
Perhaps what I love most is the development of the little girl, who goes from being a bit of a loner, to becoming confident in herself by acting as a sort of parental figure or educator for the little robot. I also love that she is mechanically inclined and, well, not white! As the little girl devel…

Little Red Gliding Hood - Tara Lazar (Author) and Troy Cummings (Illustrator)

Little Red Riding Hood straps on her ice skates in this fractured fairy tale! A figure skating enthusiast, Little Red has worn her skates right out and must win a pairs competition to earn new ones. But who will be her partner? The Dish is already dancing with the Spoon, and Hansel is spinning Gretel like sugar. You won’t believe what big eyes, sharp teeth, and long snout her partner has…all the better to spin her with!

This is a really fun take on the Little Red Riding Hood story with the inclusion of a variety of nursery rhymes and other fairy tale allusions. The illustrations are beautiful, full of colour and character, cartoonish but giving a sense of liveliness. In some ways, the illustrations are reminiscent of Dexter's Lab and other related children's cartoons. There are anthropomorphized animals, and other adorable human characters.

This is a really fun read-aloud for the whole family, whether young or old. I Highly Recommend this book for your winter reading list or for…

Float - Daniel Miyares

This. Book. Is. Gorgeous!

A little boy takes a boat made of newspaper out for a rainy-day adventure. The boy and his boat dance in the downpour and play in the puddles, but when the boy sends his boat floating down a gutter stream, it quickly gets away from him.

So of course the little boy goes on the hunt for his beloved boat, and when the rain lets up, he finds himself on a new adventure altogether.

If there is one thing I love in a picture book (though not the only thing) it's clean lines and spare use of colour, and this book uses both to tell a story about playing in the rain that is both emotionally poignant and uplifting. This tale reminds readers that childhood, as much as we associate it with play and care-free attitudes, is just as full of tragedies that we, as adults, sometimes consider inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but which affect children to a great degree.

The use of yellow is a key element of the illustrations, boldly filling in the boy's rain coat…

Sidewalk Flowers - JonArno Lawson & Sydney Smith

In this wordless picture book, a little girl collects wildflowers while her distracted father pays her little attention. Each flower becomes a gift, and whether the gift is noticed or ignored, both giver and recipient are transformed by their encounter. 

"Written" by award-winning poet JonArno Lawson and brought to life by illustrator Sydney Smith, Sidewalk Flowers is an ode to the importance of small things, small people, and small gestures.

Lawson and Smith's book is gorgeous. I can't even fully describe how it makes me feel. This beautiful story "written" by JonAarno Lawson--I say "written" because this is, after all, a completely wordless picture book--and illustrated by Syndey Smith reminds readers (both adult and child alike) to slow down and "smell the roses." While there are components of little red riding hood sewn into the overall narrative--the little girl is the most obvious character in the story due to her red hoodie--the st…

Scenes from the Epic Life of a Total Genius - Stacey Matson

Lights. Camera. Action! Arthur Bean’s life has taken a turn for the adventurous — two girlfriends to deal with, and a blockbuster film to co-write, produce and direct. How crazy can one school year get?

Arthur and Robbie have called a truce now that the writing contest and school play are over…but plans go astray when Arthur’s new girlfriend Anila gets jealous of his friendship with Kennedy. And then there’s that little problem of the movie camera Arthur and Robbie borrowed to film their upcoming blockbuster movie.

As Arthur’s life goes off the rails all over again, laughs for the reader are right on track. Emails, doodles, texts, newspaper articles, AV Club rules (which Arthur and Robbie usually break) give the story the same engaging look as
A Year in the Life of a (Total and Complete) Genius.

This is the sequel to Stacey Matson's first novel, A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius (you can read my review of it here). Arthur continues to be self-absorbed, and still fails…

Adam - Ariel Schrag

When Adam Freedman -- a skinny, awkward, inexperienced teenager from Piedmont, California -- goes to stay with his older sister Casey in New York City, he is hopeful that his life is about to change. And it sure does. 
It is the Summer of 2006. Gay marriage and transgender rights are in the air, and Casey has thrust herself into a wild lesbian subculture. Soon Adam is tagging along to underground clubs, where there are hot older women everywhere he turns. It takes some time for him to realize that many in this new crowd assume he is trans -- a boy who was born a girl. Why else would this baby-faced guy always be around?

Then Adam meets Gillian, the girl of his dreams -- but she couldn't possibly be interested in him. Unless passing as a trans guy might actually work in his favor...

This is a novel I had a hard time with. While I thought the subject might actually be pretty funny and, as the back cover says, "scathing," I was left feeling unsure and uncomforta…

Tinder - Sally Gardner (Author) and David Roberts (Illustrator)

A young soldier, a captive princess, witches, wolves and Death walk hand in hand in COSTA AWARD winner Sally Gardner's exquisitely written new novel inspired by the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, THE TINDERBOX, illustrated by David Roberts.

Otto Hundebiss is tired of war, but when he defies Death he walks a dangerous path. A half beast half man gives him shoes and dice which will lead him deep into a web of dark magic and mystery. He meets the beautiful Safire - pure of heart and spirit, the scheming Mistress Jabber and the terrifying Lady of the Nail. He learns the powers of the tinderbox and the wolves whose master he becomes. But will all the riches in the world bring him the thing he most desires?

Fairy tales are often the cruellest stories of all.

Based on The Tinderbox by Hans Christian Andersen and illustrated exquisitely by David Roberts, Gardner's latest book will be highly appealing to fans of fairy tales and magical narratives alike. The book really is the whole p…

Singing Home the Whale - Mandy Hagar

An extraordinary story, from an award-winning New Zealand author, of how the arrival of a baby orca whale threatens to tear apart a small fishing community and forever changes the life of the boy who first finds it.

Will Jackson is hiding out, a city boy reluctantly staying with his uncle in small-town New Zealand. After he discovers a young abandoned orca, his life is further thrown into chaos when he rallies to help protect it against hostile locals. The boy and the whale develop a special bond, linked by Will’s love of singing. With echoes of the classic book and film The Whale Rider, this is a strong, exciting and beautifully written story and a compelling exploration of many global concerns.
(Description courtesy of Goodreads)

I was given this novel by a friend while at a child lit conference, recently, in Worcester, UK. Given her recommendation and favourable words, I couldn't help but put it at the top of my to-read pile upon returning home. 
As many can attest, this is a VER…

The Tea Party in the Woods - Akiko Miyakoshi

This picturebook was originally published in Japanese, with the title Mori no Oku no Ochakai e in 2010. It has since been translated and is being made available for a North American audience thanks to Kids Can Press.
Kikko sets out after her father with a forgotten pie for Grandma. When she arrives at a strange house in the wintry woods, a peek in the window reveals that the footprints Kikko had been following did not belong to her father at all, but to a bear in a long coat and hat! Alice in Wonderland meets Little Red Riding Hood in this charmed tale.
The Tea Party in the Woods is a beautiful tale, equal parts Red Riding Hood and Alice. In her adventures, she meets a group of animals having a tea party in a strange house that she has never seen before. When the animals realize that Kikko has ruined the pie that was originally intended for her grandmother, they work together to help Kikko reach her grandmother with an equally appealing and delicious gift.
Much of the landscape throughou…

In the Deep Dark Deep - Ben Joel Price

In this sequel to Earth Space Moon Base, Monkey, Robot, and Deep-Sea Diver embark on a dangerous underwater quest! The jellyfish and spider crabs they encounter are the least of their worries as they search the depths for missing starfish in their bathysphere, the Guppy.

The illustrations in this book are fun and reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, especially where exaggerated designs and absurd creatures are concerned. The colours are dark and reflect the depth of the ocean as the Monkey, Robot, and Deep-Sea Diver travel closer to the ocean floor. The story is simple, told in rhymes and short vignettes which will delight younger readers.
That all being said, the story itself lacks depth and feels uneven at times, and the illustrations overshadow the text in many instances. Some of the rhymes also feel as though they are relying on forced word combinations that don't feel as smooth as they could. This is not to say that the book is not worth picking up, but younger children and those with a p…

A Curious Tale of the In-Between - Lauren DeStefano

I know it's a bit early, but this is a pretty unique tale and one that I want to highlight before it shows up on shelves in just over a month! Pram Bellamy is special—she can talk to ghosts. She doesn’t have too many friends amongst the living, but that’s all right. She has her books, she has her aunts, and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix.Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help. But this spiritualist knows the true nature of Pram’s power, and what she has planned is more terrifying than any ghost.I've read a few creepy middle grade novels over the last few years, each of which has left me feeling at least a tiny bit disconcerted by the time I was ready for sleepy time: Doll Bones (Holly Black), The Night Gardener (Jonathan Auxier), and The Elevator Ghost (Glen Huser). And now, A Curious Tale of the In-Between certainly left m…

SNAP! - Hazel Hutchins & Dušan Petričić

What could be more perfect than a brand new set of crayons? Evan can't wait to use them, until Snap! the brown one breaks in two. Then one by one, the others break, get crushed, are blown away, or simply disappear. How can he possibly draw when there's no green, purple, or even black?

Evan feels like throwing things, but instead, he scribbles using all the bits and pieces that are left. But what's this? Where yellow and blue cross, there's green, and when blue and red get all mixed up, it creates just the right purple to draw monsters. Soon, all he's left with are tiny stubs of red, yellow, and blue, but Evan discovers that even with just a few crayons, he can create new and exciting art--his imagination is the only tool he needs.

I do need to admit that I'm a bit partial to Dušan Petričić already since he was the illustrator of two books that ended up on the TD Canadian Children's Literature Prize shortlist in 2014, and one of them (The Man with the Violin) …

The Specific Ocean - Kyo Maclear (Author) & Katty Maurey (Illustrator)

A young girl is unhappy about having to leave the city for a family vacation on the Pacific Ocean (which she used to call the Specific Ocean). As the days pass, however, she is drawn to spend more time in and near the water, feeling moved by its beauty and rhythms. By the end of the vacation, the girl has grown to love the ocean and now feels reluctant to leave it behind. But as she soon realizes, it doesn't ever have to leave her.

As I can't review much in the way of YA or even upper-level MG fiction, I am doing a lot of reviews of picturebooks. I have to say, too, that I'm really enjoying doing so! There are a lot of great picturebooks coming out this year, including some from my own lovely country of Canada! This is fabulous, to me, as Canada unfortunately often gets lost in the grand scheme of the publishing industry. So now, let me move on and do the actual review of this fabulous new book, coming out in September.
The Specific Ocean is beautiful story about a trip to s…

Little Bird's Bad Word - Jacob Grant

Little Bird learned a new word! He loves it so much that he's bursting to share it with all of his friends.


The only problem is, this isn't a very nice word. Little Bird doesn't realize it, but this word might even hurt someone's feelings. What word will Little Bird learn to make things better?

Little Bird's Bad Word has to be one of my favourite picture books of 2015. Not only does it teach a lesson, but it's adorable and does not fall prey to an overly didactic writing style. The illustrations are also cute and portray emotion without a large amount of excess detail. The colours are relatively muted, and Grant manages to show a wide range of expressions with small details. Just look at the cover, for instance, and you will see what I mean! Little bird is truly excited, and yet you can see so much shock and acknowledgement of the delicacy of the situation from the father, with just that one big eye facing the reader.

Little bird learns a bad …