Oct 31, 2012

What are you reading? Wednesday

This is a scheduled post this week, as I am off to the UK for the very anticipated wedding of my very good friend. I have no idea what I am really reading at the moment. But I will be alone on my flights and various train trips around the country, and I have loaded 44 new books on to my Kindle. I am going to gorge myself on the written word.

The book I am most excited to read is Seconds Away, the second Mickey Bolitar book. It's written by Harlan Coben, and it's a young adult spinoff of his Myron Bolitar mysteries. I love Myron and his friend Win, and I really enjoyed the first Mickey Bolitar book, so I hope this is as good. Harlan Coben is great at drawing the lovable goof, and interesting side characters, like Ema and Spoon in these stories.

Since I am away from my kids I recorded a video of me reading a couple of books for them to play on Daddy's phone. One of these is their favourite Halloween book, Corduroy's Best Halloween Ever. My kids love Corduroy, just like I did, although they like the sequels and I prefer the original.

What are you reading this Halloween? Have a spooky day!

Oct 26, 2012

Escape to Gold Mountain

Escape to Gold Mountain (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written and Illustrated by: David  H.T. Wong

Published by: Arsenal Pulp Press

Published on: October 30, 2012

Provided by the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

A single graphic novel that presents the multi-generational story of the Wong family's experiences immigrating from China in search of the prosperity promised by Gam Saan (Gold Mountain) in North America and the subsequent century. Sounds ambitious? That's because it is.

The way the Chinese and people of other Asian ethinicties were, and sometimes still are, treated in Canada and the US is deplorable. From expressing work productivity in CPH (Chinamen Per Hour) to racial epithets, shameful behaviour from the past is exposed. But as deplorable as that is, the deaths that are caused from overwork and vigilantism are much worse.

Since there are so many stories and so many characters, it's hard to get too attached to any one member of the Wong family, but interpreter Ah Gin and and adopted son Sam and how they forge a new family after the loss of everyone else is very moving.

A number of famous figures from history show up in the book. It's interesting to see how quotes from Mark Twain and George Frisbie Hoar work against the backdrop of exploitation of Chinese workers, as well as how Gam Saan influenced Chinese history by moulding Sun Yat-Sen. Even Emily Carr makes an appearance as a gourmand.

There are a number of forewords from prominent Chinese Canadians, which I found out of place for a non-academic work, but I think it is great how important telling this story is to the community. Community and personal ties are important themes throughout all the stories in this graphic novel, where the ties to the village of Hoy Ping and its neighbours open doors for the Wong family. Another theme is sharing the sorrow, as stated my Grandma Wong, so as to never forget. Escape to Gold Mountain, by chronicling so many stories, is a great big step toward the goal of remembering the great sorrow of the Chinese and their descendants in North America.

The great sorrow of those who went to Gam Saan is skillfully recorded here, and serves as a warning as well. Too many of the same shameful behaviours can be seen in the 21st century; exploitation of cheap immigrant labour, immigration barriers, and racism are alive and well in Canada and other countries.

This is the twenty-first book I have reviewed for the Sixth Canadian Book Challenge

Oct 25, 2012

The Lost Prince

The Lost Prince (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Julie Kagawa

Published by: Harlequin Teen

Published on: October 23, 2012

Ages: Young Adult

Provided for review by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

If you were kidnapped as a child by a group of people, would you want to see them again? Or would you spend your hard-won freedom staying away, keeping yourself and your loved ones out of their reach?

Ethan Chase, understandably, tries to keep as far away from the fey as he can, as he has nothing but bad memories of them. They held him hostage as a tot, and his half-sister went into their world and has not come back out yet. But the fey won't leave him alone. They can't be seen by everyone, so when someone can see them, they want attention. Their attention-seeking behaviour gets Ethan in a lot of trouble.

Ethan is starting a new high school and trying very hard to make it a clean start. But there is something dangerous happening in the land of Faery and he and a classmate are drawn into this world despite Ethan's valiant attempts to keep them out. He is reunited with his half-sister, but nothing goes right including that meeting. Ethan and his classmate Kenzie are reluctantly drawn into a war that could bring Faery to its knees.

Julie Kagawa is the bestselling author of The Iron Fey series and The Blood of Eden series. The first installment of that series, The Immortal Rules, is the best vampire book I've ever read and my favourite YA book so far this year, so I had really high hopes for this one. The Lost Prince is the first book in the new Call of the Forgotten series, which is a spin-off of The Iron Fey series. Many characters from that series make cameos in this book, and Iron Fey fans will be delighted with this new series. But it's easy to jump into Kagawa's books from this one, since the reader can learn all about this world along with Kenzie.

I do think, though, that reading The Iron Fey series, especially the 2 most recently published works, The Iron Knight and the novella Iron's Prophecy, will give the reader a much deeper understanding of what Ethan is going through and there is so much foreshadowing!  To be honest, though, I prefer this book to the Iron Fey series. Mostly, I think, because Ethan feels the same way about Ash, the Iron Queen's consort, as I do. I am on Team Puck and it's nice to finally get someone else who isn't Ash's biggest fan narrating the books. I also really like the supporting characters of Kierran and Kenzie.

 I can't wait to find out what is in store for Ethan, Kierran, Kenzie, and the gang in the next installment of the series.

Oct 24, 2012

What are you reading? Wednesday

What are you reading this week?

I am going historical with The Kingmaker's Daughter, from Philippa Gregory. It's about the War of the Roses, and is pretty favourable to Richard III. My opinion has always been formed by Shakespeare's play, in which he is quite the villain. The book itself has some issues of skipping important parts and a lot more tell than show, but I'm glad I had the chance to think about the War of the Roses from the viewpoint I'd never really considered before.

My son is reading his first Halloween book by himself! He's reading Little Witch's Big Night, but Deborah Hautzig and Marc Brown.

What are you reading?

Oct 23, 2012

Stuck With The Blooz

Stuck With The Blooz (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Caron Levis

Illustrated by: Jon Davis

Published by: Harcourt Children's Books

Published on: October 2, 2012

Ages: 4+

You've been there. I've been there. My kids have been there. I am willing to wager that everyone on the planet has been there at one point or probably more in their lives.


Stuck with the blues.

Sometimes bad moods sneak up on us, other times we can see them miles away. But they come, and it takes time to get rid of them.

Stuck With The Blooz gives the grumps a face, and a personality. The Blooz is big and wet and wrinkly, and absolutely adorable for someone so unwelcome.

Our hero does everything possible to get rid of The Blooz.  Food, care, attention, and even a bumpy bicycle ride. It turns out that fun is an essential ingredient to getting rid of The Blooz.

This story was a great hit at read-aloud time this weekend, and so much fun for me to actually read. How could you not love that they "made a song out of sighs"? This adorable monster gives an amazing visual for the emotions preschoolers experience so often without being able to verbalize it.

Levis' rhythmic text pairs beautifully with Davis' fetching characters, creating a character sure to delight young readers as much as other unwelcome visitors like The Cat in the Hat. The only problem with this book is that the wrinkly old monster is so adorable you're likely to want to invite The Blooz around to your house. (Good! Keep him out of mine!)

Oct 22, 2012

The Secret of the Village Fool

The Secret of the Village Fool (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Rebecca Upjohn

Illustrated by: Renné Benoit

Published by: Second Story Press

Published on: September 1, 2012

Ages: 9+

Provided by the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

In a small village in Poland in the early 1940s, two brothers deliver dinner from their mother to a neighbour. They are reticent to go because the neighbour has a reputation around town that is decidedly not good. He is illiterate and a vegetarian, which marks him as the village fool.

But these are difficult times for Munio and his little brother Milek. Indeed, these times are very hard for everyone as they live under the spectre of war. When the tanks come, so do the Nazis. The Nazis do in Zborów what they had done everywhere else they had touched -  they burned the Synagogue and rounded up the Jewish boys.

Munio and Milek, as well as their parents and two neighbour girls are saved from the Nazis by the village fool and a night of cross-dressing. He and their father dig a tiny subterranean room using kitchen utensils, and manage to evade capture by not only the Nazis but also spying neighbours. After many months starving in a cramped underground room, the village is liberated and so are Anton's guests. Anton had gone from the village fool to the village hero!

This book is a great introduction to the second world war and recent European history, as well as a heartwarming story of how standing up for your beliefs in the face of opposition is a heroic thing to do. Benoit's illustrations are great at bringing the reader into the time period and also for creating a feeling of empathy with the worried young people. The expressions on the faces of the young people who were trying so hard not to make a sound that they stuffed their mouths with rags are extremely moving.

No mention is made of exactly what happens when boys are rounded up by the Nazis, although it is clear that Anton saves the children's lives, so this book is appropriate for younger history buffs as well as older ones who are aware of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis. 

An afterword with pictures of Milek and Munio and their family with their hero, Anton, as well as the root cellar which had been their home add greatly to this amazing story of how one man can make a huge difference in people's lives.

 This review is a part of Nonfiction Monday, hosted this week by Hope is the Word Blog.

Oct 17, 2012

What Are You Reading? Wednesday

What are you reading this week?

I am discussing the book Mad Hope by Heather Birrell with other readers on Goodreads for The Next Best Book Club discussion. I am enjoying the quick feedback from other people who are also reading this stellar collection of short stories. The author is there too, and is kind enough to answer our questions. It's like being in a book club, something I really miss. Lots to talk about too, as there are so many fascinating characters and lots of profound statements to dissect.

My kids are into Halloween books right now. Tonight's was Two Little Witches, which they still like even thought they've already used up all the stickers. :)

Are you reading anything Halloween-themed?

Oct 16, 2012

Ashen Winter

Ashen Winter (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by:

Published by:

Published on: October 16, 2012

Ages: Young Adult

Provided by the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

I have mentioned before that it took me a long time to read the first book in this trilogy, Ashfall. It's not because the book wasn't good, because it was amazing. It's because it's personal.

As I write this there is ash falling outside my window from our friendly neighbourhood volcano. I live a few kilometres from one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Small eruptions occur on average 3 times a day. I sweep my driveway and stairs everyday and have to load the ash into a special yellow plastic bag, as washing it away clogs drains. The hands on the gorgeous cover of this book remind me of my children's after they come in on a bad day of ash. Not to mention, this volcano is just the part of the supervolcano that lets out pressure.

So although most readers of this book think of it as post-apocalyptic fiction, I'm thinking of it as more like a how-to book.

Five Steps to Surviving a Supervolcano Eruption, brought to you by Mike Mullin:
1. Get engineering degree
2. Become proficient in a martial art
3. Stockpile weapons and antibiotics (the first might be hard here in Japan)
3. Plant lots and lots of kale
4. Get together with awesome hard-working people

Okay, you've survived, now what? It's not just about awaiting rescue, as a supervolano erupting would change the earth's atmosphere and our world for years. Now you have to deal with a winter that lasts for a very, very long time.

Alex and his girlfriend Darla made it through the first harrowing months after the eruption. They are staying with Alex's sister and other relatives. Life isn't great but they are working hard and surviving. But Alex still wants to find his parents, who left to find him before he arrived at his uncle's place. When they get a clue to his parents' whereabouts, Darla and Alex set off from the relative safety of the Illinois farm, back into Iowa to look for them. This is the start of non-stop adventure as they meet with danger in the form of layers of snow and ash, hunger, private contractors running refugee camps, slave traders, and flenser gangs. *shudder* Luckily they have their own wits, a lot of courage, and friends like a gutsy librarian and The Principal.

In trilogies we often find that there is a sophomore slump. This is not the case for the Ashfall series. It has everything we liked about the first series, plus more action. I could definitely see this as a film. The scene of Alex crawling on top of trucks waiting for a chance to flee seriously scary dudes would be a great on the big screen.

I'm really glad I was able to confront my volcano fears through both Ashfall and Ashen Winter, they're both really fast-moving books that should appeal to fans of other great YA series like Divergent.

Oct 15, 2012

Armchair Cybils

Today is the last day for which you can nominate great kids books for the Cybils! What are you waiting for, go do it!

This year, my colleague on the Nonfiction Picture Books Round 2 Judging Panel, Amy from Hope is the Word blog is hosting the Armchair Cybils. What's this, you ask? It's where we chat about all the books that have been nominated! Go sign up at her blog, then pick some of the nominated books and book apps to read and review. Then we link up at Hope is the Word on the 15th of every month as well as on January 1st (shortlist day!). Sounds awesome, right? I'm excited for this too, so I can feel involved while I wait for my Round 1 colleagues to make their decisions!

Who doesn't love chatting about kids books? The more the merrier!

Mimi's Village: And How Basic Health Care Transformed It

Mimi's Village: And How Basic Health Care Transformed It (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Katie Smith Milway

Illustrated by: Eugenie Fernandes

Published by: Kids Can Press

Published on: August 1, 2012

Ages: 8+

Provided by the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Kids Can Press has a fantastic series of nonfiction books for upper elementary students called CitizenKid. These books, including How To Build Your Own Country and The Good Garden focus on issues like poverty and hunger faced by children around the world, and also offer ideas for children to get involved themselves.

This book is about Mimi Mahalo and her family who live in a small village in Kenya. They face a long walk for water and drinking it unboiled causes her little sister to become ill. Mimi and her family make a long trek to another village to see the nurse who has medicine for her dehydrated sister. They are also lucky enough to get vaccinations to keep them from getting sick in the future. But Mimi wants to ensure that there is healthcare in her village in the future, so she talks her father into getting together with others in the village to build a clinic so the nurse can visit.

This book not only includes information about public health challenges in developing countries, like mosquito-carrying malaria and lack of clean water, but also easy ways to deal with them. There is a section at the back that encourages kids to get involved by getting bed nets to kids in Africa and other actions. My kids loved this section as it has pictures of real kids and real health care workers.  There's also a glossary for Swahili words, a map of Eastern Africa, and more information about public health in villages. More information can be had at the Mimi's Village website.

The author has a wealth of experience with international NPOs and has brought this knowledge to children through a number of picture books including those in the Citizen Kid series. This is paired with the vibrant acrylic illustrations of Eugenie Fernandes. I reviewed Birthday Suit earlier this year which was also illustrated by Fernandes, and she gives us the same rich geographical tapestry for Kenya as she did with the Caribbean in that book.

This is a great introduction to the importance of health and how every child can make a difference by practicing good hygiene and helping those who need clean water and bed nets to fight disease. This should be in the personal libraries of every parent who wants their child to value global citizenship.
This review is for Nonfiction Monday, hosted this week by Capstone Connect.

Oct 14, 2012

Into The Pumpkin

Into The Pumpkin (CAN, JP, US)

Written and Illustrated by: Linda Franklin

Published by: Schiffer Publishing

Published on: July 28, 2012

Ages:  4+

Provided by the published via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

In October, after Thanksgiving we start to get excited about Halloween. Since it's not really a big holiday here in Japan, I try really hard to give my kids an idea about what Halloween is like back in Canada. I have amassed quite a number of Halloween books and DVDs!  This is a new addition to my ever-growing collection.

This is a poetic look at a Halloween party for pumpkins, scarecrows, ghosts, and witches. The rhythms are enticing to the younger crowd and have enough puns to keep the adult reader happy too ("the spider's on websites").  The text itself is good for a new reader but the gothic style it's in would be difficult for a new reader to puzzle out, although it adds a lot to the spooky atmosphere.

Most picture books on Halloween are pretty light, with cute characters so as to not spook younger readers. But half the fun of Halloween is facing scary characters and waking up stronger on November 1. The illustrations in this book definitely provide shivers! I wonder what's in that witch's brew! The ethereal faces of the witches and ghosts really bring the creep factor up a level! Luckily this is tempered by adorable dancing skeletons on the next page.

This would be a great read aloud book for kids with strong constitutions who love to be scared. I know a few of those kids although I was never one myself!

Oct 10, 2012

What Are You Reading? Wednesday

What are you reading this week?


I am reading the third book in the Heroes of Olympus series, The Mark of Athena. This is the second Greek demigod series by Rick Riordan. The first series started with Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief, the book that was made into a movie. It focused on Greek mythology but this new series is about Greek and Roman mythology and that dichotomy is fun. I love going along on these quests. This one is really interested because instead of 3 people on the quest there are 7. Very cool dynamic, but there's a 7th wheel instead of a 3rd wheel.

 Don't you love a cover with a nice fire-breathing dragon?

My daughter is reading a Care Bears book. I am not a fan. First of all it is tiny and a hardback so it's hard for her to open it and she's gotten two little paper cuts. Then, there's no story, it's just a collection of sayings. I need to replace it with a book that has a plot and isn't dangerous to her digits.

What are you and your family reading this week?

Oct 8, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Lighting Our World

Lighting Our World (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Catherine Rondina

Illustrated by: Jacqui Oakley

Published by: Kids Can Press

Published on: September 1, 2012

Ages: 9+

Provided by the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

One of the things that I absolutely love about being a multicultural family is getting to celebrate lots of occasions from a number of different cultures. We celebrate Japanese bean-throwing day and White Day and Obon, but French-Canadian Reveillon on one day and turkey day the next. We are gradually trying to push trick-or-treating into our neighbourhood. I even have a Schultüte planned for my son's first day of school in April. Of course today is Thanksgiving and that is an important holiday on our calendar. We had a lot to be thankful for today, I hope you do too.

Cultural celebrations are not only good fun and a chance to socialize (and eat!) but a great way to learn about geography, history, languages and so much more - even math if you are cooking or checking out the calendar!

Lighting Our World takes a Gregorian calendar year and goes through a number of holidays which use lights to celebrate, all over the world. Every single one of the subjects above is covered, and the author uses children to introduce their own celebration which is very accessible to the middle grade reader.

Some of the celebrations, like Independence Day or Canada Day are based around countries, but most are for cultures, whether over a number of countries (like Easter or Ramadan) or a cultural group within a nation, like Kwanzaa. I was familiar with just about three-quarters of the celebrations contained herein. Holidays like Enkutatash in Ethiopia and Inti Raymi in Peru were new to me. We got out our globe and had fun picking out which celebration was celebrated where.

It's great that the book is set up so that different variations on a similar theme are close together so kids can see how things change from group to group. My kids and I are very familiar with the August celebration of Obon in Japan, but it was the firsttime we heard about the Chinese (probably original!) version called Chung Yuan.

What I personally liked best about this book is it is truly international. So many books introducing cultural concepts set it up as how they are different from us. But this one is set up so there is no standard, so even Halloween or other holiday likely to be celebrated by the North American audience are described as just one of many different celebrations. This is the kind of book that would do great in ELT classrooms around the world.

Jacqui Oakley has somehow captured the hues of bright festival colours tempered by twilight or a flickering lantern. Her illustrations are infused with the joy of children experiencing the best of their culture. I can't imagine how much she had to research to get all of the costumes, lanterns, and architecture correct, but the work she put in was well worth it because the product is gorgeous.

 This review is a part of Nonfiction Monday, hosted this week by Wendie's Wanderings.

Oct 7, 2012


Starfall (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Diana Kolpak

Photographs: Kathleen Finlay

Published by: Red Deer Press

Published on: Nov 17 2011

Provided by the author.  All opinions are my own.

When we talk about literary world-building, usually the subject is a fantasy trilogy for adults. This is the first time I've seen a picture book to which the phrase was so very applicable. This pictorial book is a fascinating look at a circus with an inspiring story about perseverance.

The stars have fallen and Meera's world has been whitewashed with the snow of deep winter. Meera's dream is to find the falling stars and return them to to the sky. She sets out on a journey and meets friends and foes along the way. The message she receives from the Dream Tree "Believe, Be brave, Shine" is one that is applicable to any tough situation the reader may find herself in.

The book is infused with Kolpak's experience as a performer. It feels like a book of theatre stills- and the sense of movement is divine. When a picture book is illustrated, the artist can add little lines around the convey movement. The acting skills of Kolpak and her fellow performers, coupled with the photography talent of Finlay ensure the reader feels the strain of the rower against a current or the difficulty of the fisherman pulling a hero out of the ocean.

The lyrical quality of the prose adds an extra dimension to the fascinating and timeless photos. My kids were invested in every step of Meera's journey. This amazing book is truly one-of-a-kind. Check out the trailer and prepare to be drawn into a fascinating new world.

Oct 5, 2012

Cybils 2012

Do you know about the Cybils? They are yearly awards decided by children's book bloggers. This isn't about books kids should be reading, it's about books they are reading, and loving.

This year I am on a judging panel; I'll be judging the short list of the Nonfiction Picture Books category. I love nonfiction books, as you might have noticed with my participation in the Nonfiction Monday meme. I cannot wait to see how the Round 1 judges break down this list, so far there are amazing nominations!

Did you know that the public (ie. bloggers) can make their own nominations? That's the beauty of these book awards. From October 1 to 15 you can nominate your favourite books published from October 16, 2011 to October 15, 2012 in a number of categories, from poetry to science fiction.

My problem is you can only nominate one title per category. *sob* I am having a hard time deciding between Virginia Wolf and Sora and the Cloud, which are my two favourite fiction picture books. Ever. There are a number of fiction picture books that deserve nominations this year. Won't you nominate one and help me get some sleep instead of agonizing over this decision?

Cybil-worthy Fiction Picture Books
Laundry Day
Plant A Kiss    (Would also work in early reader category)
Sora and the Cloud
Starfall (review to come this weekend)
The Stone Hatchlings
Virginia Wolf

Oct 4, 2012

Small Saul

Small Saul (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written and Illustrated by: Ashley Spires

Published by: Kids Can Press

Published: March 2011

Ages: 3+

This is another review of picture books nominated for the 2012 Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards. See the others here.

Small Saul wants nothing more than to live a life at sea, and has since he was a tike dreaming in the bath. But he's different than other sailors, he's too small for the navy and too gentle to be a buccaneer. He goes to Pirate College and joins the crew of The Rusty Squid and tries hard to fit in, but although he can sing sea shanties and swab the deck he has trouble looting and with his sword. How will he prove to the other pirates that he is the real treasure they are seeking?

Just like the other Spires titles I have reviewed (Binky Under Pressure, Larf), this book is funny. The words and the premise are funny, and the illustrations add even more sight gags to elicit giggles from all readers. But it's not just funny, it has a great message for kids who feel they might not fit in, about believing in yourself and your uniqueness.

As a parent I love the message of the book, but also those little extras. Kids Can Press has a download on their site for storytime ideas and a maze for kids to use. I love that plus alpha from publishers.

This is the last of the five books nominated for the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, for picture books in English, that I have reviewed.

I never get predictions right, but here's what I think! I think that the gorgeous and timeless Cinnamon Baby is the frontrunner, but if they are going for pure kid appeal then Small Saul will get the nod. Find out sometime in the next few weeks!

This is the sixteenth book I have reviewed for the Sixth Canadian Book Challenge. 

Oct 3, 2012

What Are You Reading? Wednesday

What's on your ereader this week?


I am reading Ashfall by Mike Mullin. I bought this originally a year ago when it first came out. I read the first couple of pages and was scared out of my mind.

Not by the writing, that's great, but by the subject matter. It's about a supervolcano eruption that basically ruins the atmosphere, and how a teenage boy escapes to look for his family.

Post-apocalyptic fiction is eery but has never been this frightening to me before. See, I live very close to one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It spews ash about 3 times a day right now, and some of that lands on our house. I am extremely aware of how dangerous it would be if it erupted on a large scale. But I don't want to think about being separated from my kids and having to deal with the aftermath!

Once I got past my fear of the book being about my kids though, I really liked it. It's a really well-written YA novel with very likeable characters. The descriptions of the ash etc. seem really realistic too. Alex and Darla are complementary and strong teens who I am totally rooting for! Of course I know that I have an ARC of the second book, to be released in a couple weeks, so I know things don't completely end. That helps with the fear!

My son is reading an easy reader called I Like Bugs. So nice that he picks it up on his own to entertain his sister!

What are you and your family reading this week?

Oct 2, 2012

Cinnamon Baby

Cinnamon Baby (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Nicola Winstanley

Illustrated by: Janice Nadeau

Published by: Kids Can Press

Published on: February 1, 2011

Ages: 3+

This is another review of picture books nominated for the 2012 Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards. See the others here.

This delightful tale is about  a particularly talented baker, Miriam, whose tantalizing smells attract Sebaastian, a musician. This couple falls in love and marries, and then have an adorable little baby. But life with the new baby isn't quite as easy as it had been. When the baby won't stop crying, Miriam does what she does best, and that is what gives the baby comfort. 

This old-fashioned story has a timeless feel. It's like  a mid-century musical come to life. Nadeau's adorable illustrations are detailed but unified so they never become overwhelming. 

My kids were really happy to see that the mom and dad are different colours, and the baby reflects both parents' features. Mixed-race kids are rare in kids' literature, and books like this and Spork are great favourites in our mixed-race household. Children like to see their own situations reflected in books, the same way adults do.

Some illustrators have a secret mark or animal that they hide on every page, and in this book at least, Nadeau's is a curlicue. So much fun finding these hidden in other objects!

This is the fifteenth book I have reviewed for the Sixth Canadian Book Challenge. 

Oct 1, 2012

When I Get Older: The Story Behind "Wavin' Flag"

When I Get Older: The Story Behind "Wavin' Flag" (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: K'naan with Sol Guy

Illustrated by: Rudy Gutierrez

Published by: Tundra Books

Published on: September 13, 2012

Provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The 2010 Soccer  World Cup in South Africa had some standout moments, on and off the pitch. The vuvuzela was one musical star but the sound that became synonymous with that World Cup was K'naan's song, "Wavin' Flag." You must have heard it. Even I've heard it! The inspirational and uplifting lyrics sent a message of hope to fans all over the world.

What I didn't know about the song is the man behind it is a Canadian with an inspirational story to tell. When K'naan was born in Mogadishu, it was a shining jewel of a city on the Indian Ocean. He lived with his mother, siblings, and poet grandfather until civil war broke out. His courageous mother brought them to the US and then to Canada as refugees.

Of course, even though we'd like to think that moving to Canada solved all their problems and it was happily ever after, giving up your friends, culture, and language is never easy. New words, new experiences, new footwear are all barriers to cross- but oh the feeling when he does it!

My children both loved the illustration of teen Knaan's foot in a sandal on the snow. They both love to take off their footwear (and other clothing!) just to feel the snow when it rarely visits our locale.

Gutierrez' vibrant illustrations provide layers upon layers of information and infuse the book with feeling. The way the guns that threaten on one page resemble the pointing fingers of bullies on another show how dangerous both are to the safety of a child.

K'naan's message of how important peace and freedom are, that they are worth the hard work we have to put in to get them, is told in an extremely accessible way for young readers. We are left with the refrain of K'naan's most famous song to inspire young people to work for a better world.

"When I get older,
I will be stronger.
They'll call me freedom,
just like a waving flag."

The people behind the book put Thor money where their message is. Half of the proceeds of the book go towards education in Somalia.

 This review is a part of Nonfiction Monday, hosted this week by Shelf-Employed.