Dec 18, 2012

Top Ten Picture Books of 2012

I read a lot of picture books in 2012. Over 100 in English, plus about 30 in Japanese. These are my favourite of all those I have read in the last year. I have, for the first time, linked up with The Broke & The Bookish for their Tuesday Top Ten list.

10.  Plant a Kiss - I am getting my cheats out of the way first. This upbeat book that is a great first book for kids to read themselves was released just a few days before 2012 started, but I am including it anyway.

9. Starfall - As much as I loved this book, it too was released in 2011! But this unique book- a picture book with actual photographs, was too heartwarming to leave off the list. Especially since it helped me almost completely conquer my fear of clowns.

8. A Stick Is an Excellent Thing - fun and rhythmical rhymes celebrating playing outside, this is the perfect act-it-out book.

7. The Stone Hatchlings - Imaginative Abby from A Flock of Shoes is back and giving inanimate objects life and love.

6. The Tooth Mouse - A tiny little mouse works her way past bigger competitors using her brains and her talent, not to mention a dose of gumption in this book that is evocative of classic French tales.

5. Larf - A bunny-wearing sasquatch looks for love and acceptance in this giggle-worthy tome.

4. Stuck with the Blooz - A loveable grump moves in with an androgynous kiddo who tries so hard to get unstuck, you can't help but cheer at the end.

3. Laundry Day - This fantastic little graphic novel celebrates a diverse neighbourhood, making friends, and pluckiness.

Hey, where's #2? Sorry, I cannot decide which of these books I love the most. We have read both so many times this year, and I find something new to love every single reading. In alphabetical order, then, my favourite books of 2012 are:

1. Sora and the Cloud - Beguiling illustrations and a bilingual book with lyrical prose in both languages. You can't help losing a bit of your heart to the cheeky little cloud.

1. Virginia Wolf - Heartwarming story of generosity of spirit and ingenuity exhibited by two adorable sisters, also winner of the 2012 Governor General's award for Children's Illustration.

What are the best books you read this year? Any of them picture books?

I am linking up to Teacher Treasure Hunter where everyone is posting their favourite books of 2012!
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Dec 17, 2012

The Tooth Mouse

The Tooth Mouse (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written  by: Susan Hood

Illustrated by: Janice Nadeau

Published by: Kids Can Press

Published on: August 1, 2012

Ages: 3+

I bought this book as soon as it came out, as it had been my Most Anticipated Picture Books of 2012 list, and because the illustrator was nominated for the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award for the adorable Cinnamon  Baby, and I wanted to compare these books.

We read it right away and loved it. But I didn't review it. I was waiting for a post where I could announce that Spinky had lost his first tooth and I could tie it into this book. But months have passed, almost all the children in his kindergarten class have lost their teeth. And Spinky? Not a wiggle in sight. It's hard being the youngest in your class!

Like Spinky, Sophie the dancing mouse is small. But she has pluck, and she has smarts, and she will keep going to the end without giving up. The end, in this case, is a competition to see who can be the new Tooth Mouse, France's version of the Tooth Fairy. Sophie whirls and twirls her way through the competition, coming up with inventive ideas and doing it with integrity. Bravery, honesty, and wisdom are the traits that make her who she is.

Susan Hood blends French phrases seamlessly with delightful English turns of phrase. Janice Nadeau, who has won three (!) Governor General prizes for Children's Illustration, adds so much detail and tells extra stories in her soft watercolours which provide the perfect timeless French feel.  Oh those adorable mouse-sized berets!

So why have I finally decided I need to get this out in the blogosphere if my son still has all his teeth? Because I will round up the best picture books of 2012 this week, and this book needs to be on that list!

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

Dec 13, 2012

Lester's Dreadful Sweaters

Lester's Dreadful Sweaters (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written and illustrated by: K.G. Campbell

Published by: Kids Can Press

 Published on: September 1, 2012

 Ages: 4+

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


I remember, as a child, thinking that adults just didn't get it. I had my own rules, I knew what was right and wrong, everything was black and white. Lester's like that. He is the keeper of his own world. He keeps everything in order. 

But Cousin Clara knows nothing of order. She makes dreadful sweaters, that don't go with his tie and cover up his perfectly slicked hair. She messes up all the order in his world, and his parents are her enablers. He does what he can to get rid of the offending items but they keep coming back- until he finds people who can appreciate her gifts for what they are.

 Lester's Dreadful Sweaters is a peculiarly British-sounding book full of eccentrics, none so much as the fastidious and lovable Lester. The retro grammar school feel extends to both text and illustrations, and reminds me as much of The Cat In The Hat with its uninvited guest as it does of Adrian Mole. The unbelievably odd combinations of sweaters give the reader quite a few giggles. Definitely an exciting debut for a picture book creator!


Dec 12, 2012

What are you reading Wednesday?

What are you reading this week?

The kids are sick this week so I have my day job plus looking after sick kiddos plus bleaching everything they have come into contact with. But I do lay down with them for 10 minutes at a time or so, so it's the perfect time to break out a book of short stories.

I have gotten sucked into the Post-Apocalyptic Young Adult Birthmarked series. I am reading the second in the triology, Prized, right now. It's about a young midwife in a post-oil era when new societies with population problems have arisen. Of course the leaders are jerks and she needs to take them on. It feels more like Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series than The Hunger Games. The protagonist is a bit of a Mary Sue but her love interest is intriguing. He's kind of like Andrei in We The Living, which is my favourite novel of all time (I am not a Randist though!).

My kids are full-on into the Christmas spirit already! We are reading Magic Treehouse: Christmas in Camelot this week. It's been a while since we have delved into a Jack & Annie book and we missed them! Thanks to John at TheBookMineSet for the inspiration last week!

What are you reading this week? Any holiday books?

Dec 11, 2012

Island Kids

Island Kids (CAN, JP, US, INT)
Part of the Courageous Kids series

Written by: Tara Saracuse

Published by: Brindle and Glass Publishing Ltd.

Published on: February 1, 2010

Ages: 9+

Provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

In this, the third book in the Courageous Kids series, Tara Saracuse explores the world of kids on the Pacific islands of British Columbia. As in the previous book I read in this series, Northern Kids, there are a number of stories from real kids about how they interact with their environment.

True to the other books in the series, the author provides stories from long ago up to the present day, drawing a timeline as the environment changes and gets more populated. From creation stories to Emily Carr and a tsunami, Saracuse manages to cover the history of Vancouver Island and the islands around it from an easily understandable kids-eye view.

My kids liked the first story, The Raven, The Clam, and The Kids, best. I think it was the description of a giant canoe big enough for 60 people made out of a single tree trunk! Personally, I liked that there were stories from a number of First Nations tribes, so that the reader gets a cross-section of views from different peoples rather than lumping them all together.

Another favourite was The Golden Rule, featuring a young boy who goes to live with his grandmother in Chinatown and celebrates Yee Lan (Summer Visitation Day). This day of celebrating the ancestors at the graveyard bears a lot of resemblance to the Obon ceremony we celebrate every summer here in Japan. How very cool it is for my kids to see the ties between an Asian-Canadian boy in western Canada and Canadian-Asian kids in southern Japan.

Also like Northern Kids, this book gives an in to talking about some of the most difficult issues in Canadian society, from racism and residential schools to the Japanese internment. By first presenting a story and then providing context, Saracuse gives the reader a good introduction to these tough topics. I can see these as a great social studies resource for upper elementary school kids.

But these aren't just great resources, they are also fun reads which catch kids' attention. With topics like dinosaur finds, a school escape, rats and slugs, a monkey called Woo, and a chocolate strike, how could any kid (or adult!) not be interested?

This post is for Nonfiction Monday, hosted this week at Wrapped in Foil.

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

Dec 7, 2012

Jack and the Baked Beanstalk

Jack and the Baked Beanstalk (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written and illustrated by: Colin Stimpson

Published by: Templar Publishing

Published on: July 10, 2012

Ages: 3+

This reimagining of the Jack and the Beanstalk fable was on my Most Anticipated Picture Books of 2012 list, and no wonder I was salivating over it!

The visuals are just so great in this book. Stimpson has worked in film animation and this really reflects that vibe. I could totally see this on the big screen with a velvet curtain opening before the film starts. The deep colours and cartoon-like features of the characters as well as the exaggerated 1940s styles are comforting.

The story starts out similarly to all versions of this fable. Jack and his mother are dealing with extreme poverty, and he spends the last of their money on a magic bean. But this time Jack and his mother live in an old burger van, and a freeway over their location is the cause of their poverty. A trip up the beanstalk and a meeting with a friendly giant solve their problems.

The idealizing of the past, the demonizing of highways, the saving of an old business due to a famous attraction are all familiar to anyone who has watched the tv show Cars. But event though this is well-trodden ground, Stimpson puts his mark on with likeable characters and excellent execution. This was Stimpson's authorial debut and I hope the next one keeps his artistic flair and pairs it with a slightly more original story.

Dec 5, 2012

What are you reading Wednesday?

What are you reading this week?

The kids are sick this week so I have my day job plus looking after sick kiddos plus bleaching everything they have come into contact with. But I do lay down with them for 10 minutes at a time or so, so it's the perfect time to break out a book of short stories.

I am reading Coming Home, a book of short stories by a number of writers from the Northwest Territories, as chosen by John Mutford, the host of the Great Canadian Book Challenge, and Judy McLinton. I have especially enjoyed "Haunted Hill Mine" by Cathy Jewison, can't wait to read the rest of the book.

My kids need comfort and crawling up in a futon with an old-timey book is definitely comfort. So we are going with some Little Golden Books. I Can Fly, with the charming rhymes from Ruth Krauss, definitely hit the comfort spot.

What are you reading this week?

Do you comfort read?

Dec 2, 2012

Island Santa

Island Santa (CAN, JP, US)

Written by: Sheryl McFarlane

Illustrated by: Sheena Lott

Published by: Children's Health Foundation of Vancouver Island

Published on: October 3, 2012

Ages: 4+

Island Santa is a moving story of family, generosity, and geography. It is based on the true story of Kaare Norgaard, the real Island Santa. Using his ship, the Blue Fjord, he made it to the island homes of children bearing gifts for children.

In this story, a young boy is along for the boat ride, learning about his island neighbours and how to give from the heart. He also learns how hard it is to be separated from a loved one when they are ill and there is no relevant medical help nearby.

McFarlane's melodic text pairs beautifully with Lott's ocean-inspired palette. As an added bonus, the profits from this book benefit Jeneece Place in Victoria, BC, a home for families who are away from their own home for their child’s medical care.

This is the last day to win your choice of either this book or Scaredy Squirrel! Enter the giveaway here!