Jan 3, 2015

The Cat at the Wall

The Cat at the Wall

Written by: Deborah Ellis

Published by: Groundwood Books

Published on: August 11, 2014

Ages: 10+

Clare is a regular girl at a regular school in Pennsylvania, but with a mean streak. Clare is also a cat in the West Bank of the Middle East, who finds a boy hiding from Israeli soldiers. How Clare became a cat and what Clare the cat decides to do about the boy are just two of the mysteries told in this middle grade novel.

Ellis has impecable nonfiction credentials (Looks Like Daylight, Kids of Kabul) and she combines her extensive knowledge of the Israeli-Palestine situation to illuminate an important theme- that we all have choices and we can improve or worsen other people's lives as a result of the path we choose.

The fantasy element was actually quite well-done, although different from what I expected from Ellis' work. The juxtaposition of a normal middle-class life in the US with the fear of an orphaned boy in one of the world's most conflicted areas is clever and the fantasy element makes it feel less like a moral tale.

Jan 2, 2015

Work: An Occupational ABC

Work: An Occupational ABC

Written and Illustrated by: Kellen Hatanaka

Published by: Groundwood Books

Published on: August 5, 2014

Ages: 3+

This ABC book is not as simple as it appears. It pays homage to a variety of occupations, opening up the vocabulary of the toddler audience as well as their imagination.

Hatanaka's illustrations seem like they are straight out of a mid-century classic.

Aviator and jockey

Vibraphonist and Xenologist

It's not that Hatanaka is introducing concepts that are new to preschoolers- he is introducing concepts that are new to the adults doing the reading aloud as well. His message is that anything could be work so why not think outside the box?

The mid-century-esque illustrations make this seem like a book that shows things have been possible in the past, so you can be a vibraphonist if you want! It all looks so much more interesting than being a desk jockey.

Jan 1, 2015



Written by: Litsa Trachatos

Illustrated by: Virginia Johnson

Published by: Groundwood Books

Published on: October 14, 2014

Ages: 3+

This is a great, silly picture book for preschoolers that introduces animals and grammar, all while giving the reader the giggles.

Trachatos comes up with some amazingly illogical scenarios, starting with "Don't start a food fight with an octopus." Not only does the reader then have to think about that animal (hints are given on the next page) but they also get to laugh about the situation which would never happen. This is a huge deal in the preschool world, and this has been the best read aloud I have had at my library sessions in the last couple of years.

Johnson's watercolour illustrations deserve mention as well. Watercolour is a perfect medium for non-threatening depictions of threatening situations (nobody wants to find a bear in their bed!) and the simple children's faces frame the reactions to the ridiculous very well.

Highly recommended for anyone with a preschooler.