When You Were Small by Sara O’Leary, Illustrated by Julie Morstad

When You Were Small by Sara OLeary

Every night young Henry prompts his father: “Tell me about when I was small.” From there the magic and delight ensue. Henry hears of the pet ant he used to walk on a leash, bath times in the teapot, his shifting role as chessboard knight to king of the aquarium castle, and so much more. Each page is filled with fun and wonderment that opens the imagination to explore just how small is ‘small’.

I first came across When You Were Small in 2007 when I was doing a study on ‘truth-telling’ in children’s literature. I went into my local children’s bookstore and asked the bookseller if she could recommend anything that would add to my study. Right away she walked over to the shelf, picked up a copy of When You Were Small, and said: “This might interest you.”

At first glance I thought I was handed a ‘vintage’ title, something circa Pat the Bunny (1940). Yet the delightful classic-looking pen and ink sketches were done by Vancouver-based artist, Julie Morstad, and the book was relatively recent, released in January 2006. (Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad have since worked on a number of titles together).

The bookseller was right. When You Were Small was particularly relevant to my study. After hearing about when he was little, about how he used to sleep in a slipper and so on, Henry questions his father: “Dad, is all that true?” To which his father responds: “Well… don’t you remember?” Oooh! I just love it! I’m a sucker for stories that so effectively blend the realms of reality and imagination, and that so brilliantly incorporate (or call into question!) memory. That one closing question, and all the open-ended possibilities it provides, leaves the reader/listener in sheer wonder.

Far beyond my initial academic approach, this book has woven its way into my family. My children, now five and eight, appreciate it as much as I do and often ask for it. After each reading we are drawn into our own stories of “When you were small…” telling tales of both real-to-life  memories and fantastical fictions. We reminisce, we make-believe, and we laugh. So perfect!

I absolutely adore this picture book and I recommend it as a must-have.

Happy 10th birthday, When You Were Small!

Reading in the Woods by Rebecca Bender ResizedReviewed by K.C. Darling

(review copy personally purchased).

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Fox Walked Alone by Barbara Reid

Fox Walked Alone by Barbara Reid

Fox Walked Alone is one of my favourite books. The Plasticine pictures look like they come off the page. I like how more and more animals keep coming into the story. I also like how Fox finds a partner at the end. I hope Barbara Reid writes another story about Fox and his family.

Reviewed by Eagan

***

I clearly remember my first encounter with Barbara Reid’s Fox Walked Alone. I was at an author/illustrator’s breakfast hosted by the Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable. Barbara was a featured guest speaker. Standing at the book table, I was drawn to its title and captivated by the cover image of a stunning red fox etched out of Plasticine, of all things. Without any further context for the story I began to read:

Night after night, Fox walked alone,

Came home to a bed made of feather and bone.

He hunted at night and slept through the day,

Fox walked alone, he liked it that way.

However, when Fox wakes up he senses something strange. Then animal after animal begins to journey past him. At first, Fox follows at a distance and safely out-of-sight, wondering what’s going on. But as the story progresses so does Fox’s sense of urgency.

Fox walked until his paws were sore–

He’d never walked so far before…

The sky was odd, the wind was wrong.

Fox thought he’d better tag along.

From the first page through to the last, I am caught up in the mystery. What’s going on? I feel compelled, like Fox, to follow. And by the end of the book, a narrative I know so well (Noah’s Ark) is fused with new life and energy, wonder and expectation.

After countless readings with my kids, Fox Walked Alone never fails to stir this skin-tingling anticipation within me. I’m tempted to keep talking (and raving!) about the book, but I will leave off discussion of some of my other favourite components of the story, such as the ravens and the doves, in order to allow you to discover and experience this wonderfully rich, multi-layered narrative on your own terms. It is one of those rare gems, a must-buy book.

Needless to say, I love this story! (And after reading Eagan’s review I realize, for him, it’s also very much a love story).

Reading in the Woods by Rebecca BenderReviewed by K.C. Darling

(review copy personally purchased).