Gifts by Jo Ellen Bogart (Illustrated by Barbara Reid)

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Gifts by Jo Ellen Bogart and Barbara Reid

Gifts is about a girl and her grandma. Whenever the grandma goes on a trip, before she leaves, she asks: “What would you have me bring?

The grandma travels to Africa, China, India, and so on. I like that the grandma is so nice, that she travels all around, and that every time she goes somewhere she brings back a present. What I like the most is that none of the gifts are toys. The girl asks for stuff like a baobab seed, a didgeridoo, a rainbow to wear as a ring, and a long white hair from a polar bear. But I think the grandma is a bit too nice. What if she gets poor from travelling everywhere?

I recommend this book to anyone who likes poetry combined with story. Or to those who like travelling.

Eagan, age 9

Review copy purchased.

Gifts is illustrated by Barbara Reid using Plasticine. Remember our review of Fox Walked Alone?

A Wizard in Love by Mireille Levert, Illustrated by Marie Lafrance

A Wizard in Love by Mireille Levert

This book is about a wizard named Hector who sleeps at least three times a day. One day he gets woken up by a lady who is singing and playing the piano. It’s his new neighbour. Hearing the wonderful music he wants to get rid of her– he doesn’t like wonderful. He bakes her an evil cake and picks her some flesh-eating flowers hoping to scare her away. But when he meets her he falls in love instead. He now likes wonderful and wants to marry her. They are still singing together today.

I don’t like this book because it’s too weird. The drawings are very strange, especially the way Isobel looks. I wish she was drawn differently. I think my mom should give the book away.

This book is for wizard and up.

Reviewed by Eagan, age 9

(review copy purchased).

***

I like when the wizard is strange and weird, but not when he falls in love and changes. My favourite part is when his cat, Poison, tastes the cake and turns into a cat-dragon. I also like the picture of the little bird-bat sweeping the floor.

I think people like my dad or my friend’s dad would like this story. And all my crazy friends would too. But my best friend and most of my girl friends would not like it. It would be too weird for them.

I don’t want my mom to give this book away. I like it a lot.

Reviewed by Jessa, age 5.

***

I have mixed feelings about A Wizard in Love. Like Jessa, I appreciate the odd antics of the wizard trying to get rid of his beautiful new neighbour and her wonderful singing voice. Overall, I love the vibrant colours and the illustrations of the animals on their hind legs playing stringed instruments. However, like Eagan, I just can’t get past how Isobel has been illustrated. On an aesthetic level, it overrides my sensibilities and I’m drawn away from the text. I feel repelled from entering into this otherwise interesting story. For me, Isobel’s illustrations alone take this quirky tale over the top. Funny how that works!

A Wizard in Love is not a keeper in my books, but for Jessa’s sake we’ll hang on to it a while longer.

If you’ve read this story, we’d love to hear your experience with it.

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

Boas by Doug Wechsler

Boas by Doug Wechsler
Boas by Doug Wechsler

This book tells you about the different types of boa snakes. There’s the rubber boa, tree boa, rosy boa, sand boa, boa constrictor, and the anaconda. I like the rubber boa so much that now I want one. I like that it is gentle around people and that it feels like rubber.

Some people are scared of snakes because of the movies that show boa constrictors or anacondas attacking people. I learned from this book that boas do not attack people. A boa will only bite a person to protect itself. But first it will hiss to warn the person to stay away. A wild boa will try to constrict you only if you grab it.

Boas do not lay eggs like other snakes. The eggs stay inside her body and they do not have shells. The baby snakes are born live. They come out of the mother in a clear sac. I wish the book showed a picture of baby snakes when they are born.

I did not like the picture on page 19 because the boa is constricting a mouse that is too cute. It should be constricting a rat instead.

I would recommend this book to snake lovers. I would not recommend it to people who do not like snakes. Well… maybe people who do not like snakes should read this book. It will help them to see how interesting snakes are and that they do not have to be afraid of them.

Eagle by Rebecca Bender ResizedReviewed by Eagan

(review copy borrowed from the library).

 

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).

Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood, Illustrated by Claudia Rueda

Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood
Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood and Claudia Rueda

Poor Cat – he’s been naughty for most of the year (he has a pie chart to prove it), so he’s going to dress up like Santa so he can give himself a present. But maybe he should try a last-minute attempt at getting on the nice list instead? There are several false starts, involving, among other things, a jet pack (I love the jet pack!!) and stinky fish. Cat does finally find a way to be nice (though from his dramatic posture it clearly pains him a bit) and is rewarded by Santa.

The message of thinking of others at Christmas comes through loud and clear, but in a very funny and non-saccharine way. This book is so much fun! The style of storytelling is novel – it’s a back-and-forth between an unseen narrator and Cat, who communicates through facial expressions and by holding up signs. It would be a great book to read one on-one with a child, to be the encouraging/ exasperated narrator and interpret Cat’s signs together. This is definitely on my to-buy list for the Imp when he’s a bit older. I might even try it at storytime next year. Though the book’s size is a bit small for a group, Rueda’s the pencil crayon and ink illustrations (mostly in just red, green and cat colour) really stand out on the white background. (I really like Rueda’s style, particularly in Huff & Puff.)

For fun in the springtime, see this pair’s Here Comes the Easter Cat and their newest, year-round title, Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat.

Library Fairy by Rebecca BenderReviewed by The Library Fairy

(review copy borrowed from the library).

How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky, Illustrated by S.D. Schindler

How Santa Got HIs Job by Stephen Krensky
How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky, Illustrated by S.D. Schindler

This book is all about what Santa did before he became Santa Claus. I picked this book because I grew up reading it. I like when Santa is looking for different jobs, and seeing what problem he has with each one. In the story Santa worked as a chimney sweeper, a delivery guy, a cook,
at a zoo and in the circus. The funniest thing in the book is the pictures. Elephant by Rebecca BenderIf I could change one thing it would be the way Santa found the elves. This is a good book!

Reviewed by Erin.

***

How Santa Got His Job has been with our winter/Christmas books for so long I actually don’t recall how it ever came to be there. I think it was part of a batch of winter themed books that came together in a Scholastic book order many years ago. I have always enjoyed the books humorous and original take on the whole Santa thing, especially at a time of year when it can feel like every book is just the same story told in slightly different words. Here we meet him as just another guy, trying to find and keep a job.

I quite agree with Erin, the section of the story with the elves is the one part that seems a bit forced. Most of the connections are more “believable.” For example, while working as a delivery driver Santa gets frustrated by traffic woes and starts doing deliveries at night when the roads are clear. Customer satisfaction becomes an issue and he is fired, but it sets up a logical segue to both his delivery skills and his propensity for night shifts.

All in all, both the text and the illustrations make this a fun non-traditional addition to the holiday reading tradition.

Turtle by Rebecca BenderReviewed by Susan Jean

(review copy personally purchased).

The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher by Robert Kraus, Illustrated by Vip

 

The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher by Robert Kraus
Originally published in 1969, reissued in hardcover 2010

 

Elephant by Rebecca BenderThe Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher is a good book with 3 or 4 stars. In the book the Snitcher is just someone who doesn’t understand Christmas and tries to find his own way to have fun. I think it’s a really good book and it used to be my favourite.

Reviewed by Erin

***

This was my absolute favourite book the year I was in kindergarten. I really hate to date myself, but that was quite some time ago now, back in the early 70’s. I can still remember the ball of eager anxiety that would form in my stomach as we sat on the carpet for story time in the school library. Would I be able to find my beloved book before anyone else got to it?

Years later I decided to track the book down and share it with my own kids. That’s when I found out The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher had been out of print for years, and second hand copies where selling for over $400! Fortunately Purple House Press, a small publisher dedicated to “rescuing long lost but well-loved children’s books,” took up the cause and the book is back in print.

So, some 40 plus years later, how has my once favourite book stood the test of time, and changing perspectives? About as well as most memories once idolized I’m afraid.

The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher tells the tragic tale of a town bereft of sprinkles for their Christmas cookies, all snatched by the sneaky Snitcher. When the entire population, including the chief of police, gives way to despair, a “plucky kid named Little Nat” takes matters into his own hands, and sets out to confront the Snitcher and save the baking season since…

“Christmas cookies without sprinkles

Are like raisins without wrinkles,

And like sleigh bells without tinkles

Are Christmas cookies without sprinkles.”

As you can see, the story is told in rhyme, which is both its charm and its downfall. If you put your literary glasses on, you will choke to death. BUT if you take the combination of trite and forced rhymes and the strained scansion as part of a quirky charming idiosyncratic package, then it all fits together.

Where the book still really shines is in its wonderful illustrations. Those who take the time to notice will find lots of amusing details in the pictures, which have aged better than the text. (Or survived my aging better than the text, depending on how you want to look at it.)

The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher will always hold a place in my heart, and on my bookshelf, and I really do think it is still a fun read as long as you don’t try to take it too seriously and just let the quirkiness of the text become part of the charm.

Turtle by Rebecca BenderReviewed by Susan Jean

(review copy personally purchased).