In the Middle of the Fall by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek , Greenwillow Books
I always think of Kevin Henkes as an illustrator first, but then I remind myself that he is a fine writer as well. His fiction books, such as Junonia and Bird Lake Moon are well worth reading. So when I see a picture book written by Henkes and illustrated by someone else, my first thought is Why? This companion to When Spring Comes, also illustrated by Dronzek, makes perfect sense. The illustrations work so well, pacing the spare text and framing the season. Henkes has a way with words, and Dronzek has a way with illustrating those words.
Lines by Suzy Lee, Chronicle Books
A lone skater slides across the page, in straight, then loopy, then thick lines. She flies into the air, she twirls. She is perfection, until she falls, erasing her lines, and the artist crumples the page. But the page gets smoothed back out, and we realize that perfection is not necessary, that there are more kinds of lines, and sometimes, the lines are more fun with others. A beautiful wordless book rendered in pencil, with signature Suzy Lee style.
Me and you and the red canoe by Jean E. Pendziwol, pictures by Phil . Groundwood Press
A poetic love-song to a morning on the lake is illustrated with paintings that feel like old postcards. Everything about this book shouts sentimental, yet it comes off feeling fresh. This would make a good mentor text for describing an event, and a lovely gift book that belongs in every cabin in Canada.
nipehon: I wait by Caitlin Dale Nicholson with Leona Morin Neilson, Groundwood Press
Three generations are ready to harvest herbs for winter tea. In Cree (two forms) and English, the simple text tells a story of tradition, working together, and respect. Illustrated with textured paintings, this is a book to share with many generations. Back matter includes a recipe for yarrow tea.
On a magical do-nothing day by Beatrice Alemagna, Harper
A child accompanies Mom to a cabin n the forest. It is raining, there’s nothing to do other than play with an electronic alien game. Finally, Mom has had enough and insists the child go outside. When the game falls into the water, something occurs: a transformation. Now the child begins to be interested in the world around. Snails, mushrooms, and mud become interesting. The transformation is symbolic as well, it seems as though the child matures as nature becomes noticed. Mom looks prettier, and the child sees Dad in the mirror. Sometimes the child seems to look like a girl, sometimes like a boy, which adds another level to the story. The illustrations, done in dark colors, are detailed and lovely. A touch of the brightest orange draws our eye continually to the child. This is a beauty of a book, and it smells nice, too.
Smoot: A rebellious shadow by Michelle Cuevas, illustrated by Sydney Smith. Tundra
Smoot the Shadow is really tired of his boring boy. He wants adventures. And so he removes himself and off he sets. Through Smith’s expert pen, ink, and watercolour illustrations, we see Smoot exploring and unwittingly encouraging other Shadow adventures, all the while being followed by the boy he belongs to. This is a nice story, and would make an interesting discussion book for older readers. Sydney Smith tuns it into a beautiful adventure: make sure you take a look at that central spread of Smoot racing across a wordless page of abstract watercolour flowers. Just fantastic.
Starring Carmen! By Anika Denise, illustrated by Lorena Alvarez Gomez. Abrams
Carmen is a one-girl sensation, what some might call “a handful”. She puts on plays, and her little brother gets to be… a rock. Or maybe a lamp. But when the family tires of Carmen’s always-on antics, she gets everyone involved and discovers her true calling- writing and directing. Illustrated in eye-catching colors, kids will be drawn to Carmen.
When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Matt James. Tundra.
A group of kids wait for the moon to be full so they can go play hockey on the pond in the woods. The ice is magic, the moon gives them light. This slice of life gives us a reason to love winter, to remember the beauty of it. Rich acrylic and India ink on board illustration moves the story along through light and shadow.
Where Oliver Fits by Cale Atkinson,Tundra.
A little puzzle piece can’t figure out where he fits. He tries several things, including changing himself to try to fit in. This does not work so well. Finally, he finds where he fits, which is just right for the story: he fits in the place where many different areas come together. Such a simple story with a big message that kids will get without being knocked over the head with a heavy lesson. The bright acrylic-looking art was actually created with puzzle pieces, glue, space unicorns, and Photoshop. Kids will love it.
Tukuk Tundra Tale by Robin Currie, illustrated by Phyllis Saroff. Arbordale Publishing
Teachers looking for an easy book to share when teaching about the Arctic should make note of this one. With a simple story, plenty of information about Arctic weather, animals, and geology can be learned. There’s also Inuit vocabulary, and a short glossary at the end will help define any unfamiliar terms. “Animal Fun Facts” wrap up this useful book.