Young Readers

Young Readers

By B. A. Markus

A review of We Are BrothersThe Big BedNothing Happens in This BookThe Boy and the Blue MoonWalking in the City with JaneThat's Not Hockey! by Yves NadonBunmi LaditanJudy Ann SadlerSara O'LearySusan HughesAndrée Poulin

Published on July 7, 2018

Yves Nadon’s We Are Brothers is a book you want to give to a pair of siblings. The illustrations by Jean Claverie, done in soft tones and gentle pencil strokes, evoke the lazy days of summer and memories of holiday rituals. In this tale, two brothers take their annual swim in a lake with a massive diving rock. So far, only the older brother has dared to climb up the sheer rock face with the litheness of a cat. Only the older brother has leapt into the sky to fly like a bird and plunge into the water like a fish.

We Are Brothers
Yves Nadon
Illustrated by Jean Claverie

Creative Editions
$18.99
cloth
32pp
9781568462929

But now it is the younger brother’s turn. The older brother says, “It’s time.” The younger brother is big enough. We feel the younger brother’s fear and travel alongside his small, shivering body as he faces his dread and first scales the imposing stone behemoth, then conquers his anxiety, and finally flings himself over the edge. We share his elation when he emerges from the glistening lake waters transformed from the little brother who’s too small into the little brother who is equal. We Are Brothers is a celebration of summer, family rituals, and the joys of having a sibling to share your life with.

***

To anyone who’s tried it, the family bed works great, for a while. Then, inevitably, it becomes clear that the bed in question just isn’t big enough for three. You could get a bigger bed, but usually what happens is that somebody’s got to go. And so begins the story of The Big Bed, written with a lot of humour and three kids’ worth of wisdom by Bunmi Laditan, the creator of The Honest Toddler blog. Laditan, who lives just outside Montreal, tells the tale of one toddler’s solution to the too-small family bed dilemma.

The Big Bed
Bunmi Laditan
Illustrated by Tom Knight

Farra, Strauss and Giroux
$16.99
cloth
32pp
9780374301231

We follow our puffy-ponytailed guide through an immaculately organized presentation whose object is to convince Dad that while he is a very important piggyback-ride giver and gifted at the art of the horsie ride, it’s time for him to leave the bed to Mommy and child. After all, Daddy has his own Mommy to go to for cuddles and lullaby singing at night. Her name is Grandma.

This toddler has an answer to everything. She’s even found a way to make her bed-wetting accidents seem desirable. Her solution to the too- small bed: Daddy gets to sleep on his very own “sleeping rectangle” beside the big bed. And he’s even welcome to join his wife and child in the morning, as long as he’s not too rambunctious. The Big Bed is sure to amuse both children and parents. But be forewarned, fathers: if your own toddler decides to use the same ironclad logic employed in The Big Bed, you might find yourself sleeping alone.

***

On the first page of Nothing Happens in This Book, Judy Ann Sadler dares to ask, “This book looks boring, doesn’t it?” Intrigued by the question, we can’t help but press on. The next page reveals a strange little man with a long, pointy, red-tipped nose and a tiny green baseball cap. But instead of encouraging us to explore the book that he currently inhabits, this creature does everything he can to dissuade us from reading further. Which, of course, only makes us want to turn the next page, and then the next. Until, before we know it, there’s a lot happening in Nothing Happens in This Book. A whole circus, in fact.

Nothing Happens in This Book
Judy Ann Sadler
Illustrated by Vigg

Kids Can Press
$16.00
cloth
40pp
9781771387378

The final page of this wide-format picture book folds out to reveal a wonderful parade with skateboarding frogs, cartwheeling clowns, gorillas playing tubas, and an octopus with a concertina. The strange little man turns out to be the ringleader
who makes all the action happen. This is a fun book to read aloud and to discover with a child, and an excellent demonstration of the truth behind that old adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

***

Adults may know that the expression “blue moon” comes from the infrequent but predictable occurrence of two full moons in a calendar month. But to the protagonist in Sara O’Leary’s The Boy and the Blue Moon, this astronomical phenomenon signals the beginning of a fantastical journey. “On the night of the blue moon anything can happen,” says the boy to his cat, whose fur promptly changes from black to midnight blue.

The Boy and the Blue Moon
Sara O'Leary
Illustrated by Ashley Crwoley

Henry Holt and Company
$17.99
cloth
40pp
9781627797740

The journey begins on a meandering, moonlit path through the forest, all shadows and light in blue and white. By the shores of the blue lake, the boy and cat continue in a boat, and then soar into the stars. Surrounded by the universe, they eventually land on the moon. There, the boy and his cat dream of a new life before deciding to return home. The spectrum of blues infusing the story bring on a feeling of calm, while the plot takes us on a trip to the stars. Illustrations by Ashley Crowley make us like the small boy with his tousled hair, his passion for space, and his willingness to believe in magic. O’Leary has given us a lovely book to read before bed about a boy, his cat, and the kind of adventures we can take in our imaginations.

***

It’s easy to commiserate with Jane on the first page of Susan Hughes’s Walking in the City With Jane. The little girl with red hair dreams of escaping the confines of her school desk and stuffy classroom to explore the world around her. When she moves to New York City after high school, Jane Jacobs falls in love with the mysteries and delights of the Big Apple – everything from the secret codes embossed on manhole covers to the oases offered by public parks. In New York City, she develops the concept of a city as an ecosystem whose diversity of use and population is essential to its survival. Her ideas about healthy cities lead to her activism, her arrest, and her eventual triumph over the four-lane expressway Robert Moses had planned to run through her neighbourhood.

Walking in the City with Jane
A Story of Jane Jacobs

Susan Hughes
Illustrated by Valérie Boivin

Kids Can Press
$19.99
cloth
36pp
9781771386531

In 1968, Jacobs moved to Toronto, a city on which this outspoken and indefatigable fighter for livable cities had a profound effect. Today, in cities around the world, volunteers lead Jane’s Walks and provide an opportunity for city dwellers to explore their urban environments. Jane Jacobs’s spirit persists to this day, inspiring city residents to work and fight for urban spaces that reflect and encourage diversity of use and population. Valérie Boivin’s charming illustrations reveal the cities’ “sidewalk ballet” – Jacobs’s term for the spectacle playing out on healthy city streets. And Hughes’s text shines a light on this urban activist.

***

It takes a lot of guts to go against the status quo, and it’s always great when a writer manages to encourage kids to stand up for what they believe in without coming off as preachy or condescending. Andrée Poulin succeeds in doing so with her latest book for children, That’s Not Hockey!, in which she tells the story of the great Canadiens goalie Jacques Plante. Plante ended his career in 1975 with seven Vezina trophies for best goaltender and is credited with helping Les Canadiens win six Stanley Cups.

That’s Not Hockey!
Andrée Poulin
Illustrated by Félix Girard

Annick Press
$21.95
cloth
32pp
9781773210513

But Plante’s trip to the top was tough from the start. So poor that his first hockey stick was fashioned from a tree branch and his goalie pads were made from old potato sacks and wooden slats, Plante is signed by the pros only to discover that his unique offensive goaltending style means taking constant pucks to the face. When he creates the first goalie mask, fans, coaches, players, and owners alike taunt and ridicule him. Plante stands his ground and changes the face of hockey forever. Poulin’s taut storytelling style makes this picture book accessible to even the youngest readers while giving us a complete plot populated by well-rounded characters. Félix Girard’s drawings give us a glimpse into life in Quebec during Plante’s post-war heyday. mRb

B.A. Markus is a writer, performer, and performer living and working in Tiotia:ke/Montreal.

Comments

1 Comment

  1. Yves Nadon

    Living in Sherbrooke and reading such a good review in a Montreal publication makes this author very happy! Thank you! In french at Editions D’eux, Mon frère et moi.

    Reply

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