Mom Read It

If the kids are reading it, chances are I have, too.

What is it that Lou can’t do? February 10, 2017

louThe Thing Lou Couldn’t Do, by Ashley Spires, (May 2017, Kids Can Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781771387279

Recommended for ages 3-7

Lou and her friends are adventurers! They run faster than airplanes, build mighty fortresses, and rescue wild animals. One day, though, Lou’s friends decide to make a nearby tree the location of their pirate ship, and Lou balks. She’s never climbed a tree before. She likes her adventures to be down, on the ground. Her friends scurry up the tree, but Lou’s not going. What will it take for Lou to get up that tree?

Kids will recognize themselves in Lou, whose got a vibrant imagination, a great group of friends, and a healthy fear of a climbing a tree, which – let’s be honest – can be a pretty scary thing. Like most kids, Lou tries to divert her friends’ attention by suggesting “not-up-a-tree games” and stalling (changing her shoes, claiming an injury, spotting an asteroid heading right for them). With her friends’ encouragement, Lou does attempt that climb – and when she doesn’t make it, her friends are right there for her, heading for a playground to continue their game. Is Lou defeated? Nope. She’s going to try again, maybe even tomorrow. Showing a child overcome her fear and her self-reliance when she doesn’t succeed the first time sends a positive message to kids who may struggle with anxiety over new situations; surrounding her main character with supportive friends sends a message to all kids, to support one another and to compromise.

The digital art is fun and will appeal to all kids; the group of friends is diverse and no one is relegated to “girl” or “boy” roles here – they’re all pirates, race car drivers, or deep sea divers. They’re kids, playing together, like kids do.

I loved Ashley Spires’ award-winning book, The Most Magnificent Thing, and her Binky the Space Cat series has been a winner at any library I’ve worked at. I love her positive messages of self-reliance and the power of imagination, and I can’t wait to get this book on the shelves next to my other Spires books. A great book for elementary collections and kids who are learning that it’s okay to be scared sometimes.

Check out Ashley Spires’ website for more of her artwork and information about her books.


A boy and his friend must act fast to save The Last Tree January 20, 2017

last-treeThe Last Tree, by Ingrid Chabbert/Illustrated by Guridi, (April 2017, Kids Can Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781771387286

Recommended for ages 4-7

A boy listens to his father describe running and playing in the grass as a child, but has only a concrete playing area with a diminishing patch of grass available to him. One day, the boy and his friend discover a baby tree – a sapling, really – hidden behind a wall and are amazed: it’s the first tree they’ve ever seen up close. The boy goes home and discovers, to his horror, that a luxury condo complex is scheduled to begin construction right in the very spot where the tree is growing, and the boys spring into action to save the last tree.

This is a powerful look at how lack of green spaces affects children. Ingrid Chabbert’s narrator is an adult, looking back on his childhood, and how important saving that tree was to him and his friend. It sends a message about the importance of conservation and preservation today, and offers some hope for tomorrow. Artist Guridi communicates this message using charcoal, gravure ink, gouache, pencil, and digital art to create a spark of hope in the grey, bleak future that faces us as we see more green spaces disappear under development.

A strong addition to collections for Earth Day, conservation units, and to empower kids who may not understand that they can have a long-lasting impact on the world with the smallest and kindest of acts. The Last Tree invites a discussion on empathy by examining the boys’ actions and asking children to contribute by sharing a time when they took action to help someone or something that needed it.



The Pruwahaha Monster gives kids a little jump! August 15, 2016

pruwahahahaThe Pruwahaha Monster, by Jean-Paul Mulders/Illustrated by Jacques Maes, Lise Braekers (Oct. 2016, Kids Can Press), $15.95, ISBN: 9781771385664

Recommended for ages 5-8

A cute story about a boy and his dad outside enjoying the autumn, The Pruwahaha Monster is a story the father tells his son while the son plays on a swing. It may be a bit high-concept for younger readers – it took me a couple of reads to put it all together – so I’d suggest reading it to school-age (Kindergarten-Grade 2) kids, rather than toddlers or preschoolers.

A dad tells his son a story about the Pruwahaha Monster – a stinky, ugly, terrible monster with a taste for children – but when the monster tracks down a little boy, all he does is laugh! The last picture in the story tells you everything you need to know about the monster and his relationship with the boy.

Originally published in Belgium, this is a sweet story about a father and son, and the joy of storytelling: especially spooky storytelling! A fun additional add to collections where kids are ready for a scary story that ends up being very safe, after all. Teach the kids how to make shadow puppets on a wall when you’re done, and let them make their own monsters!

There’s a lot of visual interest here, with bright orange artwork drawing the reader’s attention to woodland animals and leaves. Spooky monster paws fade into and out of existence. There are beautiful spreads and pages of work against light blue, bright orange, and beige backgrounds. There are so many little elements to look at and notice in each spread – you’ll find something new every time.

Jean-Paul Mulders is a Flemish journalist and writer, and the author of several books for adults; The Pruwahaha Monster is his first book for children.Jacques Maes & Lise Braekers are a graphic design, web design and illustration duo from Belgium. The Pruwahaha Monster is their first book for children.

Take a trip around the world with Metropolis! August 1, 2016

metropolisMetropolis, by Benoit Tardif (Oct. 2016, Kids Can Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781771387217

Recommended for ages 3-8

Take a trip to all the world’s major cities without leaving your library! Benoit Tardif has created a colorful, exciting profile of the world’s biggest cities with Metropolis. See the famous Opera House in Sydney, Australia, or go whale watching in Auckland, New Zealand. Go for rides on the London Eye and the Ancol Dreamland Amusement Park in Jakarta, Indonesia – with 34 cities to cover, you’ll have your passport punched in no time!

Mr. Tardif’s images are exciting, bright, and pop off the pages. More than just a collection of buildings, Metropolis uses both digital and traditional artwork to create mini-tourism posters for each location. We see cartoon-like characters selling bagels (Montreal) and seafood (Vancouver); baseball players in New York and Chicago; bridges, sporting venues, and natural sights.

This is a great addition to any collection. It’s perfect for young readers – I’d shelve this with concept books as easily as I’d display it with the Good Night Our World series of board books by Adam Gamble. I’d make it available to elementary students who need information on world cities and landmarks. I’d give it to a graduating student, to provoke some wanderlust!

Enjoy more of Benoit Tardif’s illustration at his website.

A solid investment for your shelves.


The Branch gets a new lease on life after a storm July 15, 2016

thebranchThe Branch, by Mireille Messier/Illustrated by Pierre Pratt (Sept. 2016, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771385640

Recommended for ages 3-7

A little girl’s favorite tree branch comes clattering down during an ice storm. A neighbor teaches her how to repurpose the branch, to create new memories.

What a great book to communicate so many ideas! First, we have the imagination of the tree branch. As the little girl says, the branch,”was my castle, my spy base, my ship…”, and she experiences the grief of losing the branch when she spies it on the sidewalk. She doesn’t want to part with it right away, so her mother allows her to hold onto it for a little while – long enough for the girl to encounter her neighbor, who tells her that the branch is “full of potential! …it means it’s worth keeping”, and we learn that he builds things from salvaged wood, and encourages the little girl to think about what the branch could become. When she uses her imagination and reaches into herself to reimagine the branch, she and the neighbor work together to give the branch new life.

In addition to imagination, we’ve got reusing/recycling, which is great for the environment; showing a child unwilling to discard a tree branch as a casualty of the storm, and finding ways to recreate it will get kids thinking about what they could create with objects in the world around them: cereal boxes could become robots or cities for superheroes to protect; old cans can become pencil holders; soda bottles can become terrariums. There are thousands of ideas on the Internet, so there’s no need to wait for Earth Day to come around again to make kids aware of the fun things they can make when they reduce/reuse/recycle.

Finally, we’ve got making: the whole creative process is here: sketching out plans, sawing, planing, drying the wood, waiting, waiting, waiting. It’s a great book to feature with The Most Magnificent Thing, HowToons, and fun nonfiction books, like those in the Make series. Encourage kids and parents to work together on anything from paper airplanes (great use of catalog paper) to repurposing a tree branch – large or small – of your own.

Mireille Messier is a Toronto-based author who’s had over a dozen books published in French. She’s also one of the French reviewers for the National Reading Campaign. Her website is available in English or French and offers information about her books, school visits, and her blog. Pierre Pratt is an award-winning illustrator of over 50 books for children. He lives and works in Montreal, Quebec, and in Lisbon, Portugal.



Memoirs of a Sidekick – good guys don’t always finish last July 6, 2016

memoirsMemoirs of a Sidekick, by David Skuy, (Oct. 2016, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771385688

Recommended for ages 9-12

Boris Snodbuckle and his best friend, Adrian, are two students at Bendale Public School. They’re not exactly the most popular kids; Boris and his harebrained plans often put him at the mercy of school bullies and teachers alike, and Adrian’s parents aren’t exactly thrilled with Boris, either. But Boris – “the B-ster” – is endlessly optimistic and just happens to see things differently. He decides to run for student council president, because he wants to make positive changes happen for all the kids across every grade. But Robert, Boris’ chief tormentor, also decides to run, and sets about stealing Boris’ ideas, taking all the credit, and getting the student body to promise their votes to him! Can Boris’ latest wild scheme turn things around?

Memoirs of a Sidekick is built on good values: persistence, optimism, and loyalty, for starters; there’s a strong vein of altruism, with Boris’ desire to take a stand for others. The novel touches on bullying and school social groups, and being a good citizen in the world at large, and there’s a nice emphasis on honesty being the best policy. The book meanders a bit at points, and Boris’ adherence to the Rules he and Adrian live by is relatable, if at times frustrating. Readers will appreciate Boris’ unique way of looking at the world and Adrian’s unflinching loyalty to his best friend.

Memoirs of a Sidekick is a good additional purchase for realistic fiction collections.


Inside Your Insides puts you under a microscope

inside your insidesInside Your Insides: A Guide to the Microbes That Call You Home, by Claire Eamer/Illustrated by Marie-Eve Tremblay, (Sept. 2016, Kids Can Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781771383325

Recommended for ages 8-12

This interesting nonfiction book takes a look at the microbes that live on our bodies: in our hair, on our skin, and the ones we pick up everywhere we go. We’re microbiomes: a walking, talking collection of microbes, and Inside Your Insides introduces us to some of the most common microbes we share our surroundings with. We learn about bacteria, archaea, viruses, fingu, protists and mites; their preferred environments; and all the places they live on and around us. Complete with brightly colored, cartoony illustrations, makes this a good introduction or companion for middle grade science students.

There are some good callout facts and groan-worthy jokes scattered throughout the book, and a glossary and index round everything out. Kids will learn that not all bacteria are bad for you: you don’t need everything antibacterial, and it may be doing more harm than good, anyway! A section dedicated to saving our microbes goes into detail on how to take care of ourselves to attract the “good” microbes: play outside, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and explore your world. The combination of clear, instructional writing with a humorous bent, and the eye-catching illustrations, kids will get a kick out of this intro to microbiology. It’s a good additional purchase for collections where science books circulate.

You can also direct kids to the Genetic Science Learning Center’s Human Microbiome site. There are teacher resources, interactive simulators, informative videos, and information that’s written in a clear, interesting way to get kids excited about learning more.