Flash Review: The Happiest Tree by Hyeon-Ju Lee

By Maureen Tai, 8 August 2022

In The Happiest Tree, a tender, quietly philosophical picture book (ages 3+) by Korean writer and illustrator, Hyeon-Ju Lee, a young gingko tree is planted next to a row of apartment buildings. As the tree grows taller, what it sees through the windows of the building changes. The ground floor apartment bustles with little children at piano class. Several years later, the tree discovers that its ramrod straight trunk and fan-like leaves are inspiration for the artist who lives on the second floor. By the time the tree reaches the third floor of the building, and is able to look into the Kong’s canine-filled apartment, it is seventeen years old and living its happiest days. But seasons change, as seasons must, and the tree now spends lonely hours as it continues to age. As the tree grows closer and closer to the top of the building, it wonders, what lies ahead? Through joy and sorrow, the gingko tree remains patiently resolute and quietly optimistic, arguably the best way to be, not only for a tree but for all sentient beings on this miraculous earth. The sparse, yet effective text and thoughtful, charming illustrations make this unusual picture book a keeper for any bookshelf.

Flash Review: Leonardo, The Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

By Maureen Tai, 23 May 2021

In Mo Willems’ endearing and laugh-out-loud funny picture book, Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, (ages 3+ ) the titular monster is terrible – at being a monster. After much research, Leonardo finally finds the most scaredy-cat kid in the world and scares him silly! Only to discover that being scary isn’t quite as satisfying as he thought it would be… With bold text and amusing illustrations in dusty desert colours, Willems has created yet another masterpiece about being true to yourself and finding pleasure in being nice. Little ones will enjoy choosing between being a monster or being a friend. 

Flash Review: A Big Bed for Little Snow by Grace Lin

By Maureen Tai, 25 April 2021

In Grace Lin’s fun and beautifully illustrated A Big Bed for Little Snow (ages 3+), a little boy in snowflake-dotted pajamas gets a new bed at the start of winter. His mother says it’s for sleeping, not jumping. No sooner has she disappeared from view, the impish Little Snow cannot resist jumping on his puffy, feather-filled, cloud-like bed. With each jump, feathers burst out of his bed, feathers that are curiously snow-like … Lin accompanies her modern-day fable with masterful renderings of the exuberant Asian American boy. The pictures positively pop out of a white background, inviting the littlest ones to jump along!

Flash Review: The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee

By Maureen Tai, 18 April 2021

In her delightful wordless picture book, The Farmer and the Clown (ages 3+), Marla Frazee tells the sweet, whimsical and heart-warming tale about the unexpected meeting between a solitary, grey, Prairie farmer and a bubbly, affectionate, baby clown. Having accidentally bounced off a passing train, the baby now clings to the dour farmer’s legs. The kindly old man brings the child home to his farmhouse, and as the night and day progresses in gorgeously atmospheric pencil-and-gouache illustrations, so blooms their endearing friendship. Younger readers will cherish this visually stunning and touching ode to the connective and redemptive power of kindness.