Flash Review: On My Way to Buy Eggs by Chih-Yuan Chen

By Maureen Tai, 17 October 2021

In Chih-Yuan Chen’s charming and gentle picture book, On My Way to Buy Eggs (ages 4+), we follow Shau-yu (“Little Fish”) as she threads her way through her sleepy Taiwanese neighbourhood to buy eggs for her father. Carefree Shau-yu toddles along in her flip flops: playing with shadows on the ground, peeking at a slumbering dog, finding all sorts of treasure: a blue marble, a line of crunchy leaves, a pair of spectacles. She is playful, imagining herself in a watery world, or pretending to be her mother, and curious, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Paired with textured, earth-toned illustrations, Chih-Yan’s masterful depiction of the little girl’s errand is a reminder of simple joys and everyday beauty, seen through the eyes of a child. What a wonderful world this is!

Flash Review: The Barnabus Project by the Fan Brothers

By Maureen Tai, 13 October 2021

The Barnabus Project (ages 4+) is larger and longer than your typical picture book, and all the better to enjoy the luminous, detailed and wondrous illustrations that bear the hallmarks of the Fan Brothers’ gorgeous and singular creative style. We meet the titular Barnabus, half-mouse, half-elephant, in his home under a glass bell jar. As with his other friends – an assortment of peculiar-looking, yet oddly endearing creatures – Barnabus has lived nowhere else. Instead, he relies on his cockroach friend, Pip, to tell him what the outside world looks like. Listening to Pip’s account, he too yearns to sit on grass and look up at the stars. When Barnabus’s dream becomes too big for his jar, so does his frustration and his resolve. Our hero begins to plot a daring escape where not one creature is left behind … The Barnabus Project is the first collaboration involving all three Fan Brothers: Terry, Eric and Devin. A sumptuous treat for inquisitive eyes, this tale of friendship and having the courage to rewrite your destiny will continue to warm your heart long after you’ve turned the final page.

Flash Review: The Widow’s Broom by Chris Van Allsburg

By Maureen Tai, 10 October 2021

In Chris Van Allsburg’s charming picture book, The Widow’s Broom (ages 6+), an old, tired, and seemingly powerless witches’ broom is abandoned by its witch owner in Widow Shaw’s home. To the old lady’s surprise, she discovers the broom has life in it yet. So do the neighbouring child-bullies who get a well-deserved thrashing from the broom when they try to attack it. Widow Shaw must now protect her new friend from her ignorant neighbours who see the broom as a threat. Will she succeed? This whimsical fairytale about second chances, friendship, and courage is accompanied by Van Allsburg’s hauntingly beautiful, black-and-white charcoal illustrations.      

Flash Review: Piper Green and the Fairy Tree by Ellen Potter & illustrated by Qin Leng

By Maureen Tai, 5 September 2021

I discovered Piper Green and the Fairy Tree (ages 7+), a delightful chapter book for younger children, during a recent browse in the public library. The titular Piper lives with her parents and younger brother Leo on a tiny island called Peek-a-Boo Island. Eight other kids live on the island, and they all go to a school on another island by lobster boat. Piper is missing her older brother Erik, though she won’t say so out loud. Instead, she decides to wear the monkey earmuffs Erik gave her to school even though they don’t really go with her new t-shirt and shorts. Imagine Piper’s shock when she discovers her new teacher doesn’t approve of her unusual accessory either. Suddenly, second grade is looking grim. What does our headstrong heroine do? Well, you’ll need to read this charming book to find out! This series, packed with memorable and funny characters masterfully brought to life in Qin Leng’s black and white ink illustrations, will entice even the most reluctant of readers.