Flash Review: Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat & illustrated by Marc Simont

By Maureen Tai, 31 July 2021

Each slim book in the classic Nate the Great series of early readers (ages 6+) packs a punch. Nate is a detective. He loves pancakes, as does Sludge, the stray dog he adopted. Nate makes pancakes when he is in the middle of solving cases. Like when Annie lost the key to her house and couldn’t get in to throw a birthday party for her ferocious-looking pet dog, appropriately named Fang. Or when that pesky Oliver lost the weed that he had acquired from the cat-loving and slightly strange Rosamond. Nate writes notes – in shaky cursive – to his mother when he is out doing field work (ahhh, those pre-Internet days!). The sparse prose, delightful pictures and activity pages at the end add to the appeal of these charming and clever books, perfect for emerging readers who are looking for an interesting and fun “bridge” into the wondrous new realm of chapter books. The best part? There are around 30 books in the series, enough for a whole lot of rainy days and lazy afternoons.

When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson & illustrated by Julie Flett

By Maureen Tai, 20 July 2021

When We Were Alone (ages 6+) is a gentle and beautiful picture book that introduces young readers to residential schools in Canada by focussing on the courage and resilience of its survivors.

In David A. Robertson’s story, a grandmother (kókom) works with her grandchild (nósisim) in the garden. The young girl notices how her grandmother wears brightly coloured clothes, has a long braid of hair, and speaks in Cree to a bird that has come to visit her birdhouse. “Why?” the grandchild asks, as curious children do.

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Flash Review: The Runaway Princess by Johan Troïanowski

By Maureen Tai, 30 May 2021

The Runaway Princess (ages 5+) is a funny, exciting and engaging romp through vividly-illustrated, fantastical lands. In this colourful graphic novel, we meet Princess Robin, a plucky, irrepressible bundle of energy. We join her on zany adventures as she sneaks away from her castle, befriends four abandoned children, attends a water carnival featuring mermaids in giant floating bubbles, falls into the clutches of the pumpkin-loving Autumn Witch and saves an entire colony of hairy Doodlers from rampaging pirates in her flying ship! Phew! The charming characters, interactive puzzles and delightful visuals will captivate and stretch even the youngest readers’ imaginations.

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.