The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

By Maureen Tai, 7 May 2018

“Ralph was eager, excited, curious, and impatient all at once. The emotion was so strong it made him forget his empty stomach. It was caused by those little cars, especially that motorcycle and the pb-pb-b-b-b sound the boy made. That sound seemed to satisfy something within Ralph, as if he had been waiting all his life to hear it.”

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I was likely 11 or 12 when I first read The Mouse and the Motorcycle.  A bit late to the ballgame.  I still have my original Yearling copy, with the mouse mounted on the vehicle, whiskers back and tail tucked under and around his arm. The pages are yellowed and spotted with age and threaten, with each turn, to detach from the spine. I’m surprised none did back then, I read and re-read this book so often.

I adored Ralph – the mouse – and still do.

Continue reading

Eric by Shaun Tan

By Maureen Tai, 4 May 2018

“Some years ago we had a foreign exchange student come to live with us. We found it very difficult to pronounce his name correctly, but he didn’t mind. He told us to just call him ‘Eric.'”

IMG_2155I have a soft spot for exchange students. I was one myself over two decades ago.  I still acutely remember the feelings of anxiety, excitement, fear, homesickness and nervousness, all mixed up in a gigantic ball in my gut as I landed in Narita Airport, Tokyo, unable to speak or read a word of Japanese.  It was 1989, and a few days later, Emperor Hirohito would pass away, marking the end of the Showa era.

I have a soft spot for Shaun Tan as well, but that is because he is an absolute genius.  Continue reading

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

By Maureen Tai, 1 May 2018

“So which it is? You going back for your home or for your pet?”
“They’re the same thing,” Peter said, the answer sudden and sure, although a surprise to him.

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My interest was piqued by the author’s name.  And the illustrations are gorgeous, as you’d expect from the maestro of minimalism, Jon Klassen.  The cover captivated me – the back profile of a red fox, ears pricked and alert, watching the egg yolk of a sun sink into the horizon.

A word of warning though. Despite being easy on the eye, Pax is not an easy book to read.  Continue reading

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

By Maureen Tai, 30 April 2018

“I tried to look more closely at the angel in front of me. Her head alone seemed as big as me. It was a bit like standing before that huge stuffed lion at the museum, except the mane and whiskers were all light, and the eyes were huge, and the mouth never moved.  She was magnificent, and I wasn’t sure she had a mouth at all, but I was aware, every time she spoke, of something grazing my face, and of the smell of freshly mown grass.”  – Steven

The Nest

 

I met Kenneth Oppel before I read The Nest.  Canadian, living in Toronto, a graduate of Trinity College (my own alma mater), a husband and father, and a writer.  An amiable fellow, with a dry sense of humour and smiling eyes. So his book – illustrated by Jon Klassen, another Canadian and celebrated children’s book writer and illustrator – would be a gentle, calming read with hints of sarcasm.  Right?  Continue reading