Coming Home by Greg Ruth

By Maureen Tai, 9 December 2018

“I missed you so much.”

IMG_0457With just 18 words and a restrained colour palette of burnt ochre, green and brown, this realistically illustrated picture book about an American solder’s homecoming packs a hefty emotional punch. Continue reading

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex and illustrated by Christian Robinson

By Maureen Tai, 26 November 2018

“Soon the teachers will come, and then you’ll be filled with children.” – Janitor

IMG_0487Do you remember the muddled-up feelings that you experienced on your first day of school? A concoction of fear and joy, excitement and anxiety, freedom and homesickness? I do. And so does the newly built Frederick Douglass Elementary school, the unexpected narrator in the whimsical and clever School’s First Day of School. This is the perfect picture book to read with a pre-schooler whose first day is looming. What will School’s first day be like? Continue reading

Good News Bad News by Jeff Mack

By Maureen Tai, 24 November 2018

An exuberant rabbit invites his grumpy mouse friend to an outdoor picnic.  No sooner has the picnic basket been opened, the clouds take over the skies and it begins to pour.  Using just 5 words in the entire picture book, Good News Bad News tells the humorous and charming tale of what happens next to this engaging pair. Continue reading

Benno and the Night of Broken Glass by Meg Wiviott & illustrated by Josée Bisaillon

By Maureen Tai, 10 November 2018

“Rosentrasse was still a busy street, but the people were no longer friendly.” – Benno


The endpapers – the first and last two spreads of illustrations – in  Benno and the Night of Broken Glass convey the essence of the story.  In the first spread, an orange tabby cat pads along a street where only the pedestrians’ calves and colourful shoes are visible. The pace is leisurely, some feet stroll but most just stand, suggesting that people have stopped to chat, or to exchange some news. In the final endpapers, the tabby pads along the same street but the mood is palpably different. The menacing, clunky black boots of soldiers fill the pages and the other civilian feet hurry past. The cat’s face is expressionless but his tail is no longer happily upright. Instead, it is limp, and weighed down.

Something terrible has happened in Rosenstrasse.

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Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion by Jane Barclay & illustrated by Renné Benoit

By Maureen Tai, 4 November 2018

“A war is something you never forget.” – Poppa

IMG_9529The first Remembrance Day service I ever attended was when I was at university in Toronto. I hadn’t learnt much world history during my school days in Malaysia, and what I had been taught were distant and dusty facts, sparse and relevant only in order to pass exams.

I stood in a drizzly grey day, looking up at the names carved into the wall at Hart House. Surrounded by a crowd that included veterans in wheelchairs or leaning on walking sticks, I listened to the mournful bugle notes of “The Last Post” and realised for the first time in my life the enormity of the sacrifices during the World Wars. Even though I hadn’t lived through those devastating years myself, I cried.

And I cry, every time I read Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion, a beautifully crafted and gentle, yet hauntingly sad picture book about Remembrance Day and all that it stands for.   Continue reading

Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara

By Maureen Tai, 22 October 2018

“But the girl wasn’t just a girl.  She was a witch!” 


‘Tis the witching season and what better than to curl up under a blanket with a flashlight, a pile of spooky storybooks and a plate of chocolate chip cookies (mind the crumbs).  For the youngest of little ones with faint hearts and short attention spans, Ghosts in the House! is the perfect Halloween read.  Boldly illustrated and sparsely written (155 words in all), it is delightful.

And there are lots and lots of ghosts …

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Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole

By Maureen Tai, 5 October 2018

IMG_8571Princess Smartypants is beautiful, rich, fearless, clever, strong willed and living la vida loca.*  She’s a Smug Unmarried, and wishes to remain so.  But her Mother has other ideas. “Stop messing about with those animals and find yourself a husband,” commands Mother.

Will our fun-loving royal bend to the wishes of her parents? Find out in this quirky and fun picture book by the late English author and illustrator, Babette Cole.

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