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.
Olympic medallist Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali have created a boldly empowering picture book (ages 5+) about a Muslim girl’s unshakeable faith and her loving relationship with her older sister, Asiya, who wears an ocean-blue hijab on the first day of school. As the day progresses, Faizah becomes anxious as several children show their prejudices with hurtful words and actions. The sisters’ strength of character, tempered by their mother’s wisdom, prevails gloriously in the end. The gorgeous, lyrical text in The Proudest Blue, accompanied by Hatem Aly’s sweeping, vibrant spreads will inspire pride in everything that makes us unique, including our faiths.
My Friend is Sad (ages 2 +) is another funny, engaging and endearing instalment in Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie series of easy-readers. Stodgy, bespectacled Elephant is sad. His best friend, quirky, quick-thinking Piggie, decides to dress up as a cowboy, then a clown and finally a robot to cheer him up. Piggie’s plans fail, but not for reasons you’d expect! Deceptively simple, comic-like pictures perfectly convey the two friends’ distinct, yet complementary, personalities and wild swings of emotions while the large-sized speech-bubbled text will encourage younger readers to try their hand at reading independently. This hilarious story will tickle readers of all ages.
Turning the pages of M. Sasek’s classic This is Hong Kong (ages 5+) with its evocative, detailed illustrations, is like stepping into history, to a time when the city’s streets were teeming: with rickshaws, hawkers and labourers carrying dried fish, silks or bricks on the end of bamboo poles, stylishly-coiffed ladies in cheongsams, and tourists seeking all manner of exotic goods. While some landmarks – notably the Tiger Balm Garden and Kai Tak Airport – and some sights – floating schools, traffic controllers in gazebos – no longer exist, Sasek’s pictorial ode to Hong Kong is enchanting for readers of all ages.