Flash Review: Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg

By Maureen, 13 December 2021

Glass Town (ages 13+) is the compelling, wildly imaginative and haunting oversized graphic novel about the childhood writings of English novelist and poet, Charlotte Brontë (1816 – 1855). Based on the actual juvenilia of Charlotte and her three siblings, this work of creative historical fiction is – by her own admission – infused with liberal embellishments by Greenberg, and is as much a heartfelt homage to Brontë as it is to the colourful world and fascinating characters that Brontë created for herself when she was a child. Glass Town, while better suited for older children, is an engrossing and satisfying must-read for Brontë fans and will hopefully whet the appetite of readers unfamiliar with Brontë’s published works (such as Jane Eyre) to explore these much-loved classics.

Flash Review: Snail Crossing by Corey R. Tabor

By Maureen, 6 December 2021

In Corey Tabor’s delightful picture book, Snail Crossing (ages 4+), an energetic and cheerful snail spies a bountiful field of cabbages on the other side of a dark, grey road. Our heroic – or overly optimistic? foolhardy? naive? – gastropod immediately decides he must get to those cabbages, and sets off resolutely to cross the road. He is oblivious to the dangers , but we, the mildly-stressed readers, are not. We resist the urge to cover our eyes as we turn the pages … The surprising and satisfying conclusion proves that luck and kindness go a long way, even if our lovely snail ultimately does not.

Flash Review: The Wild Book by Margarita Engle

By Maureen, 29 November 2021

The Wild Book (ages 8+) is Cuban American poet, Margarita Engle’s, fictional verse novel inspired by her grandmother’s life in Trinidad, Cuba. Set in the early 1900s, Fefa is an eleven-year-old guajira (country girl). She’s the only child in her large family who has word-blindness, the term used then for what we know today as dyslexia. Her mother, who could have been a poetess if her circumstances had been different, gives Fefa a book of blank pages, and encourages the girl to be patient and to persevere with her reading and writing. Engle’s evocative verse pulls us hypnotically into Fefa’s colourful, lush life of too many siblings, lurking dangers and hidden fears, until we too are dreaming of riddles and towers, caimans and esperanzas (crickets), and lines made of beautiful, haunting words.

Flash Review: Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein & illustrated by Ed Young

By Maureen, 21 November 2021

As with most Japanese concepts, wabi sabi is not translatable into words. It is a way of being that must be lived.

Imagine then, my delight to discover Wabi Sabi, a brilliantly conceived picture book (ages 8+) that embodies all of the key elements of this illusive idea: from the inclusion of sparsely-worded haiku and the use of natural materials in the imaginative, earth-toned, mixed-media collage illustrations, to the unusual orientation of the book’s pages and its mud-splattered end papers. To younger readers, it is a story of a cat named Wabi Sabi, seeking the meaning of her name, and with it, discovering herself. To older readers, it is a loving and elegant homage to a very Japanese way of life, one that continues to endure to this day. Subarashi (wonderful).