Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

By Maureen Tai, 7 April 2019

“He saw the garden at many times of its day, and at different seasons – its favourite season was summer, with perfect weather.” 

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With just two upturned dinner chairs and a few blankets, my kids can create a cosy hideout, away from prying adult eyes, in which to hold secret readings and from which to execute dastardly plans. This desire for a lair is universal. So it is with Tom Long, the pajamaed hero in Tom’s Midnight Garden, who longs for company and a place to play.  In this classic fantasy tale, Tom finds not only an garden hideout and an exciting new playmate, but an intriguing and secret existence in a parallel past-universe. Continue reading

big Nate: Thunka, Thunka, Thunka by Lincoln Peirce

By Ben, 24 March 2019

IMG_2999“Oh, yeah! I was shocked! Stunned! Flabbergasted! Hornwoggled! Gobsmacked!” – Nate Wright.

Sunday afternoons are for loafing around and reading comics.  At least that’s my idea of the perfect Sunday.

Ben’s recommendation for the lazy weekend is a volume from the extensive Big Nate series of comic strip compilations. Ben and I discuss why Big Nate is such a hit with him, as well as with boys and girls in Grades 3 and 4. Continue reading

Grandma and the Things that Stay the Same by Eve Aw & illustrated by Yunroo

By Maureen Tai, 18 March 2019

“… you can count on some things like love, family and tradition to stay the same.” – Mum

IMG_2598Most picture books about the Lunar New Year focus on explaining the cultural traditions and practices of the biggest celebration in the Chinese calendar – the red lai see packets, the new year’s eve family reunion dinner, the auspicious dishes, the exploding firecrackers and the deafening lion dances. Grandma and the Things that Stay the Same chooses instead to focus on what is central not only the Chinese during the Lunar New Year, but to people all over the world during their major festivals.

And that core is Family.   Continue reading

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson & illustrated by E. B. Lewis

By Maureen Tai, 3 March 2019

“Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world.” – Ms. Albert

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Each Kindness is a thoughtful and nuanced picture book about a trait that seems to be in short supply these days. The story is told in the first person, unusually from the point of view of a protagonist who is complicit in the unkindness shown to a new girl at school. However, the “heroine” (if we can call her that) is uncharitable yet not unthinking. In fact, she is relatable.  What she sees in her reflection in the pond is an uncomfortable truth that resonates with all of us. We’ve all been her at some point in our lives.

 
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The White Cat and the Monk by Jo Ellen Bogart & illustrated by Sydney Smith

By Maureen Tai, 18 February 2019

“So it goes. To each his own.” – from Pangur Bán by Anonymous.

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A solitary white cat approaches a brick building. All is shrouded in darkness. But the cat knows its way, as it sure-footedly climbs through an open window, then gently pads along a corridor with vaulted ceilings. Soft moonlight illuminates the interior of the monastery. The columns are strong and solemn, the floors well-swept, the wooden barrels in neat rows. The animal makes its way purposefully to a closed door from under which leaks a golden light. A feline paw reaches into the room, and the door opens.

 

 

Continue reading

Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake

By Maureen Tai, 14 February 2019

“It all started when Mom said it was time for a bath.”

IMG_1843Some picture books are little doses of “pick-me-up,” enchantment and whimsy in less than 1000 words, skilfully packaged within 32 pages of illustrations.  Still Stuck is such a book.

An endearing, yet mildly infuriating little boy is commanded to the bath by his no-nonsense mother.  You can just tell she means business by the way she stands with arms akimbo, her clenched fists on her hips. Mom pulls her child’s t-shirt over his head, literally lifting the little boy off the ground. His short legs thrash furiously as she struggles to get the garment off.

Uh oh. He’s stuck. Continue reading