Canuck and Yankee Picturebooks: Best o’ the Best in 2011 (so far)

I am going to be on Vancouver Co-op Radio’s “It Takes a Village” parenting show on Thursday, August 18th from 4-5pm PST to talk about chidlers, reading, and some of my favorite picturebooks this year.  I will be mentioning some of these while I’m on the show.

Oh Canada

My dear mentor and friend, Professor Judi Saltman, is the lady responsible for my fierce sense of nationalism for Canadian children’s books. So let’s start with those produced close to (my) home:

Alligator Bear Crab: A Baby’s ABC by Lesley Wynne Pechter.  Orca.

The alligator on the first page manages to look both friendly and sort of menacingly hungry at the same time.  Sold!  But really, the animals that make up this alphabet book have a quirky character that tickles me, and that I think will tickle parents and tots.  I love the inclusion of distinctly Canadian animals (including a Canada goose, moose and orca) without all the stereotypes – which is often what happens when artists set out to do a deliberately Canadian alphabet book.

Cinnamon Baby by Nicola Winstanley.  Illustrations by Janice Nadeau.  Kids Can Press.

It’s difficult for me to write about this book without my heart exploding with happiness.  It is the dearest, dearest tale of Miriam and Sebastian’s crying, colicky baby.  The illustrations (Parisian and quaint) show fountains of tears springing up from the pram with the words “The baby cried at the sky.  It cried at the flowers.  It cried at the sunshine and the wind in the trees and at everyone who passed.”  Miriam finally figures out what to do to make the baby stop crying and it speaks so beautifully to the bond between mother and child.  Perfect for new mothers, new big siblings and a Kindergarten read-aloud.

Kitten’s Summer by Eugenie Fernandes.  Kids Can Press

Librarians run around like crazy people whenever the seasons change, trying to get their hands on all things seasonal for patrons.  Eugenie Fernandes’ Kitten books are my hands-down faves for the circling of the planet and my review for Kitten’s Autumn explains why. Kitten’s Winter will be coming out in September.  Kitten’s Spring is available now.  The set is complete in 2011!

Ones and Twos by Marthe Jocelyn.  Illustrations by Nell Jocelyn.  Tundra Books.

What would this country do without Marthe Jocelyn?  Probably curl up and die, that’s what.  From simple concept books to middle grade to YA, this woman can do it all.  This book is brilliant because it doesn’t take the ol’ one to ten approach to counting.  It focuses on finding pairs and the combinations are so vibrant and dear.  I especially like “One sings, two talk” which matches the cover illustration.  This book is illustrated by Marthe’s daughter, Nell Jocelyn, and her bright, busy collages are Uh.  Maze.  Ing.

Pussycat, Pussycat Where Have You Been? by Dan Bar-el.  Illustrations by Rae Maté.  Simply Read Books.

When a Canadian picturebook gets mentioned in the New York Times, it is a big dang deal. And this book deserves it. Bar-el’s continuation of the classic nursery rhyme is just divine.  The perfect gift for a person who has just entered the world.

What Are You Doing? by Elisa Amado.  Illustrations by Manuel Monroy.  Groundwood.

This book shows children all the amazing things they will get to do when they learn to read – from enjoying comics to understanding hieroglyphics!  It’s great.  But don’t take my word for it.  Listen to Sarah Ellis.

Predicted Favourite: A Few Blocks by Cybele Young.  Groundwood.

Okay, this one just came out about three weeks ago and it hasn’t come in at the library yet.  But the reviews have been fantastic (not surprising since everything that Groundwood cooks up is generally fantastic) and I can’t wait to get my paws on it.

Yankee Doodles


My Baby Blue Jays by John Berendt.  Viking.

Author John Berendt was lucky enough to have a pair of baby blue jays nest on his balcony and smart enough to take pictures of the whole thing!  This true story, accompanied by amazing photographs, details the building of the nest, the laying of the eggs, the hatching, the feeding and the first flight. Some of the photos are a bit blurry but I think this actually lends a realistic charm. A perfect choice for children growing up in urban settings.

Loon Baby by Molly Beth Griffin.  Illustrations by Anne Hunter.  Houghton Mifflin.

This book…this book!  There is no cuter lil’ baby in picture books this year; this little scrap of feathers reminds me a lot of Tango in Tango Makes Three.  He has such a scruffy little personality.  The story is a simple one of a baby worrying that his mother will not return, and the northern setting and lyrical language makes it a great bedtime or storytime read-aloud.  My favourite line ever: “The breeze ruffled his fluff.”  Perfection.

Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell.  Little, Brown.

I have a black little heart but this book actually made me cry.  At my desk.  AT WORK.  There is no better choice for encouraging a curious heart in a child.  This story of a young Jane Goodall and her stuffed chimpanzee (Jubilee) will stay with me forever.

Monday is One Day by Arthur A. Levine.  Illustrations by Julian Hector.  Scholastic.

I see so many working parents every day in the library and this book perceptively deals with the separation anxiety that children (and adults!) feel when the weekend comes to an end.  The rhyming text lists all the fun that the weekdays can bring;I particularly love “Friday’s last-tie day: Can you help me pick the one?”  I also can’t say enough about the illustrations which portray all kinds of families from all sorts of backgrounds.

Perfect Square by Michael Hall.  Greenwillow.

An artistic approach to the concept of shapes from the Shape Master, Michael Hall (My Heart is Like a Zoo).  Bonus points for lots of craft extension potential.

The Rain Train by Elena De Roo.  Illustrations by Brian Lovelock.  Candlewick.

Every library in Vancouver needs this book.  Better make that the entire Pacific Northwest.  It’s a triple threat as it’s got 1) the rain. Aka: all that ever happens in this region of the world 2) trains, 3) bedtime story potential.  Oh – and 4) STELLAR ONOMATOPOEIA! I’m talking “Ca-shish” and “Spitter-spat-spit” and “Ping-itta-pang.”  I can’t wait to read this one at a rainy day storytime.  Which is basically every storytime in the Vancouver area.

Roly-Poly Egg by Kali Stileman. Tiger Tales.

When it comes to illustrations alone, this one about a bird named Splotch may be my overall fave.  Splotch’s…well…splotchiness is so energizing and joyful and I love the added bonus of kids developing fine motor skills while tracing the path of the egg.  The big flaps at the end are also a nice touch.  This is another one begging for a Kindergarten class art project.

Tweak Tweak by Eve Bunting.  Illustrations by Sergio Ruzzier. Clarion.

A sweet cumulative story with a very classic feel.  Mama Elephant tells Little Elephant to tweak her tail twice if she has any questions.  Many tweaks later, Little Elephant has learned a bunch.  After reading this book once, I felt like I had known it my whole life.  Hard to put my finger on exactly what it is, but it’s a winner.  It also contains one of the most interesting alligator illustrations I’ve seen in awhile; he’s sort of chubby and docile.  Not like that hungry guy back in Alligator Bear Crab.

Plus One From the French

Would any Best Books of 2011 list be complete without this?  I mean, really.  As the kids call it in my library, it’s the “magic” book.

2 thoughts on “Canuck and Yankee Picturebooks: Best o’ the Best in 2011 (so far)”

  1. Wow! What an excellent writer you are! You make me want to rush out and get all these books, and I’m not even in the right demographic. Now I can’t wait for a book by Shannon.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s