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Okay well….it’s been a little while…but I haven’t forgotten you or this blog.

I swear!

I’ve thought of it often and have wanted to write but I am almost completely enthralled with my two girls and find it hard to tear myself
away for anything and truly it’s hard to find things more interesting than watching them.

I feel that this is such an important time for us to be together, such a tender time with these delicate moments of learning and loving
and learning to love.

During this time when their little brains are forming zillions of synapses and connections, I want them to be infused with compassion, empathy
and kindness. I want them to know unconditional love and spread it out in the world in prolific ways so that their lifetimes are filled with peace.

To coin a song you may know; I know that I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one.

Helping to shape these caring beings takes attached and nurturing parenting skills, patience and a whole whack of materials to
exemplify your point.

I am learning that you can only talk (preach?) so much to your kids before they tune you out for their world of fancy and fun. Better to
get into that world that to try and compete with it.

So when I flew into my local library and stumbled upon Bird Child by Nan Forler and illustrated by François Thisdale (ISBN: 9780887768941, Tundra Books, 2009) I
knew this was a tender tale perfect for this special time.

 

Cover Image Copyright@2009 Francois Thisdale

 

This is a beautiful tale about the difference that we can make to another’s life whether as a mother, as a friend or as another human
being.

Eliza is a “tiny bird-like girl” whose loving mother has nurtured her courage and ability to love from birth with a lovely ritual
encouraging her to ‘fly’ on her ‘wings’ and encourages her to dream.

Lainey is one of her new classmates who looks “feathered and frayed” but who draws the most beautiful pictures which capture Eliza’s
attention.

Unfortunately, Lainey also captures the attention of a bully who snatches her red hat from her head and buries it in the snow and then  mushes snow into her face  “wiping away what was left of the smile she’d had on her first day of school…”

Eliza is troubled by the bullying she witnesses is sad that she stood by like the other kids and didn’t do anything. Her shame and sadness
deepen when Lainey’s drawings become sad and cold.

When she tells her mother of the events of the day, her mother encourages her to think of what makes Lainey special and what she needs
to help her “fly” and when the bullying occurs again, Eliza is able to find her voice and speak up to the antagonist.

I love that this book is about so many things; bullying, friendship, the power of kindness and looking for the good in people. I also
love in this story that when Eliza steps up, others do too and stop the bully in his tracks. The need to stand tall against injustice is one that is
important to instill in children nowadays where apathy seems easier. That lesson is not lost on even the youngest soul.

Image from "Bird Child" Copyright@2009 Francois Thisdale

I love that this is a hopeful story and one that gives ample room through its dreamy illustrations for discussing the complexities of
emotions and the benefit. I love that this book is about so many things; bullying, friendship, the power of kindness and looking for the good in people.
I also love in this story that when Eliza steps up, others do too and stop the bullying in its tracks. That lesson is not lost on even the youngest soul.

I love that this is a hopeful story and one that gives ample room through its dreamy illustrations for discussing the complexities of
emotions and the benefit of being empathetic.  I love that Thisdale’s digitally re-worked images are of his own family in misty blues and calming greens

I cried when I first read this book, it was so…tender.

Nan Forler is a writer after my own heart. She’s a mother of young children, teacher and
writer. She wrote the beginnings of this book by the nightlight in the hall while her family slept nearby. This is my life (well, except for the teacher part).
This is how I live in those delicate moments I find.

I love that she says she “thinks in picture-book format” as a mother and teacher as I can certainly relate and
to be honest, it’s not a bad way to see the world.

Forler is also from Elmira which is Mennonite country and while I don’t think she’s of that background herself I do get a sense of that
peaceful way about her work.  Actually her next picture book Winterberries and Apple Blossoms: Reflections and Flavours of a Mennonite Life appear to
reflect this influence as well.

This is her first published work.

Thisdale is a Quebec artist that lives just outside of Montreal with his wife and daughter in quiet creative bliss. I love his multi-textured
illustrations and the lucid feeling to the drawings in this book.  He’s an artist and a musician and has composed soundtracks.

Check out his website for his work, it’s lyrically lovely and so magical they transport you away…from diapers and dishes the moment you look at them!

I think it’s amazing that they didn’t collaborate during the process of putting this book together as it’s so seamless and inspired.

So much so it was able to tear me away from my own sweet children….if only for a few moments.

SM

 

 

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We are well into our second week of our American sojourn in the Big-D and as part of my total vacation -assimilation plan (I’ve also taken to applying several more coats of mascara and using “y’all” as part of my general lexicon) I’ve chosen another Brooklyn-based book author/illustrator to celebrate (there really does seem to be a children’s book author hub there…)

Hey, I’m on vacation I can’t do a ton of research. My brain simply won’t allow it.

I really love the hilarious turnaround of Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown (ISBN: 97803160145486, Little Brown, 2010) and can’t help but think of the irony of it as I read it to my own children.

Cover Image Copyright@2010 Peter Brown

You see, like most young (ish) couples in love, my husband and I tried our hand at pets before we dared to foray into the world of children. It doesn’t take much grey matter to realize that most couples do this to test the waters and to test each other.

Neil came with a most loveable pit bull Harley and I got Harry the Hound soon after we got together. And we’ve cared for beta fish, hermit crabs and I can honestly say we did fairly well with the notable exception of the whole “baby frog rescue” debacle I tried to talk the hubby out of.

SIGH.

In this hilariously silly book, Lucy the tutu-wearing twirling bear is the “caretaker” and Squeaker is an adorable little J Crew-clad boy who is her “pet”. Despite her mother’s sage warnings that “children make terrible pets”, Lucy loves Squeaker and really tries to take care of him.

As you expected this leads to disastrous results because children really aren’t meant to be pets are they?

Spread from Book: Images and Text Copyright@2010 Peter Brown

I love the stylish retro-styled illustrations and the absurdity of the story. It’s a wonderful lesson for children (and husbands) on leaving nature where it belongs and the perils of loving their pets a little too much (it will help you to reduce the cringe-worthy squeezes and hugs to the little tyke’s hamster or the Bichon Frise) and a cleverly-veiled warning for parents on procreating (just kidding!)

Children will love the role-reversal of the human being the pet and the fun and colourful drawings and adult readers will chuckle and cluck with recognized satire and quite frankly Lucy’s mother’s penchant for pearls despite this being a no-top bear family!

Personally, I’ve loved Brown’s work from The Curious Garden and adore Chowder love any guy who illustrates his own image with a unibrow (he doesn’t have one in real life) on the book jacket. He’s so talented and his work so imagination-inspiring and really fun to read.

Peter Brown, Author/Illustrator

I also love that he was identified as a talented artist in school and encouraged by his educators towards art and shares this story (and some of his early artwork) with kids when he makes school presentations hoping it will inspire young fertile minds to pursue their passions.

Learn more about his life and work on his website and if anyone wants to get his immigration papers going I am TOTALLY behind you.

We’ll just have to be sure not to smother him. Wild frogs and bears can teach you some lessons.

SM

 

 

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Whenever I go travelling I try to get into what the locals are into, you know, “When in Rome” and all that so now that we are on a family trip to the U, S and A to visit my parents, I figured I could introduce you to some of America’s gifts to children’s literature.

On day two of our trip, Oma whisked Miss Mouse to her local library for a pre-school program of songs, crafts, stories and movement (see it’s really a learned behavior). She loves that stuff, it’s adorable to see and they were able to grab some great reads for bedtime and naptime so that we didn’t have to cart books with us (we already had to pay over-weight charges on our bag!)

Her new instant classic is a delightfully silly book called The Giant Meatball by Robert Weinstock (ISBN: 9780152055950, Harcourt, 2008) and I have to admit I look forward to reading it.

Cover Image Copyright@2008 Robert Weinstock

In this wonderfully absurd (well to adults anyway as to my daughter it makes complete sense) a narcissistic and vain giant pink meatball wrecks havoc on a snoozy little town, causing all sorts of chaos until the locals have enough.

I am enamoured with the words in this book, slightly silly, mostly high brow and the hilarious pictures.

I love that there is a diplomatic if slightly naïve mayor who tries to negotiate a peaceful coexistence of the provisional pest and the townsfolk and really believes that peace is possible (they should’ve got Hazel McCallion in there but I digress) and there are lovable local characters with clever names and jobs.

Plus, I love a completely satisfying ending….

This is a great tale to discuss bullying or anyone who loves all things Swedish!

Images & Text all Copyright@2008 Robert Weinstock

Another moral of this tale, that the world does not revolve around you, could not be more timely for a visit to the grandparents where I overhear conversations such as this:

OPA:  Emme, what’s my job?

EMME: To spoil Emme rotten!

OPA: You got it! Now where were those [insert treat item here]?

Weinstock is also probably the most likeable and self-deprecating American I have ever read about (at least according to his charmingly humble and hilarious bio on his fun website – how someone manages to insert the word lederhosen into their “About Me” section is downright impressive).

A graphic and web designer, former editor of children’s books and now author and illustrator I love that he admits to enjoying TV way more than books as a child and didn’t get into reading until way later in life (moral: don’t give up hope parents!) and that he describes himself as “boring”.

I find that rather hard to believe as I don’t think anyone such an imagination could be but what do I know, I’m just a Canadian!

And from what I overhear, from the inebriated college guys sitting behind us at the Stars vs. Leafs game on Friday night, Canada isn’t even part of the US!

Imagine my surprise! The things you learn when travelling abroad.

SM

PS. I just realized I have no category for stories about giant meat…food for thought?!

 

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I’ve just come out of a week-long fog caused by a nasty flu bug that has been circulating and am just beginning to feel (somewhat) normal.

Being saddled with the flu is like spending weeks planning for a party only to have that annoying neighbourhood kid show up and ruin everything. He wrecks all the games, eats all the cake and is the last one to leave! Kills the good time you were meant to have!

I still have the 1-900 number voice which I secretly think my husband hopes will linger but otherwise I am right as rain (whatever that means!)

As someone desperate to be a person who thinks in terms of silver linings, a good thing that happened while I was lost in sickness I got to be Lost on Brier Island by Jo Ann Yhard (ISBN: 9781551098197, Nimbus Publishing, 2011) too!

Cover Image Copyright@2011 Nimbus Publishing

I’ve been eager to read this latest offering from one of my most favourite East Coast writers for young people (we are totally like sisters, check out my interview with her last year to see what I mean!) but for obvious reasons haven’t been able to get to it.

Boy, am I glad I did!

In this book, fourteen-year-old Alex is sent to Brier Island to spend a summer with her Aunt Sophie following a horrible family tragedy. She doesn’t want to be there and scoffs at all the small-island-ness of it compared to her Halifax home.

But when she connects with a baby whale she calls Daredevil on a local whale-watching trip her perspective changes.  Alex finds that she begins to like the island’s quirky inhabitants and of course learning about whales and the ocean.

Besides she’s tired and confused by her parents bickering and needs to work some stuff out on her own. With the help of new friends and a connection to Daredevil, Alex finds just what she needs as she comes out of her own fog on Brier Island ( note: this is a clever little insert on my part as there is lots of fog on Brier Island and it totally factors into the story but that’s all I am saying.)

This was a great read, wholly engaging and so relatable for a young person who is dealing with loss in their lives.  It’s a story about carrying on and moving forward when you really don’t want to and how life can help you if you only let a little bit in.

This tale captures all that I adore of the Atlantic Provinces and the people there: death and hurt, stress and strife somehow becomes charming and uplifting and not in a patronizing way. It just somehow seems more palpable and honest.

Maybe it’s the rugged LONG winters, maybe it’s the land and the sea but these people know how to tell a story don’t they?

Yhard’s writing manages to be quite entertaining, warm and moving while dealing with some pretty complex human drama. I love that she doesn’t shy away from showing adult issues through the eyes of a teen and that healing can happen.

Her first novel, The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines came onto the Canadian kids’ book scene like gangbusters and this one will likely light it up too!

Fog-Lifter Jo Ann Yhard

What can I say Yhard’s awesome, especially as she has given me my new go-to word to avoid swearing in front of the kids: BOGS!

Since I am done spreading around my germs maybe I’ll try and infect others with that one…..you heard it here first!

Bogs!

SM

 

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Since starting this blog I’ve become synonymous with children’s books to my friends and family and I don’t mind it one bit (better than being the gecko lady or the weird clown collecting lady!)

And often I am asked for tips on great books and on getting kids into reading and doing it more.

I tell them that it’s like trying to get kids eating vegetables, sometimes you have to sneak it in to whet their appetite and then before you know it, your child is that broccoli-eating-book-devouring babe you’ve always dreamed of.

Despite my many other neuroses I don’t fret about my daughter eating enough fruits and veggies and about how much she gets in during one sitting, I try and focus on the long-term objective: helping her develop a healthy and balanced relationship with food (think somewhere in between Oprah Winfrey and Demi Moore Post-Ashton).

And I approach getting my child reading the same way and here are some of my tips that can help you too:

  • Be a reading role model: Simple stuff here, if your kids see you reading then they are more likely to become readers themselves. Don’t stress if you aren’t a literature buff, read magazines and newspapers or check out your local library for books on ANY topic the strikes your fancy. Read the latest tell-all from your favourite celebrity or sports hero, check out some gardening tips or hey, they even have books on geckos if you are into that.

 

  • Display, display, display: If real estate is all about location then encouraging reading is all about making your kids’ books accessible. Invest in some kid-friendly bookshelves ( I got these Imaginarium Book Sling ones for both upstairs and downstairs and it’s rekindled my daughters interest in reading again), keep a few here and there in the house in places where you often stop to perch or even in the car, you’ll be surprised at how much more reading you can do that way.

 

  • Read out loud: Sure it feels a little awkward at the beginning but after a while you get used to it and children love to hear the voices of those that love them even in the womb. It’s soothing and comforting. If you don’t believe me, check in the next time your partner is reading to your child. As you listen, your breathing will slow down and so will your heart rate. Plus, all that practice will help you master your voice for your next work presentation!

 

  • Opt for a book even when TV will do: Yes, television is really useful for distracting our kids and I’m not above the use of a strategic movie to give me a little break when I need one but when I know that my daughter needs a little extra entertaining (while eating her lunch, during long car rides or while waiting in a line), I forgo the Netflix and pull out a book and sometimes turn up the acting! Not only does it get her eating far more of her food than a beloved show ever would, it also sneaks in some extra reading time! You don’t always need Disney, books with flaps to open or pieces to move can be just as exciting!

 

  • No books, no problem:Say you are out with the wee ones and someone has a breakdown because she needs a nap or a snack (and it isn’t you!) Don’t even bother rooting around in that overflowing mammoth you call a diaper bag for a book  just read signs. Read the poster outside of the Gap and draw attention to the large Manchu Wok menu. Read street signs and ads on the bus stops and try to find the letters in the alphabet in order or with older kids try and find funny words and for Pete’s sake try and make it fu

 

  • Make reading a ritual:Including books part of a ritual, like winding down for sleep, going on the potty or waiting for Daddy to come home. I try to associate books with good things as much as possible. Like with brussel sprouts and peas, making them into a smiley face on the plate or pairing them with yummy cheesy: we all know that positive association works way better than forcing them to eat it!

 

  • Keeping Offering: Experts suggest that a new food may take up to introductions to a toddler before they decide they like it!  The moral of the story: if at first they don’t seem to like it (beans or books) try, try again!

 

Proof I practice what I preach (I'm even willing to share the puffy post-partum pic! :)

Happy eating and reading (maybe even together?!)

SM

 

 

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As the new baby dust settles I find I have a tad more time to write my blog.

Having two is like increasing your child quotient exponentially. Really, it’s like having 4 especially at the beginning.

Even in these first few months I have noticed a distinct sibling pattern emerge between my girls. Thankfully Miss Mouse adores “her baby” with a sincere love and affection that warms a mother’s heart even if her love is a bit on the rough side at times. And as Quincey grows in awareness and ability it’s very obvious she has a unique adoration for her sister that no parent could ever hope to get.

As I watch the two laugh and play together, hug and coo, I silently pray with all my heart that they become friends and take care of one another as the grow up.

Perhaps I am just sensitive to sister sibling issues as I’ve always had a tenuous and now estranged relationship with my own but I have been devouring books and knowledge about how to help my two lovelies build a healthy bond which I never had.  

My research has concluded that no one set of factors can predict which siblings will remain friends. Birth order, difference in ages or sexes, parenting style or personalities, none of this can accurately determine who will fuse and which will fight like alley cats.

I’ve also learned that while they can’t make their kids like each other parents can certainly guide their children in develop healthy relationship skills that benefit ALL their relationships.

I’ve also been assured that every sibling set will fight and each will want to feel special and unique in their parents’ love.

Sometimes through fate, parenting prowess or personality alignments, they just click like my niece and nephew. Despite their 6 year age gap and occasional squabble, they maintain such a lovely bond it gives me such hope for my own brood.

I thought immediately of them when I read A Few Blocks by Cybèle Young (ISBN: 978088899995, Groundwood Books, 2011) and fell in love with the beautiful sibling story as it gave me a world of hope!

Cover Image Copyright@2011 Cybèle Young

In this modern picture book, older sis Viola helps Ferdie make his way to school by creating imaginative games for them to play on their way.  And when Viola’s will fail her, its Ferdinand who helps her make it all the way there!

I love that Viola meets her brother’s reluctance with creativity, making a mundane event magical.

I really love that the illustrations in this book are simple black and white images until the two siblings launch into their imagination and then it becomes a colourful cut-out world of infinite possibilities.

There are many things compelling about this new book, the characters are sweet, the story original and showcases a great brother-sister relationship.

Young’s illustrations are lovely and no wonder this first-time children’s author is an award-winning artist whose exquisite paper sculpture (a technique used in this book for the illustrations) has been shown internationally.

She’s also been nominated for the Governor General’s Award for illustration for Pa’s Harvest by Jan Andrews and has also illustrated Jack Pine by Christopher Patton.

 

Cybèle Young and her art

Young lives with her family in Toronto and if you are intrigued by the visual, you can see her and her family next month as they are featured in the coolest new home décor magazine ever Covet Garden.  

I can’t wait to see her home studio space that allows her to create her gorgeous art!

A Few Blocks is a magnificent reminder that sometimes the adventure and awe of childhood can only be shared with a brother or sister.

SM

 

 

 

 

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I’m astounded that I am astounded that, in fact, having another baby means I have less time to blog and not more!

This new baby makes me busier than I ever have been (who knew?) and at times the number of chores and tasks seems to have doubled as if I had 4 kids instead of 2!

But if the work has increased exponentially, then so has the joy, fun and love.

Sometimes when I look at my new daughter I feel as if the universe has cracked open once more and let pure magic flood into my life. (For the musical interpretation of this particular feeling please listen here!)

And I was so touched and thrilled when Trish from Groundwood Books sent me a lovely board book that seemed to capture it all in print form:  This New Baby by Teddy Jam and illustrated by Virginia Johnson (ISBN: 978155498088, Groundwood Books, 2011).

This just-re-released delight remains the perfect book for my own little doe-eyed active Quincey with its gorgeous watercolour illustrations and lovely lyrical text, it as gentle as it is powerful!

An artfully displayed portrait of "This New Baby" from Virginia Johnson's blog

I love the work of Matisse and these fresh images by textile-designer Johnson evoke the type of feelings I always get when experiencing abstract art – an engaged calmness and isn’t that a state of mind we all are seeking? Her art makes this 1998 classic fresh & new again!

I also love the simple poetic text which really captures the wonder and other-worldliness of a Mother caring for her infant through the night. Night time is a magical time with an infant. It’s surreal and despite what others may tell you – a sweet time in bonding despite the whole lack-of-sleep thing.

And with all those new synapses beginning to form in the newborn brain it’s best to introduce your baby as early as possible to the creative joys of poetry and art. Delight your own baby with a bedtime story as soothing and sublime as this one!

For me this was also a timely companion, a reminder of what is so mysterious, blissful and unique about our own new little baby. Sometimes there is the urge to compare our babies and while you find similarities, more often than not you realize already they are so different.

Teddy Jam was the pseudonym for author Matt Cohen (See Facebook friends, I’m not the only one!) who is the author of some wonderful children’s books including The Year of Fire, The Kid Line and The Fishing Summer and also the author of adult fiction under his real name. His final novel, Elizabeth and After, won the 1999 Governor General’s Award for English-language Fiction only a few weeks before his death.

He had been nominated twice previously, but had not won, in 1979 for The Sweet Second Summer of Kitty Malone and in 1997 for Last Seen.

Cohen/Jam was also nominated for a Governor General’s Award for children’s literature in 1997, making him one of the few writers ever to be nominated for the GG Award in two different categories in the same year, although it was unbeknownst to many as his pseudonym was only revealed after his death.

Johnson is a super-successful Canadian (woot woot!) textile designer who has attended Parsons and worked with designers  such as Helmut Lang and Kate Spade. She first paints her unique colourful designs in watercolours before they are silkscreened onto to-die-for fabrics. Seriously, her pillows could inspire a whole living room re-do so check out her website very carefully!

This is her first children’s book illustration and hopefully not her last!

This New Baby is a must-have for the nursery shelf and for those tender night nursings and as I can attest, a wonderful gift for a new second (or third or fourth) baby!

SM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My latest Labour Day weekend was filled with an eclectic group of activities and people.

It started with art and followed by an impromptu picnic in a downtown Toronto Park. We saw family and friends we didn’t expect to see this weekend and tasted epicurean delights that created wonderful taste sensations in the mouth and in the psyche.

I love the eclectic and like to fancy myself as a purveyor of diverse tastes and interests so I love compilation books for kids (yes I was also a big fan of the mixed tape with scotch tape strategically placed on each end to tape again and again!)

So when I happened upon Learn & Play with First Nations & Native Art (ISBN: 9781554761814) by Native Elements (an imprint of Native Northwest), 2010, I almost had a multifarious conniption!

As a lover of Native art, I was struck by the gorgeous images introducing themes of playing, shapes, counting, matching and logic in this board book.

It’s a stunner with its beautifully laid-out images by a whole host of contemporary Native artists (there is really no way to name them all during this brief repose I have to write during naptime!) from Ojibway to Haida and from Cree to Coast Salish. I love the use of modern colours and lots of animal images (the kids love those!)

Native Northwest, has been working exclusively with native artists to make apparel and household objects for 20 years and from many requests from early child centers and educators for First Nations books and related material they realized that there was a gap and felt compelled to take this on with passion.

Owner Larry Garfinkel has said “Our social purpose has evolved into providing First Nations children with reading and learning materials that are culturally connected and affirming. We also would like to enhance non-First Nations children to learn about the rich culture that thrives around them.”

This book is like new Angelina Jolie….striking, smart and hip on the outside but with a whole host of moral do-goodness wrapped up in the inside (let’s just leave the husband-stealing and children-collecting aside for now shall we?) Not only is this series including other titles such as Learn the Alphabet, Learn the Colours and Learn to Count exposing children to First Nations art and culture, partial proceeds of this book are earmarked for aboriginal early development and support Canadian artists AND the book itself is printed on 100% recycled paper with soy-based ink and water-based coating!

Really and truly it doesn’t get much better than this!

SM

 

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I have a theory that the world is a place of light and the dark only exists to remind us of what an abundantly beautiful world we live in. Like a game of peek-a-boo teaches babies about the idea of permanence; disease, death, sickness, trial and tribulation exist to make us stop and take stock of what we have and who we love.

We get accustomed to the light and therefore it looks a little dimmer. It’s why we have night, so we can recognize morning.

This is some heady stuff for children to absorb so we present these fables in fairy tales, giving them the taste of the grim in fantasy so they aren’t overwhelmed in reality.

The truth is many of us “adults” don’t really appreciate the darkness and how it snaps us out of our funk and back to the fantastic. Sometimes I think it’s like we want to teach our children that there are no bad things out there and shelter them for as long as we can.

I’ll put my hand up and say: “Guilty!”

I want everything in my daughters lives to be bright and so when I bought the book Singing Away the Dark by Caroline Woodward and illustrated by Julie Morstad (ISBN: 9781897476413, Simply Read Books, 2010) as an intriguing and indie published book, I didn’t dream of reading it to my kids.

Cover image Copyright@2010 Julie Morstad

I didn’t want to read them a story about a little girl walking ALONE miles in the snow and dark to get to school! I mean HELLOOOOOO! She’s six!

What about child abductors and hidden snow banks that would swallow unsuspecting little children whole? What about those teenagers with bangs that cover their eyes, clad in baggy clothes and black eyeliner that steal their parents Peach Schnapps and drink it unceremoniously in the woods until dawn where they run into a little girl on the way to school?

Yes, I am the same writer who said that I truly believe the world is good and bright and beautiful but I am a mother now and I do unfortunately watch the news, so I am a teeny bit paranoid about my OWN girls!

But the beautiful thing about my theory is that it works. I read this book, to my children, and my two-year-old absolutely adored it (my 2-month-old didn’t really comment)!

She loved the simplicity of the story and the spookiness of the shadows in the woods. I feel like she could feel the biting crispness of a winter’s morning and the magic of singing your fears away. Miss Mouse loved the rhyming text and the spooky silhouettes.

Image Copyright@2010 Julie Morstad

I love that this story is a memory (and that it involves no Amber alerts, ruffians or unruly teenagers) and that the little girl is able to find a positive way to face her fears and I adore that.

Singing Away the Dark was inspired by Woodward’s own first years of going to school, walking the mile from her home to where she would catch the bus. I can’t imagine attending a two-room school in as she did not do nor can I envision having to move into a dormitory to complete high school. I’m sure she’s thankful she did as that’s where her writing career began, writing a weekly column for the Alaska Highway News.

Since then Woodward has lived many lives in one as author of fiction for adults and children, a poet, a mother, a former bookseller, world traveller, publisher and a lighthouse assistant (and this is just some of her accomplishments).

Learn more about her from her website, you will be as amazed as I was!

Morstad’s darling illustrations keep the writer delightfully in the past with their old-time charms and simple lines. I love the two round circles on the cheeks and the watercolour images. I really want to purchase one of her gorgeous prints “How to Make a Kite” from her shop off her website.

This burst of light would brighten any bookshelf and save you the trouble of making up your own “I walked a mile to school in the snow….” stories!

SM

 

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Where have 10 weeks gone? Our little Q-bug is now a 2-month-old and I have been enjoying an extended babymoon, ignoring almost everything else but my precious girl!

I’ve always loved that term used to describe the period of time after a baby in born where mom and baby spend hours can’t get enough of one another and spent all their waking hours, staring into each other’s eyes, touching, cuddling and studying each other’s face.

Sounds like the first weeks and months of falling in love doesn’t it?

Well it is falling in love – in no coincidence that the same hormonal cocktail that occurs in the first few weeks and months of romantic love are the same ones there when a baby comes into this world.

It leaves only one rational conclusion to a most irrational set of feelings: humans are designed to love and to bond with one another.

It’s why we write about it, sing about it, dream about it and it’s precisely why we come out of the womb with the most intense need to be with that one special person who can fulfill all our needs and wants (which in a newborn are one and the same!)

Perhaps it’s the presence of emotion-inducing coursing through my body right now but man I am loving love right now and particularly when it comes to introducing those concepts to children in literature which is why I am head-over-heels for Dear Sylvia by Alan Cumyn (ISBN:9780888998484, Groundwood Books, 2008).

Cover image copyright@2008 Groundwood Books

In this this third and final book in the Owen Skye/Sylvia Tull series, Owen diligently if not incorrectly writes letters to his love Sylvia who has moved to a neighbouring town. Despite his awful spelling and feelings of doubt, our young Romeo leaves nothing out in his bid to win this girl’s heart and through his letters (not yet sent) we are taken through a whirlwind of family drama and upheaval, sibling antics and Scottish dancing, all in the name of love.

There are very few books (in my humble opinion) that could appeal to both young readers and adults in such an honest way and this was one of them. Kids will relate to Owen’s blossoming romantic feelings, confusion about his parents and even his atrocious (and often hilarious) spelling while as an adult I laughed out loud at Owen’s take on the odd behaviour of his parents and clearly enjoyed the nuances that were there waiting for me to read.

I also think this would be a great book for boys (as Owen’s journey into his feelings are cunningly concealed in a hilarious story) or a reluctant reader (as the letter format is just so readable and doesn’t seem so intimidating when sizing up his novel).

Speaking on that, I also love when books for kids are written in a way young minds can understand with imbedded nuances their parents can enjoy. I chuckled often while reading this book as only one can with the corrupted mind of experience can laugh.

Cumyn expertly writes inter-generationally and his two previous works for children, The Secret Life of Owen Skye and After Sylvia have received much acclaim and recognition. His writing seems as dynamic as his own life.

Image of Alan Cumyn by Danielle Shaub

He studied at Royal Roads Military College in 1983, and Queen’s University before earning an M.A. in Creative Writing and English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has lived across Canada and in China and Indonesia, and worked variously as a geologist’s assistant, group home manager, tai chi instructor, English teacher, program officer in international development, human rights researcher and freelance writer.

Cumyn was also a past chair of the Writers in Prison Committee of PEN Canada and the Writer’s Union of Canada, he also teaches part-time through the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

He now lives in Ottawa with his wife, writer Suzanne Evans and their two daughters. Check out more about his work on his website.

Want to fall in love? Get this book!

SM

 

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