Sunday, October 28, 2012

Apples and Butterflies: A Poem for Prince Edward Island, by Shauntay Grant (illustrated by Tamara Thiebaux-Heikalo)

Apples and Butterflies:

A Poem for Prince Edward Island
Author: Shauntay Grant
Illustrator: Tamara Thiebaux-Heikalo
Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
Publication Date: October 5, 2012

It's the cold days of fall in the Maritimes ("my dad has bagged up all the leaves / a shadow hides the place I call home") and a young girl is reminiscing about her family's vacation in Prince Edward Island, remembering all the sights, sounds and smells of the island in the late summer and early fall. From butterflies to apple picking, sandcastles to books by the campfire, she uses the memories of her family's trip to keep her warm as the weather grows colder. Told in Shauntay Grant's rich poetic style, Apples and Butterflies is a love letter to those every day moments of childhood that stay in our memories forever.

I want to go where there are no alarm clocks
and no chores
only time
lots and lots of time

I just want to breathe
breathe air that tastes like apples:

I was lucky enough to go to the Halifax book launch for this book, with live performances by Shauntay Grant and musical guests including Verena Rizg (who appeared--in illustrated form--in Shauntay's previous book, The City Speaks in Drums). Shauntay talked about how this book was inspired by real trips her family took to PEI, as well as by moments of "everyday magic" that her parents created for her throughout her childhood. 

The illustrations are rich and detailed but also whimsical and fantastical. The sun smiles down on the family walking along the beach, the colours of the sky swirl together like cinnamon rolls, and the little girl's magenta scarf twists and twirls for miles around her. Gorgeous!

For photos from the book launch on October 25, 2012, in Halifax, NS, head over to Cozy Little Book Journal!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Live near Halifax, Nova Scotia? Come see Shauntay Grant!

Do you live near Halifax, Nova Scotia? Come to the book launch of Shauntay Grant's latest book for children, Apples and Butterflies! The event is Thursday, October 25 (that's tomorrow!) at 6:30pm at the Halifax North Memorial Library at 2285 Gottingen Street in Halifax. 

Shauntay will be reading from her new book with musical accompaniment, plus there will be refreshments and, of course, the opportunity buy her wonderful new book!
From the Facebook event for the book launch:
Join Shauntay for a performance with musical accompaniment, refreshments, and her wonderful book!
Apples and Butterflies is a gentle, lyrical poem about a family's autumn vacation and shows Prince Edward Island in a light we don't often see --the bright blue and orange light of fall. Tamara Thiébaux-Heikalo's rich and wild illustrations build a narrative with the text, showing us the family beachcombing, flying kites, and picking apples. Shauntay Grant's award-winning poetry makes the reader long to go with her, and conveys the wide-open space of the island, where you can

breathe air that tastes like apples:
ripeand ready for picking.

Shauntay Grant is an award-winning writer, spoken word performer, broadcast journalist, and musician. She is Halifax's third poet laureate (2009–2010) and the author of The City Speaks in Drums and Up Home, which won the 2008 Atlantic Book Award for Best Atlantic Published Book. Shauntay lives in Halifax.

Shauntay Grant is the author of two previous books for children, Up Home and The City Speaks in Drums, both of which are favourites of my daughter, Magda. We'll be posting reviews of all three books very soon!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Happy Hector (A Tilly and Friends Book), by Polly Dunbar

Hector the pig was spending time with his friend Tilly. He was the happiest he had ever been. Then all the other friends started coming in and asking Tilly to play too, until there was no room for Hector. Then he was the unhappiest he had ever been. Luckily Tilly and her friends know just how to cheer him up.

Happy Hector is exactly what a masterful book for young children looks like. The words may be minimal, but they are carefully chosen and thoughtfully arranged, and the illustrations show so much even though they are so simple. I can't say enough good things about this series!

Doodle Bites (A Tilly and Friends Book), by Polly Dunbar

Doodle woke up feeling bitey. Unfortunately her friends don't like it when she starts biting them! This delightful Tilly and Friends book by Polly Dunbar may be about a crocodile, an elephant, a pig and a bird, but it's a story many a toddler can relate to. It's no fun to be bitten or hit, but sometimes your friends just wake up feeling bitey!

I especially love how the characters work together to resolve the conflict and all remain friends.

Pretty Pru (A Tilly and Friends Book), by Polly Dunbar

Pru is a chicken. A fancy chicken. A VERY fancy chicken. She wears makeup and jewellery and bows on her head, and soon all her friends want to play dress up just like Pru.

Polly Dunbar said in an interview that her inspiration for this character came from how funny she thought it would be to have a chicken wearing lipstick because, well, chickens don't have lips.

What I especially like about Pru is that even though she loves makeup and dressing up in fancy things, she's also one of the most responsible of the friends. If someone gets hurt, Pru is the one to get the first aid kit and bandage everybody up or give them kisses. I like to imagine that Pru's personality is how a child would imagine a teenager to be.

Where's Tumpty? (A Tilly and Friends Book), by Polly Dunbar

Tumpty the Elephant is trying to play hide-and-seek with his friends. He's tried hiding by closing his eyes, by putting a box over his head, even by doing a handstand while closing his eyes. But nothing seems to work--everyone can STILL see him! 

This book reminds me of my own childhood when my best friend and I would try to hide from each other and, if all else failed, we'd close our eyes. It also gives a little more insight into the world of Tilly and her animal friends. If you look closely you can see toys on the shelves that look like the characters: a stuffed toy that looks like it could be a pink pig like Hector, a yellow wooden bird that could be the inspiration for Pru, and even a blue couch that looks suspiciously like Tumpty. Polly Dunbar's outstanding series blends perfectly the reality of children's toys with the imaginary world children create for them. She's the A.A. Milne of our time. 

Goodnight, Tiptoe (A Tilly and Friends Book), by Polly Dunbar

It's bedtime in the little yellow house. Tilly has tucked Hector in, helped Doodle brush her teeth, given Tumpty his bath and helped Pru put her curlers in. Everyone but tiptoe. He's wide awake!

This is one of Magda's favourite in the series. Actually her dad and I love it too! It's adorable and I love seeing the characters' nighttime routine.

Hello Tilly (A Tilly and Friends Book), by Polly Dunbar

Tilly is a little girl who lives with her five friends in a little yellow house. They are: a crocodile named Doodle, a rabbit named Tiptoe, a pig named Hector, an elephant named Tumpty and a chicken named Pru. I love these books by Polly Dunbar! I can easily imagine Tilly's friends being the various stuffed toys she has in her room, brought to life by her own imagination. In fact, at the beginning and end of this story, Tilly is reading a little yellow book that looks suspiciously like the little yellow house where all her friends are meant to live. It's like The Matrix for the "under five" set.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Shakespeare on Toast: Getting a Taste for the Bard, by Ben Crystal

Shakespeare on Toast:
Getting a Taste for the Bard
Author: Ben Crystal
Publisher: Icon Books
Publication Date: September 11, 2012
FUN! That's the best way to describe the experience of reading Ben Crystal's Shakespeare on Toast. The author's goal was to make Shakespeare more accessible to readers of all ages who may be reluctant to take on the bard. I'm sure there are a million other books with that goal in mind and I'm certainly not able to provide a comparison of all the other books on the subject, nor can I say which ones I would or would not recommend. What I can say is that I would definitely recommend this one. The only thing that kept me from reading it all in one sitting is that I kept getting up to share what I'd learned with my partner (who is a secondary school English and history teacher and was eager to listen to all of my interruptions...thanks Mike!).

I'm actually planning to start a new project next year called "Shakespeare in a Year" in which I attempt to read all of Shakespeare's plays in a year (or at least before I'm forty, which is more than a year but less than five). I've been rather intimidated by the entire prospect and have been avoiding it at every turn. But this book actually helped. I think I can do it now!

Hit the jump to read some to the cool facts I learned!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Duck & Goose: Goose Needs a Hug, by Tad Hills

Goose is feeling sad and he needs a hug. His friends are all too willing to help cheer him up: with happy songs, splashing in puddles, even standing on their heads. The only thing they forget to do is actually listen to Goose. All he really needs is a hug!

This is a very cute and simple book that will appeal to very young children. And we all need a hug sometimes!

Keep reading for more pictures from the book and Magda's take!

Ribbit! by Rodrigo Folgueira (illustrated by Poly Bernatene)

There is a little pink pig sitting on a log, saying "Ribbit" of all things. What does he want? all the frogs are wondering. As the various forest animals debate the meaning of this strange event, the little pig waits there patiently, saying "Ribbit." Finally they must call in the wise old beetle to make sense of it all.

The book is--and I know I say this far too much--utterly charming. I especially love the expressions on the frogs' faces as they get more and more upset and confused by the ribbitting pig. So cute!

Keep reading for more pictures from the book and Magda's take!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tilly and Friends series, by Polly Dunbar

Our current book obsession around here is the Tilly and Friends series of books, by Polly Dunbar. They are fantastic and amazing and Magda (as well as her dad and I) could re-read them a hundred times a day. Tilly is a little girl who lives in a little yellow house with her five friends--a crocodile named Doodle, a pink pig named Hector, an elephant named Tumpty, a dancing rabbit named Tiptoe and a very fancy chicken named Pru. The books have simple language and whimsical illustrations that are sure to delight even very young children.

Stay tuned for reviews of each of the six books in the series! In the meantime, check out Magda's homemade Tilly and Friends collection that she made with her dolls and puppets.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Share the Bounty Finding God's Grace through the Spirit of Hospitality, by Benita Long (with Susan Wilson, Ann Mitchell, Sammy Anderson and Steve Wingfield)

When I first opened Share the Bounty I gasped. It's beautiful. It's as much a coffee table book as it is a cookbook, with beautifully photographed recipes interspersed with images of wholesome farm life and drool-worthy home decor ideas that could have come from any number of design magazines or Pinterest boards. It's a book I could pore over for days on end, that I could (and will) leave out for my guests to look at, perhaps at a dinner party inspired by the book.

These are the sorts of cookbooks I truly love. With every recipe imaginable readily available with the click of a mouse, I don't have as much use for the strictly utilitarian cookbooks as I once did. In college I made full use of my dog-eared and heavily annotated how-to guides to help me make the perfect vegetarian chili or four-ingredient apple tarts. But today, with internet access everywhere I go and many years of "learning the basics" behind me, what I really want is inspiration. I want a cookbook that makes me gasp.