A New Day

Title: A New Day
Author: Brad Meltzer
Illustrator: The one and only Dan Santat!
Published By: Dial Books, 2021

Before the review, first a disclaimer:

I know I review a LOT of Dan Santat’s work on here, and maybe I should just rename the whole blog “Jess Reviews a Dan Santat Book,” but I couldn’t very well NOT review his latest picture book, right?

Right.

So I’m going to!

I saw A New Day was out (I think I read about it on Twitter. (Slight side note: I follow a whole ton of artists/illustrators/publishers on Twitter, but have fewer than 30 followers myself. BUT within that 30, I have several well-known artist/illustrators following me. So that’s nice!) As soon as I know about a Dan Santat creation, I must own it. So I ordered it (and a few other books so it wouldn’t be lonely in transit).

And then it arrived (cue the chorus of angels).

There are several things I really love about this book. But I want to talk at length about the most significant one: it doesn’t follow ANY of the ‘well-known’ picture book writing conventions. Which are:

  1. Your manuscript must be no more than 32 pages long or your book will explode. Amazon pegs this one at 48 pages. 48 glorious pages in which to tell a story. (More angels singing).
  2. Less is more. Write less, kids will like it more. Now, look, there are TONS of picture books where minimal text works really well. It just always bugs me (as a soon-to-be published author) that you’re expected to tell your story in the tightest way possible. This book does NOT do that, and that’s refreshing.
  3. Look and see what other books are on the market that are like your book. And DON’T say yours is unique, because there’s got to be SOMETHING like it out there. Okay, but what if mine IS unique? Like, say, A New Day? I’ve never read anything like this, and I’m not sure what you might compare it to. A LOT of publishers/agents want you to tell them what your book resembles in your cover letter, but what if it REALLY is one-of-a-kind?
  4. Don’t have too many characters. Kids can’t keep track of a big cast. This book has seven main characters and a TON of side characters. There are always a LOT of people/animals/personified days of the week on each page.
  5. Make sure the vocabulary and concept are young enough for your audience. Well, sure. But also, this book talks about Sanskrit, Elbridge Gerry, and herrings. So…maybe this rule doesn’t really count either.

I think the fact that Brad Meltzer literally broke ALL the rules for this book makes me like it even more. Sometimes (again, as a writer speaking here), I get a little down when it comes to trimming ALL of the flowery language from a manuscript. I get that picture books are more poetry than prose (generally), but sometimes (just sometimes) the cuts feel too deep. It feels like whoever edited this book just let Brad Meltzer WRITE. Yay!

So what’s it about? Okay, here’s a quick overview:

Sunday is tired of being taken for granted, so she quits. Then the days of the week have to replace her by auditioning others to be the new day.

The new days that audition run the gamut from “Fun Day” all the way to “FirepolesSlidingIntoPoolsofCottonCandyDay.” The book builds from simple ideas all the way to a fever pitch of auditions. Then, just when it seems no day will be suitable (though Lily was quite partial to “Caturday”), Sunday gets thanked and returns to work.

Whew. That was a close one.

The writing is funny and silly and the pictures are, well, perfection of course.

Of course, Dan Santat could illustrate a refrigerator repair booklet and I’d review it and love it, so…you know, I’m a bit biased.

If you’re looking for something to entertain your kids, keep them laughing and break up the monotony of this ongoing nightmare of a pandemic, please get this book. You will giggle at the absurdity, laugh at the weirdness and, just for a moment, forget what’s happening in the world outside.

Mama’s review: 5 cotton candy pools/5

Lily’s review: Every day is Caturday!

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

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Title: The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade
Author: Justin Roberts
Illustrator: Christian Robinson
Published By: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014

You guys, this has been a tough year. When I say ‘year,’ I mean ‘365 days.’ Not 2020, not 2021…a full on 12-month-time-period. We’ve been…well, mainly at home. During the summer, we had a bit of a reprieve, but then September came and things started to go pear-shaped. Karl and I talked about whether or not to send the kids back to school this year, and ultimately decided that homeschooling them was the best idea for our family. I have a background in primary/junior education, so I’m relatively qualified.

Anyway, all that said: when I read The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade, I felt nostalgic. Super nostalgic. Look at all those kids at school! You can see their little faces. They seem so carefree. We’ll get back to that, I know. At some point, I have faith. It’s just…it’s been such a long time since we’ve had that experience.

But heck, you didn’t come here to read about my pining for the pre-COVID-world. You came here for a book review…and review I shall!

You probably know how much I love Christian Robinson and his awesome illustrating skills. You Matter is one of my current favourite picture books (if you haven’t checked it out, you need to do that now). I asked for The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade for Christmas because it was illustrated by Mr. Robinson. I’m collecting his work, book by book.

So, let’s start with the art: it’s great, as per usual. Here’s what I love most:

  1. The kids are incredibly diverse. When I was a kid (eighty-five-billion years ago, according to my kids), I went to school in Scarborough (now part of Toronto). My school looked like the school in the book. When I was a child, I realized that picture books in the library didn’t feature kids that looked like my friends. I’m so glad that’s changing.
  2. The art is colourful and the colours are vibrant. Most of the backgrounds are white, and that lets the colours pop and stand out.
  3. I just adore Christian Robinson’s style. It’s simple and effective and gorgeous.

Now, the text. I honestly had never heard of Julian Roberts before this, although according to the jacket copy, he’s a star in the family-music genre. I’m guessing it’s because of his song-writing skills that he decided to go with a rhyming text. I have mixed feelings about this choice.

On one hand, there are some solid rhymes and clever lines. On the other hand, sometimes I felt the meter was a bit off.

I liked the overall message of the story: one kid can make a big difference. I do have a bit of trouble with Sally seeing situations of bullying and not helping/alerting an adult, but…I also recognize that’s a really big ask of a really small person.

So, overall I’m going to give this one a 4/5. I loved the art and liked the text. It’s a solid book.

Next time: I promise, more cheery and less dreary.

Stargazing with Guest Blogger, Vivi!

See the source image

Title: Stargazing
Author: Jen Wang
Published By: First Second, 2019

Hello, Vivi! Welcome to the ol’ blog. Thanks for agreeing to help me out and be a guest blogger. Today, we are going to discuss the last graphic novel you finished. Stargazing by Jen Wang.

First, what was your overall impression of the book?

V: I thought it was amazing! The author didn’t leave out anything. You really got to know the characters. I think it was one of the best books I ever read.

J: Which character did you like the best?

V: I really liked Christine and Moon. I liked Christine because she was a really sweet girl. It seemed like she had a really good life. I liked Moon because she was a very funny character and she wasn’t afraid to stand up to bullies.

J: Do you think it’s realistic that two characters that are so different would be friends?

V: Yes, I do.

J: Why?

V:  I think anyone can become friends.

J: What was your favourite part of the book? (I liked the part where Moon punched the little kid. I know, I know. I’m not supposed to say that. But, realistically, we’ve all known a kid like Gabriel. I’m not saying a punch in the face is the right way to go, but I’m glad Moon followed her heart.)

V: Well, I sort of agree with you on that one.

J: What part of the book made you feel things or worry?

V: When they found Moon’s brain tumor. Moon had to go to the hospital, and she was one of my favourite characters. I was worried something bad would happen to her.

J: What did you think of the ending?

V: I think the ending was perfect, because it establishes that Moon gets better, and that she and Christine are going to stay friends.

J: What did you think about the part about angels and everything?

V: I think that made Moon feel special. I think she was upset when she lost that ability.

J: What did you think of the art?

V: It was beautiful. It was one of the best parts of the book. It was detailed, it was colourful. I loved it!

J: Who do you think this book is for?

V: Probably nine, ten and eleven year olds. Tweens.

J: Do you have anything else you want to say about the book?

V: My favourite author (Raina Telgemeier) put a comment on the cover. That made me want to read it, for sure.

J: Thank you for your feedback, Vivi! You’re a great guest blogger. What shall we review next time?

V: Twins (by Varian Johnson, illustrated by Shannon Wright).

Mama’s review: 5/5 stars for Stargazing

Vivi’s review: ditto

Dragon Masters

You guys, know what’s hard for a mama? When your kids get too old for picture books. It happened a few years ago with Vivi, and now it’s happening with my tiny, little Lily. LILY!

The thing is, she’s going to be six in nineteen days (we have an official countdown going), so I get it. Picture books are so last year (*sob*). Now, before you get as depressed as I am about the situation, it’s important to note that she’s not against ALL picture books. Big-kid picture books are okay. Her current favourite is The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base. (Which, if you haven’t read it, is something you should definitely check out. Graeme Base is an outstanding illustrator and The Eleventh Hour is remarkable. I LOVE the riddles in it, all the hidden messages and pictures…it’s delightful in every way.)

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But. At bedtime, she’s asking for something new. A CHAPTER book. Specifically: The Dragon Masters series by Tracey West. Karl read this to Vivi at around the same age, and she also really enjoyed it. I have some…thoughts. Most of them positive!

  1. The series is a light read. The vocabulary is simple, the plot is simple, the characters are simple…it’s…well…simple. Which is not to say ‘bad,’ in any way. It’s great for the age group it’s written for. Lily could probably read these books mostly independently. She just likes hearing my character voices. Especially the wizards.
  2. The books aren’t terribly long. They’re full of pictures (black-and-white), and the chapters are only a few pages each. Again, for the age group (or reluctant readers), this is excellent.
  3. There are a lot of characters to keep track of. I feel like I’ve reached my mental capacity for cast members at this point. We have Rori, Vulcan, Kepri, Ana, Drake, Worm, Heru, Wati, Bo, Shu, Petra, her hydra (I forget its name), Maldred, two good wizards, King Roland, the queen (Rose, I think), Carlos, the lightning dragon, Heru’s mom and dad, and Bob the seagull. That’s. A. Lot. Lily and I both forgot who Bob was from one night to the next. I can’t handle any more character introductions!
  4. I feel like the characters are all quite nondescript. I once read an awesome Oatmeal comic (shout out to The Oatmeal) about why Bella was so relatable in the Twilight series. He suggested that she’s so generic, she’s like a pair of pants anyone can put on. I think the kid characters in this story are somewhat similar. Other than their vague physical appearances, what do we really know about their backstories, other than a few sparse details? None of them has a distinct voice. They all speak and act pretty much the same, save for Rori’s occasional bad-assery. This only becomes a problem when you’re honestly not sure which kid is which, because there are so many of them.
  5. The stories can be read out of order or in order…it’s easy to pick up the thread of the story. It’s like the good ol’ BSC (yup, another BSC reference). Each book was a sort-of continuation of the lives of the girls in the club. BUT…if you happened to pick up, I don’t know, #83 before #64, you weren’t totally lost. Because of chapter two, that’s why. In each BSC book, chapter two was dedicated to giving the reader a run-down on how the club worked, who was in the club, and any major recent developments in their lives. (Kristy’s mom married a millionaire! Dawn’s brother moved back to California! Dawn and MaryAnne’s Mom and Dad got married! Jessi still likes ballet! Mallory still sucks!)
  6. The stories offer just enough suspense to keep Lily interested, but not enough to scare her before bedtime. THAT is really important. I was a bit worried when we started reading the series (despite Vivi’s assurances that it was ‘not scary at all’). But after book one, I knew we were going to be A-okay.

So that’s what we’re reading. We’re up to book seven, and Lily really does like the stories. Will she ask for me to re-read the series over and over, as she has The Princess in Black and The Owl Diaries and Bad Kitty? I’m not sure. But as long as she’s enjoying The Dragon Masters, I will be happy to read them. And sneak in a picture book here and there as well.

The Perilous Princess Plot

Title: The Perilous Princess Plot
Author: Sarah Courtauld
Published By: Square Fish, 2016

As the girls get older, I know we’ll be reading fewer and fewer picture books together (I’ll still read them by myself, because I love them), but there are some truly wonderful chapter books out there. The girls and I have a huge soft spot for humorous books (we’ve been devouring the Nanny Piggins series), and we absolutely loved The Perilous Princess Plot by Sarah Courtauld.

The story is about two sisters, Lavender and Eliza. Immediately, Vivi and Lily were totally interested. They LOVE stories that remind them of their relationship/themselves. The girls live with their Grandma Maud, who’s quite obsessed with death and disease. (She’s specifically focused on the Black Death, and warns the girls about its symptoms and progression. This is funnier than I’m describing it, trust me.) Eliza, the younger sister, is hardworking and practical. Lavender, the older sister, is focused on becoming a princess. After Lavender sneaks away in search of her prince, Eliza must find her (with the help of Gertrude the goat) and rescue her. And hilarity, of course, ensues.

Here, in no particular order, were some bits that made us all laugh out loud:

  1. The princes page. Lavender has pictures of princes on her wall. All of the names are pretty hilarious, but the funniest was Sir Kanye the Anachronistic. After explaining who Kanye West is and what an anachronism is, the girls found it tremendously funny as well.
  2. Bonnet. He’s a small giant, so that’s funny already. Add in the fact that he’s bumbling but well-meaning, and you’ve got a wonderful not-quite-villain.
  3. Mordmont the villain. He’s excellent, as far as villains go. The girls loved the fact that he lost half his castle in a poker game (depicted in a picture of him getting poked). They loved the fact that the castle rooms were all punny. (Think: a scullery full of skulls! A pantry made of a tree of pants!) Mordmont isn’t a scary villain (despite having a dragon-filled moat), so Lily was a fan.
  4. Lavender’s terrible songs. I had a blast doing voices for this story, and singing the songs in an awful off-key voice was delightfully fun.
  5. The footnotes. Some of them are a riot.
  6. The drawings. While they’re definitely not what you’d expect in a chapter book (think: simple, childlike in quality), they work with the overall quirkiness of the story.

Overall, The Perilous Princess Plot reminded us a bit of Roald Dahl, a bit of Monty Python and a bit of SpongeBob SquarePants. It’s really, really NOT a princess-y story, even though one of the main characters wants to be a princess. It’s an adventure, it’s hilarious and it’s something you should pick up ASAP. After all, don’t we all need a good laugh these days?

PS- We’ve just started the sequel and so far, so good.

Mama, Vivi & Lily’s Review: 5 pointy princess hats out of 5


Summer Reading List

You know, I’ve often thought about how my kids will perceive this year when they look back on it as adults. Will they remember the 8 billion games of rummy and crazy eights we’ve played? Will they recall the nuances involved in baking gluten-free bread and pastry? Will they recall how their dad and I assembled Ikea’s hardest piece of furniture (dubbed “The Divorce-Maker”) and didn’t fight, not once? But most of all, will they remember all the books we read? Because, OMG. We’ve read a library’s-worth, y’all.

What, exactly, are we reading this summer? Sit down, get yourself a cup of tea and read on!

What I read on my Covid-Vacation

All the Judy Blume Fudge books: We’re just starting SuperFudge right now. I think it’s my favourite so far. It’s HILARIOUS!

Judy Blume’s Frecklejuice and The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo.

(I LOVE Judy Blume, but I think I’m going to wait until Vivi is a bit older before we introduce her to some of Ms. Blume’s other work. I really can’t wait for Vivi to read my favourite Judy Blume book ever, Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself.)

We’ve been reading the Clementine series by Sara Pennypacker. It’s excellent. Clementine reminds me a LOT of Vivi when she was a bit younger.

Vivi and I read the Anne of Green Gables graphic novel by Mariah Marsden. For someone who happens to be a die-hard Anne-fan, it’s pretty simple and doesn’t come close to the original. For someone who knows nothing about Anne, it’s a great intro.

I read Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy by Rey Terciero. It is very loosely based on the characters from Little Women (but totally updated and current). As a major Little Women fan, I was concerned. But I shouldn’t have been. The book was fabulous, whether or not you’re familiar with the source material.

I finally read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and I have to say: holy cow. This should 100% absolutely be required reading for all high school students. I absolutely LOVED it. Parts of the stories/various characters reminded me a bit of where I grew up (Malvern). I was blown away by the writing. I could NOT put this book down. Ten stars!

Lily and I have been making our way through the Princess in Black books (by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by the fabulous LeUyen Pham). We love them all, but my favourite is the birthday party one. The ending is so sweet and the illustrations are perfection.

Lily and I have also enjoyed the Owl Diaries series (by Rebecca Elliot), and Owlie Volume 1 by Andy Runton

Vivi and Karl have made it (almost) through the Toys Go Out series by Emily Jenkins. Karl’s review: “The first book took awhile to get into, but it’s really grown on us. The sequel is excellent.”

Vivi and I are reading the Nanny Piggins series by R.A. Spratt (we adore Nanny Piggins) and we’re on book 5. Vivi’s theory is that the children’s mom is still alive. Mine is that she’s not. We will continue reading until we find out for sure!

Vivi has read and re-read EVERY SINGLE Baby-Sitters Club graphic novel she has. She loves both Raina Telgemeier and Gale Galligan. We’ve also been watching the BSC on Netflix (one episode every Friday night, complete with Twizzlers and tasty Claudia Kishi-approved snacks). I am in love with the current version of the BSC. Absolutely adore it. Being able to share my BSC-mania with my daughter is a total dream come true. In one other piece of BSC-related news, I finally have ALL of my Baby-Sitters Club books on one bookshelf, right outside of Vivi’s room. Their beautiful pastel-coloured spines bring me joy and happiness whenever I see them. Ann M. Martin, you are a key reason I adore kid lit.

I’m currently reading The Evolution of Everything by Matt Ridley and The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte. Both are great so far! Oh! And I’m in the middle of Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan. The characters are memorable and the book is quite funny so far.

We just got another package in the mail from Indigo (we love you, Indigo) and we’re excited to read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.

So…that’s what we’ve been reading! I hope your summer/Covid-vacation has been as book-filled as ours. Now I just have to plan out what we’ll do for our at-home novel study for the new school year. Because I think this Covid-vacation might be an extended one.

 

You Matter

You Matter: Robinson, Christian, Robinson, Christian ...

 

Title: You Matter
Author/Illustrator: Christian Robinson
Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

 

So it’s been a crazy year so far, eh friends? I live in Ontario (Canada) and things have been weird here since March. Recently (June), we’ve started to open things up and do stuff again. But cautiously! People mostly wear masks and sanitize their hands constantly. Aside from my extreme germ-o-phobia (not a new thing, just exacerbated by the pandemic), I find that missing my people is the hardest part of Covid-19. Being away from friends and family, having to keep our social bubbles very limited, having the kids here all day and not being able to really go anywhere or do anything is tough (I’m just not 100% comfortable with the girls venturing into the world yet).

We’ve missed milestones. We’ve missed birthdays and a wonderful baby shower (for a dear friend who just adopted her son after eight LONG years of waiting). We’ve missed coffee dates and play dates and just being near our friends. Skype is okay, but we’ve really missed our people.

I was looking for some books to order that would raise our spirits. That would bring us happiness. And then I stumbled upon You Matter by Christian Robinson.

In case you’re not familiar with his work, Christian Robinson is amazing. He’s an author and illustrator (I reviewed another of his books here: https://jessreviewsabook.com/2019/05/23/schools-first-day-of-school/) and I adore his style (both written and illustrated, but I’m particularly in love with his illustrations). The first book I read of Mr. Robinson’s was the fabulous The Last Stop on Market Street (with Matt de la Peña, review to come). I was blown away. How did I not know about this creator? After that, I made it my business to keep up with his work and buy his books.

Enter You Matter.

The premise is simple: no matter how small, no matter how big, no matter if you’re first or last, you matter. Even if you don’t think you do, you do. This is the type of message kids NEED to hear. Heck, it’s a message adults desperately need to hear as well. The text is minimal, but so effective, like poetry. The illustrations are, of course, gorgeous. Each picture is delightful to look at. (Lily was inspired by the art to do some of her own creating after reading the book.) Lily and I both enjoyed each page, but my personal favourites were the t-rex with a mosquito bite and the astronaut in space. Lily loved the page about being gassy (see: Lily has a goofy sense of humour) and the city page. She smiled throughout the entire story and asked for it again right away. She said “turn the pages slower!” so she could look at them more carefully.

You guys, what else can I say?

This book is what we need right now. I honestly believe that if kids were told, from the time they were small, that they mattered and could use their powers and skills to make the world a better place, we’d have a much nicer world overall.

If you know someone who needs to hear this message, you know what to do. Send them a care package and let them know that they matter. And, in case no one has told you recently, you do, too.

Mama’s rating: Five stars

Lily’s rating: “That book is so beautiful.”

The Brain is Kind of a Big Deal

The Brain is Kind of a Big Deal

Title: The Brain is Kind of a Big Deal
Author/Illustrator: Nick Seluk
Published: Scholastic, 2019

 

As you might’ve guessed, based on past blog entries, we have quite the library of books here at home. Some families spend money on sporting equipment, some spend money on cottages or fancy clothes or expensive vacations…but imagine how much money they’d have for books if they directed their mad money that way! That’s us. We have books.

I read a lot (never fewer than 5 books on the go at once is my motto!) and my personal preferences are quite eclectic, but I do have a major soft spot for non-fiction books. Some of my all-time favourites are:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot, 2011)

Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Katherine Boo, 2012)

Anything by Mary Roach or Bill Bryson

Being Mortal (Atul Gawande, 2014)

Between Expectations: Lessons from a Pediatric Residency (Meghan Weir, 2011)

Do No Harm (Henry Marsh, 2016)

I really like books that have a ton of info in them and teach me about something I know nothing about (and/or a profession I’d never go into…like medicine)! When I saw The Brain is Kind of a Big Deal, I thought Lily might like it. (Okay, I REALLY hoped she would. Vivi is very much like Karl in that she reads strictly fantasy/sci-fi/graphic novels right now, so I need SOMEONE at home who loves non-fiction.)

Luckily, Lily ADORES this book. Why? Because of the following reasons, mostly:

  1. The art is adorable. The various body systems are drawn in such a friendly, cartoon-ish way. How can you NOT love your kidneys? They’re smiling at you! They love you! They just want to keep your body free of waste and make sure you stay healthy. Appreciate them!
  2. The text is jam-packed with facts, but the story is told in an accessible, easy-to-understand way.

Lily asks for this one about once a week. And she’s actually retaining some of the knowledge! She especially likes the part where the brain has trouble remembering a phone number, but gets it after several repetitions. She’s actually recalled the word ‘synapse’ and she’s totally not grossed out by any of the super-gross stuff your body does. (Not that this book delves too deeply into that kind of thing…but she’s asked questions about all the organs, based on the pictures in this book. And, well, she’s 100% not like me when it comes to getting queasy about certain things. Like blood. Or vomit. She’s going to be a great doctor, is what I’m saying.)

I really like the fact that more and more picture books are combining factual, non-fictional stories with fun, friendly characters. Not only is it great for kids to learn how life works, it’s also awesome for adults to pick up a fun fact or two.

Mama’s review: Five brains out of five!

Lily’s review: “The brain is adorable! I love his glasses. And, yes, I know brains don’t really wear glasses.”

 

 

 

The Princess and the Pony

 

Title: The Princess and the Pony
Author/Illustrator: Kate Beaton
Published: Scholastic, 2015

 

There are few things that make Lily laugh harder than adorable animals doing silly things, so when she first heard this story, she immediately fell in love with the roly-poly pony with a flatulence problem. Lily absolutely loves this book. And so do I! It’s hilarious (for many reasons, not just the excess pony gas).

First, just in case you need a refresher, Kate Beaton is the brilliant author/illustrator who gave us King Baby. We still adore that little egg-shaped guy. And we adore Princess Pinecone, the star of The Princess and the Pony, just as much.

The premise of the story is this: Princess Pinecone’s birthday is coming up and she’s really, really hoping for a horse. A big, brave horse. Princess Pinecone is a warrior. She needs a horse befitting her status. (Usually, for her birthday, she gets fuzzy knitted sweaters.)  Unfortunately, Pinecone’s parents dropped the ball. Instead of a strong, awesome warrior horse, they got Pinecone a round pony with eyes that appear to be looking in different directions.

Pinecone decides that maybe the pony can be trained anyway. That doesn’t…go well. On the day of the ‘big battle’ (mostly warriors doing non-violent, spitball-related things to each other), Pinecone arrives with her pony. She’s about to dive into the battling, when one of the warriors comes running at her with what appears to be a pool noodle. Otto the Awful is truly terrifying…until he spots the pony and falls in love. In fact, all the fierce brutes seem to think the pony is absolutely adorable. Pinecone remarks that the battles don’t usually end that way, and Otto tells her that sometimes even tough guys need to express their softer side.

It occurs to Princess Pinecone that she has just the thing to help the warriors: heaps and heaps of knitted sweaters.

She brings the sweaters and hands them out. The warriors all look adorable, and vote Princess Pinecone and the pony the most valuable warriors of the day.

The story is wonderful because:

  1. It’s unique. I love a story that’s unpredictable and totally different from anything else out there.
  2. The art is hilarious. The pony is just perfect. I kind of wish he was real. I’d totally keep a round pony in my backyard.
  3. I like the messages: girls can be warriors, sometimes tough guys have a soft side (people are complicated!), and appreciate your birthday gifts. They might not be what you wanted, but sometimes things work out better than you could’ve imagined.

If you’re in the market for a funny book that your kid will want to read repeatedly, this is the one for you. You’ll love Princess Pinecone and her adorably ovoid pony.

Jess is back! With Guest Reviewer – Lily!

Ah, fellow booknerds…I’m so sorry I’ve been absent. Things have been, globally speaking, insane in the membrane (insane in the brain).

Today, we finished our schoolwork a bit early and the weather is super-gloomy…so I’m here to review a book with my number-one picture-book-reading-buddy…Lily!

I asked her to choose a book from her bookshelf. She was gone for ten minutes. I began to worry and potentially think about going to check on her, but I enjoyed the silence too much. She then proceeded to bring me several books we’d already reviewed. But, after much ado, here’s what she decided on…

 

 

Title: After the Fall
Author/Illustrator: Dan Santat
Published:  Roaring Brook Press, 2017

My favourite picture book of all time. Oh, Lily. You knew we needed this today.

Okay, so guys…guys…this book. It’s amazing. It’s outstanding. It’s so good. It’s the perfect picture book. But, you know, no over-hyping here.

Just that it’s written by the most talented children’s author/illustrator out there, it’s the most wonderful spin on a nursery rhyme character we all know, it’s got an incredibly powerful message and the writing is tight and the art is amazing.

Also, every person I’ve given a copy to (which is quite a lot of people, really), absolutely adores it as much as I do. (Okay, maybe not AS much, as that would be impossible, but they love it a lot). This was the book I gave to Vivi’s grade one teacher, the teacher that made school something she loved. This was the only book that really summed up how I felt about how she changed Vivi’s life and helped her to fly. It’s the book I read when things look bleak. When I need encouragement. When I want to feel hope. It’s the book that still gives me the feels every time I read the ending. This. Book. Right. Here.

Anyway…

We read the book once again and here’s the follow-up interview with my tiny cohort.

J: What did you think, Lily?
L: It was great! I loved it when he turned into a bird.
J: That’s kind of a spoiler. We probably shouldn’t focus too much on that just yet.
L: Okay, well, I really liked the cereal page. I LOVE the cereals on the top row. The best one is the “Just Marshmallows” cereal. I’d eat that! The most boring one is the one on the bottom row that looks like Baba (her grandfather…my dad…and it does look like him, on the box).
J: What do you think the Baba cereal tastes like?
L: Socks.
J: What do you think the saddest part of the story was?
L: When Humpty fell off the wall.
J: What do you think it means when it says that some parts of him couldn’t be put together with bandages and glue?
L: He was hurt on the outside and scared on the inside.
J: What was your second-favourite page?
L: The page with his plane. It’s beautiful. He made it look like a bird because he wanted to watch the birds.
J: How do you think he felt when his plane got stuck on the wall?
L: Scared. He was afraid he’d fall again.
J: Did you know he was going to hatch at the end?
L: No, not the first time we read it. That was a really good surprise.
J: So, is this one of your favourite books?
L: Yup.
J: Thanks, Lily.
L: Lily out.

So, the tl;dr version:

Buy a copy of this book because it’s my favourite and it’s perfect in every way and you won’t be sorry. Also, give a copy to every single person you love/like/tolerate/know. Because it will brighten their day and make the world a better place. Deal? Deal.