Sir Simon: Super Scarer

 

Title: Sir Simon: Super Scarer
Author/Illustrator: Cale Atkinson
Published: Tundra Books, 2018

 

Halloween is just over a month away and it finally feels like fall this weekend, so I figured it was high time I reviewed a spooky picture book. In this case, Cale Atkinson’s book, Sir Simon: Super Scarer.

I found the delightful Simon at a brand new Toronto-based bookstore in The Junction (Moonbeam Books). If you happen to be out that way, definitely stop in. The owner was super-friendly and very, very knowledgeable about kid lit. I totally geeked out about picture books and she completely understood my obsession with kid lit. It was so nice to find a like-minded person! 😀

Anyway, the book! I recognized Cale Atkinson’s name, but I couldn’t place where from…until I read his little bio at the back of the book and realized  I’d read Where Oliver Fits earlier this summer (I liked it, but not nearly as much as I like Simon.)

Yes, I really like Sir Simon Spookington.  The premise of the book is funny. In a nutshell, it’s all about a ghost who has been transferred to his first haunted house. He is kind of bummed because he has a lot of hobbies (writing a thrilling novel, learning French, cross stitch, painting) and his ‘ghost chores’ are going to get in the way of his leisure time (ghost chores include creaking stairs, hiding stuff, standing creepily at windows). He is hopeful because the occupant of the house appears to be a cookie-baking granny. Old people are tops on the haunting pyramid because they sleep a lot. (Kids are bottom – they have no pros, only cons.) So Simon is looking forward to an easy assignment. Unfortunately, he gets a grandma WITH a kid. A curious kid who really wants to pretend to be a ghost. Simon decides to let Chester (the kid) help him out with ALL the ghost chores. Simon gets to do his hobbies, Chester gets to be a ghost, everyone’s happy. Right? Wrong! Chester can’t do ghost chores to save his life. Simon feels kind of bad for making Chester do his work, he helps Chester do human chores the next day. After hanging out, they realize they have some stuff in common, and become best friends. Aw.

The best parts of the book:

1. When Chester has to make scary animal sounds and decides on “Mooooo!” The girls both laughed out loud.
2. The art. I really liked the cross-section of the house, and being able to see Chester and Simon bop from room to room.
3. The subtle suggestion that Chester was in foster care and ended up with his granny. The one line about Chester getting transferred a lot too was understated, yet very powerful (helped along by the art, depicting pictures of the many different people who have been in Chester’s life).
4. Simon’s awesome ‘thrilling novel’ excerpts. The kids didn’t find them as funny as I did, but whatever. They’re not struggling writers, right?
5. The character design of Simon, Chester and the granny. They’re all just adorable. I love the last page, depicting the granny sitting on her chair, looking slightly perturbed.

Overall, this is a wonderful book. I always worry a bit about reading the girls stories with monsters/ghosts in them (that kind of make the monster/ghost seem real), but this one is a winner. Simon is the sweetest little ghost and couldn’t scare a fly (although he once had to scare a bear). If you’re looking for a terrific read for the Halloween season, pick this one up. And get it at Moonbeam Books, Toronto readers! Support your local bookstore!

Mama’s Review: 10 ghosts/10
Vivi’s Review: “I like the part where they met each other for the first time. It’s a great story.”
Lily’s Review: “I love it when he moos through the vent! That was so funny!”

The Sleepy Little Alphabet

 

Title: The Sleepy Little Alphabet
Author: Judy Sierra
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Published: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009

There’s something to be said about a book that allows kiddos to drift right off to dream land as soon as it’s finished.

Specifically, “OMG, I love that kind of book. Let’s buy all the books that do this. Hooray for soporific books!”

There are a few stories I’ve discovered throughout the years that my kids love to hear before hitting the hay. They include:
1. Blueberry Girl
2. Goodnight, Gorilla
3. The Sleepy Little Alphabet

Tonight’s review is about #3: The Sleepy Little Alphabet. I really like this book. I picked it up on a whim from Chapters one day. I am glad I did.

This delightful story tells the tale of the lowercase alphabet members dilly-dallying while they’re supposed to be getting ready for bed (this sounds extremely familiar). The story is done in rhyme and the art is adorable.

My girls love the fact that each letter has its own personality. They like looking for their letters and finding out how they’re behaving (L doesn’t want to turn out the light…V is very, very snoozy.)

My personal favourite? Obviously, “q is quiet as a bunny.” She’s the best. She’s so…quiet.

As a bonus, this book has helped Lily get more familiar with her letters.

If you’re looking for an alphabet book that isn’t JUST an alphabet book, I highly recommend this one.

Mama’s review: 26/26 letters
Vivi’s review: That chubby C is adorable!
Lily’s review: A!

Du Iz Tak?

Title: Du Iz Tak?
Author/Illustrator: Carson Ellis
Published: Candlewick Press, 2016

Today’s book was a toughie to review at our house. We had two clear teams:
Lily & Mama: Team “That was fun!”
Vivi & Daddy: Team “That made no sense and I really didn’t care for it at all.”

So, if you haven’t heard of Carson Ellis’ groundbreaking book, Du Iz Tak? let me fill you in. It’s all about bugs who speak their own buggy language that, according to my husband, sounds vaguely German. The ‘language’ is entirely made up, but contextually makes perfect sense. For instance, a ‘gladdenboot’ is a flower and we know this because the word is introduced when the flower first blooms.

The story itself is pretty simple: the bugs encounter a tiny shoot, it grows into a plant, the bugs decide to build a fort in it. They borrow a ladder from my favourite pill-bug and yours, Icky. A spider moves in, but is promptly eaten by a passing bird. The plant blooms into a flower. The weather begins to change and Icky and his equally delightful wife (Ooky) leave. The other bugs follow suit. A beautiful moth hatches and flies in an enchanting dance. Spring comes again and a new shoot appears, with a new bug wondering, Du Iz Tak?

I liked this book. I liked the creativity of it, the language creation and use, and most of all, the art. I loved the art.

Lily  thought the book was hilarious and also pored over the pages, examining each picture.

Vivi found it frustrating to enjoy the nonsensical language without LITERALLY STOPPING ME AT EVERY WORD AND QUESTIONING ITS MEANING.

Ahem.

Karl thought the story was too simplistic. He also found the art repetitive, in that it was basically the same picture/camera angle/etc. with the addition and subtraction of artistic elements throughout the story. He also had trouble accepting the made up language. Basically, he found it hard to connect with the story on every level.

I tried to explain it as a ‘lifecycle story,’ but Karl stuck to his original assessment: not for him.

So, from team Lily and Mama, 4 Ookies out of 5.

From team Vivi and Karl, we have a rating of 2/10.

There’s no accounting for taste.

King Baby

Title: King Baby
Author/Illustrator: Kate Beaton
Published: Author A. Levine Books, 2016

 

I’ve been hitting the library pretty hard this summer, book-loving peeps. I currently have over 50 books out and they keep letting me borrow them. (Fun fact: the libraries in my area have a 150 book limit. Challenge ACCEPTED!)

One of the books we discovered in our latest bunch is the fabulous, hilarious, ridiculous King Baby by Kate Beaton. I actually analyzed one of her other books (The Princess and the Pony) for a class I was taking through Ryerson (I’m working on a publishing certificate in my spare time). I fell in love with her art/writing. I then started reading her web comic Hark! A Vagrant! (which is also now a book). I was a pretty big fan of Ms. Beaton’s before King Baby, but I am a huge fan now.

King Baby is on high rotation in our house. I think I’ve read it four or five times already. And it never loses its charm. Let’s figure out why:

  1. The baby is insanely ridiculous. From his egg-shaped body to his adorable demands (he just wants the thing, darn it!) and his outgoing personality, he’s a winner.
  2. It’s so accurate. As a parent, I completely, 100% felt like my daughters were “Queen babies” for the first year or so of their lives. (Ah, who am I kidding? They’re still the queens, really.) The fact that babies WANT stuff and NEED stuff and have literally no way other than crying to spread their message is maddening and very much like working for an insane royal.
  3. The art is phenomenal. It’s simple but so, so cute. It *sort of* reminded me of Scott Campbell’s Hug Machine, but more vibrant and less watercolor-y.
  4. It’s appealing to both kids and parents. This is something rare and wonderful to find in a picture book.
  5. You MUST read it like Plankton from SpongeBob. It doesn’t work nearly as well if you read it straight…get into it, people! Release your inner king! (But really, be inspired by Plankton. It is HILARIOUS if you read it like that. I promise!)

So we are 100% putting this on our “Books We’d Really Like for Christmas” list. I LOVE this book. A dear friend is having a baby boy in the new year and I’ll be picking up a copy of this book for her (she’s a bit of a kid lit fan herself).

Yay for Kate Beaton!

Mama’s Review: A+
Vivi’s Review: “I literally LOVE everything about that book.”
Lily’s Review: “That story is so funny. I love the baby so much!”
Daddy’s Review: “It’s pretty much perfect. The art works really well with the story.”