When Stella was very, very small

 

Title: When Stella was very, very small
Author/Illustrator: Marie-Louise Gay
Published: Groundwood Books, 2009

 

I am lucky. I have many, many old friends. (That is, friends I’ve known for a long time, not elderly friends…although I do have a few of those as well!) One of those dear friends just joined the parenthood club. Alok and his lovely wife, Steph, had a brand new baby and her name is…Stella! In her honour, I thought I’d take a look at this book (which is one of a series, by the way).

First of all, Marie-Louise Gay’s illustrations are lovely. I WISH I could draw, peeps. I really do. I have enough skills to impress my four-year-old (Vivi, my six-year-old is already critical of my work), but not too much beyond that. I’m mildly better at cutting stuff out and building pictures with paper, but…you know…

Marie-Louise Gay, I ain’t.

So I am enamoured with the art. It’s so dreamy and sweet and…just perfect for the story.

The story is, unsurprisingly, all about when Stella was little. It’s simple and poetic…here are a couple of my favourite lines:

“When Stella was very, very small, words looked like ants running off the pages. Butterflies flew on the walls and cups jumped off the table, just like that!”

“Beyond the tropical jungle, there was a desert that stretched on forever. One terribly windy day, Stella nearly lost her way during a wild sandstorm.”

The story continues with Stella growing up and all the things that used to be hard/too challenging for her become easy. And she can read! Which means she can read stories to her little brother, Sam. (Aw!)

Lily loves the Stella books. We usually read them before bed because they’re quite soporific. Vivi is, as I am constantly reminded these days, too old for such things. (She actually said she “has completely outgrown” Paw Patrol. I vacillated between being dismayed and overjoyed. I mean, mad love to Paw Patrol…but it’s been years, people. Years of “Paw Patrol is on a roll!” Lily still loves those pups, though, so it’s not like we’re going to be able to NOT watch it quite yet.)

If you’ve got a little one with a gentle spirit and a sweet heart (totally Lily), you need Stella in your life.

Mama’s review: A
Lily’s review: “Stella is the CUTEST!”

A Family is a family is a family

 

Title: A Family is a Family is a Family
Author: Sara O’Leary
Illustrator: Qin Leng
Published: Groundwood Books, 2016

 

There are books that Lily likes. We read those about once a week. Then there are books she LOVES and they are on a far higher rotation. This is one of the ‘LOVE’ books. We’ve read A Family is a family is a family¬†so many times…and yet, it doesn’t get old.

And trust me when I say that MOST books get old after being read for the fifteenth time in a single day.

This book is a bit magical – it’s super-simple (in terms of premise) but it does what it does (explaining the concept of a family/who makes up a family) beautifully and elegantly. And the art works so well in supporting the text. It’s delightful all around.

These are the things we (that would be Lily and yours truly) like best about the book:

  1. The Duggar-sized family: we like counting all the children and marvelling at why one would want to go through so many pregnancies because OMG, pregnancy is basically the most uncomfortable, nausea-filled experience a person can have. (Mostly I marvel about that part.)
  2. The kid with a ton of grandparents: we’ve tried to figure out HOW he has so many grandparents, and the closest we can come is that maybe he lives in an old person’s home with his primary set of grandparents, and has adopted many other elderly people.
  3. The one with the grandma: when the kid says that her grandma is her everything, I always choke up a bit. It’s sweet to think that you’re potentially that important to the little people in your life.
  4. The two dads page: I love the fact that two dads/two moms are featured in this book. Whenever we reach the two dads page, Lily always says “Like Uncle Jay and Uncle Shean are to Bumper, Mia, and Lara!” (Note: the latter three names belong to cats. My BFF and his hubby are cat-dads.)
  5. The final page, when you meet the little girl who started off the story. It turns out, she’s a foster kid. The response her foster mom gives a curious stranger is absolutely perfect. (“Oh, I don’t have any imaginary children. All my children are real.”)

As someone who is a big believer in ‘family is who you choose,’ I love this book. It shows that one doesn’t need to share blood to share a bond. (My girls already know this, seeing as they have about 25 non-related aunties, uncles and cousins that they adore…but it’s good to have it reinforced.)

A Family is a family is a family is one of those warm-and-fuzzy books. It’s wonderful and affirming and a terrific read before bed. It also covers pretty much every combination and permutation of families that you’re likely to encounter. And, OK, so they didn’t feature cat-dads, but aside from that, this book doesn’t miss a thing.

 

Mama’s review: 5/5

Lily’s review: “I just love this book. It’s all about what it means to be a family.”

Truck Full of Ducks

 

Title: Truck Full of Ducks
Author/Illustrator: Ross Burach
Published: Scholastic, 2018

Here’s something you probably don’t know about me: I love ducks. Like, probably to an absurd degree. For instance, last week I went to High Park with Lily and my bestie. We happened to see a whole flock of ducks hanging out by a pond. I honestly, truly, wholeheartedly thought that if I just got down on their level and encouraged them in a friendly way, they’d come over and…I don’t know…hang out with me? Tell me duck stuff? Show me where to find the best nesting sites? Introduce me to a nice drake? Truthfully, any of those scenarios would’ve been fine. Realistically, I would’ve settled for just patting their feathery little heads. Sadly, they took one look at me, realized my promises of cut-up grapes were nothing but lies and quacked away angrily.

Ahem.

So, it makes sense that I also enjoy duck-related kid-lit. And I definitely enjoyed Truck Full of Ducks. Here’s why:

  1. The art is great. Ross Burach is a terrific illustrator. His characters are consistently cute and funny. I love the details he adds (in this story, for instance, the ducks were sharing a large ‘Bladder Buster’ drink and this resulted in an unplanned bathroom stop). I also like the “Don’t worry, be quacky” bumper sticker. I’d stick that on my car. I’m not too good for a duck bumper sticker.
  2. The story is simple, but the ending is good. Sometimes stories are simple the whole way through (see: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Whistle for Willie), and sometimes they are simple and then have a great payoff (see: I Want My Hat Back, After the Fall). This falls into the latter category. We, as adult readers, know that the truck full of ducks isn’t going to meet with an untimely demise…but little readers (like Lily) were actually concerned about some of the choices they were making near the end of the book. (Direct quote: “That’s not a smart place to go! Get back in the truck and leave, ducks!”)
  3. I like doing voices when I read stories. There are multiple characters that lend themselves well to setting your inner voice-actor free. (Fun fact: I actually have done voice acting in the past. It’s lots of fun and I really do like it, despite being a hardcore introvert. It’s kind of the perfect mix of acting and hiding. You get to let loose while not having anyone see your face. Win-win!) If you’re reading this story, dig deep and get silly.

The only other thing I’d say is this: this story is definitely for the younger (<5 year old) crowd. Vivi was 100% not interested. She’s really into The Princess in Black, the BSC graphic novels, and the Owl Diaries right now, though. So…picture books aren’t really her thing anymore. (Sob!)

If you’re looking for a funny, simple, enjoyable read, check out Truck Full of Ducks. And if you know where to get a REAL truck full of ducks, hook a sister up.

Mama’s review: 5 ducks/5

Lily’s review: “Those ducks are adorable!”