Who’s Looking?

Matas, Carol. Who’s Looking? Victoria: Orca, 2022.
Did you know that rabbits can see in almost all directions at once? Did you know that whales see the world in shades of gray and black? Did you know that robins see colours that we cannot see? All these intriguing bits of information are found in this colourful picture book full of fascinating facts about birds, bugs, fish and mammals. Recommended for curious readers 5 to 10 years old.

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Lost

Usher, Sam. Lost. Somerville, Massachusetts: Templar Books, an imprint of Candlewick Press, 2022, ©2021.
A new day brings new adventures despite the miserably cold weather. A little boy trots along with his grandfather and ends up on a grand journey through a snowstorm to find a lost dog. The combination of narration and conversation, the full-page expressive illustrations, the size and style of the font, the placement of sentences on the pages, the zany adventure, and the little bit of wisdom at the end all combine to create another brilliant picture book by Sam Usher. Highly recommended as a read-aloud for ages 4 to 9.

Another picture book by Sam Usher

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The Story of a Story

Hopkinson, Deborah. The Story of a Story. New York: Holiday House, 2021.
Do you ever get stuck when trying to write a story or essay or short paragraph? You might have ideas but how do you find the right words? Should you keep trying or simply give up and walk away? This beautifully designed picture book humorously presents the dilemma and offers a straight-forward solution. At the end, an outline is provided for readers ready to write their own story. Recommended without reservations for writers of all ages.

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Forever Home

Cole, Henry. Forever Home: A Dog and Boy Love Story. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2022.
A forlorn little dog is left behind when its owners move. A sad little boy longs to have a dog. The two meet and find happiness in this wordless picture book by an award-winning author. The feelings of longing and love are enhanced by a red leash and collar, the only spots of colour in the finely detailed black and white drawings. 
The little boy in this story lives with two dads. Some readers may object, saying it normalizes what they believe is wrong. Others may rejoice, saying that at last same sex couples are becoming normalized. I think that the relationship is not important to the central idea of the story: adopting a homeless animal brings love to life! Highly recommended for anyone who has longed for a pet (and would-be artists who admire black and white drawings).

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Maud and Grand-Maud

O’Leary, Sara. Maud and Grand-Maud. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2020.
Every once in a while, Maud stays overnight with her grandmother. The two of them change into matching plaid nightgowns and settle down to eat a cozy supper before investigating a surprise Grand-Maud has hidden in an old wooden chest: Some cookies. A new sweater. A photograph from long ago. A book of fairy tales from Grand-Maud’s childhood. They talk about what life will be like for Maud when she grows up and then fall asleep in adjoining beds. This endearing picture book – gently illustrated by Kenard Pak – is highly recommended for readers 5 to 8 years old.

P.S. Teachers of creative writing might like to use this story with older readers to inspire them to write stories about their own grandparents.

More stories about grandparents

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New Year

Zihan, Mei. New Year. Vancouver: Greystone Books, 2021.
Can you miss someone who is far away and at the same time be happy for them? In this wistful picture book, a father thinks about his grown-up daughter who lives in Paris. He wishes she could be back home with him in Beijing for Chinese Lunar New Year. But he is also proud that she has grown up into an independent person who has her own life in France. This extraordinarily beautiful story – evocatively illustrated in ink and watercolour by Qin Leng – is for mature readers who are able to see life from more than one point of view. 

Teachers of creative writing may want to use this story to show how to subtly move from speaking about a person to addressing them directly. Teachers of literature may want to show how specific cultural details can be combined with universal emotions to create a story with timeless appeal. 

This year, Chinese Lunar New Year is on January 23rd. 

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