December 29, 2020

The Library Bus

Written by Bahram Rahman
Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 5-8
November, 2020

While education should be a right for all everywhere, sometimes someone has to step up to make sure those without access because of gender inequality or location or some other restriction get the schooling they should be receiving. That someone in The Library Bus is Pari's mother.

From The Library Bus by Bahram Rahman, illus. by Gabrielle Grimard
Little Pari, who will not be starting school until the following year, is going to help her mother on the library bus she takes around to villages and refugee camps without access to schools. Pari knows this is a privilege and takes her role seriously, repeating to herself that she should, "Arrange the books...clean nice to the other girls." For the girls who wait patiently for the bus's arrival and cherish their time with the books and their teacher, the library bus is their school.
From The Library Bus by Bahram Rahman, illus. by Gabrielle Grimard

They exchange their library books for new ones and sit down with Pari's mother who teaches them the alphabet and their numbers in English. For the children of the refugee camps, they provide school supplies like notebooks and pencils. Pari is impressed by how much the girls know and want to learn. As she helps, she listens and learns too, ably reading the important acronyms of WFP and UNHCR by the time they leave the camp.

From The Library Bus by Bahram Rahman, illus. by Gabrielle Grimard
When Pari asks her mother where she learned the alphabet, she is told how Grandpa taught her mother in the basement as girls were prohibited from attending school. For that reason, she insists that Pari study well when she gets to school so that she might experience the freedom that learning gives.

The encouragement of learning is always powerful but by embodying it in Afghanistan, a country impacted by war and restrictive policies, Bahram Rahman's first children's book tells it gently but with influence. Many Canadian children will not appreciate the privilege that attending school and receiving an education entails. It is the norm for them. But for Bahram Rahman's characters, education is everything, and the generosity and impact of the library bus and its in-house teacher are significant.
From The Library Bus by Bahram Rahman, illus. by Gabrielle Grimard
Illustrated by award-winning artist Gabrielle Grimard with watercolour and digital media, Bahram Rahman's gentle strength of message is emulated. The softness of the watercolour and the openness of Gabrielle Grimard's character's faces invite the readers in to the story and the bus, allowing them to travel with Pari and her Mama and join the girls to be part of something bigger and meaningful.

While Bahram Rahman claims to have taken liberties to rearrange the details in the telling of the story of The Library Bus, based on his own experiences and meeting others in Afghanistan, I see only the truth about the hope gifted to the girls with the books and teaching that came with the bus's weekly visits. Now, by Bahram Rahman and Gabrielle Grimard's hands, the travels of The Library Bus will lead to even greater learning.

December 23, 2020


Written by Colleen Nelson and Nancy Chappell-Pollack
Yellow Dog (An imprint of Great Plains)
192 pp.
Ages 12-15
October 2020 
So the truth lies buried in the Underland. (pg. 33)
Though authors Colleen Nelson and Nancy Chappell-Pollack didn't really leave us hanging at the conclusion of Pulse Point (2018), the book to which Underland is the sequel, they did hint that there was more to learn about the world they created and the inhabitants of the City protected under a dome and the Prims who lived on the Mountain outside of it. In fact, though we'd met Kaia who'd escaped from the City to find out the true nature of her heritage, there is so much more to learn about the City, from its Councillors who govern, the overseers who watch, and Citizens who generate energy through their physical efforts. And now we learn, as does Sari, Kaia's best friend, that there is an Underland to the City, unknown to its above-ground and more privileged inhabitants. 
Told in the alternating voices of Ama, a young Under who lives and labours in the tunnels beneath the City, and Sari, who was matched with Councillor Tar's offspring Lev who'd gone after Kaia when she'd fled the City, Underland is a story of separation and convergence. Kept hidden from the Citizens above who believe their own efforts generate power, Ama and her fellow workers, primarily "younguns" who can fit through the narrow tunnels, dig the precious brine which the City above requires to run everything. They believe in Big Mother who gives life and protects them and Old Father who shows his anger when displeased but, except for the two Prims Jacob and Noah who were captured and forced to serve, the Unders only know enslavement and nothing of the world beyond their pit where they live and the tunnels they mine.
Above, in the very different world of the City, Sari still feels guilty about being matched with Lev when she'd known how much Kaia and Lev cared for each other. But Tar makes it clear that Kaia was an inappropriate match for Lev and she sees the qualities of a leader in Sari. Curious, Sari looks into Kaia's birth record which reveals a special notation of "intertwining." With the help of Ren, a former classmate and now overseer, Sari learns more about Kaia's origins but also about the Underland.
With their worlds in danger of physically and socially collapsing, those of the City and the Underland can no longer remain separate and Colleen Nelson and Nancy Chappell-Pollack's dystopia evolves into something less dissonant, advancing towards the cooperative and diverse.
At this time of year, Underland offers hope that acceptance of others and compassion for all is possible. While both the Unders and the Citizens, except for the Councillors and those who oppress those of the Underland, know nothing of the others' existence and experiences, they are part of a social order of epic inequities and horrific discrimination. Based in fear and ignorance, their different worlds would not ever have come together if individuals like Ama and Sari, among a handful of others, had not stepped up and recognized the need for change. For themselves and others, they needed to see beyond themselves.
If I want to move forward, I need to make sure I'm okay with what's behind me. (pg. 157)
With suspenseful action-filled scenes and a wide cast of characters from all levels–geologists, fetal assessment technicians, diggers, mules, bureaucrats, elders, younguns, mothers and more–Colleen Nelson and Nancy Chappell-Pollack have created a grim world, borne of good intentions but managed into the objectionable and worse. Fortunately, Underland inspires faith that a few good people can make the difference and that redemption is possible through transformation. Sometimes it's all we need to go forward.

December 15, 2020

Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White

Written by Saumiya Balasubramaniam
Illustrated by Eva Campbell
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
October 2020

While there are many, many wonderful books about winter and snow and the experiences with both, Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White reminds us that those interactions are not the same for all of us. They are distinct for the young who long to play in the snow, for the fortunate to have shelter from the it, for those familiar and acclimatized to it, and for those who must endure it. When a child and her mother walk home from school, the distinction of their attitudes to the snow is evident. Fortunately, their affection for the other helps them appreciate both perspectives.
From Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White by Saumiya Balasubramaniam, illus. by Eva Campbell
As a girl revels in the snow and ice of their walk home, her mother displays an overabundance of caution and even scorn for winter's elements. "Watch out for black ice" and "Do as you like" are just a few of her protestations as the child glides on the ice and makes footprints in the snow. The child sees ice cream in her snowball and makes snow people while Ma tucks herself deeper into her royal-blue scarf and wishes for the sun.
From Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White by Saumiya Balasubramaniam, illus. by Eva Campbell
But they really aren't that different. The girl knows that her mother loves colour–"So much snow," says Ma. "So monochromatic"–but so does she. She sees their cat, Kitty, in the grey cloud with blue spots for eyes; she is charmed by the rainbow of colours that are scattered by her mother's diamond on her nose; and she sees the brown of maple syrup in the dry leaves. 
From Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White by Saumiya Balasubramaniam, illus. by Eva Campbell
Still by the time they reach home, they can both see the colour of themselves as two drops of brown in a cloud of white snow.

Author Saumiya Balasubramaniam was inspired by her own winter walks with her daughter to write Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White. If the story reflects her own experiences, then it's evident that their two perspectives which may have started out as different–not unusual as they would have different life experiences–ultimately converge, with an appreciation for their differences and acceptance of their similarities.  Two drops of brown would contrast significantly with the whiteness of the snow but they are still similar to each other. As such, Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White definitely speaks to diversity of perspective, of people, and of time and place.

From Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White by Saumiya Balasubramaniam, illus. by Eva Campbell

To tell promote both the realism and sentimentalism of the story, Eva Campbell's oil and pastel on canvas illustrations use boldness of colour, even for the snow, but also a softness of stroke. By emphasizing both the realistic and the poetic, Eva Campbell evokes an authentic mother-daughter interaction but also the romance of the snow and their relationship. They may see themselves as two drops of brown in a cloud of white but they are more. They are blue with cold and red with love and it's also courtesy of Eva Campbell's art.

Snow may be cold but Saumiya Balasubramaniam and Eva Campbell's Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White creates the warmth of family and acceptance.

December 11, 2020

Snow Days

Written by Deborah Kerbel
Illustrated by Miki Sato
Pajama Press
24 pp.
Ages 2-5
November 2020

In modest rhyming text and textured paper-collage artwork, Deborah Kerbel and Miki Sato invite young children and their families to join them outdoors to celebrate and explore the snow of winter.
From Snow Days by Deborah Kerbel, illus. by Miki Sato
First snow, surprise snow:
Nature's sparkly magic show
Deborah Kerbel begins her story with the delight of children taking in the first snow of the season. With arms upraised and mouths agape, perhaps to catch a few of Miki Sato's extraordinary snowflakes, the warmly-dressed children revel in the splendour of the snow. Of course, in Canada, there will be more snow days, and the next brings a little more that accumulates and allows for snow angels, both of the two-legged and four-legged varieties.

From Snow Days by Deborah Kerbel, illus. by Miki Sato
There's skating and watching snow fall from the warmth of inside, shovelling and building snowmen, sliding down banks and throwing snowballs. And always,  Deborah Kerbel shines some attention on the different kinds of snow. Whether it be powder snow or packing snow, blizzard snow or Christmas snow–a particularly special kind– or even frozen snow and slush and sleet, Deborah Kerbel invites little ones to savour each as a sensory experience of touch and feel.
From Snow Days by Deborah Kerbel, illus. by Miki Sato
But winter always comes to an end.
Last snow, tame and shy,
Winter's quiet wave goodbye
With the receding snow allowing snowdrops and the first crocuses to shoot, Deborah Kerbel lets us see the turnover to the next season, resplendent in its own emerging glories.

Miki Sato's three-dimensional illustrations, created with cut-paper collage, reflects Deborah Kerbel's textured text, making us feel the iciness of packed snow and the dampness of mittens, amidst the piles of different snows. Just as each snow day is different, Miki Sato's children and landscapes are as varied and diverse. Who interacts with the snow are a few adults but mostly children of all ages, colours, and abilities, including a young child with skates on the wrong feet and one with glasses. As for the snow itself, it blankets parklands and backyards, congests driveways and brings Christmas to dense housing divisions.
With our own snow days upon us, enjoy Deborah Kerbel and Miki Sato's exploration in words and art and even consider the handful of experiments for very young children suggested at the end. It may be a little cold and get a little wet but the adventure will be worth it.

December 09, 2020

Hockey in the Wild

Written and illustrated by Nicholas Oldland
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
September 2020 

There's something wild going on in the woods as the beaver, bear and moose anticipate the start of hockey season. But, as sometimes happens when looking forward to something wonderful, being too eager can be problematic and the waiting exasperating.
From Hockey in the Wild by Nicholas Oldland
Heading out for his daily dip in the lake, the beaver is surprised to find the water had turned to ice but thrilled to share the news with his friends (by cell phone, no less). But when the trio hit the ice, they are chagrined to realize that the ice isn't thick enough yet. Still the friends are determined and return, better prepared with life vests or water wings, none of which sadly help.
From Hockey in the Wild by Nicholas Oldland
To distract themselves from their waiting, they "practiced competitive napping" and sing karaoke. They eat comfort food and veg out watching television. Unfortunately when it would seem that winter has finally arrived in all its frozen glory, the group is out of shape and unprepared to head out on the ice.
From Hockey in the Wild by Nicholas Oldland
So, the beaver, the bear and the moose get to work. This time, with a little preparedness with respect to their personal training and foresight about the conditions of the ice, the friends launch their hockey-on-the-lake season with gusto and success.
From Hockey in the Wild by Nicholas Oldland

Nicholas Oldland always charms with his Life in the Wild books. (See the graphic below for the list of titles available currently.) He puts forth important messages about everything from teamwork and environmental awareness to patience and perseverance, all important lessons for young readers. But, by suiting these messages up in his adorable forest creatures –like a beaver in a baby-blue swim suit, or a moose with a polka-dot cellphone case or a cardinal as goalie–Nicholas Oldland's story gets meaning without preaching. Still it's always his illustrations that will draw young readers. I've written before (see my review of One Wild Christmas) about the subtlety of the lines and shapes of his digitally-rendered artwork and the narrow palette that speak to young children. It's rustic but not silly.

At this time of year, there will be a lot of anticipation and impatience shown by young children. Whether they're hockey fans or not, Hockey in the Wild will encourage children to wait. That could be waiting until the right time to open gifts or until the ice is strong enough, or until they're ready to pursue new challenges, but it always means waiting with the right attitude to help ensure success.

πŸ’ πŸ’ πŸ’ πŸ’ πŸ’ πŸ’ πŸ’ πŸ’ πŸ’

December 07, 2020

The Puck Drops Here (Hockey Super Six #1)

Written and illustrated by Kevin Sylvester
Scholastic Canada
176 pp.
Ages 8-12
September 2020

I don't know if I can safely write this review. I had to take a solemn pledge to never repeat anything I saw to ANYONE under penalty of...I don't know since it's apparently TOO TOP SECRET. But, I'm going to take a chance and brave it because you really need to hear about this book. It's too good to miss. (Though I did read that "There was once a kid in grade four in Canmore who took just a glimpse of, a mere peek at, page one of this book and repeated a single word that appeared on that page. Notice we said, "Was."" Yikes.)

From The Puck Drops Here (Hockey Super Six #1) by Kevin Sylvester
Twins Jenny and Benny, and friends Mo, Starlight, DJ and Karl are all eager to try out for the GOOBERS (Greater Ottawa-Outaouais Brainy Educational Regional School) hockey but Coach Clapper feels they all need to work on something, whether it is teamwork (Benny and Jenny), speed (DJ), physique (Mo), attention (Starlight) or being Karl (yes, he's just too Karl). So, stealing the key to an underground, top-secret hockey rink from his prime minister mom, PM Pauline Patinage, Karl sneaks his friends in for some special practice time. However, unbeknownst to them, government scientist Clarence Crosscheck, who'd been pretending to work on an artificial rink that could be used year-round, has been plotting to take over the world with a freeze ray using special comet crystals called Frozeum 7.
From The Puck Drops Here (Hockey Super Six #1) by Kevin Sylvester
When the kids arrive, Clarence accidentally blasts them, imbuing them with energy that translates into new powers (well, all except Karl, apparently) that would make Coach Clapper thrilled. But Clarence Crosscheck, realizing his machine has failed and learning PM PP is approaching, takes off, but not before releasing his experimentally-developed and hungry Super-Giant Ice Squids from their cage.
From The Puck Drops Here (Hockey Super Six #1) by Kevin Sylvester
In an epic hockey challenge, the Hockey Super Six take on the Ice Squids and the only things they have in common are a passion for hockey and a hunger to win. (Actually the squids just want to win the challenge so they can eat the kids because they really are hungry.)

I need to thank Kevin Sylvester for The Puck Starts Here and for starting this new series. We so need to find laughter in our lives, and The Puck Drops Here had me snickering, giggling, and smiling the whole way through. From his distinctive sketches (very familiar to readers of his award-winning series Neil FlambΓ©) and humour (like the tongue-in-cheek comments between the kids, and story elements like Clarence's one-eyed human-sized hockey puck robot named Ron), all embedded in a hockey story line, Kevin Sylvester ticks all the boxes for a belly-laughs middle grade read about a much-loved sport. It's a little crazy (like the goalies who "are universally understood to be weird"; pg. 24) and a whole lot of funny ("This isn't hockey! This is monkey in the middle!"; pg. 117) and allows hockey viewing via appropriate social distancing.

Young readers will undoubtedly love The Puck Drops Here and this series. (The second book in the Hockey Super Six series, On Thin Ice, dropped last month.) For Christmas, for hockey lovers, for middle graders looking for a laugh, this will be a barnburner for Kevin Sylvester. He definitely scores!

December 02, 2020

Raven, Rabbit, Deer: Q & A with author Sue Farrell Holler and illustrator Jennifer Faria

Written by Sue Farrell Holler
Illustrated by Jennifer Faria
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
November 2020

Yesterday I reviewed Raven, Rabbit, Deer, a new picture book from Pajama Press, by author Sue Farrell Holler and illustrator Jennifer Faria. Today I am pleased to present an interview with the author and illustrator.

HK:  At its heart, Raven, Rabbit, Deer is the story of an intergenerational relationship. Did either of you have a significant relationship with a grandparent that helped guide you in the telling of this story in words or pictures?
Sue Farrell Holler:  Thank you for recognizing this as a love story – the love between grandfather and grandson, the grandfather’s love of the land and the grandson’s love of play.

I adored my maternal grandmother but, because we didn’t travel much when I was a child, I saw my grandparents only for about a week a year, yet I think I carry part of her spirit. She was a very quiet woman who liked to garden, to cook and to gather people in her home. I never had the sense that anyone was invited; it just seemed that her house was always filled with people coming and going and she fed them all.

I think there is something very special about quiet relationships, the comfort of being with someone and not feeling the need to speak. That’s how I felt around my grandmother.

I wasn’t conscious of that when I wrote the story, but certainly, that’s the type of relationship we see in Raven, Rabbit, Deer.

Jennifer Faria:  Let’s just say my family history is colourful and complicated. My closest grandparent, one of my step-grandmothers, sadly passed away during the making of Raven, Rabbit, Deer. It’s disappointing, because she was one of the only members of my family who was excited about and interested in the book, and she didn’t get to see the finished product.

I have always had a good relationship with my great-aunt Glenna, who is a member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation, as I am. She exposed me to countless cultural events in and around Toronto throughout my formative years, which likely set the stage for my artistic development. I based the look and feel of the grandfather character on her brother, my great-uncle Leonard, and she provided me with many reference photos of him.

HK:  Because the species highlighted in Raven, Rabbit, Deer occur throughout Canada, did you have a specific setting or location in mind when writing or illustrating the book?
Sue Farrell Holler:  Yes. I had a very clear setting in mind. The place is called Muskoseepi Park, which incidentally, means “Bear Creek” in the Cree language. It’s an 1100-acre mostly wilderness area that runs the length of the city where I live, Grande Prairie, Alberta.

Except for paved walking trails, this is primarily a natural park that’s populated by lots of animals – magpies, woodpeckers, ravens, sparrows, chickadees, geese, ducks, and herons in the summer. There are beaver, deer, moose, rabbits, muskrats, chipmunks, squirrels, mice and occasionally bear and cougar. But the animals I encounter most often are birds and mule deer.

The area is my favourite part of the city. It’s where I walk almost every day to keep tuned into nature.

Jennifer Faria:  Since Sue lives in Grand Prairie, Alberta, I assumed that some of the details of the walk in the story might be local to her, so at first I was going in that direction. However, in researching which animals I would use, I found that to get a raven, a rabbit, and a deer together in the same place, in winter, it would have to be set in Ontario. So that’s what I imagined.

HK:  One of the unique features of Raven, Rabbit, Deer is the inclusion of Ojibwemowin. Was the choice of Ojibwemowin related to either of your backgrounds? If so, how and was it a language spoken at home?
Sue Farrell Holler:  The inclusion of the First Nations’ language is one of my favourite pieces of this story. I’m a bit of a “language nut” and I love the unhurried cadence of many of the Indigenous languages. When they are written, they are these really big words that you have to slow down to sound out and to me, that’s exactly how the language sounds, as if every word is a story. 

Ojibwemowin is a new language to me, but my dad taught us a few words of Mi’kmaq – mostly the words that mean, “Hurry up!”

I am not of Indigenous heritage, but Jennifer is a member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation.

Jennifer Faria:  I am technically a member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation, however growing up in Toronto, I was not raised in that tradition, so I don’t know the language myself. For that, I consulted with my second cousin Janice (uncle Leonard’s daughter) who is qualified and educated in these matters, and she kindly provided the translations.

HK:  Raven, Rabbit, Deer is very much a sensory experience, from the visual of footprints in the snow looking like two hot dogs with two marshmallows, to the characters’ puffing as they climb a hill  and the snow shower that tickles the child’s face and the cold that creeps down his neck. Even without the illustrations, your text is very evocative. Did you start the story with these sensory elements or did you start with a story arc into which they were embedded?
Sue Farrell Holler:  Thank you for that!

Stories for me always start with emotion. While Raven, Rabbit, Deer appears to be a nature story, it is something a little bit deeper.

I’m very much myself and very much at peace in nature. With this story, I was thinking of how I’d like to share my experience with children and to encourage them to explore the natural world. For many kids, that will mean a city park, but it’s amazing what you can find when you slow down and really look. Key to that, of course, is knowing what to look for.

HK:  How flexible does an author have to be with an illustrator’s visualization of their words? As your visions may be very different, how do you allow the two to merge?
Sue Farrell Holler:  A picture book is an interesting collaboration. The author and the illustrator work with the same text, but usually in isolation.

I’m probably not supposed to say this, but the illustrations are my favourite part of a picture book. The illustrations make the words that much richer.

I love knowing a story has spoken to an artist, then seeing how she brings her perspective and experience to my words.

When I saw Jennifer’s final illustration – the one of the boy and his grandfather cuddled together – I teared up. It’s so tender and so beautiful and totally captures what this story is about.

HK:  If you could ensure young readers take away one message from Raven, Rabbit, Deer, what would it be? 
Sue Farrell Holler:  I would hope that children come away with the sense of security and comfort that comes from loving someone.

HK:  Though you’ve worked as an artist, this is your first picture book.  How did you find the process of illustration from working with the text, and trying to honour the author’s message to being true to your own style and artistic expression?
Jennifer Faria:  Many stages of development went into the creation of the preliminary artwork, with lots of input from the art director to help interpret Sue’s message, so that aspect fell into place pretty organically over time. With regard to my style and artistic expression, I went with the more bold, clean, and intricate look that I usually use in my portraiture (using multiple layers of acrylic paint and coloured pencil), which was probably too labour-intensive and inefficient relative to my deadline. I think it worked. However, if I get the opportunity to illustrate more books in the future, I might like to experiment with a looser, quicker style, perhaps in watercolour.

HK:  It’s not unusual for authors and illustrators to look to those in their circles for names and traits. Do the grandfather and child in your illustrations reflect any family or friends?
Jennifer Faria:  As I said previously, the grandfather is modelled on my great-uncle Leonard, whom I only met and spent time with a handful of times (he lived in B.C.), but he was a very strong and delightful presence, full of warmth and good humour. I used some younger photos of my son as references for the boy, and the green bear in the book is based on
my son’s own green teddy bear.

HK:  I’ve seen two different book covers with different details of your name. Which is your professional artist’s name and which name do you prefer me to use in my post?

Jennifer Faria:  At first I was going to go with both my maiden name and husband’s last name, but later decided it was best to stick with just my maiden name, hence the change you mention. I didn’t want to rebrand, plus I have a lot of history and equity built into ‘Jennifer Faria’ as a professional identity, so that’s the name on the published book, and the one I prefer.

• • • • • • •

Thank you, Sue and Jennifer, for your candid answers to my probing questions about Raven, Rabbit, Deer.  These details about the book, both text and illustrations, as well as your own backgrounds, will undoubtedly enrich its storytelling for young readers.

Thank you also to Laura Bowman, Sales & Marketing Manager at Pajama Press, for facilitating this interview with Sue Farrell Holler and Jennifer Faria.

 • • • • • • •

Also, do check out my review of Raven, Rabbit, Deer yesterday for more details about the book and to see samples of its illustrations.

December 01, 2020

Raven, Rabbit, Deer

Written by Sue Farrell Holler
Illustrated by Jennifer Faria
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
November 2020

At its heart, Raven, Rabbit, Deer is a story about a grandfather and young grandson taking a walk in the snow. But simple pleasures and company are often bigger than they might appear, and that can be said for Raven, Rabbit, Deer as well. 

Though it is understood that the little boy is in the care of his elder, it's obvious that it's the child who is directing this day. He plops his boots on his grandfather's lap to suggest they go for a walk and he holds Grandpa's hand to ensure the older man's safety. Still, it's what his grandfather has to share that makes their hike all the more mutual.
From Raven, Rabbit, Deer by Sue Farrell Holler, illus. by Jennifer Faria
When they spot a raven, Grandpa tells the boy its name in English but also in Ojibwemowin, an Algonquian language. The boy takes note of the bird and what it looks like and the sounds it makes but just relishes making footprints and kicking snow. When they see marks in the snow different than their own, Grandpa says only, "Rabbit" and then "Waabooz" before the little boy is hopping.  And when deer appear in the woods, the child tries to count but, in mittens, it's near impossible. Fortunately, his grandfather can tell him that there are five waawaashkeshi.
From Raven, Rabbit, Deer by Sue Farrell Holler, illus. by Jennifer Faria
Still, when they see the tracks of a bird, the child correctly repeats the word for raven. He is mistaken however–the tracks are of a much smaller sparrow–but it's another teachable moment.

Finally the two return home, the elder to watch as the little one plays in the snow, until they both come in from the cold for cookies, a read and a snuggly nap together.
From Raven, Rabbit, Deer by Sue Farrell Holler, illus. by Jennifer Faria
Though Raven, Rabbit, Deer is culturally informative with its inclusion of Ojibwemowin, author Sue Farrell Holler has not created it as a picture book of vocabulary as much as a story of a touching inter-generational relationship. As grandfather and grandson walk and chat, they each give and take something different and yet together. The child finds everything about outdoors magical, recognizing the "snow shower that tickles my face and creeps cold down my neck" to trudging up the hill like tractors, making the letter "V" repeatedly with their boots, to the rabbit tracks that "look like two hot dogs with two marshmallows in the middle." The child sees the wonder of the natural world while the grandfather sees its reality, instead appreciating the wonder of his grandson's perspective. By focusing on the relationship and the sensory nature of that walk, Sue Farrell Holler makes Raven, Rabbit, Deer more personal and less informative than it could have been by another pen.

Similarly, debut picture book illustrator Jennifer Faria takes that heartfelt relationship and organic walk in a winter park and makes it into something warm and embracing. I defy young readers not to feel the cold and the damp of that walk and play and the glow of the hospitality of those cookies and fire. Using acrylic paint and coloured pencil, Jennifer Faria has given Raven, Rabbit, Deer a boldness of colour and shape but with an understated edge that complements Sue Farrell Holler's story and intensifies it.
In Raven, Rabbit, Deer, or gaagaagi, waabooz, waawaashkeshi as would be in Ojibwemowin, Sue Farrell Holler and Jennifer Faria have let us enjoy an outing with a grandfather and his grandson and feel the warmth of that harmonious connection between people and with place.

• • • • • • •

Look for my interview tomorrow with author Sue Farrell Holler and illustrator Jennifer Faria about this new picture book.