November 29, 2023

Scaredy Squirrel Gets Festive (Scaredy's Nutty Adventures)

Written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt
Tundra Books
88 pp.
Ages 6-9
October 2023
In six perfect chapters, Scaredy Orville Squirrel (abbreviated appropriately as S.O.S.) prepares for Christmas. Starting in July, he makes a checklist to ensure a perfect holiday. Once December arrives, it's time to start checking things off his list. With a little help from his friends– Ivy, a rabbit, Rash, an armadillo, and Timber (Tim), a beaver–Scaredy gets to work with decorations. A mishap with a toboggan almost has their tree festooned in pickles and clown noses, but with some effort and a lot of paint, they get the perfect decorations.
Next Scaredy Squirrel enlists his friends to secure the area from holiday troublemakers like nutcrackers, abominable snowmen, last-minute shoppers, and elves.
From Scaredy Squirrel Gets Festive, written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt
His plan for a gingerbread house that will last forever–though Ivy questions that intent with "Seriously? I doubt gingerbread can last past Easter"–is put into action to construct a sturdy, albeit inedible, masterpiece.
From Scaredy Squirrel Gets Festive, written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt
While Scaredy has already gotten the perfect gifts for his friends, he gets to wrapping them as they debate what to get for him. Then it's only his Christmas Eve get-together, prepping for Santa's visit, and waking to Christmas morning surprises. Though he couldn't plan for everything, it still is a perfect Christmas for Scaredy Squirrel.

Two things about Scaredy: he's always prepared, and he always does things with safety in mind. Scaredy Squirrel Gets Festive is loaded with checklists, plans, files, instructions, and profiles that ensure that things get done and done well and in a timely fashion. From "Scaredy's Christmas TO-DO List" to his instructions on "How to Wrap the Perfect Gift," Scaredy has it covered. (Mélanie Watt even gets the reader primed for Scaredy's predilections with "The Holiday Reader Quiz" before the story even starts, just to make sure the reader is prepared to proceed to the next pages. I got 5 points.)
From Scaredy Squirrel Gets Festive, written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt
As we learned in the first Scaredy Squirrel book, Scaredy is always scared about his safety, and that's why he insists his friends wear painter's suits when painting, why there's a fire extinguisher handy, why they wear masks while varnishing, and why he's so prepared. Still, with his friends who are all a little bit different, whether calm and wise, or bold and impetus, Scaredy is both given reasons to continue to be cautious and reasons to indulge a bit more.

Mélanie Watt has always taken a tongue-in-cheek approach to Scaredy's overcautious nature. Children reading her stories, whether the original picture books or whether the chapter book graphic novel series Scaredy's Nutty Adventures, will both see the wisdom of Scaredy's caution but will laugh at his extreme reactions, from panicking and playing dead when supposedly exposed to a pointy elf or wearing gloves to prevent paper cuts when wrapping gifts. They'll be familiar with many of activities Scaredy and his friends undertake in Scaredy Squirrel Gets Festive and so will understand both the nature of his fears and the silliness of his responses, regardless of whether they are brash like Rash or guarded like Scaredy.
From Scaredy Squirrel Gets Festive, written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt
The stories and the humour within have and will always delight young readers, but it's all so much more when Mélanie Watt adds her artwork. Her heavily-outlined characters and objects make them pop off the page but also complement the bold text of Scaredy's lists and instructions. There is nothing subtle about the illustrations or Scaredy so anything less than bold, bright, and lively just wouldn't work. Moreover, Mélanie Watt knows how to add the humour into her drawings, like the helmet Rash undoubtedly needs to wear to keep him safe, the cat mask Rash dons when he can't find a respirator mask when they're varnishing, or Rash's roving toad Chucky who seems to pop up in unexpected places. 
It's just the right time now to start your holiday season off, and, with Scaredy and his friends, it'll be easy to get festive. Just watch out for those pointy elves, and Gary the germ, and those last-minute Christmas shoppers, and...
• • • • • • • 
Scaredy's Nutty Adventures series
Scaredy Squirrel in a Nutshell
Scaredy Squirrel Gets a Surprise
Scaredy Squirrel Gets Festive

November 27, 2023

Death & Sparkles and the Sacred Golden Cupcake

Written and illustrated by Rob Justus
Chronicle Books
316 pp.
Ages 10-14
November 2023
When Death first met Sparkles, the last unicorn and media sweetheart, in Death & Sparkles (2021), it was a difficult relationship. Death had never had a friend–how could he when whomever he touched would die?–and Sparkles was all about his celebrity. But they found a way to work together and give support as needed. But in their newest adventure, their friendship will be challenged by a quartet of moles who may know a little more about unicorns–or 'corns as they call them–and are accordingly less than impressed by Sparkles and his ancestors.
From Death & Sparkles and the Sacred Golden Cupcake, written and illustrated by Rob Justus
Rob Justus, who apparently rendered the illustrations "in magical cupcakes with a sprinkle of digital art" develops his story along two parallel subplots. In the first, four moles, identified by their colours of Purple, Brown, Pink, and Blue, are obligated to tend the unicorns' sacred garden resplendent in golden colossal statues. When the  moles turn sixteen, they are sure that they will be invited to the ceremonial coming-of-age party held for uni-colts becoming unicorns. Instead, they are unceremoniously excluded by the unicorns. To exact their revenge, the moles intend to steal the sacred golden cupcake. Instead, they are discovered and banished to the darkness of the underground.
From Death & Sparkles and the Sacred Golden Cupcake, written and illustrated by Rob Justus
The second subplot revolves around our two titular protagonists. Sparkles is not feeling quite right. His horn is glowing and his body is tingling. When Death suggests a growth spurt, Sparkles opens a suitcase left to him by his late parents and discovers a letter about the journey he must go on as well as a golden cupcake on a chain that compels him to dance. Regardless of what Death wants, Sparkles drags his friend to club after club, looking for the right one. When they are transported to an underground cavern and a golden-gated garden, and they must make choices as to where they should go, there is a clash of personalities, as the egocentric Sparkles plows on ahead, ignoring Death and following his "super-mega important unicorn family quest." (pg. 134) Separated, Death meets the moles and, feeling welcomed and appreciated, befriends them, unknowingly becoming part of their scheme to get the scared golden cupcake.
From Death & Sparkles and the Sacred Golden Cupcake, written and illustrated by Rob Justus
There may be a lot of pink and purple and bling in Rob Justus's second b
ook starring Death and Sparkles but within all the sugary sweetness and sparkling flashiness there are important messages about being different, empathizing with others, true friendship, and humility (something Sparkles lacks). By juxtaposing the subdued and cautious Death with the look-at-me, self-absorbed Sparkles, Rob Justus lets us see that both extremes can be tiresome. However, a bit of risky taking with some judicious caution makes for a great partnership. And, though the mistreatment of the moles by the unicorns shows Sparkles that his heritage is not as noble as he'd imagined, it does inspire him to do better. (Now, if he just wasn't so over-confident and pushy. Sigh.)
From Death & Sparkles and the Sacred Golden Cupcake, written and illustrated by Rob Justus
Although Death & Sparkles and the Sacred Golden Cupcake only releases tomorrow, I'm already looking forward to Book 3 in this series. (Please let there be more books coming.) Judging by Rob Justus's Acknowledgments, he has lots of ideas. Maybe the ghost pirates didn't show up here, but I think Death and Sparkles have lots more adventures, and calamity, to experience, and more revelations to make about themselves.
• • • • • • •
Death & Sparkles and the Sacred Golden Cupcake (2023)

November 24, 2023

Next Door

Written by Deborah Kerbel
Illustrated by Isaac Liang
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
October 2023
Wordless picture books have a general hush about them. In wordless books, i.e., ones in which the stories are told through illustrations alone, no one is speaking and there is no text to distract. It's all rather subdued. In fact, it's a perfect reflection of what the main character, a young boy with hearing aids, must experience much of the time. But don't be fooled into thinking that there is no story to be told or personal connection to be made.
From Next Door, written by Deborah Kerbel, illustrated by Isaac Liang
A boy and his mother head out from their home just as a moving van arrives and begins unloading boxes. It's evident these are not their goods as the boy is familiar with the places and people he encounters on their walk. Though he may have limited hearing, as evidenced by his hearing aids, he notices everything, from the musician busking, the construction workers at work, and even baby birds in a high nest. It's unfortunate when a cyclist races past the boy, startling him into dropping his teddy bear. But, after confirming he is okay, communicating via American Sign Language, his mother settles the boy.
From Next Door, written by Deborah Kerbel, illustrated by Isaac Liang
Returning to their building, they visit their new neighbours in the apartment next door. Using her own way of communicating, with hand movements and an Arabic/English dictionary, the woman welcomes them. But the boy spies a little girl hiding from them. When he approaches her, it is evident that neither can understand the other. But through the sharing of food and art, the two children find their own way to communicate.
This story is deeply personal for Toronto author Deborah Kerbel whose own sister had been born profoundly deaf. Deborah Kerbel's Author's Note speaks of her sister's abilities to connect, and Next Door's story reflects that ability for children who find different ways to communicate because of hearing and language differences. Undoubtedly a child who has a hearing impairment and one whose language is different than those around them may both feel at a disadvantage when trying to communicate. But, as the boy demonstrates, his disability is not a hindrance to living a good life, one in which he communicates with others, just in his own way. He successfully uses American Sign Language and his hearing aids to enable connection with others. But, when he meets the new little girl next door, he's on an equal playing field as she struggles to get him to understand her. But, with some effort and the common ground of art, along with a tasty cookie, a connection is made.
From Next Door, written by Deborah Kerbel, illustrated by Isaac Liang
Deborah Kerbel opens up about her sister's story to help convey the possibility that communication does not cease with hearing or a different language. We find new ways to communicate when the customary route is not available. By juxtaposing the boy's circumstances with that of his new young neighbour, Deborah Kerbel has found a way for any child for whom communication is challenging, because of, for example, cultural differences, emotional barriers, or physical barriers, to accept that different can still be effective. 
Isaac Liang is a deaf illustrator from Singapore who imbues the art of Next Door with knowledge and sensitivity. Because of his personal experiences with hearing impairment, Isaac Liang has found a way to bring the quiet and the connection for the children through his digital art. Because comprehension through the sense of hearing is compromised, his emboldens the story with colour and shape. Perhaps words are unnecessary but meaning still comes through with every building, person, and detail. 

Next Door is a great picture book for helping children develop their visual literacy skills and their empathy and acceptance for those who communicate differently. Hopefully it will help them to recognize that we do not all hear or see or understand the same way–the cyclist who almost collides with the child assumed the boy could hear him coming–and to find new ways of communicating that might work better for others. And, when it all comes down to it, kindness always works.

November 22, 2023

The Three Little Mittens

Written by Linda Bailey
Illustrated by Natalia Shaloshvili
Tundra Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
October 2023
This story may start with "Once there were two little mittens..." but I can assure you that this is not a story of "once" but of "often" or "always" as winter sets in and we scramble to find our mittens and gloves. This is a story that has played out many times and will continue to play out wherever hand coverings are needed. For this one time, there is a very happy and inclusive ending.
From The Three Little Mittens, written by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Natalia Shaloshvili
Dotty and Other Dotty are two fluffy, pink, cozy mittens with yellow dots, and they are identical. Stripes is another mitten, but Dotty and Other Dotty give her the cold shoulder for not matching anyone and reminding her that the Little Girl will never wear her. Stripes is devastated by her loneliness, trapped in a pocket, unable to touch a dog or make a snowball.
And then Other Dotty is abandoned in the snow. Suddenly Dotty and Stripes are forced to become partners when the Little Girl decides to wear them together.
And here's the surprise. As they got to know each other, they began to like each other. In fact, they almost became friends.

But then Other Stripes reappears after having been dragged under the couch by the dog.  Now together, the two Stripes reject Dotty since she doesn't match them.

In a surprise, the Little Girl overhears their discussion and wonders why they have to match, because "There's always a mitten who doesn't match."
From The Three Little Mittens, written by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Natalia Shaloshvili
With that, she excavates the box of mittens and discovers a brilliant assortment of colours, patterns, sizes, and shapes, freeing everyone with the opportunity to be worn and get out. From then on, she wears unmatched mittens every day, giving all mittens a turn. Better than just getting out and about and serving a purpose again, the mittens find themselves making new friends and having fun.
From The Three Little Mittens, written by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Natalia Shaloshvili
But, like all great ideas, the Little Girl's equity in mitten-wearing is noticed and appreciated by her school mates and soon they too are wearing wonderful mixed-up mittens. Imagine what will happen when the socks hear about this!
I love how Linda Bailey has taken a familiar circumstance i.e., missing mittens and having a collection of mismatched ones, and given us a heartfelt story of acceptance and inclusiveness. In The Three Little Mittens, what starts as animosity and discrimination, becomes friendship and support, with all the mittens belonging, and, even better, being welcomed as part of  a new configuration. 

England's Natalia Shaloshvili creates acrylic paintings that are as warm and fuzzy as the mittens and children she includes in The Three Little Mittens. The softness of the edges reflect the linty nature of the woollens and other fabrics, but Natalia Shaloshvili extends that to the kids' hair and even a wheelchair, giving the story the fluffiness of snowflakes.
From The Three Little Mittens, written by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Natalia Shaloshvili
Linda Bailey has given us so many wonderful picture books over the years, from her award-winning Stanley books (like Stanley's Party) to her recent picture biographies (like Arthur Who Wrote Sherlock), that it's impossible to label her stories in any way as anything but her own. And now she's given us one with an important life lesson. With The Three Little Mittens, Linda Bailey, with much graphic support from Natalia Shaloshvili, has now taken us to the global closet to see that all mittens belong and can get along with everyone else. Who knew we could learn so much from three (or thirteen) little mittens?

November 20, 2023

When Rabbit Was a Lion

Written and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Owlkids Books
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
August 2023
A rabbit in a red-striped shirt lives in the backyard of our narrator, a little girl with whom he sometimes has tea. Though Rabbit and the little girl know that he doesn't like parties, he wants to make one for his friends, whom he does like.
From When Rabbit Was a Lion, written and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
So invitations are sent out for a costume party and Rabbit busies himself cleaning and decorating, baking and preparing his own costume. And when the jitters pop in that his party might be a flop, his human friend asks him, "What if it's good?".
All Rabbit's friends arrive, costumed and lively. There is music and dancing, laughter and conversation, and he is so pleased that his friends are happy. But, though he does partake a little, it grows too loud and too boisterous for Rabbit and he slips away for a bit of quiet. His friends, realizing that Rabbit has withdrawn, find a way to have fun and include him without causing Rabbit discomfort.
From When Rabbit Was a Lion, written and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
This could be a picture book of restraint, in colour and in story, much as how an introvert such as Rabbit might be seen. But, Eugenie Fernandes knows that Rabbit is more than his introversion. He is also a friend, and enjoys the company of his friends, though in moderation. So, that joy of friendship comes through in Eugenie Fernandes's paintings, resplendent in joyful colours of warm yellows and greens, and bright in its diverse palette. Rabbit is not sad because he needs to withdraw; he is just taking care of himself. And isn't it nice that his friends are kind enough to want to make him happy too? Eugenie Fernandes's artwork tells us this.
From When Rabbit Was a Lion, written and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Thank you, Eugenie Fernandes, for giving a sensitive and authentic voice to the many introverts who have had to fit into a predominantly extroverted world. As a strong introvert who has learned to fit in as needed and become more comfortable in social situations–and then withdrawing to my comfort zone in order to recover–When Rabbit Was a Lion speaks to me and undoubtedly to many children who've been told to be more social and that they need to get out more. Children need to see that not everyone craves attention and busyness, loudness and interaction. And they need to not be misunderstood because they are different from others in their circle. I'm very glad that Rabbit's friends are astute enough to realize that his need for quiet is not him being shy or angry, depressed or stuck-up, or even interpreted as a criticism of how they like to socialize. But socializing takes energy from introverts, unlike for extroverts who are energized by social interactions. For Rabbit, some quiet gives him fortitude. And by giving Rabbit the voice to speak his feelings and the friends who are willing to listen, Eugenie Fernandes has honoured the introverts who are so often overlooked.

November 17, 2023

If You See a Bluebird

Written by Bahram Rahman
Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 5-8
October 2023
When families are displaced, whether from war, natural disasters, persecution, or something else, making a new home is not always easy, especially for children. And the good memories of that original home may make one long for what once was. But home is not just a place. It is the family too, as an Afghan boy learns from his grandmother and a visiting bluebird.
From If You See a Bluebird, written by Bahram Rahman, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Ali and his parents and Nana had to flee Kabul, Afghanistan after war broke out. They travelled by foot, bus, and eventually escaped via plane, taking very little from their home. Now, in Canada, they live near an ocean, and Ali and Nana ride bikes to collect blackberries. But Ali misses Kabul, noting that the blackberries are not as deliciously sweet as the mulberries back home. Nana points out to him that though they are different they are not bad.
From If You See a Bluebird, written by Bahram Rahman, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
When they take a break from their berry-picking, they see a bluebird, and Nana reminds him that if you see a bluebird and make a wish before it flies away, your wish will come true. Her wish, for their family to be together and safe, had already come true. But his wish is for the fighting to stop in Kabul so that they might return home. It is then that Nana reminds him that home "is the love we have for each other."
It would be tough for a child to give up the familiar and the sweetness of his life in Kabul, with his mother playing her ghichak, his toys on a swing, gathering mulberries, and sitting on the tree's branch to look out over his neighbourhood. But,when he is reminded by his Nana of what home really is, he sees his new situation in a different light. There are now blackberries, his mother has a new instrument, spruce trees line the driveway, and they are safe. He finally appreciates this, shouting out to his parents when they arrive back that, "I am home!"

Bahram Rahman, himself a refugee from Afghanistan, gives us a different perspective of war and escape from war and adjustment to a new living situation in If You See a Bluebird. He has already shared stories in The Library Bus (2020) and A Sky-Blue Bench (2021) but in his latest picture book story, Bahram Rahman demonstrates that escape from a dangerous conflict does not always translate into a rejection of that insecurity. Because there has been loss, of place, people, objects and connection, the substitution of a new home in safety is not necessarily embraced immediately or wholeheartedly. So, Bahram Rahman shows us that a little boy can miss the wonderful things he remembers of his Afghan home but learn to lean towards something different and new that is nonetheless home.
From If You See a Bluebird, written by Bahram Rahman, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Gabrielle Grimard, who also illustrated The Library Bus, has such a sensitive touch for making us feel Ali's hesitation at embracing the new place as home, holding such strong positive memories of Kabul. She gives us the bleakness of the danger when the soldiers come and the family flees but Gabrielle Grimard brings in the birghtness and colour when Ali and his family are safe and happy, whether in a Kabul without war or in Canada.

If You See a Bluebird offers the hope one needs when going through change and especially when challenged with hardships. It's a reminder that with love and family, all can be endured. And making a wish when a bluebird lingers might just help as well.

November 15, 2023

How to Make a Peanut Butter Sandwich in 17 Easy Steps

Written and illustrated by Bambi Edlund
Owlkids Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
September 2023
Making a peanut butter and banana sandwich may never have been so complicated but it was probably also never so much fun and inclusive. 
As with any recipe, there is a list of ingredients. We might have suggested bread, peanut butter, and bananas would have sufficed for this sandwich but that's just not enough, apparently. Because it's a group effort, Bambi Edlund lists 19 things you will need, including a variety of animals to undertake the various steps. 
From How to Make a Peanut Butter Sandwich in 17 Easy Steps, written and illustrated by Bambi Edlund
It is a complicated recipe–17 steps, after all–but it's not just putting stuff on bread. Nope, you need to get the bread first. How are these animals going to get the bread? These enterprising, and talented, creatures are going to work for it. The crows grab a hat (which they will ultimately return) in which the juggling raccoon will gather tips. The coins are used to purchase bananas, bread, and nuts. Now with the ingredients in hand, the peanuts are shelled and smooshed by a clog-dancing miniature mule, a knife whittled by a toothy beaver, and bananas peeled and sliced by crows and a badger. Then it's an assembly line to make enough for an all-inclusive park party.
From How to Make a Peanut Butter Sandwich in 17 Easy Steps, written and illustrated by Bambi Edlund
I like how Bambi Edlund has kept her "recipe" story playful but nice. I've tired of movies, commercials, and stories in which bad behaviour, like lying, cheating, stealing, and rudeness, has become normalized to be seen as cute and funny. But Bambi Edlund keeps the cuteness without the foulness. Here she gives us an assortment of animals who work together, who earn the money to pay for the ingredients they take from the bakery, produce and nut stores, and who return things like a hat that they borrow. You can't convince me that that isn't charming in its sweetness and goodness.
From How to Make a Peanut Butter Sandwich in 17 Easy Steps, written and illustrated by Bambi Edlund
Beyond Bambi Edlund's straightforward text, easily read by young children and understood by them, are her illustrations. Vancouver's Bambi Edlund keeps her art simple–each animal is easily recognizable–and the settings, whether outdoors or in a shop, are uncluttered and familiar. Young readers will be able to put the words with the pictures and see more in the story. It will entertain, give them smiles, and make them feel part of the process, especially the next time they might make their own peanut butter sandwich.

November 13, 2023

The Yellow Leaves Are Coming

Written by James Gladstone
Illustrated by François Thisdale
Red Deer Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-9
November, 2023
While some may think that reviewing a book titled The Yellow Leaves Are Coming in November, after many of our leaves have already fallen, may be ill-timed, the story within tells another story. That story starts now, as indicated by this first line:
The yellow leaves are coming, thought the last leaf just fell.
From The Yellow Leaves are Coming, written by James Gladstone, illustrated by François Thisdale
As a young boy and an even younger girl stand out in the grayness of a cool day, they watch a single yellow leaf fall. But as they walk away, accompanied by one of François Thisdale's ubiquitous animals, they anticipate the next seasonal change. They wait and watch as the empty branches do.
From inside they watch the snow come.
I see it falling, growing thick on a hundred cold arms
reaching out for a warm, winter-coat friend.
As the grayness of winter, still magical, passes into the melting season with old leaves revealed to return some colour, the children are again wearing bright rain gear.  Then kids are outside playing baseball without coats and the trees are festooned with green leaves. Even on the balcony of the children's plex, clay pots are again filled with greenery and flowers. And François Thisdale ensures that there's always animal to watch over the seasonal scene, from a black-and-white cat to a rabbit, a butterfly, and blue jay.
From The Yellow Leaves are Coming, written by James Gladstone, illustrated by François Thisdale
The seasons may be changing, with summer transitioning to a return to school and ultimately the return of the yellow leaves, but James Gladstone continues to give us a sensory experience of seeing, hearing, and feeling. He reminds us with every poetic revelation, of the kids listening to the soft rustle of new leaves, slopping through the melting, or watching old leaves floating down curb rivers. And everything will be familiar to many Canadian children, from feeling the weather changing, watching the natural world transform, and altering their own clothes and activities with those changes. But more than telling us about those changes, James Gladstone, who has always blended science with storytelling in a compelling way (see Turtle Pond and A Star Explodes: The Story of Supernova 1054), makes us feel the seasons' changes.
From The Yellow Leaves are Coming, written by James Gladstone, illustrated by François Thisdale
The illustrations have been created by artist  François Thisdale, a recent finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Illustration (French language) for Boucar Diouf's book Le Bourlingueur de Matungoua. Blending drawings with photographs and acrylic painting as well as digital art, François Thisdale makes the illustrations both surreal and very personal. He makes us look closely but just as fittingly he makes us see the big picture. It's quite extraordinary. By giving us both the perspective from the children and of the children, François Thisdale evokes time and place while helping us see and feel what the children might. 

Our own yellow leaves are mostly on the ground now here in southern Ontario but, like the seasons that come and go and come again, I trust that they will appear again. No matter where young readers may be situated, they will recognize the cycle of seasons and nature, and anticipate the next, personalizing what they see just as James Gladstone and François Thisdale have done in The Yellow Leaves Are Coming.

November 10, 2023

All We Need is Love and a Really Soft Pillow!

Written and illustrated by
 Peter H. Reynolds and Henry Rocket Reynolds
Orchard Books (An Imprint of Scholastic Inc.)
40 pp.
Ages 4-8
October 2023 

In yet another heartfelt book in his collection, Peter H. Reynolds, this time in collaboration with his son Henry Rocket Reynolds, shows us that the Beatles were always right: all you need is love, though a really soft pillow doesn't hurt either!
All We Need is Love and a Really Soft Pillow! is a touching dialogue between Little One and their caregiver Poppy. As they are cutie-pie furry creatures, young readers can engender them or not, because it doesn't really matter whether Poppy is mother or father, grandparent, or older sibling. What matters is the love, and the love is stronger than the labels.
From All We Need is Love and a Really Soft Pillow!, written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds and Henry Rocket Reynolds
It all starts when Little One asks Poppy whether they need anything. That simple question leads to a sweet heart-to-heart discussion about what we really need. 
Little One,
I’ve got YOU!
We’ve got LOVE!
Love is all
we need!
But then Little One thinks about all the other things that might be nice to have, starting with a really soft pillow. Poppy always concurs with Little One’s ideas, from that pillow to a roof, walls, water and more. With each addition, Poppy acquiesces to Little One’s suggestions, recognizing that it would certainly be useful or sweet, something to add to their life together. Their simple life, now immortalized in a wall hanging, grows with their new shelter and water, as well as chocolate, a cooking pot, a bathtub, a toilet, vegetable garden and books. It’s a lovely life. That is, until a storm hits, and all is lost. Poppy reassures Little One that they still have each other and love, so that’s all they really need.
From All We Need is Love and a Really Soft Pillow!, written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds and Henry Rocket Reynolds
Disasters have always hit, from fires and floods to hurricanes and tornadoes, and people have experienced extraordinary losses. While never diminishing the impact of those disasters, Peter H. Reynolds and Henry Rocket Reynolds remind us that, even with the loss of our material things, with love, we can move forward.
Each day
is a new day.
A new chance to count
our blessings and
savor the journey with
those we love.
All We Need is Love and a Really Soft Pillow! is a delightful take on being grateful for what you have and more importantly for the love and support you get. I know many adults who need to understand this message but entitled children who get whatever they want, framing their requests as "I need..." could also benefit from a read of All We Need is Love and a  Really Soft Pillow! Children see what others have and think they need the same, but if this picture book does anything it shows that a close caregiver-child relationship based in love can make room for other things but can also sustain itself with that affection.
From All We Need is Love and a Really Soft Pillow!, written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds and Henry Rocket Reynolds
Though Peter H. Reynolds often has stylized people for his characters (see some samples below), the warm-fuzzy creatures of All We Need is Love and a Really Soft Pillow! are anything but human. They may have two eyes, two arms and two legs and walk upright but their similarities to people end there. By drawing them as something other than humanistic, Peter H. Reynolds surprisingly makes the story even more inclusive. Children don't have to see themselves in the characters to empathize with their situations. They will simply understand what it could mean to feel love and to give love and to support those we love, even in times of great loss. Poppy and Little One could be any caregiver and young person, furriness or hairiness aside.
From All We Need is Love and a Really Soft Pillow!, written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds and Henry Rocket Reynolds
There's an eyes-wide-open quality to Peter H. Reynolds's stories, demonstrating for us how we can be the best we can be, whether in pursuing our dreams, being ourselves, accepting others, or being grateful for what we have. In collaboration with his son, Henry Rocket Reynolds, Peter H. Reynolds has given us another important message and reminded us that, if we have love, we might just have everything.

• • • • • • •

Some books of the Peter H. Reynolds collection (with Orchard Books)

Be You! (2020)
Little Happy Dreamer (2020)
Our Table (2021)
Love You By Heart (2022)
All We Need is Love and a Really Soft Pillow! (2023)

November 09, 2023

2023 Le Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse: Winner announced

On October 18, 2023, the Canadian Children's Book Centre and Communication-Jeunesse announced the five finalists for the $50,000 prize for le Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l'enfance et la jeunesse.  This past Monday, November 6, the winner of this French-language book award was announced.

Congratulations & Félicitations!



 Le Prix TD de littérature pour l'enfance et la jeunesse canadienne
Écrit par Paul Tom
Illustré par Mélanie Baillairgé
Éditions la courte échelle