Posts Tagged ‘Groundwood Books’

Write a Review Wednesday: Banjo of Destiny

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Me and Rolly Maloo. This week I look at Groundwood Books’ Banjo of Destiny (age 10-12), written by Cary Fagan. I have to thank Trisha at Groundwood Books for my review copy.

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Jeremiah Birnbaum is stinking rich. He lives in a house with nine bathrooms, a games room, an exercise room, an indoor pool, a hot tub, a movie theater, a bowling alley and a tennis court. His parents, a former hotdog vendor and window cleaner who made it big in dental floss, make sure Jeremiah goes to the very best private school, and that he takes lessons in all the things he will need to know how to do as an accomplished and impressive young man. Etiquette lessons, ballroom dancing, watercolor painting. And, of course, classical piano.

Jeremiah complies, because he wants to please his parents. But one day, by chance, he hears the captivating strains of a different kind of music — the strums, plucks and rhythms of a banjo. It’s music that stirs something in Jeremiah’s dutiful little soul, and he is suddenly obsessed. And when his parents forbid him to play one, he decides to learn anyway — even if he has to make the instrument himself.

I’ll admit, I was personally drawn to Banjo of Destiny because of my love of the ukulele. I realize they’re not the same instrument but they are viewed in the same way: strange, uncommon, lowbrow. But like Jeremiah, I was drawn to its sound.

You may think a book about a boy playing the banjo wouldn’t be that appealing to kids, but Banjo of Destiny is more than that. It deals with growing-up and finding your own voice. Jeremiah has let his parents have control over all his life: where he goes to school, what he wears, the classes he takes, even the music he listens too. But when the sound of the banjo strikes a chord with him (no pun intended), he doesn’t let his parents’ desires get in the way.

When his parents won’t let him learn the banjo, he decides to do it in secret, even going as far as building one in shop class to ensure he doesn’t break his parents’ rule about spending any money on the instrument. Jeremiah’s best friend Luella, who isn’t rich and has a wilder, more relaxed view on life, encourages his desire. Knowing how much playing the banjo means to Jeremiah, Luella even pushes him to let his parents know, to stop keeping it a secret.

Banjo of Destiny is a great story for kids about finding your passion and pursuing it, not letting others deter you. It’s also a wonderful story about friendship. I love Cary Fagan‘s writing too (Thing-Thing from Tundra Books is still one of my favourite pictures books to date).

To add a copy of Banjo of Destiny to your personal library, visit your local bookstore or Groundwood Books. For other great book ideas for kids, reach through the previous Write a Review Wednesday posts. What books are your kids enjoying?

Write a Review Wednesday: Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed The Baby Boss. This week we pull out a new book from one of our favourite author/illustrators. Groundwood Book‘s Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth (age 2-5). written and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay. I have to thank Trish at Groundwood Books for my review copy.

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Roslyn the rabbit woke up one morning full of excitement. She had a plan, a plan to dig the biggest hole in the Earth. With her father’s encouragement, Roslyn set off into her backyard to find the perfect spot. It seems finding where to dig was harder than digging the hole itself. Roslyn was hoping to dig her way to the South Pole so she could meet a real penguin. Instead she met a grumpy worm, a grouchy mole and a bone-hoarding dog.

In Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth, Roslyn’s enthusiasm and unstoppable spirit are qualities most of us adults wish we had retained from our youth, or at least I do. The thought of physically being able to dig all the way to China or the South Pole is far-fetched but kids don’t think that way; they think without boundaries. Roslyn’s dad doesn’t crush her dream either. Even at the end when Roslyn starts to feel discouraged about never being able to dig her big hole, her dad’s enthusiasm with the work she had accomplish makes her rethink what’s she’s done. A disappointing scenario is now turned into something pretty cool.

My kids loved the different animal encounters Roslyn had in her backyard. They loved her quest to not only dig the biggest hole (and whose child hasn’t wanted to do that) but also her adventure in finding the perfect spot to dig. My 6-year old was struck by the conversation between Roslyn and her dad. He commented that sometimes when a his younger sister makes something out of Lego, like a boat, and it didn’t turn out the way she wanted, he tells her that her boat has some really cool features making it better than other boats. Suddenly her disappointment is an accomplishment and she’s content. Encouraging others and looking at things differently are great qualities. Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth does a great job illustrating a child’s free spirit and imagination as well as disappointment. But it also does a great job showing the relationship with parents or others (such as a friend) and how a few simple words can help you change your perspective. I’m not sure if that’s what Marie-Louise Gay was trying to get across but that’s what we walked away with and that’s not too shabby for a story.

I also love the illustrations in Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth; they’re very organic feeling (and I’m not just saying that because most of the pages take place in the dirt in the backyard). The illustrations fill and weave around the pages with the text slotted into pockets here and there.

If you’re a fan of Marie-Louise Gay (you know, the Stella books) then be sure to visit her website www.marielouisegay.com for more on her books the new Stella and Sam TV show, downloads for kids and more. You can also visit Groundwood Books to get a peek at some of the inside pages of Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth.

You can add a copy of Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth to your personal library by visiting your local bookstore or at Groundwood Books. For other great book recommendations for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Write a Review Wednesday: Doggy Slippers

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Star Wars ABC. This week we’re reviewing Groundwood Books’ Doggy Slippers (age 2-5), written by Jorge Lujan and illustrated by Isol. I have to thank Trish at Groundwood Books for my review copy.

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Inspired by the stories Latin American children had about their own pets, poet Jorge Lujan tried to capture their feelings in Doggy Slippers, a collection of short poems.

With four cats of our own, we know the affect pets can have on a family and specifically kids. There’s a magical bond between kids and pets; like a unique friendship. I didn’t realize that Doggy Slippers was a book of short poems. I was drawn to it because of Isol’s wonderful sketch illustrations. We loved  them in the book Petit, The Monster.

Even though we were expecting a story at first, the small poems to read were a delight; like a collection of mini stories. My kids loved the stories. It was like talking to another child about their pet versus reading poems about pets. I loved that. We smiled at the boy and his kitty (it was everywhere just like our cats). We laughed at the turtle’s fall down the stairs (you’ve never seen a turtle move so fast). Doggy Slippers covered a variety of animals too, including a monkey.

After reading some of the poems my kids would talk about their cats and how they would describe them; how would they compare to the animals from the kids in Latin America.

You can add a copy of Doggy Slippers to your own personal library by visiting your local bookstore or Groundwood Books. For other great book ideas for kids read through some of the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Write a Review Wednesday: Petit, The Monster

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Chronicle Books High Five with Julius and Friends. This week we’re looking at Groundwood BooksPetit, the Monster (age 2-5 ), written and illustrated by Isol. I have to thank Trish at Groundwood Books for my review copy.

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Petit is a boy. Sometimes he’s bad, like when scarring the pigeons or trying to do math. Sometimes he’s good, like when he tells stories or takes care of his toys. Petit tries to be good but the harder he tries the worse things seem to turn out. There seems to be only one explanation in Petit’s mind. He must be a not-yet-discovered good-bad boy monster.

My first-born, a girl, was so perfect. She was well-behaved and followed the rules, she had great empathy for others, even as a toddler. I use to think other parents, especially those of boys, just didn’t know how to raise their kids properly.

Then I had my son and everything changed.

I’ll admit it, boys are a unique creature. I think that’s what drew me to Petit, The Monster. As I read this to my kids I could see my son in Petit’s shoes; trying to be good but giving into his more adventurous, loud and rough boy side.

My son, just like Petit, wonders about his behaviour too. We talk often about what’s good and what’s bad. We talk about how hard it is to control certain impulses. My son isn’t bad; he isn’t a monster. He’s just a boy, like Petit, trying to sort out who he is, why he behaves the way he does and how to change it, well some of it.

I love that Petit, The Monster shows my son that this is a struggle boys go through, not just him. I think he appreciates it more when it’s not just his mom telling him so (because moms are supposed to love you no matter what).

I also love the end of the book with Petit discovers that his mom is also good and bad. We all have our moments. Petit, The Monster is a great book to help the young boy in your family understand he’s not alone. It also helped my two girls understand too that boys are indeed unique creatures.

You can add a copy of Petit, The Monster to your own library by visit your independent book seller or Groundwood Books. For other great book ideas for kids, read through the other Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Favourite Books I’ve Reviewed (so far)

I love books for kids. I love the imaginative characters, the whimsical illustrations, the unique story ideas. I love sharing these books with my kids, seeing them fret, cry, laugh, learn, discover along with the characters.

I’m fortunate that I get to indulge in my love of children’s literature each and every Wednesday by sharing with my blog readers some amazing new books being released by dedicated children’s book publishers. I can’t believe I’ve accumulated over 50 reviews on my blog so far. I’ve only reviewed books that I think are really good but sometimes there are some really great books that stand out in my mind. I thought this week for my Oh Amanda‘s Top Ten post I’d share with you my Top 10 Favourite Books I’ve Reviewed (so far, in no particular order).

  1. High Five with Julius and Friends, Touch and Feel (Boardbook, Raincoast books) – A touch and feel boardbook based on Paul Frank’s lovable characters.
  2. The Secret Lives of Princesses (Picture Book, 7+, Sterling Kids Publishing) – A beautifully illustrated and witty tale of those lesser known princesses.
  3. Wolf Wanted (Picture Book, 4-7, Groundwood Books) – A clever twist on combining fictitious wolf characters with the plight of real wolves around the world.
  4. Meeow and the Big Box (Picture Book, 2-5, Sterling Kids Publishing) – A simple yet wonderful view of a young child’s imagination as seen through the behaviour of Meeow and his friends.
  5. Ivy and Bean (Chapter Book, 6-10, Raincoast Books) – A series of chapter books (6 so far) that follow the adventures and friendship of two seven-year-old girls.
  6. Monsterologist (Poetry, 4+, Sterling Kids Publishing) – A fictitious journal recounting the various spookies and scaries recorded by a Monsterologist.
  7. Thing-Thing (Picture Book, 4-7, Tundra Books) – A heartfelt tale of a stuffy’s journey as he’s carelessly discarded out an apartment window.
  8. OK GO (Picture Book,  ,Greenwillow Books ) – A graphically engaging story about taking care of the environment around us.
  9. Chicken Pig Cow (2-5, Annick Press) – A tale of 3 plasticine friends and their friendship.
  10. Alison Dare (Graphic Novel, 8+ ,Tundra Books) – A fun and adventurous tale of a young girl explorer.

If you’re interested in other great books for kids, read through some of the past Write a Review Wednesday posts and come back each Wednesday for new books.

Write a Review Wednesday: Wolf Wanted

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Tundra Books Topsy-Turvy Town. This week we review Groundwood BooksWolf Wanted (age 4-7) written by Ana Maria Machado and illustrated by Larent Cardon. I have to thank Trish at Groundwood Books for my review copy.

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While looking for a job Manny happens upon a posting in the paper: Wolf Wanted. As he’s a Wolf, Manny Wolf, he applies for the job only to find out they’re looking for a real wolf, the four-legged dog type. But when so many wolves apply to the Wolf Wanted ad, the company hires Manny to review and reply to all the candidates letters. That’s where the real story begins. Each letter is written with clues to which wolf character is apply for the job, from the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood to The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing from Aesop’s Fables.

Reading Wolf Wanted, my kids, and I included, loved trying to figure out who the wolf was before Manny revealed it in his letter of reply on the next page. Some were easy, some were hard, but all were fun. You forget how many stories contain wolves as characters. To add to the fun, the illustrations were done with each letter appearing like a letter on the page. we felt like we were reading the correspondance Manny was receiving (and sending) instead of just reading a story about Manny and his letters. The only thing my daughter thought would make this better is if the letters were actual letters, ones you pull out of envelops and hold in your hand to read (yes, we’re fans of the Griffin and Sabine trilogy).

Near the end of the book, after Manny answers a number of letters (and still has stacks left to go through) he realizes the original wanted advertisement wasn’t clear enough so he rewrites it. It turns out the company Manny works for is looking for real wolves to be included in a film documentary. The company wants to capture wolves in their natural habitat, living their lives and letting others know, especially because wolves are on the endangered species list. This is the clever twist to Wolf Wanted that really intrigued me. From taking a ficticious story about classic character wolves and changing the stories focus on real wolves in the wild, you’re now draw into understanding and discovering more about the variety of wolves in the world. Wolf Wanted also includes a great map showing where key wolf populations are located around the world and giving a brief description.

I enjoyed Wolf Wanted when I first started reading the letters but the natural transition from a fiction story into a non-fiction piece at the end really won me over and my two older kids.

You can add a copy of Wolf Wanted to your personal library by visiting your independant bookstore or visiting Groundwood Books online. Looking for other great books to read your kids? Take a read through our past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Write a Review Wednesday: I Know Here

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed OwlKids The Pirate and the Penguin (age 4-8 ) written and illustrated by Patricia Storms. Still buzzing from Canadian pride after the Olympics, we’re reviewing the very Canadian feeling book I Know Here (age 4-7) written by Laurel Croza and illustrated by Matt James. I have to thank Trish at Groundwood Books for my review copy.

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We’re moving to Toronto.

These words uttered by her brother meant everything was about to change. Her family lived in a trailer park in Saskatchewan with other families who’s parents were working on building the dam. The dam would soon be complete and they would have to move. But this was her home. She didn’t know Toronto. She knew here. The trees, the animals, the trailer where she went to school with nine other children, these were what she knew. She wondered if the people in Toronto have seen the slights she has seen. The move was inevitable so to remember all of her favourite things, she drew a picture. She kept this picture folded up small and safe in her pocket so even when she was there, in Toronto, she would still be here.

My kids loved I Know Here. We live in the big city and have talked about leaving, relocating to the country. They could relate to the little girls feelings of leaving behind the world she knew and love for something foreign and maybe a little scary. Laurel‘s words spoke the thoughts of a child in a beautiful way; the sense of missing the road or the grocery delivery truck. There’s not a lot of dialog, mainly the thoughts going through the little girl’s head as she observes everything around her familiar surroundings. Accompanied by Matt‘s folky-Canadian illustrations, you are transported to a small trailer town in the prairies. My oldest daughter loved the illustrations and would spend quiet moments in her room just looking at the pages.

If you’re around the Toronto area, you can drop into the book launch of I Know Here on Saturday, March 6 (2-5pm, reading at 3:30pm) at TYPE Books on Queen Street West.

You can add a copy of I Know Here to your personal library by visiting your local bookstore or from Groundwood Books. For other children’s book reviews, have a read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.