• Posted on January 31, 2011

Moonless Sonata

Buy it, or borrow it. That’s my recommendation, and the sum of my review.

When Night Didn’t Come is beautiful, astonishingly and almost indescribably beautiful, and it belongs in the library of anyone who appreciates, collects, and occasionally slobbers over illustrated children’s books of the most exquisite quality. No, you can’t have my copy.

Poly Bernatene’s recent publication is a wordless picture book, and I’m not entirely sure I would have been able to follow the narrative without the description on the back, and of course, the title. It begins at sunset with a yawning sun. The sky darkens, but the glow remains. Where is the moon? Where is the night? And why is the sky full of dirigibles?

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  • Posted on January 30, 2011

Picks & Tweets from the Illustrated Word

Too much of a good thing...maybe

Around these parts, no one can stop talking about the snow (65cm+), both the falling of and the removal of. It’s been quite a challenging couple of weeks, but so far, I’ve managed to stay upright, when I’m not curled up in my blanky, reading Scandinavian mysteries and writing about snow-based children’s books. What’s wrong with me? It is possible to get too much of a good thing (or an inevitable thing.) I have got to get a new armchair travel-agent.

Enough about the white stuff…here’s a few treats from around the series of tubes:

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  • Posted on January 25, 2011

Boogie Nights

Ever notice that snowmen, no matter how meticulously and lovingly put together, always look disheveled the next day? Droopy carrots, coal-black eyes askew, bellies not quite so round and jolly? Sure, you’ve blamed it on the sun, the neighbourhood kids, cracks in the space-time continuum, but what if it’s not that at all? What if snowmen participate in nocturnal activities beyond our awareness, beyond our comprehension? What if, when the moon rises, they wake up, and start to roam? If this is true, then I am personally going to melt every last one of them to the ground with my hair dryer, because sentient snowmen are the stuff of nightmares (and bad movies.) Sorry Frosty. Just the idea of rotund, cold-blooded creatures wandering the streets at night, smoking their corn-cob pipes, puddling in corners, it’s just too much. I haven’t been this frightened since I read the classic distopian cautionary tale, Attack of the Killer Snow Goons by Bill Watterson.

Happily (and to my great relief), the chilly folk that populate Snowmen at Night are partiers, not predators. Mayhem may be high on their agenda, but it’s mayhem of the joyful sort, made of snowball fights and cups of ‘ice-cold cocoa’. No need to fire up the hair dryer, these snowmen are quite harmless and resolutely cheerful. In fact, one read of this book and you’ll wish you were a little more cold-blooded…

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  • Posted on January 16, 2011

Let it Snow

It’s snowing.

It’s been snowing for days. Weeks, actually. More than twice the average and closing in on a record set in 1974, with 35 cm last weekend and another 20 cm expected this week. It’s also cold, bitterly and stubbornly cold. I love winter. Really, I do, and all this snow makes me feel like a kid. But as I wade through waist-high drifts on foot (boot, actually), and ride over the spine-rattling equivalent of moguls dimpling our city streets, the childlike wonder is fast giving way to adult exhaustion. Short of opening a Tauntaun and settling down for a long winter’s gut-nap, there is no relief in sight, other than the great indoors. I need a snow day. Or maybe, I need The Snow Day by Komako Sakai.

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  • Posted on January 12, 2011

Picks & Tweets from the Illustrated Word

Not feeling so sick now are ya, hmmm??

Happy New Year! I always look forward to Christmas, but by mid-December, after the 98th playing of Santa Baby (second only to River as the worst Christmas song ever) on the radio, and the 99th shortbread cookie, I’m ready to kick an elf. Perhaps it’s the hyperglycemia, or maybe it’s just elves, but whatever the reason, I’m always glad to unravel the tree and make a few half-hearted resolutions for a new and improved me as the year comes to a close. One thing that won’t change: my devotion to all things illustration, and the TV show Hoarders. And now, a few interesting tidbits from the last two weeks:

A Sick Day for Amos McGee wins the Caldecott! Congrats to illustrator Erin Stead. Also announced, the Newbery honours. Surprised that City Dog, Country Frog (reviewed in this blog) didn’t make the cut, but I respect the difficulty of choosing the best of the best. Still, poor doggy (and froggy), and a big thanks to all the illustrators and authors who entertained, inspired, and drained my pockets this year.

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  • Posted on January 07, 2011

A Dog, A Frog, and an Apology

I stand corrected. And in this case, I will even sit corrected. My usual infallible judgement with regard to covers has failed me, and I have fallen hard and fast for a book I’d previously dismissed. Week after week City Dog, Country Frog remained unbrowsed on the shelves of bookstores I frequented, a few uncharitable (and unspoken) thoughts directed at the loosely painted watercolour of a dog sporting a frog on its head. Not a fan of this style of overtly sentimental illustration. And yet…the book kept showing up in the ubiquitous year end ‘best of’ lists, and of late, as a front runner for the Caldecott medal, America’s highest honour for children’s picture book illustration. Clearly, ‘they’ were wrong, and I was right.

A few days after Christmas I found myself in a bookstore, the cash faucet still dripping after a month of unbridled spending, and there they were, those watery, plaintive, puppy-dog eyes. And so, after months of resistance, I picked up the book and flipped through the pages.

Oh. I get it. I’m dumb.

City Dog, Country Frog is a beautiful book. It is inspired, and it’s funny. It is also, well, let me explain…

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