• Posted on October 01, 2013


October has arrived, wind-swept and leaf-strewn; a seasonal reminder that it’s time to bone up on my ghosts. Like the would-be spectre dragging a ball and chain in Sonia Goldie and illustrator Marc Boutavant’s newly translated book Ghosts, I am poorly educated in the ectoplasmic sciences. No matter, with the help of this extraordinary (and extrasensory) book, I can now distinguish between the winter-loving ghost who lurks behind curtains drawing pictures on frosted window panes, the soot-covered Chimney Ghost, and of course, the oft-maligned Night Ghost. I’ve much to learn, and many preconceptions that barely scratch the surface of this delightful and diverse society of apparitions.

Ghosts coverOriginally published in 2001 in France, Ghosts is a whimsical introduction to the domestic variety of ghost populating the bedrooms and kitchens of our homes in (apparently) great multitude and variety. Leading the tour is a tiny bear-like ghost named Toasty, and his protege, an old-fashioned fellow from the ‘sheet’ and ‘boo’ era who may or may not be a real ghost. Wishing to dispel the myth that ghosts live only in old castles and haunted houses, Toasty invites his new friend to a party for all the household ghosts, who are introduced one by one. Turns out, we corporeal types are far from alone, and as I’d always suspected, not solely responsible for the mess and mayhem in our homes. There are mischief-makers in our midst.

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  • Posted on August 01, 2011

Chicken Love

A perfect picture book is a rare thing. So much of what gets published is forgettable; poorly illustrated, drearily unoriginal productions that pander  to popular tastes, however fleeting. Not to despair. There are children’s picture book illustrators, writers and publishers hell-bent on bringing excellence to the table with original stories, inventive language, gut-busting humour, and as I’ve said many times before, the most beautiful art to be found anywhere, in any venue. The current purveyer of picture book perfection is French illustrator Béatrice Rodriguez and her crew of animal adventurists, including a determined hen and the fox who sweeps her off her claws, a loyal but easily fatigued bear, his rabbit companion, and one mightily ticked-off rooster. Characters such as these cannot be contained to one book, and I am happy to report that Rodriguez has extended their adventures to two more rollicking tales, and the result is a trilogy of wordless picture books amongst the best to be published this, or any year. The Chicken Thief arrived first in 2010, followed by Fox and Hen Together in spring 2011 and finally, Rooster’s Revenge, to be hatched this September. I haven’t been this excited about a trilogy of books since Philip Pullman put armour on polar bears.

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  • Posted on February 08, 2011

The Sensual World

Every so often I read a book that makes me suck wind, as my former colleague in the bookstore used to say.

Suck wind~v. 1. to draw breath through one’s mouth. 2. To elicit a gasp. 3. To be surprised, as in the sudden appearance of Jesus Christ at Buffet World (extremely unlikely, and entirely inappropriate in this context.) 4. To experience a euphoric reaction to a beautiful thing.

Big Wolf & Little Wolf: The Little Leaf that Wouldn’t Fall is such a book. As I turned the pages of BWLW for the first time, I was struck by the exquisite charm and quirkiness of the illustrations by Olivier Tallec. And the writing…well, I wasn’t expecting it to be so poetic, and the ending so lovely. It is a vent sucer à deux, a double wind-sucker. When I finished it, I wanted to share it with someone, anyone, immediately, after I caught my breath of course. My cat, however, was uninterested.

Sometimes I feel like a preacher, fired up by the Good Word (or the Good Illustration), my arms raised in a beatificating pose, testifying to the masses, and one mightily bored feline. Big Wolf & Little Wolf: The Little Leaf that Wouldn’t Fall is a great book. A perfect book. And your souls will be damned if you don’t pick it up.


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  • Posted on June 30, 2010

Fox On The Run

A funny thing happened on the way to a barnyard convention. A fox steals a chicken, and as one would expect, a chase ensues, but this is no ordinary poultry pilfering. There will be no KFC party pack on the menu tonight.

The Chicken Thief is an action-packed wordless picture book involving a cross-country chase through dark forests, steep mountains, and roiling oceans. The watercolour and chalk paintings are loose in detail, but rich in colour, providing a glowing background for the expressive line drawings of the main characters: the chasers-a bear, rabbit and rooster, and the chasees-a fox and a hen. One wonders why the fox went so far afield to find his hen, but being a fox, I’m sure he had a plan. A sly plan. But not even a fox could imagine the conclusion to this unusual story.

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