Ten: Lost Things

Another of the best known Arthur stories is the search for the Holy Grail. This week’s Ten highlights other stories which focus on the search for something lost.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Sometimes things get lost on purpose.
Ella lives in a town founded by the creator of the famous pangram, “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over the Lazy Dog.” When letters from the pangram start falling off the founder’s statue, the town leaders decide that any letter no longer appearing on the statue will also be removed from the town’s vocabulary. Continue reading


Journey by Aaron Becker

Journey coverTake a little Harold and the Purple Crayon, a little Where the Wild Things Are, some glorious illustrations, and a world you’ll remember (and wish for!) long after finishing the book, and you have Aaron Becker’s wordless picture book, Journey. Tired of waiting for her family to put down their electronics, and for the neighbourhood kids to invite her into their games, Journey‘s protagonist sets off on her own adventure. Red marker in hand, she creates a door that leads her from sepia-toned reality to a grand and richly green forest. When a stream appears, the marker produces a small boat, and when the stream-turned-aqueduct suddenly ends, it provides a hot air balloon in the nick of time.

Making (literally) her own way along is only half the adventure, though. While floating above the city in her balloon, the girl notices a purple bird being caught and caged. Abandoning her meandering trip, the girl follows the hunters’ airship, determined to find and free the bird. Accomplishing her task might earn her what she’s wanted all along. It might also cost her everything.

I’ve been waiting for Journey since spring, and while I wasn’t disappointed, I was surprised. I’d anticipated something of an update on Harold, and wondered how such a personal journey would come around to the “act of tremendous courage and kindness” described in the publisher’s blurb. While the red marker does play a significant role in the story, the vast, detailed landscapes and distinct contrast between the girl’s travels and her family’s screen-and-cord-bound lives combine to make this a much more outward-focused journey than Harold’s from the start. And while the story is simple, I think that this is another one where rereading and discussing will reveal more to love about Journey every time.

Read about the book from a teacherly point of view at Reading, Teaching, Learning, or from a mom’s perspective at Everyday Reading.

Come join the Sharp-Schu Book Club on Twitter on Wednesday, September 25th to talk about Journey and ask Aaron Becker questions!

If the art is what grabs you in Journey, check out Becker’s guest post on Gurney Journey to find out how he did it.

In case you haven’t seen it already (and even if you have), you really need to watch this gorgeous book trailer:

Here I Am story by Patti Kim, illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

Here I Am coverMoving to a new place is never easy, and when the language and customs don’t make any sense, feeling at home there seems almost impossible.

Patti Kim and Sonia Sánchez’s wordless picture book brings a little boy and his family to the United States. While the rest of his family is a little more open to making a go of this new life, the boy is frustrated and intimidated by the strangeness of everything. He retreats into himself, watching the world from behind (safe) apartment windows and longing for home.

This desire for “home” is at first centred in a red seed that the boy has brought with him. Gradually, though, the meaning of the seed changes, from a reminder of another place to simply the possibility of growth. When the boy loses his seed, he sets off after it, and quickly discovers, as he wanders his new neighbourhood, that this place is full of interesting things and friendly people. While he does eventually find the seed, the boy has by that time grown confident enough to be friendly himself. He and the little girl who found the seed plant it, and as it grows, so does their friendship, including first his sister, then her brother, and eventually both children’s parents as well.

Here I Am is a lovely, contemplative story. The images do a wonderful job of helping the reader to feel the strangeness of a new place for themselves, in particular through the spoken and written language that surrounds the boy, depicted in “bla-bla-blas” and mingled letters and symbols from a variety of alphabets. The book is as valuable for young readers welcoming new immigrants into their classroom or community as for new immigrants themselves, with its focus on understanding, courage, and finding universal means of communication.

Read more reviews from Book Egg and A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall.

Ever wonder how an author composes a wordless book when she/he is not the illustrator? Check out this interview on Capstone Connect to find out how Patti Kim did it!

Watch the official trailer:

Releases September 2, 2013. Thanks to Capstone Kids and NetGalley for the review copy!

Ten: The Books that Will Be 2013

This weekend, I went to the Alberta Library Conference and, among other things, had a chance to read about (and sometimes preview!) some of the books that will be coming out this year. This week’s Ten highlights titles that I’m most excited to read and, hopefully, share with you later this year.

Dream Boats coverDream Boats written by Dan Bar-el and illustrated by Kirsti Anne Wakelin
Released June 2013
“Where do children go when they close their eyes to sleep?
They step onto their dreamboats and sail toward adventure.
From Maiqui in the Andes floating through the constellations, to Aljuu paddling along the shores of Haida Gwaii with Eagle, Orca and Black Bear, to Ivan sailing into St. Petersburg, then sneaking between the bony legs of Baba Yaga, stories and memories lead them on.
Dream Boats takes readers into the dreams of children around the world, dreams that are filled with family and legends, culture and love. Written in lyrical prose by Dan Bar-el with gorgeous art by Kirsti Anne Wakelin, this is a book to be treasured by generations of dreamers. (from simplyreadbooks.com) Continue reading

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

The Arrival coverThe Arrival is a story told entirely in images. Its protagonist immigrates to a new land free of the dark shadows that haunt the streets of his own country. Although some portions of his experience are typical — the long, crowded journey across the sea, the awe-inspiring skyline of his new home, the dehumanising medical examination on arrival — the place itself is anything but. Vehicles float through the streets overhead, fantastical pets are everywhere, and a request for a loaf of bread results in a shopping basket full of unrecognisable produce. Other, more established immigrants help the protagonist to navigate this new place, and tell him their histories. There’s the girl determined to learn, who retrieves a confiscated book and hops a train away from her work camp. The couple who flees an army of giants set, apparently, on cleansing their country of inconvenient humans. The man who serves as a soldier in his country’s army, and returns to find his own city demolished. Like all these others, the protagonist gradually makes the new country home, growing accustomed to the odd and comfortable with the unexpected, until he, too, is able to offer help and encouragement to newcomers.

Tan’s story suggests that anyone who has felt perplexed and out of place in a new situation shares, in some small way, the experience of a new immigrant — to some degree, it is a universal story. The illustrations are strange and wonderful, and have no difficulty carrying the narrative. Because the story has no words, it might be a welcome recommendation for someone who doubts their reading skills, or who already enjoys stories that rely heavily on images, whether on paper or on screen. Interestingly, the book has also been popular with readers who appreciate beautiful language in their reading. Perhaps images so integral to a story can be thought of as part (or all) of the language of its telling — and Tan’s illustrations are stunning!

Read several reviews on the publisher’s website.

See the first section of the book in video form: