February 1, 2014
In this monthly column, Etta Kaner shares some of her favourite children’s books written for a variety of ages.
While every month is a time to think about relationships, we especially tend to focus on them during the month of February. Sharing these books with your children might help you explore or perhaps repair relationships with your loved ones.
The French Fry King by Quebecois author/illustrator Roge (published by Tundra Books) is a delightful picture book about Roger, a sausage dog who likes to think about possibilities. One day he takes “matters into his own paws” and opens a French fry stand. His French fries become so popular that he sells them all over the world with appropriate culinary adjustments. In spite of his success and popularity, Roger is not happy. Only when he meets and falls in love with Charlotte, a dog who is the Corn Cob Queen, does he find true fulfilment. Roge’s detailed, textured illustrations nicely support the text in bringing home the message that fame and fortune are not what matter most in life.
Don’t Feed the Boy by Irene Latham (published by Roaring Brook Press) is a novel about 11-year-old Whit whose parents run a zoo in Alabama. Having lived all his life in a zoo, Whit has never had the opportunity to have a friend his age until he meets Stella, a girl who loves to draw. As their relationship develops, Stella shares her troubled life with Whit while Whit opens up the “behind the scenes” zoo world to Stella. While Whit struggles with his own relationship with his parents, he proves to be a mature supportive friend to Stella as he tries to make life better for her. Along with the creation of believable characters, author Latham gives us insight into the ups and downs of running a zoo. Preteens will be engaged by the numerous crises that occur throughout the book.
A Hen for Izzy Pippick by Aubrey Davis (published by Kids Can Press) features Shaina, a strong-willed plucky girl living in a village during difficult economic times. One day, Shaina finds a chicken escaped from a crate that has fallen off Izzy Pippick’s truck. Before long, the chicken’s chicks are creating so much havoc in Shaina’s house that her mother chases them out. When the hungry townspeople pursue the chickens, Shaina stops them by saying that they belong to Izzy Pippick. It isn’t until the town is overrun by chickens that Izzy Pippick finally returns and surprises Shaina with his response when she presents him with all of “his” chickens. This wonderful picture book demonstrates how the faith, persistence, strength and honesty of one individual can help a whole community.
Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon (published by First Second Publishers) is an amusing graphic novel for the younger set. The novel begins with Theodora leading an organized and perfect daily routine— exercising, swimming with a teacup on her head to maintain perfect posture, shopping and visiting the library. Every day is the same until Chad moves in next door. Chad is the complete opposite of Theodora: messy, noisy, spontaneous and adventurous. In spite of their differences, they find that they have many interests in common. It doesn’t take long for them to become fast friends until one day they overhear someone remarking that one of them is an odd duck. But which duck were they talking about —Theodora or Chad? An argument ensues that severs their relationship. Over time, they each realize that perhaps they are a little odd, but it doesn’t really matter. Full-page colour illustrations with humorous details add to the charm of this appealing book.