Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide Part 3: Children's Books

Our whole family was hit with a bad cold, so this gift guide has taken a bit longer to put together, but it looks like we're all on the mend just in time for Christmas! Let's jump right in now though shall we to Part 3 of my Holiday Gift Guide, focusing on the best in Canadian Children's Books.

As many of you parents know, reading to your child can be one of life's great pleasures. If your little one happens to have selected a poorly written and drawn book for a bedtime story however, the night becomes a long and arduous one. I'm looking at you Dora books! I'll admit, there are even a few books in Rosie's collection that I've had to hide or give away, because they're just too painful to read.

Here are a few that we've read this year that have been a joy for both parent and child to read. Again I'm focusing on books by Canadians because well - I'm Canadian and we're blessed with lots of good talent here.

I Want my Hat Back
Written and Drawn by Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press,

Jon Klassen is an award-winning animator, and this is the first children's book that he's written and drawn. The story: the bear has lost his hat, and wants its back. He goes through the forest looking for it. Here's a little YouTube video for it:

What I like about this book, beyond the wonderful illustrations is the clarity and simplicity of the storytelling. This is something that looks easy when done well, but is very hard to pull off. The bear is a character and the forest animals have a lot of personality. The dialogue is also very funny.
Everyone in the family will love this book!

I Know Here
Written by Laurel Croza, Pictures by Matt James
Groundwood Books
HC, $18.95 

This is the first book by Laurel Croza. It's based on her own experiences as a little girl moving from place to place as her father worked on various dam projects in Saskatchewan. The story follows a little girl's move from Saskatchewan to Toronto. She talks about all the things she loves in her small town, and the fear and excitement that moving to an unknown big city.

What I love about this book is that it doesn't undermine a child's thoughts and feelings, everything the little girl describes is meaningful and true. Here's a sample:

"This is where I live. I don't know Toronto. I know here."

Every word seems careful chosen and honestly the book is quite powerful. The drawings are lovely as well. This is a real treat. Happily, I'm not the only one to have discovered it. The book has garnered a lot of attention, getting shortlisted for a Governor General's Award for Children's Illustration, and is the winner of the 2010 Boston Globe Book Award, the 2011 Ezra Jack Keats Award, and the New York Public Library New Writer Award.

When You Were Small
Written by Sara O'Leary, Drawn by Julie Morstad
Simply Read Books
HC, $19.95

I first became award of Julie Morstad from Drawn and Quarterly's "Milk Teeth" book of her work, still my favourite of their "Petits Livres" series of books. When I found out she had drawn some children's books, I was anxious to check them out.

It turns out that she has actually done a series of books with writer Sara O'Leary and each is lovely, gentle, sweet, charming and GORGEOUSLY illustrated. They are all great, and you should get them all, but I think the first one is the best (although honestly it's hard to pick): "When You Were Small". Every night Henry sits with his dad and asks to hear about when he was small, and his father tells him stories...

Here are the other two books in the series which are equally deserving of attention.

Where You Came From


Iris said...

Thanks, my daughter just received waaaay too many toys and I want to exchange them for some good books for her! Happy Holidays! :)

Diana said...

Good idea. Glad you found this helpful!