Written by Susan Vande Griek

Pictures by Karen Reczuch

A Groundwood Book



When I first moved to Canada from California I remember a lot of people being surprised that I had seen snow before or that I already knew how to ski. But one of the most amazing things I had never seen before was the Loon. Going to my very first Canadian cottage and seeing a still lake with a single loon in the middle of the water was an experience I will never forget.

Equally unforgettable is this book. Loon written by Susan Vande Griek with beautiful pictures by Karen Reczuch is a book that both kids and parents will enjoy. The pictures are just unbelievably gorgeous and lush. Each page resembles expensive fine art that is probably found in most Canadian dignitary’s homes. The story is equally impressive and chronicles the life of a loon from chick to adult.

The text flows nicely from page to page with a melodic tempo that resembles poetry. And at the end of the story the more mature reader can read up on their favorite bird with A Note on the Common Loon. Another detailed feature in this book, are the other animals featured throughout the book like the Moose, Raccoon, and various other birds. This book celebrates the Canadian outdoors and without being too preachy proposes ways for the reader to help maintain a healthy habitat for these creatures.

Karen Reczuch who is known for her work in numerous children’s books showcases her talents in this book. Karen is part of the Williams Mill, a not-for-profit corporation with a mandate to promote the visual arts in and around Halton Hills, Ontario.

The Vole Brothers

The Vole Brothers

Roslyn Schwartz


Owl Kids

From the author of the internationally acclaimed Mole Sisters comes a tale about two small, ravenous rodents – the Vole Brothers. A vole is very similar to a mouse but it would seem they are 100 times cuter.

In their quest to curb their appetites the Vole Brothers meet a cat, a crow and a troop of ants all in the pursuit of a slice of pizza. The Vole Brothers almost get eaten themselves but all ends well with a nutritious dinner of strawberries and flowers. Perhaps the moral of the story is that the trash the Vole Brothers find at the beginning of the tale are not wise dietary choices?

This is the second kid’s book I’ve read so far with a gray tabby cat. I wonder what other roles he will play in the upcoming books I’m about to read.

Not only does this book feature gorgeous pictures by the talented Roslyn Schwartz but it also uses sound effects in a way that I love so much about kid’s books. I wonder what “KARASHBAMBOOM” sounds like when Ms. Schwartz reads from her newest book at The Word on the Street on September 25th.


Cinnamon Baby

Cinnamon Baby

Written by Nicola Winstanley

Illustrated by Janice Nadeau

Kids Can Press




Miriam is a baker who has her own store and makes her own bread with as much love as I have for eating the stuff. She meets a man named Sebastian who also loves her bread and then falls in love with her. And soon there is a baby who doesn’t love anything. In fact the baby is so upset about everything that her tears fill the streets with rivers.

What could possibly be upsetting the baby so much? Miriam takes her baby to her bakery and bakes every type of bread imaginable until she gets to her favorite, the cinnamon bread. At first I thought the reason the baby is called Cinnamon is because she is biracial but only the illustrations hint at such a possibility. The main reason she’s a Cinnamon Baby is because the smell of Miriam’s bread is the only thing that can calm her down.

What I really loved about this book were the beautiful illustrations. The watercolors give the story a whimsical nature and the cutouts and fabric elements give the pages a three-dimensional effect. I liked  how some of the illustrations have grid paper backgrounds, as though they were straight out of Janice Nadeau’s sketchbook.


Noni Says No

Noni Says No

Written by Heather Hartt-Sussman

Illustrated by Geneviève Côté

Tundra Books



I sometimes have trouble saying – No. I’ve had  “friends” in the past who have asked and pushed and always wanted more.

“Sure I’ll help you do your homework.”

“Ok, I guess I can take notes for you in class.”

Noni has this problem too and it seems to be specifically whenever her friend Susie is around. Noni is a big girl and can tie her own shoelaces, recite the alphabet backwards (which I don’t think I can even do) but when it comes to her friend Susie, she just can’t say no. Susi borrows her favorite dress, plays with her special doll and even manages to convince Noni to cut off all her hair and dye the tuft in the front red! Of course, when Noni asks to play with Susie’s teddy bear or wear her sparkly tiara Susie has no problems saying no.

And so Noni gets pushed until she just can’t take it anymore. Susie stays overnight and sleeps in Noni’s own bed while Noni has to sleep on the floor! Poor Noni, with the worst haircut ever and the worst night of her life losses her cool and finally says “NO!”. And it’s no big deal. Susie is willing to negotiate.  If only she could have been more reasonable when she gave Noni a buzz cut. (Talk about no parental supervision.)

The moral of the story is…just say no! Because “no” means “no”. I feel like I’ve heard this somewhere before. But I guess it’s easier said than done, especially with those Susies in our lives. Next time someone asks me for something I’ll have to think of little Noni and her horrible haircut and I will try to say no.

Geneviève Côté does an amazing job yet again with the illustrations in this book. I talked about how much I liked her style in my last Children’s Book Review but I’ll have to say it again. Côté’s drawings make me smile. I was so delighted when she depicted little Susie has a wide-grinning little maniac.

Ella May and the Wishing Stone

Ella May and the Wishing Stone

Written by Cary Fagan

Illustrated by Geneviève Côté


Tundra Books




Ella May and the Wishing Stone is a charming story about the powers of friendship. Ella May is an inspiring little girl who finds a wishing stone at the beach. But how do we know it’s not just a regular stone? Ella May tells her friend Manuel, “It isn’t just a stone. It’s a wishing stone. See? It has a line going all-all-all the way around it.”

Ella May’s friends Manuel, Maya and Amir want their own wishing stones too. But a wishing stone is a special thing and doesn’t come to everyone. So clever Manuel devices a plan to make himself some money and transform regular stones into wishing stones, at one penny each. Maya and Amir wish for extravagant things like ponies and being able to walk on the moon. Meanwhile Ella May wishes for her lunch. Ella May’s lunch magically appears on her porch while the rain washes away all hope for ponies and the moon.

Ella May sees what trouble the wishing stone has created and wishes she didn’t even have it anymore. She helps her friends realize their wishes by building a pony out of cardboard and a lunar surface out of egg cartons. Even Manuel joins in the fun and his wish of playing hopscotch comes true too. But during all the fun the real wishing stone goes missing. “Maybe wishing stones don’t stay very long,” Manuel said. And that night after Ella May’s bath and stories and a good night kiss, she wonders who will find the wishing stone next.

This kids book has just the right balance of teaching a lesson and telling a good story. And the illustrations by Geneviève Côté made me smile. I loved all the visual details and the gray tabby is my favorite supporting character. The book captures the feeling of summer and adventure perfectly. I loved Côté’s illustrations so much that I picked up Noni Says No as my next kid’s book to review.


Summer is almost over. Now what?

The countdown has begun. There are 5 weeks until The Word on the Street.

Every year, just before September, we get very excited here at The U of T Bookstore. It’s ‘back to school’ and the store is busier than ever but it’s also the start of the fall book season. New and exciting books start coming in and there’s more to read then ever.  So where do you start? How about the line up at The Word on the Street?

Each year I eagerly anticipate the list of authors who will be attending The Word on the Street. It’s like Christmas in summer for me. Who will be the festival sweetheart this year? Who will attract line ups around the park? It’s hard to predict all this but you have to start somewhere so I choose the wacky and wonderful author Tony Burgess to read. Burgess’ last book, Pontypool Changes Everything was a Canadian zombie bestseller. It explored our obsessions with zombies and epidemics. It was made into both a motion picture and a radio play.

Burgess’ newest book, Idaho Winter is a bizarre story of a young boy who nobody likes because there is no reason to. He lives in filth and his parents hate him more than anyone else. But there is one person who does not hate Idaho and she is the lovely Madison Beach. We are introduced to the world of Idaho Winter by an intrusive narrator who asks us, the reader to extend our empathy for this hated boy. But how can we help this little boy who is hated by everyone except for an innocent little girl? Perhaps little Idaho will just have to help himself?

This book immediately caught my attention from the beautiful cover to the quirky opening Chapter. And once I started to learn more about Idaho and his bizarre world of hateful people, the more I couldn’t put this book down. I’ll have to admit I haven’t read Pontypool Changes Everything because I’ve heard so much about it and its corresponding movie that I feel like I already know the entire story. But after reading Idaho Winter I’m going to have to investigate this Tony Burgess a little more closely. I can’t wait to meet him at The Word on the Street and get my copy of his newest book signed!