The Night Gardener

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by Terry Fan and Eric Fan

(not to be confused with a book of the same title by Jonathan Auxier)

When William awakes, someone has transformed the shrubs and trees into animal-shaped works of art. One night William follows the night gardener and ends up helping him with his work.

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Beautiful illustrations and a lovely story. Highly recommended.

Ages 3-9

Reviewed by Esther

Available from public libraries

Bunny’s First Spring

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by Sally Lloyd-Jones

A little bunny watches as the seasons change, and gets worried when everything seems to disappear and die in the winter. Continue reading to witness his joy at the return of spring. Great illustrations.

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Recommended

Ages 0-5

Reviewed by Esther

Available from public libraries.

Houndsley and Catina

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by James Howe

The stories about this cat and dog centre around the homes of two friends who work at friendship, for a friendship with two different characters will always have a few kinks. How do you deal with a friend who wants to be a writer but writes horribly? Or who won’t stop talking when you’re trying to enjoy nature on a canoe ride? What about a snowy day lacking in excitement? These books offer gentle solutions that celebrate enjoying the simple things in life. Each book has a few chapters with a satisfying ending to the book.

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The illustrations in this series use a casual-looking watercolour style, but are beautifully done. You can see the thought and planning that went into each picture, and I love how the artist adds to each friend’s character simply by how she depicts their homes and clothing—did you notice Catina’s love for enormous, ornately patterned skirts and dresses? And Houndsley’s distinctive British air?

Other titles in the series:

Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time

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Houndsley and Catina: Plink and Plunk

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Houndsley and Catina and the Birthday Surprise

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Not officially Easy Readers, but could be used as such, (probably a Level 3), since they are published in that format with short chapters.

Ages 4-8

Available from public libraries

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

 

 

Hedgie Blasts Off

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By Jan Brett

A big disappointment. From the author of the beloved The Hat, and The Mitten books, The Umbrella, Town Mouse Country Mouse, Daisy Comes Home, and Berlioz the Bear, comes this story of a mission to restore a malfunctioning planet in outer space. When the space centre’s robot can’t do the job, Hedgie takes off to unplug the volcanic crater so all the aliens flying by in their saucers can once more enjoy the beautiful flowers fed by the life-giving sparkles. Yes, it is as bizarre as it sounds.

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Not Recommended

Ages 4-8

Picturebook

Reviewer: Doreen

Goodnight Songs: A Celebration of the Seasons

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By Margaret Wise Brown

Margaret Wise Brown. She is not your typical poet or story writer, and yet there is a gentle rhythm to her writing that makes her books good read-alouds. The world seems to think so too, as her Goodnight Moon is an enduring classic. This collection of poems—found forty years after her death— has just been recently published.

The poems in this picturebook are simple, fun, or sweet, and even if they’re not your favourites, a young child will enjoy sitting on your lap, just looking at the beautiful pictures and hearing the rhythm of your voice.

Twelve poems, twelve pictures—illustrated by twelve different award-winning picture book authors. And that makes this a neat book to talk about. What do you think the artist used to make this illustration? What do you like about it? Do you think it suits the poem? (I think they did a great job matching the illustrators’ styles to the different poems.) Which style of picture would you like to try make? Read about that illustrator in the back of the book, then get out your paper!

The book includes a CD by two music artists who have put the poems into song form in something of a cross between folksongs and country.

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Ages 0-10

Picturebook with CD

Available from: public libraries

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

The Nutcracker

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By Susan Jeffers

If the magical Nutcracker fairytale reads like a dream, that’s probably because it is! The picturebook story tells the dream that follows the receiving of a Nutcracker as a Christmas gift.

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Is this book for you? Well, if the music of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker thrills your heart, or you just can’t resist the twirling snowflakes in a land of lollipops; if a look at a real Victorian Christmas makes you smile or you want to at least familiarize your kids with The Nutcracker Story, then, yes, this is a picturebook for you.

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Author/illustrator Susan Jeffers wanted to retell the story of the Nutcracker in a version short enough for young listeners and to include pieces of the ballet in her illustrations, which she does. The artwork is truly Victorian from outside architecture to house décor to clothing fashion, and the ballerinas in the Land of Sweets are presented prettily, suiting a little girl’s dream of what a flower fairy should look like.

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Ages 4-7

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

The Awakening of Miss Prim

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By Natalia Fenollera

There is just too much that you could talk about with this book, so much so that you can find numerous reviews on various aspects of the book, both negative and positive.  The downside to this book is that although the book is primarily about a Christian religious awakening, a few characters flippantly mention hell or God. The upside to this book is the refreshing look at our modern-day culture and society’s expectations, through fresh eyes.

As for the whole notion of classical education, home education with a community’s involvement, a utopian society where people farm and produce their own goods and engage in debates and discussion on heady matters…such as whether Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott truly deserve a place among the classics, whether serving the living God changes a person so drastically that he can no longer marry a person who doesn’t believe, whether God can be found by skeptics who are open to finding the Truth—this and more I will leave the reader of Miss Prim to ponder for themselves…

I don’t particularly love the writing style, but there are so many quotes that made me think, such as Lulu Thiberville’s comment that: “Young people today extend childhood well beyond the chronologically allotted time. They’re immature and irresponsible at an age when they should no longer be so. But at the same time they lose their simplicity, their innocence and freshness early. Strange as it sounds, they grow old early.”

Adult fiction

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

 

Waiting for High Tide

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By Nikki McClure

You could give your kids or students a lesson on tides and clams, herons and barnacles….or you could read Waiting for High Tide. It was the illustrations and the cover that made me pick this book up. Beautifully done in white, black, and pale blue, the bold illustrations are reminiscent of wood-burning relief illustrations.

A simple story about building a raft with Mom, Dad, and Grandma one summer day, the facts in the book are so real you know the author must have almost lived them…which he did.

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Science

Picturebook

Available from public libraries

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

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The Snail and the Whale

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By Julia Donaldson

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I really loved this book :). It’s a board book but not just for babies. Toddlers and preschoolers and early elementary will enjoy: “This is a tale of a tiny snail…this is the whale who came one night…” With a real adventure and rescue, rhythmic language, and well-done illustrations (although they are a little spoiled by the comic-strip eyeballs), it is sure to be enjoyed a few times over. Includes an audio version with background music, that is wonderfully read.

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A long picture board book, with audio CD

Ages 3-8

Available from public libraries

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Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

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Fire Engine No. 9

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By Mike Austin

A brief dramatic telling of fire engine no. 9’s call and response to a fire, with lots of smoke and one word exclamations on each page, and the rescue of a baby from a burning building. Preschoolers will thrill to the story and older kids will benefit from the “What to do during a home fire,” on the last page.

Picturebook

Ages 2-6 + older kids for the last page

Available from public libraries

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen