joey’s box

 

My newest nephew is almost two, which means he’s well into the book loving years, which means books from this aunt will be in his future.

I’ve already given him a few, one of the first being The Wonky Donkey, which has resulted in him forming a friendship with a local donkey that must now be driven past any time he’s in a car so that he can wave hello and shout heeeeehawwww.

This is the power of literature.

Am currently putting together a whole slew of books from my own shelves because a) I am thinning my shelves, and b) yes I have a collection of kid books, and c) I also happen to have one of those wonderful pre-paid Canada Post mailing cartons that will send eleven pounds of books to Joey’s mailbox.

M is for Moose  by Charles Pachter. Oh my god, I love this for its brilliant simplicity. And art. The art!  Each letter of the alphabet gets a mixture of painting and collage and the stories at the back that explain these seemingly  minimalistic pieces that actually contain SO MUCH. The key is to look long at each page. And there are games to encourage the looking. (How many moose, barns, Queen of Englands, etc. in the book?) AND A BUTTERTART RECIPE  that I have copied for myself because at some point Joey and I will need to discuss buttertarts. All the words are spelled Canadian, as in neighbour, colour, favourite, which is always refreshing, but the best part is that it’s the kind of book you can grow up with… and continue to love as an adult.

Ted Harrison’s O Canada, is an illustrated edition of the anthem, but as it was published in 1992, it’s in need of updating, which this aunt has happily done.

The anthem, btw, originally read: thou dost in us command… and was changed in 1913 to in all our sons command. Changed again (thankfully)  in 2018. The book also includes wee blurbs on each province.

 

Are You My Mother, by P.D. Eastman alhtough I continue to think of as one of my favourite Dr. Zeuss books.

 

The Moon Watched it All, by Shelley Leedahl.

 

Alligator Pie, by Dennis Lee.

 

Seaside Treasures, by Sarah Grindler, because one of my hopefulest hopes for Joey is that he grow up to adore the sea and all it has to offer, not only through its treasures of glass and shells, stones, feathers and driftwood, the sand sculpting, swimming and barefoot walking… but the breathing.

It is my absolute favourite place to breathe and this is a beautiful book to introduce to all kinds of waiting-just-for-him joy.

 

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, by you know who, who knows about hopping Yops and Yinks who like to drink and wink and the sheep who walked at night by the light of the moon, by the light of a star, they walked all night from near to far, and Ned and his bed and the thing we found in the park in the dark who we will call Clark and honestly I’m beginning to wonder if I can even part with this book at all.

If You Could Wear My Sneakers, by Sheree Fitch. Beautifully illustrated by Darcia Labrosse, the poems address fifteen of fifty-four children’s rights listed in the United Nations Conventions, including the right to an education, the right to enjoy your own language and culture, disability rights, all written in Fitch’s inimitable style. On the subject of war, for instance, and a child’s right to protection, the poem has elephants thundering past to… fight a battle, thump-galumphing off to war. Did you hear a small voice say… “What are we fighting for?” and goes on to address a child’s fears and thoughts, all in the voice of a young elephant. At the back of the book are brief discussions of the poems and what they each stand for.

In “The Stinky Truth’, a child’s right to express their opinion is celebrated…

“What do you think?
Do you think that I stink?”
said the skunk.
“Do you thunk that I smell?”
“Well, I think that you stink
but I think for a skunk
that you smell
incredibly
well.”

Another alphabet book, and another Ted Harrison book, ‘A Northern Alphabet’ done with his usual bright illustrations of northern scenes, each page devoted to another letter of the alphabet and chock full of words and places beginning with that letter, all of them relating to the north.

 

 

 

Mice, Morals, & Monkey Business, is a book of Aesop fables, stunningly illustrated by Christopher Wormell. Each double-page spread contains the moral of the story and illustration. At the back of the book, are the fables themselves. Again, this is one I’m tempted to keep. But, okay, fine, yes. The noble thing will be done. Into the Joey Box it goes. There should be a fable about noble book gestures.

 

 

Mixed Beasts, by Wallace Edwards. Again with gorgeous illustrations and verses about such mixed beasts as the bumblebeaver, the pelicantelope, the kangarooster, written by Kenyon Cox. Utterly charming and I suspect when read by Joey’s mum they will give Wonky Donkey some competition.

 

 

 

 

 

To top things off and to bring the poundage to eleven, and because books are best read with bread and jam, a jar of our homemade best.

P’s peach jam.

 

 

 

this is not a review: ‘the moon watched it all’, by shelley a. leedahl

 

It’s been a gorgeous week of moon-watching and, according to the premise of  Shelley Leedahl’s most recent picture book… possibly being  watched.

Leedahl writes “for all ages” although until now I was familiar only with her non-fiction for adults through which I’ve long admired her appreciation of nature. But I’m also a grown-up fan of picture books (and the moon).

Beautifully illustrated by Aino Anto (on over-sized smooth-as-glass pages), The Moon Watched it All  is the story of an orphaned boy, shoo’d away and unwanted by everyone he knows… a gentle soul who finds shelter in a chicken coop and who is eventually befriended by an elderly woman who lives alone and talks regularly to the moon.

My kind of people.

It’s also about loneliness. And how loneliness has no age, and family-like bonds can form in surprising ways and circumstances.

Leedahl is so good at not only writing FOR all ages, but about all ages.

The elderly woman in the story (“in a time before this time”) has been abandoned (it seems) by her children and her husband is ‘gone’. She takes comfort in nature, especially the moon, which is her ‘elder’, her counsel, the thing she clings to. The boy stays hidden for some time, fending for himself, and I like that Leedahl chose this path for him, showing the parallel between the two, that both are alone and abandoned but both are also capable on their own, that their coming together isn’t out of cloying necessity. Because the woman does eventually discover the boy and gives him a home and he’s helpful around the place and the reader can finally exhale with the rightness of it all but Leedahl doesn’t treat this with the expected sentimentality of ‘happy endings’. These are very much two different people building a life together… quietly, simply, respectfully, and with a silent gratitude the reader can hear loud and clear.

What a happy trip it would be to chat with a child as the book is read aloud, to ask questions, like why did no one want the boy and how must he have felt not only losing his mother, but then being abandoned and when he was living by his wits in the woods, what did he eat? (answer: “what the birds left after their fill of crusts and corn and seeds” ) and how did he feel in that chicken coop — and how did the chickens feel??? — and why was the woman so connected to the moon and what would have been the hardest part for the boy and the woman as they formed this new life as a family…

Because what Leedahl does best is tell a story that makes you actually sit up and take notice, to think about people… of all ages, and circumstances.

Which is so much more than telling a story.