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

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 cat’s pajama’s, by wallace edwards

While it’s true that The Cat’s Pajamas,  by Wallace Edwards, is another of the gorgeous picture book genre I adore—and while it’s also true that it’s been designed to amuse and enthral children, which it will certainly do, it must be said that even better than all that, it’s a tremendously fun parlour game for adults.

At least in my world.

I bought the book as a gift for a tiny person I know but haven’t given it away yet, in fact I’ll have to buy the kid another copy. This one’s mine. (I’ve since discovered it’s a follow-up to Edwards’ Monkey Business, which will be next on my list…)

As you may have worked out, The Cat’s Pajamas is heavy on idioms. Each page, a beautifully illustrated bit of quirkdom depicting one of the twenty-six idioms that make up the book—such as a panda seated at a table, playing a fiddle with a string of spaghetti (above text which reads: In order to have dinner music, Andy was forced to use his noodle.)

It doesn’t matter that the very young won’t get the nuanced brilliance of the compositions or the humour or the double entendres—they’ll be more than entertained with the absurdity of the pictures. (Did I mention that each illustration contains a hidden cat?)

Older kids though, and certain adult types (ahem)… will find that trying to guess the idiom being depicted is a whole other level of merriment.

Okay, picture this:

—A camel stands beside two small suitcases in what appears to be a desert; a single palm tree behind her, a train track in front. She’s draped in several colourful blankets, a feather headdress and beads. Each foot is placed deeply and firmly, it seems, inside either a strawberry or chocolate ice cream cone.
Text: “The Oasis Express was running late, so Camilla had to cool her heels.”

Or this—

An anteater in pearls, long tongue fully extended and in her hands, stands beside a goat in a striped dressing gown who points to a collection of quite hideous art.
Text: “The sight of Sir William’s new painting made Anita hold her tongue.”

Get it?

I actually played this with friends the other night. Granted, it could be that I hang around with fairly nerdish types, birds of a feather and all that, but it was just the thing between the soup and the nuts. And the bonus is that if you, like me, have an increasingly short memory, the game can be played any number of times with exactly the same level of challenge.

Oh, and don’t forget, you can also read it to the kidlets.

If you must.