Brown, P. (2016). The Wild Robot. New York: Little, Brown and Company.
Peter Brown’s art has come to middle grade fiction, and combined with his equally bare bones writing style, he has created a meditation on nature versus technology, a philosopher’s handbook, if you want to go that far.
After falling off a cargo ship and bobbing along in the ocean, Roz reaches the shores of an island where otters manage to open up her shipping box and activate her. Roz opens her eyes, looks around this place – the only place she’s ever known – and even though she is indeed a robot, she considers it home. However, survival quickly becomes her primary focus, when a storm sweeps her down in a mudslide, angry bears chase her, and a mama bird makes sure Roz lands with a clank out of a tall and sticky pine tree. Intriguingly, Roz begins to observe the island’s animals and learn their ways and their language. The line between real and robot is tenuous and appealing in Continue reading
Gardner, W. (2017). You’re Welcome, Universe. New York: Knopf.
You’re Welcome, Universe is Whitney Gardner’s debut novel that smoothly weaves layer upon layer of diversity, beginning with Julia, a teenager who is Indian American and Deaf. She has two moms (who are also Deaf) but the story doesn’t pause for very long on this LBGQT+ detail; it simply is the way it is. Deaf culture, however, is a world that gets explored. And the inclusion of art is inter-dispersed throughout the pages of the book with drawings done by the author.
Julia’s character is real and raw and flawed. Often she is frustrated by people’s cluelessness regarding deafness, and she can be very abrupt about it. When we first meet her, she is in the principal’s office for spraying graffiti on school property. Nevermind she was covering up slurs about her friend, she still gets expelled.
Graffiti is another underrepresented world that is allowed a front row in this novel, and its validity is exposed. Julia’s passion for her art takes her around the city at night when she draws and then “tags” – not her name since graffiti is illegal – but a special signature that is hers alone. Little does Julia expect someone else to draw over her drawings, making them even better! An all-out graffiti war unfolds as we all wonder who is behind it.
Gordon, G. (2013). Herman and Rosie. New York: Roaring Book Press.
A surreal and blatant love letter to New York City, the reader is plunged into the worlds of Herman and Rosie, who live close to each other but have yet to serendipidously meet. They both love the City with its cacophony of musical sounds, but they also both feel lonely in the midst of so many. It is postmodernist, as the characters make reference to each other before they meet. Furthermore, there are smaller separate stories told within the pictures, discovered with closer examination. Continue reading
Alemagna, B. (2014). A Lion in Paris. London: Tate Publishing.
Originally published in French as Un Lion à Paris.
Here is the story of a lion from the grasslands who finds himself unfulfilled and therefore travels into Paris. He delights and prides himself at being the centre of attention and so becomes befuddled when people do not react strongly to his presence on the Métro or pulling up at chair at the famous outdoor spot, Café de Flore. A story of finding oneself, the lion’s journey ends Continue reading
Browne, A. (2004). Into the Forest. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press. Author illustrator Anthony Browne has amassed an impressive collection of award-winning picture books. Known for his postmodernist approach, Into the Forest is no exception. A boy is awoken in the middle of the night by a storm, establishing a sense of foreboding. The diagonal lines in the shadows immediately put us on edge, and we turn the page to discover the father is Continue reading
McCloskey, R. (1952). One Morning in Maine. New York: Viking Penguin Inc.
Awards: Caldecott Honor (1953)
Sal has discovered a loose tooth on the day she is planning to go with her father and younger sister, Jane, across to Buck’s Harbour in their little boat. Her mother explains that she can make a wish on her tooth once it comes out, but she mustn’t tell anyone or the wish won’t come true. Sal tries to make sense of her experience by wondering if various island animals even have teeth, and if so, do they lose them? The themes of a young girl having her first loose tooth, enjoying nature, and resilience in the face of disappointment Continue reading
Jeffers, O. (2007). The Way Back Home. London: Harper Collins Children’s Books.
The third in Jeffers’ boy series.
The story kicks off with an intertextual nod to the second of the series, Lost and Found, as the boy pulls a boat into his house to store. He finds an aeroplane in the closet and not remembering that he put it there, he reasons it’s a good idea to go for a trip to the moon. After running out of gas on the moon, he surprisingly meets someone else who is likewise, in a predicament. Continue reading
Pinkwater, D. (1977). The Big Orange Splot. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Through unexpected humour, the themes of taking risks, diversity, following one’s own dreams, and being unique are illuminated. After a seagull carrying a bucket of paint (“no one knows why”) spills it on Mr. Plumbean’s house, Mr. Plumbean paints his house to look like a rainbow, a jungle, an explosion. When he breaks away from the stifling conformity of his neighbourhood, he sets in motion an Continue reading
Gay, M. (2010). Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth! Toronto: Groundwood Books.
Roslyn wakes up one morning knowing full well what is on her agenda for the day. Dig a hole to China, of course! Or perhaps the South Pole so she can finally meet a penguin. Enthusiastically she bounds down the stairs and recounts the plan to her father at the breakfast table, to which he simply inquires, “Will you be home in time Continue reading
Perrin, C. (2014). At the Same Moment Around the World. San Francisco, California: Chronicle Books, LLC.
Originally published in France as Au même instant, sur la Terre (2011)
This jam-packed, delightful concept book takes the reader around the world, exploring what different children are doing at the same moment, whether it be night or day where they live. Different cultures are examined as Benedict drinks hot chocolate, Ravshan and Yuliya return from the market on a donkey, and Pablo has magical dreams. But are they more different or more similar to one Continue reading