Creepier critters fea­tured in kids’ se­ries

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - By He­len Nor­rie

THERE are plenty of books about pan­das, dogs and cats, rab­bits and even bears (think Win­nie-the-Pooh), but what about rats, leeches, spi­ders, por­cu­pines and crows? Fitzhenry and White­side has re­leased a se­ries of graphic pic­ture books about these of­ten-shunned crea­tures that are not only in­for­ma­tive but hi­lar­i­ous. First pub­lished in French be­tween 2001 and 2011, these lit­tle books writ­ten by Québé­cois au­thor and sci­en­tist Alain M. Berg­eron, pub­lisher Michel Quintin and il­lus­tra­tor Sam­par (Sa­muel Par­ent, who also han­dles the il­lus­tra­tions) are guar­an­teed to spark the in­ter­est of be­gin­ning read­ers, es­pe­cially young boys who like to scare their elders (or their sis­ters). Each book’s ti­tle be­gins with Do You Know — a trans­la­tion of the French ti­tle of the se­ries, Savais tu — and the an­i­mal in ques­tion (64 pages each, $10, pa­per­back). While Sam­par’s il­lus­tra­tions show a great sense of hu­mour, the com­ments also give plenty of in­for­ma­tion about the ti­tle an­i­mal. For ex­am­ple, did you know spi­ders suck up their prey through a tube con­nected to their stom­achs? It’s one of the many facts inquiring minds will learn from these in­no­va­tive of­fer­ings. Eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to read­ers from eight to 10 years of age, these books will likely be en­joyed by older sci­ence en­thu­si­asts as well. Win­nipeg au­thor and teacher/li­brar­ian (and Free Press book re­viewer) Har­riet Zaid­man has writ­ten a charm­ing story called Daisy’s Big­gest Suc­cess (For­est Park Press, 32 pages, $22, hard­cover) with art­work by Win­nipeg artist Sarah Neville. Daisy the pup has a habit of jump­ing up on fur­ni­ture and leav­ing her hair be­hind. Her fam­ily puts books on the chairs to dis­cour­age her leaps, but Daisy dis­cov­ers she can learn plenty of things from the books she knocks to the floor. When she starts teach­ing her fam­ily from the books, they cel­e­brate with Daisy. For ages 5-9. Young sports en­thu­si­asts will en­joy Puck­ster’s First Hockey Try­out by Lorna Schultz Ni­chol­son (Fenn/Tun­dra, 24 pages, $7, pa­per­back). Puck­ster is ner­vous as he faces his first try­out. Who­ever is cho­sen will play against the fa­bled Rus­sian Tigers. Puck­ster learns the im­por­tance of warm­ing up first, of drink­ing lots of wa­ter, of push­ing hard but not stop­ping too fast. But he re­al­izes that mak­ing the team isn’t ev­ery player’s dream. Il­lus­tra­tions by Kelly Find­ley are cartoon-style and fea­ture an­i­mal char­ac­ters. This is part of a se­ries of “Puck­ster” pic­ture books by Fenn/Tun­dra and Hockey Canada, such as Puck­ster Goes to the Olympics, where Puck­ster brings a big sur­prise to the gold medal game. For a mu­si­cal treat along with an at­trac­tive pic­ture book, try Songs From a Jour­ney With a Par­rot: Lul­la­bies and Nurs­ery Rhymes from Brazil and Por­tu­gal (col­lected by Magdeleine Lerasle, The Se­cret Moun­tain, $17, hard­cover and CD). This colourful lit­tle book con­tains 30 lul­la­bies, rhymes, skip­ping and dancing songs, orig­i­nally writ­ten in Por­tuguese but trans­lated into French and then English. Il­lus­tra­tions, in ap­pro­pri­ately flam­boy­ant style, are by Aurélia Fronty. The real trea­sure of this lit­tle book, how­ever, is the CD, where the songs have been put to mu­sic by Paul Mindy, with a va­ri­ety of voices and in­stru­ments, in­clud­ing gui­tar, ac­cor­dion, drums, gourds, mara­cas, flutes and bells. The mu­sic is cap­ti­vat­ing, with de­light­ful rhythms and oc­ca­sion­ally mem­o­rable soft lul­la­bies. Chil­dren don’t need to un­der­stand the words to love these se­lec­tions, but English lyrics, and of­ten the in­struc­tions for the dance or game, are in­cluded. Rec­om­mended for ages 2-7. He­len Nor­rie is a for­mer in­struc­tor of chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture whose col­umn ap­pears on

the third Satur­day of the month.

The Bear

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