Creepier critters featured in kids’ series
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.