Cel­e­brat­ing fam­ily, friend­ship, love

Ottawa Citizen - - BOOKS - BERNIE GOEDHART

With just a cou­ple of weeks to go be­fore Valen­tine’s Day, stores are filled with cards and gifts and heart-shaped choco­lates. But love comes in many shapes and sizes, not least of which are the many pic­ture books that teach chil­dren about friends and fam­ily and shar­ing and kind­ness.

Yak and Dove, by Kyo Ma­clear, is such a book. Won­der­fully il­lus­trated in wa­ter­colour, gouache and coloured pen­cil by Esmé Shapiro, it is the tale of an un­likely friend­ship shared by a large furry an­i­mal and a small feath­ered bird.

Told in three parts, as di­a­logue be­tween the two friends, Ma­clear’s text is per­fect for read­ing aloud and man­ages to avoid cloy­ing cutesy-ness while re­tain­ing the hu­mour in­her­ent in its odd­ball plot. The au­thor has done a mas­ter­ful job of cre­at­ing dis­tinc­tive, be­liev­able voices for the main char­ac­ters, who go from cel­e­brat­ing their close­ness, to driv­ing each other apart, to dis­cov­er­ing that they re­ally do value their friend­ship. Chil­dren of all ages will rec­og­nize the love be­tween Yak and Dove, and ap­pre­ci­ate the fact that true friends can over­come the oc­ca­sional fall­ing out.

Days With Dad, by au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor Nari Hong, also cel­e­brates dif­fer­ences — but of a more fa­mil­ial va­ri­ety. The nar­ra­tor, a lit­tle girl, tells us about her fa­ther, who is in a wheel­chair and has been un­able to walk since he was a baby. He of­ten tells her he’s sorry that he can’t do the things other fa­thers do with their chil­dren, but she al­ways has a re­sponse that makes it clear she is happy to share the things he can do with her — like teach her about flow­ers and birds in the park, go ice fish­ing with her while oth­ers skate, build sand­cas­tles on the beach, or make rainy-day co­coa. “I’m just happy be­ing with him ev­ery sin­gle day,” the girl tells us in this sim­ple, lov­ing pic­ture book.

A Day With Yayah, by Ni­cola I. Camp­bell, is an­other fam­ily­based vol­ume — this one about In­dige­nous chil­dren who go out for­ag­ing for ed­i­ble plants and mush­rooms with their grand­mother. Set in the Bri­tish Columbia South­ern In­te­rior, it fea­tures the art­work of Julie Flett, who (with au­thor David A. Robert­son) won the 2017 Gov­er­nor Gen­eral’s Lit­er­ary Award for When We Were Alone, and in­cludes words from a nowen­dan­gered lan­guage tra­di­tion­ally spo­ken by part of the In­te­rior Sal­is­han peo­ples.

Yayah, the grand­mother in this in­for­ma­tive pic­ture book, not only aims to teach her grand­chil­dren about the foods Mother Earth pro­vides, but also to re­store to them the lan­guage that col­o­niza­tion and res­i­den­tial school poli­cies stole from their par­ents. A glos­sary is pro­vided and any­one want­ing to read the text aloud would be wise to first prac­tise the pho­netic pro­nun­ci­a­tions pro­vided.

Love, by Matt de la Peña, is worth check­ing out if you’re look­ing for a Valen­tine’s Day gift for any­one close to your heart — re­gard­less of age. Beau­ti­fully il­lus­trated by Loren Long in col­laged mono­type prints, acrylic paint and pen­cil, it opens with an image of young par­ents stand­ing at the foot of their in­fant’s crib, and ends with loved ones see­ing their chil­dren off at a train sta­tion.

Through­out the book, there are vary­ing scenes of love and kin­ship. In one, a young boy in a wheel­chair of­fers a dis­abled man on a park bench a hot­dog while the boy’s mother waits nearby. Each two-page spread de­picts an ex­am­ple of love, in both lyri­cal text and sur­prise-filled il­lus­tra­tions.

But it’s not all sweet­ness and light. One of the spreads de­picts what is clearly a scene of do­mes­tic tur­moil; an­other shows a fam­ily gath­ered in front of a tele­vised news­cast, shield­ing a young girl from the hor­rors de­picted on screen.

Love can mean pain, but more of­ten it means kind­ness, joy and self-worth, all of which the au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor man­age to de­pict in this book. It’s a gem.

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