Tag Archives: Picture Books

A Book about the Wilderness to be Savoured | Review of “Me and You and the Red Canoe” Written by Jean E. Pendziwol and “Pictures” by Phil. (2017) Groundwood Books

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The beauty of the wilderness has been often described as wonderful and lyrical. And while a many a book has been written about the wilderness, it takes a gifted team to bring the magic truly together. So it is truly wonderful to flip through Me and You and the Red Canoe, written by Jean E. Pendziwol with pictures by Phil.

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After savouring this book for a little while, it is obvious that these duo not only have spent time in the outdoors but enjoy doing so. Their combination of words and images create a texture of what spending length of time out relaxing out near a lake. This book may appear to be a simple read at first, but for anyone – young or old – who takes the time to look carefully at the detail of both the words and the artwork here, gains a great appreciation of a simple canoe trip.

(Excerpt)

We paused,

silent,

drifting in our red canoe,

and watching a moose

on long gangly legs

pluck cattails from the shallows

for his breakfast.

 

I dropped my line

into the blue-green depths,

my lure

spinning,

twirling,

dancing.

 

You paddled.

 

We waited.

Pendziwol told me in a Q&A (link here) that place is important in her writing. And readers certainly get that feeling with this book. Readers easily gain empathy with the protagonist of this story who is out enjoying a day in a canoe. She shares the tranquility and relaxation that comes with someone out in nature, away from the hurly-burly of the modern electronic world we encase ourselves in.

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There is a certain mystic about “Phil” who is listed as having done the ‘pictures’ for this book. The images are detailed and vibrant which adds to the enjoyment of the book. We learn about “Phil’s” educational background and where he lives now from his blurb on the back of the book but not more.  A small website on the publisher’s page (Link here) lists a bit more of his background and tells us the ‘pictures’ are rendered on wood panels, which give the images a classic and time-honoured feel to them. But nothing more. The mystic about this talented artist certainly gives the book a bit more pleasure to it.

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Me and You and the Red Canoe, written by Jean E. Pendziwol and “pictures” by Phil, is certainly a charming and tranquil read to be savoured. The duo certainly breed empathy for the outdoors through their well-crafted work.

*****

Link to Groundwood Books’ website for Me and You and the Red Canoe

Link to Jean E. Pendziwol’s website

A Picture Book which truly Enlightens | Review of “Town Is by the Sea.” Written by Joanne Schwartz and Illustrated by Sydney Smith (2017) Groundwood Books

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The beauty of any book occurs when it documents a common theme to a reader while being set in an unique locale. A reader empathizes with the central character while learning about the location, which is simply why many of us enjoy reading and looking at books. And that is exactly what occurs when one looks at Town Is by the Sea written by Joanne Schwartz and illustrated by Sydney Smith.

When I wake up, it goes like this –

first I hear the seagulls, then I hear a dog barking,

a car goes by on the shore road, someone slams a

door and yells good morning.

And along the road, lupine and Queen Anne’s lace

rustle in the wind.

First thing I see when I look

out the window is the sea.

And I know my father is already deep

down under that sea, digging for coal.

I love the feeling this perfect mix of illustrations and words give this book. The story deals with a young boy going through his busy day on a coastal village yet mindful of his father’s hard work digging for coal deep under the sea. Schwartz’s words are poetic and lyrical while Smith’s illustrations are profound yet simple. Flipping through this book is an enlightening experience for any reader of any age.

 

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“From my house, I can see the sea.” Illustration by Sydney Smith

This is a work that is simply well-crafted. It, no doubt, took time, care and planning to bring this volume together. And it works well. It enlightens while it simply engages a reader. Worthy of anybody’s few moments in a quiet corner to reflect over.

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“My father is a miner and he works under the sea, deep down in the coal mines.” Illustration by Sydney Smith

While this book may take place in a different time and place for many of us, it helps us understand a small section of the human condition a bit better. We relate to the little boy’s experience but we gain a simple understanding of what his father’s role was at that time. Enlightenment comes easy with this book.

Author’s Note

If you were a boy in the mining towns of Cape Breton – or, indeed, a child in any mining town in the world – during the late 1800s and early 1900s, you might well have faced the prospect of going to work in the mines at the young age of nine or ten, enduring twelve-hour days in the harsh, dangerous and dark reality underground. Decades later, the life of these towns still revolved around the mines. Even into the 1950s, around the time when this story takes place, boys of high-school age, carrying on the traditions of their fathers and grandfathers, continued to see their future working in the mines.

This was the legacy of a mining town.

Town Is by the Sea is a great example of a great piece of literature, even though it is a ‘picture book.’ Joanne Schwartz’s words blend well together with Sydney Smith’s illustration to tell a unique story.

*****

Link to Groundwood Books/House of Anansi’s website for Town Is by the Sea.

Link to Sydney Smith’s tumblr “Sketchbook”

The Crafting of a Good Book Without Words | Review of “Skunk On A String” by Thao Lam (2016) Owlkids Books

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There was a kind of synergy created when we were younger and learning to read. Teachers, TV hosts and even our parents somehow combined creating arts and crafts with reading. But then we grew up and somehow art and reading became separate items. Yet there is a joy to be had in a young-at-heart souls when we discover a book that combines the two items again for us. And while Skunk On A String may be a book for the younger set, the collages Thao Lam has created to illustrate this book, should appeal to anybody.

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The book has a certain type of whimsy to it but it is a well-crafted form of whimsy. There is a story about a skunk who is trapped by a string on a balloon. And yes, we follow that skunk past all sorts of surprised beings who are too surprised and scared to help that poor skunk out. Yet it is when we look at Thao Lam’s biography we can truly appreciate the skill that went into this book.

Excerpt from the description on the back flap

Thao Lam fled from Vietnam to Canada with her family as a child. Learning English was difficult, and it was picture books that helped her understand this new world and ignited her passion for visual storytelling. She has an insatiable love for colored and textured papers, which she uses to create her exuberant collages.

Skunk On A String by Thao Lam may be a picture book created for the young but it also has appeal for us that are young at heart. Lam’s collages made of different types of paper bring a well-crafted zeal to the book that anybody can appreciate.

*****

Link to Thao Lam’s website

Link to Owlkids Publishing website for Skunk On A String

Link to Toronto’s Word On The Street festival’s website hosting Thao Lam’s appearance on Sept. 25, 2016