Mr. Benjamin’s Suitcase of Secrets Book Review

Mr. Benjamin’s Suitcase of Secrets by Pei-Yu Chang

Mr. Benjamin and his suitcase of secrets

Mr. Benjamin’s Suitcase of Secrets is a picture book about a German philosopher named Mr. Benjamin. When his country  starts punishing people for having different ideas, he goes to see a woman named Mrs. Fittko who knows many secret passageways. Mrs. Fittko works to take people who are different over the border to the neighbouring country so that they do not get punished. Although the people who are escaping are told to pack lightly, Mr. Benjamin arrives with a large suitcase and insists on carrying it over the mountains. When Mr. Benjamin is turned away at the border, he disappears along with his suitcase. Everyone wonders about the contents of the suitcase and everyone has a different theory.

Mr. Benjamin carrying his large suitcase

Mr. Benjamin’s Suitcase of secrets is based on the real Walter Benjamin, a German author and philosopher who attempted to escape the Nazis in Germany during the Second World War Mrs. Fittko was also a real person, an Austrian name Lisa Fittko who was estimated to have helped 80,000 people who would have been persecuted into freedom.

 

 

Soldiers and people being arrested.

This is such an important book, especially in light of current events, it’s beautifully written and illustrated, and helps to explain a very difficult subject in a way that will make children understand without making them fearful and afraid. Including the character of Mrs. Fittko shows children the importance of standing up for and helping others.

 

Mrs. Fittko walking up a gangplank.

The illustrations are wonderful, managing to be whimsical while still meshing with the story.  The layered look of the illustrations makes the book  come to life. Mr. Benjamin’s Suitcase of Secrets is a touching and moving story that would make a great starting point for a conversation about differences, helping others, World War Two or current events.

Mr. Benjamin's hat and wand on a blue chair.

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The Year of the Garden Book Review

The Year of the Garden book cover

The Year of the Garden is written by Andrea Cheng and illustrated by Patrice Barton. The Year of the Garden follows Anna as she moves into a new house, makes a new friend and creates a garden over the course of a year. Inspired by reading the Secret Garden, Anna imagines creating a wonderful garden.

Cheng’s characters are very well written, detailed and interesting enough to make you want to know more about them. I like that the group of characters is multi-generational and diverse. Anna is Chinese-American and her heritage is shown through language, food and traditions shown in the book.

This is a great beginner chapter book with easy to follow writing that will still keep kid’s interest. It would also be a great book to read for back to school, as it deals with making new friends and fitting in. The Year of the Garden is a prequel to The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng and illustrated by Abigail Halpin, which I’m going to have to add to my TBR list!

Through the Gate Book Review

Cover of Through the Gate children's book by Sally FawcettThrough the Gate by Sally Fawcett is the story of a girl who moves to a new house, and gradually finds a home. I love the simple prose and the pattern it follows, repeating without being boring. The illustrations use the contrast between the grey scale and colour beautifully, and it really adds to the story, showing the difference between what the character feels about her new house versus how she feels about the other houses and things she passes on her way to school.

This book is a great story to read and re-read, children can point out the differences in each scene as the house changes bit by bit. A wonderful story for children who have recently moved or will soon move, or children that are going through any kind of changes in their life. it would make a good story to start reading before back to school, as a child starts going to school for the first time or as they go through the changing of classrooms and teachers when entering a new grade.

Book Review: An After Bedtime Story

Book Review: An After Bedtime Story by Shoham Smith. Illustrated by Einat Tsarfati and translated by Annette Appel

 

Cover of An After Bedtime Story childrens bookIn this rhyming story, Mom and Dad get little Nina down to bed…but she doesn’t stay asleep! Who can stay in bed while the adults are having a party in the living room? Mom and Dad try to maintain order while Nina gets one last hug from her Aunt…then a treat…then another treat! The rest of the guests join in on the fun while Mom and Dad try and fail to get Nina back to bed. Once her little sibling wakes up the party is in full swing! Poor Mom and Dad are so tired out from all of the hijinks that they crash on the couch, but their guests are kind enough to let them sleep while they clean up after their wild party.

This strongly reminded me of my relationship with my nieces. I’m giving horsie rides as poor Mom is trying to tell them that the living room isn’t a playground! I guess that’s part of the fun of being an Aunt or Uncle though, right?

I really loved the minimalist colour scheme of this book- everything is done in shades of pink, yellow, black, white and grey. The drawings are so well done however that the pictures are never boring. The illustrator added so many details such as items in the rooms and the expressions on faces, that there’s so much to look at, even without using a lot of colour.

Page from An After Bedtime Story children's book

 

Imprint: Abrams Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: May 3, 2016

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Book Review: Alice & Lucy Will Work for Bunk Beds

Book Review: Alice & Lucy Will Work for Bunk Beds by Jaime Temairik

Cover photo of Alice and Lucy Will Work for Bunk Beds children's bookThis is a sweet story about two bear sisters who enjoy sharing many things…but not everything! When they realize that they need separate beds they come up with the idea to buy bunk beds. They understand that they are going to need some money to buy the bunk beds, so they come up with the idea of getting a job. Luckily for them, their first job interview is successful and they land a job looking after a wedding cake while the baker is away.

When they find out that babysitting a cake is a boring job they decide to have a bake off. Lucy and Alice shows off the differences in their personality when they choose what to make- plain peanut butter cookies for Alice and a jelly pie for Lucy. They also have very different ways of baking- while Alice is neat, precise and cautious, Lucy is messy and throws caution and planning to the wind.

When their arguing over the results of the bake off results in them ruining the wedding cake right before the groom arrives to pick it up, they realize that they need to save the day with a new wedding cake. Alice and Lucy blend together their tastes and talents to create a fabulous new wedding cake! Hopefully everyone will like it.

This was a very heart warming book about sisters finding out that they don’t always have to agree or like the same things, but compromising and working together will get great results. The illustrations were well done, and I really loved the funny details in the pictures, like the industrial strength sprinkles and the buttons on the mixer. This makes it a great family read and a great book to read to a group of children with mixed ages. Alice & Lucy Will Work for Bunk Beds is the first book that Jaime Temairik has written and I’m sure that her future books will be just as fun to read! You can find out more about the author at her website.

Happy Birthday to Author Marc Brown!

Happy Birthday to author Marc Brown! Marc Brown is the creator of the Arthur books. The Arthur books were a favourite of mine when I was a child, and I still enjoy reading them and sharing them with kids today. Although the Arthur character looks different these days than he did when I was a child, he’s still the same fun character.

Original Arthur and current Arthur.
What Arthur looked like when the first books were written (left), and what Arthur currently looks like (right).

These days there are many more Arthur books, you can find one for almost any Holiday or event. there is even an Arthur television show that has won 6 Emmy Awards and received 25 Emmy nominations. I don’t always enjoy television shows or movies that are based on books but the Arthur series is a very high quality show that keeps the character and messages of the Arthur books intact.

Here’s some of my favourite Arthur books:

Arthur's New Puppy book cover
Arthur’s New Puppy
Arthur's Lost Library Book book cover
Arthur’s Lost Library Book
Arthur's Underwear book cover
Arthur’s Underwear
Arthur's Tooth book cover
Arthur’s Tooth

Do you have a favourite Arthur book? Share in the comments!

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Monster Books That Won’t Give Kids Nightmares.

Monsters are a popular topic for kids but some monster stories can be a bit too scary for some kids. These monster books are more sweet than scary, but will still delight your little monster lover!

Mrs. Mo’s Monster by Paul Beavis

Mrs Mo's Monster book coverWhen a monster visits Mrs. Mo’s house, will he be destructive or can he find something helpful to do? This book will make for a fun read aloud, with children joining in on the monster’s actions “Crunch, Munch and Chew!”. Mrs. Mo’s Monster has a funny ending that will give the children a giggle.

Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austin

Monsters Love Colors books coverThe colourful monsters in this book show children how much fun colours can be! The illustrations are colorful and full of texture. I love how the text really matches the flow of the words and the movement of the monsters. These are happy, dancing, bouncing monsters- not scary at all!

My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown

My Teacher is a Monster book coverBobby’s teacher, Mrs. Kirby, is an absolute monster! But when he runs into her outside of the classroom, will he see a different side to her? Children will enjoy the entertaining story as much as seeing the subtle changes in the illustrations. Although Mrs. Kirby may seem a little frightening at first, kids will finish the book with a changed heart.

How to Win a Monster Race by Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves

How to Win a Monster Race book coverWhen Albie’s trip to the car wash turns into joining in on a car race with monsters, there’s loads of excitement! This is a fast paced and silly story that manages to sneak in a lesson on teamwork too. The brightly coloured, furry looking monsters in this book are more cuddly looking than scary.

Monster Trouble by Lane Fredrickson and illustrations by Michael Robertson

Monster Trouble book coverBrave Winifred Schnitzel tries every night to get rid of the monsters that visit. Not because she is scared, but because they keep her awake. Winifred comes up with several clever ideas to chase off the monsters until she comes across the secret to getting rid of them and getting a good nights rest!

What are your favourite monster books for children?

 

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Best Board Books for Fall

 

Exposure to words and books help a toddler’s pre literacy skills grow. However, every parent and caregiver knows the frustration of having books ripped apart by curious hands soon ater they have been bought! Luckily more and more baby and toddler appropriate books are being published in board book format. It used to be fairly difficult to find good board books but now you can find board books in a wide range of topics. Here’s some of the best baby and toddler board books for Fall or Autumn.

Baby Loves Fall book by Karen Katz

Baby Loves Fall by Karen Katz. This book is a lift the flap book, which helps gets kids interested in the story and stay engaged while being read to. It also gives them something to explore while interacting with the book on their own.

 

Mouse's First Fall board book by Lauren Thompson

Mouse’s First Fall by Lauren Thompson. Perfect for fans of the other Mose books, this book is a fun introduction to the Fall season.

In My Path board book by Sara Gillingham

In My Patch by Sara Gillingham. This book is one of my favourites. It has die cut pages that give multiple layers to the book and really add to the illustrations. The mouse in the middle is also a finger puppet that you can use to help tell the story to your little one.

Fall toch and feel book by Roger Priddy

Fall by Roger Priddy. This book is a touch and feel book, which adds extra interest to the story and is a fun way to encourage a child to explore books.

 

Pumpkin Soup board book by Helen Cooper

Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper. This is one of my favourite books about Fall in board book or picture book form. Actually it’s probably one of my favourite children’s books in general. The story is beautifully written and the illustrations are so cozy that you wish you were hanging out in the little house with the cat and the squirrel and the duck. I’m so pleased that it comes in board book form because it means I can share it with younger children without worry about ripped or missing pages. Definitely a book to buy for your toddler, preschooler or school age child!

 

Book News Round Up

I’m counting down the days until Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children comes out on September 30th! I can’t wait to see this, although as with any book that’s been turned into a movie I’m worried it won’t live up to my expectations. What are your thoughts on books vs. movies? Do you feel the movie generally does a good job of representing the book or do you have to think of them as two separate entities?

11 Children’s Books That Help Kids Understand Autism via Romper

Excerpts from Chris Hadfield’s New Children’s Book via The Star

The Darkest Dark is about Chris Hadfield’s childhood fear of the dark and how he was able to get over it. This is on my TBR list for sure. I was lucky enough to see Chris Hadfield present on his life and journey to space and he seems like such a genuinely nice person with amazing stories to tell. Plus the illustrations by the Fan Brothers look fantastic!

An Illustration from The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield, illustrated by the Fan Brothers and showing a boy and a dog on a bed surrounded by spaceships, a planet and a whale.
Illustration from The Darkest Dark

Locke Street Festival Finds

Last weekend was both the Locke Street Festival as well as SuperCrawl in Hamilton. Lots of food trucks, art, concerts and entertainment. I wanted to quickly share a couple of my favourite finds from the weekend.

 

Cover of Edgar and the Treehouse of Usher by Jennifer AdamsFrom the book sale at Epic Books I bought Edgar and the Treehouse of Usher by Jennifer Adams. It looks like such a fun book and I can’t wait to review it.

 

Along a Long Road by Frank VivaMy other find was Along a Long Road by Frank Viva, found at the Hamilton Public Library’s sidewalk sale. I love the simple story and the illustrations in this book, especially how they used a contrasting texture for the road so that the children can follow it along with their fingers.

I was very excited to find these gems and add them to my collection! What great books (children’s or otherwise) have you added to your collection recently?