Today I Read…Here Come Destructosaurus!

Here Comes DestructosaurusToday I read Here Comes Destructosaurus! by Aaron Reynolds, with illustrations by Jeremy Tankard.

Destructosaurus! What a naughty monster you’re being today! Stop destroying the city and terrifying the people at once, or someone’s going to have a very sore tail!

Why is Destructosaurus rampaging through the city? Find out in this hilarious picture book that will sound very familiar to the parents of any toddler who has monster-sized tantrums.

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I found this one at my local public library, and I knew I wanted to write about it. This clever and colourful reimagining of Godzilla frames the terrible legendary monster as a toddler having a temper tantrum, and is told from the perspective of the frustrated and impatient. but ultimately well-meaning, adult civilian.

I love the satire, and my Tiny Niece is well into her Terrible Twos, so I can definitely sympathize with the Narrator and their efforts to get Destructosaurus to be a good monster. I may call Tiny Niece a Destructosaurus the next time she hears “Time to clean up and go home!” and interprets it as “Let’s empty the toy box all over the floor and run away so Auntie can’t put my shoes on!” Still, I think I’d hold off on reading it to her, despite the wonderful illustrations. She’s a little too young to understand the story. This book would be perfect for a teacher talking about appropriate behaviour and how to deal with frustration, and why parents sometimes get angry with what you’ve done.

I also really like that the Narrator apologizes for yelling and getting frustrated when they find out what Destructosaurus wanted. It shows that both of them were in the wrong–Destructosaurus should have used his words instead of destroying the city, but the Narrator should have asked what  wrong instead of just yelling.

Destructosaurus does have a reason for destroying the city, but I won’t spoil it here–go read the book to find out! The Narrator uses the usual phrases frustrated parents use and weaves them into the tale of destruction, such as “Don’t you take that tone with me, Destructosaurus! Whatever you’re saying must seem awfully important to you, but I could do without the attitude. Besides, everyone here is a little busy at the moment. Screaming. And running away. And stockpiling bottled water.” Or “What do you think you are doing, Destructosaurus? Stop throwing around buildings that don’t belong to you. You’ve been brought up better than that, you naughty monster! Look with your eyes, not with your claws.”

Jeremy Tankard does a wonderful job of making Destructosaurus an adorable ball of fire-breathing tantrum. The illustrations are large and bright, and a wonderfully child-like version of the classic Godzilla movies, complete with helicopters and biplanes trying to corral Destructosaurus.

I’d recommend this book for more like a kindergarten-grade 1 audience. Or for the annoyed parent of a toddler who will definitely recognize themself in the harassed Narrator dealing with a real monster having a bad day.

 

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Today I Read…Every Day is Malala Day

Everday is Malala DayToday I read Every Day is Malala Day by Rosemary McCarney with Plan International. It won the 2015 Golden Oak award from the OLA Forest of Reading.

Malala Yousafzi’s story is well-known, as the young girl who was shot by the Taliban for trying to go to school. She is now the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and she has become a symbol of the fight for the rights of girls and women and all children to get an education. Every Day is Malala Day is an open letter to Malala from girls around the world, expressing their admiration and their thanks for her continuing advocacy of education and peace. With beautiful photographs of girls from around the world illustrating their message, this book is a wonderful introduction for Western students of the challenges some children face just for trying to go to school.

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Disclaimer first: I was on the selection committee for the 2015 Golden Oak award, and I did recommend it for the list of finalists, which was then read and voted upon by the as a public. The Golden Oak award is for adults who are beginning to learn how to read English, so while I do refer to Every Day is Malala Day as a children’s book in this review, it is suitable for and enjoyed by adults as well.

This is a terrific story and a great introduction for children to some of the barriers that women face in other countries. As a read-aloud, it is more suited to older children. I would probably recommend at least ages 8+, based on the references to Malala being shot and violence against women. However, it’s important to point out that this is something that is actually happening to children, and sometimes there’s a very fine line between protecting children and being honest with them. When I was coaching a children’s literature trivia team, I had to try explain the Holocaust and Nazi propaganda to grade 3s. Not easy, but they asked.

The story itself is based on a short video produced by the young people who took over the UN on the first Malala Day, July 12, 2013. The book also includes a brief description of what happened to Malala and part of Malala’s speech to the UN from that day, advocating for education for all children as a way to help lift them out of poverty and ignorance and warfare. While she isn’t really in the daily news right now, Malala is an important figure for our time and I am certain that we will hear from her again. This book is an excellent introduction to her remarkable work.

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“So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are out most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.” -Malala Yousafzai, July 12, 2013

 

Today I Read…The Dark Lord & The Seamstress

tDL&tSToday I read The Dark Lord & The Seamstress written by J.M. Frey and illustrated by Jennifer Vendrig. This is the product of the successful Kickstarter that I wrote about back in September.

Once upon a time there was a seamstress of unsurpassed talent, a woman of kindness and intelligence and beauty. The Dark Lord of Hell heard of her skill, and sent a messenger asking her to come and make him fine new suits of clothing, clothes worthy of his magnificence (and a little more modern in style). But when she arrived, something unexpected happened. The Dark Lord fell in love.

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With the recent rise in the popularity of adult colouring books (which is a great trend, because they’re super fun and besides my niece rarely lets me colour in hers–sharing is not a toddler’s strong suit), Frey has been marketing The Dark Lord and the Seamstress as an adult coloring book in verse. And her colouring contests have been fun, and artist Jennifer Vendrig’s illustrations are charming (though I still think my favourites are the chibi ones that she drew for the marketing and Kickstarter campaign–they’re just so cute! Especially the expression on the Seamstress’ face when she sees the Dark Lord’s dorky mismatched outfit!) Dark Lord

But it almost feels like the focus on the pictures is a bit of a disservice to the story, which is equally as charming. It’s a lovely fairy tale, very reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast, except that the Dark Lord is not cursed to his appearance, more misunderstood. When the Seamstress learns to look beyond his red skin and frightful job and his terrible taste in clothing, she sees that his love is true. He is never forced to change, while she uses her talents to help dress the inhabitants of both Heaven and Hell. Both angels and devils are clothed in love and blood, in something that unites them all.

This is a picture book, but one I’d give to an older child. The rhyming verses sometimes use some advanced and old-fashioned words that might need to be explained. That said, this would be an excellent story to read aloud to an older child who can already read, say grade 4 and up.

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Once upon a time, oh yes,

So very long ago,

There was of course a lovely girl,

Who came to learn to sew.

And as it goes, fair listener,

She learned to sew so well

That even the Dark Lord Himself

Heard of her talent, down in Hell.

Dark Lord and the Seamstress Kickstarter

So my friend J.M. Frey, the author ofTriptych and Hero is a Four Letter Word, has written a picture book, called The Dark Lord and the Seamstress, with art by Jennifer Vendrig. It’s a staff pick on Kickstarter, and there’s only a few days left to donate. It’s over halfway there–it would be amazing if in the last few days it could get fully funded and out in time for All Hallows’ Read as planned. You can read the first few verses on the Kickstarter page, as well as see some of the preliminary art. Though personally I love the art for the announcement, as seen below–doesn’t he just look like a Really Big Dork, and she’s just So Not Impressed?

Dark LordIt’s an adorable book written by a very talented author, and I can’t wait to get my copy and review it here for all of you lovely readers–and if you donate to the Kickstarter, you can get your own signed copy, with your name on the backers’ list printed in every copy! Your name in a published book! You know, not on the cover, but it’s a start to every reader’s authorial dream, right? And everyone needs an adorable picture book. Plus, Christmas is coming up–it’d be a great gift! (hint hint)

So please donate, and see this whimsical little story come to life via the magic of Kickstarter.

Today I Read…The Stamp Collector

The Stamp Collector CoverToday I read The Stamp Collector by Jennifer Lanthier and illustrated by Francois Thisdale. The book is currently nominated for the OLA Forest of Reading Silver Birch Express award.

Once there were two boys, a city boy and a country boy, and they grew up to be very different. The country boy was a writer, but his stories made the village leaders angry and they put him in prison to make him stop writing. The city boy was a guard in the prison, and he wasn’t allowed to give the country boy the letters that people sent him. But they were united by the beautiful stamps on the letters, which reminded the writer that he still had friends. Even when people aren’t allowed to be friends, there are always things to bring them together.

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I met Jennifer Lanthier at the Forest of Reading breakfast at the OLA Super Conference last January. I picked up her book because it was a part of a library display where I’m volunteering, and it’s a lovely and evocative story. The writer and the guard have very specific roles, and the guard is afraid of getting in trouble like the writer, but he takes pity on someone who is alone and didn’t do anything bad to deserve being put in prison. The guard collects stamps because they are beautiful. He takes the stamps from the letters to the writer because they are lovely, but he sees that the writer needs to know that he is not alone and forgotten. The bright stamps from all of the different lands remind him that there are people outside who care about him and about his stories. He is not forgotten. The guard gives him not just the stamps, but the gift of remembrance. The writer finds his hope, and the guard finds his courage.

Francois Thisdale’s illustrations are lovely and dreamlike, and suit the quasi-fairy tale ambience perfectly. The deep colours used, greens and blues and browns and grays, emphasize that this is a sad story, but the white and the gold and the bright stamps remind you that there are good spots even in the sadness. It’s dark, but it’s beautiful.

Lanthier’s end note says that the story is not based on any two particular people, but that many writers have been jailed in different countries for angering the authorities. She also talks about PEN International, an organization that advocates for imprisoned writers, and that a portion of the proceeds of the book goes to PEN Canada.

Stamps are such an everyday thing. You can never find one when you need to mail a letter, and you grumble about them when Canada Post has yet again raised the price. But stamps aren’t just pieces of paper. Stamps guide messages across the entire world. Stamps connect people from far away and from the other side of the bars.