Thursday, March 15, 2018

By the light of the moon

Love you to the moon and back.
Harvest moon.
Dark side of the moon.
Moonlight Sonata.
Moon River.
Fly me to the moon.
Man in the moon.
Man on the moon.
Howl at the moon
It's only a paper moon.
The cow jumped over the moon.

In January, the moon was blue. And red.
And...there were two super moons.

New moon.


Bright, beautiful, beckoning. The earth's moon continues to captivate us, doesn't it?

So, too, this luminous picture book. Celebrating frosty moonlit nights, planning for something special, gathering together, playing a favourite sport on a patch of ice.

When the Moon Comes - written by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Matt James, published by Tundra Books/Penguin Random House, and nominated for a 2017 Governor General's Award in the category of Young People's Literature (English) - Illustrated Books - is a timely read for these waning days of winter. (And an update...IBBY has nominated @MrMattCJames for the 2017 Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Picture Book Award.)

Winter has been lingering, procrastinating, actually, during this month of March with snow continuing to blanket much of Canada, nor'easters walloping the coast. There was the 'Beast from the East' coating Europe in deep snow along with frigid temperatures. Skates were laced and figure eights carved on the canals of Amsterdam. Apparently this hasn't happened in years.

And winter can be embraced, avoided, or watched from a window. The children in When the Moon Comes have chosen to welcome the season with their skates, sticks and a puck. They can barely wait.
This is a book both adult and child can appreciate. Nostalgic yet fresh, the words and pictures are radiant. Paul Harbridge crafts a rich tale of anticipation, adventure and shared experience set in the midst of nature, exploring the depth and vastness of sky, forest, frozen water, emotions. And those illustrations. Matt James knows his way around a northern landscape, too. In his unique style, he's created gorgeous images - rugged, naïf, dimensional. You're as good as there.

This story is told through the eyes of one child. The reader, and listener (as picture books are best read aloud) are in the moment all the way along with the narrator. 

And I love that these children are free to venture out on their own. One realizes that they've done this before. Understanding the outdoors with its extremes and boundaries, they're watching out for one another. Permitted to explore and enjoy. Home not far away. Knowing there's safety in numbers. Yet there's confidence in their stride.

At four, we are on the road. The sun is almost down. Already the cold has settled, biting our noses and cheeks. At Mark's house, we send him back for his scarf and hat.

And Arthur, who seems to be the leader, the one everyone trusts to make good decisions regarding this outing, is patient and practical, waiting for the security of solid ice and light from the moon. 

But it's so hard to wait. 

We have to wait for the moon. Then...finally. Tonight's the night.

He also knows when the game is done and it's time to go home...

We skate puffing to the fire, 
and in a minute it burns high again. 
We fill a pot brimming with snow,
and when it melts down, fill it again and again 
until it is full and boiling. 
We drink scalding tea and eat toasty sandwiches, 
then tramp contented back into the night.

And to complement this book... 

Soda Bread (for those toasted sandwiches to be eaten under a moonlit sky)

Inspiration:  Recipe printed on a linen towel from Pi'lo (apparently Georgia O'Keefe made a version of this soda bread every day)

Makes 2 small loaves

1 tsp (6 grams) baking soda
1 tbsp (12 grams) baking powder
4 cups (518 grams) stone ground whole grain wheat OR spelt flour 

1 1/2 cups (367 ml) plain yogurt OR sour cream OR buttermilk
1 egg, beaten gently

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF 

1.  Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

2.  Make a well in the centre. Combine beaten egg and buttermilk. Add to the dry

3.  Combine gently with your hands, or alternatively, use a stand mixer fitted with a dough 

4. Remove dough from bowl and knead a few times on a flour-covered surface.

5.  Divide dough into two equal rounds. Flatten slighty with hands.

6.  Place into pans which have been lightly oiled (a neutral oil such safflower or canola
     works well). Cut a cross or slash across the top of the loaf - apparently, you need to let 
     the fairies out!

7. Bake for about 35 minutes until golden brown.

8.  Remove from oven and let cool on a rack. 

And for sandwiches...choose your filling - I used Maple Cheddar from Ontario and Granny Smith apples. Slice up the loaf and you're ready to make your own toasted treats along with mugs of hot tea.

Friday, September 1, 2017

All the way home

Summertime is nearing its end. Cooler temperatures, shorter days, longer nights are arriving. It's time to say goodbye to our recent relaxed routines of these summer months and return to some structure, schedules. A time of transition.

Back to school. Back to work. Back to just about everything.
And, of course, back to bedtimes...and likely, earlier ones. Perhaps for all of us.'s a beautiful book for an upcoming bedtime read - The Way Home in the Night, written and illustrated by Akiko Miyakoshi, and published by Kids Can Press. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

To be shared

Ah, winter.

Making snow angels, building snowmen, sledding down hills, cheeks becoming rosy, bundling up against the chill. 

Snowsuits, hats, scarves, boots and, of course, mittens. 

This book caught my eye while browsing through the gift shop at the Art Gallery of Ontario in December. It had to be that gorgeous cover - soft yet bold - which drew my attention. And the title - Mittens to Share. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How quickly things can change...

We're fast approaching the end of November. In the midst of fall. Cooler temperatures. Breezy breaths of wind. Trees scattering their leaves. Squirrels scrounging. Birds gathering at the feeders. Winter creeping ever closer. A first flurry of snow. Changes all around.

But wasn't it just summer? Where did the time go? 

Change is in the air. 
All things are in a constant state of change. 
Change is inevitable.

How quickly things - living and non-living - can, and do, change, transform, evolve. 
Seasons, weather, water, minds, emotions... 

And babies - especially babies during their first year of life. It's a year of many firsts - for both parent and child.

YOU ARE One, written by Sara O'Leary, illustrated by Karen Klassen and published by Owlkids Books is a book celebrating all this and more. It's a lovely, lively little book about the highlights of becoming one - what you once were, what you're becoming, what you are now - so many changes over twelve months. And grasping, with all your senses, and with these changes, love given to you freely and unconditionally.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

On y va?

Shall we go and join Arlo on his adventure?

I know I'm ready. Ready to hop into the passenger seat of that little red Citroën DS (I think I'll let Arlo drive) and become immersed in the magical sights, sounds, and especially, the tastes of Paris - all in the company of an armadillo. Such fun. Come along, get your imagination in gear - a fabulous journey awaits...c'est parti!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

HERE is what I know...

I've had the book, I KNOW HERE, written by Laurel Croza, illustrated by Matt James and published by Groundwood Books in 2010, on my bookshelf for a while. We're in the midst of book awards time across this country right now and I recently received an email from the Canadian Children's Book Centre about the nominations for the 2015 TD Children's Literature Book Awards. One of the finalists, FROM THERE TO HERE, which is the sequel to I KNOW HERE, is a nominee for the Marilyn Baillie Award for Best Picture Book. So, this was a little reminder to revisit that book on my shelf which received an abundance of  honourable mentions, has been a part of many best book lists and won numerous awards.

And deservedly...the book has such a poetic feel - the descriptive language, the movement in the words, the imagery, the repetition throughout. And in all of what the little girl knows of her HERE, the reader gains an understanding of how this family lives - what the climate and terrain and community and surroundings are like, and, what is important to this narrator. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Go wild!

The summer berry season has been amazing this year. In June - sweet strawberries. In July - raspberries, both red and golden. And August - blueberries! And oh, those wild ones are the best. Wild blueberries can be difficult to track down. It seems one needs to travel north to find them. And they have such a short season. They're also rather pricey but well worth the once-in-a-while treat as they have a completely different taste, texture and scent from cultivated blueberries. Fresh, fragrant and, yes, wild.

And, there's a perfect read to go with these delicious, almost frost-skinned, teeny-tiny berries - Wild Berries written and illustrated by Julie Flett and published by Simply Read Books. The book is a lovely tale of tradition - a story of a grandmother and a grandchild and their search for wild blueberries. The illustrations are earthy, graphic - and the expressions and postures of the characters (both human and animal) convey so much with such seemingly simple shapes, colours and lines. And oh, that gorgeous globe of persimmon sun. The circle of life. What goes around comes around. Yes. Tradition. Customs. Habits. Patterns one can count on. 

I was introduced to the work of Julie Flett through an instructor of mine, Kerry Clare, while at The School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto. Kerry taught last October's The Art of Blogging course. And she posted an engaging interview with Julie on the 49th Shelf website in the fall of 2014.