Horse Power, by Ann Walsh

Guest review by Hannah Grant

Callie, a young city girl, has just arrived home from visiting her father when her mother whisks her away to protest the closing of her cousin’s school.

Callie is a bit annoyed with the protest at first. She is not fond of camping out in the school parking lot or of her cousin’s horse, Radish, but she understands the importance of the rural school and wants to help save it. When Callie’s cousin dares her to ride Radish, an unlikely turn of events and an unlikely friendship provide a solution to the problem.

This book is a great read for young adults and people who love horses. Callie’s humorous perspective makes it difficult to put this book down. She actually had me laughing out loud!

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Let’s do Nothing, by Tony Fucile

Summer – a time for doing nothing. Friends Frankie and Sal have done everything they can think of to do: sports, drawing, baking, board games, comic books. Sal decides they should try doing nothing, sitting like statues in the park. Frankie’s imagination gets away from him, though, and he ends up frantically shooing pigeons. Sal says they should be giant redwood trees. Frankie imagines Sal’s dog … well, you can guess. The pictures tell much of the story in this fun new picture book, a great choice for reading aloud.

Photo of Ook the library gorilla reading Let's Do Nothing
Let’s Do Nothing, by Tony Fucile

Forest has a Song, by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, illustrated by Robbin Gourley

Forest has a Song is a delight, a book of poetry that follows a child’s relationship with the nearby forest through a year, from winter around to winter again. The mood changes from poem to poem, as does the style. The watercolour illustrations depict sometimes only the girl and her dog exploring the woods, and sometimes her brother and parents as well. My favourites were “Song”, from which the title of the book is taken, “Farewell”, the final poem, and oddly, “Bone Pile”, in which she contemplates the last skeletal remains of some forest animal.

Literacy Tip: Reading poetry and nursery rhymes to babies is a fun and easy way to help babies learn the sounds and rhythms of language, even before they begin to use words themselves. There are many rhyming books that have simple, bouncing rhymes and bright pictures. Remember Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop or the Berenstains’ Inside, Outside, Upside Down? Traditional nursery rhymes are another source of poetry for young children. Sheree Fitch is known for her poetry for older kids, but she has also written books for babies, such as Kisses, Kisses, Baby-O. Ook’s favourite poetry to read to children, even babies, is by A.A. Milne. His two books of children’s poetry, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six, are also available in one volume as The World of Christopher Robin. Even when children don’t know what the words mean, the sounds are beautiful, and as they grow older listening to the poetry, they begin to learn new words from the context.

The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch

Guest review by Megan F.

Upon learning that I would be working with young kids over the summer, the first thought that crossed my mind was “I ought to read them The Paper Bag Princess.” I remember loving it as a child and even after having read it now it is a book I find I still thoroughly enjoy.

The Paper Bag Princess is the story of Elizabeth, a young princess who is engaged to a young prince. Before the wedding a dragon destroyed the whole castle and took the prince forcing Elizabeth to spring into action and leading to a not so expected happy ending.

This book always makes me happy as it has a great message for kids about how it isn’t always the prince saving the princess and that people aren’t always as they appear to be on the outside. This story always brings a smile to my face and I feel it will do the same for anyone who reads it.

The Boy Who Howled, by Timothy Power

Callum, like a modern-day Mowgli, is a boy raised by wolves. He lives with Mom (a wolf), Aunt Trudy (another wolf), Dad (a wolf who wants to eat him, but pees on him to mark him with his scent when he’s in a good mood), Uncle Rick (a wolf) and Grampa (yes, another wolf), in the western US. Callum was found crawling in the woods and, as they’d all just had a good meal, adopted by the pack due his proper display of submissive behaviour, rolling on his back with his paws in the air. He’s since learned to understand his family, more or less, though they don’t always understand him. All this ends, though, when the pack decides he’s getting too old, as a young male, to be part of the pack any more, and as battling Dad for dominance is right out, he’s dropped off near a hiking trail dressed in stolen clothes, where a managing sort of woman finds him, thinks he’s a confused and lost foreigner due to his strange, half-remembered English, and (after having him de-loused by a barber) sweeps him back to civilization. Since his stolen clothes are a school uniform from the Hargrove Academy for the Gifted, Bright, and Perceptive Child, he ends up there, trying to figure out how to fit into human society, giving good advice to the stray dogs in the neighbourhood, bonding with homeless old men he thinks of as like his wolf Grampa, and making friends with Lila, who has the same shade of red hair as he does himself. As you’d expect, he finds his real family and manages to help the wolves, whose territory is threatened by human encroachment, find a sanctuary as well, but the fun is in the journey. Power does a wonderful job of combining off the cuff humour with realistic wolf behaviours, making gentle fun of human society along the way.