Review: Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein

Linda Bailey
Tundra Books, 2018

 “Here is Mary. She’s a dreamer.” So begins this glorious elementary-level biography of Mary Shelley. Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein is a delightful book that tells the story of Mary Shelley in a way that’s relatable for young people, emphasizing Mary’s youth, her difficult relationship with her family, and how receptive she is to the world around her. Linda Bailey’s prose is lilting, spacious: it makes room for readers and invites us to join the story. “How could a girl like [Mary] come up with such a story?” she asks rhetorically. “But you may know.”

Júlia Sardà‘s illustration style perfectly suits the story of the dreamy, sometimes troubled Mary Shelley and her creative spirit. The pictures are dark and broody, full of spooky shapes and gothic imagery. The backgrounds are muted greys, browns, and black, while bright but intense images appear in the foreground. The whole package is very appealing and apt.

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein makes a fine complement to Bloom (Kyo Maclear’s 2018 book about Modernist fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli), which also profiles a creative and “difficult” young woman. Both books reassure kids — especially girls — that it’s OK to see the world in ways that others don’t. As we move through a turbulent period in our culture, books like these offer a poised and forthright strategy for helping readers to develop confidence, resilience, and determination and to meet the future with strength and security.

Timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the publication of Shelley’s novel, Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein is an outstanding example of the thoughtful, beautiful nonfiction picture books being published today. It is sure to inspire would-be writers and other imaginative minds. I heartily recommend this book for any library, public or personal — adult readers will enjoy it, too!

 

This review was originally published in Resource Links, October 2018.

 

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Review: Hungry for Science

Kari-Lynn Winters and Lori Sherritt-Fleming
Illustrated by Peggy Collins
Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2018

As society recognizes that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields need to become more diverse and inclusive, and as creative people increasingly add “art” to STEM fields to produce STEAM (art-influenced science-based thinking), a volume like Hungry for Science represents a welcome addition to libraries and book shelves.

The poems in this short picture book speak to basic scientific concepts such as magnetism, chemistry, life cycles, and sustainability; they’re intended for pre-readers and beginning readers. The chunky, boldly coloured illustrations accompanying the poems are pleasant and inclusive. Some of the little scientists are girls. Some are people of colour. Some are people with disabilities. All playfully suggest that science is for everyone — an important idea, particularly for early learners (who, research shows, are likely to represent scientists as male and able-bodied). The bouncy, playful verses will encourage repeated reading aloud, and the scientific concepts introduced in the poems are supported by a brief back matter to point scientists-in-the-making to further topics for investigation.

Hungry for Science makes science fun and appealing. It’s a great addition to school and classroom libraries, with lots of potential contact points for extension in math, science, ecology, and health lessons. It would also make a strong addition to public libraries, particularly in low-income neighbourhoods where young readers may need encouragement to see themselves in creative, innovative futures.

 

This review was originally published in Resource Links, December 2018.

 

Review: Miss Mink: Life Lessons for a Cat Countess

Janet Hill
Tundra Books, 2019

Miss Mink: Life Lessons for a Cat Countess is a charming book about cats and embracing your independence. Miss Mink, a Flapper-style New Woman, has been declared a cat countess. She and sixty-seven cat companions sail the world in a steamship enjoying days of play, rest, good dining, and camaraderie.

This is a sweet, fanciful picture book, executed in Modernist style with oil paint on canvas. The paintings are dreamy and rich. I’m not sure how much child readers will enjoy this book, apart from chasing and counting the various cats, but many adult readers will enjoy the illustration style (think the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries television series) and the cat-approved lessons for living your best life.

A great pick for picture-book collectors, and a nice addition to any home library complemented by cats.

 

This review was originally published on LibraryThing on February 17, 2019.

 

Review: Bloom

by Kyo Maclear; illustrated by Julie Morstad
Tundra Books, 2018

Bloom is an utterly gorgeous book about art and imagination. Young Elsa suffers in her strict conformist family; she dreams of flowers, colours, beauty. As a young woman, an opportunity takes her to Paris, where she finds her passion: making clothes for women. Today we recognize Elsa Schiaparelli as a leading Modernist fashion designer and an inspiration for artistic girls everywhere; Bloom takes readers on the journey of how Elsa got there.

I just loved this book. One of Canada’s strongest writers of picture books, Maclear tells this story with compassion and insight, reminding readers that “To be an artist is to dream big and risk failure.” The story is generously complemented by Morstad’s illustrations. The pictures are whimsical, detailed, and breathtaking — and of course they feature Schiaparelli’s famous Shocking Pink.

This book is a treat. It’s a physically beautiful object that tells a delightful and inspiring story, perfect for anyone who has big dreams or encourages others to follow their own dreams — those who “want to DREAM and DO bold things.”

Originally published on LibraryThing on April 29, 2018.

 

Review: Adventures with Barefoot Critters

by Teagan White
Tundra Books, 2014

BarefootcoverAdventures With Barefoot Critters is a dreamy new ABC book that includes enough twists to keep both children and adults engaged through multiple readings. It was written and illustrated by Teagan White, a designer, illustrator, and blogger whose non-book work is striking and appealing. This playful, artful book, with its gentle touches and lilting rhymes, could easily become a favourite at naptime or bedtime for pre-readers and early readers alike.

The book follows a group of friendly anthropomorphized animals through the cycle of a year, following changes of seasons and various celebrations. The characters include some that readers might expect, such as a fox and a mouse, as well as some surprising and charming choices. Every opening features thoughtful details that allow readers to explore and extend the characters and the story of their year.

AdventuresZOne feature that I appreciated was that rather than concentrating strictly on nouns (as many alphabet books do), this text encompasses descriptions and actions: “We make messes with mud when it rains in July. But we take nice long naps in the grass once it’s dry.” Young readers are likely to identify with many of the featured activities and may even be inclined to follow the narrative suggestions for year-round adventures.

Adventures With Barefoot Critters presents a fresh approach to a standard form. It would make a lovely gift for a new family and would also be a good asset in a daycare library. Highly enjoyable!

 

Originally published on LibraryThing on July 6, 2014.