Tag Archives: Girls Outdoors

Treasure

Written by: Mireille Messier

Illustrated by: Irene Luxbacher

For ages: 3-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Imagination, Siblings, Growing Up, Nature, Natural World, Appreciation, Lived Experiences.

Summary: 

This book is adorable! The tale starts with two siblings taking a walk through the woods near their home, looking for a treasure.  There are few words in the book, but they are all the conversation between the two.  Something helpful about the book is that one sibling’s words are bolded and one is not, making it easy to keep track of who is speaking.  The younger of the two find all sorts of natural objects like feathers, acorns, and milkweed pods, but is told that isn’t the treasure.  Eventually, the pair come upon what they are looking for but it won’t fit in their pockets!

The illustrations in this book are absolutely gorgeous!  With so few words, the illustrations do much of the storytelling and Luxbacher has created a magical wonderland of small details for the reader to discover while flipping through the pages.  The woodland scenes are filled with tiny critters and splendid floral illustrations, making every design element a joy to discover.  We love the message of treasure being intangible, and the excitement of the journey is part of the beauty itself.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

mireille_messierMireille Messier is a Montreal-born, Ottawa-raised and now Toronto-based children’s writer with a background in broadcasting and theater. Before becoming an author, Mireille worked as a television and radio host, a director, a researcher, a book reviewer and a voice actress. Sometimes, she still does those things, too. One of her first “literary” jobs was writing jokes for the bottom of pudding lids!

Since the launch of her first book in 2003, Mireille has published over twenty books. When she’s not at her computer writing, she thinks up new stories while she walks, drives or sails her big old boat.

Mireille loves doing author visits. On average, she meets about three thousand kids a year … give or take a thousand. Some of the funniest questions she has been asked by students are: “Do you dream in French?” (Yes!), “How many minutes does it take you to write a book?” (About a million!) and “Are any of the characters in your books real?” (Yes, they are often different versions of me and the people I know).

Mireille lives in Toronto with her husband, two wonderful teenage daughters and two extremely fluffy cats.

irene_luxbacherIrene Luxbacher graduated from Queen’s University in 1992 with a degree in Art History before studying at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver, British Columbia. Since returning to Toronto in 1994, Irene has exhibited her work while teaching art at the Avenue Road Arts School and consulting at the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Learning Through the Arts Program. In 2002 and 2003, Irene curated several well-received children’s art exhibits at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and BCE Place on behalf of Arts for Children of Toronto, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness of the value of art education. Irene is the author and illustrator of The Jumbo Book of Art, which won the 2003 National Parenting Publication Award, and The Jumbo Book of Outdoor Art. Her latest project for Kids Can Press is the Starting Art series, which includes the titles 123 I Can Paint! and 123 I Can Draw!

At the Mountain’s Base

Written by: Traci Sorell

Illustrated by: Weshoyot Alvitre 

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Indigenous Voices, Military, Women Pilots, Family, Grief, Culture & Traditions, Historical Fiction, Global Community, Own Voices.

Summary: This is one of the most beautiful and emotional books that I’ve read in a long time.  The story is told in simple, lyrical poetry and encompasses the emotions that thread through a family waiting for a family member to return from war.  They are waiting for a pilot, and she is waiting for peace, wanting to return to her family in the cabin at the base of the mountain.

This story brings to light the beauty of the Indigenous family waiting for their beloved pilot to return, and also of the history of Indigenous women in the armed forces.  Something particularly beautiful about the illustrations is the way that strings are both literally and figuratively woven through the story, tying together the pilot’s experience and the family waiting at home for her to return.  In the back is an author’s note talking about the history of Indigenous women fighting; they have fought during intertribal conflicts, against the European colonizers, and in the American armed forces as well.  Sorell also specifically names one woman-Ola Mildred “Millie” Rexroat, the only female native pilot in WWII to serve as a WASP.  In 2009 she was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor, and a building was named in her honor at the Ellsworth Air Force Base after her death in 2017.

This beautiful book is the first of it’s kind for me, I’ve never read an Indigenous story about women in the military.  I am so honored to be able to read Traci Sorell’s words, and look forward to reading more from her.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Traci+Sorell+Home+PhotoTraci Sorell lives with her family in the Cherokee Nation, out in the country like she did as a child. Back then, she had geese, chickens, horses, dogs and cats. Her mother’s Cherokee family has been in the area since the removal of most Cherokee people from their southeastern homelands in 1838. Traci grew up hearing stories about her ancestors and looking at their photographs with her elisi (eh-lee-see), grandma. Now her son does that with his elisi in addition to fishing in the nearby lake and learning about Cherokee culture.

As a child, Traci spent a lot of time reading as well as singing and acting in musical theater productions. She also loved playing cars and school with her younger sister and brother. They spent hours driving little toy cars all over the towns they drew on large pieces of cardboard. They quizzed each other on state capitals and used old textbooks to teach each other new lessons. Away from home, they spent lots of time visiting family across the Cherokee Nation, elsewhere in Oklahoma and places farther west. Traci still loves to read, play, learn, and travel.

When Traci was a teenager, her family moved to Southern California. She did less acting and more writing, both in class and on the high school yearbook staff. She was the first in her family to graduate from college. Later, her mom, sister and brother got their degrees too.

Before she began writing for children, Traci’s work focused on helping Native American tribes and their citizens. She wrote legal codes, testimony for Congressional hearings, federal budget requests, grants and reports. She continues that work by writing stories for young people and encouraging other Native writers and illustrators to share theirs. When Traci was a child, she never read culturally accurate books about the Cherokee or any other Indigenous people. The stories and poems she writes now reflect her mission to add to the canon of literature showing that Native Nations and their citizens still exist and thrive today.

portrait-2Weshoyot Alvitre is Tongva (Los Angeles Basin) and is well established within the indigenous art community as an illustrator. She was born in the San Gabriel Mountains on the property of Satwiwa, a cultural center started by her father Art Alvitre. She grew up close to the land and raised with traditional knowledge that inspires the work she does today.

Weshoyot has been working in the comics medium since graduating from high school. The culmination of having a Native presence was fueled by meeting and being interviewed by the author of “Native Americans in Comics”, Michael Sheyashe (Caddo). It helped to open her eyes to having a representation in the comics medium and connect with other Native professionals in comics.

Alvitre has since contributed to numerous Eisner award-winning books, including the “Umbrella Academy” (Darkhorse Comics) and “Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream” (Locust Moon Press). She has earned accolades for her work that visualize historical material, including “Graphic Classics: Native American Classics” (Eureka Productions) The Cattle Thief[wa1]  and most recently, the first volume of highly acclaimed “Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers” published by Native Realities Press.

Alvitre has also illustrated numerous pieces of political illustrations in support of the NODAPL movement for Standing Rock, amongst other Native issues. One such illustration, in collaboration with installation artist Andrea Bowers, was auctioned live this past summer at the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Auction in San Tropez.

Most relevant to this proposal, Alvitre has partnered with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian on Native Knowledge 360°, a national educational initiative to inspire and support teaching about Native Americans using the comics medium as a support. She illustrated 12 pages of sequential comic art, each page interpreting a key historical event. The art has been used on their site and as a tool for teachers nationwide. Alvitre is also working currently with seasoned award-winning video game designer, Elizabeth Lapensee Ph. D. (Michigan State University) on an educational game to be used within the Native curriculum nationwide.

Alvitre has made a conscious choice to work primarily within Native-owned publications and educational avenues, to further support a self funded narrative on past, present and future native issues. It is through this voice, and through her artwork, she feels she is able to communicate her unique viewpoint and continue a strong dialogue on issues that are important to her as a Native woman

The Paper Bag Princess

Written by: Robert Munsch

Illustrated by: Michael Martchenko 

For ages: 3 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Freedom, Self-Confidence, Social-Emotional Learning, Feminism, Fractured Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Independent Thought, Stereotypes, Girls Outdoors,. 

Summary: 

“Ronald,” said Elizabeth, “your clothes are really pretty and your hair is very neat. You look like a real prince, but you are a bum.”

This sick burn (pun fully intended) is the crowning achievement of Princess Elizabeth’s journey of self-discovery that takes place in The Paper Bag Princess. Despite the complete destruction of her home, her belongings, and everything she knows, Elizabeth doesn’t give up. Instead, her compassion leads her down the path of “burnt forests and horses’ bones” (we love an obvious villain). Once she reaches the dragon’s door, she refuses to leave. Using the skills undoubtedly gleaned from being raised female, her scheme uses the dragon’s bravado against him. She tires him out, and once he is sleeping, she completes the task of rescuing her betrothed.

It is here where The Paper Bag Princess turns everything on its head.

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Ronald is neither appreciative nor understanding of the trials that Elizabeth has gone through, and instead he focuses in on her outward appearance (sound familiar?) and immediately talks down to her.

This tennis-racket-carrying nonce can’t get out another word before Elizabeth delivers the thorough beat down that he deserves.

The princess has shown generations of readers, both male and female alike, that the “happy ending” we’ve been promised by Disney movies and romantic novels is really only the beginning. The reader is left imagining the adventures that Elizabeth will have as she scampers into the sunset, and if her exploits with the dragon are anything to go by, the rest of the kingdom had better watch out!

May we all carry ourselves with the grit and confidence of The Paper Bag Princess. 

This beautiful 40th anniversary edition of the book was sent to us by Annick Press, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

robert-munschRobert Munsch is a storyteller. From his website: “I write books for kids, I talk to kids, and I listen to kids.

But that is not all that I am. Several years ago I was diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive and manic-depressive. Those challenges have led me to make some big mistakes.

I have worked hard to overcome my problems, and I have done my best. I have attended twelve-step recovery meetings for more than 25 years.

My mental health and addiction problems are not a secret to my friends and family. They have been a big support to me over the years, and I would not have been able to do this without their love and understanding.

I hope that others will also understand. I hope that everyone will talk to their kids honestly, listen to them, and help them do their best with their own challenges.”

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Michael Martchenko has illustrated dozens of books, and is most famous for his work with Robert Munsch including Smelly Socks, Makeup Mess and We Share Everything!. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Brownstone’s Mythical Collection: Marcy and the Riddle of the Sphinx

Written & Illustrated by: Joe Todd-Stanton

For ages: 5-9 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Adventure, Girls Outdoors, Family, Strength, Fear, Social-Emotional Growth.  

Summary: This is the tale of Marcy, daughter of Arthur from the first Brownstone’s book. Marcy is very afraid of the dark, and also very skeptical that her father ever had a wild life of adventure (after all, he’s so old now!).

Arthur decides to go and try to obtain a book of secrets in hopes of curing Marcy’s fear.  Unfortunately, he is taken captive by a large snake inside a pyramid during his quest.  Marcy must go on an adventure to help save her father, and hope that her fears are conquered in the process.  This book is great in showing that girls can be problem-solvers and outdoor adventurers!  Marcy must decide for herself who to believe when she meets various Egyptian gods and goddesses, and how best to free her father.  The story is helpful in that it discusses what the gods and goddesses rule over, making it an educational adventure that Marcy goes on.  The characters are not incredibly diverse, but the only human characters are Marcy and her parents.  Arthur and Marcy do end up leaving the book he was searching for in the pyramid, which honestly made us feel better given the colonial history of pillaging Egyptian artifacts.

Of the Brownstone’s books, I really like how the heroines are strong and independent!  They face their fears in order to help others, being a role model for social-emotional development and growth.  I am also such a fan of the illustrations, they’re adorable and reminiscent of comic books (something I really like).  There are lots of little humorous details to discover on the pages, an aspect that makes Joe Todd-Stanton’s style unique.

This book was generously sent to us by Flying Eye Books for review. All opinions are our own! The hardcover version was originally published in 2017, but the softcover edition will be available in early March of 2020.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Headshot_BW_croppedJoe Todd-Stanton grew up in Brighton and studied at UWE Bristol, receiving a first class degree in Illustration. Joe has been commissioned to work for clients such as Oxford University Press, Usborne Publishing and Aquila magazine.

To find out a little more about his work, Flying Eye asked Joe the following questions:

What inspires your work?
I normally find inspiration through reading or conversations. It’s rare that I get a fully-formed image in my mind but I will read about something strange that interests me and I will research it to see if anything grabs my attention. Normally by the time I have finished the work it has complete changed from the thing that influenced it but I think that is what makes it interesting.

Tell us a bit about your process…

I try and keep plenty of sketch books and fill them up with weird characters and life drawings so when it comes to making an actual piece of work or commission I already should have a few relevant drawings and I’m not just starting from scratch. Once I have a finished drawing I use Photoshop to colour and tweak things around.

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez

Written by: Andrea Beaty

Illustrated by: David Roberts

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English, minor Spanish. 

Topics Covered: Community Action, Environmentalism, Girls Outdoors, Creativity, Feminism, Girls in Leadership, Latinx, Activism. 

Summary: 

Sofia Valdez loves her community, and she especially loves helping her community be better.  When her Abuelo injures his ankle slipping on trash and can’t walk Sofia to school anymore, she decides to do something about it and open a park for the neighborhood to enjoy.

We love that this book addresses fear that Sofia has about speaking in front of adults alone, when she’s a second grader.  But she believes in her cause and summons the courage despite being scared.  We really love this series, and in particular this book has very diverse illustrations.  The mayor is a person of color in a wheelchair, someone on the city committee is wearing all pink with fancy painted nails and a beard, another individual has a cochlear implant.  One of Sofia’s classmates is shown picketing and wearing a patka!  These illustrations are normalizing so many different ways of moving throughout the world, and they’re gorgeous.  Different body types are represented, and it doesn’t feel othering or tokenizing to have these diverse cast of characters living in Sofia’s neighborhood.  Ada, Iggy, and Rosie even make an appearance!  Overall, we’re so pleased to see where this book series is headed, and excited to see what comes next!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

andrea-beaty-photoAndrea Beaty was raised in southern Illinois in a town so small she knew everybody and their pets. And they all knew her. Andrea was one of six kids and we spent our summer days traipsing through the fields and forests hunting for adventure.  Always, it was fun and often, they laughed so hard they blew Orange Crush or Grape Nehi Soda out their noses. She still avoids Grape Nehi … just in case.

Andrea was a big reader as a kid and LOVED Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon Mysteries.  Then she moved on to Agatha Christie books and then the classics.  Don’t tell anyone, but her secret ambition is to star in a Broadway musical and Andrea is often tempted to break into song and dance at very odd moments. Mostly in the frozen food section of her grocery store!  They have very good lighting.

Andrea attended Southern Illinois University and studied Biology and Computer Science. After that, she worked for a computer software company. Andrea helped people with their computer problems (“Did you try turning it off and on again?”) and some technical writing. Andrea didn’t know at the time, but tech writing was great training for writing for kids because it taught her to be a fierce self-editor.

Now, she lives in Chicago with her family. Andrea visits lots of schools each year to share her love of reading and her writing journey with kids and educators.

davidroberts_website-2When David Roberts was at school, he claims he wasn’t very good at anything so the teacher would give me projects to produce big pictures for the school hall. He remembers doing one of Death rowing in a boat on the river Thames with a dead dog floating past!

David has always been drawing ever since he was a very small child and then when he left school at 16, he went to Art College. There, David did a foundation course trying out all different types of art practice. The thing David thought he wanted to do the most was costume and fashion design so he did a degree in fashion design.

David ended up being a children’s book illustrator and it was always his dream to do this! Although David tried to pursue a career as a fashion illustrator first. When he met Christine of Artist Partners she pointed out to him that he was drawing characters and perhaps he should focus more on publishing and in particular children’s books.

Happy in our Skin

Written by: Fran Manushkin

Illustrated by: Lauren Tobia

For ages: 2-5 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Global Community, Skin Tones, Science, Independent Thought, Identities, Friendship, Kindness.

Summary: This is a really cute, short rhyming book that celebrates not only different skin colors but different families as well!  Throughout the book the reader learns all about the wonderful things that skin does for a person, and how it can look differently for everyone.

We really love the diverse representation present in these illustrations.  Right off the bat, the cover image shows a young girl of color in a wheelchair with a soccer ball playing with other kids running and scootering outside!  There are other fabulous examples of diverse families with gay parents, different families with religious head coverings, a child with a large birthmark on their cheek, and a long-haired child with very strong eyebrows.  Lauren Tobia has illustrated an incredibly fantastic representation of what life really looks like in many different environments.  The text is simple and the rhymes would be really fun to say out loud with a group!  This is a book that truly celebrates kindness, community, and loving the unique skin you were born in.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

FranM_0Fran Manushkin is a prolific writer that has been at it for many years!  Here is an excerpt from her website, so you can get to know a little more about her:

“I wasn’t born in a log cabin, although I do come from the Land of Lincoln–Illinois. I grew up in Chicago with five brothers and sisters and one dog, Snowball. I loved to read, but had absolutely no inkling that I could grow up to be a writer. I thought all writers had triple names, like my favorite, Maud Hart Lovelace, and that they had entire books waiting in their heads, and simply wrote them down, lickety-split.

I always knew I wanted to work with children, so I got a B.A. in education from Chicago Teacher’s College. After graduation, I moved to New York City. My great good fortune came when I met Ezra Jack Keats (author-artist of THE SNOWY DAY), who told me about an editorial assistant’s opening in the children’s book department of Harper & Row. I was hired, and for ten years I worked with two of the most brilliant editors in publishing: Ursula Nordstrom and Charlotte Zolotow.

After  becoming a junior editor, I soon had the great pleasure of discovering new talent: I did Bruce Degan’s first book, AUNT POSSOM AND THE PUMPKIN MAN, Myron Levoy’s classic, ALAN AND NAOMI, and  I also worked with Lillian Hoban on her first Arthur books.

It was Charlotte Zolotow who urged me to write my own stories, and my first book BABY (later titled BABY, COME OUT!) was published in 1972. Since then I’ve written many many books, but no thrill has ever matched that moment when I became a writer.

Because I was such a late bloomer, I am always eager to help children recognize and appreciate their gifts and begin using them NOW. When I speak at schools, I show children my messy manuscripts, the artist’s many sketches, and talk about how much stubbornness and good humor it takes to accomplish anything in life, including writing.”

Lauren_TobiaLauren Tobia was born in Bristol and have been there longer than Concord.  She doesn’t’ have a personal website that we could find, but here is some information we found from the Walker Books website:

” When I was small I would always ask for felt pens and paper for Christmas. For a short while we lived on a boat in Cornwall and my bed was in the wheel house. I could look out for miles over a huge and exciting estuary full of seabirds, interesting worms, a few scary swans and a goat that did not like me much. Although I spent much of my childhood in the city, I still got to roam a lot as a child and spent a lot of time looking at things under stones.To this day I would much prefer to draw a picture of something than write about it.

As an adult I spent many years working as an intensive care nurse in Bristol but when my children grew up I thought it was time for me to follow my dream. I went to the University of West England (U.W.E) and joined their amazing illustration course where I had the chance to learn, experiment and have a lot of fun. I live in a tiny house in south Bristol with my husband and our two unruly Jack Russell rescue dogs. When I am not drawing I am at my allotment. I have a little table and a patch of lawn where I can sit and drink tea when I should be weeding.

As an artist I draw all the time and never go anywhere without my sketchbook. I feel uncomfortable without it. I mostly draw in pencil for speed and flexibility. I get much of my inspiration from the people and places around me. I draw my family continuously and objects that I come across, from teapots to crisp packets. I love to draw animals and use them to imply human emotion and body language. Although I enjoy painting with watercolour, I work in my sketchbook most of the time and use a computer to arrange and add colour and textures to the images, which I find gives me freedom to play and experiment.”

Things you didn’t know about Lauren Tobia

  1. I am happily Dyslexic
  2. My dogs’ names are Poppy and Tilly.
  3. I can’t drive a car.
  4. I have two daughters who are very clever and wonderful (they will probably tell me off about this).
  5. On sunny days hot air balloons drift past my window.
  6. I really like cake.
  7. My favorite sandwich as a child was sausage and marmalade.
  8. I almost always wear odd socks.
  9. One of my favorite books as a child was a dog’s medical dictionary.
  10. I used to have a cat that liked to be hoovered.

 

What are we taking into 2020? Books for a new decade.

Happy New Year’s Eve everyone!  Taking this leap into a whole new decade has got us thinking about intentions.  What can we take into the year that will help us be the best we can be?  What are the skills that will allow us to embody the characteristics of a good activist, ally, friend, and voice for change?  So, we decided on 7 of them and will be posting books that we feel portray the skills, one each day for the first week of January!  We hope they will inspire you as much as they do us, and maybe make your reading list a bit longer! We hope everyone has a safe and joyous New Year, and see you tomorrow for our first post of 2020!