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Book Reviews

A Big Surprise for Little Card

by Charise Mericle Harper; Anna Raff (illus.)

Mom, Dad, Our Books, and Me

by Danielle Marcotte; Josée Bisaillon (illus.); Karen Li (trans.)

Budding bibliophiles will find much to enjoy in two new picture books that celebrate the joys of reading. These love songs to literacy each have their own stylish flair, from a bubbly let’s-get-this-party-started jig to a lyrical ode.

51cO2NL+e2L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_In Vancouver-born Charise Mericle Harper’s A Big Surprise for Little Card, a happy-go-lucky wallet-sized piece of paper discovers his true literary calling. After mistakenly attending birthday-card school and preparing for a future full of confetti throwing and party-horn blowing, Little Card winds up on the doorstep of a public library. With birthday cheer still beating in his heart (“Happy Library Day!”) and a bounce in his step thanks to a pogo stick made from a due-date stamp, he eagerly takes on his new vocation as a little girl’s first library card.

Public libraries couldn’t ask for a more enthusiastic ambassador than Little Card. In a quiet-zone whisper, the newly official document performs a soulful reader’s serenade in the stacks: “Read a story that’s new. Pick the right one for you. It fills you with wonder; that’s the magic books do.” Standing at military attention at the librarian’s desk, Little Card and his proud owner, Alex, salute and vow to “read, respect and return these books.” Sprinkled throughout the text are slogan-worthy one-liners like, “Cookies taste better after a story.” Little Card has a bookish epiphany when he realizes his job is even better than he thought – birthdays come just once a year, but Library Day can happen any time.

Anna Raff’s mixed-media illustrations follow Little Card and Alex on their adventure-filled tour of the library. A highlight includes the duo’s installation of a rainbow display of colourful books on the carpet. Spoof-filled titles (The Very Violet Eggplant; Big Book of Butter; Encyclopedia of Jorts; and Fleabag Follies) will tickle readers’ funny bones.

A1Lzevq3vWLBy contrast, Mom, Dad, Our Books, and Me (originally published in 2013 as Papa, maman, nos livres et moi) by Quebec writer Danielle Marcotte, is a contemplative and poetic reflection on the pleasures of story. A little boy just learning to read shows off his newfound ability to “name pictures, and sound out words.” The child narrator keenly observes that every member of his extended family loves narrative, and it isn’t just books they are browsing: Auntie reads sheet music and “tells wonderful stories made of sound,” and Uncle flips through recipes in a “kitchen scented with eggplants and thyme.” Readers show up in unexpected places too, like a fisherman in the middle of a lake who scans the sky for potential storms, and a carnival clairvoyant who foretells the future in the palms of hands.

Josée Bisaillon’s whimsical collages are full of visual puns that extend the imaginative images in the text. Grandma’s head is literally in the clouds when she’s engrossed in a novel. The little boy likes reading about sea monsters and “getting goosebumps” when taking a bath; orange suction-cupped tentacles curl around the tub and watermark splashes cleverly drip across the page.

With great aplomb, these titles show that life is never dull when you have a library card and a good book by your side.