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Book Reviews

Hurry Up, Henry

by Jennifer Lanthier‚ Isabelle Malenfant (ill.)

Hungry Bird

by Jeremy Tankard

From three great talents in Canadian children’s literature come two picture books that highlight some of the more challenging aspects of childhood. In Jeremy Tankard’s Hungry Bird, Bird is hangry. In Hurry Up, Henry by Jennifer Lanthier and Isabelle Malenfant, Henry can’t seem to move as quickly as all of the grown-ups in his life want him to. Each book stands strong on its own, but together, they make for the perfect read-aloud pairing.

9780670068371 (1)In Hungry Bird, Tankard brings back beloved, melodramatic Bird for more hilarious meltdowns that lead to important realizations. Bird and his friends are enjoying a hike when Bird, who has neglected to bring anything to eat, announces he needs a snack. Each friend offers to share their treats, but Bird rejects their offers. Beavers may like sticks, but birds do not. Grass, offered by Sheep, is gross. And when Raccoon offers Bird half of his sandwich, Bird dismisses it as disgusting – an insult Raccoon nonchalantly deflects by explaining that a sandwich is a “medley of flavors.” With nothing to eat, Bird eventually succumbs to his hanger and throws a full-on tantrum. When the dust settles, he tentatively tries each of the snacks his friends have offered and concludes that the food is not as bad as he had suspected.

Having given readers an important lesson about trying new things, Tankard deftly switches gears in the final few pages and offers one last laugh-out-loud moment, reminding us all how important is it to keep our humour, even in the most trying situations.

9780545864176Fans of the other Bird books (Boo Hoo Bird, Grumpy Bird) will delight in this latest addition to the series, which contains all the Tankard hallmarks readers look forward to: visually stimulating graphics, endearing characters, and expert comic timing.

Lanthier and Malenfant’s Hurry Up, Henry treats readers to a less raucous but equally enjoyable experience. No matter what Henry does, his mother, father, and sister tell him to do it faster. The only one who doesn’t mind how slowly Henry moves is his grandmother. When Henry’s best friend and his grandmother collaborate to give Henry’s family the gift of time together, everyone realizes what they’ve been missing out on.

Lanthier’s critically acclaimed mastery of the picture-book narrative is on full display. Hurry Up, Henry delivers a deceptively simple but perfectly paced storyline that highlights the importance of seeking out meaningful ways to connect as a family. The text finds a fitting companion in Malenfant’s illustrations. Keen observers will recognize the Montreal artist’s signature style from the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award–nominated Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress. In Hurry Up, Henry, Malenfant successfully employs subtle differences in colour and detail to show the contrast between those times when Henry must hurry versus times when he is able to pause and reflect. When Henry is rushed, his world is cool and stark. When he takes his time, his world becomes warm and filled with all sorts of details, like a line of busy ants or the late afternoon sun warming his face as he lies on his bedroom floor.

Sometimes being a kid is just plain hard. These books show there are important lessons to be learned and silver linings to be found – by people of all ages – in even the most frustrating situations.