Thursday, September 29, 2011

THE FEET IN THE GYM



Written by Teri Daniels

Illustrated by Travis Foster

(Winslow Press, 1999)

When I went to elementary school, I feared the janitor. He yelled. He spoke openly and bitterly about how kids made his life messier. At recess, he’d hover around the boys’ washroom, give us the evil eye and tell us we’d better not leave spills of any kind. I learned to hold it all day. With his red hair and beard and his thick eyebrows at a permanent slant to convey anger, the janitor reminded of the lurking troll our librarian introduced me to in a picture book.

Imagine my surprise when I began teaching and noticed happy, bouncy groups of children flocking around the custodian as if he were the pied piper. I’ve been to many schools and, thankfully, the friendly, kid-focused custodian appears to be the norm.

The Feet in the Gym is an amusing rhyming picture book about an affable, conscientious custodian named Bob whose most challenging task is keeping the gym floor clean. With pride, he mops down the gym until the floor sparkles. Unfortunately, as anyone who works in a school knows, floors take a beating during the school day. The students and teachers of Lakeside School swarm the gym in waves, leaving behind flotsam from painting projects, crumbly cookie sales and muddy/grassy excursions to the school field. Whether it’s the small-footed kindergarteners or the clomping treads of the marching band, each group tarnishes the shine. Bob attempts damage control, but the stream of children is relentless. Thankfully, for Bob, there is a happy (temporary) ending, punctuated with a final amusing illustration by the talented Travis Foster.

Foster’s art reminds me of the animation in the movie The Incredibles. His shoeprints appear three-dimensional in many places, causing me to run my finger across the page, only to be surprised that the images are, in fact, flat.

This is a wonderful picture book for teachers to include in a theme about school community or the larger community. Too often, custodians are taken for granted and/or undervalued. For many children, however, the custodian may be the person in the school they connect with the most over the years. Parents and teachers can use this book as a discussion starter in building an appreciation for this vital worker in school buildings. Perhaps after a reading, children and adults may pause to wipe their feet on the mats set out at many school entrances. Custodians deserve a break.

Monday, September 26, 2011

THE SHORT AND INCREDIBLY HAPPY LIFE OF RILEY



By Colin Thompson & Amy Lissiat

(Kane/Miller Book Publishers, 2007)

This is one of those picture books I fret about. I like it. I like it a lot. I’m just not sure what to do with it.

A few of the illustrations may not be appropriate for younger audiences. These Photoshop-created drawings did not have to be the least bit questionable, but art often pushes us ever so slightly beyond our comfort level. The first drawing features a Baudelaire-inspired woman in a pink negligee, one strap falling from her shoulder. Tame, I suppose, but why is this necessary? Later, an obese man sits in a tank top and shorts (or boxers), hair sticking out everywhere including his upper back. Realistic? Sure, but why? (Perhaps from a rat’s vantage point, humans look as disgusting as we view the reviled rodent.) The final potentially offending picture portrays a naked cartoon-drawn man, looking with dismay at his image in the mirror. His butt shows while the man’s dog sits in front of the mirror to block any frontal exposure. None of the pictures is terribly risqué, but collectively they serve as a distraction. Without them, I could wholeheartedly recommend this book. With them, the book warrants a caveat, a PG rating perhaps. This is a shame because the story should precede any cautionary notes.

Riley is a rat, a happy rat. Born happy. His short, simple life is filled with happiness. As a rat, he lives in the moment and enjoys the simple things. He is not cursed like humans who often fall into wanting more, seeking different, wishing for another version of self. And that is the premise of the book. We may shriek at and scorn the lowly rat, but perhaps rats have it better. They have a healthier mindset.

Here is the rat’s take on possessions: “All Riley wanted was a little stick with a pointy end to scratch the bit of his back he couldn’t reach himself.” Contrast that with human desires: “They want microwave-video-dvd-sms-internet-big-car-cost-more-than-yours-gold-diamond-electronic-gigabyte-fastest-biggest-and-smallest machines.” Think you’re more like the rat? Really? Just yesterday I spent hours sorting and chucking loads of items piled up in the basement. Easy to toss the things after collecting dust for five years, but at one time, they were all wants...some even needs.

The rat’s got us beat.

This book is a wonderful discussion starter. Why do we want to keep up with the Joneses? Does money buy happiness? Why do people fall out of love? What will make us feel good about ourselves? Birthday wish lists aside, what do we need to feel content in life?

Maybe this book is more for adults after all.

Friday, September 23, 2011

SCAREDY SQUIRREL AT NIGHT



By Mélanie Watt

(Kids Can Press, 2009)

I am suspicious of picture book series. Can the brilliance of a first book and a charming, quirky character be repeated? Isn’t this just a case of an author/illustrator and a publisher milking something to death?

I am pleased to say that Mélanie Watt manages to make things familiar, yet fresh in Scaredy Squirrel at Night. Perhaps it was only natural that Scaredy Squirrel should become a series after his first eponymous book (reviewed earlier this week). After all, anyone afraid of tarantulas, poison ivy, green Martians, killer bees, germs and sharks is bound to have other worries. Imagine the creepy things that may terrorize in the dark, nightlight notwithstanding.

Turns out our beloved rodent does not sleep at all. The potential for bad dreams is too great. Closing one’s eyes could lead to visions of dragons, fairies, ghosts, unicorns, vampire bats and dreaded polka-dot monsters (which I’m guessing are at least ten times more frightening than ordinary striped or hairy monsters). When dreams are so fraught with fear, the sleep-deprived squirrel doesn’t react well when a horoscope says, “At midnight all your dreams will come true!”

Scaredy scrambles to put his action plan into effect and, once again, this does not go as planned.

While just a tad less fun than the original Scaredy Squirrel, this book remains a pleasure to read. It is interesting to see how Watt takes an established character and format and makes enough twists to cause the reader to think back to the original while enjoying the new adventure for its own clever merits. Despite referring to the dreaded polka-dot monsters, kids should sleep soundly even when this becomes a bedtime read.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

YOU'RE FINALLY HERE



By Mélanie Watt

(Disney-Hyperion Books, 2011)

In the rapid page-turner You’re Finally Here, talented author/illustrator Mélanie Watt breaks the barrier between book and reader. Her impatient, needy, mood-flipping rabbit character talks directly to the reader. In fact, it seems his primary function is sitting around waiting inside the picture book until someone opens the front cover.

Rabbit provides an exuberant welcome: “HOORAY! YOU’RE HERE! YOU’RE HERE! YOU’RE FINALLY HERE!” Of course, with all that waiting and waiting and waiting for the arrival of a reader, the excitement comes mixed with other feelings. Rabbit has been bored and annoyed and makes sure you know that, too. The tale moves two hops forward, one hop back as our character corrects his less than positive outbursts.

Rabbit is captivatingly illustrated, an artful cousin to Watt’s beloved Scaredy Squirrel, his round eyes as big as his ears. Watt adds simple slabs as eyebrows, all the better to maximize the character’s expressiveness as moods change. The color palette for the book is limited to oranges, yellows, browns, pinks and creamy whites. I crave cupcakes each time I read the book.
I’ve read this book to several groups and young audiences love the fact the rabbit is talking directly to them. No flies on the wall—rabbit pulls them right in. Kids find You’re Finally Here highly amusing. Rabbit is far from the perfect friend or host, but readers will want to come back for frequent visits, experiencing the entire cycle of rabbit’s reception over and over again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

CHESTER



By Mélanie Watt

(Kids Can Press, 2007)

Sometimes we battle our inner demons. Other times, we must spar with our imaginary cats. Well, at least, that is Mélanie Watt’s predicament. Chester is a story that, by its very design, never develops. That is because Watt’s efforts to tell a happy tale about a mouse are repeatedly interrupted and sabotaged by an arrogant, attention-seeking, bloated feline named Chester who has more advanced writing and drawing skills than your average cat. Throughout the book, Chester is armed with a red marker and he is not afraid to use it.

The adventure plays out like a comedy improv scene. Watt draws Mouse’s house and shows the contented rodent perched in a comfy chair. Watt’s text appears in simple black font. Enter Chester. He adds text with his handy red marker, sending Mouse off on a permanent vacation (“Hasta la vista, Mousie!”). The house now belongs to Chester and he changes the decor with the same marker.

Watt recovers and inserts more black text. Mouse returns from a lovely Mexican vacation with a new pal: a monstrous looking dog! Chester, of course, must respond to this twist. This MUST go back to being all about the glorious (and safe) cat.

It’s a clever book, a scuffle between writer/illustrator and story book character. This is a very different kind of picture book, one that will greatly amuse young audiences. The story would be a good icebreaker before reading fractured fairy tales like Jon Scieszka’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. As well, Chester may be a springboard to looking at other stories and posing What If twists. What happens if another character enters a story?

With able readers, Chester makes an excellent buddy read. One person can read all of Watt’s text in black while the other read’s Chester’s parts in red. Back and forth, back and forth. Laughter is guaranteed. As an alternative Mom and Dad can each take a part or two teachers can take on the different personalities. This is classic comedy, one character reacting to the continued shenanigans of a zany, irrepressible sidekick.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

AUGUSTINE


By Mélanie Watt

(Kids Can Press, 2006)

This is a multipurpose book.
1) Use it as a springboard to talk with a child about moving.
2) Read and discuss it before a child goes to a new school.
3) Combine #1 and #2.
4) Consider a first “read” by omitting the text and interpreting the grid of
nine pictures on the left side of each spread. Kids will get the meaning
and then be more invested in the story when it is officially read aloud.
5) Build an art study around any one of the artists or paintings emulated in
the middle frame of each grid. (Artists and titles of the inspired works
appear at the back of the book.)
6) Create a more complete art study, spending a week on each of the thirteen
featured artists (e.g., van Gogh, Warhol, Munch, Matisse, Warhol). As a
Canadian, I am pleased that Group of Seven member Lawren Harris is included.

Sorry about all that, above. My mind races when I come across an inventive book such as this.

Augustine is a penguin, named after painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Her dad’s job requires that the family move from the familiar South Pole to the unknown North Pole. Augustine experiences packing, goodbyes, a first plane ride, a new home, a new class. Ultimately, through art, the little penguin discovers a new way to connect.

Mélanie Watt fans, accustomed to the humor of her Scaredy Squirrel and Chester books, may be disappointed with Augustine. This book is a different creative turn for Watt, one that I am glad she has taken. Overall, this book takes familiar themes and adds creative touches. The portrait of Augustine’s new teacher is reminiscent of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa; naturally, the teacher’s name is Miss Lisa. When the penguin stands alone watching her new classmates play catch with a ball, Watt expresses Augustine’s feelings with a sketch of a ball and the Magritte-inspired caption “This is not a ball.”

Augustine is a pet project, its impetus being Watt’s own memories of moving from city to city while growing up in Canada. Like the penguin, she found art as an outlet for expressing herself and connecting with others. The book is now a vehicle for teachers to instill a love of art in many more youngsters.

Monday, September 19, 2011

SCAREDY SQUIRREL




Each day this week, I am featuring a picture book by Canadian writer and illustrator Mélanie Watt. Her books entertain readers in ways that make them laugh, deal with worries and think about differences. Moreover, her characters are truly memorable, from Leon the Chameleon and Scaredy Squirrel to Augustine and Chester. Watt even becomes a character in the Chester books and you the reader enter the fray in You’re Finally Here. It is exciting to follow Watt’s expanding book collection, with other fresh creations yet to come!



By Mélanie Watt


(Kids Can Press, 2006)


This book is always a crowd pleaser. I’ve read it one-on-one and to whole classes, from grade one to grade seven. It is no surprise that the goofily endearing, anxious, OCD-laden Scaredy Squirrel now stars in a series of books for kids.

We get a sense of the main character immediately upon opening the book. There, amid a pattern of acorns, is a sticker: “WARNING! Scaredy Squirrel insists that everyone wash their hands with antibacterial soap before reading this book.” I have actually declared, “Oops, I forgot” and then gotten up to scrub in the sink before carrying on. This instantly gets the audience’s attention. This story will be different. (I’m thinking of reading the book while donning a pair of surgical gloves next time. Scaredy will be most pleased.)

Scaredy Squirrel fears the unknown so he spends all his time in the same tree, following the same ho-hum routine every day. He has real fears of tarantulas, poison ivy, green Martians, killer bees, germs and sharks. These things lurk just beyond the tree, right?

Because the fears are so great and so imminent, Scaredy creates an emergency kit and several exit plans if, and only if, escape is absolutely necessary. Naturally, the day comes when kit and plans must be put into action. And, of course, nothing goes as planned.

Scaredy Squirrel is a clever, breezy read. Watt’s illustrations are the type of bright, cutesy figures that adorn fashionable clothing and nurseries for toddlers (and I mean that as a positive). The layout of pages is equally engaging. Watt presents Scaredy’s daily routine agenda style in a series of eight frames across two pages, little clocks drawn beside each event. She presents lists with visuals accompanying the words. As well, Watt draws Scaredy’s movement in the tree and beyond in lively images across two-page spreads.

I am certain that once you discover Scaredy Squirrel you will look for excuses to read this book to kids and adults, known and, although potentially scary, unknown.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

SHIN-CHI'S CANOE

Written by Nicola I. Campbell

Illustrated by Kim LaFave

(Groundwood Books, 2008)

The cover illustration for Shin-chi’s Canoe caught my eye as I browsed in my favorite children’s bookstore in Vancouver. I leafed through the book and felt that every page was a work of art, worthy of framing and display in a major exhibition. Artist Kim LaFave’s process begins with pencil sketches that are scanned to the computer and digitally colored with Corel Painter and Photoshop. The results are breathtaking.

But beyond the art, there is a tale to be told. This book tells the story of a school year, from getting ready for the first day to arriving home after the last. What is different for young readers is the learning occurs at a residential school, far from Shin-chi and sister Shi-shi-etko’s family. During the school year, the siblings are not allowed to speak to each other, they must adopt English names and they are forbidden from speaking their first language. English only. They are not allowed to go home on weekends or for holidays. The children go to school half the day and work the rest of the day. Shin-chi, by the way, is six years old.

Yes, as noted in author Nicola Campbell’s foreword, this is a story that touches on attempts to colonize Native populations, beginning in the late 1800s and continuing until late in the 20th century. It is a topic that could be explained in a heavy-handed manner, but Campbell takes a gentler approach, allowing the reader to make his or how own inferences and ask his or her own questions. (Campbell is Interior Salish and Métis. Many of her family members attended residential schools.)

Before the siblings leave their family, Shi-shi-etko recalls how her long braids were cut off and her head washed in kerosene when she arrived at school the previous year. This time, she asks her grandmother to cut her hair. Children must infer why. Afterwards, the goes “up the mountain to put (the children’s) braids away.” Again, it is left to the reader to imagine what that might look like.

At school, the children eat small portions of porridge and burnt toast while the teachers dine on bacon, eggs and potatoes. Later, Shi-chi and a new friend steal food. This provides another opportunity to stretch children’s thinking. Why would the boys steal? Are they bad? Is stealing ever okay?

This is yet another picture book that could be read by people of different ages with older readers getting more from the text. Learning about reality through story helps make history lessons memorable.

Monday, September 12, 2011

FLAWED DOGS



By Berkeley Breathed

(Little, Brown and Company, 2003)

Remember the infamous 1994 Westminster Best in Show where chief judge Heidy Strüdelberg caused a riot after recognizing a three-legged wiener dog who’d once been used for lab experiments? Well, I don’t either, but Berkeley Breathed says it happened and I’ll go with it.

Following the incident, Ms. Strüdelberg retreated to a grain elevator in Piddleton, Vermont, converting it into the Last Chance Dog Pound, a refuge for the most difficult to adopt pooches, ones that fail to meet the perfect breed images of typical pet perusers.

Flawed Dogs is the fictitious 2004 Leftovers Catalogue, featuring truly unique dogs and poems that explain how they fell out of favor. I have previously featured gifted cartoonist Breathed’s The Last Basselope here. Flawed Dogs will not be for everyone, but for some it will be a riotous read.

Case in point: A few years ago while I was principal, a young student at the school stopped attending. All of a sudden, he couldn’t separate from his mother. I was tasked with getting him back in school. It began with short visits in the family car in the school parking lot. In time, I convinced him to stop into my office each day. We checked the Vancouver Canucks’ website and chatted about the last game, the next game and key stats. And then he noticed Flawed Dogs which rested on an upper shelf since I felt one picture wasn’t necessarily appropriate for young readers. (Lulu, an unattractive dog, is accessorized to no avail with a bonnet, two pairs of red high heels and a low-cut sweater stuffed with a couple of tennis balls.) I skipped that page, but read the rest of the book. The boy roared with laughter at gassy Pete whose reaction to kibble sent building blocks and the baby a-tumblin’, iBoo the techno pup (complete with iPoo) and Jeeves the basset hound whose jowls sent him airborne on windy days. Boy humor, perfectly illustrated by Breathed. The student’s laughter got me a gigglin’ and it took half an hour to get through the book while also interrupting all office activity.

He begged me to read the book over and over. It became a key motivator in getting him back into the school and eventually back into class. Flawed Dogs is a fine example of the potency of a picture book when matched with the right reader.

Seek out the book, share it with a group, especially boys who like that kind of humor. I cannot quibble with the content when the reaction is one of utter joy.

Friday, September 9, 2011

DOGKU



By Andrew Clements

Illustrated by Tim Bowers

(Simon & Schuster, 2007)

Confession: Andrew Clements makes me jealous. He does everything right. He writes highly entertaining realistic middle grade fiction such as Frindle and The School Story and is the author of the popular Jake Drake early reader series. Lately, he has spread his talent into picture books, including A Million Dots. Not only is Dogku a picture book, but it belongs in the poetry genre as the story is told in haiku.

An awfully cute stray dog shows up at a family home. The first verse:
There on the back steps,
the eyes of a hungry dog.
Will she shut the door?

Of course, the dog is taken in bathed, fed and played with. He even gets to ride in the car. My favorite verse:
Nose out the window,
ears flapping, hair pushed straight back.
Adventures in smell.


All of this is lovely for the dog the family names Mooch. But how long will it last? Is this only a temporary respite from life on the streets? Mooch gets into trouble “exploring” some tempting places inside the home. He wonders if he has outworn his welcome. Clements sets things up to keep kids wondering as well.

The illustrations of Tim Bowers are well executed though conventional. Something about the portrayal of people comes off as drab and conservative, causing my eye to be more interesting in the backgrounds. Bowers does choose interesting vantage points for some of his art, particularly as the father leaves the house and as Mooch awaits the return of the school bus. While Mooch is adorable, I think it might have created richer discussion if the dog looked rattier on first sighting and remained less cutesy throughout. Visit an SPCA or dog pound. The dogs hoping for a home—at least the ones waiting and waiting—typically rank lower on the adorability scale. (Consider Berkeley Breathed’s Flawed Dogs, for comparison’s sake. I will feature that title in my next post.)

Many teachers will scoop up Dogku as a way to introduce haiku to students. More importantly, the story will capture youngsters’ attention.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL

By Virginia Lee Burton

(Houghton Mifflin, 1939)

If you read my last post, you know I am not particularly fond of The Story of Ferdinand. Sometimes a “classic” does not hold up due to changes in society over time. I thought it would be interesting to follow up that post by featuring another favorite from the same time period. Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel celebrates a machine already passé at the time of publication. Ironically, this quirk helps the book remain relevant.

One might say Mike Mulligan is not a man who changes with the times. Despite rapid advances in industry, he fails to switch over to the bigger, better gasoline shovels, electric shovels and Diesel motor shovels. Mike remains devoted to Mary Anne, his trusty steam shovel which has a long record of serving man’s desire to alter the natural landscape, digging “as much in a day as a hundred men could dig in a week” (or so Mike believes).

Urban contractors have moved on, leaving Mike and Mary Anne with nothing to do. Still, Mike refuses to sell the steam shovel for scrap metal. Instead, he sets off in the machine in search of work outside the city, eventually coming upon a small town called Popperville whose citizens are about to begin digging the cellar for a new town hall. (Small town folks may be offended here. While the cities have progressed to the bigger and better machines, the people of Popperville seem to be stuck in the man-shovel era. A steam shovel can do the job in a day?! Preposterous!)

And so Mike and Mary Anne get the dig gig. The stakes are high: finish in a day or no pay. Boys who root for The Little Engine that Could will also rally behind Mary Anne as Mulligan and the steam shovel work “faster and better” when more of the townsfolk show up to watch. (Yes, no one in town—from the constable and the postman to the farmer and the teacher with the distracted pupils—has anything else to do. Not in Popperville and not in neighboring towns.)

The steam shovel chugs along as does the day. It’s a race against time. A predicament occurs at the end of the day, one that is ludicrous but will be accepted by young readers. Ultimately both man and machine are repurposed.

There is much that adults and children can discuss after reading the book. There are historical references to the way things were: old-fashioned cars, the milkman making deliveries in his horse-drawn cart, the firemen rushing to the scene led by horses as well. Planes and canals show changes in transportation as the small town continues to exist adhering to old ways.

Moreover, the push for bigger and better is just as strong today, from seeking the latest toys and designer clothes to the coveted new technological gadgetry we are told we cannot do without. If something still works, do we appreciate it any longer? How many bells and whistles are required? (Think of “Toy Story”, The Giving Tree or the previously reviewed Thing-Thing.) Just as in the industrial age, advances come rapidly in the technological age. What renders something obsolete? Is anything lost through our “gains”?

Discussion aside, Mike Mulligan is a story that will prompt boys to imagine their toy tractors and cars have personalities, maybe even names. Vroom! Bang! Smash! Time to save Mary Anne! The story still deserves a place on bookshelves today.

Monday, September 5, 2011

THE STORY OF FERDINAND



Written by Munro Leaf

Illustrated by Robert Lawson

(Viking, 1936)

I know that someone read this book to me as a child and I know I didn’t like it. That’s all I remember.

It was a classic then and remains so. Once a classic, always a classic?

Ferdinand himself is a lovable storybook character, a young bull that is perfectly happy spending his days sniffing flowers on his own under a cork tree. Ferdinand’s mother is an enlightened parent. She “saw that he was not lonesome, and because she was an understanding mother, even though she was a cow, she let him just sit there and be happy.” (Am I the only one who finds the “even though she was a cow” aside to be offensive? It seems so unnecessary, but maybe one must adopt that mindset to continue with the story.) The other bulls do what we’re told bulls are supposed to do: “run and jump and butt their heads together.”

At this point, all is fine in the story. It is yet another tale of being special or different. Curiously, Ferdinand experiences no ridicule from his peers. He does his thing; they do theirs. How lovely.

Once the bulls mature, all of them are big and strong, including Ferdinand. We are told the bulls long to be picked for the Madrid bull fights. Really?! Some will say I am taking a picture book too seriously, but what bull would yearn to be agitated by “long sharp pins with ribbons”, long spears and a matador’s sword “to stick the bull last of all”? Utterly preposterous.

Even reading the book as an adult, I become uncomfortable from this point of the book onward. Sure, it is comical how Ferdinand gets picked for the fight and how he thumbs his nose at the whole affair, but I doubt things would have ended so happily for him in an actual bullfighting milieu. And what about the other bulls?

I will repeat, Ferdinand is an endearing character, but the story glorifies bullfighting while also poking fun at it. Bullfighting remains a “sport” in Spain and other countries. While the event has cultural and historical ties, some traditions may be remembered without being re-enacted. Sure, the book may generate discussion about animal abuse and sport involving animals, but I worry that many people presenting this book skip that part.

The favorite part for kids will no doubt be Ferdinand’s encounter with a bee (with priceless illustrations by Robert Lawson), but the backdrop of the story cannot be glossed over.

Friday, September 2, 2011

THE DOT

By Peter H. Reynolds

(Candlewick Press, 2003)

I love so many picture books, but I can say with confidence that The Dot by Peter Reynolds is solidly on my all-time top ten list. It’s a wonderful book to read at the beginning of a new school year.

For Vashti, art is a miserable subject. She faces a project with an I can’t mindset. By the end of the period, her paper remains blank. What’s the point? Whatever she does, it won’t be any good. Her teacher tries to encourage Vashti. “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” A mark, huh? Fine. Vashti grabs a marker and angrily makes a single jab. A dot.

Her teacher requires nothing more, keeping her cool and saying, “Now sign it.” This puzzles young Vashti, but it’s a small price for her Get out of Jail Free card. The following week, the student is startled to return to class and see her paper in a gold frame, prominently displayed on the wall behind the teacher’s desk. Vashti knows she can do better and sets off on a surprising art journey.

We all have subjects or tasks that we greet with that I can’t attitude. For some, it’s art, but for others it may be writing or basketball or math. It may be cleaning out a closet, baking a decent pie or taming the weeds in the front garden. The Dot offers all of us new hope. Start small, celebrate that first step, continue on. Do things your own way. Embrace the imperfections. You may even inspire others. That is certainly what Vashti and Peter Reynolds have done.

When a roomful of grade seven students spontaneously applauds at the end of the story, you know the book is pure magic. It is worth reading as school starts and another read the next time you doubt yourself. The Dot is an instant pick-me-up. Yes, everything will be okay.