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Absurd, bizarre and nonsensical, Alligator Pie has been a favourite children's book the world over for 30 years. Dennis Lee's verbal ingenuity will pose a challenge to the most agile tongues (have a go at "The Sitter and the Butter and the Better Batter Fritter"), while Frank Newfeld's ornate, circus-inspired illustrations remain as spectacular as ever.
The publication of Alligator Pie in 1974 made a significant contribution to creating a distinctive Canadian voice in children's literature, one that had largely been overshadowed by European entries in the genre. Dennis Lee won the 1974 Book of the Year for Children award from the Association of Children's Librarians for this work, and in 2001 became Toronto's first Poet Laureate.
Frank Newfeld has illustrated or designed more than 650 books, earning numerous awards around the world.
These poems by Miles Smeeton were originally written on postcards to his granddaughters while the author and his wife were sailing around the world on their yacht. The poems follow a recipe-book formula, with the main ingredients being alligators, caimans and crocodiles. The recipes are not about how to cook those reptilian creatures; they are mostly about what alligators and crocodiles eat.
The main characters lead an interesting life and are well travelled: we read about a sea captain crocodile and a yachting alligator; we meet a stewardess called Ghariyal (a fish-eating crocodile from India) whose "…uniform is dashing green and mottled brown with patches…"
Yet these creatures from the swamps are not always sophisticated, like the bathroom alligator: "I know that you would leave the soap / Upon the floor / And what is more / You'd leave the water in the bath."
The imaginative poems are filled with wordplay and information about crocodiles, their sharp-toothed friends and their habitats, and each is paired with a descriptive line drawing of the clever and peculiar reptiles.
All on a Sleepy Night is a folksy bedtime story for children under eight years old. A small boy is trying to fall asleep in a house somewhere in the north. The night noises that surround him come from both inside the house and outdoors and are echoed in his dreams. After the source of each sound is introduced, the onomatopoeic sounds are repeated in a refrain. Inanimate objects, such as the fridge, are personified in the poem. The author includes the names of her own cats, Max and Mandu, and her friend's bird, Whimsy, in the narrative.
The verses, full of imagery and movement, are reflected in the vibrant, coloured-pencil artwork by Sylvie Daigneault. Images of the kindly moon, the windswept trees and stars recur in almost every expressive illustration.
Author Shutta Crum is a children's librarian and has prepared an activity sheet based on her book. It can be found on the Internet at www.shuttacrum.com/sleepynight.html
Edgar Allan Poe's gently revealing poem of true love, found and lost in a kingdom by the sea, is a classic portrayal of joy and sorrow.
Accompanied by the airbrushed pencil drawings of Gilles Tibo, a surreal world is created -- a dream-like place where lovers frolic, seagulls fly, and clams are plentiful.
On the Gaspé Peninsula in the 1930s, a young fisherman and Annabel Lee discover an everlasting love. One day, tragedy strikes, and Annabel Lee is lost forever. The young fisherman is overwhelmed with grief, comforted only by the sound of the waves and the luminous moon.
Tibo begins with rich, warm tones to set an innocent and bright atmosphere, and eventually changes to a palette of cool blues and purples, leaving us feeling melancholy but hopeful. The combination of lyrical poetry and warm illustrations brings detail and imagination to a world full of uncertainty. While the rich literature of Poe appeals to the mature, the glowing drawings attract the young, making this a book everyone can enjoy.
Kevin Major's collection of free-verse poems traces the dramatic story of 17-year-old Ann Harvey, who selflessly helped rescue 160 passengers from an Irish immigrant ship that had run aground off the coast of Isle aux Morts, Newfoundland, in 1828.
Major's poems, part fact and part fiction, tell of Ann's courage and strength, but also of her dreams, her love for her homeland and, ultimately, her fate. In the second chapter, the author introduces Seamus, a young Irishman with dreams of settling down to a new life in America with Ann.
David Blackwood's black-and-white artwork conveys the hardship of life at sea.
With this nonsense poetry book, Loris Lesynski tries to figure out where ideas come from. She looks at good ideas, bad ideas, crazy ideas, and even those born in a cabbagehead. Each poem asks questions: Where do inventions come from? What happens when a child looks for an idea? Where are they hiding? What happens to ideas when we dream?
"I need an idea / need it fast / need a good one / that'll last…"
Cabbagehead is filled with tongue twisters and rhyming verses that are easy for young children to memorize. The whimsical illustrations were created with ink, coloured pencil and watercolour and bring the charming rhymes to life. The characters are cartoon-like, and each illustration has a rambunctious and delirious atmosphere.
Loris Lesynski is the author and illustrator of several rhyming picture books for children, including Dirty Dog Boogie, Nothing Beats a Pizza, Boy Soup, Ogre Fun, Catmagic, Night School and Rocksy. Her books are suitable for reading to kindergarten classes or early grades, and can be used for developing memory skills and oral traditions in young children.
One of a series of poetry collections celebrating Canadian wildlife, Canadian Wild Flowers and Emblems draws its inspiration from both official and non-official flowers, birds and tree emblems from each of Canada's provinces and territories.
Readers can discover and learn about where and how certain plants grow, which plants are edible and which are used as medicine (the Indian Pipe flower, for example, was used in folk medicine to treat sore eyes and nervous troubles). Each poem is accompanied by a wonderful painted illustration of a Canadian wild flower. An index of 30 wild flowers, both provincial and territorial, is included on the last page. Between the calming verse and splendid colour illustrations, children will increase their appreciation of art and of the exquisite beauty of nature.
This busy, playful book follows many kinds of dogs through city streets, parks, circuses, backyards and snowy mountains: "There are shaggy dogs, waggy dogs and dogs that have fleas / There are slow dogs and low dogs and dogs out on sprees." Many more canines run amok in Kim LaFave's sunny cartoon illustrations. Sheila Dalton's text is reminiscent of Dr. Seuss in its creative wording and unorthodox typography, with a clever subtext that suggests that acceptance of differences can be fun too.
Doggerel is a book that will appeal to children for its quick visual pace and goofy tongue twisters. Kids will enjoy multiple readings of this spirited offering.
This collection comprises poems written by famous Canadian poets and those written by everyday kids. Works by Leonard Cohen, Dorothy Livesay, Raymond Souster, Robert Hogg, Nancy Prasad and many others are interspersed with the lines of pre-teen and teenaged writers.
The poems in Double Vision are of many different levels and subjects, ranging from Sheree Fitch's silly Speaking of Speaking to Robert Priest's environmental warning, Incredible Inedible Pie. Many of the kids' poems deal with topics such as animals, hometowns, seasons and the ocean.
"And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns / About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home, / In the sun that is young once only…"
Nostalgic and romantic, the above is a snippet from Dylan Thomas's classic poem Fern Hill, now a picture book of the same title with illustrations by award-winning artist Murray Kimber.
Each page of Fern Hill reveals Kimber's love of detail and colour. With a nod to impressionism, he depicts a child's daily life on a farm -- an ethereal farm -- full of places to run to and places to be. He captures the child's élan and imagination as the boy pauses now and then for rest and reflection.
Young readers are apt to marvel at Kimber's big, buoyant farm depictions, while whetting their verbal appetites with Thomas's strange, long-ago words.
"And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white / With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all / Shining, it was Adam and maiden, / The sky gathered again / And the sun grew round that very day."