Archive for July 2011

Edward the “Crazy Man”, by Marie Day

Living in a large city my daughters are exposed to homeless people most days. I’m sure every location, no matter what size, has some people who are homeless or living on the margins in a visible way. The challenge as a parent is to help our children understand what is happening when the instinct to just ignore the situation seems so easy. Children who have always had a secure home can understandably be baffled by people sleeping on the street, looking ragged, apparently talking to themselves or yelling agitatedly. While to an adult it can seem obvious they are suffering from mental illness, explaining this in the moment to a child is not easy. It is good to have some time outside these encounters to be able to talk about what may be happening in a calm and reflective mannner.

Luckily one day we spied Edward the “Crazy Man”. He was not sitting on the sidewalk but on our local library shelf. My daughters were attracted to the book’s colorful cover. The content inside is equally well done. The story begins when Charlie is school age. He is intrigued by the local “crazy man” and tries to help him with odds and ends from his family’s garage. From a classic bully scene, the story evolves. Turn the page and fast forward to the later rediscovery of this character by Charlie. We don’t really know how Charlie learned or maintained his caring nature, but the story demonstrates how it is possible to be empathetic as a youngster and as a grownup. Now an adult, Charlie has the power to help the man, and he does. When we are finally introduced to Edward we are told he has a brain disease called schizophrenia and learn some of the signs of this disease. Even though the other adults don’t seem much more sympathetic than the children did, Edward is able to succeed, thanks to the caring support of Charlie. Greater awareness of and empathy for those with mental illness is important given that “one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. The remaining 4 will have a friend, family member or colleague who will” [www.camh.net]. While the happily-ever-after ending many seem like an unlikely outcome, this story provides a good introduction to this issue. It is great to be able to share this story and use it to build some understanding rather than just giving a quick, shallow answer to a child’s question asked in the street or “pretending” that mental illness is not an important issue that children can develop an awareness about.

If you know of other young reader books that present stories around mental health issues please feel free to post a comment to share them. Thanks.


Where are you Bear?: a Canadian alphabet adventure Written by Frieda Wishinsky and Illustrated by Sean L. Moore

I like books that feature characters with the names of family members or my children’s friends. I guess other people also like stories that include their youngsters because there seems to be a large industry of “personalized” children’s books right now. The books I’m talking about at the moment, however, are those gems that the author has created with a character who by coincidence shares your child’s name.

My daughters are lucky – The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch (with spunky Princess Elizabeth) and When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry…, by Molly Bang (“She roars a red, red roar.”) are both great books and help transport them to other realities. Now we have discovered another book with the character of Sophie – Where are you Bear?: a Canadian alphabet adventure.  ABC books are fun because beginning readers have the opportunity to show off their knowledge of letter recognition – beginning to build their confidence and identity as a reader.

There is such a proliferation of ABC books, it is understandable if you’re thinking “No, not another one!”, but luckily this one distinguishes itself with some geographical and social data about Canada that we don’t think about alot. It has something of interest for everyone – dinosaur fossils! Ski jumps! Inuksuk! Beluga whales! Fortunately a glossary is included inside the front and back cover so you don’t have to run off and search out any of references you may not remember from geography class! While ABC’s may seem to basic for older readers, there is good content in this one for discussion about your next family vacation in Canada or learning a bit more about our culture. The story is about 4-year old Sophie’s cross-Canada adventure to visit her grandma – having left behind her treasured stuff bear. This bear is pretty independent fella, though, and the ending will keep your little one smiling!

Wolf’s coming!, by Joe Kulka

This picture book is a fun, fast-paced, rhyming twist on the classic tale of a wolf! Around our house it is referred to as “Taylor’s favourite!”, after one of my daughters’ pre-school daycare classmates who just couldn’t get enough of this book! For children who are a little bit older, and able to manage a little bit of suspense in their stories, try adding a bit of vocal tension and pace your reading to make this wonderful book one that will receive demands of “again!, again!”. It has a birthday party ending which resonates with children.

I’d suggest your audience for this book is a little bit older (4-6 years), or who have been exposed to many types of stories. Some children find the suspense element just a bit too overwhelming. Enjoy!

Are you a parent or a caregiver who is interested in finding new, interesting and meaningful books to help instill a love of reading in a young child? If so, this blog is for you! It will help you discover good young (ages 3 – 8) children’s books fast.

These are books that have been read by my two daughters (Elizabeth, now age 7 and Sophie, age 4) and myself. We get many of our books through the Toronto Public Library so whenever possible we will provide a link to the library listing and their wonderful system where anyone with a valid Toronto Library card can place a hold for a book. When your book arrives at your local library branch a nice lady will phone you and leave a message so you know your next book discovery (or rediscovery) awaits. Hopefully no matter where you live, your local library (or bookstore) will be able to help you get these books.

Who doesn’t love all the tried and true classics in children’s books? Little Bear, The Giving Tree, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Winnie the Pooh, and the list goes on and on. We love them too, but this blog is going to try and take you down a different path. We will try not to list of the books you will find in classic lists (if you haven’t already, check out Michele Landsberg’s Guide to children’s books which has some old favorites and some you may not have heard of before) or the current magazine favorites. We want to help you discover lesser-known books that would be good additions to your reading list.

And because there are so many books out there, we invite you to make your own recommendations to add to this list. We are aiming to include one book each week for the next year!

Let’s all read happily ever after…

The End.