Newfoundland artist Dawn Baker takes her young readers on a memorable tour in A Newfoundland Year (Pennywell Books, $12.95.)
Baker, who has a teaching degree and sits on the board of directors of The Rooms art gallery in St. John’s, captures children’s attention through a pleasing combination of visual art and rhyming text.
In the world Baker paints, January is for snowmobiling, February is for “double-ball mitts,” and March is best for skiing and snowshoeing.
“The ice is now disappearing and the slush in our driveway needs clearing. But Mom’s cooking Jigg’s Dinner, that’s always a winner and is that a robin I’m hearing,” she writes of April.
On the story goes, through daffodil and camping seasons to fishing and picnicking by the sea. July brings the icebergs Newfoundland is known for while August is Regatta time and September is for bakeapples and berries in abundance. Halloween in Newfoundland, according to Baker, is marked with Purity Peppermint Nobs while November is known for Guy Fawkes Night and the bonfires that burn on the beach. December brings mummers and best wishes for all.
Noni is Nervous (Tundra Books, $19.99 hardcover) by Heather Hart-Sussman is the timely story of a little girl who is nervous about play dates and global warming but most of all, about the first day of school. Even her parents and brother begin to share her worry but Noni, after a rough first day, finds a more outgoing friend. Her friendship fortifies her and she soon has a sense of being just where she belongs. Sensitively written and cheerfully illustrated, Noni is Nervous is a positive book which may be helpful for parents of children inclined to bite their nails, twirl their hair and physically attach themselves in times of stress.
The story ends charmingly with Noni asking her parents what they were so worried about.
Zoe’s Room (Scholastic, $18.99) by Nick Bland is about another childhood transition. Zoe, who has her own room and her own imaginative after-bedtime routine, discovers her sister is moving in. Needless to the change is unsettling but Noni comes to discover there is something nice about sharing with her sister.
Nana’s Summer Surprise (Scholastic, $19.99 hardcover) is another adjustment-themed book. Also written by Heather Hartt-Sussman, it is about a little girl whose grandmother married a man with a granddaughter named Hortense. In an earlier book Hortense turned out to be okay but in this book she is growing up and no longer interested in things that used to be fun. It is tough going for the two granddaughters who are marooned together until they collaborate on a common goal, providing a surprise party for Nana.
If you want a break from books designed to teach lessons, The Highway Rat may be just the thing. Written by Julia Donaldson, whose gift for rhyming is reminiscent of Sherri Fitch, it is inspired by Alfred Noyes classic poem, The Highwayman.
“The Highway Rat was a baddie. The Highway Rat was a beast. He took what he wanted and he ate what he took. His life was one long feast. His teeth were sharp and yellow. His manners were rough and rude. And the highway Rat went riding –riding-riding- riding along the highway and stealing the travelers’ food,” begins the story.
If you loved the powerful imagery and rhythmic cadence of The Highwayman you may or may not love this book, but you will want to read it.