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Children’s picture books

Happy Like Soccer
by Maribeth Boelts
Illustrated by Lauren Castillo
(Candlewick Press, 2012)
Sierra loves playing soccer with her new team. Shiny uniforms, a great playing field, and real goal posts – not two garbage cans! – make the game a delight. But she’s sad because her auntie, with whom she lives, is unable to attend any of her games due to her work schedule.
Desperate to have a cheering family member on the sideline like all the other kids have, Sierra comes up with a plan to bring the next game to a vacant neighborhood lot on an evening when her auntie can attend.
Happy Like Soccer reveals the deep longing that children have for affirmation, support, and love from family members. The book also celebrates the power of sports to bring a community together for the wellbeing of its children.

All Things Bright and Beautiful
by Ashley Bryan
(Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010)
Based on the hymn by Cecil F. Alexander, All Things Bright and Beautiful, this radiant picture book portrays the diversity of all God’s children, creatures, fruit, plants, rivers, mountains and other aspects of creation.
Ashley Bryan explains how he created the illustrations: “The scissors shown on the endpapers are the scissors that my mother used in sewing and embroidery and that I, in turn, used in cutting the coloured papers for ALL of the collage compositions in this book.”
Detailed, lush, and vibrant, All Things Bright and Beautiful is a book both adults and children will want to read and explore again and again.

The Farmer and the Clown
by Marla Frazee
(Beach Lane Books, 2014)
In this wordless picture book, a disgruntled farmer’s labour is disrupted when he sees a young clown fall off a circus train on to a track near his field, unnoticed by the train’s occupants. The farmer takes the cheerful youngster back to his modest home and cares for him. When the clown’s good humour dissipates because he misses his family, the farmer tries to cheer him up by clowning around. Soon, the two become friends and the unhappy farmer’s life is enriched.
But when the circus train returns in search of the missing clown, the farmer relinquishes his new companion to his rightful family – the home to which he truly belongs. This delightful, subtly humourous book celebrates serendipitous encounters, the transforming power of new friendships, and the joy of belonging to family.            

Shaping Up Summer
by Lizann Flatt
Illustrated by Ashley Barron
(Owlkids Books Inc., 2014)
This whimsical book about math in nature asks, “Do you think math matters to animals and plants? What if nature knew numbers like you?”  
Children are invited to journey through summer and imagine “moles mining in shapes, digging doodles in the dirt,” spiders weaving webs “to spin silken scenes,” and skunks scratching “warning shapes onto the ground before turning their black-and-white backsides round.” Crabs, narwhals, beavers, puffins and insects each add shapes to the summer world.
In this book, vibrant collage art brings to life a summer world teeming with creatures – and playful math concepts. Helpful author’s notes give further details about each animal that is highlighted in the book. Three other books complete this series: Counting on Fall (2012), Sorting Through Spring (2013), and Sizing Up Winter (2013).

In Lucia’s Neighborhood
by Pat Shewchuk and Marek Colek
(Kids Can Press, 2013)
Lucia’s grandmother has been telling her about Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, a book about neighbourhoods and how to make them thrive. As a result, Lucia’s eyes have been opened to what makes her neighbourhood a special place. She sees people walking to work and school, or to the park, where a farmers’ market is under way. There she sees people of varying shapes and sizes participating in different activities. Each shop and front yard is unique and adds beauty to the neighbourhood. As the day progresses, Lucia sees more sights, all familiar, each adding to “the story of an average day in my neighbourhood.”
This charming picture book, which conveys the peace and stability of a neighborhood that is well loved and cared for, could help to increase children’s awareness of their own neighbourhoods and be a springboard for discussing how to improve them.

Grumpy Goat
by Brett Helquist
(Harper, 2013)
When Goat arrives at Sunny Acres, he’s miserable, selfish, friendless and oblivious to nature’s beauty on the farm. He kicks down fences and leaves destruction in his wake. The other animals try to befriend him, but he’s not interested in their overtures.
One day as he wanders the hillside alone, he’s startled by a beautiful, golden dandelion. Transfixed by the flower’s perfection, he decides to nurture it, and, as a result, he is transformed. Curious to discover the reason for the change in Goat’s behaviour, the other animals start dropping by to visit him, and soon they become friends.
But, one day, when a breeze begins to blow, everything changes. The dandelion – now gone to seed – is whisked away. Goat is miserable once again. When the other animals notice his unhappiness, they do their best to comfort him. But he will not be consoled.
Time passes. Soon, the hillside explodes into color as a new crop of dandelions blooms – hundreds of them! Goat’s spirits are revived and his new community of friends share his happiness.
Grumpy Goat, replete with vivid, energy-packed illustrations, shows young children how an appreciation of nature’s beauty can inwardly transform a person, as well as his or her relationships.

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