With dream-like enchantment, the wordless, immersive “The Depth of the Lake and the Height of the Sky,” by Kim Jihyun (Floris, $25.50, 32 pages, ages 4-7), draws kids into the leafy tracery of trees and a lake’s silent fishes and frondy undergrowth. A curious city boy explores his grandparents’ country home, venturing through the woods and diving into the lake. Jihyun’s soft grays and delicate lines fill the pages with nature’s profuse designs, making this a book to lose yourself in.
A girl with a pet cloud? This unusual relationship gives the Fan Brothers’ “Lizzy and the Cloud” (Simon & Schuster, 32 pages, $21.99, ages 3-7) oh-so-charming magic. Lizzy waters and walks her cloud with tender care, but when it gets big and starts to rumble, she knows it’s telling her something important. Eric and Terry Fan have the ordinary/surreality proportions just right here, with Lizzy’s down-to-earth care for her pet a balance to its meteorological mistiness. The very idea of this fantastical pair is irresistible.
There are pets and pets. In “Ben the Sea Lion,” written and illustrated by Roy Henry Vickers (Harbour, 32 pages, $22.95, ages 5-9), Vickers recounts a childhood experience when he and friends rescued a starving sea lion pup in their BC village and raised it to adulthood. His storytelling is straightforward, funny and informative — about a way of life, sea lion habits, and what it was like being custodian of a massive but good-humoured creature. It makes a curiously compelling tale.
Nature comes into play in poetry in Sheree Fitch’s “Sing in the Spring!,” illustrated with fabric art by Deb Plestid (Nimbus, 32 pages, $22.95, ages 3-8)and in “Book of Questions: Selections/ Libro de las Preguntas: selecciones,” by Pablo Neruda, illustrated by Paloma Valdivia (Enchanted Lion, 80 pages, $32.50, all ages), Fitch’s fizzing energy, word and sound play suffuse her celebration of the shifts of winter to spring to the prospect of sunflowers; her passion resonates even as we enter summer. Neruda’s “Questions” plumbs the depths of imagination, existence, earth and its life with a curiosity that is free-ranging and mind-expanding. “Which is more difficult, to sprout or to reap?” “How many questions are in a cat?” There’s much for any age to ponder in this lavishly illustrated English/Spanish anthology that relishes questions with uncertain answers.
Questions proliferate with lively unpredictability in “Brand New Boy,” by David Almond, illustrated by Marta Altés (Candlewick, 304 pages, $24.99, ages 9-12), Dan wonders about the new kid, George, who knows a lot but is strangely unresponsive. When Dan and friends learn he’s a robot destined to be dismantled, they determine to rescue him. What is a human? a robot? an alien? What does it mean to be ‘brand new’ or robotic? Challenging questions burble up as the friends plot to kidnap George so he can remain a boy. An excellent novel to share and discuss.
A summer setting and environmental conflict make Danielle Daniel’s “Forever Birchwood” (HarperCollins, 291 pages, $15.99, ages 10-13) good reading for the moment school’s out. Wolf has learned from her grandmother, of Algonquin heritage, how to respect and learn from the trees near her Sudbury home. When they’re threatened by developers, Wolf and friends must find a way to intervene. A satisfying adventure story, this is also a sensitive treatment of shifting friendships, emerging sexualities and change.
Murder, haunting and complexity come under Mariko Tamaki’s eye in “Cold” (Roaring Brook, 230 pages, $24.99, ages 11 and up), in which two queer teens — ghostly Todd, victim of murder, and Georgia, who can’t stop wondering how he died — unravel the sequence of events that led to Todd’s death. There’s spicy irreverence and robust thoughtfulness to Tamaki’s writing, making this a satisfying page-turner with moral heft.
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