One last Christmas #picturebook before the big day: Fox and Squirrel the Best Christmas Ever by Canadian treasure Ruth Ohi via Scholastic Canada. Ruth Ohi’s Fox and Squirrel are best friends who go on many small adventures together. With Christmas coming Squirrel is determined it will be perfect and snaps at her best friend. A gentle tale reminding us that although the holidays are exciting and important, it’s who we spend them with that makes them so special.
Recommended for smalls 3+up (and their type A grown-ups like myself who could also use this reminder! *puts down colour sorted Christmas ribbon and hugs family*)
Today’s #picturebook marks our “Week of Elly MacKay”. Elly MacKay is a talented paper artist and author of whom we at the blog are a longtime fan! We are very excited to feature one of her books every day this week AND even more excited that she agreed to an interview AND offered a giveaway (watch for it on Friday!).
First up is: If You Hold a Seed via @runningpress the heartwarming story of a seed and a little boy growing up together through the seasons that ends full circle with the grown boy sitting in that tree with his own son. The illustrations in Elly MacKay’s books are photographs of her wondrous, hand created paper sets. I was particularly moved to read that she created this book while pregnant with her son–it definitely captures many of the feelings we have for our smalls. A wonder-filled book, bright with colours and light and alive with nature and seasons. My small and I were inspired to head to the great big garden centre in town and choose a little plant to grow together (as seen in the photograph!) and I think you will be inspired to do the same after reading this very special book with your own smalls. Recommended 2+up.
Elly MacKay agreed to an interview with us & shared some “behind the scenes” photographs of her work. Thanks so much Elly! Readers, please enjoy seeing the magic that goes into her work:
1. Can you tell us a little about how you create the beautiful images in your books?
To make my illustrations I use paper, light and photography. I first do a sketch to work from. I then imagine the picture 3 dimensionally and draw each layer onto Yupo paper. I use ink to colour the layers, then cut them out. I set the layers up inside a little theatre, securing everything with wires and tape. Then, I light the scene. I often use backlighting and filters to create atmosphere. I use several different lenses on my camera, to create depth or distortion. I often take about 20-50 images, adjusting the lighting and playing with the different filters or moving the characters around. It is a lot of fun.
2. We read in your bio that you studied print making but also had an informal education in the paper arts via the Movable Book Society by train as a teenager? That sounds super exciting! What was it like?
It was great! My mom has an adventurous spirit. She is also an author of ‘how to’ books on paper art. When I was a kid, I was her ‘tester’. When I was 15, I told her that I wanted to be a paper artist so she thought she’d help me on my journey by introducing me to members of The Movable Book Society, a group of paper engineers and artists. We found a free pass to travel on Amtrack so off we went! We met wonderful people along the way who taught me about Victorian optical toys, paper theatre, artist books and simple mechanisms I could use in my dioramas. (Here is a picture of me looking quite serious with some of the dioramas I made back then.)
3. One of the many reasons we love your books is the sense of movement and play caught in the images. How important is play in your art making? And what would you like to say to kids and their parents about play as they read your books together?
Thank you! Yes, I think that is why I like printmaking too. I like surprise elements. With printmaking you don’t know quite what something is going to look like until you lift the paper from the press. I was never into making editions. I liked changing the printing plate as I worked. Working in my theatre is much the same. Sometimes working with something you can’t completely control, frees you. It takes away some sense of ownership, and makes things less precious. I like that.
I guess I see picture books as a sort of playground for parent and child. It is a place they can meet to discuss their feelings and ideas, make silly sounds and cuddle. My most recent book is a wordless book called Waltz of the Snowflakes. What I love about wordless books is that they invite play. They can be more challenging to approach but offer opportunities. Waltz of the Snowflakes is as much about The Nutcracker, as it is about emotion. My son likes to make the faces that the children are making as we read the story, while my daughter likes to give us a soundtrack and dance her arms around. I hope parents and children will bring their own sense of play to the story.
Thank you for answering all our questions Elly! Here are some amazing photographs of her work on the upcoming Red Sky At Night (via Tundra) out in Spring 2018 and a sketch from a fairy book she is currently working on called The Tallest Treehouse (releasing later in 2018).
Today on the blog we begin a three day review of Petite Boutique books, which has a line made exclusively for Indigo/Chapters “Indigo Baby” brand. These quality board books and cards are rich with the lively and adorable illustrations of the talented Veronique Petit and value priced for Indigo’s Bargain section. Costco Mama’s take note! Gorgeous books at a gorgeous price! Published by Make Believe Ideas.
We always love a tour of Canadian animals here at the blog and We Live in Canada is a bright, tour de force of Canadian cuties in a bright yet earthy colour palette we really enjoy. Sturdy lift the flaps and soft touch and feel elements make this interactive book a delight for little hands. Recommended 6 months+up.
Bonus blog call-out: That little goose though…<3
Nursery Rhymes is a trove of classics, busy with bold, lively imagery and brought to life with a compilmentary CD! An excellent gift for new parents to enjoy with their smalls from newborn+up!
Thanks to Indigo’s Bargain Kids Buyer for sending these lovely books to us for review! More to come this week, so stay tuned!
Today’s picture book is The Hockey Song, an illustrated version of Stompin’ Tom Connor’s iconic Canadian song! It is illustrated by award winning author & illustrator, as well as editorial cartoonist Gary Clement. Published by Greystone Books.
We at The Small Protagonist are partial to books you can sing (Wheels on the Bus, Jingle Bells & every christmas book by Helaine Becker & Werner Zimmermann are house favourites) so this title added a great Canadian sports tune to our collection.
Brimming with lively, comical characters dressed brightly in sweaters and jerseys this is a great book to enjoy with your smalls aged 2 and up–or really as early as you feel ready to start them learning about hockey!
This title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review and we loved it enough to dig out our felt hockey skate ornaments from the 80′s to decorate the set!
Today’s picture books are two fun-loving Canadian titles provided by @simonschusterca in exchange for an honest review. No, No Gnome & Are We There Yeti by Ashlyn Anstee, author, illustrator & animator extraordinaire!
These bright, busy books are fun read-alouds with room for dramatic voices and anticipating build up to the punchlines. Kids will enjoy the antics of Gnome, who just can’t keep still and patient Yeti, driving a school bus of children to adventure. Recommended for ages 4+up.
Today’s two beautiful Canadian board books are My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith and Julie Flett and Beach Baby by Laurie Elmquist and Elly MacKay. They were provided by Orca in exchange for an honest review.
My Heart Fills With Happiness is a beautiful, lyrical board book featuring Native Canadian families (I love to see diversity!) with the universal message of naming and cherishing those simple, important things that make us happy. A wonderful read with bright colours for little ones. Recommended newborn+
Beach Baby is a sweet ode to life by the sea with Elly MacKay’s trademark paper art scenes lit and lovely (I recommend any of her books!). A gentle, pretty book for babies and smalls everywhere. Recommended newborn+
Thank you Orca for these lovely books I enjoyed with my Small Protagonist. We looked at shells and flowers and counted the many things that bring us happiness.