I don’t usually read graphic novels, junior graphics even less frequently, but this, I think, is one of those that transcends any attempt to pigeonhole it into a specific age category (see Maurice Sendak on the subject). The only reason I stumbled upon this gem was because I absolutely adore Isabelle Arsenault’s illustrations, which led me to do a search to sate my need for more Arsenault in my life.
Jane, the Fox & Me takes you through the life of a girl being ostracized from her class- and schoolmates, told in quiet, black-brown & white illustrations – the blacks not quite black and, in not being starkly contrasted with the white, soft – with sudden pops of colour that introduce the protagonist’s, Hélène’s, inner world and imagination. The use of colour plunging the reader into the world of Hélène was a lovely touch, the illustrations of Jane Eyre appearing in full colour, seeping out into Hélène’s dull reality through the fox (then again, perhaps not – who knows where the fox existed, in truth?) before she is able to see the world as she saw her escapes from reality before.
I’m going to be honest: I am totally enamoured of Kyo Maclear. And if you’re into picture books that are just as much fun for adults to read as for children, then you’re going to be enamoured of her too.
The Good Little Book, illustrated by Marion Arbona, is, as always with the illustrators Maclear partners up with, beautifully drawn and visually engaging*. That’s not all, though; while I will concede that the story is not actually all that exciting – it talks about a boy who got into trouble and sits out his punishment in the library, where he discovers The Good Little Book – the details are what really charm the reader. The first thought I had while reading it was “THIS IS SO META!” (this is a good thing.), because as I’ve mentioned above, The Good Little Book features in The Good Little Book! Which, I think, is pretty cool. (Not that it’s the first book to do so, nor do I believe it will be the last. See, for example, Jenni Desmond’s The Blue Whale). And there’s more! By putting the book itself into the contents of the book, Maclear actually intimates that we, the reader, are part of the story: we are an extension of the image of all the readers who have ever read, who are reading, and who will ever read The Good Little Book.
If you have kids, you’re more than aware that summer vacation is just around the corner. Whether it’s during a long car ride or while relaxing after a busy day of fun, audiobooks are a summer indulgence everyone can appreciate.
In my house, humour and school stories fit the bill. The Wayside School Collection, read by the author Louis Sachar, combines the two wonderfully. This series of loosely connected chapters will resonate with anyone who remembers childhood and entertain with just the right amount of pure wacky.
For a step up on the zany meter, try Roald Dahl. The author’s does well narrating his own stories, but Jeremy Irons’ narration of James and the Giant Peach had me listening alone in a parked car long after I arrived at my destination.