The author of the hugely popular Scaredy Squirrel has written and illustrated a beautiful new book that kids will love—and better yet, parents will enjoy reading over and over again to their children.
One of the things about reading kids picture books is that it can get tiring. And boring. And repetitive. And that often makes parents say, “Let’s look at a different book!”
But kids get a lot out of reading the same book over and over again. (I won’t bore you with the science, but trust me, reading and re-reading the same book over and over boosts literacy. If you don’t believe me, here’s an article about it.)
With Bug in a Vacuum, Mélanie Watt manages to appeal not just to the children, but to adults as well. Ostensibly, it’s a book about a bug who gets sucked up by a vacuum. The bug goes through a bunch of emotional stages (despair, acceptance, etc.) before finally getting out.
And therein lies the interest for adults. Kids will enjoy the poor bug, stuck in the dusty, dirty vacuum. Parents will enjoy the scientifically-based “five emotional stages.” Here’s another scholarly article for ya. There are lots of inside jokes that will go right over kids’ heads, but there’s also tons of stuff that kids will find interesting and fun as well, including puns that you can explain to them (like the two meanings of “vacuum,” for instance.)
The pictures are glorious. Lush, rich and packed with inside jokes and little things to find. The text is minimal. And boy, are there a lot of pages! You’re certainly getting value for your money with this one! At 96 pages, it’s three times as long as the average picture book, which is 32 pages. (I did the math for you—you’re welcome.)
Bug in a Vacuum, written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt, Published by Tundra, 5-9 years old (and, I would add, adults), $24.99—a bit pricey but remember, three times as long.
Here’s the cute book trailer for Bug in a Vacuum.
And, just in case you’re interested, visit this page on the Scientific American website to get some instructions (completely unrelated to this book or, in fact, this post) to create a “bug vacuum.” Fun.
This is a wonderful game that hits all the right notes: reading, strategic thinking and fun. Kids won’t even realize they’re learning–plus, it’s not lame (if you’ve ever played an online game that’s “good for you,” you’ll see how important that is, and how rare).
You use your computer’s arrow keys to move your knight across the sentences, reading as you go.
Each sentence contains clues as to what’s up ahead–for instance, a vampire–as well as tools to help you overcome the monsters and problems. For instance, pick up the bridge to span the gap before you fall into it.
Even better, your character can’t win right off the bat. He’ll have to discover and be defeated a few times, before you can figure out which words will help you succeed. So good.
In the summer, kids often read less. Get them interested in a great book series, though, and they’ll be hooked because the characters and setting will be familiar to them. They’ll look forward to seeing what their favourite characters are getting up to next!
Here are some wonderful Canadian kidlit summer series recommended by YA author Angela Misri on CBC Radio’s Fresh Air.
MIDDLE GRADE, AGE 8-12 and YOUNG ADULT, AGE 13-18
Jewel of the Thames (A Portia Adams Adventure)
Between Heaven and Earth
The Starling Series
The Night Has Teeth
I Am Canada
What Kills Me
Strange Times at Western High
They’re a great substitute for comics, which kids love but which can be a bit too mature for some really young kids.
Here’s a wonderful book. It’s about a kid whose superpowers are in jeopardy when his parents make him get a haircut.
It’s quirky and fun and wonderfully illustrated. Great story, great pictures–your superhero will love it.
By John Rocco, illustrated by… oh geez, this guy’s talented… John Rocco. Oh crap, I just found his website and he’s apparently also the guy who illustrates Rick Riordan’s books. So yeah, he’s talented. (Can I pick ’em? Maybe that’s my superpower. Yay!)
Here are some other great superhero books.
Authors for Indies Day
More than 600 Canadian authors will be selling books and giving recommendations at independent bookstores. Check the website to find one near you. I’ll be at Book City at Yonge and St. Clair in Toronto today from 10 until noon. Come and join us!
Free Comic Book Day
As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also the day when you can visit a comic book store and get FREE comic books!
So really, there’s no excuse not to grab the kids and get outside–and read!
If you’re trying to get your kid to read more, a great way to do that is to connect them to the book, in real life. And one of the best ways to do that is to attend a book launch.
Some facts about book launches
1) They’re free! (And they even sometimes have cake! And it’s free!)
2) You don’t need an invitation! Authors want you there–in fact, the more the merrier.
3) If it’s a launch for a children’s book, there will almost certainly be great children’s crafts or other activities there. (Yep, for free!)
4) You should probably plan on buying a copy of the book (although it’s not mandatory). But bring a twenty.
5) After you buy the book, you can get the author to sign it! And personalize it for your child.
So now your child has a brand-new book with a personalized message to them, they’ll have the author’s autograph, they’ll have eaten cake, and they will probably come away with a bookmark or a sticker as well and maybe they’ll even have done a book-related craft. Think they’ll read that book? Heck, you’ll be lucky if they haven’t read the whole thing by the time you get home! And you may as well just turn the car around because you’ll need to go back to the bookstore to buy the rest of the books in the series because your kid will be clamouring for them as well.
Where can you find out about book launches?
1) Follow your child’s favourite authors and illustrators on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads or through their author site. They’ll let you know when they have a new book coming out.
2) Follow some kidlit publishers on social media, such as: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Lorimer, Owlkids, Groundwood, Scholastic and there are zillions more. Just search for them on Facebook and Like their pages–you’ll soon hear about upcoming book launches. Check your child’s favourite books to see who published them, and then follow them on Twitter or Facebook. For instance, I just went to the Fitzhenry & Whiteside (my “Gabby” publisher) FB page and found this upcoming book launch for a picture book called The Old Ways, which will be at Mabel’s Fables in Toronto on April 22.
3) Ask at your local bookstore about what children’s book launches they’ve got coming up.
There is a thrill you get when you ‘figure out’ a mystery that I have never found in other genres of literature. I read all kinds of books, from non-fiction biographies to science fiction series to the latest YA dystopic fiction. All have their attractions, but none provide that moment of ‘ah-ha!’ that I (and I believe many teens and adults) find addictive. It’s buried like hidden treasure in every mystery book on the shelf, just waiting for you to dig it up!
Click on “Continue Reading” and comment on this article to be entered into a draw to win an e-copy of Thrice Burned by Angela Misri. You will also be entered in the draw if you tweet about this article and copy me with @JGCanada. Good luck! NOTE: THIS CONTEST CLOSES ON TUESDAY, MARCH 31, 2015.
(PS: The comments are now turned on — they’d accidentally been turned off earlier. Sorry!)
It’s a story about a reluctant guinea pig private eye.
See? Compelling, right?
Here’s why you (I mean, your kid) will like this series:
1) The aforementioned fact that IT’S ABOUT A GUINEA PIG DETECTIVE.
2) It’s got a bit of an edge.
3) The dialogue is not only realistic, but it’s actually funny.
4) You can almost feel the fluffiness of these guinea pigs. I mean, really.
How does the guinea pig become a private eye? Glad you asked. The pet store owner slams the door and the final G from GUINEA PIG falls off. When the hamster sees the sign he comes running over and hires the Guinea PI on the spot to find a missing sandwich.
Here’s a taste
The grumpy Guinea PI (whose name, appropriately, is Sass) asks a bunch of hamsters, “Did any of you guys see someone steal the sandwich?”
To which they reply, in turn:
“I was sleeping.”
“I was sleeping.”
“I was sleeping.”
“I was sleeping.”
“I was working out. Okay, okay. I was sleeping.”
Just like at my house. Sigh.
How do they finally solve the mystery? To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure. It’s… er… complicated. It involves a nearsighted pet shop employee, a naughty snake, a hamster that thinks he’s a koala, some fish that can’t multi-task and a bunch of other animals with attitude. But the kids reading the book will be able to sort it all out, and that’s the main thing.
But don’t take it from me–check out the website and order these adorable softcover books. They’re lovely and, apparently, less than seven bucks. Deal!
Visit the author’s website for more information and ordering info. The first book in the series, Hamster and Cheese (get it? get it? Sandwich — ham and cheese?) was published in April 2010 from Graphic Universe, an imprint of Lerner. The books are written by Colleen Af Venable and illustrated by Stephanie Yue. It looks like there are six in all–so far.