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Book Time: 12 books — one for each letter — to celebrate the new year

Books are the best way to celebrate the new year, says columnist Lisa Day

From book lover to book lover – Happy New Year. May your 2021 be filled with a new book a letter and more.

H – How to Build a Snow Bear by Eric Pinder is a picture book about two brothers, the older one who wants to make the biggest and best snowman. He builds most of it before he realizes he needs the help of his younger bear, who is hibernating and doesn’t want to get up no matter what the brother tries. Until the brother realizes  a slumbering bear needs a snack before they play.  Adorable illustrations in this book.

A – Are We There Yet? In this picture book, a young boy is excited to go to his grandma’s house for about the first hour of their car trip and then…it’s not exciting any more. That is until author/illustrator Dan Santat tells the story. He reminds the to “remember, there’s no greater gift than the present.” I love this story – how boring a car ride is but the realization that the journey is part of the adventure. Plus, the illustrations are amazing.

P – Puppy Power by Judy Cox is an early chapter book with bigger font and illustrations. In this book Fran knows she is the best at everything so she doesn’t really care if none of her classmates will play with her. She also has her misbehaving puppy, Hercules, who doesn’t care if she pushes and cheats. Fran receives the main role in a school play, but her teacher warns her if she doesn’t stop her bullying behaviour, she will be kicked out of the play. Will Fran being able to keep the part? My son picked this book out at a school book fair once and he loved it. Fran is a bully and she does some pretty horrible things. She, however, doesn’t realize she is bully, which is also interesting. It was a good book to talk about bullying, being kind and treating others as you wish to be treated.

P – The Planets by DK Smithsonian is a Definitive Visual Guide to our Solar System. It’s one of those books where you certainly aren’t reading it cover to cover, but rather coming back to parts you find interesting or want to know more about. In the chapter about gas giants, we look at an illustration of Jupiter structure with a few paragraphs of information and bits of information as we see parts of the planet. Did you know that Jupiter has 2.5 times the mass of all the other planets put together?

Y - Yara’s Spring is by Jamal Saeed and while a fictitious account of a young girl living in Syria, it’s based on Saeed’s experiences living in the country torn apart by a civil war. In this book, “Arab Spring arrives at Yara’s doorstep in Syria (and) the regime’s reaction to it is worse than anyone imagined. After a violent attack on her family’s home, she emerges to a changed world.” This book is for those in grades six to nine. I am reading it to my son who is 12 and I am not yet convinced if it was a good choice on my part, although Yara at beginning of the book was younger than my guy. It certainly helps explain the conflict in Syria, as much as one can explain it, and I think it helps him understand and learn about what is happening in what feels like a world away. It also helps open the dialogue of elections and the importance of listening to what our politicians are saying and doing and democracy. The situation is horrific, but the story is good and it’s easy to see the Yara is not any different than we are.


N – We loved Nerdy Birdy by Aaron Reynolds. In this book, Nerby Birdy loves reading and video games and has large glasses. The cool birdies - the Eagle, Cardinal and Robin – are the cool birdies and don’t pay attention to Nerdy Birdie, who is alone until he finds a group of birds who have the same interest. He is part of the group until the nerdy birdies exclude a bird they think doesn’t belong. Nerdy Birdie has to make a decision. The decision is good and shows the importance of finding your people, even if they are not exactly like you.

E – Edmund Unravels is a picture book about a ball of wool named Edmund Loom, who wants to explore the world. For the most part, he doesn’t go far, but the older he gets, the harder it is for his parents (also wool, obviously!) to pull him back. One day, Edmund had gone as far away as possible. “Soon Edmund realized how far he was from home and that something was missing.” He feels sad and alone, but eventually feels the familiar tug that brings him home. What a great message in this book by Andrew Kolb. The illustrations are cute as well.

W – Worms. Worms by Bernard Friot is such a unique book both in story and illustration. It always felt like such an old book. A young boy’s dad had some colleagues over when the boy replaces the shrimp in their salads with worms uses for fishing. And then he watches the drama unfold. My son used to laugh at this book.


Y – Your Plastic Footprint The Facts about Plastic Pollution and What You Can Do to Reduce Your Footprint is by Rachel Salt. The first few chapters talk about the history of plastics and how they were made as well as various types. The book also talks about the dangers of microplastics and how this man-made item is harming every part of the environment. In the introduction, Salt talks about how the book isn’t just doom or gloom - although I found it all rather depressing – but also helps you analyze and reduce your plastic usage including substitutions you can use to get rid of plastics as well as information on how to track your plastic footstep. There is lots of information in this book as well as photos, graphics and illustrations.

E – Elliot’s Emergency. Part of the Elliot Moose series, these books, by Andrea Beck, follow the adventures of Elliot, a stuffed moose, his best friend, Socks (a sock monkey), and a cast of other characters. Elliot wakes up excited to go on an adventure with Socks when he feels a tug, hears a rip and realizes there is a hole in his leg and his stuffing is coming out. His friends are anxious to help, trying everything they can to repair Elliot’s leg until Beaver saves the day – and the adventure. My son loved these books when he was younger. They were so cute and held his attention from start to finish.

A - An Armadillo in Paris by Julie Kraulis was a favourite of ours for a long time. Arlo the armadillo is reading his grandfather’s journals, which encourage him to explore Paris and find the Iron Lady. Throughout the picture book, we get to read about Paris’ famous landmarks through Arlo’s grandfather, Augustin’s words, and see it through the eyes of Arlo. All the landmarks, locations and food lead us to the realization who the Iron Lady is. It’s such a fun way to learn about Paris. There is also An Armadillo in New York, but Paris is our favourite.

R – Rolie Polie Olie by William Joyce is another longtime favourite in our house. Rolie Polie Olie lives on a little round planet in the Rolie Polie Sky. During the book, we meet Olie’s robot family - mom, pop, sister Zowie and doggy Spot. The family play together all day long until it was time to go to bed, but Olie was wild and wired and wouldn’t listen to his parents. When he breaks his sister’s bubble, he gets sent to bed where he is sad and lonely. Until he makes it right. Rolie Polie Olie is such a cute book and was fun to read over and over again. The illustrations are super cute.

Lisa Day is the author of two book blogs, Book Time, where she reviews a variety of books for a variety of readers and offers author Q&As, and