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07 Aug, Sunday
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Montreal Families

Give the gift of books this season

There is no denying that we live in a digital world — even books can now be read electronically. Children are completely immersed in this techno-world and their holiday wish lists are likely to be filled with a slew of the latest and greatest gadgets. Despite this trend towards a digitized society, the children’s book industry continues to publish original, charming and touching books that bring new worlds to life in unexpected ways and teach life lessons with sensitivity. With their brightly-coloured covers and illustrated pages, books make reading a tangible experience and create strong memories, impressions and yes, joy.

Sophie's Masterpiece by Eileen SpinelliSophie’s Masterpiece (Simon & Schuster, $7.99)
by Eileen Spinelli (Ages 4 – 7)

Although this book was published in 2001, it merits a second look for its delightful story and captivating illustrations by Jane Dyer. The main character, Sophie, is a spider that has remarkable weaving talents. But when Sophie leaves the nest, she finds it difficult to find her place or have her talents recognized. She wanders for many years. Finally, in her old age, she is given the opportunity to weave her most beautiful piece yet. Although told in simple language, the story explores with remarkable adeptness the complexities of human emotions such as loneliness, fear and acceptance. The book shares with readers the quest for fulfillment by showing how it takes Sophie a lifetime to create her beautiful masterpiece. It’s an important lesson for all of us that life’s most meaningful moments come with time, patience and determination.

Follow the Line to School by Laura LjungkvistFollow the Line to School (Viking Children’s Books, $19.50)
by Laura Ljungkvist (Ages 5-8)

In this original and colourful picture book, children can do more than follow the lines drawn by author and illustrator Laura Ljungkvist. They will go on a journey to school unlike any they have likely taken before. Readers are encouraged to follow a traced line that connects her words and outlines eye-catching objects found on pages. For instance, as the line travels through a schoolyard, it draws a tree and a slide, then sketches its way past a swinging tire, a sandbox and some jump ropes. The use of the line is a clever way to draw children’s attention toward a variety of objects and allow them to discover the details in the illustrations. To further encourage readers to look carefully, Ljungkvist includes a few questions on each page for children to answer. This book is not only great fun but it is also an excellent exercise for children to be more aware of their environment, because who knows what they might discover!

Out of Sight by Pittau & GervaisOut of Sight (Chronicle Books, $22.99)
by Pittau & Gervais (Ages 4-8)

This interactive, oversized book is the perfect gift for children who are animal lovers. Each page is filled with flaps under which are hidden a plethora of creatures in all sizes and varieties, including some lesser-known ones like the okapi and the shrew. The book is especially entertaining since the front of each flap also holds a clue as to which animal may be lurking beneath, turning the book into a fun game for readers. For instance, one page has flaps where only the tail of the animal can be seen, and another shows the particular pattern of the animal’s coat. When the reader lifts the flap, he/she is not only treated to the identity of the animal but also to some fun and interesting facts about the creature. Beyond the amusing interactive nature of this book, its title and content also carry an important reminder for readers: if we’re not careful, all these beautiful animals could one day be lost from sight forever.

Beautiful Oops by Barney SaltzbergBeautiful Oops (Thomas Allen, $14.95)
by Barney Saltzberg (Ages 3-7)

Every child will one day make a mess, whether it is by spilling a glass of milk or dropping mustard on a shirt. These moments are generally met with embarrassment and guilt. In this book, author Barney Saltzberg sets out to show children that mistakes can be opportunities for creation. He demonstrates how “a smudge and a smear can make magic appear” by transforming blue and yellow smudges into a rabbit and a fish. He also reworks a bent piece of paper and drips of paint into art. Each transformation is revealed by lifting thick cut-out flaps of various shapes and sizes. The book will inspire children to see beyond the ordinary and find beauty in even the most unusual places.

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