February is one of the hardest months of the year. Just when we all wish for some small sign of spring, our city is likely to get hit with another big snowstorm or whipped by arctic-like temperatures. Sure, families can enjoy sledding and skiing or even visiting the various museums around town. But some days, just the thought of going outside can seem awfully daunting. That’s a great moment to make an inviting “nest” (big chair, pillows on the floor, etc.) for your child and suggest snuggling in with a good book to read. Let the winds howl while kids’ imaginations take flight with the characters and adventures to be found in these gripping stories.
The Willoughbys (Yearling Books, $8.99)
by Lois Lowry – Ages 8 to 12
In this novel, acclaimed writer Lois Lowry, author of The Giver, pokes fun at the canon of children’s literature, which has surely inspired her over time. Her story takes some of the more well-known clichés of kids lit — twins, an orphaned baby, a nanny, a mysterious benefactor and an attic playroom — and weaves them together to tell the story of the four Willoughby children who long to get rid of their parents (who feel the same way about their offspring). Lowry adds in a second story about an abandoned baby and rich tycoon, and soon readers will be pulled into all the wacky adventures that ensue. Lowry’s gift is her ability to engage readers in the story while also encouraging young people to laugh a bit at the conventions so often found in children’s literature.
Spaceheadz (Simon and Schuster, $16.99)
by Jon Scieszka – Ages 7 to 10
Jon Scieszka is known for his whimsical and nonsensical tales that usually have some moral lesson lurking under all the fun and craziness. His latest venture is the story of Michael K., a fifth-grader starting a new school. He makes friends with two other new kids but soon discovers they are aliens. These space creatures must convince 3.4 million people to become “spaceheadz” or the world will lose all its power (including electricity for TV!). So Michael joins their campaign and, through their adventures, the three kids comes to appreciate each other’s unique qualities. The book has fun illustrations and a busy design that adds to the wackiness of Michael’s situation. Readers will have a hard time putting the book down as they follow the adventures of Michael and his alien buddies, whose difficulties adapting to human behaviour lead to some hilarious scenarios.
Any Which Wall (Random House, $18.99)
by Laurel Snyder – Ages 8 to 11
In this captivating story, author Laurel Snyder pays tribute to some of the classic books of her own childhood such as Half Magic by Edward Eager and the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Her novel follows four neighbourhood children who must amuse themselves one summer while their parents are working. The children decide to go for a bicycle ride through their town’s cornfields, and soon discover a mysterious wall. They quickly figure out that the wall can transport them to any place they wish. So off they go on adventures to Camelot, pioneer villages and New York City. Even the eldest, Susan, who is babysitting the children for the summer, gets swept up in the magic they have stumbled upon. The author is trying to emphasize that we are surrounded by magic; we only need to open our eyes to it. This book will inspire children to open their imaginations and seek out the extraordinary in the ordinary.