Skip to content

Spring book preview: Young reader selections

In this column from our favourite Public Services Librarian, Rebecca Lazarenko recommends My Cat Looks Like My Dad, and other literary gems
Rebecca Lazarenko / Thorold News

Some people like to vacation around this time of year. Others prefer to stay local and complain away the last bit of snow. We don’t really notice either option so long as we have our Spring/Summer publication catalogue from which to order.

For anyone born before the ‘90s, you’ll understand this thrill as comparable to that of the once annual Sears Wish Book release. In the very same fashion, we get it ,gasp (sometimes that order is reversed), and then proceed to circle everything we could possibly want with reckless abandon and a modicum of discernment. But this time it’s different because we actually get to buy what we’re after.

Here are the top five children’s titles we’re anticipating this coming season (permanent marker circle kind of material):

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson’s Journal by Jeff Kinney

When we found out that Greg Heffley’s on-again, off-again best all-time buddy was getting his very own book, we started excitedly telling all the children we encountered so we at least had someone with whom to share our absurd level of enthusiasm. They didn’t *quite* equal our zeal, but were respectably eager. If you don’t know, Kinney is the creator of the wildly popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, and Heffley its awkwardly endearing star.

Rowley, for good measure, is everything Greg is not. Happy-go-lucky, at times gullible, and atypically confident in his unique interests. That said, he can also be very “Greg.” They are, all things considered, best friends (on their most compatible days). If you’re wondering just how complex characters with less than 10 strands of hair can be, the answer is “Very.” Oh, and did we mention they’re completely hilarious?

Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas by Aaron Blabey

Once upon a time, Aaron Blabey was born. Fast forward to today and we’re entirely incapable of producing a young reader recommendation list without him on it. For years he made his living as an actor, until the mid-2000s when he turned his full attention to writing for children. Blabey is the creator behind Pig the Pug/Winner/Star/Fibber and the widely popular Bad Guys series. We’re also big fans of his lesser known Thelma the Unicorn. Though we’ve been big supporters of unicorns long before they hit the mainstream (more on that in a future column).

If you’re a bigger Blabey fan than us, you’re likely prone to exaggeration. You may also note that this title was originally released in 2015. But we feel like this reissue is going to be big. Trust us. We really did call this whole unicorn thing. Bonus: Brian the produce-loving piranha (mysteriously uninterested in the biting of bums) will be new to our TPL collection.

Dream Within a Dream by Patricia MaLachlan

We were late to the Patricia MaLachlan party. Actually surprised we got there at all as parties are really, really not our style. Invitation got lost in the mail. It’s a whole thing. MaLachlan is best known for her 1986 Newbery winner Sarah, Plain and Tall (later a made-for-TV movie featuring Christopher Walken and Glenn Close). Our first introduction was 2016’s The Poet’s Dog, an unexpectedly graceful, eloquent, and quietly poignant tale of friendship and loss. One of our all-time favourite dog perspective titles (also see: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein).

This time she returns with the tale of Louisa, a young girl who is not looking forward to a summer stay with her grandparents. Poetry fans may recognize the title as that of Edgar Allan Poe’s 1849 composition questioning the very concept of reality/passage of time. Considering the author’s fondness for poetry, we’re wondering if that’s more than mere coincidence. But we’ll have to wait for May 7 to find out.

Ocean: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Britta Teckentrup

Everyone has a childhood picture book that captivated their attention as a result of its uniqueness. It wasn’t always the story (though there was that, too). It was more about the experience: pop-ups, peek-throughs, lift-the-flaps, or look in the teeny tiny pockets for teeny tiny letters. For us, it was The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters (i.e., the teeny tiny letters). Our adult version of this (yep, we’re allowed to have one of those) is Britta Teckentrup’s Moon. First runner-up: Britta Teckentrup’s Tree.

But sight unseen, we’re going to call Ocean a strong contender, too. Teckentrup’s titles are always incredibly colourful, beautifully detailed, and utterly imaginative. More importantly, they’re also full ofconversation starters concerning the value of nature and its protection.

My Cat Looks Like My Dad by Thao Lam

Yep, that’s the title. We’ve been hearing a lot about this quirky new picture book by the Toronto-based author/illustrator of Wallpaper and Skunk of a String. Okay, that’s not entirely true. More like, we’ve actively been seeking info on the title since we first heard of its existence. Did everyone other than us receive an advanced reader’s copy? ‘Cause there’s still time (wink, wink). Her illustrations are amazing, the cat adorable, and the dad is all things 1970s (in a good way).

“Both have orange hair, love milk, start their days with stretches, appreciate a good nap, and are brave (some of the time)”. A surprise narrator (we’ve already got wagers on the bird) peppers the simplistic text (re: more of the above father/feline comparisons) with tiny hints before revealing themselves at the end. Fresh concept, cute characters, and uncanny resemblance. What’s not to love?