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Picture Books We've Read to Pieces
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Picture Books We've Read to Pieces

By 49thShelf
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Family Literacy Day comes each year on January 27, a national initiative spearheaded by the non-profit ABC Life Literacy Canada to raise awareness of the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family. And this year to mark the occasion, we're thinking about the picture books we've read to pieces, sometimes quite literally—see the photo above. The books we never tire of, the ones we've read a million times, from the time our kids were babies, and now they're reading alongside us. Although who are we kidding? Nobody's reading. All of us know these stories off by heart. These are the books that my family has loved until their bindings broke. What are some of yours?
Extra Yarn
Why it's on the list ...
We love everything illustrated by Jon Klassen, from his Governor General's Award-winning Cat's Night Out (with Caroline Stutson) to his Caldecott-winning creation This is Not My Hat. But if pressed, I'd choose Extra Yarn as my favourite, because of its amazing subversive protagonist and her amazing year-bombing ways. It's about a little girl called Annabel who knits and knits, and, curiously, never runs out of yarn, until she's bedecked her dreary village in gorgeous colour and outsmarted an evil archduke. The ending is perfect.
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The Princess and the Pony
Why it's on the list ...
How could this book have just been published last summer? I feel like it's been a part of our lives forever. The binding is still holding on okay, but I'm not optimistic about the future. This is a not-so-ordinary book about a not-so-ordinary princess, a warrior princess (whose parents are a Viking and an Amazon, so it's in her blood). And all she wants for her birthday is a warrior's horse, instead of the cuddly sweaters she's accustomed to receiving, and while her parents try to satisfy her wishes, they don't get it quite right. Turns out that a roly-poly pony's more useful in battle than one might expect, however, and warriors can actually be pretty cuddly themselves—for a bunch of brutes.
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Gifts

Gifts

by Jo Ellen Bogart
illustrated by Barbara Reid
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
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Why it's on the list ...
This year, Barbara Reid is Honorary Chair of Family Literacy Day, and really we could not go wrong in this list was populated only by her works—her books are beautiful and extraordinary. But I've chosen this one with Jo-Ellen Bogart's bouncy rhymes and a wonderful story about a grandmother who travels the world and brings back the most intangible things—a roar from a jungle king, the whirr of a hummingbird's wing, the secret wish of a flying fish and a rainbow to wear as a ring. It's a great book about growing up and getting old, and never stopping, and those things that connect us to each other in perpetuity.
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Mabel Murple
Why it's on the list ...
In all our years of reading, we've never stopped wondering about Mabel, the purple girl, and her amazing purple world. "And if there was a purple girl, how purple would she be? Would she get in purple trouble? She would if she were me." And oh, the purple trouble to be had—skiing, skateboarding and motorbiking. When Mabel Murple's on the loose, people skedaddle, and she bounds through the world with a momentum as forceful as Fitch's rhyming text. When we get to the end of this story, we're always out of breath.
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The Balloon Tree

The Balloon Tree

20th Anniversary Edition
edition:Paperback
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Why it's on the list ...
Phoebe Gilman and I go way back—I won a prize when I was six for reciting the entirety of Jillian Jiggs. But of all her books, my eldest daughter's favourite is The Balloon Tree. I think its chief appeal lies in the ultra-realism of Gilman's illustrations (her people look like people you know) in connection with the magic of the story. Also, as in Extra Yarn, there is an evil Archduke (is there any other kind of Archduke?) and he too gets his comeuppance. Justice is sweet.
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Drumheller Dinosaur Dance
Why it's on the list ...
I discovered this book when 49th Shelf's resident children's librarian, Julie Booker, recommended it years ago, before she was even our resident children's librarian. "With the first 'Boomity-boom, Rattley-clack, Thumpity-thump, Whickety-whack,' you know you've got them," she writes, and it's so true. Dino skeletons on the Alberta badlands come back to life as a mean percussion section and have the kids rocking out until morning. It's impossible to sit still when you're reading this book, and it's one of the few picture books we own that contains the word, "transmogrify."
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Beneath the Bridge

Beneath the Bridge

by Hazel Hutchins
illustrated by Ruth Ohi
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
tagged :
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Why it's on the list ...
Our copy is literally in pieces, but we're still reading it. This story of a small paper boat's journey down a stream in the wide wide world is about the interconnectedness of things, environmental stewardship and cosms both micro and macro. Ruth Ohi's illustrations are so much fun to explore with their tiny perfect details, and give us so much to wonder about—for example, what's with the giant frog in the back of that car?
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Night Cars
Why it's on the list ...
We bought this book for our daughter before she was born, and we've read it so many times that the spine has snapped. It's a strange and magic lullaby, a ode to city life and all the amazing things that happen at night—garbage trucks, snow plows, taxis and fire trucks. Plus there is a dog, which is a basic inventory of all the things that kids love best. And kids' parents can certain relate to the story's basic premise: "Once there was a baby, who wouldn't go to sleep...."
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