At The Same Moment Around the World and Julia, Child

At the Same Moment Around the World by Clotilde Perrin

This book was great to me, not only because it resembles Isabelle Arsenault’s illustration style (and I’ve gone on about that before) but because it’s got absolutely phenomenal cultural representation. It’s a great introduction to time zones–the whole thing is all about what various children around the globe are doing in one moment–but it also features many countries that are underrepresented in picture books. For example, “in Nuuk, Greenland, it is three o’clock in the morning, and Lexi can’t sleep,” along with Hanoi, Vietnam, and Baghdad, Iraq. Obviously all children are fictional, but the introduction to various countries is crucial, especially those that are often featured on the news in a way that might be scary for young readers. It’s important that they see there are people like them all over the world, and we all do similar things!

Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad

Can you guess who this one is about? You’re right! In this book, Julia and Simca’s friendship is front and center, and readers explore a world of culinary delights that unite children and adults alike. Charming illustrations accompany and feature scenes like a lovely French street market, cooking class with snobby would-be cooks, and of course two friends who want to share their passion for food with others. It’s no wonder that I love this book–it features two of my very favorite things in the world!

Side note: Here’s another one by Kyo Maclear. I think I have a new favorite picture book author for 2015!

What great picture books are you guys excited about this week? 

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

This is a children’s picture book, yes, but it was so unexpected. I honestly don’t know where I first heard the title, but the book was overall very much about depression and coping/living with someone who suffers from depression.

Plot

Vanessa’s sister Virginia has woken up feeling quite wolfish. She finds no joy in her friends stopping by or the birds singing. Her art box remains unopened. So Virginia sits with her and listens to what she could possibly want. From here she decides to paint a magical world on their bedroom walls that can transport Virginia to a happier place. Virginia notices. The two talk together and eventually Virginia starts to feel less like a shadowy wolf and more like a sunshiny little girl.

Verdict

It’s hard to find a book that deals with mental illness in a positive way. This is nothing like the brusque titles like My Mommy Has Depression (is that a title? I should hope not, but I would not be surprised at all). This one handles the issue with respect and dignity while at the same time giving examples of how to help: listen, talk, be there for that person. It’s a beautiful book.

Bonus

I fell in love with Isabelle Arsenault when I read Jane, The Fox, and Me during grad school. I believe it was for my class, “Art in Picture Books.” In it, a young girl struggles with her weight and feeling inadequate. The manner in which the story is told is both whimsical and heartbreakingly real. I’ve been planning on getting her fox tattooed on me for a while now. At any rate, if you’ve got a minute you should head over to Arsenault’s blog. Since she’s from Montreal, there are both English and French captions on her lovely pictures.

Marilyn’s Monster by Michelle Knudsen

Sooooo normally children’s books get to me, but this one really got to me. For some reason this little girl’s story of not being able to find her monster hit home. Maybe it’s because I’m starting to date people again. Maybe it’s because another one of my college acquaintances got engaged over the weekend. Who can say?

Plot

The world Marilyn lives in is quite similar to our’s, with one difference: there are monsters. Not the hide-under-the-bed, jump-out-and-scare-you monsters, but the companion kind. Not unlike a significant other, Marilyn waits patiently for her monster to come and accompany her throughout life’s little journeys. “Your monster has to find you. That’s just the way it works” says basically everyone to Marilyn (including her brother). Eventually she says “eff you” to that idea and searches for her monster herself (que “RESPECT” at full volume). Maybe her monster just got lost.

Verdict

Again, did this hit close to home? Yes. But I will say that Knudsen is amazing and she really got me on Marilyn’s side.