The present pandemic has turned many households upside down. When Mom’s Away (Second Story Press, 24 pages, $19, paperback), by Toronto-born Layla Ahmad, exposes the emotions of a little girl who is left in care of her father while her mother works as a hospital doctor during COVID-19.
Her father helps with her feelings of anxiety by discussing the important role her mother is playing and explaining why her mother has to isolate from the family at night. He also has her help get groceries for her grandparents and they show their support for the health-care workers by banging on pots and pans in the evening.
Toronto artist Farida Zaman, whose work has spanned over 20 years, has contributed colourful illustrations which do a good job of showing the little girl’s feelings. This would be an excellent read for children who are upset or perplexed by all the changes they have faced in recent months due to the pandemic. Aimed at ages 5-8.
● ● ●
We may be wishing for rain these days, but what if the rain came into your house?
Children of all ages will chuckle with The Day the Rain Moved In (Groundwood, 32 pages, $19, hardcover) by Parisian writer and illustrator Éléonore Douspis. Originally published in French by Albin Michel Jeunesse, it is ably translated by Shelley Tanaka of Kingston, Ont.
Pauline and Louie are stuck inside because it’s raining outside. But when drops start coming through the ceiling even when it’s not raining, and plants begin to grow inside, their father invites all their friends in to enjoy the waterlogged paradise.
With digital artwork that is simple and effective, beginning readers and pre-schoolers ages 3-6 will enjoy this fantasy, especially on a rainy day.
● ● ●
News reports say the mandolin has become a more popular instrument again since the COVID-19 pandemic has kept us indoors. So it’s appropriate in Jacob and the Mandolin Adventure (Second Story Press, 232 pages, $11, paperback), Toronto writer Anne Dublin recounts how a group of musical Jewish orphans from Poland found new lives in Canada before the Second World War.
Jacob is only 13 when he gets a chance to immigrate to America with the mandolin orchestra from his orphanage. When the U.S. refuses them, the young people are relocated to Canada.
On board the ship Jacob discovers a stowaway, Nathan, who had been rejected to come as an immigrant and who has become seriously ill. He tries to help Nathan as he faces life on a farm in a new country with a new language. He wonders if they will ever fulfil their ambition of playing in Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Based on a real-life story from the 1920s, Dublin tells the tale in a colloquial style mid-level readers (ages 8-12) will enjoy. She has also written two biographies: one of activist June Callwood and the other of an Olympian, Bobbie Rosenfeld.
● ● ●
If you’re looking for an attractive board book for earliest readers (ages 1-3) try Sunny Days (Pajama Press, 24 pages, $20, hardcover) by Ontario author Deborah Kerbel with artwork by Miki Sato.
Focusing on activities toddlers understand — making mud pies, planting a garden, enjoying a popsicle or splashing on a beach — this brilliantly illustrated book will make any early reader sit up and smile. From the sun that wakes them in the morning to the evening sunset that closes their day, this is a feast of collage-constructed art that Sato presents with unique background material such as sandpaper and coarse fabric.
Kerbel’s rhyming couplets ("Morning sun, golden skies/ Softly waking, sleepy eyes") make this a good read-aloud story, and the extra-heavy pages and padded cover add suitability.
Helen Norrie is a Winnipeg author who also banged pots and pans to show support for our doctors.