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Review: A Day With Yayah, No Hugs for Porcupine and The Pink Umbrella

A Day With Yayah

Nicola I. Campbell and Julie Flett

Tradewind Books, $20, 32 pages

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Like many Indigenous languages, Nle'kepmxcin is considered critically endangered. As such, First Nations author Nicola Campbell pulls double duty with this book, which functions as both story and bilingual dictionary. A group of children join their Yayah (an anglicization of the word yéye, or grandmother) to forage for mushrooms in British Columbia's Nicola Valley. Along the way, Yayah teaches them how to translate key vocabulary words into their native language. Depending on how you look at it, the dialogue in the story is either inorganic or hyperrealistic, as a lot of time is spent deconstructing the pronunciation of each new word (an act that will be all too familiar to anyone who has ever tried to learn a second language). By using a story about family and nature as a conduit to share Nle'kepmxcin, Campbell nimbly proves how the way we speak is intertwined with the rest of one's life, and why it is essential to preserve Indigenous languages with a new generation.

No Hugs for Porcupine

Zoe Waring

Running Press Kids, $22.50, 32 pages

Porcupine is sad because no other animals want to hug him: Fawn thinks he's too prickly, Rabbit thinks he's too grumpy and everyone else tends to agree. Following kids'-book logic, hugs are inexplicably important in this forest community, and Porcupine has no family members of the same species with which to commiserate. (The best books never do explain the hard-and-fast rules by which they're governed.) Instead, he's stuck in a self-fulfilling prophecy: Nobody wants to hug Porcupine because of his quills, and so he adopts a prickly personality, isolating himself from all his hug-obsessed peers. He tries to change himself in order to receive affection, but each attempt fails harder than the last. It isn't until an inventive armadillo takes it upon herself to reach out to Porcupine that the rest of the animals follow suit. Zoe Waring posits that all creatures are deserving of love; some just might need it expressed to them in different ways.

The Pink Umbrella

Amélie Callot and Geneviève Godbout

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Tundra Books, $23, 80 pages

In the worlds inhabited by Geneviève Godbout's illustrated characters, everyone is button-nosed, cherry-cheeked and quick with a smile, and even the dreariest of rainy days are rendered in palatable pastels. She's well-matched with Parisian author Amélie Callot in this cozy story translated from the French. Adele runs the Polka-Dot Apron, a busy café filled with regulars from the village. She regularly flirts with Lucas, a local grocer who brings her fresh-cut flowers. Adele has difficulty mustering the energy to come to work on rainy days, but soon gifts are anonymously left for her at the cafe: a pair of fuchsia rain boots, a matching coat, the titular umbrella. Obvious comparisons can be made with the film with which the author shares her first name, although the overwhelming pinkness of the book makes an appeal to a younger set. Likewise, the story's burgeoning romance takes a back seat to its more age-appropriate mystery. The Pink Umbrella is not a dense tale, but coming in at almost twice the length of typical picture books, it will appeal to pensive young readers looking to immerse themselves in a richly imagined story.

Michael Redhill has won the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel 'Bellevue Square,' about a woman on the hunt for her doppelganger. The Toronto author says it would have been foolish to imagine he could win the award. The Canadian Press
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