Superfab Saves the Day
By Jean Leroy and Bérengère Delaporte, trans. from the French by Sarah Quinn, illus. by Bérengère Delaporte, Owlkids, 40 pages, $17.95
Superfab is a superhero bunny with a style fixation. By the time he's decided what costume to wear, the villains have either gotten away or been stopped by some other hero. So Superfab sinks to the C-list of superheroes. Then, one day, he gets a chance to redeem himself. I won't give away the ending, but it has a lot to do with a fabulously awesome pair of gloves. It should come to no one's surprise that this book was first written and published in France. Phoenix loved it, giggled the whole way through. When I asked him what he thought it meant, Phoenix gave me this look as he realized, for the very first time, that even grown-ups can miss the incredibly obvious. "It doesn't mean anything. It's just funny," he said. So maybe Superfab Saves the Day taught Phoenix something vitally important after all.
Written and Illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay, Groundwood Books, 60 pages, $19.95
Marie-Louise Gay has been knocking it out of the park since 1984, publishing more than 25 books and winning the Governor General's Award for children's illustration twice. Still, she's probably best known because two of her characters, Stella and Sam, were turned into a cartoon kids show. Her latest, Any Questions, takes a big risk with its premise. Set after a reading, the author takes questions and the kids want to know how she makes her stories. From here it gets all meta as Gay writes and illustrates both the fictional story she's telling and the process that allowed her to create it. What's even better is that the story Gay uses as her example completely held my kid's attention. Both levels of this book were so well done that the moment we closed Any Questions, Frida exclaimed, "It's a story inside a story!" Take that professors of post-modern deconstructionist theory: she's six and she got it.
By Scott Magoon, Simon & Schuster, 40 pages, $19.99
Frida picked this book and Phoenix didn't want to read it because he thought that the calm simple pictures and the low number of words per page made it too young for him. So Frida and I started reading it while Phoenix sat on his bed across the hall, pretending not to listen. Less than a third of the way through Breathe, Phoenix had joined us. The book is more a meditation than a narrative, although there is a story here. It's basically a day in the life of a whale, swimming, making friends, and repeatedly going to the surface to breathe. I'd say by the midway point of the book all three of us were unconsciously taking deep breaths every time the whale did. There's also a really sweet piece of Zen-ish advice near the end. An absolutely perfect way to slow down and get ready for sleep.