It’s fall, and all the loveliest aspects of this time of year – leaves changing colour, sweater weather, the return of all our favourite network TV shows – mean absolutely nothing when you’re a kid, who would have recently sacrificed summer freedom for the return of school.
Those desperate to hold on to some feeling of warmer days might find solace in recent picture-book releases. Deep Underwater (Irene Luxbacher, Groundwood Books, $19, 32 pages) uses collage to represent the ocean’s “bottomless pit of possibilities” as a sensory, hypnotic experience. Africville (Shauntay Grant & Eva Campbell, Groundwood Books, $19, 32 pages) takes a similarly tactile approach when bringing to life the historic community located in Halifax, using a child’s gaze to focus on the details that make a neighbourhood hum.
Elsewhere, the surprising and funny The Reptile Club (Maureen Fergus & Elina Ellis, Kids Can Press, $19, 32 pages) serves as juvenile wish fulfilment about trying to find others who share your niche interest (spoiler: sometimes you need to connect with an anthropomorphic crocodile). Good Rosie! (Kate DiCamillo & Harry Bliss, Candlewick Press, $22, 32 pages) takes these themes to the dog park, where DiCamillo proves herself once again the master at telling human stories through an animal medium.
A stack of titles combine compelling storytelling with timely lessons about community and co-operation for new students learning to share a space with others. In How To Be a T-Rex (Ryan North & Mike Lowery, Dial Books, $24, 32 pages), a girl’s dinosaur alter-ego serves as a channel for self-expression, while also teaching her that trampling through life can have its downsides. In the wildly entertaining Team Steve (Kelly Collier, Kids Can Press, $19, 40 pages), Steve the Horse grapples with his constant desire to be the star of the show alongside the need to co-operate. The girl at the centre of Rosie’s Glasses (Dave Whamond, Kids Can Press, $19, 32 pages) learns that sometimes a change in perspective can save a bummer of a day. A notable release is Saturday is Swimming Day (Hyewon Yum, Candlewick Press, $23, 40 pages), which will be as valuable for parents and educators as it is for young readers. When her weekly swimming lesson comes around, one girl experiences a stomachache and chooses to sit out. Thanks to the patience of her swimming instructor, the girl is given the space she needs to become comfortable enough to join the class. It’s a quietly brilliant book about helping a child cope with anxiety.
Celebrity picture books are usually underwhelming, but a recent exception is Corduroy Takes a Bow (Viola Davis & Jody Wheeler, Viking Books, $24, 32 pages). The theatre is a perfect setting for the Tony-award winning actress, who puts her own spin on Don Freeman’s classic character while keeping the spirit of the original alive.