I wondered, as I was scrolling through the past month, whether this month even had a theme. But then it clicked: some of my own anxiety about my work and whether I was Doing the Right Thing (a PhD dissertation, even if you have as wonderful an advisor as mine, is an excellent vehicle for anxiety) must have crept in. This month has had a lot of contemplative books: books about finding yourself, finding your place in the world, loving yourself and others for who they truly are, or just about voice, whether listening to another’s voice or finding your own. That means we have a real range of books! Some are old (Mrs. Tittlemouse) and some are very new (Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig), some are religious (Dear Pope Francis) and others have a more universal feel (Gaston). But I find all of them uplifting– perhaps the most explicitly uplifting being Beatrix Potter and her Paint Box and, above all, The Monk and the White Cat.
This is a shorter month than usual since I took a little working vacation: my vacation posts with all of the excellent book links in them are here– The Perils of Procrastination; Vacation; Checking in from Toronto; Checking in from Toronto II. But short or not, I still found it agonizing to choose books to spotlight for the month. Here they are, in the end, and I hope you find them as inspiring as I do!
The White Cat and the Monk: Based on the Old Irish poem Pangur Bán, a monk lives with his white cat, each pursuing his own craft: scholarship or hunting. This is a particularly inspirational and uplifting book. The illustrations reflect the contents, moving from darkness to light as the monk’s thoughts likewise become enlightened. Children will love hunting for the hidden animals in the manuscript pages, and parents will be awestruck by the glorious illustrations. This is wonderful for toddlers and up, and when I say “up” I mean all the way up to parents, who will find themselves saying with me, “How about this cat book again?”
Dear Pope Francis: Pope Francis receives, and delights in receiving, letters from children all around the world. In this book, he answers questions from these letters: questions ranging from the religious (How did Jesus walk on water?) to the secular (Do you enjoy dancing?). Everything from the title to the layout gives the children’s questions the privileged place in this volume: they’re in colour, they’re transcribed for easy readability, and let’s not forget that the Pope’s answers make sure we take every child’s voice seriously. A must-read for the religious, but I think everyone can appreciate this book.
Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig: This might be my absolute favourite book of the month. Striking a perfect balance between nostalgia and originality, Deborah Hopkinson and Charlotte Voake evoke Beatrix Potter’s own tales while presenting a wholly new one which gives readers a flavour of the famous author-illustrator’s childhood and personality. Children will love the illustrations of animals and emphasis on the pets she kept. (Parents may be forced to come up with an answer to requests for snakes and lizards!) Parents and children alike will love the humour and honesty of both the story and the illustrations. And let’s not forget that it’s just an excellent story.
Finally, here is my list of all pieces for the month of June:
- Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig (I’d recommend for ages 5+, although the Changeling, who’s nearly 3, already enjoys it.)
- Beatrix Potter and Her Paint Box (Lyrical, with watercolour text to match the images. The Changeling requests it a lot, so toddler and up is probably fine.)
- Mrs. Tittlemouse (Toddler and up, especially for parents and anyone who frets about housekeeping.)
- Dear Pope Francis (Grade 1 and up. If your kids have big questions, they’ll probably enjoy the validation.)
- Gaston (Toddler and up. Being a story about love and family, this is a great one for snuggles between parents and children, and for conversations about loving someone for who they are.)
- The White Cat and the Monk (Toddler and up. A story about finding and understanding your place in the world.)