The Lotterys Plus One
By Emma Donoghue
This is one of those charming books which seems almost like a classic although it is thoroughly modern in fact. The Lotterys (they chose their family name after winning the lottery which enabled them to buy a rambling old house- Camelottery- in Toronto) are a blended, diverse family with four parents: PapaDum, PopCorn, MaxiMum and CardaMom. The book is filled with many such endearing wordplays and lots of puns mostly due to the fact that Brian (formerly Briar) who is four is a master at putting her own spin on words. The kids ranging in age from baby to upper teen are named after trees- Sumac is the main narrator- and they are home schooled. They are inquisitive, combative, and feel entirely real. I'm reading this to the 15 and 10 year old and at first it was hard to keep track of everyone--not including the parents, there are 7 kids, but Donoghue gradually builds each character so that they become individual and unique. There is a beautiful rhythm to the way this loving, bustling household interacts among themselves and the greater world outside their doors, until PopCorn's estranged father who is suffering from dementia (or dimensions or dementors ) is dropped into the vibrant mix. How can Sumac help this cranky old man, Grumps, feel part of the family? That is the basic plot, which feels a little young and simplistic to me but can be forgiven because of the rich tapestry Donoghue weaves.
Bob, Not Bob!
Written by Liz Garton Scanlon & Audrey Vernick
Illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Given winter's stubborn refusal to make way for spring this year, it seems somehow appropriate that my pick this month features a small child with the worst cold ever. Little Louie is usually quite independent, but his sickness has rendered him helpless and in constant need of his mom. Sadly, his clogged nose makes his calls for her sound like he's calling for his big, slobbery, well-meaning dog Bob. "No, I wan by Bob, not Bob!" cries Louie. Much hilarity ensues, making this a read-aloud crowd-pleaser, especially if you read - as the cover urges you to - as though you too have the worst cold ever. The text is paired perfectly with Matthew Cordell's loose line drawings which are reminiscent of Quentin Blake's and infused with the same sort of dishevelled humour. Bob, Not Bob! is a funny, light-hearted romp which captures the messy misery of colds and the resultant, enduring need for one's "Bob".
Men Walking on Water
by Emily Schultz
(Knopf Random Vintage Canada)
Men Walking on Water by Emily Schultz is an engrossing read. Set in 1927, in Detroit and Windsor, with the rum-running trade at its centre, this is an epic novel. The book begins with a car going through the ice of the Detroit River, and a series of interlocked events unfold. A widow, a pentecostal bootlegging preacher, gang members of all ages, a madame running a brothel, a bridge engineer, and many other characters populate the novel, and they're all quite believable and engaging. Schultz captures the zeitgeist of the time of Prohibition and the strange feeling of border communities. Her last book, The Blondes, was a slow-burning feminist dystopian fable, that would seem to have very little in common with Men Walking on Water - but for its insightful descriptions of female - and human - experience. This is great writing, and though set in a specific historic period, it is thoroughly relatable to contemporary life.