Books for Kids: Counting through a year, and caring for the world

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365: How to Count a Year
By Miranda Paul
Illustrated by Julien Chung
Beach Lane Books
Ages 3 to 8
At this time of year, wall-hung calendars have long been among my favourite gifts for friends and family, but in this digital age I fear they are going the way of the dinosaur, rotary phone and manual typewriter. So I’m delighted that American author Miranda Paul and Montreal illustrator Julien Chung have joined forces to define the calendar and bring to life days of the year for the very young.

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Using simple, straightforward statements (“It takes the Earth 365 days to spin around the sun”) and bold, colourful graphic images (the sun in the opening spread looks like a lion’s head with a golden orange mane), they introduce us to a young boy who, with his leonine sidekick, learns all about the 365 days a single year encompasses. Author and illustrator relate it to daily events a child can identify with, like sleeping and waking, eating ice cream, watching a movie, taking a bath, going to school and celebrating a birthday.

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In the process, to make things a bit easier, 365 days are divided into 52 weeks, which in turn equal 12 calendar months. Or, for those who prefer their numbers big, a year amounts to 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes or 31,536,000 seconds.

Chung’s digital art is as engaging as Paul’s fascinating factoids, and injects just the right note of humour.

What You Need to Be Warm
By Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Yuliya Gwilym, Nadine Kaadan, Pam Smy, Daniel Egnéus, Beth Suzanna, Marie-Alice Harel, Petr Horáček, Chris Riddell, Bagram Ibatoulline, Benji Davies, Majid Adin, Richard Jones
Quill Tree Books
Ages 4 to 8
Given the shaky state of much of the world these days, it’s comforting to know there are organizations working hard to provide aid to those in need — organizations like the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Award-winning author Neil Gaiman, a UNHCR goodwill ambassador, mindful of the numerous people displaced from their homes and facing a cold winter, used social media to ask people “what their memories were of being warm. Tens of thousands of people replied, each with a specific memory,” he explains in the foreword to this book, adding that he wove those memories into a poem, which he then donated to the UNHCR.

That poem, combined with the wonderful artwork of 13 illustrators whose roots span the world (Northern Irish artist Oliver Jeffers created the cover), resulted in a slim volume with a heartwarming message for all ages — a book one hopes will prompt adults, reading it aloud to their little ones in the warmth of their homes, to make their own donation to the UNHCR so it can continue working for those still in need.

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