Monday, June 05, 2006

Praise indeed from "Bookstore Girl"

When You Were Small is a gorgeously old fashioned book. Every night, Henry asks his father to tell him about when he was small. Henry's dad has a bit of a sense of humour, and all the anecdotes he relates (one per page) involve a very small Henry indeed. (See how old-fashioned?! I said "indeed"). For instance, when Henry was small, his father tells him, "you rode on the cat's back like you were an emperor and he was an elephant." Julie Morstad's charming line illustrations fit so nicely in with author Sara O'Leary's text that I truly cannot imagine a better pairing.
from www.can'

"Most appealing" review from a bookseller

In our home each night at bedtime, without fail, our two boys ask us for ‘a story with our lips’. This is something they have come to enjoy just as much or more than the storybooks we read to them before bed. Telling a story about something that happened when they were small or when Mom or Dad were little is enough to keep their minds busy until they drowsily fall off to sleep. (For the record, Nanny’s stories with her lips are the best!)

In this new picture book, Sara O’Leary captures this common question that so many youngsters are interested in: what were they like when they were small. The exaggerated quips that young Henry’s father shares with him include such funny ideas as wearing a thimble for a hat; taking a bath in a teapot; using a ruler for a toboggan and my favourite, being lost in the bottom of Mom’s purse. As parents, we can all learn something from Henry’s father, the more outrageous the story, the better.

Morstad’s pictures are cleverly created using pen and ink and pale watercolours making the overall feel of the book somewhat old-fashioned in a most appealing way.
-reviewed by Mary Ann Gallagher of Benjamin's Books

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Listen to a CBC chat about the book

CBC Radio link:

May 25, 2006

Listen to this interview (runs 6:41)

"An appreciation for the absurd," says Publishers Weekly

"O'Leary's debut features a robin's-egg blue cover and a retrospective title that recalls Milne's When We Were Very Young. Morstad's slightly clumsy ink drawings and drop caps, daintily tinted with watercolor and airy with negative space, update the work to somewhere nearer midcentury; with its large format and minimal color, this paper-over-board book could have been published in 1960 as easily as today, and homespun sketches of a wooden ruler and old-fashioned bathroom supplies only compound the anachronism. The narrative itself cultivates an appreciation for the absurd. Every night, a boy named Henry says to his father, 'Tell me about when I was small.' Deadpan recollections follow, each accompanied by a literal illustration of a much smaller Henry. 'When you were small we used to give you baths in the teapot,' his father explains, and the image pictures a boy about to hop into a kettle, a stray sock draped over the handle. 'When you were small you wore a thimble for a hat,' says his father, and readers see a finger-size Henry, his eyes hidden under the brim of a thimble and a needle-sword hanging from his belt. As in Stuart Little, a sepia-tinted image of tiny Henry with his full-size parents sets the scale. This sequence posits a straight-faced game of hyperbole ('When you were small we took the toy castle out of the aquarium and you were king of it') that may well please children of many generations. Ages 3-6. (May) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Buy the book

"Possibly the best picture book of the year"
More from my favourite librarian/reviewer/all-round smart gal

Next up, we here at the Fuse have heard recently from charming children's author Sara O'Leary who wrote the beautiful When You Were Small with Simply Read Books. I had the pleasure of meeting Dimiter Savoff, the man behind everything at Simply Read, not long ago at my library. Small publication houses tend to take more time than their big name equivalents. I was unprepared, however, for just how much care they take. Ms. O'Leary had this to say about her book:
Dimiter Savoff not only represents Simply Read - he's it....At one of our meetings he opened up a briefcase full of blank sheets and asked Julie and I which white we liked best. This is a man who takes details very seriously. He asked us if we would leave off the dedications and author bios which seemed strange to me but now I love how clean the book is - right down to him shrinking any of the necessaries down as small as he could. A friend of mine - a true sensualist - noted that the book even smelled good. When I mentioned this to Dimiter he said it was because they had paid extra to have scent imbued in the glue for the binding.

You heard her right. They paid extra for the scent. Actually, I wasn't too terribly surprised when I heard this. My husband actually commented on the scent of the book as I was working on its review. He said it smelled like the children's books he remembered as a kid. It was only later that we found out that that smell was part of this entire picture book experience. And don't let anyone ever tell you that scent isn't important. Have you ever picked up a picture book that had cheap glue in its binding so that when you cracked it open it stank to high heaven? As a children's librarian, I sure have. Now I can see that there are some people in the world who care more than others about this sort of thing. Add in the amazing minimalism and the beautiful binding and I'm ready and willing to declare When You Were Small possibly the best picture book of the year, bar none. Good news too. Ms. O'Leary and illustrator Julie Morstad are working on a second title after this one.

Chosen as a great summer read by Canadian Family Magazine

Henry's father remembers when Henry was so small he slept in a slipper, brushed his hair with a toothbrush and used a ruler for a toboggan. This shared dad-son fantasy shines with the polish of a tale told again and again. Gentle line drawings give a child's imagination plenty of room to roam.

-Sarah Ellis, Canadian Family, Summer 2006