My top Spring picks continue this week with Lisa McDonald’s “Little Boy Gan, from Passion-Filled Everland”. Although the story itself isn’t about Spring time, you are immediately transported into a beautiful Spring-like setting of new beginnings, fresh sights and sounds, and the endless possibilities of inner happiness. Seems deep for a children’s picture book, right? I promise you the illustrations by Lara Aiken and Paul Schultz will have your kid(s) mesmerized, and Gan’s encounters through the forest will surely please any audience! I am so excited to feature McDonald’s masterpiece in this week’s story-telling Sunday blog. Let’s dig a little deeper…
The book begins with a foreword by Walter Gretzky who lovingly describes the importance of following your dreams. Who may have heard of his son, Wayne Gretzky!? Reading this foreword will warm your heart, and undoubtedly inspire you to follow your own passions and encourage those of your children. It may have brought a little tear to my eyes…or perhaps the Spring pollen made its way into my tear ducts ;)
As you turn each page, you are immersed in a work of art with the majestic illustrations. Bright, vivid, and enchanting are a few words I would use to describe the visual narrative. Little readers will recognize all of the animals throughout the story, and perhaps mimic their sounds. I marvel in my 2 year-old’s choir of “quack”, “ribbit”, and “oooh-oooh” sounds. Just another reminder that there are so many ways to engage little readers during story time.
You are introduced to Gan, the title character, in the most wonderful way:
“Little boy Gan was a sponge, a fan of living and loving all he held dear in his world of Passion-Filled Everland. Gan was filled with a light so bright that everyone in Everland wanted to know little boy Gan’s secrets.”
As Gan journeys through this beautiful forest, he is approached by all of his animal friends who are curious about his overall happiness. Why is he always happy? What brings him so much peace? How do his eyes always twinkle with joy? Is that a playful bounce in his step? Each of Gan’s answers becomes a teachable moment for little readers…and even some adult readers too!
One of my favourite passages from the book is his encounter with Terrence the turtle:
“I have often wondered,” toiled Terrence, “you always have a kind word for everyone whom you meet. How is that possible?”
“Well, Terrence,” toyed Gan, “when you feel comfortable in your own skin and like who you are, you wish the same for everyone else in the world.”
In that instance, Terrence’s whole head poked through his shell in a way he had never before emerged.
Reading this book aloud is powerful and similar to a self-love mantra. Yet, it is written in a simple way for little readers to understand. The book’s ending is perfectly written with a “Moral of the Story” summary. I could see the wheels in motion as my curious 4 year-old pondered after finishing the story. Cue the questions!
I cannot recommend this book enough for little readers! There are so many lessons within this book, and so many ways to encourage deeper conversations about emotions with children. What does it FEEL like to be happy? Little readers may show it with their facial expressions or joyful actions. For my kids, there’s nothing like that first ice cream lick…sheer happiness! We can all use a little bit of that ice cream effect, right?
Bravo Lisa McDonald! If you want to learn more about McDonald’s work, you can find her at: https://livingfearlesslywithlisa.com
Next week is my last Spring pick, and a bonus Father’s Day book. Until then…