October 9 – Curious Events Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the mysteries in life. Those little (and big) events that make us scratch our heads, rush to our favorite social media site, or ponder the greater meaning of life. It seems there’s always something we’d like to understand better, a conspiracy theory we’d like proved or disproved conclusively, or just a question that has always nagged at the back of one’s mind. Sometimes even the most obvious of occurrences aren’t exactly what they seem—as in today’s book. Take the opportunity of Curious Events Day to explore the questions you have!

Something’s Fishy

By Jean Gourounas

 

A vigilant penguin sits beside an ice-fishing hole while snowflakes flutter in the air. Her line dips silently into the blue water. “Hey, what are you doing?” a smiling rabbit asks, coming up behind her. But the penguin only tells him to “shh!” The rabbit is an inquisitive little rascal, though, and sort of asks the obvious: “Are you fishing?” All this talking brings in the walrus, who’s also curious as to what’s happening. The bunny tells the walrus his view of the fishing idea.

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Copyright Jean Gourounas, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Fishing! Well, the walrus wants to know if the penguin is catching anything. It looks grim, the rabbit says, just as a seal comes on the scene and asks the requisite question. “Shh!” the penguin tells them again. The seal repeats the previous conversation, asking “Are any fish biting?” The answer is still the same, though, and the bunny doesn’t know what’s wrong with those fish.

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Copyright Jean Gourounas, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

A moose approaches the group and, despite the fishing hole, the fishing pole, and the fishing line, asks what the penguin is doing. The others are happy to confirm the fishing interpretation of events. The moose is quicker on the draw to see that the fish are not biting, but wants to know why. Ah, the age-old question of fishermen everywhere. “We don’t know!” exclaim the seal and walrus. But the rabbit has decided to add a bit of erudition to the conversation: “I’m baffled,” he states.

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Copyright Jean Gourounas, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

The person who has just come along is also intrigued to know whether the penguin has been successful. “No!” rings out from the crowd. Then they all wonder what’s wrong. That may be good enough for everyone else, but the rabbit ups the ante with another big word: “I’m perplexed,” he admits. Next up is a polar bear, who just wants to know what’s going on. Having spent so much time trying to discover the same thing, the rest of the crew feel at one with the penguin and shout, “We’re fishing!” The rabbit includes the caveat “But the fish aren’t biting.”

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Copyright Jean Gourounas, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

The polar bear knows a thing or two about catching fish and inquires about the type of bait. Ah ha! Now we’re getting somewhere. “Some cake,” answers the penguin. The idea of cake as fish bait doesn’t seem to trouble anyone. In fact, they can’t believe the fish haven’t jumped at the chance to have this tasty treat. The rabbit? Well, he’s just plain flummoxed. When a bull enters the picture, he takes one look around and asks, “Hey, are you guys having a party?” He gets filled in on the whole fishing/cake/not biting thing, and they all decide that “something’s fishy!”

At last it seems the penguin is going to succeed! She tells everyone to quiet down because she hears something. Bubbling up from deep below the ice comes, “SURPRISE!” as a school of fish wearing party hats wish a stunned newcomer “Happy Birthday!” And when they’ve nibbled their fill, the fish call up for “More cake, please!”

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Copyright Jean Gourounas, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

This sly puzzle of a story by Jean Gourounas will delight readers and keep them guessing until the very end. Along the way, children are given some hints that turn out not to be red herrings at all, but real clues to this gentle arctic mystery. Young readers may wonder why the penguin needs quiet, what the fish are waiting for, and even if there’s something to the bull’s suggestion of a party. Kids will giggle as the same questions and answers are asked over and over again in various ways, and don’t be surprised when your little one adds the words “baffled,” “perplexed,” and “flummoxed” to their growing vocabulary. 

Gourounas’ rounded-off characters are cute and expressive, welcoming others to the group and the ongoing discussion with wide, wondering eyes. Sometimes they consider each other, while at other times they look right out at the reader, inviting them to join in too. The brown, textured paper and matte blue, white, brown, and black hues that define the various animals, work in conjunction with the text to create a low-key gathering above ground that is a humorous counterpoint to the festivities below. Little ones who might be concerned with the fate of the fish as they nibble on the cake will be cheered by the last page—and may want a piece of cake themselves to celebrate this funny book.

Ages 3 – 6

Phaidon Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714875316

Curious Events Day Activity

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Haunted House Coloring Page

 

The month of October is full of curious events, spooky mysteries, and surprises. Here’s a printable Haunted House Coloring Page for you to enjoy. Add some ghosts and other curious characters from your imagination to the room!

Picture Book Review

October 9 – Curious Events Day

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About the Holiday

Today is set aside to ponder the mysteries of life—kind of like all the X-Files rolled up into one day! It’s fun and fascinating to explore the unknown, to wonder if mythical creatures really exist, or to allow yourself (if even for just a moment) to accept strange phenomenon as true. And then there are just those weird things that happen that make you think “why me?” or “why not me?” and give you a new perspective on life. Today, be conscious of the unexplained—you know you want to believe!

Bug in a Vacuum

By Mélanie Watt

 

A bug enjoying a lazy afternoon takes advantage of an open door and flies into a house. It’s cleaning day and the bug buzzes through the bathroom, through the kitchen (taking a quick hop and skip over the cooling apple pie), across a bedroom, and stops on top of the household globe. Meanwhile someone is vacuuming, unaware of or unconcerned with what lays in the powerful machine’s path.

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Image and text copyright Mélanie Watt. Courtesy of Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca.

The bug is “on top of the world when it happened. Its entire life changed with the switch of a button.” Suddenly it is sucked past the little bristles and into the dusty interior of the canister. Finding itself here amid the forgotten debris, the bug goes through many stages as it ponders its plight. Stage one is Denial. Surrounded by fluffy fuzz the bug thinks to itself, “This is amazing! Doesn’t get much cozier than this…” But then the quiet and dark makes the bug suspicious. Maybe it’s a surprise party! Or perhaps it’s a dream! The bug pinches itself to wake up, but all that does is hurt.

Stage 2 follows—Bargaining. The bug calls out “Excuse me, you’ve vacuumed the wrong bug!” It even offers a different day to be so inconvenienced: “Can I be vacuumed next Monday instead? Tonight’s bowling night with the dung beetles!” Finally, it promises to turn over a new wing and writes a contract of sorts: “Dear vacuum, IF you set me free, I promise to avoid my favorite hangouts: windowsills, picnics, porta-potties. A new Bug.” When there’s no response to this plea, the bug moves on to…

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Image and text copyright Mélanie Watt. Courtesy of Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca.

Stage 3—Anger. The bug throws a fit: “I WANT OUT NOW!!! NO MORE MR. NICE FLY!!! It threatens, becomes paranoid, demands attention, and turns the dust bunnies into its own personal army. The sounds from inside the canister are frightening—but no one’s there to hear them.

Stage 4 strikes heavy with—Despair. When the dust, scraps of paper, broken pencil, tack, paperclip, playing card, broken Q-tips, and other waste settles, the bug takes stock. “My life’s a mess” it realizes. “How will I ever pick up the pieces?” it wonders. It decides: “I’m at the end of my rope. My dreams are crushed. The odds are against me.” The poor bug goes on: “I’ll never see the sky again. I’ll never be extraordinary. I have no future.” At last, though, the bug is ready for…

Stage 5—Acceptance. The bug surrenders itself to its fate and learns to “appreciate what I have.” It goes so far as to say, “I don’t wish to change a thing. Everything will be okay.”

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Image and text copyright Mélanie Watt. Courtesy of Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca.

It is at this point that the bug feels itself on the move, gliding across the carpet, waiting at the curb, and traveling away at top speed as the vacuum cleaner sits atop the Bull Dog Waste Service truck. The trip takes it up a hill to the city dump where the vacuum is unceremoniously dropped on a pile and the hose is dislodged. When the machine comes to a rest, the bug sees the most magnificent sight—a way out. The bug flies into the streaming sunlight and on to another adventure.

A sub-plot involving the family’s wiener dog who has lost his beloved stuffed toy to the overzealous vacuum adds suspense to the story, and his thoughts about retrieving his toy inject more comical elements and mirror the bug’s contemplations.

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Image and text copyright Mélanie Watt. Courtesy of Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca.

Mélanie Watt, with tongue firmly in cheek, takes readers on an emotional roller coaster as an unsuspecting but very lucky bug finds itself engaged in the five stages of grief after it is sucked into a vacuum cleaner. Watt’s text and full-bleed, vintage-style illustrations go hand-in-hand (or wing-in-wing) to tell the bug’s and dog’s stories.

Each stage of the bug’s turmoil is introduced with an image of a product named for the psychological phase and labeled with humorous puns and platitudes. The dated décor, colors, and objects make Bug in a Vacuum visually stunning, and the bug hero is a cutie who readers will empathize with and cheer for. Eagle-eyed readers will also love finding all the items slurped up into the cleaning machine lying on the floor of each page. The first page defining Bug as “an insect” and “an unexpected glitch” and Vacuum as “a cleaning machine” and “a void left by a loss” hints at the fun and thoughtfulness to come.

Bug in a Vacuum would make a great gift and addition to home bookshelves—a welcome pick-me-up for those days when things don’t always go so well.

Ages 4 – 9

Tundra Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1770496453

You can learn about the many, many books by Mélanie Watt on her website!

To find a fun Bug in a Vacuum activity guide by Tundra Books/Penguin Random House of Canada, click here!

Get sucked in to this Bug in a Vacuum book trailer!

Curious Events Day Activity

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Hidden Word Coloring Page

 

Curious events are often steeped in mystery. The real meaning or cause of a phenomenon can be hidden from view, but that just makes it more fun! Curious about what this printable Hidden Word Puzzle says? Color it and find out!

Picture Book Review