From School Library Journal
Starred Review - School Library Journal, PreS-Gr 1–A treatise on “how-tos,” including how to go fast, how to see the wind, and how to be brave. More imaginative selections include how to wash your face (look up in the rain), how to watch where you’re going (follow the movements of your shadow), and how to wonder (gaze at the night sky). Morstad’s spare text and whimsical fine-line drawings with pastel enhancements portray children encountering new experiences enriched with whimsy and quiet wit. This guide will engage and delight youngsters. Ideal for one-on-one sharing, it will be read again and again.
Starred Review - KIRKUS REVIEW
Smart, clean design and a text built around unpunctuated phrases offer room to pause, ponder and discuss in this book of quiet joy. Ample white space foregrounds a multicultural cast, whose patterned clothing, props and minimal, but visually exciting, settings take center stage. In the opening spread, “how to go fast,” readers consider options as eight youngsters whoosh by, one riding a scooter, another navigating stilts, a third sporting butterfly wings. The parade’s leader is nearly off the page. “How to see the wind” prompts conversation about the kites, grass and hair shown at various angles—and the metaphysical question itself. Morstad explores topics of interest to children, from “staying close” (two girls sharing one braid) to disappearing—a scene in which meaning comes first from the curtained image; the text is nearly invisible. She intersperses colorful backgrounds, as well as single- and double-spread compositions for an overall effect that elicits anticipation at every turn. As in this Canadian’s illustrations for the work of other authors (Caroline Woodward’s Singing Away the Dark, 2010; Sara O’Leary’s When I Was Small, 2012), the characters’ delicate features exhibit an absorption in their activities that simultaneously signals the seriousness and satisfaction of concentration. The “be happy” conclusion portrays unself-conscious movement—including that initial runner, leaving the book.
Starred Review, Q & Q
From the outset, it’s clear that Julie Morstad’s How To is a very special book. Each page features the Vancouver artist’s trademark pen-and-ink drawings of kids just being kids: taking things slow (by lying in a field surrounded by butterflies, flowers, and tall grass), feeling the breeze (by riding a bike downhill), and making music (by whacking pots and pans with a spoon). All of Morstad’s illustrations are beautifully realized, most of them with a spot of silliness that will keep young readers’ interest piqued just enough for that last, sleepy book before bedtime.
The first page sets the tone. Morstad’s parade of kids trooping across the page give just a few examples of “How to go fast,” but serve to open the imagination to myriad others: walking, running, dancing, bouncing, or twirling, alone or in the company of friends. There are as many ways to go fast as there are kids to imagine them.
“How to be brave” and “How to make friends” might bring on misty eyes and a lump in the throat, while “How to disappear,” “How to make a sandwich,” and “How to be a mermaid” are guaranteed to elicit giggles, and are worth a try at playtime or in the bath.
Compared with countless books that try so very hard to teach a lesson or prove a point, this one delights with its easy, unforced relationship between words and pictures. The text is very short, but any parent craving something to talk to their child about at storytime will find opportunities to stretch it out – children can discuss what makes them feel brave or happy, or describe the sensation of the wind on their skin. They can draw it. They can act it out. They can enjoy it, and so will you. Rarely are books so alive.
Another stunner from the gifted Julie Morstad. ""How To"" relays visual instructions on such events as washing your socks (stand in a puddle), watching the wind (fly kids), disappearing (hide behind a curtain), and watching where you're going (track your shadow). A perfect way to elevate familiar children's activities to capture their everyday magic. Innovative cropping of delicate drawings makes them even more precious.
Deakin Review of Children's Literature 4/4 stars
Anyone who is a fan of creative and lateral thinking will love this book. The simple text and illustrations evoke complex connections and imagination. The title gives away that it is a “how to…” book but the things to do and learn are not your usual “… make cookies” or “… build a birdhouse.” I love that the text problems are answered by text-less illustrations. For example, “how to make new friends” is answered by an image of a child making sidewalk chalk drawings of various creatures (including people) and “how to wash your socks” is accompanied by a group of children stomping in a puddle of clean-looking water. While a few “how to’s” are answered with several possibilities, most have only one. This might be considered a weakness or, on further reflection, the multiple-answer examples suggest a pattern so the reader will search for their own variations.
I’ll admit to some discomfort with the choice to make all the “how to” phrases unpunctuated and in lower case letters because I believe proper writing is learned through example. However, it is a tiny quibble about an inspirational book. I will be sure to feel the breeze and appreciate the face wash on my bike ride home in the rain.
Reading Today - Best Back to School Books
How To vividly portrays the unlimited possibilities of imagination. Morstad represents a playful game through her illustrative narrative and adds poetic vibrancy with her words. Her gorgeous illustrations show how to do things in a number of ways such as going fast or slow, feeling a breeze, hiding, sleeping, making friends, and many other essential activities. All these small things fill up an ordinary day and make people happy. Starting with the book jacket, the author sets a joyful mood, which makes the reader wish to join the main characters. Morstad uses lines to not only animate her characters but also to provide an energetic and bright flow to her story. Thus, readers will be easily transported by the depicted scenes, and the book will become a must-have title for a classroom library.
Reviews for The Swing:
""The sensation of soaring through the skies is told in this classic poem that is given new life with beautiful drawings by an award-winning illustrator."" - Today's Parent
""Evocative and mesmerizing all at once, this is one book that is sure to engage kids right from the get-go. With its new packaging, Stevenson’s classic feels as fresh and new as anything you’ll find on your bookstore and library shelves today. Beautiful. There’s no other word for it."" - Fuse #8, School Library Journal
Reviews of When I Was Small:
""When I Was Small is not only a charming picture book, but by focusing on the parent’s past instead of the child’s, it also has the potential to be a great conversation starter."" - Quill and Quire
Reviews and Awards for Singing Away the Dark:
Finalist for the 2011-2012 Chocolate Lily Awards
Finalist for the 2011 Marilyn Baillie Award, Canadian Children's Book Centre!
Finalist for the 2011 Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award Shortlist
Finalist for the 2011 Shortlist for the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards
Night can be a very alien world, but this beckoning book is like an invitation to come walk there. - Kirkus Review