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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Books About Disguises

Book Cover Coyote's New Suit

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.


October is the superb month for books about disguise, because of Halloween, of course, and because of how the whole outdoors is dressing up in glorious colour.

Coyote's New Suit, by Thomas King, illustrated by Johnny Wales, reads like an oral tale with Raven as trickster and gullible Coyote as victim. Raven overhears Coyote boasting about his fine suit, and tells him it’s not as nice as Bear's fur, which Bear has taken off to swim. So Coyote steals it. Raven then tells naked Bear where to get new clothes—human attire hung up outside houses, free for the taking. Bear chooses a floral tank top and gold pedal pushers.

Coyote, meanwhile, stumbles around in his too-heavy bear suit at the supermarket and bingo until he gets bored with it. Coyote heads back to the pond, where the plot repeats with other forest animals until Coyote comes home with a chipmunk suit and no more room in his closet. "Why don't you have a yard sale?" Raven says, which leads to a hilarious showdown between animals (in human clothing) and humans (in animal skins). This one could be for K-4, inspiring some trickster tales from the older kids.

Animal Masquerade, by Marianne Dubuc, begins with a lion wondering what to wear for the animal masquerade. He decides on an elephant costume. The elephant goes disguised as a parrot. The parrot goes as a turtle. With each turn of the page, a new dress-up, and a few surprises. For instance, the dromedary goes as a camel. "That's too easy!" the author says. The hen doesn't dress up, because “she isn't very smart.” Little Red Riding Hood becomes a chocolate cake, followed by a bear with a sweet tooth, “but the bear was much too slow.”  K-1 readers will enjoy naming the costumes and seeing the final celebration.

Camilla Chameleon, by Colleen Sydor, illustrated by Pascale Constantin, is a playful, colourful read for the K-3 crowd. Camilla’s mother gives birth after consuming copious amounts of Cream of Chameleon Soup. Camilla’s a bit strange-looking but nevertheless loved by her parents. She’s also admired by her classmates for her extrudable tongue’s ability to pick up hopscotch rocks. Most admired is her talent for camouflaging at opportune moments: when her hugging aunt comes to visit or it’s liver for dinner or her teacher asks her to write on the blackboard. Her love of Fizzy Fizzy Make Ya Dizzy Rootin’ Tootin’ Root Beer and a room-blowing belch blows her cover. It also earns her a new role: line-whisperer in the drama club, helping out those who freeze on stage. Life gets even whackier when her mother develops cravings for some strange new soups.

Book Cover My Dog is an Elephant

My Dog is an Elephant, by Remy Simard, with playful drawings by Pierre Pratt, caters to a K-2 audience. Hector finds an elephant in his sandbox who has run away from the zoo. Hector tries to help by hiding him in his house but his mother faints every time she discovers the pachyderm. So Hector creates costumes for the elephant: a moose, a dinosaur, a butterfly, a dog, each with its own challenges. Finally he puts him in one of his father's suits ("I'll have to tell Papa to go on a diet. His clothes fit you like a glove.") and puts him on a plane to Africa. But the tale doesn't end there… 

Mr Frank

In Mr. Frank, by Irene Luxbacher, Mr. Frank has been a tailor for over 60 years. He sits down to make the most important costume of his career. One that’s more important than the soldiers' uniforms, the stylish suits, the mini-skirts, patched jeans and frilly tutus, of years gone by. Each decade remembered offers the reader a window into some major fashion trends of the last century. At last, we see why it’s so important that Mr. Frank does this job just right. (Hint: it may launch a discussion about superhero costume plans with the K-3 reader.)

On her first day as teacher-librarian, Julie Booker was asked by a five-year-old if that was her real name. She's felt at home in libraries since her inaugural job as a Page in the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of Up Up Up, a book of short stories published by House of Anansi Press in 2011.

October 28, 2014

Books mentioned in this post


Coyote's New Suit

by Thomas King, illustrated by Johnny Wales
edition: Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged: humorous stories

Coyote’s back, and he’s stirring up trouble again?or is he?
Coyote loves his soft, toasty-brown suit?at least until Raven hints that it might not be the finest in the forest. Suddenly, Coyote is noticing suits wherever he looks: Bear’s is certainly impressive, Porcupine’s is sporty, Raccoon’s is positively chic, and S …


Animal Masquerade

illustrated by Marianne Dubuc
edition: Hardcover
  • age: 3 to 7
  • Grade: p to 2

Come one, come all to the animal masquerade! The lion is going as an elephant, the elephant as a parrot, and the parrot as a turtle! Each costume gives way to another, yielding new surprises on every page, and revealing a menagerie of familiar and unusual animals. Young children will delight in the absurd and amusing images (who wouldn't love a lad …


Camilla Chameleon

by Colleen Sydor, illustrated by Pascale Constantin
edition: Paperback
also available: Hardcover
  • age: 4 to 8
  • Grade: p to 3
tagged: humorous stories, school & education

Camilla is a little strange-looking. But she's one talented ... girl. She can pick up a hopscotch rock without even bending over. She can look at her teacher with one eye and read a comic book with the other. And, best of all, she can blend in perfectly with her surroundings --- so that no one, not even her parents, can tell she's there.

Camouflagin …

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