I’m backtracking a little bit here with my post on Tom Lichtenheld, one of the artists/illustrators featured on the Picture Book Month calendar. I missed out on talking about his work on the actual day devoted to him earlier this month, but I was surprised to discover that he’s illustrated close to two dozen different titles. Quite a number of them were with Amy Krouse Rosenthal, such as Duck! Rabbit! but he was also responsible for the runaway hits Shark vs. Train which he worked on with Chris Barton, and Sherri Duskey Rinker’s Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site. I’ve chosen just a few of his books to review here, but I’m going to have to add him to the list of illustrators to watch for when new stuff is coming out.

Title: Duck! Rabbit!
Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld
ISBN: 9780811868655
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Chronicle Books, c2009.

Who would have thought that such a simple concept and a simple book would become a New York Times bestseller! It’s a duck! It’s a rabbit! There’s no real conclusion or consensus, but it doesn’t seem to matter. This book is all about trying to see things from someone else’s perspective, and maybe there is more than one answer to a question some times. This looks like something anybody could have put together and drawn, but the fact that they didn’t I guess means that Rosenthal and Lichtenheld were looking at the question just the right way at just the right time to realize what they had. And what they had is a timeless classic.

Title: Cloudette
Author/Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld
ISBN: 9780805087765
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, c2011.

This book also gives a great message of acceptance of differences and points of view. Cloudette (which is just the first of many puns throughout the book) is a cloud who feels blue (see what I mean) because she can’t do big important cloud things like her bigger cloud friends. Lichtenheld doesn’t just write puns, he includes them in his drawings, like when Cloudette rests on the moon to think and a cow peers at her from the top of the crescent shape. You can’t help but smile when she tries to make friends with the smoke clouds appearing from a quaint log cabin. I’m amazed at how expressive a cloud can be with just two circles for eyes and a mouth, but Lichtenheld aptly showcases happiness, sadness, effort, and pride as the little cloud struggles to accomplish something that will make a difference in the world.

Title: Bridget’s Beret
Author/Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld
ISBN: 9780805087758
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, c2010.

I was unaware of this book by Lichtenheld, featuring a spunky young girl named Bridget who is struggling to overcome not writer’s block but artist’s block after she loses her inspirational beret. Bridget’s sister helps her shake the block by asking for some artwork to promote her lemonade stand. What stands out with this book is the sheer variety of artistic styles that Bridget’s artwork mimics. I hope someone used it when the summer reading program was the art-based “Be Creative at your Library” theme. In the back of the book is a section titled “How to Start Your Art” that features some famous works of art in easily accessible language for kids to gain inspiration. The artwork ranges from collages by Henri Matisse to Georges Seurat’s pointillism and Rembrandt’s faces. Ironically enough, two of the featured pieces focus on clouds, so I wonder if he was working on Cloudette at the time. It’s a great story about doing what you enjoy when you enjoy it, and it’s okay to take a break sometimes.

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