Posts tagged ‘Picture Books’

Blizzard

BlizzardTitle: Blizzard
Author/Illustrator: John Rocco
ISBN: 9781423178651
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Disney Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group, c2014.

On Monday, February 6, 1978, New England experienced one of the biggest snowstorms in its history. It snowed for two days, and by the time it stopped, parts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut were buried under forty inches of snow. That’s four times the height of this book! The wind was blowing fifty miles an hour and created snowdrifts up to fifteen feet high. Where I grew up in Rhode Island, it took over a week for snowplows to get to our street.
This book is based on my experience as a ten-year-old boy in that blizzard and how I got to the store, over a mile from my house, with tennis rackets tied to my feet.

Beautiful illustrations detail the storm in all it’s glory, white space assuming the role of the heaps and drifts of snow. The intrepid young boy in the story shows his ingenuity when, after being snowbound for a week, he straps tennis rackets to his shoes and makes the journey to the store for necessary supplies. Along the way, he picks up orders from the neighbors. Slices of family life show the ups and downs of being snowbound, from playing in the snow to curling up next to the fire. The passage of time is subtly conveyed in the pictures, which read like a graphic novel, at one point bringing to mind the Family Circus cartoons. Based on a true story, this is the perfect book to snuggle up with during these record-breaking winter storms.

Geisel Awards 2015

WINNER

You Are Not SmallTitle: You Are (Not) Small
Author: Anna Kang
Illustrator: Christopher Weyant
ISBN: 9781477847725
Pages: unpaged
Publication/Date: Two Lions, c2014.

Sometimes a book comes along that is so simple, so universal, and so utterly charming that you look at wondering “Why didn’t I ever write this?” Two fuzzy creatures (they look like bears to me) meet and “argue” over whether or not they are small or big. That’s it. That is the entire book, with some newcomers towards the end of the book proving that it’s all a matter of perspective. Bright colors, lots of white space, simple language, and minimalist drawings all place the focus squarely on the building debate. The back cover predicts a sequel, and if it becomes a series I can predict lots of fans. No complaints here.

HONORS

Mr. Putter and Tabby Turn the PageTitle: Mr. Putter & Tabby Turn the Page
Author: Cynthia Rylant
Illustrator: Arthur Howard
ISBN: 9780152060633
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, c2014.

This wasn’t my favorite of the titles on the list, but I read so few easy readers on a regular basis that maybe I’m loosing a grasp of what makes a good one. It’s a slight story where Mr. Putter and Tabby are joined by Mrs. Teaberry and Zeke in a “Read Aloud to Your Pets” program at their library. Mr. Putter and Mrs. Teaberry display good habits, such as pre-reading the books before the event, reading with “gusto”, and showing the pictures. It was a nice touch that Zeke provides the sound effects for the story Mrs. Teaberry chooses to read. Tabby seems like a nice cat, and this is a nice story. Not especially memorable in my opinion, but fans of the series will enjoy.

Waiting is Not EasyTitle: Waiting Is Not Easy!
Author/Illustrator: Mo Willems
ISBN: 9781423199571
Pages: 57 pages
Publisher/Date: Hyperion Books for Children, an imprint of Disney Book Group, c2014.

I joked with a coworker that the Geisel Awards should be renamed the Willems Award. Out of 22 books, seven (including this one) have been recognized in some way by the Geisel committee time after time after time. While the interactions between Elephant and Piggie are sounding a little repetitive to me, Willems throws a curve ball to readers with the final two pages of graphics. Subtle shading and color change show the passage of time, as Gerald is forced to wait for Piggie’s surprise, which Piggie has no difficulty waiting for since he knows what it is and when it will arrive. I was struck by what could be a discrepancy in Gerald’s coloring in one of the double page spreads. I believe it was page 40-41 or 42-43, but I don’t have the book in front of me and if I’m the only one who questions it then maybe it’s just my copy of the book. Willems has not lost his ability with self-explanatory expressions, and the dialogue is just begging to be read aloud.

Adventures of Beekle

WINNER of the 2015 Caldecott Award

Adventures of Beekle
Title: The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend
Author/Illustrator: Dan Santat
ISBN: 9780316199988
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc., c2014
Awards: Caldecott Winner (2015)

An imaginary friend is born in a far off land, and waits to be claimed by a child. But he is not patient, and finally sets sail to find his friend. Santat’s imagery is thematic, with dark blues and grays covering the landscape of the real world upon his arrival, contrasting sharply with the hyper and frenetic colors of the land of imaginary things. The variety of the creatures’ appearances are inventive, ranging from the traditional rainbow dragon to a panda that looks like it was made through over-sized origami.

I like the concept of this Caldecott Award Winning book, but the story forces me to pause. Beekle, as the imaginary friend is later named, encounters a girl named Alice who’s drawn him before she meets him. In fact, her drawings mimic the layouts of the entire book. So is Alice writing the story that readers have in their hand? Beekle imagines his friend in the real world before being selected, and that friend looks remarkably like the boy who greets Alice. Does that mean Beekle was supposed to be the boy’s imaginary friend, even though it appears he already has a lizard looking one already? Or could we flip the whole book on its head and have the humans be the “real” imaginary creatures? The last page shows Alice and several human friends on a whale ship surrounded by imaginary creatures and described with the words “And together they did the unimaginable.” Did they take humans to the world of imaginary creatures? Not my favorite Caldecott winning title.

My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay

My Three Best Friends and Me ZulayTitle: My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay
Author: Cari Best
Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton
ISBN: 9780374388195
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, c2015.
Publication Date: January 13, 2015

A multicultural cast of characters support Zulay, an African-American student learning to use her cane for the first time. Zulay resents how conspicuous the cane makes her among her classmates. When the field day events are announced, Zulay is intent on competing in the foot race in her new pink shoes.

I love how adaptive the classroom is portrayed, with three-dimensional math diagrams and counting blocks, name tags written in Braille and written letters, and Zulay using a Brailler. Readers don’t realize in the beginning that Zulay is blind, with the first pictures showing her skipping and singing down the hallway with her friends. While probably an intentional decision by the author and illustrator showing similarities before differences, I wish it had been carried through to the front cover. Receiving assistance from her aid, Zulay doesn’t lose her independence, and her feelings are succinctly portrayed in just a few brief sentences. “I don’t like when I hear my name sticking out there by itself. […] But I don’t say the way I feel. I might stick out even more, like a car alarm in the night waking everybody up.” On my copy, the back cover contains a raised Braille alphabet for readers to experience, which is a unique and welcome addition. Use this book for discussions on disabilities or what makes people unique, especially asking what’s the same and different about the girls on the first page before and after the reading.

Last Stop on Market Street

Each month for my job, I write a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ll be expanding that idea to the blog in a new feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.

Last Stop on Market StreetTitle: Last Stop on Market Street
Author: Matt De La Pena
Illustrator: Christian Robinson
ISBN: 9780399257742
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, published by the Penguin Group, c2015.
Published: January 8, 2015

CJ and his grandmother ride the bus across town to Market Street after church. Along the way, CJ questions why they have to wait in the rain and ride the bus when other folks get to drive in cars. Nana emphasizes the positives, like listening to music and meeting new people, which helps CJ realize all the good things that surround him. Sappy, yes. Didactic, no. Nana has a no-nonsense persona, and the smiles on everyone’s faces places CJ questions at inquisitive instead of impertinent. Chain link fences and litter in the street allude to where they are, but the soup kitchen destination is mentioned only once, and the ending is a small twist showing that no matter how little you think you have, you can always give something. A nice introduction to the concept of giving back and volunteering.

Little Elliot Big City

Each month for my job, I write a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ll be expanding that idea to the blog in a new feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.

Little Elliot Big City CuratoTitle: Little Elliot Big City
Author/Illustrator: Mike Curato
ISBN: 9780805098259
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Henry Hold and Company, LLC, c2014.

Little Elliot is a little polka-dotted elephant in a world of big people. While understandable, it’s still sad when he wants a cupcake and is too short to be seen over the counter. On his way home, he makes friends with a mouse and realizes that they could help each other. The illustrations remind me of Norman Rockwell, with detailed décor, clothing, and surroundings harking back to the 1940s, including an old fridge, classic cars, and stylized dress. Debut author Curato really knows how to convey the sense of space and shading that distinguishes Elliot from the crowd. Beautiful skylines on one page give way to isolated white space on the next, varying and providing interest in the composition. Sparse word choice allows the pictures to tell this sweet story. A three book deal means more books featuring this newest elephant will soon be delighting elephant fans.

Appreciate a Dragon Day

Started by Donita K. Paul in 2004 to celebrate the release of Dragon Spell, Appreciate a Dragon Day is today, January 16th. In honor of the day, here are some picture books you can share.

Crocodile Who Didn't Like WaterTitle: The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water
Author/Illustrator: Gemma Merino
ISBN: 9780735841635
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Macmillan Children’s Books, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers LTD, c2013.

An unnamed crocodile sees all his crocodile siblings enjoying swimming, diving, and going underwater, but he doesn’t like it. He realizes why one day when a sneeze reveals what he could be good at instead. Debut author/illustrator Gemma Merino adds hints throughout the primarily blue, green, and red pictures that this crocodile is different, from the eggs being carried on the end pages to his shoes, his coloring, and finally the little nubs exposed on his back. A simple story that lets children know it’s okay to not be good at something, because they’ll inevitably be good at something else.

Oh So Brave DragonTitle: Oh So Brave Dragon
Author/Illustrator: David Kirk
ISBN: 9781250016898
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: A Feiwel and Friends book, an imprint of Macmillan, c2014.

Dragon isn’t afraid of anything, and roars to prove it. But what’s that sound? That couldn’t have been him. Oh no, something else is roaring in the forest! He seeks comfort from the unknown among his forest friends, and they work together to chase it away. Kids will laugh at the dragon’s antics, being clued in by the expressive, in-the-know yellow bird that dragon is being silly. Their dynamics with each other remind me of rational Elephant and overly-excitable Piggie by Mo Willems. Add this to a dramatic read-aloud and be prepared for kids to join in on the roaring.

Dragon's Extraordinary EggTitle: Dragon’s Extraordinary Egg
Author/Illustrator: Debi Gliori
ISBN: 9780802737595
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: first published as Dragon Loves Penguin in Great Britain in 2013 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, Published in the United States of America in October 2014 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, c2013.

Through a relatively unnecessary piece of meta-fiction, Bib asks for a bedtime story from his parents and they read the book you are reading to him. Dragons come to a land of ice and snow, wait for spring, and proceed to lay their eggs. All except one dragon, who luckily discovers an abandoned egg to care for and that hatches a penguin. While the other baby dragons tease the penguin, it’s the penguin who comes to their rescue at the end. There really isn’t any rising action or suspense, and no comeuppance for the teasing dragons during the anti-climatic ending. This book does have a place where lesson books are necessary, peppered with platitudes like “Sometimes things happen for a reason” and “Little One was given love and time, the greatest gift of all.”

Waking DragonsTitle: Waking Dragons
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Derek Anderson
ISBN: 9781416990321
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, c2012.

An unnamed knight, followed by his equally fearless pooch, is reminded by his mother’s note to wake the dragons before school. This is a big task for such a little guy, especially since there are two dragons to not just wake up but get dressed, fed, and prepared for the day. While it seems questionable that the dragons would wear pajamas but not wear clothes during the day, Anderson’s details are adorable, including bed posts shaped like castle towers, a ladder for the tiny knight to ascend to the dragons’ bed, and a fire extinguisher at the ready during teeth brushing “in case of dragon breath”. The rhymes are simplistic, although the division of verses across multiple pages (sometimes just two words on a page) necessitates pre-reading before sharing aloud in a group. Good for a dragon themed story time where you’re looking for a shorter, less complex story.

Dragon Moves InTitle: A Dragon Moves In
Author/Illustrator: Lisa Falkenstern
ISBN: 9780761459477
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, c2011.

An underwhelming story, Hedgehog and Rabbit stumble upon a dragon’s egg and take the resulting dragon home with them. When the dragon’s growth means he gets stuck in the house, the house gets destroyed in the process of getting him out, and Hedgehog, Rabbit, and Dragon move on to build him a new one. There is nothing to distinguish the characters from one another. The spreads with lots of white space just look like they are missing their background, and twice she resorts to double page spreads of flying objects, with the equivalent of old comic book words superimposed (BANG! BAM! BOOOOOOM!). Details would have helped draw in dragon fans.

Goodnight DragonsTitle: Goodnight, Dragons
Author: Judith L. Roth
Illustrator: Pascal Lemaitre
ISBN: 9781423141907
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Disney Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group, c2012.

Pastel colors yield a soothing feel to what you think is going to be a dragon hunt. But the reason the child is hunting dragons is to hug them, feed them hot chocolate, and tuck them in under warm blankets. Proving that nothing is as fierce as it seems, the bird’s eye view of the four dragons cuddled close to woodland creatures is a delight to see. Suggested as a wind-down from a busy day spent dragon taming.

AgainTitle: Again!
Author/Illustrator: Emily Gravett
ISBN: 9781442452312
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, c2011.

This book defies explanation. Cedric the dragon presents his mother with a bedtime story book, then implores her to read it again and again and again. His mother obliges and gets more and more frustrated, seemingly altering the story to fit her mood and circumstances until… well the book ends in a completed unexpected and unexplained way. There seems to be an aspect of meta-fiction, but I’m uncertain how much that applies to the whole book. This one has me scratching my head, between the ending and the colors and the narration. Maybe I’m just not the right audience.

What Goes UpTitle: What Goes Up!
Author/Illustrator: Paula Bowles
ISBN: 9781589251199
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Tiger Tales, an imprint of ME Media, LLC. c2013.

Let’s end this list on a high note. What personality! Martin is a dragon who dreams of flying but his wings are too small. His antics while attempting to get off the crowd are humorously and colorfully portrayed. The one page that gave me pause is when I don’t think it’s indicated as well as it could have been that Martin went down the hill instead of over the ledge, but it’s a small quibble. Martin’s body reminds me of an obese kangaroo with wings and a tail, and those wings by the end of the book are beautiful, subtly showcasing the transformation that Martin undergoes. The expressions convey so much feeling with just a tilt of a head and floppy ears, and his child helpers accept the presence of a dragon without question. This is a CUTE book, and everyone should become acquainted with this dear dragon.

Am I missing any of your favorites? Let me know in the comments.

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