Picture books! Lots of picture books! I’m reading far too many middle-grade novels right now and really need to settle in and finish something.
I just posted on Full of Beans a couple of weeks ago. It was in the stack to go back to the library, but then I got to thinking about how good The Fourteenth Goldfish was as a read-aloud and how much my son would love the whole idea of the Diaper Gang and a kid who makes some bad choices for good reasons. We rarely do historical fiction as a read-aloud because even though my son seems to like it, he also seems to find it very hard to follow. But Full of Beans turned out to be a great fit for him–and every bit as delightful to read aloud as I thought it would be.
Lucy is a sweet story of three characters–a stray dog, a lonely girl, and her struggling juggler father–who turn out to need each other very much. At 144 pages, it’s a very long picture book, but Cecil needs that much space to meet the particular pacing needs of this story and to show how the different plots and characters connect. Both the art and the storyline reminded me of a silent film. There is a timeless quality to the book.
If Mo Willems’s Elephant & Piggie series had to come to an end, at least we have his new Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! series. Dan Santat writes and illustrates the inaugural story, and it’s a good one. Four friends are tasked with the seemingly impossible: figuring out how to share three cookies equally. Fractions eventually come to the rescue, and there is much humor (including a couple of laugh-out-loud moments for me) along the way.
Mog the Forgetful Cat was possibly my most-loved book when I was a child. I still have my copy, and it’s clear that it was very well read: not all of the pages are still intact, and the ones that are there have lots of crayon drawings and writings added to them. I decided to give myself a treat this week and buy myself a new copy. And it’s just such a good book–brilliant use of repetition, every word so well chosen. And Kerr’s illustrations are a delight.
Cynthia Rylant’s Little Penguins is a fine celebration of winter for the youngest readers. Worth a look for Christian Robinson’s art.
I brought a giant pile of Caldecotts to my Children’s Lit class this week, and as I was spreading them out for students to browse, I realized I’d never actually read Sleep Like a Tiger. And it’s one gorgeous bedtime book. Mary Logue’s writing is strong and moody, and Pamela Zagarenski’s illustrations are breathtaking. I loved how gentle and accepting the parents are here and how they honor their daughter by truly listening to her and engaging her in thoughtful conversation about bedtime routines.
The Journey is a moving and powerful story about refugees who must flee their home and find a safer place to live. This is a book that works on so many levels. It’s simple enough to share with even very young readers, but it’s also working with metaphor in ways that will resonate with more mature readers. It conveys terror without scaring the reader; it’s deeply sad but never bleak. There is both compassion and hope at its core. It’s a book with great potential to build empathy and understanding. And Sanna’s art is so beautiful.
I was so disappointed with Tiger and Badger. Marie-Louise Gay’s artwork is charming, of course, but Emily Jenkins’s text is poorly paced and jarringly written. The relationship between the main characters felt mean rather than curmudgeonly.
Clever story about a little boy who longs to be a lion and signs up for lessons to learn how. He’s not very successful–his roars barely register, his fierce look is not remotely fierce. But in the end, he performs exceptionally well when he really needs to. I couldn’t help but love that final image. (Hint: it involves lots of cats!)
Donovan’s Big Day captures wedding day excitement and anticipation as Donovan waits for his big moment as ring-bearer and worries about getting everything right. The whole story builds up to a big twist and reveal: it’s Donovan’s two moms who are getting married. Although I know the story is meant to normalize gay marriage, using the same-sex marriage as a surprise plot twist at the end undermined that message for me. I see real value in sharing this story with children, but I wish that same-sex marriage had been normalized throughout the story. Still, a sweet and celebratory title.
The Princess and the Warrior is another strong title from Duncan Tonatiuh. Here, he reworks a Mexican legend that tells how two volcanoes came to be created. The text is rich, and the artwork is powerful.
My new favorite metafictional picture book! Duck spills a big spoiler on the front cover: Bear is never going to show up. But that’s okay, because Duck is pretty sure this book is supposed to be about ducks anyway. The end papers are a necessary part of the story, so this is not a book you want to read in a library binding. (There must be some way to protect books without making it impossible for readers to get the full effect of the many picture books that incorporate book covers and end papers into their stories.)