On the blog:
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed as you set up your schedule for #NCTE17, check out my tips for sorting through sessions.
Terri Libenson’s Invisible Emmie is the story of Emmie, an artistic middle-school girl who’s got a best friend and a big crush she’s scared to reveal and a mom who asks her a bunch of questions she doesn’t want to answer. The story is told partly through Emmie’s writing and partly through her drawings. The story was a bit slow, though it picked up considerably through the last third or so. I thought it needed one more thematic element or plot thread. But this book will likely appeal to many readers, and the illustrations are charming.
I confess that I wasn’t sure about Welcome when I first started reading it. Who is the audience for this book? The board book size and feel, the graphics and colors, and the mirrors made it seem like it really was a book for babies. But the text is very much for adults–very meta and often really hilarious. And then I got to the page celebrating all the wondrous things the new baby will get to experience in the world, and cats are very high on the list, and that was the moment I fell in love with this book. I still don’t entirely understand what to do with it beyond give it to your cool friends at their baby shower. But it’s pretty awesome.
Whobert, who fancies himself a sharp detective, thinks he has discovered a most shocking crime: Perry the possum is dead, and it’s up to Whobert to find the murderer. Much silliness ensues, and young readers will enjoy figuring out whodunit from the liberal clues the perpetrator left behind. (And never fear: possum is only playing dead.)
Thyra Heder’s illustrations in The Bear Report are so fantastic–sometimes I forgot to read the words because I was so dazzled by the pictures. But the writing is really good too. It’s the story of a little girl who sneaks away from her boring homework report on polar bears to watch TV–only to have the polar bear she’s supposed to be writing about show up in her living room and usher her off to the North Pole to study bears in person. Needless to say, having an adventure with the bear himself makes the assignment so much more interesting.
Neil Gaiman’s Cinnamon probably isn’t every reader’s cup of tea, but it’s certainly mine. It reminds me of certain picture books of my childhood–books that took children seriously as readers, books that weren’t afraid of irony or words or imaginative leaps or poetic license. Books, in short, that weren’t afraid to have tigers eat irritating people. There are sure to be some entertaining Amazon one-star reviews. I do have some questions about cultural appropriation and want to think through that a little more carefully. Divya Srinivasan’s illustrations are magnificent.
Exquisitely illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, The Hawk of the Castle mixes verse and informational text to provide readers with an understanding of medieval falconry. The verse confused me: most spreads contain a four-line verse, but only the first two lines rhyme (and it’s mostly predictable rhyme: be, see; eat, feet). But then, verse confuses me in most instances. The informational text is written in tiny italics, which may make it hard to read for its target audience. There is good back matter–an informative author’s note, a list of sources, and an index!
Ah, picture book perfection. I thought The Antlered Ship would be one to love mostly for the illustrations by The Fan Brothers, and they are sublime. But Dashka Slater’s story surprised me with its depth and resonance. I love Marco, the questioning fox, and the way his questions are answered mostly through being shared with others and being the source of wonder for all.