…storytime, books, apps, and ideas

Cover of DazzleNear the end of the year, the Lists start popping up. I’ve made an attempt to gather the picture book lists here. Some are from magazines, newspapers, and from librarians I trust. Here we go, in no particular order:

Just in! Tune in to the Fuse 8 blog for 31 days, 31 Lists, starting with Board Books

Publisher’s Weekly lists their favourites HERE

Here’s the Best of 2017 list from School Library Journal

Here’s Brian Wilson’s 25 Best Picture Books of 2017. Brian is a librarian in Illinois, and was on the Caldecott committee last year.

The New York Public Library lists their top 100 books for kids HERECover of Lines

Kirkus magazine’s Best Picture Books of 2017

The New York Times’ Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2017

This is MY list of the best Picture Books of 2017

Here’s the TD Children’s Book Awards finalists for 2017

Chicago Public Library has their favourite Picture Books List

I’m sure there are more lists! If you have a favourite list, add it in the comments! And get out there and enjoy some picture books. As you can see, there are a whole lot of really good ones to choose from!

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still stuck book coverIt has been a busy week, so I only have time for a quick post this time. I want to make sure that everyone has a look at this silly book, which gives me (and those I’ve shared it with) the giggles. The book is Still Stuck, by Shinsuke Yoshitake. It is a simple enough story, about a little boy who insists that he can undress himself. But he gets stuck. And he stays stuck, for a long time. He figures out how he can drink juice (straw), and pet the cat (sit the animal in the stuck shirt). But the real giggle-fest for me is when he decides to get unstuck, and take his pants off first. Now he’s really stuck and must accept Mom’s help. The image of that little kid on the floor, stuck in mid-disrobe, is just hilarious.

The simple line drawings, in cartoon-style, say so much about a child. Parents will laugh as much as the kids they share this book with. And a little laughter is always welcome, right?

Come back next week, when I’ll be putting together some lists of lists. (Yes, it is LIST time, folks!)

It is time tCover of I am Bato look at the silly and the absurd. As an adult, I do love an absurd picture book. But you know what? Kids tend to love them as well. Not all kids, mind you, but I can usually count on these books getting a deep giggle from someone in the crowd. I’ve found a few new ones this year that fit the bill.

Perhaps my favourite absurd book so far is I am Bat by Morag Hood. A bat, portrayed in lino-cut prints and bright ink, loves cherries. Do NOT mess with his cherries. Or is it pears this bat most loves? Hard to tell, but the simplicity of the art and text are just right for me. And you may know a toddler or two who have similar characteristics as Bat. Or a few adults?Book cover: I love you like a pig

It is not difficult to find a bit of the absurd in a Mac Barnett book. This may be the sweetest absurd book of the year. I Love you Like a Pig is a silly, playful book that may leave you wondering what it is like to be a lucky as a window, but that’s ok. Because sometimes, being silly is just what we need. Playful cartoon illustrations fit the mood .

Two gorillas dare each other. The biggest dare results in the demise of one gorilla. I dare you to eat a tree. I dare you to read this book to a group of grade 2 kids. Funny, absurd, and that’s all I’m going to say. Read it and see. Oh Cover: I dare youyes, the title is I dare you, by Reece Wykes.

Two more books, both just plain silly, might fit into this category. Give me back my Book is a fun little jaunt with two um, things. A rabbit? A monster of some sort? They fight over a book but make up when a bookworm steals the book. Book lovers will have fun with this one. The other is There’s a Monster in Your Book — this one is what I call an “app book” — if this were an app, the book characters really would move when you tip the book to the left or wiggle it. But since it is paper, your imagination has to do the moving. Still, these are fun to play with in storytime. Just be sure the kids you share it with are old enough to know the monster doesn’t REALLY leave the book and hide in their room….

 

This week, I’m sharing a handful of comforting books. I’ve noticed a trend– books that promote peace, diversity, and comfort. The news of the world is not always pretty, and there’s a spate of books that can be shared with young children as a sort of bilbiotherapy. ALSC has made a list, Books of Comfort for Children, that has even more suggestions.

First up, there’s Salam Alaikum by Harris J. The subtitle, “A Message of Peace” is telling. The text is based on a song by a young British Muslim artist who is using music to spread the word of peace. Bright digital art accompanies the rhymed story.

I am Peace by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds is like a primer for mindfulness. Meant as a book to help teach children how to calm, it could also be a good reminder for adults. Reynolds’ line art is simple and calm, matching the tone of the text perfectly.

In your Hands, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Brian Pinkney is a mother’s love song to her son. It is part prayer that he will be safe, and part instructional life lessons. This book will be sure to generate conversation, especially when the end page of “Black lives matter, Your life matters” is read. Useful for classroom discussion and one-on-one sharing. The idea that the world is “in your hands” is seen in the fluid india ink and watercolour illustrations.

In What’s the Difference?, by Doyin Richards.  Friendship, diversity, and acceptance are portrayed through clear, engaging photographs. The book’s subtitle, “Being Different is Amazing” is fitting: the book leads us through simple questions about differences and repeats the refrain, What’s the difference? A good choice to share in classrooms or at home.

Even though it was written by the woman who ran for president of the US, It Takes a Village avoids becoming political. It is a comforting message to children and adults, that ideas can be shared, work can be shared, and together we can build something wonderful for everyone. Marla Frazee’s fine images show us a diverse world where kids and adults make a difference, together.

 

Happy Picture Book Month! Throughout the month of November AVRL will celebrate picture books.  We’ve got two Picture Book Paloozas scheduled, in Middleton and in Hantsport, so come to one of those to see a huge pile of great books. Our branches will be displaying picture books all month long. Our Book Club 150 featured storyteller is Sydney Smith, and you can enter to win a copy of his fabulous book, Town is by the Sea. Each week, I will publish a new post on this blog featuring some of my favourite new picture books. Let’s start off with a little piece of brilliance from Dan Santat.

cover of After the FallSantat’s latest book, After the Fall, is about a famous egg who fell off a wall. As we can expect, Mr. Santat takes it further, and twists the story into a tale of resilience, transformation, and getting back up to face your fears or anxieties.

First off, this a a masterful bit of bookmaking. On the case cover, it is all white space with Humpty falling, his binoculars tumbling along. The opening end pages show the egg sitting on the wall, in bright sunlight. The back end pages show the same scene, at dusk, with a bird flying away. The end pages give the whole story a big hug, and give the observant reader a clue to the story. Look here for the Asian coin standing atop a building: in fact, there are several images throughout the book that give a nod to Mr. Santat’s heritage. There are hidden, dare I say “Easter Eggs” for those who know more about Santat, who has been very open about sharing the story of how he wrote this book for his wife, who suffered from extreme anxiety.

Next, the Wall. Climbing up the wall are vines which remind me of the shapes oHumput Dumpty egg laying on the floorf mountains in Chinese watercolour scrolls. The wall is dark, and near the bottom we see those binoculars, hurtling down after our hero. Turn the page, and there he is, strolling out of Kings County Hospital. The king’s men! I love these little details.

One of my favourite pages is next — the image of our egg, lying on the floor below his bed, because he is too mentally broken to climb up the ladder to his bunk. His eyes guide the viewer up to that height he dare not climb, to the comfort he is afraid to seek. It is a heartbreaking scene and gives us a huge hint to the rest of the story.

Humpty Egg stands by boxes of cerealThe next page is just brilliant. Standing in front of a wall of cereal, Humpty is still frightened of heights— and the best cereals, of course, are up a ladder. This image does a few things: it shows us how his life is hampered by his fears. It shows us the bright glory of sugar on top, fading to grey at the bottom: visual metaphor for taking the dull, unwanted thing because the bright feels unattainable. And it shows us the clever sense of humour that Santat puts in for careful readers.

The book visually guides us through the story: page after page is expertly designed to show the eye where to go, to show isolation, to show triumph. In the image below, the big diagonal lines cut the page and show us what is important. Look for these sweeping diagonals throughout the book – they imply motion and tension and move the story along. flying paper airplane

As you can see, I am quite taken with this book. I would venture to say that it might even be a better book than Santat’s Caldecott winner, The Adventures of Beekle: the Unimaginary Friend. And if you read this blog or know me, you’ll know I have a big love for that book. So I’m going out on a limb, or shall I say, up a ladder, and saying this is my choice for the Caldecott this year. Now, I’ve not looked at the books the way the committee has, and I have not seen hundreds of books in the way they have. But so far, this is my choice. You heard it here, folks.

See you back here next week for more picture books!

Ok #PictureBookPile fans, here we go!Book Cover: In the middle of the fall

In the Middle of the Fall by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek , Greenwillow Books

I always think of Kevin Henkes as an illustrator first, but then I remind myself that he is a fine writer as well.  His fiction books, such as Junonia  and Bird Lake Moon are well worth reading. So when I see a picture book written by Henkes and illustrated by someone else, my first thought is Why? This companion to When Spring Comes, also illustrated by Dronzek, makes perfect sense. The illustrations work so well, pacing the spare text and framing the season. Henkes has a way with words, and Dronzek has a way with illustrating those words.

Lines by Suzy Lee, Chronicle Books

A lone skater slides across the page, in straight, then loopy, then thick lines. She flies into the air, she twirls. She is perfection, until she falls, erasing her lines, and the artist crumples the page. But the page gets smoothed back out, and we realize that perfection is not necessary, that there are more kinds of lines, and Book cover: Linessometimes, the lines are more fun with others. A beautiful wordless book rendered in pencil, with signature Suzy Lee style.

Me and you and the red canoe by Jean E. Pendziwol, pictures by Phil . Groundwood Press

A poetic love-song to a morning on the lake is illustrated with paintings that feel like old postcards. Everything about this book shouts sentimental, yet it comes off feeling fresh. This would make a good mentor text for describing an event, and a lovely gift book that belongs in every cabin in Canada.Book cover: I wait

nipehon: I wait by Caitlin Dale Nicholson with Leona Morin Neilson, Groundwood Press

Three generations are ready to harvest herbs for winter tea. In Cree (two forms) and English, the simple text tells a story of tradition, working together, and respect. Illustrated with textured paintings, this is a book to share with many generations. Back matter includes a recipe for yarrow tea.

 On a magical do-nothing day by Beatrice Alemagna, Harper

A child accompanies Mom to a cabin n the forest. It is raining, there’s nothing to do other than play with an electronic alien game. Finally, Mom has had enough and insists the child go outside. When the game falls into the water, something occurs: a transformation. Now the child begins to be interested in the world around. Snails, mushrooms, and mud become interesting. The transformation is symbolic as well, it seems as though the child matures as nature becomes noticed. Mom looks prettier, and the child sees Dad in the mirror. Sometimes the child seems to look like a girl, sometimes like a boy, which adds another level to the story. The illustrations, done in dark colors, are detailed and lovely. A touch of the brightest orange draws our eye continually to the child. This is a beauty of a book, and it smells nice, too.Book cover: Smoot

Smoot: A rebellious shadow by Michelle Cuevas, illustrated by Sydney Smith. Tundra

Smoot the Shadow is really tired of his boring boy. He wants adventures. And so he removes himself and off he sets. Through Smith’s expert pen, ink, and watercolour illustrations, we see Smoot exploring and unwittingly encouraging other Shadow adventures, all the while being followed by the boy he belongs to. This is a nice story, and would make an interesting discussion book for older readers. Sydney Smith tuns it into a beautiful adventure: make sure you take a look at that central spread of Smoot racing across a wordless page of abstract watercolour flowers. Just fantastic.

Starring Carmen! By Anika Denise, illustrated by Lorena Alvarez Gomez. Abrams

Carmen is a one-girl sensation, what some might call “a handful”. She puts on plays, and her little brother gets to be… a rock. Or maybe a lamp. But when the family tires of Carmen’s always-on antics, she gets everyone involved and discovers her true calling- writing and directing. Illustrated in eye-catching colors, kids will be drawn to Carmen.

When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Matt James. Tundra.

A group of kids wait for the moon to be full so they can go play hockey on the pond in the woods. The ice is magic, the moon gives them light. This slice of life gives us a reason to love winter, to remember the beauty of it. Rich acrylic and India ink on board illustrBook cover: Where Oliver Fitsation moves the story along through light and shadow.

Where Oliver Fits by Cale Atkinson,Tundra.

A little puzzle piece can’t figure out where he fits. He tries several things, including changing himself to try to fit in. This does not work so well. Finally, he finds where he fits, which is just right for the story: he fits in the place where many different areas come together. Such a simple story with a big message that kids will get without being knocked over the head with a heavy lesson. The bright acrylic-looking art was actually created with puzzle pieces, glue, space unicorns, and Photoshop. Kids will love it.

For teachers

Tukuk Tundra Tale by Robin Currie, illustrated by Phyllis Saroff. Arbordale Publishing

Teachers looking for an easy book to share when teaching about the Arctic should make note of this one. With a simple story, plenty of information about Arctic weather, animals, and geology can be learned. There’s also Inuit vocabulary, and a short glossary at the end will help define any unfamiliar terms. “Animal Fun Facts” wrap up this useful book.

Picture This

book cover for "Picture This"Generally, I share a big pile of picture books, and that will be coming soon, I promise. But I want to talk about one of the best books ever written for people who love picture books. It is Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang.

In the book, Molly Bang explains how artists create tension and emotion in visual images. Not only does she explain it, she SHOWS it by using simple construction paper shapes. For instance, a little red triangle represents Little Red Riding Hood. Thin black rectangles represent the trees. A big black triangle is the wolf. I was lucky enough to take a workshop from Molly Bang based on this book. It is just brilliant.

What I love about this book is that it works on so many levels. Teachers could use this book for art classes, and someone who is working on making a picture book could use it to get a better understanding of their images. Bang takes us step-by-step through images and demonstrates how a picture works. When I was on the Caldecott Committee, I looked at this book over and over. I kept a copy on my desk, to refer to. I looked at picture books with a deeper understanding because of this book.

One reason I am bringing this book to your attention is that there’s a revised and expanded 25th anniversary edition, which is great because the original edition was smaller and had been lost in the shuffle of older books on the shelf. This new edition contains the added bonus of Molly Bang using these principles of how pictures work by showing us some images from her book, When Sophie Gets Angry- Very, very angry.

So: teachers, grab this book for your next art class, because there are even some exercises at the end to lead you through the concepts of using construction paper to show feelings in pictures. Artists and art critics, grab this book and refresh your ideas on how pictures work. It is, as Brian Selznick says on the cover of the book, “The Strunk and White of visual literacy.”