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Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Extra Info picture books

Maybe this is a trend– when I find 3 in one picture book pile, I deem it a trend. I’m talking about those picture books that include Extra Info at the end.  Like more about the animals, in this case. Here goes.

FiBook cover- kangaroorst up is If I Were a Kangaroo by Mylisa Larsen, illustrated by Anna Raff. In rhymed verse, animals of all sorts head off to bed, and then of course, the book ends with a child going to sleep. Not much new to this concept, but a gentle bedtime story is always appreciated, and the rhymes work pretty well. The ink-wash illustrations are gentle, too, in a night-time palette. What makes this story stand out is the Extra Info. The last few pages give young naturalists notes about how animals sleep. Some kids will just eat this stuff up.

After the animals are all asleep, we can call on Wake Up! , a poem by Helen Frost and illustrated with photographs by Rick Lieder. There’s not much text on each page, which Book cover with duckscould make this a good choice for beginner readers or toddler storytimes. The photographs are clear and engaging, close enough to see detail in each animal portrayed. And at the end, guess what? Extra Info! Just a little, just enough to intrigue a young nature lover.

Now that it is fully daytime, and the sun is out, let’s go on a beach walk with Ana and the Sea Star by R. Lynne Roelfs, illustrated by Jamie Hogan. Ana and her father find a sea star on the beach, and she wants to keep it. Her father teaches a short little lesson on ocean ecology when he describes for her book cover girl on beachwhere the sea star lives, and convinces her, and the reader, to let the star go back to the sea. Ana then describes the day to her mother, who is waiting for them at the beach house. This would be a good mentor text for description for young writers, and the Extra Info on the last two pages make it a good choice for ocean studies.

Do you have some favourite books that include this Extra Info? Tell me in the comments!

Want more books? Follow me on Twitter @annavalley for my #picturebookpile posts!

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Review: They Say Blue

They Say Blue is Jillian Tamaki’s debut picture book, and I for one welcome her with open arms into the They Say Blue book coverworld she has joined. It will be released March 13, so place holds or get one ordered now.  I was lucky enough to get a preview copy from Jenny at Abrams (thanks Jenny!)

Let’s start with the case cover. Under the dust jacket that introduces us to the main character, there’s movement and birds. Black birds and white birds that nearly make a yin-yang of flight in the sky. Peek under there to see. On to the end case cover showing birdspages, which begin with a wash of yellows and close with night-time blues. I think these end-pages give us a hint of the passage of time in the book, which could be a day or a year.

We know Tamaki is a capable artist, as her Caldecott honor This One Summer proves. This book is, at first look, so completely different from that graphic novel for older readers. But is it? In They Say Blue,  Tamaki presents a child-view, wondering about the world. So does This One Summer, written by her cousin Mariko Tamaki. The poetic language of this picture book sings and dances along with the art.  As the little girl wonders about whales and crows and growing trees, the art burrows into our hearts and sticks there.

One spread really reminds me of my favourite spreads in This One Summer, where Windy is dancing around the kitchen table. The weather has finally warmed, and the girl is shedding her winter layers, running off to play in the sunshine. It demonstrates Tamaki’s fine handle on depicting movement. There’s more white space here, allowing the words to frame the movement, to give us time to think of what sunny warmth means after winter. She also uses colour to reveal warmth. Her use of line and colour in this picture book are swoon-worthy.

open book, girl is taking her coat off

from “They Say Blue”

open book, girl is dancing around

from “This One Summer”

 

There are so many spreads in this book that I love. There’s one showing the girl sitting “pretzel style” — the verso side is orange and the recto is red: the backgrounds swirl around, matching the text which talks of stillness and movement. Another shows the girl turning into a tree. There’s a spread where a blue whale can be seen under the speckles of paint that are water. I can’t decide which one I love the most. I may love them all the most.

One thing that always makes me realize that I am reading an excellent picture book is the pacing. The text here is sheer poetry, meant to be read aloud, rolled around in the mind. The text is surrounded by art that gives it a place to rest. But it also jumps around, like a child’s mind, then comes back to settle and quiet. Each page turn takes us further in and then brings us back. It truly is a work of art, this marriage of text and illustration. Jillian Tamaki has some secret alchemy going on here, and we get to experience it in this book. I can’t wait for the world to see this one.

Want more books? Follow me on Twitter @annavalley for my #picturebookpile posts!

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.”

Picture Book Month 2016– Week One

Fsor adasPicture Book Month, I will be posting new books each week. This week I want to feature one book that I am particularly fond of.  Last year my PBM favourite, Finding Winnie, happened to win the Caldecott Award. Just saying.

The book I am loving right now is Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. First off, let’s talk about the story. This is based on the true story of a small town of Cateura, Paraguay, which is the location of the main garbage dump for the capital city of Asuncion. Garbage is the main employer of most of the town’s residents — they spend their time picking through looking for something of value to sell or recycle. As you can imagine, poverty is rampant, and life is hard. Ada, the main character, wants more than joining a gang. Her grandmother signs her up for music lessons, and when Ada and the other children arrive, the find there are only a few instruments and they all have to share. An enterprising man builds them instruments from garbage, and an orchestra is born. You may have seen this on YouTube or on social media, their story has been shared often. This book tells the story for a younger audience without talking down to them, and yet putting the social issues at the forefront.

The story is one that will grab readers of a wide age range.  The illustrations are what grabbed me. Comport uses light and shadow to visually draw our attention to important parts of the story. The text does not point this out, and so Comport’s illustration deadas1epens the story and extends the meaning for readers. In this spread, Ada notices the gangs of teens hanging out in alleys. She and her sister are in shadow as well, as though they are uncertain if their future is to be in the sunlight playing, like the middle of this spread, or like the teens in the alley.

Her use of yellow to denote light is seen throughout the book. A simple line of yellow paint shows light on a face, a drum, a violin. An she uses line to draw the eye along the page, using crisp triangles that remind us of tadas2he spotlights that later shine on the orchestra as they play onstage. This spread, of Ada playing her landfill violin, is a fine example of both light and line. You can also see the little bits of paper collage, with music notes on them. She’s used reclaimed materials in the art which remind us of the reclaimed materials used for the instruments.

Take a look at this one – you will be amazed at the art and the story. I would not be at all surprised if the Caldecott Committee is taking a look at it as well. Have you seen this book? Leave your observations in the comments.

Come back next week for more picture books!

 

 

 

Oh, Canada!

A huge stack of books is sitting on my living room floor. At least half of them are from Canadian publishers, authors, or illustrators. I bet you can guess what this post is going to focus on. So, here we go!

darkestI’ve been waiting to get my hands on The Darkest Dark, by Chris Hadfield, illustrated by the Fan Brothers (Tundra Books).  Hadfield wowed me from space with his photos and songs, and the Fan Brothers wowed me with their book The Night Gardener , so I was really looking forward to this one. I was not disappointed. It is the story of a boy who loves everything about the moon, but is afraid of the dark. His love for outer-space helps him overcome his fear, and gives hope to all young dreamers. Based on Hadfield’s own life, this story will be a hit in classrooms and storytimes. And the illustrations! Oh, those pictures will grab the reader and have them looking at every detail. It is a beauty, so don’t miss it. Smells nice, too.

From Canadian publisher Second Story Press and Plan International comes As A Boy. We know that around the world, boys are treated differently than girls. This book explores that, and gives boys solutions to helping create equality for any gender. Full of beautiful photographs, this is an interesting way to explore gender.

Two new books from Sara O’Leary is cause to celebrate. First off is You are Two, illustrated by Karen Klassen. The bright collage and paint pictures will appeal to the newly two-year olds at your toddler storytimes, and they will relate to the gentle text that we expect from O’Leary’s child-view books. I’m really excited about A Family is a Family is a Family, illustrated by Qin Leng. The title says it all– O’Leary explores so many types of families – this book is geared to be uber-inclusive. Leng’s cartoon drawings are just right for the book’s tone. family

Go really local with Doretta Groenendyk’s new book, A Harbour Seal in Halifax, from Nimbus Publishing.  Based on a true story about a lost seal pup, and filled with the cool blues and whites of a winter night, this book by Valley resident Groenendyk will be a fun one to share.

Staying with the night theme, pick up Turn on the Night by Geraldo Valerio (Groundwood Books). A wordless night-time romp bounds across the pages as a little girl’s imagination is brought to life with acrylic paint.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not the sportsy type. I will admit it here in public: I’ve never been to a hockey gamturn-nighte (but I have watched curling, so that has to count for something, eh?) So it may surprise you to see me recommend The Hockey Song, a book based on the Stompin’ Tom Connors song, illustrated by Gary Clement (Greystone Books). Everyone is playing hockey in this book – boys, girls, moms, dads, all ages, all races. The illustrations made me look again and again. kulu

Sweetest Kulu, written by Celina Kalluk and illustrated by Alexandra Neonakis (Inhabit Media) is not new — it was published in 2014. But is is new to us, and it is time we owned this lovely little ode to a newborn. Set in the Arctic, it is filled with animals and plants that bring the region right into the lap you are sharing with this book. The paintings are full of light and movement, and fit the words just right.

For Teachers:

Staying with the First Nations theme, I have two longer books to recommend for teachers. First up is The Spirit of the Sea by Rebecca Hainnu, illustrated by Hwei Lim (Inhabit Media, 2014). This is an Inuktitut story of a proud girl who becomes a sea spirit. I would recommend it for orcaolder readers, maybe grades 3-5, as the story deals with deception, cowardice, and other issues that need maturity in order to appreciate. Full of lovely watercolour illustrations, and it even includes a helpful pronunciation guide.

 

And last, but not least, is Orca Chief by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd (Harbour Publishing, 2015). This British Columbia tale is illustrated with iconic paintings that evoke aboriginal art from the northwest. The story is one that teaches respect for nature and for our food sources. These two books would be perfect for a First Nations study.

A couple of books for a busy summer

Honestly, my summer has been so busy that I’ve had very little time to look at picture books. But I found three that Istoryteller really must share with you.

First up is The Storyteller by Evan Turk, published by Atheneum. I loved Turk’s illustrations in Grandfather Gandhi, so I was really looking forward to this new book. And I am not disappointed. Turk’s illustrations, created with “water-soluble crayon, colored drawing pencils, inks, indigo, sugared green tea, a heat gun, and fire” are appropriately desert-toned, as the setting is Morocco. The story is about drought, but also about the lack of stories. Stories represent water, and lively blue swirls are visual metaphors for words and water. The striking page layouts and bold lines make this art that one can return to again and again. I love this book, and I think it would make a good choice for listeners who like a longer story and who can appreciate the lovely artwork. I am going to read it again and again.

ookoBefore I share this next book, I have a confession. I am a Book Sniffer. Yes, I love the way books smell. And some books smell better than others. Some have that old-book smell, some just have an abundance of ink. This one smells woody, like a fresh forest hidden inside the pages, which is appropriate, as it is a book about a fox named Ooko. Written by Esme Shaprio and published by Tundra, this is a story of a little fox who wants a friend. the watercolor and colored pencil illustrations create a whimsical world for Ooko. The pages are lovely and the story is just right for a young child.

And finally, there’s a soft spot in my heart for anything that Tomie DePaola illustrates, and so of course I moonsapprove of this collaboration with Patricia MacLachlan,  The Moon’s Almost Here.This book features a very simple poem just right for bedtime sharing, and DePaola’s signature illustrations beckon the reader into a twilight blue world.

Enjoy the rest of summer, and I will try to be back soon with more books!

Summer Reading

We have some new books, just in time for summer reading. Picture books are NOT just for little kids, you know. Everyone should rdollhouseead a stack of picture books now and then. Here are some suggestions.

This is my doll house by Giselle Potter;  Schwartz & Wade Books

Imagination is the key in this story. A little girl makes her house from cardboard, and uses her imagination to create the family and their daily activities. Her friend has a fancy store-bought dollhouse – quite sterile and not much fun. When the two girls play with the fancy one, they are bored, When they play with the hand-made one, stories happen. The lovely primitive-styled illustrations bring forth the imagination message. A great one to pair with Sara O’Leary’s This is Sadie.

hectorHector and Hummingbird by Nicholas John Frith;  Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., 2016.

Storywise, there’s not much new here: one friend is annoyed by another, until that friend goes away, then is missed. There’s a little communication problem going on between Hector Bear and Hummingbird. The retro-inspired illustrations, with their turquoise, pink, brown, and green palette, are fun and fresh, and reinforce a simple message that kids can learn a gentle lesson from.

Hare and Tortoise by Alison Murray;  Candlewick Press,

A fresh version of the story for a new generation of young listeners. Digital illustrations that have the feel of cut-paper collage and paint are bright and will attract kids. Slow and steady wins the race, once again.

chimps for tea
Chimpanzees for Tea by Jo Empson;  Philomel Books

Another in the “Forgetful Boy” line of stories, Vincent is sent to the store with a list, runs into a circus, and of course, forgets to bring home the things on the list. He does, however, bring home animals and other characters from the circus, so it is a big party at the end. Exuberant watercolors make this a fun one, with repeated readings guaranteed.

The Perfect Dog, by Kevin O’Malley, Crown Books for Young Readers

Youngsters hoping to get a dog will love this book—and parent will appreciate that the perfect dog—is one that is happy. A fun addition to storytimes with cartoon-like ink & digital illustrations, and lots of good vocabulary.