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Archive for the ‘Picture Book Pile’ Category

Flowers and art and dance

My latest stack of picture books happens to have some nice non-fiction in it, as well as some poetry. Since April is Poetry Month, let’s start with Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms., by Robert Paul Weston, illustrated by Misa Saburi.   When a young girl has to leave her grandmother and the joy of all she knows in Japan, she is sad. She moves to the US, and finally makes a friend. They go back to Japan to see grandmother, who is ill, and when she returns back to her new home, her friend is excited to show her Spring, and the cherry blossoms there. It is possible that grandma has died– but not absolutely certain. The book is striking, though, and is written in tankaa traditional Japanese poetry form. So it could be a good mentor text for poetry lessons; probably not the best choice for preschool storytimes.  book cover with woman and dots

If you are looking for a good art book to share, pick up Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infiinty by Sarah Suzuki, illustrated by Ellen Weinstein. This one also begins in Japan, with a girl who loves art. Her family is not so keen on her being an artist, but she is determined, and follows her dream. Kusama becomes an artist who works with dots, and becomes quite well known. The illustrations are captivating, as is her life story. This book made me want to see more of her work, and it would make a great artist study for classrooms.

Have you ever seen someone dance, and thought, “I want to be able to do that!”  Well, that’s what Amalia Hernandez thought as a child when she saw traditional dance in a village in her native Mexico. Her book cover with dancer in red skirtlifelong love of dance became a world-wide phenomenon as she created Ballet Folklorico. Read about her in Duncan Tonatiuh’s Danza! : Amalia Hernández and el Ballet Folklórico de México. Illustrated in his signature style, the story of this dance comes to life in the pages of this book.

That’s all for this time. If you want more books,  follow me on Twitter @annavalley for my #picturebookpile posts!

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Math, poetry, unreliable narrator

Cover of Grandma's Tiny HouseMy latest pile of picture books had a couple of math books in it. I’m not a big math person. I’ve been known to count on my fingers and I always use a calculator when it really matters. So when a picture book makes math seem like fun, I’m all for it.  Grandma’s Tiny House by JaNay Brown-Wood and illustrated by Priscilla Burris is one of those books.  Grandma lives n a small house, but she has a big family. Two turkeys and eight jugs of lemonade, twelve sweet potato pies… and fifteen grandchildren stuff the house to the gills. But the young child on the cover gets a grand idea– move the party to the backyard! The cartoon illustrations are filled with movement and joy.  Count the family, the food, and count on some fun when you read this.

In Sheep Won’t Sleep, by Judy Cox and illustrated by Nina Cuneo, the age-old problem of being able to fall asleep results in a young knitter counting sheep. The only problem is, well, when she starts counting, real sheep start appearing in her room. Then alpacas and llamas and yaks are Cover of Sheep Won't Sleepcounted. When her room is filled with woolly creatures, she has to find a solution. (Hint, it involves knitting). For counting by numbers, sets, patterns, and addition and subtraction all in one book, this will be fun for classrooms and for kids of knitters.

I found another one! Ants Rule, by Bob Barner, uses carpenter ants as the measuring unit. The flap copy says the book is a way to introduce “nonstandard measurement, comparison, and organizing and representing data.” There’s your fancy math terms! It is a fun little book which will have kids getting out their insect rulers.

I am a fan of poetry, and finding a really good poem written for kids is a gem of a moment. Add in fun art and a witchy theme, and I am all in. The Pomegranate Witch, by Denise Doyen and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, is loads of fun for older readers. There’s a huanted tree in town, with the best pomegranates, but it is guarded by a witch. One night a year she’s off galavanting with ghosts, so on Cover of Pomegranate WitchHalloween, her nice sister shows up and gives out treats. The book is written in a lively iambic pentameter, with a familiar rhyme scheme, and plenty of alliteration. It is a grand thing to read aloud! Don’t save it for October, though it will be a good choice to read in classrooms then.

And now, to our unreliable narrator. Start your fiction readers young and let them figure out if they should trust this girl trying to get rid of hiccups. In this import from Tara Books India & UK, Hic?,Cover of Hic? by Anushka Ravishankar and Christiane Pieper, a girl tries to rid herself of pesky hiccups through means of questionable suggestions. This could be used as a jumping-off point for talking about folklore, old-time traditions, and folk remedies. Just don’t try these cures at home! The illustrations are funny, done in nice lines and only a few colours. The book was hand-printed in soy-based inks, so also fun to see an international small-press book.

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

End of the year: Best Picture Books

wrapped gifts boxesNear 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. These lists ar perfect for gift shopping, or for placing holds. You know you’ll need a whole lot of books to get you through the school break! 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 HERE

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!

UPDATE! Here are a few more.

My friend Tess’s Mock Caldecott List

Curious City’s Besties

 

Picture Book Month 2017, Week 2

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.

 

A pretty large pile

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.

Dig in to a pile of picture books!

Bad GuyThere’s a huge pile of picture books on my desk. Here are a few of them I think you’ll enjoy. Follow me on Twitter @annavalley for #PictureBookPile; I share even more books there!

Bad Guy by Hannah Barnaby, illustrated by Mike Yamada, Simon & Schuster

Older brother thinks he is a Bad Guy.. a pirate, a mad inventor, a capturer of superheroes… until younger sister Alice finds a book at the library and foils his plans. Fun Girl Power twist at the end turns the story on its head. Digital retro-style artwork captures the sibling adventures in a bright, fun presentation which includes panels and wordless spreads.

Zebra on the go by Jill Nogales, illustrated by Lorraine Rocha, Peachtree

In this rhymed story, a zebra accidentally steps on the lion’s toes, and mayhem ensues. Lion chases zebra all over town, and when lion needs zebra’s help, it is given. The illustrations are detailed watercolor and gouache, and kids will enjoy watching for bears in tutus, finding the zebra, and spotting the antics of monkeys. Makes a fun read-aloud with the lilting text.

If you were the moon by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Jaime Kim, Millbrook Press If you were the moon

Oh, the moon just sits there in the sky doing nothing, right? Wrong! This book has simple text accompanied by a paragraph of moon facts. For instance: If you were the moon you would: “Hover near your mother” – this page has a short paragraph of how the moon was once part of Earth. Jaime Kim’s acrylic and digital paintings keep the story moving along, and will engage young readers. What a great way to add some science into your storytime.

Shawn Loves Sharks by Curtis Manley, illustrated by Tracy Subisak, Roaring Brook Press

Shawn is obsessed with sharks. He owns 127 books about sharks, watches shark videos, wears a shark costume, and chases kids at school with his chomping shark mouth. When the class is assigned predator repoShawn loves sharksrts, Shawn is quite dismayed to get seal, while the girl he’s been annoying gets shark. Nice tension is set up with this story, and the ending is satisfying. Subisak’s cartoon-inspired pencil artwork is just right for the story, with a variety of spreads featuring full-bleed, then white space, then cartoon-like panels. Shawn in his shark suit and his cat in a fish suit are delightful details to add to this story.

The Forever Garden by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Smamantha Cotterill, Schwartz & Wade

This story is loosely based on a Talmudic story of planting trees for future generations. In this one, a young girl’s neighbour, Honey, is a gardener, and the girl enjoys watching and helping. When Honey moves away, the girl wants to plant an apple tree, and does so with the help of Honey. The new family that moves in needs a bit of gardening help, and so the girl steps in.  The pen, ink, and watercolour illustrations are sunny and have a nice fluid line. Nice addition to summer garden storytimes.

 

For Teachers:

Water’s Children by  Angele Delaunois, illustrated by Gerard Frischeteau, Pajama Press

Travel the world in this book about water – each page takes us to a different country, where we learn what water means. A brief description of how water is seen by a child ends in a poetic line, such as “For me, water is a perfect crystal of snow”.  Excellent resource book for grades 1-3, perfect discussion starter for talking about one of the world’s most important resources, one that keeps us all alive, water.

My pictures after the storm by Eric Veille, Gecko Press

Grab this one for writing prompts or drawing lessons. Each spread shows a set of pictures, then the same drawings, after… a stoMy pictures after the stormrm, lunch, the hairdresser, and more. Kids will love spotting the differences, and will likely be inspired to create their own before and after.  You could also use this one to develop science skills such as observation and prediction. NOTE: There is a Santa Claus in the book (after the surprise), so if that is verboten at school, you could perhaps skip that page in class.

New pile of picture books!

If you ever want to bring a circusI’ve been away for a month, but now I’ve returned to a new pile of books. I have a few to share with you. First off, a book that would be fun to share at a class visit to the library. This is the time of year that lots of classes take field trips to the library, so pull out your best librarian voice and read If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, Don’t! The main character’s antics will have kids laughing, and the bright cartoon illustrations will keep their attention. You’ll need to practise shouting BABOOMBA! for real effect, though.

In the complete opposite direction, The Way Home in the Night is a quite, introspective title that would be good for bedtime or night themed storytimes. A young rabbit is carried home by Mother Rabbit, Way home in the nightand describes what they see as they walk along in the city. A simple premise made big by the lush illustrations. Animals baking pies, having a birthday party, and reading on the couch are completely natural in the capable hands of Miyakoshi. Look for the evident pencil strokes, the thick paper, and the use of shading to depict light and shadows in this quite, contemplative book. Pairs well with The House in the Night, the 2009 Caldecott winner.

A new Jerry Pinkney book is always cause for celebration, and the publication of The Three Billy Goats Gruff means you can get out the party balloons and streamers. You may ask, “Do we really need another version of this?” and the answer is yes. Yes we do, we need this one.  As Three Billy Goats Gruffexpected, Pinkney’s illustrations are lush, funny, nearly realistic, and full of movement. The storytelling is spot on. Be sure to look closely at the end pages and read the author’s note, though, because the storytelling doesn’t end when the last page is turned. The bookmaking here is top-notch, including the ‘secret cover”. This book would make a great classroom discussion book as well as a fun one to share in storytime. Add it to your Pinkney collection!

For a light romp into vegetarianism, add T.Veg: The Story of a Carrot-crunching Dinosaur to your next dino storytime. The bright illustrations are wild and eye-catching, the rhyme, which is occasionally forceT. Vegd, is jaunty and will make a fun read-aloud. The message, that it is ok to be different (or ok to be a vegetarian in a world of meat-eaters), can be taken on several levels. Kids may giggle at the thought of a dinosaur that likes carrot cake, and they will cheer as T. Veg saves the day.

 

favorite colorFOR TEACHERS:

A couple that teachers may want to try in classrooms include What’s Your Favorite Color? — a collection of short essays by well-known illustrators which could easily be used as a mentor text, or in art class as a model for thinking about how to use color. Pair it with What’s Your Favorite Animal? .

And last: this book from Lemony Snicket, Goldfish Ghost, might work well in upper elementary classes. Anyone who has had a goldfish as a pet will instantly recognize the floating white shape portrayed by Lisa Brown’s ink & watercolor illustration. In this book, the adventures of a goldfish whogoldfish ghost has just died will bring up discussion of friendship, looking for a place to be, and, naturally, death. The ending is a comfort, as (SPOILER ALERT!) goldfish ghost finds just the company he’s been seeking. What could be a morbid little book is handled quite well, with light touches of humour, and a feeling of quietness.  Keep your readers on their toes and pair Goldfish Ghost with this couple’s 29 myths on the Swinster pharmacy.

 

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