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Archive for the ‘picture books’ Category

A kinder, gentler world

There’s a spate of books these days that seem to point us toward kindness and making our world a better place. If today’s children take these books to heart, maybe they will change the world. Here’s a few of those books that might be useful to our young friends.

book cover with Martin Luther KingI call this one a young activist’s handbook. In Be  A King, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by James E. Ransome, children are introduced to the idea that “everybody can serve”. Based on the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr., this book shows, in very simple statements and colorful illustration, how kids can be the change.

We Are All Dots, by Giancarlo Macri and Carolina Zanotti has the subtitle “A big plan for a better world”. Not subtle in the message, it shows how we can share the world and our resources. Kids will probably get it right away. Useful for talking about differences, diversity, and compassion. book cover with boy, clouds, and birds

Another lovely choice for discussion of differences is Trampoline Boy by Nan Forler, illustrated by Marion Arbona. A boy who is obsessed with his trampoline gets teased by the neighbourhood kids. But one girl wants to know more about him, and stops to make friends. The book has lovely gouache and pencil illustrations that show us that we should look at the world through different eyes now and then. I love the design of this one– a tall skinny book, shaped for the jumping boy, and text that moves with him.

Small Things, by Mel Tregonning is a wordless picture book in graphic-novel style. A small boy is plagued by anxiety, which manifests in small pieces of him breaking off and turning into black shapes that follow him. This is certainly a book for older readers, but one that kids who have anxiety may really relate to. The boy finds comfort in talking with his sister, and finally his family, and is able to help others once he learns how to conquer his own little monsters. The art is fantastical and will pull you right into the story. There’s an afterword that discusses anxiety and the “tiny demons of worry” that are depicted in the book.

book cover with a blue horseBlue Rider by Geraldo Valerio is a worldess book that speaks volumes about our society. A girl finds a book on the ground– she is the only one who sees it, as everyone else is absorbed by their phones. When she takes it home and reads it, she is transported into a world of vibrant colour and shape, a world of nature that transcends her monotone urban landscape. The art is just beautiful– bold colours and shapes that ride across the page and into the imagination. The book is a reminder to  look beyond what is in front of us, to put down the devices, and to enjoy art, books, nature, and life. Go ahead and check this one out and do just that.

For the budding environmentalist, look for April Pulley Sayre’s lovely Thank You Earth: A love letter to our planet. Illustrated with photographs that show the beauty of nature, this love letter is a short yet notbook cover with earth and words simplistic poem. The words are as lovely as the photos. Perfect for Earth Day! There’s even a note from the author which gives kids some ideas on how they can thank the Earth. Superb.

Most kids have heard these words: Be Kind. In Pat Zietlow Miller’s new book, the main character wonders what this really means. When a classmate is laughed at for spilling her juice, our character wants to be kind, but doesn’t know exactly  how. This is a good choice for parents and teachers who want to discuss what kindness means, and how we show it to others. After all, we can remind kids to “be kind”, but how do we show that?

If you want more books,  follow me on Twitter @annavalley for my #picturebookpile posts!

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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!

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!

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!

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, Week four

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!)

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