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Archive for the ‘picture books’ Category

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.”

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From Dinosaurs to French Fries

Rodzilla by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Dan Santat, Margaret K. McElderry Books rodzilla

Look out! Rodzilla is crashing through the town, shooting stink rays, dripping slime, and hurling… and the only ones who can save the world are… his parents! Toddler Rod(zilla) in his playroom becomes a wild, smash-up ride through a cartoon-like world in the capable hands of Dan Santat. A fun read aloud, especially if you have a child who is currently obsessed with bodily functions. Santat pulls of a couple of wild full-page spreads that make the reader feel like they’ve stepped into a Saturday morning show. Hilarious, irreverent, and sure to be a hit.

There might be lobsters by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Laurel Molk, Candlewick Press

There are lots of things to be scared of at the beach, especially if you are a small dog. There are big waves, beach balls, big stairs, loud people, and of course, there might be lobsters. The fears of a small dog may sound familiar to an anxious child, and how Sukie the dog overcomes those fears can be reassuring. Ink & watercolour illustrations set the tone, and looking for those ubiquitous lobsters is fun!

Blue Ethel by Jennifer Black Reinhardt, Margaet Ferguson Books

Ethel, a cat, is old. And fat. She was black, and she was white, and very set in her ways. One day, when Ethel rolls on her favourite bit of sidewalk, she discovers that she has become BLUE (due to a child’s chalk drawings). She feels sad about this until a younger friend rolls in the art and becomes pink. The delightful ink & watercolour illustrations show us a personable cat in a colourful, detailed world. Reinhardt uses line and colour expertly to depictblue ethel mood, and the pacing of this story is spot-on. If I were a member of the Caldecott committee, I’d be keeping this in my look-again pile, top shelf.

Jack and the Beanstalk and the French Fries by Mark Teague, Orchard Books/Scholastic

As you might expect, this Jack trades his cow for beans. And his mother cooks the beans. So many beans. Breaded beans, bean dip, bean soup, pickled beans. The whole town is eating beans and they are tired of it. When Jack goes up to see what is at the top of the stalk, he finds a Giant who is really tired of beans as well. When they decide what they truly crave is french fries, it is Mrs. Giant who comes up with the solution, which is to plant a vegetable garden that includes potatoes.

I like the resolution here, perhaps because it has a tiny bit of a feminist leaning (Jack and Giant are lazy, Mother & Mrs. Giant are making the best of the situation). The illustrations are pure Teague: fun, cartoonish realism, and loads of colour. Pair it with Kate and the Beanstalk for a couple of viewpoints on this old story.

Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale by Gloria Kester, illustrated by Sue Eastland, Albert Whitman and Company

Carrying a basket of sour cream and applesauce into the woods to Bubbe Basha’s house, Little Ruthie (in her red coat and boots) meets up with a wolf. Trying to be brave as the Maccabees, she outwits the wolf. He heads to Bubbe’s house, finds she’s not home, and he dresses in one of her outfits. Ruthie arrives, is not fooled, and when the wolf determines to eat her, she serves him a big pile of latkes. No one dies in this new version of Little Red Riding Hood, which makes a great addition to any collection. The inclusion of the story of the Maccabees is seamless, making this an easy one to recommend to anyone who wants to know more about the Hanukkah holiday.  Colorful illustrations and a wolf who tries to be ferocious but ends up being fairly silly make this an easy one for younger listeners.

what eats that

For teachers:

What Eats That? By Ryan Jacobson, photographs by Stan Tekiela, AdventureKeen Publications   (seen as review copy from publisher) ISBN 978-1591937494

Explore the food chain in this easy to read  (and understand) book, filled with clear photographs. Starting with the sun, we page through the food chain– flowers “eat” the sun, but what eats flowers? Each page has a hint of what is to come, with picture-bubbles featuring the links in the food chain. An explanation of food chains, some suggested activities, and extra information on each animal shown add to the usefulness of this book. It is very readable, and you might learn something new. I did!  Watch for other books by this publisher for easy nonfiction – such as Whose Butt? 

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.

 

From the Picture Book Pile…

A big pile of books to share this time! Here we go…

Dad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko, illustrated by Dan Santat.Dad and the Dinosaur

Nicholas, afraid of the dark, has a little toy dinosaur that gives him strength. He sees his dad as brave and bigger than life. When the dino goes missing, his confidence is gone, until Dad helps him find it and lets him know it is ok to have the dino as a helper. Santat’s signature illustrations fit just right with the story, and looking for a dinosaur on every page will be a fun task for young readers. Delightful choice for Father’s Day!

We’re all wonders by R.J. Palacio

What does it mean to be different? Here’s a book that celebrates the ordinary and the extra-ordinary. We ARE all wonders, indeed. A simple-to-read book that asks the reader to look with kindness, and see what they can see. Nice pairing with Happy Dreamer (see below).

I lost my sock! : a matching mystery / by P.J. Roberts

Need a quick book with rhymes and matching for your next storytime? This one is not terribly original, but it is fun, and storytime kids will likely be in on the joke well before Fox is.

I am (not) Scared by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant

These bear-like creatures are back (You are (not) Small) and this time, they show us differing perspectives on what is scary, and what is not. A fun choice for storytime or for opening a discussion on what is scary.

Up!: How FamiliUp! es Around the World Carry Their Little Ones / by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Ashley Barton

Upsy-daisy baby! How do babies get carried? In a sling, in a parka, on a hip, in a pack – diverse families from around the world show the young reader that all babies get carried by those who love and care for them. Cut-paper collage illustration fit the tone nicely. Good for toddler storytimes and one-on-one exploration.

Places to Be by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Renata Liwska  Places to be

This book has such wondrous vocabulary, in a simple setting: beastly, vibrant, brave, sneaky, acrobatic – and the illustrations, made with “brush and ink and digital hocus-pocus” take those words to a new level. Two little bear siblings take us through a range of activities, emotions, and places. A winner for quiet storytimes, bedtime, or sharing in a small setting.

Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds

Do you know a child who always seems to have their head in the clouds? Who sees things in their own way? Who daydreams, creates, and plays? This book helps to remind us that there are many kids of dreamers, and there’s nothing wrong with dreaming. Reynolds’ cartoon-style drawings help the dreamers leap off the page, and soar to their own tunes. Full of great vocabulary and plenty to dream about.

People of the SeaFor Teachers:

The People of the Sea by Donald Uluadluak, illustrated by Mike Motz

This story, based on an Inuit legend and told by an Inuit storyteller, is a great addition to First Nations studies. The story feels very much like a storyteller sitting right there with you telling the tale, and the illustrations help to put the story in the setting. There is plenty of extra information about the teller and the book includes a pronunciation guide, making this an excellent mentor text for writing a personal tale.

 

 

 

 

 

From the Picture Book Pile…

I raided the New Book cart and found a few treasures. If you want even more, follow me on Twitter @annavalley and search the #PictureBookPile hashtag. Here we go…..

Nanette's BaguetteNanette’s baguette / words and pictures by Mo Willems  Hyperion Books, 2016

Rhymes abound in this silly story of a wee froggie sent to fetch bread for the evening meal. Nanette forgets the baguette when she meets her friends (one of them has a clarinet).  Once she actually gets the bread, another mishap befalls the hunk of gluten. In expectedly humorous Mo Willems style, all is well in the end. Or is it? Perfect for learning new vocabulary and reinforcing phonological awareness.

Chirri & Chirra / Kaya Doi ; translated from the Japanese by Yuki Kaneko. Enchanted Lion Books, 2016

Twin girls travel through the woods, stopping for tea, lunch, and finally the forest hotel. With soft coloured pencil drawings that are reminiscent of  Virginia Lee Burton’s “The Little House”, this book is a fun romp with woodland creatures.

Tidy / Emily Gravett. Two Hoots, 2016Chirri & chirra

Nothing wrong with tidying up now and then, but when things get out of hand, this over-zealous cleaning badger has to rethink his obsession. Beautifully designed and illustrated, this one is a real charmer.

Daydreaming / Mark Tatulli. Roaring Brook Press, 2016.

Henry is a daydreamer. His fantasy life is rich, diving into boxes of cereal and sliding into the alphabet. A fun twist at the end of this book makes it all worth the wait. As this is mostly wordless, may not be a first choice for group storytimes, but makes a fine book to share one-on-one.

Have yTidyou seen my trumpet? / written by Michael Escoffier ; illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo. Enchanted Lion Books, 2016 

Fun word play and a fine little surprise at the end, combined with whimsical illustrations make this a great choice. Teachers will enjoy getting kids to look closely at the pages, which reveal the word clues in red ink. For example, “Who is playing Frisbee?” shows a bee riding on a Frisbee. (The word bee is in red.) There’s plenty of humour and great vocabulary for young readers.

Town is by the Sea

cover- town is by the seaTown is by the Sea  by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith, Groundwood Books, 2017

Occasionally, I have to devote a spot to just one book. I was lucky to get an early copy of this one, and as I consider a new Sydney Smith book an occasion, here we go!

Open the sparkling ocean cover to coal-black end pages, and right away, you feel the dichotomy of this book. Town is by the Sea is at once a love-song and a heartbreaker. See that pensive young boy on the cover? He will be your guide through a day in a coal-mining town circa 1950’s. He will take you on a journey from dawn to sunset, in town and into the mines, via Schwartz’ nearly-pastoral poetry. And yet— how can life be idealized when your father goes under the sea each day to dig coal? And when you know you will grow up to do the same? So “Town” is not idealized, yet to this young boy, it is ideal, it is real, “that’s the way it goes”.

The book tugs at the heartstrings. Many a Nova Scotian will recognize this town, even if they did not grow up in coal country. They will recognize the small-town feel, the sparkle of the ocean, the slow pace of life, the neighbourly characters, the deep sense of family. Though it has a feel of nostalgia, children will be able to appreciate the story, and it will be a welcome addition to classrooms for historical fiction study. With the re-opening of the Donkin Mine in Cape Breton, this book is the perfect way to open discussions bound to arise around safety and environmental issues. The timing of the book’s release is spot-on. boy at window with curtain

Sydney Smith’s art brings it all home with a thick ink line and an amazing ability to transform watercolour into light. Somehow he is able to make a curtain flap in the breeze, flowers bend as a bicycle rides by, and the on the next page, take us deep underground in a coal tunnel. The bright sun of the town above is in stark contrast to the coal-mining pages, which are created by filling a double spread nearly all the way with dark swathes of grey and black. At the bottom of the page, Smith gives us a small line of air, a seam for the miners to hunch over and light with their headlamps. Just when you cannot take this oppressive dark, you turn the page and go back to ample white space, to boys running, swinging, looking out at the sea. And then, back underground.

coal mineThe pacing of this book is impeccable. The design includes full-bleed pages, panels, blocks of time passing, and wordless spreads. Both the text and the art breathe with life, and in sync with one another. The book is out on April 1, 2017  — book launch scheduled for March 25 in Halifax! Highly recommended.