Jenny's Library

Posts Tagged ‘picture book

cover image for Shin-chi's CanoeShin-chi’s Canoe by Nicola I. Campbell, illustrated by Kim LaFave

When Shi-shi-etko and her younger brother, Shin-chi, are sent to a residential school, they have to leave not only their parents behind, but also the names their parents gave them as well.  The siblings are sent to separate dormitories and not allowed to speak to each other, or in their native language.  But before they are forced to part, Shi-Shi-etko gives Shin-chi a small toy canoe, to remind him of the family who loves him, and that one day will all be together again.

This is not a happy book, but it is a beautiful book. A lovely, sad story about colonialization and destruction, and strength and importance of family.  All told with gorgeous text and illustrations.

cover image for Stanley the FarmerStanley the Farmer by William Bee

Stanley the Hamster spends a busy day on his farm.  With help from friends, he manages to get everything done.

(ok, for the record, unbound galleys of picture books are weird. now, moving on…)

A simple, cute story, that condenses the time needed to grow and harvest, but has bright pictures and the right amount of detail for small children.

cover image for Blue on BlueBlue on Blue by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes

Cotton clouds.
Morning light.
Blue on blue.
White on white.

A peaceful, sunny day is interrupted by rain and thunder and lightning, but before the day is done, the sun comes back to say goodbye and goodnight.

It’s a very nice book, and decent enough poem, and I love Krommes’ style (with the exception of some of the peoples’ facial expressions).

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cover image for AlwaysAlways by Emma Dodd

Whether sad or happy, naughty or nice, a small elephant is always loved.

This is hardly a unique premise, but it’s not like there’s never a demand for new books for parents to give their little ones, telling them they love them. Dodd’s illustrations are adorable and the sparkle throughout the book – ranging from a few glittering stars to a large shiny lake – help make it memorable. Which is exactly what one looks for in this kind of book.

cover image for MirrorMirror by Suzy Lee

A sad little girl finds something surprising in her reflection.

The blurb on the back of the copy I read claims that the ending to this story “provides a gentle reminder that every action has consequences.”

My friends, the twist at the end of this story is no “gentle reminder.”  It’s a bit of a mind bender actually, seeing as how [spoiler alert! – it’s unclear if it’s the original little girl or her reflection that pushes the mirror over and makes the other disappear].  All of which makes Mirror a great example of why I love Suzy Lee’s books AND why I think they are a fantastic example of speculative fiction in picture books.  (Yes, these two opinions are very related).

cover image for Is There a Dog in This Book?Is There a Dog in This Book? by Viviane Schwarz

Having established that There Are Cats in This Book (or wait, are there????), Schwarz and her feline creations must now determine if this new book also contains…a dog!

These books are so clever and funny, and do such a great job of breaking the fourth wall, that it makes me incredibly sad that they are not all still available to order for the library.

So you all remember the gag from Mo Willems award winning We Are In a Book, yes?

The part where Piggie and Gerald realize that they can make the person reading the book aloud say really funny words, like BANANA, yes?

inside pages for We Are In a Book

(And if you don’t, why haven’t you read these books yet, hmmmm?????)

Well, BJ Novak has written a book that takes that same gag and runs with it – with hilarious results, as you’d expect.

I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it looks to be a very funny and well done book.  Full of nothing but text that is sure to make primary graders giggle, the book has no pictures (that’s actually it’s name, too, The Book With No Pictures) but it does have colored and very graphic text to give the audience something to look at when it’s read aloud, and to help newer and pre-readers make that connection between the funny words and the text on the page.

inside pages for The Book With No Pictures

All well and good.  Looks like an awesome book to have around, and somewhat useful in helping newer readers conceptualize text and therefore transition from easy readers to chapter books and novels.

The problem is the way I keep seeing it framed in social media.

Rather than placing the book in the proper juvenile literature context – in terms of other books that do similar things, or in terms of how kids actually learn to read, it’s presented as making the argument that pictures are a distraction rather than one of many useful tools employed in children’s literature.  The implication is that pictures in books are too juvenile even for little kids, once they learn to read.  Which is as wrong as saying that reading aloud to kids isn’t needed once kids learn to read.  The truth is, both pictures and reading aloud are helpful in developing reading skills, especially in newer readers.  As are books with no or fewer pictures, and kids practicing reading themselves.

There’s also, of course, the undercurrent of the idea that this man has come along to show all us women (as women make up the majority of primary teachers, early learning experts, and children’s librarians) how to do it right for once.

The Book With No Pictures sounds like a wonderful book, and one I can’t wait to read aloud to my kids at the library.

It is not, however, without precedent.  And it is not the radical break from traditional children’s literature that the people commenting about the awful state of education today seem to think it is.  And it’s not going to stop me from reading books with pictures as well as words, reading books with picture but no words, telling felt stories, or trying to get my hands on some early learning kamishibai stories from Japan.

cover imafe for Ellington Was Not A StreetEllington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

it hasn’t always been this way
ellington was not a street

Once upon a time, the greats of the Harlam Renaissance were more than just a memory.  They talked and laughed and sang and played and discussed the issues and events of the day.  Presented from the point of view of a young girl whose house was a gathering place for these great men, Ellington Was Not a Street shows readers how solid and real and human these legends were.  Told in poetry and pictures, Nelson’s rich and detailed illustrations are a perfect compliment to Shange’s elegant language.

The short biographies at the end was a wonderful addition, but the book did leave me wondering where all the women were.

cover image for Thunder RoseThunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen, illustrations by Kadir Nelson

Rose was born on an auspicious night, against a backdrop of thunder and lightning. Her parents knew as early as that first night that Rose was something special, full of power and talents beyond that of ordinary children.  As she grew, so too did the tales about the amazing things Rose could do.  But when drought threatens her family’s cattle, and the survival of her frontier town, can Rose fight weather itself to bring rain and thunder back to her home?

Told in the tall tale tradition, Thunder Rose is an engaging and delightful story of a confident young heroine.  The rhythm and imagery of Nolen’s words evokes the folklore that inspired her book, and Nelson’s illustrations are as wonderful as ever, with action and expression on each page.

cover image for Nelson MandelaNelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

Rolihlahla became Nelson when he began school and his teacher refused to call him by his Xhosa name.  Although life was not fair or easy for blacks in South Africa, Nelson Mandela worked hard and eventually became a lawyer.  As the South African government enacted more and more discriminatory and unfair policies, Nelson used his talents and education to defend his people.  Despite the danger of speaking out against apartheid, Mandela became a leader, organizing rallies in support of the rights of blacks and enduring years in jail in his fight for a better South Africa.

Kadir Nelson’s illustrations never fail disappoint, but this is a particularly gorgeous book.  His style is the perfect compliment to the history being told, presenting moments of quiet reflection or vibrant energy as needed.

cover image for We Are The ShipWe Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson

The rule that barred blacks from joining the National and American leagues was never posted on a sign or written into law, but that didn’t make it any less real.  So greats like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson played instead for the Homestead Grays and other teams in the Negro League.  Adored by fans and treated like stars when they would tour in Latin America, the players in the Negro League still had to often take care to leave town before sundown when they were on tour in the US.

Full of stunning paintings and amazing stories, Kadir Nelson’s award winning book shares a part of history that is often overlooked.  While Nelson’s artwork is always the star of his books, the research and skill that went into the text is noteworthy as well.  Told in vernacular and from the point of view of an unnamed narrator who was alive to see the Negro Leagues in action, We Are the Ship‘s memorable voice appropriately centers the black experience rather than assuming a white audience.  The dynamic artwork captures a variety of experiences and moments, and suitably brings to mind both Norman Rockwell paintings and sports photography.

cover image for Coretta ScottCoretta Scott by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

When Coretta Scott was a young girl, she would walk five miles in the early morning dew just to attend school, while the white children rode the bus to theirs.  When she grew to be an adult she fought for equality, tirelessly and despite personal tragedy.

Shange’s poetry is once again elegant and evocative, while the repetition in Nelson’s always remarkable paintings this time also echo the rhythm of the text.  A part of me wanted more particulars in the poem about her work after her marriage, but the  short biography at the end of the book helped with that.

cover image for The End (Almost)The End (Almost) by Jim Benton

A blue bear named Donut has a story he wants to share with you!  But when the story is over, will Donut be ready for the book to end?

I could tell you how silly and hilarious this book is, but since it’s written and illustrated by Jim Benton – creator of Dear Dumb Diary, Frannie K. Stein, and the Happy Bunny – do you really need me to? More seriously though, Benton did a great job adapting his humor to a younger set of kids than his books usually target. It’s not quite There is a Bird on Your Head levels of funny, but it is definitely entertaining.

cover image for HippoppositesHippopposites by Janik Coat

This is, indeed, yet another board book about opposites for young children. Coat’s book is worth highlighting, however, because of it’s uniqueness and memorable design.

This particular concept book doesn’t feature a popular character or only make use of the typical pairings for such titles.  Instead, the pages inside use a (often) red hippopotamus to illustrate the difference between heavy and light, in front and behind, etc.  By using the same basic shape for each page (the red hippopotamus has a very geometric design to it) Coat’s book is able to present concepts (like “transparent”) that would be much more difficult otherwise  This is also one of those board books with the extra thick and glossy pages, and several of the shapes on the pages are raised or indented, making the pages easier and more interesting for little hands.  Not every pair works as well as it could, but it’s well done overall. Highly recommended.

 

inside pages of Hippopoositesinside pages for Hippopoositesinside pages of Hippopposites

 

cover image for Diego Rivera: His World and OursDiego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh

Born in Mexico, Diego Rivera traveled to far off places, like Madrid and Paris, to learn to paint.  But it was back home in Mexico where he made his most celebrated paintings – murals that depicted the lives of the citizens of Mexico.  Ordinary people as well as rulers, workers and warriors, all from both the world around him and from his country’s past.  If Rivera were alive today, what parts of your life do you think would be in his murals?

Diego Rivera does a wonderful job of explaining this artist’s work to children.  While it does include some biographical information in order to give context to his work, that isn’t the focus.  Instead, the book talks about Rivera’s artistic choices and the history and culture that his work brought attention to.  Tonatiuh’s own art is one of the highlight’s of the book; while clearly different from Rivera’s in style, the same influences of history and culture are evident, making it perfect for this topic.  The strong outlines, rich colors, consistent posing, and symmetry make the illustrations easy for children to read, while the depth of textures, the range of expressions, and variety of settings, actions, and clothing styles invite them to look deeper. Tonatiuh also ends the book by asking children to think about what kinds of murals Rivera might paint today, comparing and contrasting luchadores with Aztec warriors, students with factory workers, and malls with street vendors.*  In doing so he emphasizes the impact that Rivera’s work had on ordinary, everyday people, and encourages children to see their own lives through new eyes.

* Also science fiction movies with Aztec gods? I don’t know what that was about, and it came across as rather disrespectful to me, alas.

cover image for Hot Hot Roti for Dada-jiHot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia, illustrated by Ken Min

Aneel love having his grandparents around. Especially when Dada-ji tells him stories about the village he used to live in when he was a boy, and the hot, hot roti he would eat to build up his strength. How else could he wrestle water buffalo or make the earth rumble beneath him? Soon, both Aneel and Dada-ji are both hungry for some hot, hot roti.  But no one will help Aneel make any!  So he decides to make some himself.

There’s a lot to love in this book.  The writing is solid – it works well as a read-aloud and incorporates Hindu words and phrases without breaking the flow of the story or making it seem like we are getting a language lesson.  The plot is complicated for such a short book (with flashbacks and tales within tales and going back and forth between the real and the fantastic) but it’s never confusing or distracting.  The pictures match the story perfectly as well, and Min does a wonderful job of illustrating in such a way as to help younger readers distinguish between the here and now and the tall tales Aneel’s grandfather tells him.

Overall, it’s a sweet story about family, home, and spending time with loved ones.

cover image for The Christmas CoatThe Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, illustrated by Ellen Beier

Winter has arrived, and Christmas is on it’s way.  Virginia longs for a new coat to keep her warm, one that fits just right.  Especially when she has to walk through  wind and rain to get to school.  As her community prepares for holidays, Virginia does her best to think of others, but that doesn’t stop her from longing for a coat that’s just right for her.

I’m going to take the fact that this book won an American Indian Youth Literature Award as further proof of just how few books include native american children in them, and how even fewer of those do so respectfully.  This is not a bad book, and would make a good addition to any Christmas display, but it’s not really an example of great children’s literature either.  What it does do, however, is show native american children in true and realistic settings, and that’s depressingly rare.  (Debbie Reese has a review of the book at American Indians in Children’s Literature, and I strongly recommend reading that for a better understanding of what the book does well.)

cover image for Hide and Seekcover image for Wiggle

Hide and Seek by Taro Gomi

A cute and different type of “can you spot the difference?” book.  Can you spot the candles on the giraffe? Very small children may need help finding the objects listed in the rhymes, but the visual repetition and adorable animals will delight children of all ages.

Wiggle! by Taro Gomi

With a little imagination, and Gomi’s delightful illustrations, your finger can help make a cat’s tail wiggle, a chameleon’s tongue stick out, or an elephant’s trunk swing.  Not all of the actions quite work (the crocodile flashes his fang?) but all are sure to amuse.

cover image for Peekaboo!Peekaboo! by Taro Gomi

In addition to Gomi’s always wonderful illustrations, this board book has special twist. There is a small hole cut the entire way through the book and, as the cover suggests, each two page spread features a different face, with the cut-outs situated where the eyes would be.  Thus allowing the books to double as a mask – perfect for playing peekaboo with your little one.  Altogether this will make a delightful addition to any child library, or any library’s children’s collection.

cover image for Each KindnessEach Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

When a new girl joins Chloe’s class, the first thing that Chloe notices about Maya is how old her clothes are, and how her spring clothes are for the snowy winter outside.  When Maya smiles at Chloe, and asks if she can play, Chloe and her friends don’t smile back, and don’t invite Maya to join them in their games.  No matter how many times Maya asks, their answer is the same, until she simply stops asking.  But when Maya stops coming to school, Chloe wonders if she made the right choice.

My favorite thing about this book is that it allows the story to have an unhappy ending.  Maya never comes back, and Chloe never gets a chance to apologize or become friends with her.  Chloe realized her mistake far too late and now must live with her regrets.  It’s not an easy book, but it’s exactly the right kind of difficult that children need.  It’s an experience that they can relate to, and one that’s not too complicated for them to understand.  Yet at the same time it asks questions that defy easy answers.

Lewis’ illustrations, always gorgeous and detailed, are especially effective here, giving the book a quality that is both realistic and yet etherial and contemplative.

cover image for Three Observations and a DialogThree Observations and a Dialogue: Round and About SF by Sylvia Kelso

As the title suggests, this volume contains of three papers/talks on science fiction.  More specifically women and feminism and science fiction. Also included is a series of written exchanges between Kelso and Lois McMaster Bujold, who is mentioned frequently in Kelso’s essays.

I began reading this volume about a year ago, then realized that I should possibly consider waiting until I had actually read some books by Lois McMaster Bujold first!  At which point I set it aside while I did just that, only finishing it early this year.  So my memory of the first parts are a bit hazy.  What I do remember is that all of it is extremely interesting and thought-provoking, particularly when she’s discussing Bujold’s work..

Also, it’s nice it is to see two real live women respectfully arguing (also, agreeing, quite often!) in print.  It’s a good antidote for all the rivalries between women that the media tries to dredge up and/or fabricate.

cover image for Icing on the CakeIcing on the Cake by Sheryl and Carrie Berk

Fourth in the Cupcake Club series, this volume tells the story from Jenna’s point of view as she juggles the demands of being the club’s taste tester and dealing with conflict at home at the same time.  When Jenna mother announces her engagement (news that does NOT make Jenna happy) and then hires the club to make cupcakes for the reception, Jenna’s worlds collide, much to her dismay.

I don’t actually expect chapter books to be very good, or to be realistic, but I prefer them to be a little bit less farfetched than this.  Or, at least, to be farfetched for more exciting reasons than cupcakes and weddings.  And I definitely expect the interpersonal conflicts to be realistic; it’s certainly realistic that Jenna is upset that her mom is dating and then getting remarried, but it’s not well depicted here.  The same goes for the little bits of “culture” that are sprinkled in to make sure we know that Jenna is Jenna Medina and that she’s hispanic.  #WeNeedDiverseBooks, but we don’t need culture that’s layered on top like icing on cupcakes.