Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Truly Eclectic Picture Book Round-Up

"Variety's the very spice of life, that gives it all it's flavour"
                                                                      William Cowper

It's summertime and what better time to catch up on your reading.  Relaxing in the evening or at bedtime with a good picture book after a busy day at camp, or the beach, or doing whatever summertime activity your young readers might like to do is just the best.  Here are a bunch of picture books we have been reading over and over again, and so far, it looks like that is going to be a trend for the rest of summer here.

Flora and the Peacocks written and illustrated by Mollie Idle
Chronicle Books, 2016, 40 pages, age 3+

Flora is back in her third book and this time she is dancing with a pair of peacocks.  As first, Flora and her new friends do the fan and feather dancing together, but when one peacock begins dancing with just Flora, the other gets rather put out.  Can these three dancers find a way to dance as a trio, or will one or the other always be left out?  This is a wonderful wordless picture book about friendships. The illustrations are sparse but powerful.  Idle is able to make the reader know exactly how everyone is feeling through posture and facial expression.  The peacocks feathers are flaps that extend the story and there is a wonderful surprise pop-up ending that shows how the friendship conflict is resolved. This is a great book for kids about to go out into the world of pre-school or kindergarten where there will be new friends to be made. 

Roy's House by written Susan Goldman Rubin, 
art by Roy Lichtenstein
Chronicle Books, 2016, 40 pages, age 3+ 

I love that so many authors are writing picture books that introduce young readers to artists and musicians, especially since these topics are so often eliminated from school curriculums. Taking Lichtenstein's House 1 sculpture as her starting point, (a picture of which is hanging in the room on the front cover), Rubin has created a welcoming house tour that leads the reader through all the different rooms.  Each room is based on an iconic pop-art painting by Lichtenstein, so recognizable by the primary colors, the bold black outlines, and lots of dots and lines that he always used.  At the back of the book, there is an Author's Note that explains who Roy Lichtenstein is, and his particular style of art. There is also a list of the paintings used in the book and the museums where they can be viewed.

D is for Dress-Up: The ABC's of What We Wear
written and illustrated by Maria Carluccio
Chronicle Books, 2016, 36 pages, age 3+

The ABC genre has lots of books to its credit, and to stand out, a book needs a new way of presenting the alphabet for young readers.   In D is for Dress-Up, Maria Carluccio has found a new way using things that are worn and that a reader would be familiar with - A apron, G glasses, Z zippers.  The digitally rendered illustrations are lively and nicely diverse.  While most kids will probably already know their ABCs, this will still be a fun book for them since most of the nouns are not the usual suspects in alphabet books.

Jack's Worry written and illustrated by Sam Zuppardi
Candlewick Press, 2016, 32 pages, age 4+

Anyone who has ever suffered stage fright knows that it does indeed feel like a big black cloud following you around.  And that is exactly how Jack experiences it.  At first, looking forward to playing his trumpet in his first concert, Jack wakes up with a big worry on concert day.  And the worry just gets bigger and bigger as the morning go by, but Jack simply can't find the right words to describe what his worry is about.  Though Jack has quite a surprise in store once he does find the words he needs, will he be able to play?  

Come Home, Angus written by Patrick Downes, 
illustrated by Boris Kulikov
Orchard Books, 2016, 32 pages, age 4+

When Angus wakes up on the wrong side of the bed one morning, everything irritates him - his dog Clive, his canary Pennycake, and his cat Arthur, even his mother when she tells him to apologize.  So Angus packs his backpack, grabs his plushy gorilla and runs away.  Finding himself blocks from home, in a unfamiliar busy area of his town, Angus becomes hungry and afraid of the strangers around him.  Will mom save the day?  And will Angus apologize for his bad behavior?  The mixed-media illustrations capture Angus's moods beautifully.  The town center is scary, but not too much, same with the strangers Angus encounters.  Kids may think twice before wandering too far from home after reading about Angus's adventure.

On the Farm, At the Market written and 
illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Henry Holt, 2016, 32 pages, age 5+

When my  Kiddo was young, she loved going to the farmer's market and this would have been an ideal picture book for her, a city girl who had no idea how the fruits, vegetable and cheeses got to the market.  Readers are introduced to three different farms as they prepare for the next day's market: a vegetable farm, a mushroom farm and a dairy farm specializing in making cheese.  The second part of the book covers the farmer from early morning set up at the market to dinner at the Busy Bee Cafe made with the day's farm fresh purchases.  Along the way, there's a lot to be learned (I had not idea how mushrooms could be farmed until I read this book).  The gouache and acrylic illustrations are colorful and nicely detailed.  This is a really nice how-things-work book for young readers.

Safe in a Storm written by Stephen R. Swinburne,
illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell
Scholastic Press, 2016, 32 pages, age 3+ 

Here is a book designed to reassure kids who might be scared of stormy weather or any other kind of disaster.  Told in rhyming text, each two page spread features different animals babies being protected by an adult (mother? father? teacher?). The illustrations of the different animals are sweetly appealing despite the storms howling around them.  The book opens and closes with an adult collie and a pup giving the sense of going full circle.  I have to admit that part of the dedication through me for a loop:  " memory of the 20 Sandy Hook Elementary schoolchildren."  You may have noticed the Sandy Hook Promise link on my sidebar, dedicated to my cousin's son Daniel Barden, a loss we are all still grappling with (my post So much tragedy, so much kindness).  Thank you for remembering Sandy Hook, Stephen R. Swinburne.  

Cat in the Night written by Madeleine Dunphy,
illustrated by Joshua S. Brunet
Web of Life Books, 2016, 32 pages, age 5+

Rusty the cat may be OK with staying on young Gwen's bed until she's asleep, but then it's time to go out and prowl the neighborhood,  But Rusty instantly smells a strange cat and sets out looking for the intruder.  Stealthy stalking, Rusty discovers a lurking skunk, two raccoons in a play pool, an opossum, and a mouse, before finding the intruding cat and chasing it away, then returning to Gwen's bed in time for her to wake up.  This is an interesting cat's eye view of his world, but sensitive readers may find his mouse meal disturbing. The mixed media illustrations perfectly capture Rusty's cat-nature and slinky stalking as he hunts for the strange cat.

Lionheart written and illustrated by Richard Collingbridge
Scholastic Press, 2016, 32 pages, age 5+

All ready for bed in his lion pajamas, young Richard hears a scary sound, and tightly hugging his stuffed lion toy Lionheart, he decides to run from whatever is making the noise.  Richard runs and runs, dropping Lionheart as he goes, until he finds himself in a magical jungle, where there are all kinds of animals, but the monster is still coming.  Richard keeps running until he runs into Lionheart, who is not longer a toy.  Can Lionheart show Richard how to be brave now?  Collingbridge's beautifully painted illustrations carrying all of Richard's emotions, going from dark to light, from scary to safe, from realistic to fantasy.  This book comes with a warning that it will make you ROAR, a warning that is echoed at the end of the story.

Mother Bruce written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins
Disney Press, 2015, 48 pages, age 3+
Bruce is one grumpy bear.  He doesn't like animals, but he loves to cook, so one day, he raids a bird nest for some yummy eggs.  But when Bruce returns from getting wood for the fire to cook his eggs, what a surprise - he finds four little goslings crying Mama when they see Bruce.  No matter what he tries, Bruce cannot get rid of his goslings, they are everywhere under foot.  As they grow, Bruce points out the geese flying south, but the his geese just aren't interested.  Will Bruce find a way to get his geese south for the winter?  A very humorous story depicting what becomes an unconventional family,   The illustrations have so many witty bits in them, that they will keep young readers entertained, and most likely will generate lots of conversation about this book.  After all, who could resist teenaged geese in headphones.  

Today is the Day written by Eric Walters,
illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Tundra Press, 2015, 32 pages, age 6+

It's an exciting day for Mutanu, a young girl living in an orphanage in Kenya.  It is the day when relatives of the children visit, and that includes Mutanu's elderly grandmother.  Mutanu's parents had never registered their daughter's birth before they both passed away.  This wasn't unusual and it is what made this visiting day so special - it is the day unregistered children are given a birth day and have a party to celebrate.  Mutanu's grandmother has come all the way from her village to celebrate her granddaughter's new day and her new place in the world.  Today is the Day is similar to Walters other books about children in the Creation of Hope orphanage he runs on Kenya (see My Name is Blessing and Hope Springs).  The colorful earth-toned illustrations, done in acrylics and which echo the Kenyan countryside, are sweet without being saccharine.  

Elephant in the Dark, based on a poem by Rumi
retold by Mina Javaherbin, pictures by Eugene Yelchin
Scholastic Press, 2015, 40 pages, age 4+

I end with a beautifully illustrated retelling of a poem by Rumi.  When Ahmad, a merchant, brings a very large mysterious creature home from India, naturally all the villagers were curious and go to Ahmad's house to see it.  But Ahmad is tired and wants to sleep, so that night, one by one the villages enter Ahmad's dark barn trying to guess what the creature is.  But each one bases their guess on the one small section of the great animal that they feel.  They spend the rest of the night and early morning arguing, each insisting their guess was the correct one, and miss the beautiful elephant Merchant Ahmad leads to the river.  If only they had put all their information together, they would have see the whole truth of Ahmad's creature instead of quarreling over who was right.  Yelchin's gouache, acrylic and ink and somewhat witty illustrations really carry the feeling of ancient Persia, with bright but matted yellows, greens, and blues.

What are some of your favorite picture books this summer?


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