Monday, January 25, 2016

Bonus Recommendation!

Here’s a book that’s already changed how I think about picture books:

In READING PICTURE BOOKS WITH KIDS, Megan Dowd Lambert brings us new ways to think about the visual aspect of picture books. She begins with trim size and orientation, then goes on to identify (and explain) book covers and jackets, endpapers, title pages, gutters, and more. Most interestingly, she’s got me thinking about what’s taking place beyond the art that's depicted on the page. Even though her main focus is to help librarians and teachers share picture books more successfully with kids, writers and illustrators will also be able to use this knowledge to better understand the elements in the picture books we are reading and making.

It’s a thought-provoking discussion, with plenty of art to illustrate points being made. And a pretty quick read, as well.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

January Recommendations

Read anything really good lately?

Some of my recent favorites:


SIX OF CROWS, by Leigh Bardugo, is a new story set in the same icy world as her fabulous Grisha trilogy. A motley crew of thugs and thieves from the city of Ketterdam agrees to take on the impossible task of breaking a prisoner out of the Fjerdan Ice Court. If they succeed, they’ll have enough money to make all of their dreams come true, along with saving the world from Grisha made insane (and insanely powerful) by the drug jurda parem. But success is not at all likely. Plenty of action, compelling characters, and a unique fantasy setting make this author’s work so good. (YA)

Another fantasy that’s worth reading is FAIREST, by Marissa Meyer. It’s the backstory of how Princess Levana becomes the powerful Lunar Queen who goes on to invade Earth in the novels CINDER (a cyborg Cinderella story!), SCARLET, CRESS, and the newly released WINTER. While those other novels, each based on a classic fairy tale, are hefty tomes, FAIREST is a quick and easy read, thoroughly entertaining, and the three chapters of WINTER which are included will send you racing to find that one, too. (YA)

And on a completely different note, the 2015 National Book Award winner, CHALLENGER DEEP, by Neal Shusterman, is the narrative for a fifteen year old’s descent into mental illness, his hospitalization, and fight to return to mental health. Obviously, this is no quick and easy story: readers will need to work their way through some confusing visions, interspersed with the more grounded parts of the story. There is a rich payoff, though, for readers who persevere. Shusterman’s son provided art and inspiration for this cautiously optimistic story. (YA)

Picture Books:

WAIT, by Antoinette Portis, uses only two repeated words  “hurry” and “wait,” to convey the clearly different viewpoints of its main characters. Walking across town, the boy, not surprisingly, finds any number of things worth dawdling over along the way, while the mom has important places to go. The art is strong and accomplished.

In A DOG WEARING SHOES, by Sangmi Ko, young Mini finds an adorable
dog in the middle of a crowded street. Even though the dog wears four yellow shoes and a collar, there is no owner in sight. Mini takes the dog home, but is it really hers to love? In a terrific design twist, the story begins right away, with the title page not showing up until page five. Detailed black and white drawings, with small touches of yellow and red, convey humor and sadness, love and longing, and an entire range of emotions as Mini dashes through this adventure.

THE OCTOPUPPY, by Martin McKenna, belongs to the group of picture books about a kid who gets the wrong pet (like Sparky! by Jenny Offill and Chris Appelhans). In THE OCTOPUPPY, Edgar wants a dog, but instead he gets Jarvis. Jarvis is  very clever, but he can’t do all the things that a dog can do. When Jarvis embarrasses Edgar at the dog show, it’s the last straw! The detailed art is full of sight gags and does a great job moving this humorous story along.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

January's Book of the Month--Boats for Papa

Happy New Year!

In BOATS FOR PAPA, by Jessixa Bagley, young Buckley lives with his mama in their small home at the beach. Every day they walk together on the sand, collecting treasures. Buckley begins making boats out of the driftwood he finds, and decides to send them to his missing papa, along with a note of love. Buckley knows that if the boats don’t come back, they must have managed to reach Papa. Buckley makes many boats and, while he still misses his papa, sending the boats helps to comfort him. The turning point in the story, when Buckley realizes that Mama has been finding his boats all along, is understated and charming.

The watercolor art emphasizes the closeness between Buckley and his mama, two plump, delicately-rendered beavers who stand in for humans. From the endpapers through the title pages and all of the spreads in-between, the art is thoughtfully and beautifully done. 

BOATS FOR PAPA manages to be a picture book about an “issue” that doesn’t hit readers over the head with its message. While it’s pretty clearly about the death of a parent, I think it would also provide comfort to a child whose parent needs to be gone for a long time.

If you haven’t yet seen it, consider giving BOATS FOR PAPA a try.