Wednesday, November 29, 2023

November Recommendations

THE BRIDGE, written and illustrated by Eva Lindström, is currently a huge favorite of mine. A wolf stops a pig who’s driving north by relating that the bridge ahead is closed. The pig has places to be, but accompanies the wolf home to wait out the inconvenience. Coffee is served and conversation is enjoyed, until the wolf informs the pig that “the bridge should be ready now.” The wolf wishes the pig “safe travels," and the pig drives off. But where is the bridge? Text is quirky and enigmatic, as are the gouache and watercolor illustrations, and the overall effect is vaguely unsettling and absolutely wonderful.

NOTHING EVER HAPPENS ON A GRAY DAY, written and illustrated by Grant Snider (One Boy Watching), describes how a kid might spend a day when “even the rain is too bored to fall.” A girl rides her “rickety bike” across town to the “lonely seesaws” and “sad merry-go-round” of the playground. But, “beyond the fence… a winding path”… and a private adventure turn this gray day into a more colorful one, where “anything can happen!” This lovely paean to exploration, observation, and imagination sings with a lyrical text and fluid colored pencil and marker illustrations that become more vibrantly yellow, blue, and red/pink as the day comes alive.

365: HOW TO COUNT A YEAR, written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Julien Chung, is a creative look at how to measure the time it takes for Earth to make one revolution around the sun. A year can be “365 ‘Good mornings,’ 365 ‘Good nights,’ and, hopefully, 365 clean pairs of underwear.” If that seems like a lot, the days can be grouped into “52 Friday night movie popcorn spills, 52 sleep-in Saturdays, or 52 get-naked-and-SPLASH Sunday baths.” Readers will see that 52 weeks can also be 12 months, or 1 year, or 8,760 hours, or 525,600 minutes, or 31,536,000 seconds. The exuberant text is clear, informative, and humorous, and the bold, colorful digital illustrations cleverly make use of a lion for continuity. It’s a playful and fun way to learn about time.

BEING A CAT: A TAIL OF CURIOSITY, written by Maria Gianferrari and illustrated by Pete Oswald, invites readers to “be like a cat,” which includes “watching, wondering, wandering,” as well as perching, lurking, trilling, and preening, preening, preening. Cats explore, discover, and “stop and smell the flowers—nip, flip, tip!” The spare, poetic text does a nice job of getting to the heart of catness, while back matter defines felines a bit more scientifically. (A companion book, BEING A DOG, gets to the heart of dogness.)

HOW TO WRITE A POEM, written by Kwame Alexander and Deanna Nikaido and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, is a poem about writing a poem that’s inspiring and beautifully illustrated and begins “with a question, like an acorn waiting for spring.” What follows is inspirational, and also oddly, whimsically practical, such as suggesting that the poet “listen to the grass, the flowers, the trees—anything that’s friends with the sun.” Sounds, ideas, words all “twist and turn” to become a poem that’s waiting to be shared. Just named a NY Times Best Illustrated Book of 2023.

JACKIE AND THE BOOKS SHE LOVED, written by Ronnie Diamondstein and illustrated by Bats Langly, nicely showcases former First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy’s lifelong love of books, beginning with how she “learned to read at an early age” and “filled the shelves” her own small library as a child. She was also a writer, creating stories and poems, submitting essays to magazines, and taking a job as a journalist when she was an adult. She helped JFK write his award-winning book and introduced him to voters thorough her newspaper work. After JFK died, Jackie “made her mark as an editor.” This charming picture book adds welcome depth to popular perception of this iconic First Lady, who let “a love of literature [guide] her life.” Appealing illustrations and the author’s note, timeline, and bibliography further expand the view.


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