Tag Archives: picture books

epic kid graphic wonderfulness

bolivar-9781684150694_lgBolivar is an epic picture book and a masterful children’s graphic novel and a great book with amazing illustrations.  There are dinosaurs, mistaken identities, mean girl drama and several chapters, for Pete’s sake. (We have it in the graphic novels at the library, which is probably the best spot for it, but you still worry about it not finding all its readers.  Rest assured — I will find a way to sneak it onto display shelves as often as I can!)

After you enjoy the story, flip back through and appreciate the illustrations one more time.  They are so full of things to look at – buildings, subways, museums, strategically placed word bubbles, and maybe a reference to Raiders of the Lost Ark or Edward Hopper paintings.  With the right kid, this book would be a joy to read in one massive, fun sweep, or in smaller chunks as a bedtime story.  What dreams they would have!

Wonderful.  Just wonderful.

Bolivar by Sean Rubin

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Self-esteem in the vegetable world

rot-the-cutest-in-the-world-9781481467629_lgIt’s new year, so it might seem a good time for new things of all kinds – new ideas, new authors, that kind of thing.

I’m fairly certain, however, that the new year has never made me consider what a rotten vegetable’s derrière might look like.  So, you know, that’s interesting.

Also, how does a rotten vegetable end up in a beauty pageant with a jellyfish, a bunny, and a kitty and not other vegetables?  What kind of dystopian world have we landed in?  Potatoes vs. bunnies?  Really?

Can we let all that go?  Do we need to follow these strange social rules we set up in our heads?  Can the rotten potato be cute in his own unibrow-y way?  Can’t we all just be ourselves?  Where’s the peace and justice, man?

There’s much to consider in this one, people, but I’ll be thinking about that potato butt for a while.  Just giggling a little or maybe wondering how he’d do in a storytime with Vegetables in Underwear.

Rot: the Cutest in the World by Ben Clanton

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Sweet, light, fluffy

someonelikemeIt’s January, and it’s been really cold, although not “bomb cyclone” cold.  Just super-duper, the-car-doesn’t-even-warm-up-enough-for-heat-until-you-get-to-work cold.

And I never seem to sleep well in January, which could be for all kinds of reasons this year—politics, teenagers, old friends and illness, memories creeping out.  You might think this would make me want to read things uplifting and positive and joyful, but really, I find myself heading straight for murder mysteries and teen novels on most days.  I find Flavia de Luce, a connoisseur of poisons, especially relaxing.

But then books pop up on my desk, and I have to read them.  Someone Like Me is full of light and fond memories and drawings that are beautiful but a bit hazy.  There is not an ounce of snark or dark humor.  It’s exactly what should annoy me right now, but I found myself reading it twice.  Why?  It’s not really a story. It’s more a description of how you might become a writer, by listening and imagining and reading.  It is sweet, but it’s wonderful, too, for this brief moment.

Someone Like Me by Patricia MacLachlan and Chris Sheban

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Recipe for friendship

bear and chicken

“Chicken simmered in suspicion.”

Wow.  It’s so hard for bears who want to make friends with other animals.  Even black bears (which are mostly vegetarian, as you’ll find out if you read this book closely) can be lonely.  Sharp teeth and a talent with knives don’t really create a warm and fuzzy vibe, however, so you can understand why Chicken might be a little worried.

Then again, chickens have their own host of stereotypes to overcome—running around aimlessly, being a little skittish about everything.

Once in a while, a bear will save a chicken, warm it up by the fire, and invite it to lunch without planning to eat it.  It’s not a revolutionary concept to make something silly out of the predator and prey relationship, right?  Kids’ books have played with this idea before – Wolf’s Chicken Stew, That is Not a Good Idea, Wolfie the Bunny.  And Bear and Chicken will be a nice one to add to the stack.

Bear and Chicken by Jannie Ho

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Smartypants rabbits and persistent wolves — together again

when a wolf

Some days those pesky little bunnies seem to do nothing but foil hungry wolves.  It’s easy to see how you might just give up and become a vegetarian at some point, acquiring some new friends and taking on leadership in the neighborhood association.  As with everything, life can bring unexpected joys to your doorstep (or balcony).  Take advantage of them, wolves.  Leave the rabbits alone and grill some veggies instead.

When a Wolf is Hungry by Christine Naumann-Villemin and Kris Di Giacomo

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When your shadow goes all rogue on you

I’m sure many someones have already written many a dissertation on the way our reflections disappoint us. But has anyone thought to take a look at our shadows?  What if they buck the system, refuse to follow us around, or ask for a snack?  What if they tire of our boring behavior and decide to strike out on their own?  Will they come back? What if they decide they don’t like us?  Will we be happy or lonely?

So much to consider!  And apparently, some picture book authors and artists have been considering the same questions.  Smoot‘s got a shadow on the run — equipped with moonlight, shade and some underpants — off to wonderful adventures with other bold and daring shadows.  George and his Shadow is quirky and a bit silly, but it’s a fun combination of styles and colors.  Hortense and the Shadow has captivating art of a different kind, but the amount of detail adds to rather than distracting from the story.

No worries, kids.  Friendship between the shadows and their humans wins in the end.  And if you find yourself looking for green plaid suits in your size or imagining what your own shadow might do in its free time, do not be surprised.

Hortense and the Shadow by Natalia and Lauren O’Hara

George and his Shadow by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch

Smoot, A Rebellious Shadow by Michelle Cuevas and Sydney Smith

Note:  I wrote this blog some time ago and never quite got it posted.  In the meantime, the New York Times Book Review also noticed this trend and had an article on the same theme here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/15/books/review/smoot-smith-cuevas-shadows-kids.html





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Crocodile in a suit? I’m there.

profi crocoI have a deep and possibly strange love of Lyle the Crocodile, a character invented by Bernard Waber in the 1960s.

When I worked with kids, I came across one of the Lyle books, which reignited memories from my childhood–taking home ten books a week from my local library and thinking about the stories I would tell about Lyle or other similar animal characters.  Coincidentally, one of our project’s sponsors was named Lyle, and he, like Lyle the Crocodile, went off to an office.  So one afternoon, I asked Lyle read about Lyle with one of the afterschool groups.  It’s one of my favorite memories of that time, since it freezes both the kids and Lyle in time.  Lyle found out he had Parkinson’s a few years later and did not live to see the kids he’d worked so hard to support graduate from high school.

So Professional Crocodile was something special before I even opened it.  It’s wordless, which I love, although there’s a smattering of language on signs as the crocodile heads to work.  Along the way, he rides the subway, picks up some flowers for a co-worker, and puts away his street gear in the staff lockers.  There are all kinds of people and animals doing their things, too, with funny expressions across the emotional spectrum, charming details, and moments that show daily life in a big city.

What a treat!

Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio

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Some days you’re the worm…some days you’re the bird

worm birdThis might be a fairy tale about having perspective on who you are and where you are in your life.  Maybe it’s about appreciating the world around you and the endless possibilities in front of us.  Then again, maybe it’s just about a worm that unwisely wants to seek out something new at the exact time a bird is waiting patiently for something different to happen.

Is it a picture book?  A graphic novel?  Something to give to jaded teens headed out into the wide world?

Really, I can’t claim to have any clear idea on this one.  It seems like more than a picture book.  Would it work for older kids, teens and adults?  I think so.  Categories might make it seem like less than it could be.

All I know is that it’s been sitting on my desk for four days, because I know I love it – the illustrations are so wonderful that I have a hard time finding appropriate adjectives to match my enthusiasm – but I don’t really know what to say about it.  It’s odd.  But please seek it out and see what you think.

The Worm and the Bird by Coralie Bickford-Smith

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Dream. Do. Believe. Achieve.

hey black childRead this one, and be sure to also read the author and illustrator notes when you’re done.

Because this is a book about more than the words on the page and the really wonderful and expressive art which accompanies it.  The words reach out. The pictures draw you in.  And if you take the time to sit and think and read it again, different ideas will come at you – uncomfortable ideas for some, liberating ideas for others.  And then talk it all through with all the kids around you.

Hey Black Child  by Useni Eugene Perkins and Bryan Collier

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Some days you want to be a unicorn

thelma coverThelma’s a horse with a dream.  With just a carrot and a swerving truck full of pink paint and glitter, she will become her dream – a unicorn.  Famous, beloved, watched all the time, exhausted by the demands of fans and paparazzi… you get the picture.  Being a unicorn is not all it’s cracked up to be, and being yourself might just be the answer.  Your friends and family will still love you when the sparkle’s gone, kids.  Remember who you are.  Appreciate who you are.

Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey

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