Thursday, March 14, 2013

Children's Literature - Picture Books

Here are a few descriptions of some of the picture books I've read this semester in my children's literature class. For anyone who is looking for a new picture book to pick up for a special little one in your life.

1.      Meng, Cece. I Will Not Read This Book. Clarion Books, 2011. Illustrated by Joy Ang. (32 pages)
This book is about a boy who will do anything to avoid reading, from menial tasks to hanging upside-down from his toe as dangerous things surround him. This book was a page turner and beautifully illustrated, I liked how the illustrator used different points of view (such as looking up at the boy from underwater through a swarm of circling sharks).
2.      Cannon, Janell Verdi. Harcourt Brace & Co., 1997. (56 pages)
This book is about a young python named Verdi who tries his best not to grow up. When he is injured and has to slow down for a time, he ends up as an adult but discovers that he can be an adult who is still fun. I think this book is gorgeous: one of the prettiest picture books I’ve seen. The story is wonderful, there is an information section at the back about snakes, and the paintings which are featured on the cover and pages are stunning.
3.      Long, Ethan. Chamelia. Little, Brown, and Co., 2011. (40 pages)
Chameleons are known for blending in, but the hero in this book likes to stand out. In the end she learns how to work well with a group while retaining her unique personality and style. This is a great book to read with a creative, unconventional, stylish little girl. The illustrations are bright and colorful, patterned after Alexander Henry fabrics.
4.      Brown, Margaret Wise. The Sleepy Book. Western Publishing Co., Inc., 1948. Illustrated by Garth Williams. (48 pages)
All the different animals need their sleep in this book, whether it’s a rabbit that has swallowed a bumblebee, a hibernating bear, or a child tucked into bed listening to this book. Margaret Wise Brown uses story, poem, song, and a chant to lull the reader to sleep in this vintage book. A great variety of literary styles and classic illustrations make this book a nostalgic favorite.
5.      Joyce, William. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, 2012. (56 pages)
Books are alive in this story about a man who struggles to write a book until he goes to live with some books for a period of years. I think children would really like this book because they tend to ascribe feelings and thoughts to inanimate objects, and the personification of the books would be really fun for them. It’s a book that communicates a love of reading.
6.      Scarry, Richard. Richard Scarry’s Busiest Fire Fighters Ever! Western Publishing Co., Inc., 1993. (23 pages)
The firefighters do a lot of things to help the people of the town; but they make a few funny mistakes. However, in the end they cook a barbeque for everyone and show the difference between safe and unsafe fires. This book is a lot of fun – I think especially young boys would be attracted to all of the pictures of vehicles. It also is a nice teaching tool for talking about what firefighters do and fire safety.
7.      Rosenthal, Eileen. I Must Have Bobo! Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011. Illustrated by Marc Rosenthal. (34 pages)
A young boy loves his sock monkey, Bobo, but his cat Earl keeps stealing it! In the end all three lie down together for a nap. This book uses a really minimalist aesthetic; the pages are all cream-colored with only a small simple drawing on most pages. I found that to be really memorable, it sort of made me think of Winnie-the-Pooh. Also, the font is in all-caps which I like.
8.      Harper, Charlie. ABCs. Ammo Books, LLC, 2008. (20 pages)
This book is a simple ABC board book with gorgeous animal illustrations for each letter of the alphabet by the iconic Charlie Harper. I used to have his Big Golden Book of Biology when I was a girl, but now it’s impossible to get unless you want to spend hundreds of dollars for a collector’s edition (How I wish I could read that book again for this assignment!). However, small children’s books like this one allow a new generation to see his beautiful geometric nature paintings.
9.      Berenstain, Stan & Jan. The Berenstain Bears’ Nature Guide. Random House, 1975. (64 pages)
The Bear family goes on a long nature walk and they learn facts about animals, plants, and the earth itself. This book is humorous and informative. The illustrations are very memorable; this was a favorite of mine as a child and even after decades I could remember the cave illustration and some of the other pages. It’s an interesting mix of fiction and non-fiction.
10.  Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are. Harper Collins Publishers, 1963. (40 pages)
A wild boy in a wolf suit is sent to bed without supper when surprisingly his room transforms into a forest and a sea and an island full of monstrous “wild things”. Luckily, when he returns he finds that his supper is waiting for him and it’s still hot. This book has several pages together with illustration only and no words, what a great time for a child to imagine the story or even speak aloud what he or she thinks is happening.
11.  Mendoza, George. Need a House? Call Ms. Mouse! Grosset & Dunlap, 1981. Illustrated by Doris Susan Smith. (34 pages)
Henrietta Mouse is a home designer with unconventional ideas about how to make the perfect house for her forest animal friends. This book invites children to imagine what a perfect home is and think about the needs of others creatively. We learned in class that hope and imagination are important aspects of children’s literature, and this book helps to open the mind.
12.  Yolen, Jane. Owl Moon. Scholastic, Inc., 1987. Illustrated by John Schoenherr. (30 pages)
A father and daughter go for a late night winter walk through the quiet woods searching for an owl. This story is told in first-person from the perspective of the daughter who is never named. It is a very introspective and quiet sort of story, which ends in the almost frozen silent joy when you find what you’re looking for. It’s a simple but pretty universal emotion when you know that you’ve made a memory, and I think children can really sense that feeling of “special”.
13.  Minarik, Else Holmelund. Little Bear. Harper & Row, Publishers, 1957. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak. (63 pages)
Little Bear has adventures with his animal friends and his Mother Bear is always around to help him with food, warm clothes, and bedtime stories. This book is so heartwarming; it seems to me to be a true celebration of what we appreciate in mothers. And also what mothers appreciate about their little bears.
14.  McCloskey, Robert. Make Way for Ducklings. Viking Press, 1941. (76 pages)
A family of mallards walks through the streets of Boston to make it back to the park pond where they want to live. Policemen and pedestrians are helpful to the mother duck and her ducklings. I liked this book because it was a wholesome story about people appreciating and protecting nature. The drawings were very biologically accurate and realistic, albeit simple and colorless.
15.  Freeman, Don. Corduroy. Viking Press, 1968. (30 pages)
Corduroy is a toy bear in a department store with a lost button, but a girl falls in love with him anyway. She buys him and gives him a home, friendship, and a mending. The bright red cover of this book is very attractive and memorable. I think anyone would empathize with the characters in this story, as we all long for companionship in spite of our imperfections and we all give companionship to others who are imperfect as well.
16.  Evans, Shane W. Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom. Roaring Brook, 2011. (32 pages)
A group of runaway slaves make it through a dark and scary journey to find a new a bright life. The most striking thing about this book is how picture value was used, most of the book being drawn in deep dark blue shadow with the ending showing yellow light. The pictures and even the picture value really helped to tell the story and symbolize what this journey must have meant to the participants.
17.  Cronin, Doreen. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. Illustrated by Betsy Lewin. Atheneum, 2000. (32 pages)
The cows have a typewriter and are leaving typed demands to a very frustrated farmer. In the end, the supposed neutral message-man, the duck, steals the typewriter and the fun starts all over again as the ducks begin typing. This book was light-hearted and funny – I loved the page in which the duck was carrying the terms of truce. The repeated refrain, “Click, clack, moo” would make this very fun for a toddler who would enjoy speaking a repeated refrain along with the reader.
18.  Graham, Bob. Let’s Get a Pup! Said Kate. Candlewick, 2003. (32 pages)
A modern family decides to adopt a puppy from the pound, but an older dog makes an impression on them and they all agree to go adopt the older dog as well. The characters in this book seem very likable and spontaneous (not to mention compassionate to the older dog). I did not really care for this style of illustration – the lines and shapes seem a bit sloppy and round which for me makes everything run together (no sharp contrast, maybe) – but I did like the closing picture which was all blue except for the highlighted bed with Kate and both dogs.
19.  Slobodkina, Esphyr. Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business. HarperCollins, 1940. (40 pages)
A cap peddler naps under a tree only to wake and find that all of his caps have been stolen by monkeys! This book is so fun to read to little ones; the colors are bright, the illustrations are very crisp with clean contrast, the lines of text repeat in patterns, and there are simple concepts in the text where the reader can help to teach the young listener about counting and colors in an entertaining way. My favorite part is producing the sound that the monkeys make (“Tsz! Tsz! Tsz!”) and yelling, “You monkeys, you!” (I still yell this at my old kids when they are being naughty – haha.)
20.  Bunting, Eve. Smoky Night. Illustrated by David Diaz. Sandpiper, 1999. (36 pages)
A family survives a night of rioting and fire, as they simultaneously grow to appreciate neighbors in their community they may have misjudged beforehand. This book tackles some themes which are fairly deep: racial tension, riots, and life-threatening fires. It is done in such a way that is sensitive to the young audience of readers, while maintaining realism. I like the use of the cats as symbols for the racial tension and reconciliation the characters go through.
21.   Eastman, P.D. Are you my Mother? Beginner Books: A Division of Random House Inc., 1960. (63 pages)
A bird hatches while his mother is away and sets out on an adventure to find her, asking many creatures and objects the question: Are you my mother? There is great humor in this as the little bird falls out of the nest and makes so many mistakes. It’s heartwarming too when the reader sees him reunited with his mother in the end having discovered what a mother is after seeing so many things that a mother is not.

22.  Hyman, Trina Schart. Little Red Riding Hood. Holiday House, 1983. (26 pages)
Little Red Riding Hood ignores her mother’s advice and ends up with a dangerous friend in the woods on the way to her grandmother’s house. In this traditional folktale, we learn how it can be to “drift off the path”. Whenever I hear this story, I always think of this poem I have memorized (but I don’t know the author of it! Or where/when I read it!) which states the moral of the story as:
“Now, little girls this seems to say; watch your friends along the way,
Never trust a stranger friend; you do not know how it may end,
Keep in mind this simple truth: sweetest tongue hides sharpest tooth.”
23.  Young, Ed. Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China. Paperstar, 1989. (32 pages)
Three sisters must match wits with a crafty wolf (disguised as their grandmother) after they let it into their house. This variant of Little Red Riding Hood featured scary and dark images of the wolf inside the house, and dreamier non-crisp lines of the wolf below the tree. My favorite thing of all, though, was the wise and self-effacing dedication in the beginning of the book to wolves for lending their good names as tangible symbols for our own darkness.
24.  Aardema, Verna. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears. Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Dial, 1975. (32 pages)
An African porquoi folktale, this book gives a funny explanation for why mosquitoes buzz close to people’s ears. This book is cumulative and builds up to an entertaining conclusion as many animals make mistakes along the way like a cascade of dominoes. My favorite illustration was the lizard with sticks in his ears because his grumpy face was so expressive and the sticks were such a comical concept.
25.  Waber, Bernard. A Firefly Named Torchy. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1970. (39 pages)
Torchy is a firefly with a light that is too bright for the forest. His fellow fireflies discourage him from using his light and he’s upset until he goes to the city and learns that there are many types of light in the world. Waber uses a lot of abstract color block on black background – the color block style makes me think of Eric Carle.
26.  Gonzalez, Maya Christina. My Colors, My World, Mis Colores, Mi Mundo. Children’s Book Press, 2007. (24 pages)
A little girl starts this bilingual book by describing how the desert makes everything the same color, but then as she begins to look for beauty she finds beautiful desert colors in things like sunsets, flowers, and more. The plot structure and characterization are pretty simple, but the colors and language are very rhythmic for reading to a young one.
27.  Say, Allen. Grandfather’s Journey. Houghton Mifflin, 1993. (32 pages)
The illustrations in this story were some of the most attractive I’ve seen all semester and it has some universal themes which speak to what home means to people who have travelled. The thing I remember most from the reading, aside from the drawings, is the statement that whenever we are in one place we are homesick for the other. Also there was something about how being a parent makes you crave old things, I really resonated with that idea.
28.  Stevenson, Robert Louis. My Shadow. Adapted and illustrated by Monique Felix. Creative Editions, 2002. (32 pages)
A mouse observes and plays with its shadow, it notices that shadows don’t grow and move in the same way mice do. There was a beautiful page of yellow buttercups and no words. The poem was something a child would enjoy; it is relatable and made more fun with the fresh illustrations Felix adds.
29.  Dr. Seuss. Hop on Pop. TM & co, 1963. (64 pages)
This book does not follow a story line per se, but each page or two has rhyming fun for kids who are beginning to read simple words on their own. It’s really fun to see the silly things that the characters do like sitting on a cactus, chasing a bear out of a tent, and of course hopping on their pop. This book seems almost more like poetry than a story with all the rhyming and word play, Dr. Seuss just has a very unique style.
30.  Wolkstein, Diane. Little Mouse’s Painting. Illustrated by Maryjane Begin. Morrow Junior Books, 1992. (26 pages)
Mouse paints a landscape, but her three friends all think that the painting is of them. Mouse explains that she knows it’s just a landscape since she’s the one who painted it – but that night she begins to see her friends in the painting after all. The theme of this book is one of interpreting works of creativity, and even though that may be an abstract concept I think that children are really into doing this. They are better at interpretation than some adults give them credit for.
31.  Wadsworth, Olive A. Over in the Meadow. Illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats. Scholastic, 1971. (20 pages)
This classic counting rhyme was originally written by Wadsworth, but a number of illustrators have brought the rhyme to life with differing styles of picturebook art. I love Ezra Jack Keats’ version, which I remember from my own childhood, she uses bold collage artwork in a way which makes every animal type look unique and appealing. Out of curiosity, I looked on Amazon to see the other variations of this rhyme by other illustrators and I have to say that Keats’ version and the version illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky are the most charming to me.
32.  Klassen, Jon. This is Not My Hat. Candlewick, 2012. (40 pages)
A small fish steals a hat from a much larger fish, but as he swims away he convinces himself that it will be just fine. This caper is pure naughty fun, as the onlooker can see that the small fish is in deeper trouble than he realizes. I can imagine kids reading this and getting really excitable as they yell out warnings to the small fish or laugh as they delight in knowing that the statements small fish makes are not true.
33.  Wilkin, Eloise. Prayers for Children. Golden Inspirational, Little Gldn Tre Edition, 1999. (24 pages)
Eloise Wilkin illustrates the pages where she has quoted simple rhyming prayers which children can repeat. The illustrations are old-fashioned, sweet, and detail-oriented. I think a spiritual family would really enjoy reading these poetic prayers with their children, but it would likely be frowned upon for school reading because of its theistic content. However, I have to say I really enjoyed reading it.

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