Thursday, April 30, 2009

Plenty of picture books

Man oh man, I could just keep a whole separate blog about picture books. There are just too many to write about. Wait, that could be a problem. There are too many good picture books out there and if I only blogged about them, I would get sucked into this universe that included me ignoring my children for the sake of reading picture books and that is just wrong in so many ways. I'll just stick to the ones that really pop out to me and share them with you, okay? It's a deal. My children are breathing a sigh of relief right about now.

Of all the books in the post, this is the one that I have memorized and my children can quote. Wild About Books by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Marc Brown was clever and fun, filled with references to books my children love and spread with bright and happy drawings. Marc Brown is the author and illustrator of the Arthur empire, books and shows, but here you get to see him take his hand to a zoo filled with book-loving animals. The bookmobile driven by Molly McGrew parks outside the zoo and soon the animals discover how wonderful it is to read. The tree kangaroo loves Nancy Drew, the otter loves (wait for it) Harry Potter, and the hyenas love joke books, the llamas love dramas, etc. etc. Some of the animals weren't as gentle with the books, like when the giant termites devoured The Wizard of Oz. Pretty soon the animals decide to take a try at writing. My kids' favorite section is when the insect zoo tries their hands at haiku, with the scorpion giving each one a stinging review.

Hands down this was the best loved book of the bunch we got this time around. We have read it over and over again, have chuckled over the rhymes and the silliness, and loved the pictures of animals buried in books, oh so happily reading and enjoying it as much as we do.

When I read in at least five different places that Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury was the perfect picture book, I had to see if I would feel the same. It's told from a mother's point of view about how all little babies are born the same way all over the world, with ten little fingers and ten little toes. The babies were utterly kissable and huggable, the rhymes were sweet and lilting, and my two-year-old insisted on at least fifty readings. Perfect is a term I would hesitate to use, but doggone it, that book sure gave me warm fuzzies. Perfect for bedtime or snuggles with babes.

I read an author/illustrator profile of Polly Dunbar months ago and decided I needed to check out every single book of hers from the library. I did just that and we read all of them over and over again. I debated on doing a post just about her books, but decided that I liked best two of her books, Dog Blue and Penguin. Her illustrations are simple and the little boys in each of the books looked really similar to each other. Bertie in Dog Blue wishes he had a dog that was blue and makes do by pretending to be a dog. When he meets a darling little white dog with black spots, he wonders if he can love this dog, even if it isn't blue. Ben in Penguin is given a penguin as a gift, but is frustrated when he cannot get a word or sound out of the penguin, no matter what he says or does. It's only when something huge happens that Penguin is pulled out of silence and saves the day.

Dunbar's books are not overly wordy. In fact, I would guess that there's not even 100 words in either, but she packs it in with her simple illustrations. Her books usually have surprising endings that take you off guard and make you laugh. Penguin would probably qualify as a SDPB, but isn't quite as startling as some of those books. If you decide you like Dunbar, check out her Tilly and friends series.

Another book that was receiving a lot of buzz out there in the blogosphere was All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Nikki McClure. The illustrations are cut paper which McClure did by drawing on black paper and then cut with an x-acto knife. She describes it at the end of the book in the publishing notes and I enjoyed reading that more than reading the book itself. The book felt like a philosophical message disguised as a children's book. Each day is an opportunity to grow and learn and is a "perfect piece of time", which is all true, but I just felt like this would be something my kids would hear and go, "huh?" Sure enough, I asked my eight-year-old to read it and tell me what she thought it meant and her response was, "I have no idea." Shouldn't a book written for children be able to be understood by children? Maybe this is one of those instances where the language is nice and the rhythm of the words is appealing and comprehension comes later. I wouldn't bother to buy it, though.

Ahh, another batch of picture books. Makes me happy. If I read half as many blogs about novels as I do about picture books, I would read all the time and never get anything done. At least this way, I'm enjoying books with my kids and I get good parent points for that.


  1. You get perfect parent points, in MY book.

  2. We just found a new favorite picture book. It's called Cat by Matthew Van Fleet. We got it from the library but it is one to put on my "To Buy" list. It's really more of a board book, I guess, with pull out flaps and little gizmos to make some of the pictures move. It is a fun little book. My girls (even M) fight over it. It doesn't really have a story to it, just lots of photos of different kinds of cats, but the photos have so much personality, it almost makes me want a cat. My favorite part is the end where each cat is introduced by name.