Posts Tagged ‘Picture Book Spotlight’
Forest Has a Song by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, illustrated by Robbin Gourley.
My name is Rilla. I am 6. Mommy read Forest Has a Song to me. I think that It Is really pretty poetry and i also think that deer are pretty too. I really love nature. And deer are one of my favorite animals and it said a lot about deer. In the picture of the fiddlehead ferns, I really like the pattern of the colors. And the fossil looks so realistic. When I grow up i want to be an illustrator like Robbin Gourley. And also, i love the Spider poem and the Dusk poem. I love the never-tangling dangling spinner part. And I love baby animals. They’re so cute and fluffy when they’re birds at least.
One of my favorites is “Farewell.” How it says “I am Forest.”
(Doggone spellcheck. She made me correct all her invented spellings—the red dots under her words tipped her off. Then again, “rhille priddy powatre” might have been hard for you to parse. Also, of course, recognizing that a word just looks wrong is a big step toward learning to spell and I can’t very well stand in the way of that progress just because the invented stuff is adorable.)
As for the book, I wholeheartedly agree with Rilla’s review. What a gorgeous, gorgeous volume. The poems sometimes wistful, sometimes whimsical, always lyrical. Beautiful for reading aloud, full of delicious internal rhyme and alliteration. And infectious: I predict a lot of original nature poetry in our future. This collection begs you to take a fresh look at the world around you and see the magic of the curled fern frond, the mushroom spore. Of course I’ve been a fan of Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s work for years.
I can’t imagine a more perfect pairing for Amy’s poems than Robbin Gourley’s art. Lush watercolors, rich and soft. I kept coming across pages I’d like prints of. Actually, this is exactly the kind of book where you want a second copy for cutting up and framing. (If you can bear to. I always think I’d like to do that, but the one time I actually bought a spare copy for this purpose—Miss Rumphius—I couldn’t, in the end, bring myself to dismantle it.)
Beanie’s favorite poem was “Forest News”—
I stop to read
the Forest News
in mud or fallen snow.
Articles are printed
by critters on the go…
—which she loved for its intriguing animal-tracks descriptions, its sense of fun, and its kinship with her favorite Robert Frost poem, “A Patch of Old Snow.” (“It is speckled with grime as if / Small print overspread it, / The news of a day I’ve forgotten — / If I ever read it,” writes Frost, perusing a somewhat more somber edition of the woodsy chronicle.)
Wonderboy’s favorite was the puffball poem, and he later wrote (in his customary stream-of-consciousness style) this string of impressions the book made on him: “dead branch warning and woodpecker too dusk burrow in a burrow chickadee sit on my hand and come fly here”…
Truly beautiful work, Amy and Robbin.
Related post: The Poem House
Bunch of books have to go back today; before they go, a quick catalog of the ones my gang loved:
Gideon by Olivier Dunrea, from the Gossie & Friends series.
Huck enjoyed this short, simple story about a gosling who isn’t quite ready to take his nap. A repeat request, usually as a stall tactic at naptime. Sweet art; pleasingly small trim size. A good library choice, since Huck, at a month shy of four (eek), is on the top end of the age range this book is likely to appeal to.
A leveled reader that enchanted all three of my youngest. The homey adventures of imaginative twin girls with very different personalities. The making-dumplings chapter is Rilla’s favorite. She’s hoping for more Ling and Ting tales.
This early reader scored especially high with my boys. Huck’s an easy mark: you had him at “Robot.” Wonderboy was amused by the way Robot upended Rabbit’s careful sleepover plans. Plus: Magnetic hands! A lost remote control! A snack of nuts and bolts! And poor, flustered Rabbit, worrying about sticking to his schedule—a character Wonderboy can very much relate to. I might snag a copy of this one to keep.
One of the few Elephant & Piggie books we don’t own, which means we wind up checking it out often.
I’m sneaking Autumn Leaves out of the house after approximately thirty-seven reads.
This is Huck’s current favorite read-aloud. I grabbed it from the library on impulse a couple of weeks ago—we’re short on fall color here, and the cover appealed to me, but I didn’t expect it to grab the three-year-old’s attention. Shows what I know. The kid is smitten. He thinks it’s called “All Dem Leaves.”
The bold images on the cover are a good foretaste of what’s inside. We’ve spent many happy moments poring over these bright leaves, matching their shapes to their names. Turns out we have a lot of sweet gum trees on our street—almost the only sparks of autumnal foliage we see here. (Mind: we’re not complaining. 70-degree weather and soaring blue skies. I’m content to satisfy my fall-color longings with children’s books.)
Rilla’s a fan of the book too—it ties in quite serendipitously to the fun we’ve been having with the Trees of England course over at Memrise. (By golly, I know my horse chestnut from my blackthorn now.)
Most of you probably live in places where the gold and scarlet has been stripped from the branches by now, in late November. (Jiminy crickets, it’s late November. I’m quaking.) This recommendation may come a bit late; we’ll all be in Holly and Ivy mode soon. But if you’re not ready to let go of autumn, you might enjoy a ramble through these colorful woods.
I’ve fallen behind with the reading logs again—it’s inevitable that I will, from time to time—but I can report that my Rilla-read-aloud time has taken a leap forward into snuggling in with long, text-heavy books of the sort she wasn’t terribly interested in a month or two ago. Brambly Hedge, crammed with all those detailed, pore-overable drawings, hooked her on tales of small, industrious, quaintly dressed animals with British accents (she was already a Potter fan); we’re now well into Tumtum and Nutmeg, and she hasn’t seemed to notice or mind that there are far fewer illustrations, and only black-and-white, at that. There are bustling, clever mice and I get to unleash my best Monty Python impressions on the dialogue. (Tumtum is Michael Palin, of course, and who else is Baron Toymouse but Cleese’s Black Night? My Nutmeg, on the other hand, seems to want to be the cook from the current Upstairs, Downstairs series.)
As for picture books, recent hits with my younger three include:
Rachel Fister has a blister, and everyone around her has a cure. Silly, satisfying rhyming text; Rilla in particular enjoys this kind of linguistic fun.
Good New, Bad News by Jeff Mack.
This one’s a great pick for the 3-6-year-old set, all ye aunties and uncles and godparents out there. A rabbit and a mouse and a picnic gone bad. No, good! No, bad! No, good…The kind of bright, bold, funny drawings my littles are especially drawn to, and unpredictable twists within a highly predictable (ergo comfortable and appealing to preschoolers) structure.
It’s a Tiger! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by the wonderful Jeremy Tankard.
You know how much we love Tankard’s work. Gorgeous coloring in this book and so much humor and excitement in the drawings. I love that heavy outline on the tiger; Jeremy was an inspired choice to illustrate David LaRochelle’s delightful tale. It’s a rollicking jungle adventure of the best kind, with a suitably ferocious tiger lurking in all sorts of unexpected places, and a kind of “We’re going on a bear hunt” vibe to the text. Huck loves it, and not just because you get to shout “IT’S A TIGER! RUN!” every few pages.
Amy MacDonald, brambly hedge, David LaRochelle, Emily Bearn, Jeff Mack, jeremy tankard, Marjorie Priceman, Picture Book Spotlight, picture books, rillabooks, Tumtum and Nutmeg
My Name Is Elizabeth by Annika Dunklee, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe.
A frequent request from Miss Rilla these days. The young heroine’s righteous indignation—her friends and neighbors will keep calling her nicknames—speaks to my five-year-old’s little-sister heart. There’s a hint of imperious Eloise in Elizabeth’s not-entirely-polite exasperation with the folks who insist on greeting her as Liz, Lizzy, Betsy, or Beth—and we all know how much small girls adore Eloise.
At last Elizabeth can bear it no longer: her full name bursts out, a bellowed plea to the neighborhood. The message gets through. No more Lizzy, no more Beth. Elizabeth she is, and Elizabeth she shall be. Well—except to a certain baby brother who can’t quite wrap his mouth around that grand name. But that’s all right. Like my Rilla, who belly-chuckles at this part of the book every time, Elizabeth makes allowances for little brothers. That’s my favorite part of the book, too, an affectionate twist that leaves you with a grin.
I haven’t road-tested this one on my boys yet. Wonderboy’s an Elephant-and-Piggie man all the way, and Huck, well, he’s still busy counting the trucks and trains in The Little House.
A Dog Is a Dog by Stephen Shaskan, published by Chronicle Books.
The cover of this delightful picture book grabbed my kids’ attention immediately with its bright orange and turquoise palette; the big grinning doggy face made them giggle.
Those giggles never stopped: this is art that goes straight to a little kid’s funny bone.
In whimsical rhymes and big, comical images, we learn that a dog is a dog no matter what it’s doing—”Whether it suns on the beach, or glides on the ice.” “A dog is a dog, if it’s skinny or fat. A dog is a dog, unless it’s a…CAT!”
Would you believe that grinning doggy unzips his dog suit, and there’s a plump ginger cat inside? This is the point when Rilla’s giggles turned to shrieks of laughter. But the surprises don’t stop there…It seems a cat is a cat unless it’s a…
Oh, no, I’m not telling. But we all howled. I did not see that coming. Nor the next twist, nor the next! One of the things I love about this book is that it manages the near-impossible feat of employing the sort of rhythmic pattern that young children delight in, while simultaneously making unpredictable turns. And this while delivering art that bubbles over with humor and energy. I’ve become a huge Stephen Shaskan fan in one fell swoop. You remember last year when I went nuts over Jeremy Tankard and Tom Lichtenheld? Yeah, Shaskan is on that list. I’m officially (and totally on the spur of the moment) dubbing it the Mo Willems List: storyteller-illustrators whose art has won my heart with its bold black outlines and lively antics and hilarious facial expressions (often on creatures you wouldn’t think would be terribly expressive, like a dump truck or a pigeon or a woolly mammoth or…the thing inside Shaskan’s cat suit). [I've recently encountered another artist who belongs on this list, but I'm not allowed to tell you his name yet. And that, my friends, is what you might call a hint.]
Anyway, my dears…A Dog Is a Dog gets high marks from Wonderboy, Rilla, and Huck (not to mention their daddy and some amused big sisters). Enjoy.
Review copy received from publisher, but you know I don’t write about them unless they’re a hit with my own personal focus group.
P.S. Did you know November is Picture Book Month?
Jumpy Jack and Googily by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall. Henry Holt & Co.
What a charmer this picture book is. Scores very high on the giggle-meter with my gang. Jumpy Jack is a snail of the most nervous sort. As lovably neurotic anthropo-morphizations go, Jack’s right up there with Piglet, friend of Pooh. Fortunately, Jumpy Jack has his best friend Googily to put his mind to rest when the monster-worries creep in. Jack fears monsters are lurking at every turn—monsters with big round eyes and sharp teeth and lolling tongues and possibly even creepy bowler hats. Googily—he’s the amiable fellow in blue you see there—is a little puzzled by Jack’s boogieman complex, but he’s always happy to help soothe his pal’s fears by taking a peek into the corners Jack’s sure are hiding fearsome monsters.
In the end, we find that Googily has a fear of his own—and apparently with better reason than Jumpy Jack! The surprise ending elicited belly laughs from my seven- and two-year-olds.
I really love this sweet and simple picture book. It’s fresh and funny, and the art is enchanting, and the text holds up well to numerous re-readings, which is a quality I very much watch for in a young picture book. If I’m going to have to read it aloud five times a day, it’s got to be readable.
But beyond that, I appreciate the way the plot plays with the idea that people can create monsters in their minds, terrifying specters composed of stereotypes, while being oblivious to the fact that the generalizations they are throwing around so carelessly might very well include real people they know and love.
Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Hyperion.
We pulled this from our Cybils to-be-read stack yesterday because of the title, and I wish I’d read it a little sooner so I could have shared it with you in time for you to hit the library before Election Day. Grace for President is an appealing story about young Grace’s presidential race—in which votes are counted Electoral College-style. The book offers a simple and easy-to-understand look at the Electoral College in action.
The race begins when Grace learns, to her astonishment, that there has never been a “girl president.” Her classmates snicker when she declares that she shall be the first, but her teacher takes her seriously and suggests a campaign for class president. Two classes, actually: her opponent is a charismatic boy from the room next door.
Their campaign is lively and, paralleling real life, somewhat all-consuming for a time. As voting day approaches, it becomes clear that the boys have an edge on the electoral map, and Grace’s rival, Thomas, seems assured of victory…but could it be that the young man representing Wyoming is a swing state?
All three of my big girls enjoyed the book—Jane and Rose for its look at how the Electoral College works, Beanie for the fun story and the charming art, especially the surprise addition to Mount Rushmore at the end.
Is that not the best title ever? I originally posted this picture book review in February, 2005. I’m reposting it now because this book is no longer in print, and I want you to grab it if you ever spot it in a library sale. (I believe you can still get it through the author’s website, too, and there’s even a version on CD which includes other stories and music. Note to self: remember this at Christmastime.)
It’s Not My Turn to Look for Grandma by April Halprin Wayland, illustrated by George Booth. George Booth!
Dawn was just cracking over the hills. Ma was splitting kindling on the back porch.
“Woolie!” she called out. “Where in the hickory stick is Grandma?”
“Dunno,” said Woolie. “It’s not my turn to look for Grandma!”
I’ve been reading this book to my kids for eight or nine eleven or twelve years, and it still makes us all giggle. April Halprin Wayland (author of another of our family favorites, the quiet and lovely To Rabbittown), depicts this quirky backwoods family with wit and warmth, and George Booth’s illustrations are a hoot. Ma, a hardworking backwoods mother, needs Grandma’s help and keeps sending the kids to fetch her—but Grandma’s too busy sliding down the haystack with her dirty old dog, or doing something similarly outlandish. She’s never too busy, however, for a banjo band…
The rollicking text is a joy to read aloud. The writing is fresh and lively, and the characters are pure originals—especially that dirty old dog and a pair of disreputable porcupines. George Booth’s art, which would be hilarious even without the words, captures them perfectly. If I had to narrow down our picture book collection to ten titles (horrific thought!), this one would make the cut for its never-fail ability to invoke the belly-laughs I love.