Friday, October 31, 2008

Picture Book Suggestions

Everybody who can will be coming to the Emerson Book Fair on November 9. Since everyone loves picture books, let me suggest a few of the best that I have read recently.

Be sure to add your favorites by posting a comment.

New Clothes for the New Year by Hyun-Joo Bae is a book that I first admired for its beautiful illustrations and simple story. It tells of a little Korean girl getting dressed for New Year celebrations. Each part of her traditional clothing explained as she puts it on. The story took on new meaning when first grader Isabel’s mother told me that Isabel had an almost identical outfit sent to her from grandparents in Korea. Alas, the outfit is too small for Isabel.

Daft Bat by Jeanne Willis is designed to help people learn to look at things from varying perspectives. Bat is hanging upside down from a tree so he sees things differently from the animals standing on the ground. It takes wise old owl to ask the right questions to convince everyone that bat is not a bit batty.

Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo is a picture book with chapters. Each chapter takes Louise on a new adventure. The illustrations give more character than one would imagine possible for even as bold and inquisitive chicken as Louise.

Little Beauty by Anthony Browne, like everything else by Browne, has its charm multiplied by his wonderful artwork. A big, burly gorilla who has been taught sign language is given a tiny, fragile kitten. There is love at first sight between them but also a stern warning from the keeper that nothing must harm the kitten. The surprise ending is perfect.

Yoko Writes Her Name by Rosemary Wells finds the little Japanese kitten of other Yoko stories facing some teasing in her American kindergarten. Yoko can read, but only in Japanese. She writes beautiful Japanese characters but struggles with the English alphabet. As with the other books, the illustrations are lush and appealing. The ending is a bit simplistic, perhaps, but will appeal to everyone who has grown to love Yoko.

A Roomful of Questions by Tracy Gallup is truly a picture book for all ages. This Ann Arbor author and artist has created intricate and intriguing black and white illustrations to pair with simple, yet often profound and complex, questions. The entire family will enjoy discussing this charming little book.

Chester and Chester’s Back by Melanie Watt offers a story written by a human and then boldly re-written (in bright red marker) by her cat. This give and take creates a couple of amusing stories on top of each other right up to the clever resolution of the argument.

Lazy Little Loafers by Susan Orlean is written in the voice of a young girl who obviously has observed babies for some time. She wonders how come babies never have to do any work. Her pondering is apt and reasonable and quite amusing to the reader. She ultimately reaches the only possible and supremely logical conclusion.

Butterflies in My Stomach and Other School Hazards by Serge Bloch is a simply wonderful and wonderfully simple way to learn about idioms. Each page accompanies a one line idiom with a simple black and white illustration and a splash of color. There is an actual story line here, too, as narrator deals with first-day-of-school jitters.

Madam President by Lane Smith deftly includes political insight and a strong dose of humor. A young girl imagines her entire life as if she were president. This means that her acts are all official acts. Her every word is a press conference. She proves to be a president that is lovable and over-bearing at the same time. Sound like any people you know?

Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival by Kirby Larson features a cat and dog who were abandoned when humans fled New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. They somehow found each other and supported each other until rescued by humans many weeks later. The story is even more moving when we realize that one of them is blind and that the story is absolutely true. Thank goodness for a happy ending.

Starlight Goes to Town by Harry Allard puts the spotlight on a chicken who dreams of movie fame. The story follows her successes and many foibles as she follows that dream. The pictures are funky fun and add much to the story.

Thump, Quack, Moo by Doreen Cronin is the latest adventure of the farm animals who typed in Click, Clack, Moo, a book that now has almost reached classic status. In this case the farmer is trying to create a super-special corn maze. Duck has other ideas. My favorite in this series is the first or last year’s Dooby, Dooby Moo. Don’t miss the “Diary” series by this same author. You will never look at a worm or a fly or a spider the same way again.

How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham has the perfect pictures for this gentle story of a little boy who finds a bird with a broken wing lying on the sidewalk. His understanding parents help him take it home and care for it. Much of the story is wordless making it even better for discussion and quiet appreciation.

John Patrick Norman McHennessy: The Boy Who Was Always Late by John Burningham offers a young man walking down "the road to learn” a variety of unexpected reasons for being late. His strict and crotchety teacher gives increasingly unreasonable punishments but the boy keeps heading back. The one day that John Patrick Norman McHennessy is not late leads to a very satisfying ending. John Burningham is a treasured author/illustrator. Look for his Mr. Gumpy’s Outing and Mr. Gumpy’s Motor Car for other pleasant adventures.

Beware of the Frog by William Bee has almost psychedelic illustrations, wild and strange characters, a sweet little old lady and her guard frog. Best of all, it has a surprise ending that will leave you chuckling. Be sure to read the cover flap to see just how interesting William Bee must be.

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