Oct 23, 2014

Laughter: Humor Hooks Readers

In the last post I said I'd soon share two very special books that deserve everyone's attention. Well,  these two titles do just that, but they aren't the two stellar title still to come. These, though, need to be returned to library circulation later today, so they bumped their way to the front of the line while the others are ones I purchased and will, I promise, be up next.
Henry Holt and Company, 2014

First up is THIS BOOK JUST ATE MY DOG!, written and illustrated by the UK's Richard Byrne. Humor carries the day in this book, borrowing the approach to breaking the fourth wall by directing readers to participate physically the problem solving. 
I wrote about Herve Tullet as the master of this approach with PRESS HERE and MIX IT UP, here. 
Beyond the slightly wacky story and play on words (the dog ate my book), the concept of a book gutter consuming everything that approaches it from left to right is an interesting way to open a discussion of concepts of book and of correct labels for the technical structures of books. That includes a discussion of the role of endpapers in predicting and enhancing picture book meaning.
While the story itself is fun, even giggle-worthy, I imagine some young children becoming distracted by several glitches in logic/story. I'm not sure what is says about me, but I was distracted by these, too. 
First, the left-to-right pattern and "gutter gobble" is broken late in the story when the narrator/Bella moves right to left to look for the lost elements. Compound that with the question of how she made it to the right spread anyway if the gutter was so all-consuming. Add to that:
How she was able to get a note OUT of the gutter, but couldn't get out herself? 
When the note came out it stayed on the LEFT spread rather than the right.
Finally, the solution was so directly linked to Tullet's interactive creations that anyone familiar with those titles will compare them (a good thing for kids to do) but might find this one a tad unimaginative. 
Until, that is, the surprise effect on the dog is seen in the final pages. 
Youngest will adore this, but don't miss the chance to use it with older readers for those meta-book discussions.

Two Lions Publishing. 2014

Next up is YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL, written by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher WeyantWith only 90+ words in total, and the full extent of vocabulary used at fewer than thirty words from the very earliest sight vocabulary lists, this recent release has managed to achieve the Seuss-like magic. It provides families and emerging readers with a "read-it-again" story that is jam-packed with humor, personality, and layers of bonus benefits. A story like this is an authentic way for kids to explore basic math concepts (big-small), language concepts (use of "not" to reverse statements, opposites, compare and contrast, descriptive attributes/adjectives), and social dynamics (debate vs. physical confrontations, communities, similarities and differences, and tendencies to socialize with "likes").
Even more impressive is this book's effective use of humor and image to provide a lovable example of text/image storytelling, circle stories, visual narratives, predictions/confirmations, and other essential book concepts.
I rarely compare any picture book to Seuss because his body of work stands apart from any other in its timeless and universal appeal. I AM (NOT) SMALL is even more impressive in approaching similar status because its writer and illustrator are not the same. In that sense the degree to which the text and concepts and images are essential to the others amazes me. 
This is a book that should be shared with every nonreader or emerging reader, but tit also has a place in classrooms and lives of much older kids. Its a keeper, and when kids wear it out, replace it. PLEASE.


If anyone is keeping score of my promises, the two titles still to come will be posted within the week. Unless I'm swallowed by a book first.

Oct 13, 2014

Miscellaneous TItles: Something for EVERYONE!

Life has not slowed down for me, which explains my intermittent postings here. 

Another reason for letting my intended posts lag a bit is the abundance of outstanding posts available  featuring absolutely fabulous picture books you really shouldn't miss. 

Here's an example from School Library Journal: FALL FUN, GREAT BOOKS FOR AUTUMN!
Twelve outstanding picture books are profiled, each celebrating the season and elements of fall traditions.  I recommend that you click over and take a look!

A third element consuming my time, in a surprisingly wonderful way, is writing. Work on a sequel for ODIN'S PROMISE is progressing fairly well, considering I never intended to write a sequel until readers insisted one is needed. Between research and drafting, (rinse/repeat), as well as preparing for presentations and programs, my prior posting schedule just can't be maintained at this time.

It's not as if I haven't been reading, though. 
GOODREADS is my site-of-choice for recording books I've read, I'll repost some of my recent picture book reviews here.


LIBRARY BOOK FOR BEAR, written by Bonnie Becker and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton, is up first.

I haven't met a Bonny Becker Bear book I didn't love, in large part because of that irresistible mouse who brings out the best in Bear despite himself. 
This one introduces Bear to the library and he once again surprises himself by enthusiastically embracing the very thing(s) he thought he disdained.








Another delight, for those who adore rhyming text, or bedtime books, or smile generators, or complex pictures that demand close examination... it's GOODNIGHT ARK, written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Jane Chapman. 

A colorful, charming approach to fear of storms, forming communities of unexpected friends, and the comfort of bedtime rhymes will make this a repeat favorite in families.





And finally, just in time for October World Series  madness, there's no better book to capture the power of baseball than STREAK: HOW JOE DiMAGGIO BECAME AMERICA'S HERO. Written by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Terry Widener, this is a nonfiction narrative text that reads like fiction. The time, place, characters, and circumstances came together in a once-in-history way that excites and amazes, even many decades later. 
At a critical moment in American history, when the world seemed doomed by inevitable war, a seemingly impossible hitting streak played out, enacted by a subdued and proud player who united Americans with hope and excitement as a nation. Selected quotations, resources cited at the back, and links to current events of the day make this ideal for older readers.

For now, this mix of brief reviews and a high quality link will have to do. I read several other picture book recent releases  in the past month and loved them enough to start my holiday shopping early. I'll soon post notes about them with fuller treatment so you can start making your shopping lists, too.

Stay tuned!

Sep 23, 2014

The Miracle and Magic of Picture Books: Herve Tullet

Chronicle Books, 2011


When PRESS HERE by Herve Tullet first appeared at a Children's Literature Conference in Europe (Bologna Book Fair? Can't quite recall), Publishers Weekly reported that crowds gathered around. Adults were waiting turns to get their hands on it for themselves. 
In the three years since that introduction to the world, PRESS HERE has remained on the New York Times Children's Bestseller list continuously. The extensive and glowing words of praise in reviews for this book, one with brief and simple text, indicate what a remarkable achievement this book is.

That's why the bar is so incredibly high for any book attempting something similar, even if its creator is the one and only Herve Tullet himself. 
Chronicle Books, September, 2014
In the case of Tullet's recent MIX IT UP  the magical interactivity is only the start of the fun. In this "app without batteries" early concepts of primary and secondary colors, blending, shades and tones set the stage for engagement, exploration, prediction, and creativity. Just as the adults who viewed PRESS HERE for the first time responded with childlike wonder, kids and adults alike will find their fingers ITCHING for paints and papers, or walls, sidewalks, or any other surface on which to "LOOK, PLAY, and MIX IT UP" on their own.

In an article in American Psychological Association titled UNRAVELING NEW MEDIA'S EFFECTS ON CHILDREN the question of screen-time-impact is considered. Unfortunately, most studies (except for those conducted by APP producers) suggest the effects are AT LEAST as negative as they are positive, especially in the youngest children. Media and access are accelerating  more rapidly than we can imagine, but changes in human developmental can't begin to keep up. 

PERSONAL SOAP BOX TIME!!!

Kids, especially the youngest, need:

human "face time" (in real life) 
language (conversation, reading aloud)
physical engagement with the environment
TIME (not speed) to process the world.


Whether you're an advocate for appropriate early childhood development or not, do yourself a favor and get this (these) book(s) for a child you know and care about. The HUGE bonus will be that you get to read them for yourself without waiting in line. I'm guessing they'll be among your child's favorites, and yours, too! 


HAVE FUN!




Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.