Nov 18, 2015

More Worthy Cybils Contenders: Post-Paris Attack Reflections

If you haven't yet seen the brief video showing how a father in Paris talks to his young son about his fears, please watch here. It only takes minutes, but will stay with you forever. 

Then there's this, by Antoine Leiris, a young husband/father's open letter to the terrorists. Even if you've heard or read it, I believe it's worth taking time to read again (here). 
Every word is powerful, but since this is a picture book blog, I'll excerpt this portion from his Facebook post:
"We are just two, my son and me, but we are stronger than all the armies in the world. I don't have any more time to devote to you. I have to join Melvil who is waking up from his nap. He is barely 17-months-old. He will eat his meals as usual, and then we are going to play as usual, and for his whole life this little boy will threaten you by being happy and free. Because no, you will not have his hatred either."
In both cases the focus of the parent is intently on his child, aware in those moments that joy and peace are not words on holiday greeting cards but are experiences to be recognized, savored, and fully appreciated.
Among the fiction picture book titles I've been reading are two that may remind us all of that truth, not just in times of crisis, but every day of our lives.

Roaring Book Press (A Neal Porter Book) June, 2015
Current events shaped my choice of titles to share in this post, but the value of each of these is timeless. BOATS FOR PAPA is written and illustrated by Jessixa Bagley. 
"Buckley and his Mama live in a cozy cabin by the ocean. He loves to carve boats out of the driftwood he finds on the beach nearby. 
He makes:

big boats
long boats
short boats and
tall boats,

each one more beautiful than the last, and sends them out to sea. If they don't come back, he knows they've found their way to his papa, whom he misses very much. 
In this stunning debut, author/illustrator Jessixa Bagley explores the subtle and deep emotions associated with loss in a heartwarming tale that is sure to stay with the reader long after the book is closed."

"The colors, scenes, and language of this book allow a complex and difficult story involving grief and longing to seep gently into our minds and hearts. These animal characters (beavers) become instantly humanized, not because they are wearing clothes, but because what they experience is universally recognizable. Even the youngest will understand and appreciate this story, but it offers a rich menu of emotions and responses to readers of any age.
It stands up well as "just" a picture book, but elevates itself into so much more than that."

Grounded Books, March, 2015

Take a careful look (or a dozen) at SIDEWALK FLOWERS, written by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Sydney Smith. Seriously, spend some time with this one. it is so much more than either Goodreads or I can describe, which should be true of any outstanding picture book, I suppose.
Here is the Goodreads synopsis:
"In this wordless picture book, a little girl collects wildflowers while her distracted father pays her little attention. Each flower becomes a gift, and whether the gift is noticed or ignored, both giver and recipient are transformed by their encounter. "Written" by award-winning poet JonArno Lawson and brought to life by illustrator Sydney Smith, Sidewalk Flowers is an ode to the importance of small things, small people, and small gestures."

And here are a few comments I added
"This wordless book uses color, detail, subtle facial and body expressions in black/white illustrations with the spot color contrast to lead readers through an emotionally complex story. It is accessible to the very young but offers content to spark potentially intense discussions at any age about relationships, personal expression, and pursuing that often-referenced "in the moment" awareness in daily life."

If you're looking for other titles (released in the current or past years) that offer not "only" the entertainment or diversion of a picture book but open doors to discussions and emotions that can be too intense to approach directly, I recommend the  blog, BOOKS THAT HEAL KIDS. (Here)

These recommendations are my own responses and evaluations of the books, not a reflection of our Cybils panel discussions or deliberations. 


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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.