Dec 29, 2018

Another Fave from 2018

Families Books, 2018

You only need to examine the cover of LUIS AND TABITHA, written by Stephanie Campisi and illustrated by Hollie Mengert, to recognize who the two main characters are in this delightful picture book. Fall into their eyes to feel their irresistible appeal and imagine the star-crossed love story waiting within the pages of this recent picture book.
Luis is one irresistible cat, and I'm speaking as a cat-lover with allergies. Both the text and the sleek, stylized illustrations make Luis's distinctive charm purr-fectly clear. He has become an unofficial member of the fire crew who saved his life, savoring his regular meals, public appearances, and freedom to stroll the neighborhood at will. 
Those strolls introduce him to prim and proper (and indoor) show cat, Tabitha. Unfortunately, Tabitha's owner is not a romantic, especially when it comes to street cats. Charming Luis woos them both, bringing the sweetest (and funniest) treats to Tabitha's door. He wins Tabitha's heart even more, but not her owner's. 
I'll stop the story there and mention that my reading was interrupted at this point. I couldn't return to it until the next day, but I found myself yearning to get back to the book, to find out what happened next. This is often true while reading novels but it rarely happens with picture books. In this case, once I returned to it I wasn't disappointed and realized that this forty-plus page picture book has many of the plot points of a novella. Luis and Tabitha have the character depth to carry it off, and the extra pages allow the illustrator to take a well-told story and "work it" fully. 

This is a thoroughly modern and appealing story enriched by updated/old-school illustrations, giving a solid nod to Disney's LADY and the TRAMP of my childhood memory. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Luis (and- SPOILER- Tabitha) make a return appearance in future picture books.

Dec 20, 2018

Armchair #CybilsShortlist- Middle Grade Graphic

In case you're wondering... 

I'm eligible to enter this fun challenge from Cybils Awards, even though I am serving as a Round One Panelist for the Fiction Picture Book and Board Book categories. 
 (Note logo in the right margin!) - - - - >

This new challenge allows me to explore the OTHER categories and choose for myself the titles that I believe (hope) will be on the shortlist for that category. 
In my case, I'm a fan of graphic books for the slightly younger set, and so I gave that long list of nominees a close look. 
It turns out that I've read quite a few, enough to settle on my "fantasy" offering for the shortlist.

Here they are:

The City on the Other Side   By Mairghread Scott
Be Prepared  By Vera Brosgol
The Witch Boy  By Molly Knox Ostertag
Undocumented: A Worker's Fight  By Duncan Tonatiuh
The Cardboard Kingdom By Chad Sell
Good Rosie!  By Kate DiCamillo
Feel free to look over the eligible books in that link above and make your own choices in this or any category.
If you aren't familiar with the ever-expanding options in this category, click on the titles and check them out for yourselves. I suspect you'll be pleasantly surprised and find some exciting new offerings for your home, classroom, or library.

Wish me luck- the challenge runs from December 21 to December 30, so you can still enter this or other categories. Just post your choices and link the post to twitter #CybilsShortlilst.

And stay tuned for the official short list announcements for every category, coming on JANUARY !, 2019!   That's when the finalists judges get to work, narrowing down, discussing, and reviewing the shortlist titles to settle on a single winner in each category.
They need about six weeks for that thoughtful process, so look for the actual winners to be announced on February 14!  Then share the love of books with everyone you know!

Dec 19, 2018

"Brief Notes" About IMAGINATION-Spurring Books

If you read my prior post (here) about two outstanding 2018 picture books, you couldn't help but notice that I failed at my stated goal to write "brief notes" and move on. 
I seem to get carried away when it comes to picture books, especially when they combine entertainment with inspiration. 

Never a quitter, I'm diving back in to try this again with other recent titles, reminding myself that the links for each will take you to more detailed info. PLEASE believe me when I say that each book here deserves a place in your hands or in the hands of kids you know and love. Click those links. Start a list for your next library or wishlist.

These cover images and BRIEF blurbs should get you started, and I'll move on to share more titles soon. 
Hang on, here we go!
This is a celebration of imagination and a spirit of adventure. The unfolding story presents a view of important   multigenerational interaction and encourages adventurous creativity.

WALLPAPER by Thao Lam Shyness is dealt with in many picture books, but this wordless exploration of an inner imaginative life serving to build confidence and curiosity feels fresh and effective. 

We all have dreams, but not all dreams come true. I believe that readers, (many who are young, but also many adults) will feel their dreams coming true on the pages of this book. And you'll gasp at the gorgeous illustrations that make that happen. More Here.

Anna At the Art Museum, by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert, illustrated by Lil Crump. So many positives to this share little book, framing multiple qualities: the perspective of a very REAL little girl figuring out how art museums work: mostly a litany of "NO" rules, authentic reactions and emotions, curiosity, and imagination.

Moving on...

There's a Dinosaur on The 13th Floor, written by Wade Bradford, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. From front to back cover, and every page turn, the absurdity of this story becomes more funny and engaging as Mr. Snore (with an enormous schnoz) tries to get a good night's sleep despite the many bizarre intrusions into his peaceful rest.

If daVinci Painted a Dinosaur is written by Amy Newbold wth pictures by Greg Newbold. This combination of iconic art blended with familiar dinosaur traits is laugh-inducing. Add to that an appealing little hamster(?) who executes the proposed mash-ups and kids will be begging for more. As with Anna's museum visit (above) the back matter offers thumbnails and short blurbs about the original images and the various artists' styles.

TA-DA!  Not quite as brief as I might have hoped, but I'm getting better at this.  Stay tuned for another speed-review, coming to this bog soon!

Dec 17, 2018

Celebrating Picture Books from 2018- Briefly?

I've exhausted my library "hold" renewals on some of the many fiction picture books that tugged at my heart in recent weeks (months!). I'll be loading up a couple of totes to return these early next week, but I can't let them go without sharing them with you here. Each deserves a full review, discussion, and recommendation for uses, but the size of my book stack has crushed that dream. Instead, I'll try to follow up with my "speed-dating" approach for board books. Let's see how that goes.

a house that once was is written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated (brilliantly) by Lane SmithI really enjoyed Fogliano's lyrical, lilting text, but it is Lane Smith's illustrated treatment that won my heart. With just enough ink-line realism to anchor the story to the text, Smith combines multi-media techniques in each of the two parts: the contemporary exploration of a deserted house in the woods and the imagined lives of the missing inhabitants. The ongoing tale of the abandoned house exploration includes numerous nearly-hidden images that later gain significance within the imagined alternate lives of the residents. 
An additional story-within-a-story is boldly suggested on the title page. A little bluebird (of happiness?) slips into various obvious and obscure corners of the pages for readers (especially eagle-eyed little ones) to discover. 
There is a genuine charm to this circle story that concludes with the same short verse that opens the story: 
"Deep in the woods/ is a house/ just a house/ that once was/ but now isn't/ a home."
There is a delightful irony to that conclusion as the little bluebird peeks out at the departing kids from inside the upstairs window. This is all-out possibilities, and kids will love it.

So much for keeping it brief, right?  I'll try again on this next adventurous picture book that celebrates imagination, cooperation, diversity, hopes, and dreams.

Everything You Need for a Treehouse is written by Carter Higgins and Illustrated by Emily Hughes. This lush and imaginative picture book engages on every page, revealing both realistic and fantastic aspects of collaborating, constructing, and creatively occupying "a treehouse". The extensive and diverse group of kids make cooperation and old-fashioned "playing outside" look much more appealing than staring at screens.  And 
The illustration details are like eye-magnets, but it is worth turning back to the text to appreciate the extraordinary and lyrical language Higgins uses to turn a simply-titled "HOW TO" book into a multi-layered life lesson, delivered with a touch as gentle but persistent as a seed, the wind, or a child.
I won't issue a spoiler here, but I will say that despite the diversity and matter-of-fact, scavenged, makeshift aspects of the building processes, I had a mental reservation about how privileged this group of kids seemed: dressed for the weather, access to tools, and living in welcoming environments. I was pleased to see the various versions in what could be different habitats or even different global locations. Still, that reservation stayed wth me, until the final page turns. 
Now, I fully and enthusiastically endorse this book and recommend it for EVERY age. 

(And don't spoil the impact of those last pages by peeking.)

Well, so much for keeping it brief, right? Just goes to show why I've held on to these two for so long. You'll want to do the same, and so will the kids who read them with you.

Dec 14, 2018

Board Books with Questions- and Extra Qualities

A promise is a promise! 
Here are four more delightful board books that are worth a closer look. In these featured books each title and the interior pages frame a question/pattern. What a terrific way to provide a template for asking and answering questions. They also range from concrete observational and eye-popping photographic images to realistic illustrations with a bit of a riddle story structure, to laugh-out-loud cartoon-style guessing games, and on to lyrical responses to an otherwise science-y question, using figurative language and emotional engagement.

 WHAT IS LIGHT, written by Markette Sheppard and illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson is that luminous little book that responds to the question with a blend of facts and feelings: 

"The twinkle of a faraway star...
The buzzing of a firefly captured in a jar...
And then that feeling when you let go...
That spark in your eyes is like a glow."

WHOSE BUM is created by Chris Tougas. As the book blurb says, it's "A cheeky guessing game for baby."  
The colorful cartoon-like figures pose a repeating pattern of question and answer for each page turn. 

Whose bum?  ______________'s bum! This is a giggle-inducing pattern that will encourage tots to try independent "reading" of the familiar language while building a vocabulary of familiar nouns.

WHO CAN? is written by Charles Ghigna and illustrated by Vlasta van Kampen. Not only does this book use full sentences to provide verbal clues, it uses simple follow-up language, "Who can?"  "Who does?"  Who stirs? "Who knows?"  "Who reads?"  

The final page turn concludes with a delightful twist:
An important benefit is the way it naturally builds a sense of book conventions (noticing both visual and verbal cues, predicting, left-to-right patterns, and page turns). Note the sample pages above in which a very tiny toucan bill can be found in the treetop, virtually inviting the child to turn the page to celebrate the full image of a toucan. Stark white background allows little eyes to focus on the individual art images, to search out clues while hearing the lilting text: 
"Who can fill his bill with tasty fish?" 
Overall, this provides all the right elements for both lap time and independent exploration after initial readings.

Finally, TAILS, by Flowerpot Press does not use a question on the cover, but alternating spreads pose questions about various animal tails and their traits: 
"Who has a ___________ tail..."  
including adjectives like striped, scaly, and flat. 
The question pages use pure white backgrounds, large and simple font on the left spread while featuring a portion of the animal rump/tail on the right side, again leading right into a page turn. Those "answer" pages provide the animal name and the double spreads reveal stunning color photographs that bleed to the edges of both pages. 

These are bound to be favorites among the lucky little ones who receive them as gifts or have them checked out of the library by a caring adult. And don't worry about damage, since these are all very well-constructed and have glossy, durable, wipable page finishes.

Dec 13, 2018

Back To Those Babies! (and Olders, Too!)

My reading responsibility as a panelist for the 2018 CYBILS Fiction Picture Books and Board Books Awards is drawing to a close. 
As I mentioned in a prior post about some of the board books I've examined and enjoyed, here, the variety of books is astonishing and the quality is both amazing and impressive. In order to share more of these remarkable titles here I'm adopting a "speed dating" approach. I've kept many titles checked out from my library with renewals and I'm due to return them soon. While they're still within reach, I'm going to settle for some quick looks and titles in hopes that you will take a closer look. Please be aware that these are as varied as they are appealing, and many (to my surprise) could play a valuable role in activities with older readers and learners in elementary (or higher) classrooms. 
Take a look here, then read on for a few quick notes.

Color/mixing and animal morphing provide fun examples of made-up words that still make sense. (ANIMAL COLORS by Christopher Silas Neal)

The diverse and exuberant photographs of early developmental landmarks will appeal to infants and toddlers, but could also be very useful in childbirth classes! (WATCH ME GROW!)

The charming interactions of a dad and toddler could work well in a youth or adult English Learner class, because it so effectively uses a common word, (up) in various ways and in various language structures and figures of speech. (CLEAN UP, UP, UP! Ellen Mayer)

Page after page of simple directions to engage little ones with tactile activities (tracings and finger-play with various grooves and dimensional dots, etc.) make this as much a toy as a book, and one that little hands will want to explore independently after a few readings. The blend of accurate and figurative language used would also be valuable in early learning classrooms. (WIGGLES by Claire Zucchelli-Romer)

Last, but certainly not least, among these delightful board books is one packed with laughs, sly expressions, and fold-out/flip/funny discoveries on every page. Anyone of any age with an interest in art should examine this one closely, with particular attention to those clever eyes and body positions. This would also be a wonderful model for young classroom learners to illustrate word pairs-opposites. (CONTRARY DOGS by elo.)

More to come soon (I promise!) but these should keep you busy at your library or local book store. If you've already had your hands on some, please add a comment about your thoughts and reactions. 

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.