Thursday, November 01, 2007

Today's big stack


The Three Cabritos by Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin.
Three Billy Goats Gruff in a Tex-Mex setting. The goats outwit the Chupacabra by playing their instruments til he dances so hard that he deflates - a witty alternative to the violent end that meets many villains. Best line: "We always have a good time when we go to Mexico!" (You gotta deliver that one like you're Cheech Marin, who also has a new book, about which probably the less said the better.) Love the art too.

Martina the beautiful cockroach: A Cuban folktale. Retold by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Michael Austin.
I kind of want to think that David Kirk scammed this story for Miss Spider's Wedding - Martina rejects a batch of suitors that are too macho, too vain, too violent, in favor of the cleverest, a little mousie. Cute.

How many seeds in a pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by G. Brian Karas.
I like G. Brian Karas's art. Cartoony colored pencils, fairly minimal, but still very expressive. It's a little bit math-y, a little bit size-can-be-deceptive-y, a little bit botany-y. Nice. Especially good for schools that need fall-themed books that are not Halloween. -y.

Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A worldwide Cinderella by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Julie Paschkis (Bottle Houses, Head Body Legs).
Oh now this is cool - the thread is the Cinderella story, but it's woven from the variations from different cultures. Thus we have: (Russia) Then she reached into the hole in the birch tree. (Indonesia) Then a crocodile swam up to the surface and in its mouth was a sarong made of gold... (China) ... a cloak sewn of kingfisher feathers... (Japan) ... a kimono red as sunset. (France) And on the girl's feet appeared a pair of glass slippers... (India) ...diamond anklets... (Iraq) ...sandals of gold. Super colorful folk-inspired illustrations pack the pages. First class.
Oh man. Kevin O'Malley is one funny guy, and he just can't resist a pun or a joke. This one is packed full, and each one delivers. Plus he has never been more on his game art-wise. Good composition, judicious use of black. Our man's gonna turn into Mel Brooks one of these days, and won't his wife be surprised!
Ooo! Collage! Film noir quotes! Breaking the fourth wall! Taking this one home. Big Man and Mr. Four will lap it up.
What can you see in a Chinese street market throughout the year? Well, if your graceful verse book is illustrated by Yangsook Choi, you will see vibrant colors, impressionistic humans and precise drawings of irresistable goods. This book makes me miss Pearl River and the New Ao Jang in a big way. Beautiful on a gray autumn day.

That pesky dragon by Julie Sykes, illustrated by Melanie Williamson.
A fine book about not making assumptions. Dynamic illustrations, good color (love the farmer with his long sideburns). Puts me in mind of one of my all-time favorites, The Ravenous Beast by Niamh Sharkey.
Now, tell me about these watercolor illustrations. In slightly off tones of gray and pink and red and blue, they are sophisticated like I imagine a matchbook from the Stork Club was. They feel like 1958 Playboy magazine, pre-Castro Cuba, and Esky the Esquire mascot. The story is very nice, about a late-blooming bird who learns to fly and makes a friend, but really, it's all about these marvelous illustrations.

A drive in the country by Michael J. Rosen illustrated by Marc Burckhardt.
First off, I want to check whether this Michael Rosen is the same Michael Rosen from Michael Rosen's Sad Book. No. Ok. In fact, this is the Michael Rosen who wrote May Contain Nuts. Wow, what a likeable book. The family goes for a drive and stops to pet a horse and sings songs in the car and stops at a country store and lets loose milkweed from the car windows and stops to look for buckeyes et cetera. This is right up with Douglas Wood's Nothing to do in celebrating unstructured time. Nice.

The toy farmer by Andrew T. Pelletier, pictures by Scott Nash.
Scott Nash illustrates Flat Stanley. I've always thought his cartoony style made Stanley look so likeable and friendly, and it works here too. The toys look like Stanley and the "real" world is done in colored pencils. The contrast is really neat - it's like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, except in this case it works, it doesn't look clunky, and it doesn't make you want to strangle Bob Hoskins just to put him out of his misery. And the story is cool too, one of those was-it-all-a-dream-probably-not stories, of a toy that comes to life, and a giant pumpkin, and a blue ribbon. I do like me a book that is "just" a good story.

Mine! Mathilde Stein, illustrations by Mies van Hout.
Ah, Europeans. A little ghost comes to stay with Charlotte, but he doesn't know how to share. Charlotte is patient and sensible and eventually turns the ghost into a considerate, cooperative playmate. Would be dull and heavy-handed, but the friendly little declarative sentences ("I know only one ghost and he is very nice.") and the textured, Quentin-Crisp-like illustrations keep it from being so.

I miss you every day by Simms Taback.
From a song by Woody Guthrie, this book is for any child who has ever missed anyone. As usual, Simms Taback delivers tactile illustrations dense with content, and as an added bonus, there's an envelope with a picture inside it on the title page.

Panda foo and the new friend by Mary Murphy. Well it's a sweet little book about making friends. The illustrations are kind of unusual and in a good way. Instead of black outlines, plants are outlined in tomato red or turquoise blue. The more detailed spreads are breathtaking.

The all-I'll-ever-want Christmas doll, written by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. I'm not sure I've ever seen these two teamed up this way. No, they did Goin' Someplace Special, and Mirandy and Brother Wind together too. And this one is as lovely and lively as you would expect, a Christmas story set during the Depression, and a young girl learns that the best gift is family. Except it's not sappy like I just made it sound.

Mind your manners, B.B. Wolf, written by Judy Sierra, illustrated by J. Otto Siebold.
Judy wrote Wild about books and Monster goose, and J. Otto did Going to the Getty and the Target Ready Sit Read (which, if you have a young child and you haven't signed up for yet, go there now, sign up!) program materials, so this book would probably have to vehemently suck for me to not like it. Craa-ack... yep, no sucking. One big burp and a couple little songs, a whole sack of characters familiar from both traditional stories and from J. Otto's other books, and a trip to the library! All right!