Thursday, January 31, 2008

New picture books for February

new picture books early Feb 2008

There come a soldier by Peggy Mercer, illustrated by Ron Mazellan
Not a book glorifying war, not a book excoriating war, but a book paying tribute to the author's father, a soldier who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Told from his point of view, it enumerates the ways that his rural childhood taught him bravery, compassion, fortitude, and other qualities he draws upon during hardship. And beautiful. With lovely vernacular language.

Delicious! a pumpkin soup story by Helen Cooper
Picky eater Duck won't even try the fish soup, mushroom soup, and beet soup concocted by his friends Squirrel and Cat - he will only eat pumpkin soup, which is orange. (Dances With Chickens, are you reading this?) So his friends make squash-and-carrot soup, which is orange, and basically trick him into eating it, which he does, and loves it.

The fine and fanciful illustrations in this book conquer my uneasiness about the age-old ploy of disguising food as something palatable to a child so that he or she will try it. I tried that once with Big Man, telling him an orange piece of canteloupe was cheese, and I felt pretty bad about eroding my child's trust in me that way. And he didn't like it, and he still doesn't like canteloupe. Plus my friend Sarah, who has (professional) experience with eating disorders, told me that it's common to find that habitual overeaters were conned like this as children. Still! Cute illustrations!

Sojourner Truth: Preacher for freedom and equality, by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Natascha Alex Blanks
Wow! Color! This picture book biography is well worth adding to any library's collection. This picture makes it look ugly, and it's not.

A Poet's Bird Garden by Laura Nyman Montenegro
Cutie. I love that when Natalie's bird Chirpie gets out, she and her friend call upon the poets to come to the rescue. Full of the mythical Boho spirit of the Lower East Side.

A Fishing Surprise by Rae A. McDonald, illustrated by Kathleen Kemly
BEAUTIFUL, lush chalk and colored pencil illustrations surround the simple text. Lots of fun onomatopoeia for little kids.

Jon Scieszka's Truck town: Smash! Crash! written by Jon Scieszka, characters and environments developed by David Shannon, Loren Long, David Gordon
Not sure what that's all about, but Jon Scieszka is the new Library of Congress Ambassador for Children's Literature or something, and he can pretty much do no wrong in my eyes. What strikes me about this truck book is that it's totally a Beginning Reader. Word count, number of words per line, etc... if it can hold a first grader's attention, that first grader can read this book. Hmm. Large-format Beginning Readers - why don't we see more of those?

Josephine wants to dance by Jackie French, illustrated by Bruce Whatley
Ah. Fish out of water story. Kangaroo on the ballet stage. Not unlike the dancing hippo story, the dancing polar bear story, or the dancing javelina story. But I love Bruce Whatley's style - cartoony but not flat, with lovely, expressive faces and gestures. And the text is lovely too. Josephine bounces with the brolgas and leaps with the lyrebirds.

oooh! Matisse by Mil Niepold / Jeanyves Verdu
Big blam-blam closeups of Matisse cutouts prompt the question "What is this?" and as the pages turn, the perspective pulls out, different answers are proffered, until you see... a leaf, a dove, a star, a flower. Simple, brilliant.

The Crocodile Blues by Coleman Polhemus
What is WITH all the crocodile books this year? Love 'em! This one, nearly wordless and done in 3 colors, is a graphic illustration dream - a bit surreal and yet perfectly understandable.

The art book for children Book Two, text by Amanda Renshaw
Oh to have the assignment from Phaidon to make this book. Take a beautiful repro of a work of art, and ask some questions about it. Use as many detail photos as you want. "How fast do you think these boys are running?" "What kind of school could this be?". Discuss.

123 I can Paint! by Irene Luxbacher
Basic color theory, materials and painting technique. Completely fun and accessible for young elementary school kids.

123 I can Sculpt! by Irene Luxbacher
Just as good, but more project-based... how do you not, when it's sculpture? A good range of simple sculpture techniques are illustrated in the creation of a whole batch of animals.

Knock, Knock! Jokes by fourteen wacky and talented artists inside!
Hells yeah. My boys love knock-knock jokes, so much that I might cheerfully detach my head and hold it outside of the car sometimes, if I didn't think it would seriously impair my driving. Here are old ones, repeaters, sight gags, and a tribute to Maurice Sendak:
Knock knock!
Who's there?
Verdi who?
Verdi vild tings are!
That might also be a Simms Taback tribute, I don't know. Brought to you by the same lovable gang of idiots (actually, mostly a whole lovable new gang of idiots) who gave us last year's Why Did The Chicken Cross the Road?

Maya Angelou: Poetry for young people
I might have to do something with a few of these stanzas for Black History Month.
There ain't no pay beneath the sun
As sweet as rest when a job's well done.
I was born to work up to my grave
But I was not born
To be a slave.
Go, Miss Maya!

One Million Men and Me by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Peter Ambush
The author attended the Million Man March as a journalist in October of 1995. Recently she spoke to a group of young people who had never heard of that important event. If for no other reason than that, it is good that we have this book. However, it's also well written, with that journalistic eye for detail and texture, and very nicely illustrated in realistic watercolors.

When Randolph Turned Rotten, a story by Charise Mericle Harper
Love Charise Mericle Harper. Love Flush, love Fashion Kitty, love love love The Monster Show. Her sense of humor and faux-naive illustration style are to love. And When Randolph Turned Rotten is the best yet! Every panel, every page will make my kids helpless with laughter. The moment when Randolph turns, he goes from Best Friend Randolph, with 'rainbow-filled-with-love-insides' (there's an arrow pointing to where his insides are), to Nasty Randolph, with 'stinky rotten insides' (and also, 'mad hands'). Spoiler: he turns back.

Sam Tells Stories by Thierry Robberecht, illustrated by Philippe Goossens
This is the same story as The Show-and-Tell Lion. Kid is a big liar, gets caught, is forgiven, decides that his lying is a big TALENT and embraces his storyteller-ness. Hrm.

Jenny found a penny by Trudy Harris, illustrations by John Hovell
It's a sweet one, with addition, coins, earning, and a child's first purchase. And computer illustrations that are somehow not lacking in warmth.