Saturday, January 12, 2008

Today's new picture books - mid-January

today's new picture books

The only boy in ballet class, written by Denise Gruska with illustrations by Amy Wummer.
Hey! Billy Elliot, his own story! No. Good lord. It's a wonderful and heartwarming story about a boy who loves ballet and who gets picked on and teased until one day when he... wins The Big Game. The other kids see that the jetés and chassés that they derided as poncy and fey are effective strategies for avoiding defensive linemen. Kind of stretching it a little here.

Llama llama mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney.
I may be the only mom, and certainly the only librarian I know, who ever didn't fall in love with Llama llama red pajama. As for this one: aw, no. Llama llama pitches a fit at the supermarket and throws all the crap out of the cart and instead of indicating her displeasure at his behavior, Mama suggests that they work together as a team to get the shopping done. Go on, pull the other one. Still, the rhymes and pictures are excellent, and I could see reading this to a three year old and saying, "Oh my gosh! Isn't that a terrible way to behave?"

The Nutcracker Doll, written and illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma.
Just in time for Chri- .... oh, I've made that joke before, haven't I? Wouldn't it be nice if our holiday books were processed in time for the holiday in question? This is a nice little one, for all the ballet-mad girls. Kepley gets to be onstage in a production of The Nutcracker. Pretty straightforward, and as it turns out, that's because it's a true story about the author's daughter. If it were me, I'd have included that tidbit on a page at the beginning or end. Maybe it was there but I missed it.

Br'er Rabbit Captured! A Dr. David Harleyson Adventure, by Jean Cassels.
Cute, cute, and more cute! It's fractured Br'er Rabbit! The narrator's uncle is trying to catch up to Br'er Rabbit to paint his portrait, and he is aided by the other characters in the folktales. Told in epistolary multiple first person narrative, a favorite for fractured stories (think Hoodwinked), we get to hear many of the tales retold in the course of trying to find the rabbit. Really fine art.

Magic Night, by Isobelle Carmody, illustrated by Declan Lee.
Don't let your adult fantasy readers get their hands on this - it'll never get back to the children's section. A pixie-like thing gets into the house and things start transforming weirdly, with only the cat to see. BEAUTIFUL illustrations, the kind that make you look at a coffee mug full of pens and wonder what it would look like if it came to life. My Big Man is going to love it, and any other Spiderwick fan is too.

Ivan the Terrier by Peter Catalanotto.
Just like Mélanie Watt's cat Chester, Peter Catalanotto's dog Ivan takes over this book, interrupting every story the narrator tries to read. The cover, a straight-on portrait of Ivan, is the best thing about this book, and I'm not being bitchy.

The Mine-o-saur by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illustrated by David Clark.
Sharing. Dinosaurs. But! David Clark, we love that guy! He illustrated Gakky Two-Feet, which was super-weird, but worth it for the pop-eyed hominids (it's the only picture book I know about natural selection) and the smart colors.

When dinosaurs came with everything, written by Elise Broach, illustrated by David Small.
Now, why aren't all picture books written like this? The mom is very mom-like, and the kid sounds just like my 6-year-old, who, when asked the other day if he bugs the kid who sits next to him with too much talking, said, "No. Sometimes I ask him, 'Dude, how's it going?' but that's all." The kid in this book, upon learning that he gets a dinosaur instead of a sticker after his checkup, crumples slightly, knees together, throws back his head with his arms up, and cries, "YESSS!" And I LOVE the scratchy pen and ink and watercolor illustrations - David Small also illustrated The Gardener, one of my all-time happy weepie picture books. I even love the typeface, the same one used in 17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore. In other words, unless In Jesse's Shoes turns out to be an unexpected superstar, I think we have our Book of the Day!

Keep love in your heart, little one, by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Clara Vulliamy.
No, no. Shut up. How am I going to know that I can't stand books like this unless I read one every now and then? Well, I have to say, if you're going to take home this kind of book, Keep love in your heart is a good option. The illustrations are quite beautiful, with lovely little details. And it's not pure schmaltz... it's more like... lemon curd. Probably because it's British.

In Jesse's Shoes: Appreciating Kids with Special Needs, by Beverly Lewis, illustrated by Laura Nikiel.
Yes, that Beverly Lewis, the one who writes the "dirty Amish books", as one of my Monday-night patrons calls them. That explains the heavy God content of this otherwise perfectly ordinary, maudlin book about Allie and her developmentally disabled older brother Jesse, who she feels guilty about being embarrassed by. Sort of like Al Capone Does My Shirts for a younger crowd. And with divinely-inspired guilt in addition to ordinary empathy-deficit guilt.

Ziba came on a boat, written by Liz Lofthouse, illustrated by Robert Ingpen.
Afghan(?) refugee child. What it was like in her village before everything went to crap and what it was like when it went to crap, plus Ziba's dreams of freedom. So many questions, starting with: what's she doing on a boat? What part of which cold, mountainous, headscarf-wearing, goat-eating country - it certainly appears to be Afghanistan, an impression that is backed up by the author's short biography - do you flee in a boat? Too distracted by that one question even to enjoy the lovely illustrations by the always-classy Robert Ingpen.

Punk Farm on Tour by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.
You know I just want to love everything JJK does: Bubble Bath Pirates was such a fave at our house a couple years ago, partly because the mom is a pirate too, and besides, the man is just so damn funny. But when I took Punk Farm (this book's predecessor) home, it got a totally ho-hum response. Aaaand... I'm not sure this one's gonna rock the house either. The band covers "Wheels on the bus"... that's kind of never a good sign.

Chester by Ayano Imai.
What do you call this kind of book? Underappreciated family member runs away from home but does not find comfort anywhere else and then comes back home and now they love him. Do you call that Wizard of Oz? Goldilocks? Whatever you call it, it is Oh My God So Very Done. I'll forgive Ayano Imai because she has spent most of her life in Japan and maybe it's not such a tired trope there, and besides, her pictures are just excellent.

Romeo and Lou Blast Off by Derek Anderson.
Well, it's cute. Romeo and Lou are a penguin and a polar bear (do you get as cheesed-off as my six-year-old does when people put penguins and polar bears in the same environment? Even when it's a silly book, it's still just Not Right.), anyway, an Arctic mammal and an Antarctic bird build a snow rocket that magically takes off and crash-lands them in a city. As they try to figure out how to get home, they interpret the city sights using their native vernacular: they think two guys with mustaches are walruses, kids in bright-colored swimsuits are fish, etc. Kind of a dud.

This is the day! Adapted by Phillis Gershator, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman.
I don't always go for Marjorie Priceman's sort of Chagall-y work: I know it's meant to be gestural, but it often falls over the edge into slapdash for me. But boy do her willowy women and 1950's wirework furniture work in this book, an adaptation of an old song that goes "Monday's the day we give babies away with half a pound of tea. Here comes a lady who wants a baby. 'I'll take this one,' says she..." It's an irresistible song, light-hearted and with an adoption theme, and the illustrations are sunny and swingy and the whole book just really works. Besides the fact that a different song with the same title is one of my favorite songs of all time. ALL TIME. THE THE ROCKS, PEOPLE. (And oh my, wasn't Matt Johnson cute back when he had hair!)