Friday, November 09, 2007

New picture books, early November 2007

New picture books, early November 2007

There have been grumbles about me doing this.

Juliet grumbles that she'd rather just come into the library and have me hand her books. To Juliet I say: You are a lazy cow but I love you anyway. You have my permission to skip this entry and all future entries like this one.

Jaime grumbles that she's not interested in picture books at all. To Jaime I say: You are a cranky childless freak but I love you anyway. Have fun in VIETNAM, a fascinating exotic place that I can't even think of visiting until my children have both developed the ability to get from the dairy aisle to the checkout without getting lost and making me think that one or both of them have been kidnapped. Sigh. You also have my permission to skip this entry and all future entries like this one.

The incredible book-eating boy by Oliver Jeffers.
Everybody get this book. The art, done in paint and pencil on old book pages, is sophisticated and naive at the same time - hipster-friendly, yet warm and funny, with many visual jokes; the story is simple and terrific. Buy it, give it away, buy another one. The art is too detailed for story times, but for all other uses, superb.

A kiss goodbye by Audrey Penn illustrated by Barbara L. Gibson.
Yuck. Chester the raccoon has to move because the men are going to come and cut down his family's tree. He doesn't want to, his mother talks him into it, he meets a pretty girl raccoon at the new place. Any book that includes the phrase "a tiny tear rolled down his cheek" has a lot to make up for, and this one doesn't.

Living Color by my man Steve Jenkins.
I don't know Steve Jenkins, but I have a friend named Steve Jenkins, who is a great guy, so I always feel like I know Steve Jenkins and he's my bud. This book, like all of his books, is gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous, done in paper collage; and super-informative, a book that any kid could spend hours poring over.

Leaves by David Ezra Stein.
Also I have an imagined kinship with David Ezra Stein. I grew up with a David Stein, a misunderstood genius who played the cello - and I have a close family member named Ezra. So, again, I'm going to be prejudiced toward this book. BUT. Oh, this is a winner by anyone's lights. It's a young bear and his relationship with the seasons, specifically, with the leaves. The bear is inked so expressively, you can feel yourself stretch when he stretches. And there are 9 or 10 pages of the tree under which the bear is hibernating, during which we see the seasons change. That almost always works for me.

The Witch's Child by Arthur Yorinks, illustrated by Jos. A. Smith.
Just in time for Halloween... oh, what's that you say? Halloween was last week? Huh. Tell that to the people who process new books in my library system, will you? This morning we got numerous new books on monsters, a haunted house pop-up, and this really wonderful spooky witch story. This artist is terrific - that witch is terrifying looking, but cool too, with her striped tights and Balenciaga-esque high heels, and when she can't make her straw doll come to life, you can even feel sad for her. Wonderful new version of this old story.

Big Bug Surprise by Julia Gran
Another winner! Prunella is a bug aficionado - she collects insects and knows a lot about them. But other people aren't that interested. Until bees swarm her classroom and she knows just what to do. Would be terrific for the facts alone (did you know that bees can't see white? I didn't), but the energetic, stylized illustrations more than hold their own.

Why war is never a good idea by Alice Walker, illustrations by Stefano Vitale.
You know, you wonder about some books. Anyone who thinks war is (ever) a good idea is not going to crack this book, and everyone who agrees that war is never a good idea basically doesn't need to. On the other hand, Lady Alice does come up with some new perspectives: "Picture frogs beside a pond holding their annual pre-rainy-season convention. They do not see War, huge tires of a camouflaged vehicle about to squash them flat." You could see this as a read-aloud to older elementary school children. The concepts and language are quite vivid and could provoke good discussion.

Ruthie and the (not so) teeny tiny lie by Laura Rankin.
A little girl tells a lie and then feels terrible about it and tells the truth. If this ever ever happened in real life, this would be a fine book, but in my experience, it does not.

Ridin' Dinos with Buck Bronco as told to George McClements.
Cute, cute cute! Lively collage and colored pencil art illustrates this dinosaur fact book with a fanciful premise. A fun read-aloud, especially if you bust out yer funny cowpoke voice.

Small Sister by Jessica Meserve.
Two sisters, Small and Big, and how unfair it can be when you are Small. The very clear language serves the simple story well, and contrasts with the extremely rich, pictorial art. Lovely.

Millie waits for the mail by Alexander Steffensmeier.
Europeans again! What IS it about Europeans? European illustrations always seem to deliver 35-50% more visual information than the illustrations for English-language books: is it because their same-language market is proportionately smaller? Millie - a COW - waits for the mail in order to SCARE the mail carrier. This is a pretty funny premise in the first place, but Herr Steffensmeier fills each page with so many sunbathing chickens, incongruous miniature elephants, etc, that the story is almost secondary, no matter how satisfyingly it is plotted and resolved.

The Lemonade Club by Patricia Polacco
Get out your hankies. This is the true story of Patricia Polacco's daughter Traci, her best friend, Marilyn, who won a battle with leukemia as a child, and their teacher, who survived breast cancer. It's a real roller-coaster: kid gets leukemia and undergoes chemo. When she comes back to school she is very self-conscious about her bald head, but she finds that all the kids in class shaved their heads too! Awww! Then we discover that the beloved teacher has breast cancer! Oh no! Cut to 5 years later and the whole class is in church.
"The music was playing softly. It was one of Miss Wichelman's favorite hymns. The flowers were so beautiful. Everyone there was thinking about Miss Wichelman."
And then you turn the page and there's Miss Wichelman coming down the aisle in a wedding gown - it's not her funeral, it's her wedding! Hooray! Oh my god, but I'm emotionally spent.

I've said it before and I'm saying it again... SPINE LABEL. DIFFICULT THEMES. If I picked this up at random I would have been completely blindsided.

Enough for now.