Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Essential Picture Books

If there's one good thing about the "Death of the Picture Book OMG The World is Ennnnnnnnding!" article in the New York Times, it's that people are paying more attention to the humble picture book. Strollerderby shares its list of the 5 Essential Picture Books for a Perfect Childhood.

Honestly, after reading the list, I can't say that I agree that these books are essential. Like, your kid will grow up to be a sociopathic mass murderer or somebody who doesn't pay library overdue fines if they don't read them. But I do agree they're great books and well worth reading over and over again.

My Essential Five would be:

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Okay, I'm with StrollerDerby on this one. There's just something about the rhythm of the language, the soothing repetition, and that mouse.

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
. . . and this one. People talk about books with appeal to both parent and child, and this may just be the perfect example of that. Adults can sympathize with poor frustrated Daddy while children will know exactly what the devastated Trixie is going through. Plus, the combo of black-and-white photographs and color cartoons? Genius.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
I remember the art most of all, those thick blocks of color in varying intensities. And the holes. Why were those holes so fascinating? I know not.

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Oh gosh, talk about simplicity in art. But this book is all about the power of imagination. Is Harold pretending, or is it really a magical purple crayon that makes him a pint-size God? Who cares?

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
A book about adventure and wild rumpuses and journeys across the sea and monsters that can be tamed, and a kid who can go through all this without Learning a Lesson of some sort.

Now admittedly, this is what I came up with after about twenty minutes of cogitation, and heavily weighted toward the books that had a permanent place on my childhood shelves. It's a highly subjective thing, picture book essentialism. What would you call your Essential Five?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Off to Minneapolis!

Well, not yet. But my various devices are charging up, my clothes are packed, and so far I've remembered to include all the things I traditionally forget (glasses, contact solution, on one memorable occasion shoes. Oy). I leave bright and early in the morning for Minneapolis and the Fourth (!!!) Annual KidlitCon, where I look forward to a weekend hanging out with people I haven't seen in a year or more, talking blogs, books, and the confluence of both.

Will you be joining us? If not, I'll be tweeting the con under the handle @mosylu, with the hashtag #kidlitcon and possibly even doing little posts at this blog. Follow!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Save the Picture Book! If It Needs Saving at All

First, there was the New York Times article. Then the blogosphere went bananas (it's a popular activity, you have to admit), with this post by MotherReader  probably best representing our collective mindset. Then Lisa Von Drasek published this piece on HuffPo, which articulat all our rebuttals for the non-book-blogging public.

Now that the furor has died down (and we've all realized that we've played right into the NYT's hands by uproaring about it), what do you think?

Speaking from my very small experience sample as the reigning dictator of the children's section in a public library of a book-lovin' town, the picture book is doing just fine. We've got new books from author/illustrators like Mo Willems, Emily Gravett, and Nikki McClure, plus scores of others, rolling in every day. Parents are maxing out their library cards on Fancy Nancy, munchkins are staggering out the door clutching books wider than their heads. Storytimes are stuffed to the gills. If the picture book is really in trouble, I'm not seeing it.

There are some parents who disdain them. I can't deny it. Much like the poor, the pushy parent will always be with us. Tell yourself it's a teachable moment. (Point of interest: the mom who was quoted in the article as not "allowing" her six-year-old reluctant reader to pick up picture books had her quotes taken totally out of context, which she addressed at her own blog.)

Maybe picture books are not being bought in the same numbers, but in this economy, what is? As somebody mentioned (and if this was you, please comment so I can attribute!), the picture books that are being bought are the ones that the parent has checked out forty-four times already.

That's me, though. What are you seeing?

Friday, October 15, 2010

The End of Knuffle Bunny

This was tweeted awhile ago from @The_Pigeon, the Twitter feed of childlit's most famous bird since that one in Are You My Mother?

Mo Willems discusses the end of the Knuffle Bunny trilogy with his daughter Trixie, on whom the Trixie in the books is loosely based. Everyone together: awww.

P.S. That kid is astonishingly self-possessed. Don't you think? I don't know how old she is, but whatever her age, she's very articulate.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Book Review: Can You Make a Scary Face by Jan Thomas

Book: Can You Make a Scary Face?
Author: Jan Thomas
Illustrator: Jan Thomas
Published: 2009
Source: Local library

A ladybug asks readers to play pretend. Prompts include a tickly bug, a little dancing, and a giant hungry frog--who then shows up! Yikes!

Oh, Jan Thomas. Ever since Where Will Fat Cat Sit, you’ve been a sure thing for storytime-doing librarians everywhere. This one is especially perfect for toddler storytime, with Thomas' trademark thick lines, bright colors, and solid backgrounds, just right for a big group. Storywise, there's a variety of options for jumping around and wiggling, not to mention extremely silly faces on the part of the librarian.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Book Review: The Pirate Cruncher by Jonny Duddle

Book: The Pirate Cruncher
Author: Jonny Duddle
Illustrator: Jonny Duddle
Published: 2010
Source: Local Library

In a pub called the Thirsty Parrot, a wizened fiddler approaches the captain of a pirate ship with an irresistible offer: treasure beyond his wildest dreams! What pirate worth his sea salt could turn that down? Certainly not Captain Purplebeard and his scurvy crew. But the further out to sea they get, the more the sailors start to notice that there’s something funny about that fiddler. Maybe there’s something he’s not telling them?

Something to do with . . . monsters?

As if the purely delightful storyline of this book isn’t enough, Jonny Duddle piles on silly details of the illustrations (especially one you’ll notice on the second reading) and the word-bubble asides from the sailors. It could be a little scary for pre-elementary, but older swabbies will gulp this book down like a dram of grog.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Reading Roundup September 2010

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 43
Early Readers: 3

Library: 42
Other (read at the bookstore): 2

Writing: My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza
A wolf thinks it's his lucky day when dinner knocks on his door. But dinner might have other plans . . .
Illustration: Wow! Said the Owl by Tim Hopgood
You'll be as dazzled as the owl by the profusion of bright colors in this story of a nocturnal creature seeing the daylight world.
Overall: Feeding the Sheep by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Andrea U'Ren
A daughter follows her mother around the sheep farm, watching the path of wool from the sheep in the pen to the sweater on her own back.

Because I Want To Awards
Best Twist in the Tail: The Strange Case of the Missing Sheep by Mircea Catusanu
Best Family Story: Ten Days and Nine Nights by Yumi Heo
For Your Picky Eaters (and their parents): Too Pickley by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Geneviève Leloup