Sunday, November 7, 2010

Best Illustrated Children's Books

. . . at least, according to the New York Times. But hey, our own Fuse #8 was one of the judges, and her I trust.

This year they're all picture books, which is not always the case ("best illustrated," remember), with a wild variety of artistic styles. Go see the slideshow now! I guarantee you'll want to print out that Blexbolex spread and hang it on your wall.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Book Review: Mama, Is it Summer Yet? by Nikki McClure

Book: Mama, Is it Summer Yet?
Author: Nikki McClure
Illustrator: Nikki McClure
Published: 2010
Source: Local Library

Starting in winter, a little boy asks his mama whether it’s summer yet. Each page takes them a step closer, through the springtime awakening and into the summer they've both been waiting for.

You wouldn’t think a book that only uses a few colors (black, pale beige, and white, with occasional pastel highlights) would be able to bring spring and summer to life so vividly. As summer approaches, McClure adds a few more colors to her illustrations (the cut-paper style that was so eye-popping in her previous All in a Day) until the final spread fairly glows, even though it would seem muted in any other book.

What a lovely and tender celebration of both the seasons and the relationship between mother and son.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Glee: Sesame Street Cupcakes!

Like it says up there. Om nom nom.

Thanks to Bookshelves of Doom. Posted because . . . does there need to be a reason to post about Sesame Street cupcakes? Because if you really require that then I am sad for you.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dia de los Muertos Books

Halloween is undoubtedly one of the juggernauts of the fall/winter holiday season, but in my town and many others with vibrant Mexican-American communities, there's one to rival it. This is Dia de los Muertos, November 2nd. Originating in Mexico, this is a day to celebrate and honor your dead, and not incidentally, have a great party!

If you've got a Mexican-American community (note that I don't say Latino or Hispanic, because we come from many, many countries) or you just want to expose kids to a beautiful and fun holiday that celebrates life, try these books out.

Caveat: The images of lushly decorated skeletons, coffins, and gravestones may seem morbid to some. It's an opportunity to explain that, to those who grew up with the holiday, these are not meant to be frightening or threatening, like the similar decorations associated with Halloween. Instead, they are beautiful and familiar, as much a reminder of life as they are of death.

Calavera Abecedario by Jeanette Winter
This book goes through the Spanish alphabet using both calaveras (skeletons) and papel picado, the traditional cut-paper decorations. Many of the letters feature calaveras engaging in everyday occupations like baking or snuggling with novios (boyfriends or girlfriends). In Mexican and Mexican-American art, skeletons are often featured dressed in clothing, acting as if they were alive. It's a reminder that they were once living people who really did these things and a way to honor the memory of their life.

Clatter Bash! by Richard Keep
The calaveras climb out of their graves to party in the graveyard. They chatter, dance, sing, feast, and even tell stories! At the end of the night they say adios and gracias to their living family members and climb back into their graves for another year. Since the text is all based on the sounds made in the story, when reading it aloud to a group, I talk about the events in the pictures.

 Just a Minute by Yuyi Morales and its companion book Just in Case
While these aren't tied specifically to El Dia de los Muertos, you can see its influence in Señor Calavera. Look at that guy! Isn't he beautiful? In Just a Minute, Grandmother Beetle holds off Señor Calavera by promising that she'll go with him, but she's got one more thing to do before she does. And then just one more thing . . . and just one more . . .

In Just in Case, Señor Calavera is on his way to Grandmother Beetle's birthday party, but can't decide what to bring her. A helpful ghost makes suggestions that proceed through the alphabet. When Señor Calavera arrives at the party, he realizes he's unknowingly brought the gift Grandmother Beetle wanted most of all.

Are you familiar with Day of the Dead? What are some of your favorite books about the holiday?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Reading Roundup: October 2010

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 76 (oh yes! We kept getting stacks of new stuff at work, all shiny and irresistible . . .)
Early Readers: 8

Library: all

Writing: Binky to the Rescue by Ashley Spires
The contrast between the narration and the story that the illustrations tell will tickle many a young funnybone.
Illustration: A Bedtime for Bear, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton, written by Bonny Becker
I love the soft watercolors, the expressive characters, and all the fussiness of Bear's neat little world.
Overall: Finn Throws a Fit! by David Elliott, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering
What a familiar story to parents of toddlers! Ering's illustrations are both over-the-top and right on the nose. Extra kudos for the realistic end.

Because I Want To Awards
Oh My Gosh, I Can't Wait to Use This in Storytime: The Secret Circus by Johanna Wright
I Think It's Pretty Darn Cute, Last Page Notwithstanding: It's a Book by Lane Smith
Every Teacher Should Get a Copy Upon Graduation: How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills
Yes! Dinosaur is Back!: Dinosaur vs. the Potty by Bob Shea