Picture Book

Picture Books: Extraordinary Art, Conveniently Portable

Picture books are often children's first exposure to art. As galleries of artists' work—all within the pages of books—they reflect the vast variety of art mediums we find in museums. Some artists create with real-world materials like paint and pencils; others make collage or etchings. Some even work in virtual media like computer graphics, and, of course, some use a combination of tools and methods.

When my children were younger, I would check out piles of picture books to read with them—and for the pleasure of viewing the artwork. And even though my children have moved beyond picture books, I still enjoy opening these miniature exhibitions, browsing through old favorites or finding new artists.

In honor of National Picture Book Month this November, I recommend these resources:

Who Run the World? Girls: Picture Book Biographies on Noteworthy Women

Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke

Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke is a funny fantasy story that flips the classic hero dynamic on its head. Hatke tells the story of a goblin in a dungeon who enjoys a pleasant life counting treasure and spending time with the Skeleton King, when a band of ‘heroes’ barge into the dungeon, pillage his treasure and take his friend. This event sparks the goblin’s odyssey as he leaves the comfort of his dungeon to search for his friend, braving danger and fleeing pitchfork wielding farmers at every step. Eventually, the goblin ends up in a cave far from home, where he finds out that there are in fact, people who like goblins and want to help him on his quest.

The Big Bad Bubble by Adam Rubin

Everyone knows that monsters are scary, but what scares a monster? Bubbles that’s what! Rubin’s picture book humorously depicts monsters dealing with their own problems when the bubbles invade. One monster, after a bad bubble experience, is convinced all bubbles are scary and out to get all monsters. This monster creates a panic in the monster world, which will be unendingly funny to young readers, as these big monsters run, hide, cower, and otherwise embarrass themselves trying to flee the bubbles. Eventually, the monsters are able to gather their courage and learn that the bubbles are not as scary as they once thought, and in fact, can be fun.

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

The Journey by Francesca Sanna is the culmination of interviews the author collected at a refugee camp and is their combined story. This beautifully illustrated book tells the tale of one family as they are forced to flee their home and travel through forests, wade rivers, clamber over walls, and sail across the sea to find a safe place to live. The illustrations are surreal and mysterious, balancing the reader between both the real and the fantastic. While the illustrations are breathtakingly beautiful, the content is scary, inspiring, heartbreaking, and remains precipitously balanced between hope and fear. Pairing the two in this manner allows Sanna to delve into a difficult topic, without becoming too dark for the young readers it is meant to reach. Overall, Sanna offers no answers, she has merely opened a door, and leaves the floor open for conversation and imagination.

Ask Me: Bonding with Books and Stories

"Truly listening to someone reminds them that their lives matter; and reminds us all of what matters most."

The statement above is included in a short video produced by StoryCorps and Google encouraging people to take part in StoryCorps' "Great Thanksgiving Listen." The StoryCorps organization aims "to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives." This Thanksgiving, Storycorps encourages high school students, especially, to interview grandparents, or another older friend or relative, and use the StoryCorps app to record and share the interview. But you don't have to be in high school to take part. And taking time to talk with and truly listen to the stories our friends and relatives have to tell is a gift we can give each other at any time.

The picturebook Ask Me by Bernard Waber, echoes the message promoted by the StoryCorps initiative. Illustrated by Suzy Lee in rich red, yellow and orange colors, it shows a father and daughter enjoying the outdoors together on a lovely Autumn day. "Ask me what I like," the girl says to her father. And he does. And after she answers, he asks: "What else do you like?"encouraging continued conversation as they examine bugs and flowers, kick through fallen leaves and enjoy made up words like sploshing and splooshing.

Throughout the peaceful story, the father gives his daughter his full and undivided attention. He's not trying to shop for groceries, clean his home, or check his phone for messages. He's listening and responding and encouraging his daughter's curiosity and letting her know that her words and stories matter to him; that what she thinks and says is important; that she is important to him.

Reading to children also provides an opportunity to pause our busy lives and spend time together. Picturebooks, notable for their informative and appealing illustrations, often include a greater variety of words than we normally use as part of our everyday conversation. Reading and listening to picturebooks and other stories can help children increase their word knowledge - and world knowledge - as the subjects represented in picturebook format range from friends and family to rabbits and robotics.

And after you've finished the story, you can ask your listener: What do you think? What did you like best? What would you like to read about next?

Saying Goodbye to Dear Friends

For weeks now, I have been carrying around two new picturebooks about friendship. The stories serve as bookends - one describing a burgeoning friendship; the second depicting not an ending of a friendship, but a realization that the friendship will change when one friend moves away. Of all the many picturebooks about friendship that landed on our shelves in 2014, these are two to remember:

ImageTwo Speckled Eggs by Jennifer K. Mann presents the dilemma familiar to many grade school children whose parents insist they invite all their classmates to their birthday party - or none at all.
"Since 'none of them' wouldn't be a very fun birthday party, Ginger invited all of them - even Lyla Browning."
It's obvious that Lyla, who has arrived at the party with her magnifying glass in hand, is not someone Ginger considers a friend. Instead of joining the party games, Lyla looks through her magnifying glass at a ladybug she's found in the house. But after some of Ginger's friends spoil the party games and disapprove of her cake, it is Lyla who cheers Ginger up and presents her with a unique home-made gift. After pretending to be birds and pecking at leftover birthday cake together, Ginger and Lyla have formed a friendship that continues to grow on the school playground.

ImageIn The Good-Pie Party by Elizabeth Scanlon, we meet three close friends (Megan, Mae and Posy) who are gloomily packing Posy's belongings. Posy doesn't want to move - and she really doesn't want to say goodbye to her friends. How do you say goodbye when you don't want to? The girls decide to console themselves by baking a pie together and determine that instead of throwing a good-bye party for Posy - they will host a good-pie party.
You're invited to Posy Peyton's Good-Pie Party,
We'll say so long, but not good-bye
We'd love it if you'd bring a pie.
And a wonderfully eclectic group of friends responds to their party invitation with a diverse array of pies to share. Perfect. For isn't that what we do to honor our friends and their unique gifts - whether celebrating the anniversary of their birth, remembering them at their end of life, or even reluctantly saying goodbye to the dear friend retiring after 40 years? We bring out the sweet breads and casseroles, the cookies and cakes, soups and pies - the comfort foods that spread good cheer and soothe our sorrow. And we lift a glass and offer a toast as Posy does: "To good friends."

ImageThese two books resonate with me even more now as the old year rolls into the new and I reflect on a friendship shared with a colleague and speckled-egg friend who retires next week. Salud dear Pat Firenze. And thanks for all the chocolates.

Things That Go

I anticipated needing to learn many new things as a new parent, but when the time came, I was wholly unprepared to engage in “truck talk” with my toddler. Whether my inadequacy was due to having grown up in an area that did not have combines rolling down the highway, slowing traffic for miles, or the fact that my own interest in vehicles has never expanded much beyond whether it’s green or blue – I needed to get up to speed fast to help satisfy my son’s thirst for knowledge on all “things that go.”

Fortunately, MCPL Children’s Services offers a wonderful variety of books and DVDs to meet the demand for information on this topic. We can help you find the right nonfiction book the next time you need help distinguishing a bulldozer from a compactor (See Cool Construction Vehicles by Bobby Kalman), or want to satisfy curiosity about what's inside a fire truck. In the meantime, here are a few new picturebooks to share with your young fans of cars and trucks...

And The Cars Go

TootToot

Go, Go, Go, Stop!

Night Light

 Alphabet Trucks

Show Me a Story! (Why Picture Books Matter)

“Before they read words, children are reading pictures. In picture books, the illustrations work in concert with the text in a way that is unique among art forms.”

In the forward to Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter: Conversations with 21 of the World’s Most Celebrated Illustrators, award-winning author and illustrator David Wiesner explains why we celebrate National Picture Book Month in November (actually, MCPL Children’s Services Librarians celebrate them year-round! Here’s more from Wiesner about why we love picturebooks…):

Learning Right From Wrong with the Brief Thief

We often get requests for books that help teach children about proper rules of behavior – everything from sharing to telling the truth. While we frequently turn to our nonfiction collection for titles designed to teach children about specific subjects or topics, often picture books more powerfully portray the importance of doing the right thing.

The use of humor is one reason the messages in picture books can have a greater impact with children. And you can’t get much funnier with preschoolers (or even the K-2 crowd) than the word underpants – not to mention the word poo. (Please, don’t mention it!) The picturebook Brief Thief by Michael Escoffier uses both words in a span of a few pages while reminding readers that it’s not right to take things that don’t belong to you.

You see, poor Leon the Lizard finds himself without a necessary item after relieving himself. He notices an old pair of underpants hanging from a nearby tree branch and uses them to “finish his business.” As he discards the underpants behind a bush, a voice calls to him. It claims to be Leon’s conscience: “The little voice you hear inside your head whenever you get up to something naughty.” The voice continues: “… Since when are we allowed to touch other people’s things? What do they teach you in school, anyway?”

Leon never learns the real identity of his conscience, but readers will be amused to learn that the voice belongs to a rabbit who had been using the underpants to complete his superhero costume. We don’t learn his superhero name, but I’m guessing that it’s Superego.

Recommended for ages 3-8.

 

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