7-Imp’s 7 Picture Book Tips for Impossibly Busy Parents #4 (the Almost Julie-Paschkis-Edition)

h1 March 10th, 2008 by jules

I’m going to do this week’s list the lazy-blogger’s way by pretty much just rounding up others’ reviews of these titles (others’ thought will be in this fetching shade of blue — woot! Fun with HTML colors!), since my oldest turns four this week, and we have some serious partying down for which to get ready, people.

If you’re new to this feature, it’s where I’ll talk about some books that were, for the most part, released last year, the idea being that your local library should have them (no reviews of advance copies, not out for two more months or so, are allowed here). In fact, every book on my list this week was one I retrieved from one library or another, so I’m really hoping yours will have them, too.

Let’s get right to it. Again, I’m going to include review excerpts from others, but only if I agree with them, of course of course of course. Heh. And these titles will cover a wide age range. I’m not going to narrow this week. They’re all over the place, the only common denominator being that they’re all what I think are good — or great — books. And, since there are so many more and these are but seven, do tell me what you’ve been reading this week with your own wee ones.

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
by Kadir Nelson
Jump at the Sun/Hyperion
January 2008

Okay, wait, so this was released this year, and you might have to wait a bit at your local library to get this one into your hands, but it’s worth the wait. OH MY, have you SEEN this book, the one that received Caldecott buzz — as in, 2009 buzz — during the first month of the year? This is the first book Nelson has both written and illustrated, and it’s a jaw-dropping wonder of a thing. Nelson, using an “Everyman” player as the narrator, tells the story of Negro League baseball from its beginnings in the 1920s through the decline after Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947. Publishers Weekly calls it “a sumptuous volume that no baseball fan should be without” and adds, “while this large, square book (just a shade smaller than a regulation-size base) succeeds as coffee-table art, it soars as a tribute to the individuals . . .” Don’t miss Betsy Bird’s detailed review of it over at A Fuse #8 Production, including her memorable opening (“Nope. Sorry. Not fair. Kadir Nelson, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you’ve completely overdrawn your account in the creativity department. I could accept that you are one of the greatest living illustrators making his way today. I didn’t even mind how young and talented you were. That was fine. But dude, did I actually have to learn that you were a remarkable writer as well?”) and closing (“It’s a one-of-a-kind book, the like of which you have not seen, nor ever will see again. A triumph.”) Kelly Fineman also covered this title over at the wonderful, new blog dedicated to nonfiction and authored by a whole slew of fabulous nonfiction authors and illustrators, I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids):

From the cover art to the rich brown endpapers to the forward by Hall of Famer Hank Aaron to Nelson’s folksy narration of the text to the glorious paintings inside the book (including one amazing double fold-out spread showing the complete lineup for the first Colored World Series), to the author’s note to the bibliography to the index, this book is a gem.

As I pointed out this past Sunday, this title is being featured in Sports Illustrated this month (check out this online gallery).

I ask you, dear reader: Does it get any better than Kadir Nelson?

Jazz on a Saturday Night
by Leo and Diane Dillon
The Blue Sky Press (Scholastic)
September 2007

This title, named a 2008 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, is an homage to a handful of jazz greats — from Miles Davis to Max Roach to Charlie Parker to John Coltrane to Ella Fitzgerald: “Spotlight’s on! The announcer sweeps into sight. ‘You’re in for a session of magic tonight! Ladies and gents, what a jam this will be—an evening of jazz immortality!'” The Dillons compose the narrative and illustrations as if this “Dream Team” of musicians all perform together on one night, which they make clear in the book’s introduction never actually happened. With a snappy, reverent text, delivered in rhyming couplets, they take us to this star-studded performance, featuring a different instrument on each spread, and close the book with biographical notes for each musician in the book. A CD, including information about jazz and all the instruments featured in the book and read by the Dillons, is included (as well as an original tune, “Jazz on a Saturday Night,” inspired by the book and with lyrics by the Dillons; music and production is by Ira Ingber). What really stands out here, though, are the illustrations, the “stylized, affectionate portraits” (Kirkus) of these jazz artists: “The spreads, graphic-styled paintings rendered in deep matte tones with a suggestion of collage, switch between stage and audience, with swirling background patterns portraying the flow of music,” wrote School Library Journal. Kirkus also wrote, “{w}hile the handsome paintings’ fidelity to the musicians’ likenesses is mainly irreproachable, the depictions of Ella vary considerably from spread to spread, never really capturing her essence.” Still worth seeing, though, especially for jazz lovers young and old.

Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella
by Paul Fleischman
Illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Henry Holt
September 2007

“Multicultural Cinderella anthologies already fill classroom shelves,” wrote Rebecca Zerkin for The New York Times in November of last year, “but this worthy contribution from Fleischman . . . cleverly reveals the overlapping elements of the stories by patching 17 versions together to make one cohesive narrative.” Calling it “elegantly rendered,” Zerkin writes of the many surprises for observant readers on each spread. Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal also praised the book, giving it starred reviews, the latter writing “{t}his clever books reads nearly seamlessly and somehow manages to convey simultaneously the essential sameness of the story and the particularities of the different versions.” (If you’re curious about all the book’s other honors, visit the front page of Fleischman’s site). PW added, “Paschkis . . . makes use of folk art and textile patterns throughout the world in the clever background paintings behind each of her vibrant panel illustrations, and she helpfully and unobtrusively labels the country from which relevant borrowings originate.” This is a splendid book; I love Paschkis’ distinctive work as an illustrator; and in the hands of a lesser author, this could have failed so miserably, but Fleischman makes it soar. A must-have, particularly for fairy tale and folklore lovers everywhere.

Albert the Fix-It Man
by Janet Lord
Illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Peachtree Publishers
March 2008*

Allright, while we’re on the subject of Paschkis and her many talents, let’s take a look at another of her illustrated titles from last year. First, though, notice my “*” up there. I’m not sure of the copyright date for this title. Booksellers (such as, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Powells) tell me “March 2008,” but the Library of Congress web site tells me 2007 (oh, and more importantly, the book’s CIP page lists “2008”). Either way, my library has it, and I hope yours will. And I actually couldn’t easily find review snippets for you, but no matter: I’ll dive right into this one. Janet Lord tells the story here of — you guessed it — Albert, who enjoys fixing things (so much so that he “dreams about broken bicycles and loose floorboards”): “Here’s a rusty hinge. Albert oils it. The roof is leaky. Albert climbs up and hammers on a new shingle. The house is snug and dry again.” He then helps his neighbor, Auntie Miller, whose goat has jumped the fence and eaten her beans. He helps Mr. Jensen when the motor in his old truck dies. He helps Akiko with her clothesline. You’ve got a problem? Albert’s there in a jiffy to lend a hand (even sending a nice three Rs-type of message for children in the Mrs. Peabody and Amy spread — while having tea, a blue cup breaks and Mrs. Peabody’s about to chuck it: “‘Stop!’ says Albert the Fix-It Man. ‘You don’t need to do that.'” And he glues the cup. Way to reuse, Al!). When Albert suddenly finds himself ill and stuck home in bed, all his many kindnesses are returned when the aforementioned — and more — neighbors gather to bring him a feast and wish him well. It’s a sweet story of friendship, community, and kindness (ah, “and in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make”), told with ease by Lord with simple, engaging sentences. Paschkis’ bright, sprawling spreads, rendered in her folk-art style, are a feast for the eyes of the wee’est and include a multicultural cast of characters in this warm, loving neighborhood of friends. Another pre-school magnet, this one is.

Iggy Peck: Architect
by Andrea Beaty
Illustrated by David Roberts
Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
October 2007

Ever since he was a baby, Iggy Peck has built towers (made of diapers and glue), temples (the fine art of modeling clay), castles (made of chalk), and buildings. Oh, and the great Sphinx he built in the backyard, using dirt clods. Not to mention “churches and chapels from peaches and apples” and the St. Louis Arch form pancakes and coconut pie. This proves to be terrifically helpful when his second grade class — led by one Ms. Lila Greer, who is terrified of skyscrapers and forbids Iggy’s creations in the classroom — is stranded on an island during a picnic one day, and Iggy saves the day with his very right-brained architect’s mind, building a bridge with a little help from his classmates and some boots, tree roots, strings, fruit roll-ups, and a few unmentionables. “Youthful irreverence and creativity find a champion in this tale,” wrote Publishers Weekly. “{The teacher’s} backstory suggests teachers’ rules can be arbitrary, not to mention damaging to inventive students.” Ain’t it the truth for some teachers and students? Poor Iggy’s creative outlet is smushed under the tutelage of Greer. But not for long, what with the book’s triumphant ending. Roberts’ watercolor illustrations are laid out upon graph paper in both the opening and close of the book. Wrote PW, the “controlled illustrations fit the architectural theme, and . . . Roberts breaks free of the stylization with absorbing details.” As Fuse put it in her detailed review (Part One and Part Two), this one is “a treat. Original and enjoyable and lots of fun to read. And hey, if you want to use it to convince the youth of America that architecture is a fun and interesting occupation, by all means go ahead.” (Indeed, the author reports she’s been hearing from budding architects already!).

Three Little Ghosties
by Pippa Goodhart
Illustrated by AnnaLaura Cantone
August 2007

Man, I wish I had heard of this book last October when Halloween was upon us. But, no matter: It’s a hoot of a read any time of year and could quite possibly be the best read-aloud of 2007. Since that’s arguable, let’s just call it The Best Read-Aloud of ’07 That Jules Missed Altogether. Meet Ghosties Number One, Two, and Three: “Three little ghosties / sat on their posties, / eating burnt toasties / telling big boasties.” Ghostie Number One “went to scare ghoulsies, / sitting in their schoolsies, / learning spelling rulesies.” Ghostie Number Two “scared some mean witches, / sitting in dark ditches, / lipsticking their lipses, / plotting evil trickses.” Ghostie Number Three has some bragging to do as well, and after each boast, the ghosties laugh it up — obnoxiously, of course. Finally setting off to haunt some girlsies and boyses, they get a fright themselves when the tables are turned and a clever young lad, who is so on to their “ghostie-slither” sliding through “window cracksies,” gets them with his own “BOOO!” and sends them whimpering home to their own ghostie momsies (“They tumble-tangle fled out from my bedroom and into the night.”) I love the world of new verbs here from Goodhart and her inventive rhymes, which slide right off your tongue with no strain whatsoever (hard to do with rhyming picture books, indeed). Wrote a Horn Book reviewer, “Goodhart’s engagingly silly rhymes are paired with mixed-media illustrations that use dark and spooky colors but feature goofy-looking ghosts. A Halloween natural, but kids will enjoy reading about the boastie ghosties year-round.” (Great minds think alike.) “Cantone’s glossy mixed-media collages are filled with color and motion,” wrote School Library Journal. “Various fabrics, antique papers, and objects are cleverly incorporated into the artwork and add texture and detail: a spider sits on a web made from lace and the witches’ brooms are cobbled out of cut ribbon. These unique pictures perfectly capture the ghosties and their antics, giving them a slightly spooky quality while emphasizing the story’s humor.” This book is so much fun I can hardly stand it. Don’t miss it, especially come this October (never too early to start your reading lists, I say).

The Bearskinner: A Tale of the Brothers Grimm
by Laura Amy Schlitz
Illustrated by Max Grafe
October 2007

Recent Newbery winner Laura Amy Schlitz didn’t just score with her medieval monologues. This picture book adaptation of the Grimms’ Bearskin is a delight as well. Actually, “delight” might be misleading; it’s a grave tale, indeed, as a Horn Book reviewer hinted: “In a somber tale of the devil more outlasted than outwitted, an ex-soldier accepts a hard bargain: he’ll be rich for the rest of his life if, for seven years, he wears the skin of the bear he’s just slain, without bathing, prayer, or explanation; but failure will mean eternal perdition. Schlitz narrates with clarity, grace, and sensitivity to the larger ideas her words suggest . . .” Fuse (yes, Fuse again, but her reviews are simply the best, now aren’t they?) covered this one, too, in November (Part One and Part Two):

I don’t know how well fairy tales sell on the open market. I don’t know how many library systems appreciate them fully, or how many families know how important they are to a child’s development and growth, both emotionally and socially. What I do know is that “The Bearskinner” as written by Laura Amy Schlitz and as illustrated by Max Grafe is a piece of fine art. A book that deserves love, attention, and more. Worth seeking out, to say the least.

Schlitz’s adaptation of this tale is reverent and exquisite. “This puts every value you want your kids to have . . . into what would be a page-turner if you weren’t so inclined to linger over the haunting images,” wrote Carolyn Hax in December for The Washington Post. If you’re familiar with the tale — and especially if you’re not — don’t miss the treatment it undergoes in the hands of Schlitz and Grafe. A beautiful hero-tale to share with your children.

That’s it for now. Until next time . . .

13 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Picture Book Tips for Impossibly Busy Parents #4 (the Almost Julie-Paschkis-Edition)”

  1. Another fantastic list! Another bad ratio this week for my local library — a measly one (Three Little Ghosties out of seven — but I made a great discovery recently that dulls the pain. I’ve been using the library’s “suggestions for purchase” page since I started looking at kidlit blogs last year, and I thought it might be a waste of time…but over the last few weeks my suggestions have suddenly been showing up on my holds list as “ordered”…SO THEY’RE ACTUALLY LISTENING! I was pretty stoked. I think that’s how we finally got the Jewel Box Ballerinas, which we’ve been loving.

    As for your question about what we’re reading this week, we have a ridiculous 45 books out from the library right now, but I won’t burden you with the entire list. The ones we’re enjoying most, some discovered here, others just old favorites:

    — Boxes for Katje (I dare *anyone* to read this with dry eyes)
    — The Water Gift and the Pig of the Pig
    — An Undone Fairy Tale
    — The Night is Singing (great bedtime book)
    — The Monster Trap
    — Freckleface Strawberry
    — Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend
    — Aunt Nancy and Old Man Trouble

  2. Yay! It’s Jeremy! I always look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for stopping by again.

    I am totally going to go get some of those titles. Thanks for the list. I’ve read the last three on your list but not the others. Isn’t The Night is Singing by Jacqueline Davies? I’ll have to look that up.

    Glad your library is ordering your titles. I’ve thought about doing that before, too. I bet I’d get on their nerves with all my requests. Heh. Anyway, good for them for attending to the patrons so well.

    Thanks again!

  3. The Bearskinner is five kinds of awesome, as in it-gave-me-shivers good. It’s one I worry won’t find its audience in my library, one of those picture books for kids of an age who tend to stop looking at picture books. I hope parents and teachers and librarians help them find it. (I’ll be doing my best here at WPL, goodness knows.)

  4. Wow! I should be handing out stipends to you guys for all the fabulous hits you send me. Thanks so much for the links!

  5. Yes, Jacqueline Davies, and it’s really nice. Soothing poetry and very cool illustrations by new favorite Kyrsten Brooker. She’s done some really cool stuff, but I hadn’t realized until right now how many of her books we’ve enjoyed. Duh!

    Yes, my library probably is sick of my suggestions already…especially now that I’ve realized they’re paying attention and ramped up my requests. We’ll see how quickly they tire of it.

    And thanks back atchya.

  6. Oof, how embarrassing. Once you named the illustrator, I realized I have not only read that, Jeremy, but I’ve reviewed it here at 7-Imp (back when our images were so small — ick, how could we stand that?). Anyway, well, at least I knew it sounded familiar. Really, I had it in my head that you were talking about a more recent book, so I didn’t even recognize it. I remember loving that one. I really liked the illustrations, too. Davies always does good stuff, too.

  7. Oh and Jeremy, I clicked on your Kyrsten link and see she has a brand-new one out. My libraries don’t have it — d’oh! But I’ll keep looking for it. It’s called Someday When My Cat Can Talk.

    Also, how much do you all LOVE Aunt Nancy and Old Man Trouble? I reviewed that fairly recently. I think Phyllis Root can do no wrong.

  8. Well, it was almost two years ago and just a little review among many, so you can certainly be forgiven for forgetting. I’ve been going through the 7-Imp archives, so I probably got it from there in the first place. And yes, it is bedtime dreamy.

    I had no idea there were four books in the Aunt Nancy treasury. We stumbled across Aunt Nancy and Cousin Lazybones a long time ago, then found Old Man Trouble recently…will have to fire up that “suggestions for purchase” page again to get the other two. My girls just love them — such warm, tricksy language, and great illustrations. My older daughter Ivy noticed the similarities to the fantastic Clever Beatrice trilogy — smart female character outwits male dolts…

    Oh, and agreed on how freakin’ awesome Big Momma Makes the World is…like goosebumply great, just based on the language alone, although the pictures are good too. I hadn’t realized the author connection there, so thanks for that too.

    Would love to hear your take on any of those from my list. We’ve also got Waiting for Gregory out right now, which I saw you had reviewed at the same time as The Night is Singing…amazing illustrations.

  9. Jeremy, did you see the Phyllis Root interview, too? I think she’s so great. One of the best, and I was so thrilled to have a chance to interview her.

    Yes, Waiting for Gregory is dreamy-good, too.

    I got as many from your list as my library had. Will keep you up-to-date! Thanks!

  10. Whoa…not sure how I missed that tour de force interview. That’s amazing…so many cool references. She sounds like a fantastic woman.

  11. […] A copy of Kadir Nelson’s We Are the Ship arrived at my door this week, and I knew I hadn’t ordered it. Turns out it was a surprise […]

  12. […] book was published by Peachtree Press in March of ‘08, and I also reviewed this title here in March. I have to add that my wee daughters and I read our library copy of this book so very, […]

  13. […] Albert the Fix-It Man by Janet Lord, Peachtree […]

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