Picture Book Round-Up, Part One

h1 July 8th, 2008 by jules

I really intended for this round-up to include several more titles, but I’m doing what I can here with a new project for work that’s taking a considerable chunk of time and a storytelling gig on Tuesday. I’m off to practice my story one more time, but for now, here are three new titles, released this Spring, that are sure to entertain in one fashion or another. Perhaps tomorrow I can add some more titles to the mix. Enjoy!

by Emily Jenkins
Illustrated by
Pierre Pratt
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
April 2008

This dog’s tale from Emily Jenkins and Pierre Pratt has Publishers Weekly saying that the picture book duo prove one more time that “author and illustrator are brilliantly simpatico.” Well, who would argue that? This is the story of Dumpling, “a dog of enormous enthusiasm, excellent obedience skills—and very little nose.” Yup, Dumpling’s smart and skilled at dog tricks and oh-so loving (she goes into “paroxysms of joy” when her people come home), but she can’t smell a thing and—as a result—has no friends (seeing as how dogs like to sniff around one another to get intimate). When the family moves to the country, Dumpling finds herself with an expansive new back yard and a doghouse. After encountering a skunk who sprays her multiple times, Dumping heads back inside, much to her family’s dismay (amusingly enough, they try a handful of tricks to get the skunk smell off the dog, most of them the determined mother has read “somewhere”). When Dumpling heads back out, she gets sprayed again, though she shares a meal with the skunk: “She couldn’t smell anything, so she didn’t care.” And so it goes—family tries another technique to get rid of the skunk funk and Dumpling heads back outside. Dumpling is bummed to discover his new friend has disappeared — or so he thinks. Turns out the skunk is waiting for him in his doghouse. A friendship is born: “And though she sometimes got sprayed, when the skunk was startled or in a cranky mood, Dumpling never minded a bit. She couldn’t smell anything, so she didn’t care.”

As any good illustrator does, Pratt has a distinctive style you can spot a mile away: The large heads (on elongated bodies) and squat, oversized features of his characters (“{t}he characters have the look of carved figures,” wrote Booklist about That New Animal) and his use of vivid, bright colors. Pratt was a good choice, extending the lengthy, smart text with much humor and authenticity (children will get laughs out of the skunk unashamedly spraying his pal). And Dumpling, unknown in the ways of skunk, is brought to life by Pratt in such a . . . dare I say adorable manner? You’ll immediately fall for him and his sincerity and naivete. Jenkins, as always, gets right on eye level with the child reader, never condescending (I love some of her vocabulary choices in this one, including the aforementioned “paroxysms”) and never laying it on too thick with the Schmaltz and the Syrupy and the Too-Sweet. School librarians can consider this an excellent choice for the next time they want a good tale of friendship, a love-sees-no-colors—-or, in this case, love-smells-no-skunk—-story of tolerance.

Danny’s Drawing Book
by Sue Heap
March 2008

Ah, here’s a wonderful title for your art-lovin’ preschoolers. Designed to look like the drawing book it’s about, it’s an imaginative tale and a tribute to the creative play of children, brought to us by Sue Heap, whose illustrations always manage to be child-like — yet never in a manner that indicated she tried way too hard to be so (which some illustrators fall into). This is the story of Danny and his friend Ettie, visiting the zoo on a snowy day. They see the elephants and an aardvark in the Nocturnal Animal House. Danny’s got a drawing book, and he draws the two creatures together, creating a story just for them, complete with his very own illustrations. Eventually, we enter the world of his drawing book and are dropped knee-deep into a narrative-within-the narrative of their trip to Africa in the yellow pages of Danny’s drawings. At one point, Danny even draws himself and Ettie in the book as well, as if things couldn’t get any more meta. When a plot element or change of scenery is needed in the story, why, Danny simply draws it. Harold would be proud. When it’s time to go home, the animals want to stay in Africa, so Danny and Ettie say goodbye. When Ettie wonders how to get home, Danny replies: “It’s easy. All you do is . . . close the drawing book.” And bam! We’re back in the multi-colored, snowy, “real” world of the two at the zoo. The final endpages depict postcards from the two creatures from The Burrow in Africa. Heh. A playful romp. Just be ready to locate drawing books for those readers/listeners so inspired by Danny’s tale.

by Rachel Isadora
May 2008

You need to know I’ll always get in line for any Rachel Isadora book, and this one doesn’t disappoint. This is a picture book for your wee toddler, always—and I mean ALWAYS—on the move. In contrasting spreads, Isadora shows us an inquisitive African-American toddler with an object (“Diaper,” “Crayons”) or engaged in an activity (“Bath time” and “Breakfast”) and then the resulting chaos that is a staple of toddlerhood. In the first spreads, the action corralled into illustration borders, things are relatively calm. On the page following each relatively in-control moment, things have gone haywire as the borders disappear and the illustrations take over the entire page, and that’s where our titular UH-OH! comes in: The diaper’s come off and there’s talcum powder all over the floor; the sweet, little angel’s colored on the walls; the bath toys and bathtub water are splashed all over the bathroom floor; and the bowl of oatmeal is now a hat. In the final “Bedtime” spread, the “uh-oh!” is a tender one — grandfather’s dozed while reading, but on the endpages we see our curious protagonist all tucked up and dozing in slumberland. The text is simple, and the repetition will draw in the wee readers at which the book is aimed. Isadora’s texturized pastels manage to both stimulate and comfort all in one swoop. An engaging book for the toddler-in-motion.

Until next time…

4 comments to “Picture Book Round-Up, Part One”

  1. Great books for the little ones!

  2. The book reviews are wonderful, but of course we want to know how the storytelling went.

  3. I want to be a fly on the wall for your storytelling, Jules. Lucky little kiddos. And Danny’s Drawing Book looks awesome with a capital AWE.

  4. Well, aren’t you all sweet? The storytelling went fine, though the story I chose was a bit advanced for the wee ones that showed up. It’s really hard to pick the right story when it’s an all-ages story time.

    And I also followed, once again, a mute, over-sized, hairy fast food character. Wait, this one wasn’t actually fast food — he was a sports mascot. But, hey, I did my best to entertain, too.

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact sevenimp_blaine@blaine.org. Thanks.