New Picture Books That You Cannot Live Without:
An Ode in Three Parts

h1 September 13th, 2006 by jules

Jules and Eisha here, co-posting again. We were ooh’ing and aah’ing recently in great excitement over some new picture book titles that are out (as in, all are 2006 titles, and some are brand spankin’ new) and that have been created by some of the more well-known names in this field. We divvied up the titles and decided we must tell you about them (and there will most certainly be a Part Deux to this post and probably even a Part Three, since we each have a nice stack ‘o books). So, hold on to your horses, cowgirls and cowboys; here we go. Yee haw!

cowgirl.gifGiddy Up, Cowgirl by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (a.k.a. JJK, or a Hot Man of Children’s Literature) — Did I say “ode”? How about a cowgirl’s yodel instead . . . Okay, so Krosoczka’s not as huge as, say, Rosemary Wells or Lane Smith (whose new titles are also covered in our ode), but if you don’t know about JJK, then you need to hop to it, people. You pretty much can’t live without Punk Farm, for sure. JJK’s new title, Giddy Up, Cowgirl, is some kind of fun and wonderfully sweet. The plot is simple and one that parents of toddlers everywhere know oh-so well: A young girl — who, in this case, is playing cowgirl for the day — is eager to join her mother and help with the running of her errands. The girl’s a bit overzealous, and accidents ensue. The mother gets frustrated, but — following the great and grand traditions of author/illustrators from Sendak (“and it was still hot”) to David Shannon (“Yes, David, I love you”) — all is forgiven with that great maternal reassurance that a child needs and a big ‘ol smoocheroo to the cheek. Krosoczka’s illustrations radiate exuberance, as usual, and his near-chinless characters with their smiles creeping up most of their faces exude their unrestrained joy and, in this case, the requisite mischief. JJK hasn’t let me down yet, and this title is a winner, too (and we know, we know — his brand spankin’ new title, My Buddy, Slug, is out! We promise to review soon) . . .

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Look at that rabbit, you guys. Just look at that Raschka creation. How much personality does he have? A whole stinkin’ lot, I tell ya. Chris Raschka’s new title, Five for a Little One, is about the five senses — as well as a counting book — and just how often do elementary school librarians get asked for books about the five senses? Well, hand those teachers this fabulous book now. Raschka uses watercolor, India ink, and potato prints (the latter providing much texture to his illustrations) to bring us our playful protagonist — with his “noble nose,” “happy ears,” “clever eyes,” “lucky tongue,” and “playful paws” and with those endearing ginormously floppy feet — who is exploring the world. The best part about Raschka’s art in this book is that it empowers children to try to emulate what they see and make their own minimalist creations in Raschka’s style, what Publishers Weekly calls his “tactile art.” The look here is clean, crisp, bold with a generous use of white space. Raschka’s text is springy, playful, also empowering — “{y}ou have the key to color and light. See the sunsets, skylines, mountains, sidewalks, fountains. Be clear, be bright.” In the end, the bunny’s fiddle-playing and flower-picking parents join in, reminding us that exploration is more fun when it’s shared. I say serious Caldecott contender, folks. Doesn’t Raschka just get better and better with each book? Don’t miss this one.

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Max’s ABC by Rosemary Wells — Max and Ruby are back, this time battling some ants in Wells’ new alphabet book. Each letter-entry is not unrelated to the next; this is a continuous narrative, and Wells gives us new subject matter or a new action on each page, covering the alphabet from from Ant to ZZZZZ (no, the pesky ants don’t die; they fall fast asleep). (Oddly enough, there’s a big ‘ol typo on one page, though). Wells charms, as usual, with bright, mostly pastel hues that spill to the edge of the pages but with Max and Ruby (mostly) framed in the middle, taking center stage, exactly where they belong. I love how much expression we get out of these characters with what Wells simply does with their eyes. Each letter of the alphabet is big and bold on the page, in clear view for the toddler/pre-schooler at which the book is aimed. A cheerful, high-spirited romp of a book. (And for another great picture book involving antagonist ants, which my daughter and I are enjoying this week, read Boo and Baa in the Woods, published in 2000, by Olof and Lena Landström. The Boo and Baa books are great fun, wonderfully droll).

Olivia Forms a BandHave you met Olivia? You have? Oh, good, then I’ll skip the introductory stuff and tell you about her latest, Olivia Forms a Band (by Ian Falconer). The family is planning an outing to see a fireworks show, but Olivia is horrified to find out that there WON’T BE A BAND. So she volunteers her own talents, and collects stand-in instruments and costume pieces from around the house. In the center fold-out spread, we see “the band” as it appears in Olivia’s imagination – rows upon rows of marching Olivias, in smart uniforms and playing in perfect time. (Her family’s faces tell the real story as they admit that she does, in fact, “sound like more than one person.”) But before the show, Miss O inexplicably (but realistically) has become bored with the band idea and instead plays with mom’s lipstick before they head out, which results in one of the funniest images I’ve seen from Mr. Falconer to date: Olivia preening with a cut-out photo of a big red model mouth on her face. You really just have to see it. Then, the picnic and some lovely photocollage full-page spreads of the fireworks show. And home to dream of the next adventure. I don’t know if Falconer will ever be able to top the perfection that was the first Olivia book, but this is entertaining, if a little disjointed and one-liner-ish. The understated black and white charcoal illustrations with touches of red (and sky blue, the signature color of this volume) are amazingly expressive, as always. If you love the pig, you gotta have it.

calef.gifFlamingos on the Roof: Poems and Paintings by Calef Brown — Brown is, arguably, also not as well-known as, say, the creator of Olivia or Max & Ruby, but he’s made some unforgettable and whimsical books that you can’t live without. Add his new one to your list. And, since I bet his art is described as “whimsical” a lot, let me elaborate or, rather, specify here: These acrylic folk-art (or, as Booklist described them well, “part folk art, part postmodern”) illustrations make you feel like you’ve gone to another world, a hopped-up bizzaro circus world with blue (as well as green) people, lots of nonsense and humor, and — in this case — some allicatter gatorpillars and allibutter gatorflies. As you can tell from the latter, Brown really has fun playing with language, and this glee translates well to the kiddos, inspiring them perhaps to go write some Edward Lear-type balderdash of their own. In “Sally,” we meet Medusa’s sister, who has a “single lazy snake” on her head, unlike her sibling. As we all know, look at Medusa and “you turn to solid rock/Sally’s curse is even worse/she makes you stop and talk.” And the illustration of Sally? Well, you just have to see it yourself. She’s a hoot. Thank goodness for the mind of Calef Brown. This book is a treat you owe yourself and any children you know.

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New Peter Sis! New Peter McCarty! New Mo Willems! you say? Well, devoted blog reader, just wait for Part Deux of our slammin’ ode. We promise to deliver. And, yes, the great and brilliant Maurice Sendak — the object of my hero worship (Jules talkin’ here) for whom I will mop my floor — has collaborated on a new pop-up book. Yes, this is cause for major celebration. Click here for a sneak peek at the glory of it all. Oh, and here. I’m trying to contain myself here, folks; I believe it comes out late September. Oh, the agony of the wait!

Aren’t odes supposed to be sung? The first reader to come up with a fine, fine melody for our list gets, um, our undying affection and devotion and love. Until we hit The Big Time — whatever that might be in the world of blogs — that’s our humble offering. Hee hee.

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12 comments to “New Picture Books That You Cannot Live Without:
An Ode in Three Parts”

  1. (drawn out holler to start things off)

    Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeell –

    Giddup, kiddies, here we go!
    Grab your partners, do-si-do
    If you’re a cowgirl or cowboy
    Pick up a book instead of a toy

    Want to learn your ABCs?
    Max will teach you A through Z
    Want to learn your numbers too?
    Five for a Little One will see you through

    Then it’s time to lead the band
    Olivia will take you by the hand
    Can you stand on only one leg?
    Flamingoes can take you down a peg

    Soooooooooooooooo –

    Giddyup, cowgirl – or cowboy
    These new books will bring you joy
    Reading can be so much fun
    And make you proud when you are done!

    Bow to your partner – YEE HAW!

    (How’s that?)


  2. very nice. you have certainly earned *my* undying devotion for that creation. kudos!

    jules


  3. yeeeee-haaaah! that was totally AWESOME. mad props to you, little willow!


  4. Thanks! 🙂

    By the way, I was drawn to this blog because of the title. I’m an Alice in Wonderland addict to the nth degree.


  5. well, then, little willow, you might be happy to know that we totally intend to add a different ‘alice’ image (whether tenniel or not — as long as they’re in the public domain) for each category of our blog (one for the ‘picture book’ page, one for the ‘young adult’ page, etc.). we’re just waiting on my husband, our tech support, to find the time.

    love your site. you are one multi-faceted woman, indeed. — jules


  6. Very nice plans. 🙂
    Thank you for the kind words.


  7. have you ever wondered where literature would be without lewis carroll? would there have been oz books? would neil gaiman even exist?

    and ditto to julie’s comments on little willow’s many sites and blogs. they are all tres cool.


  8. Thank you! 🙂

    I agree. Charles laid a foundation.

    I have added Seven to the links section of the Bildungsroman website.


  9. Little Willow, are you and Anna Nalick one and the same, or am I just being dense and you perhaps designed her site and have her pics up?? Just curious. I totally just bought my mom her (your?) CD for her birthday — jules


  10. I am not Anna Nalick, but I enjoy her album and used her images for the current layout at my website Your Girl. 🙂


  11. thanks for clarifying. i had trouble imagining an up-and-coming singer/songwriter/musician like her travelling the country to promote a CD but stopping to read a book-a-day and writing about it AND reading blogs about all those titles, too . . . but one never knows. — jules


  12. That would be fun.


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