The two of us again . . . Here’s Part III, the finale, to our new-picture-books post (as in, those done by authors/illustrators whose names you’ll, most likely, recognize). Don’t forget the new book from the king of all wild things . . . er, I mean the king of all author/illustrators, Maurice Sendak. That is covered in another recent post. As for the following titles, they’re all ones not to miss and created by authors and illustrators whose collective talent is enough to knock your collective socks off.
Looking for a Moose by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Randy Cecil — Phyllis Root is one of my favorite children’s book authors (Jules talkin’ here); she possesses such staggering talent that I don’t know how she can keep from falling over when standing. In this new title, she showcases her gifted talents for wordplay, and she writes with a rollicking rhythm that flows right off the tongue: “We scrape through the bushes scritch scratch! scritch scratch! the brambly-ambly, bunchy-scrunchy, scrubby-shrubby bushes.” Her four moose-hunting protagonists are ruthless in their search for this animal of the wild, but just when they’re about to give up, thinking the moose are meager, they are treated to a moose-multitude in the end. Cecil’s short, stout, hardy characters and interactive illustrations (there are clues all about for the sharp observer that the moose might just be there after all) with his heavy dose of brown and muted orange and green are charming and cheerful, a nice fit to Root’s jaunty text. I wouldn’t have initially paired Cecil with Root, but, hey, I’m no publisher — and it works.
The Little Red Hen illustrated by Jerry Pinkney — “Oh joy of joys!”, as the last line of this book exclaims, Jerry Pinkney’s back! His illustrations just teem with life, don’t they? (I — as in, Jules — have a memory of seeing his rendition of The Ugly Duckling for the first time and being moved to tears — yes, tears — at the fine, fine illustrations). And this one is no exception; his illustrations for the classic folk tale spill off the page with much energy and warmth. And you gotta dig his personified sun and little sunflowers (you can search inside the book, of course, at the above Amazon link and see it for yourself) — and who doesn’t dig the brassy, cocky (sorry, couldn’t help myself) red hen who gets all snap-snap-I-don’t-think-so-talk-to-the-hand on the lazy, good-for-nothing farm animals? And she’s one smart, sassy lady, ’cause in this one, she flatters each animal whilst trying to enlist their help (“Surely you will help,” she tells the dog when trying to get some assistance with planting the seeds. “You are so fond of digging”). And is that Pinkney himself depicted as the miller with the yummy berry jam? Anyway, leave it to Pinkney to bring classic beauty to classic tales. Sunny is the word for this book. Sunny and shiny and splendiferous. Treat yourself, and then share it with your favorite child.
Probuditi! by Chris Van Allsburg. Yeah, baby, Mr. Polar Express is back, with a sly little morality tale about sibling meanness. Calvin loves to play tricks on his little sister Trudy. When his long-suffering mother gives him tickets to see a magician/hypnotist for his birthday, he and his friend Rodney are inspired to try out a little hypnosis on Trudy. It seems to work – they tell her she’s a dog, and she starts barking and chasing squirrels. But then she won’t snap out of it… and after she’s finally “cured” and Calvin has missed his special birthday dinner for tricking her, we find out who the real trickster is. The illustrations are sepia-toned pencil, and depict a retro world of fedora-hatted men and big-fendered cars. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this is the first time that a Van Allsburg book has featured African American characters. Yay for diversity!
When You Are Happy by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Geraldo Valerio — This is a huggy little book about the unconditional love of a family. It cannot, I’m happy to say, be lumped into the I-love-you-to-the-moon-and-back-and-then-I’ll-sneak-into-your-room-when-you’re-thirty- and-rock-you-to-sleep-and-then-chop-me-down-and-sit-on-me-type books that really are for adults (whew, if I can work The Rainbow Fish in there, I will have managed The Triumverate). As far as I’m concerned, this can be paired in all its child-centeredness and warmth with Molly Bang’s latest, In My Heart (reviewed here by little ‘ol me — Jules, that is). Members of a young girl’s family tell her how they’ll comfort/take care of/just be with her when she’s loney or tired or sick or grumpy or lost or even happy. This is, in particular, a nice end-of-the-day book to experience with your wee child; if you don’t have one — child, that is — aw heck, borrow one (legally, please) just to share this book. The illustrations by Valerio are buoyant, whimsical; click here and play with the arrows to see images from this lovely book.
Flotsam by David Wiesner. Wiesner returns to his Caldecott-winning roots with this surreal, wordless picture book. A boy finds an old underwater camera washed up on a beach, and when he develops the film… it becomes clear that there’s a lot more going on under the sea than any human eye has ever seen. The stunning images, rendered in minutely-detailed watercolors, are by turns whimsical and mind-bending. You’ll want to savor this one over and over.
I’m Dirty! by Kate & Jim McMullan. Carrying on the tradition of I Stink! and I’m Mighty!, the McMullans celebrate another utility vehicle – this time, it’s a backhoe loader. In onomatopoeic, colorful text that boldly marches around the pages, the gleeful, hardworking backhoe takes us through a dirty day of cleaning up trash: “Who’s got a BOOM, a dipper stick, and a BUCKET with a row of chompers? ME! And that’s just my REAR end.” The bright cartoony illustrations (pastels, maybe?) are a perfect match – lots of yellow and brown, with big fat black crayon outlines, and a grinning backhoe that gets more mud-spattered on every page. This will be a hoot for a group read-aloud (ooh, you could pair it with Trashy Town!), and if you happen to know one of those vehicle-obsessed toddlers… s/he will love it.
My Buddy, Slug by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. I know, this book has already been reviewed on every other blog out there. But I have to throw in my two cents, and say: hilarious! If you don’t already know… one of Alex’s two best friends has moved away, so now it’s just Alex and Slug. All the time. And Slug is getting kind of clingy, which is getting on Alex’s nerves, until he has a meltdown and really hurts the Slug’s feelings. But of course he apologizes, and Slug explains that he was worried about losing Alex like they lost Kevin, and it’s all good. The awesome Mr. Krosoczka is really, really good at: 1.) Writing picture books about situations that kids really encounter and care about; 2.) Snarky humor that does not condescend to kids (example: Slug is a giant, neon-orange slug, everyone else in the story is human… and NO ONE ever says anything about it. He just happens to be a big orange slug. Period. It’s the only surreal touch to an otherwise straight story, which is why it’s so hilarious – to me, anyway.); and 3.) Bright, brilliant, uncluttered acrylic illustrations that have just enough detail and can convey so much with just a few brushstrokes… a raised eyebrow here, a little pindot mouth there. All of these talents are in full effect here.
Whew! And there it is, folks, the end of the round-up… hope it was worth the wait!