A Picture Book Round-Up, Featuring Charley Harper, Suzanne McGinness, and Helen Oxenbury

h1 November 9th, 2011 by jules

From Charley Harper Colors
(Click to enlarge spread — No. Really. It’s beautiful…)

From Suzanne McGinness’s My Bear Griz: “…and looking at the stars.”
(Click to enlarge spread)

From Peter Bently’s King Jack and the Dragon, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury: “Jack, Zack, and Caspar were making a den—
a mighty great fort for King Jack and his men.”

(Click to enlarge spread)

Oftentimes, 7-Imp posts exist in two ways: In my mind and in reality. In my mind, today’s post was going to be an art-heavy round-up of some great picture book titles (and, in one case, a board book title) for the youngest of readers.

In reality, life gets in the way (a good thing, as you wouldn’t want me to be a blogger without a life, yes?), and so today’s post will be about three picture book titles for the youngest of readers — not the eleven or so I had initially planned on.

But those other eight (or so) books? I’ll get to them soon. Promise.

Let’s hit it, shall we?

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Two things: First, if you like to keep up with high-quality board books for the wee’est of readers, you are following Adrienne Furness’s blog, right? Over at What Adrienne Thinks About That, she occasionally weighs in on the best of the best when it comes to board books. (Here is her latest board-book post.)

Secondly, granted I’m a huge art nerd, but if I could convince you to take in one board book this year, it might be this one. There are many great things about Charley Harper Colors (Ammo Books, June 2011), but here’s my favorite: It’s delightfully offbeat. You can see some more spreads here below, but what you don’t see here is the “a tan-colored car and a secret experiment” spread, not to mention “a big pink butterfly with orange spots, a small blue butterfly, and a yellow moon.” I mean, right? So unexpected and just straight-up fun.

Charley Harper, as you can read here, was an American Modernist artist, born in 1922. Gloria Fowler (also the Design Director of AMMO Books, I believe) designed this book, and it was evidently preceded by Charley Harper ABCs and Charley Harper 123s in 2008. Young children will enjoy these bright colors and beguiling shapes. Take a look here below:

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge cover)

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Suzanne McGinness, pictured below, studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art and then moved to England to study children’s book illustration at the Cambridge School of Art, and this is her debut title. I’m intrigued.

My Bear Griz (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, August 2011) is a story without a problem. It’s a tribute to the imagination of children, simply chronicling one day in the life of young Billy, who loves bears and whose bear’s name is Griz, “because he is a Grizzly Bear.” They explore, snack, play hide-and-go-seek, share secrets, nap, and much more. In the final spread, we see proof that this boy’s imagination is as big as his imaginary friend, though discerning readers will notice other clues before the closing illustration.

Publishers Weekly calls McGinness “a talent worth watching,” and the Kirkus review calls this a “visually distinctive debut.” And that’s just it exactly: McGinness’s art, particularly of this big grizzly bear, is visually striking, and I very much look forward to what she brings us next. The over-sized book format is a nice fit for this beautifully-rendered (and ginormous) bear, who looms from each page, yet still manages to communicate warmth and friendship to young readers.

Here are two more spreads. Enjoy.

(Click to enlarge each spread)

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I love it when a Helen Oxenbury-illustrated title is released. This Fall, Dial brings us Peter Bently’s King Jack and the Dragon, illustrated by Ms. Oxenbury, and it’s an imaginative adventure, written in the kind of rhyme that rolls off one’s tongue.

Jack, Zack, and Caspar build a fort outside: “‘Prepare to do battle, brave knights!’ cried King Jack. ‘Protect your king’s castle from dragon attack!'” They spend their entire day …

“fighting dragons…”
(Click to enlarge)

… and beasts. They celebrate by feasting on snacks in their fort, and eventually Sir Zack and Caspar are hauled off to bed (by giants, no less). King Jack, left all alone in his fort, musters up all his courage, as the sun sets and owls hoot and the sky gets dark, but—despite his best efforts—he starts to get spooked. And, well … I won’t give it all away here, though the below spreads tell you a lot …

“It was outside the drawbridge. King Jack gave a yelp. ‘A dragon! A dragon! Mommy! Dad! Help!’ He wished he was anything else but a king,
as the drawbridge fell open and there stood…”

(Click to enlarge)

“the THING!”
(Click to enlarge)

“Bently’s verse never misses a beat,” writes Publishers Weekly, “and Oxenbury shifts between monochromatic, engraving-like drawings and pale watercolors; the images feel as if they were drawn from a classic fairy tale book and contemporary life simultaneously. It’s an enchanting tribute to both full-throttle pretend play and the reassurance of a parent’s embrace.”

What they said. It’s Oxenbury doing what she does so well, capturing sheer exuberance in thirty-two pages. This one is not-to-miss, especially if you’re an Oxenbury fan.

Until next time …

* * * * * * *

Illustrations from COLORS are © 2011 the Estate of Charley Harper/www.ammobooks.com.

MY BEAR GRIZ. Copyright © 2011 by Suzanne McGinness. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Frances Lincoln Ltd., London. Photo of Ms. McGinness also used with permission of publisher.

KING JACK AND THE DRAGON. Text copyright © 2011 by Peter Bently. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Helen Oxenbury. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Dial Books for Young Readers, New York, NY.

8 comments to “A Picture Book Round-Up, Featuring Charley Harper, Suzanne McGinness, and Helen Oxenbury”

  1. Jules and Suzanne, I love the constellation painting! It reminds me of Grand Central Station. I love that bear

  2. My Bear Griz: peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Now you’re talkin’ ♥ !

  3. Thanks for the shout-out, Jules, and also for some new books to look forward to.

  4. Good point, Amy, and hey, I saw Grand Central Station for the first time with you!

  5. […] my appreciation of them. If you want to read another review of My Bear Griz, here is a nice one on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (a favorite children’s book illustration blog) which even includes a photo of McGinness […]

  6. I can’t wait to get my hands on Colors. I love that my mom was probably looking at Harper’s artwork when she was a kid…and now my daughter and I can marvet at it. Now that’s timeless!

  7. […] week I did a part-one post, if you will, of some new picture book titles for the youngest of readers. Here’s the next […]

  8. This post is genuinely realy important to me. Thank you really significantly concerning such helpful ideas.

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