Another Picture Book Round-Up,
Featuring Katherine Battersby,
Valeri Gorbachev, Hilary Knight, and Masayuki Sebe

h1 November 17th, 2011 by jules


From Katherine Battersby’s Squish Rabbit


From Valeri Gorbachev’s Shhh!:
“‘Please don’t fly your buzzing plane,’ I ask the pilot. ‘Shhh!’”

(Click to enlarge spread)


From Steven Kroll and Hilary Knight’s Nina in That Makes me Mad!


From Masayuki Sebe’s Let’s Count to 100!
(Click to enlarge spread)

Last 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 installment — with lots of art. Enjoy.

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Squish Rabbit (Viking, August 2011) is the debut title from Australian author/illustrator Katherine Battersby. Squish is a little rabbit who gets his name from being “hard to see.” No one listens to him and good things pass right by him, all on account of him being so small.


(Click image to see entire spread from which it comes)

Yup. Literally makes a friend, as you can see. This doesn’t last so long, his “pretend friend.” He tries playing with the trees, too, but that’s also a spectacular failure. After throwing a tantrum over it all, he eventually meets a squirrel. And I don’t want to give it all away, except to say this is a story about finding one’s voice, in more ways than one — no matter how small you may be.

Battersby uses very clean compositions with generous white space and thickly-outlined characters. I don’t see a note on the copyright page about her medium-of-choice (though I could be missing it), but it looks like multi-media collage: a bit of fabric here, lots of ink there, and watercolors to boot. It works. And she goes far in communicating Squish’s emotions simply through the two short lines that constitute his eyebrows. “Seamlessly told in barely-there text and deceptively simple ink and collage pictures,” wrote Pamela Paul at the New York Times, “Squish Rabbit is bound to win children’s hearts.”

Here’s some more art:


“Squish tried playing with the trees instead. But they broke all the rules.”
(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


(Click image to see entire spread from which it comes)

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I’ve made it clear previously here at 7-Imp that I really like the work of Valeri Gorbachev, who immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine in 1991. He has a new title out — Shhh!, released by Philomel in September of this year. And it’s Gorbachev doing what he does so well: The cozy, warm colors; the expressive, detailed character work (always anthropomorphized animals who are endearing, yet never saccharine); the subtle humor; the sense of community that pervades his titles; and his ability to create original cumulative tales that work. And, as I’ve also said previously here, if any illustrator today is working in a Richard-Scarry-esque vibe (yet still retains his/her own unique vibe as well), it’s Gorbachev. And that just makes me happy.

This is another cumulative tale about a very young boy who is not only quiet when his baby brother sleeps, but he walks around on tippy-toes and asks everyone else to keep it down: the clown, the knights, the tiger, the pilot, the train conductor, and the pirates. When his baby brother wakes, we see that it was the boy’s toys that he was talking to, and he sees his opportunity to be loud again — that is, till everything comes full-circle. And he does it all, he explains on the last page, out of love for his brother. This is a sweet (but not cloying) and tender tale told with Gorbachev’s usual warmth.

Kirkus wrote about this one: “Gorbachev recreates the powerfully evocative atmosphere around naptime—the sepulchral hush, the strange amplification of the most minor sounds; readers can almost taste the afternoon’s doldrums. His drawings are both delicate and taut: The lines are fine, and the colors are like a blush, while the various characters have been caught in mid-act, now frozen but ready to move when the word is given. A lovely incarnation of snoozetime.”

Lovely, indeed. Here’s some art:


“When my baby brother sleeps, I am very quiet. I don’t jump around.
I don’t ride my horse. I don’t even sing. I walk on my tippy-toes.”

(Click to enlarge)


“But when my baby brother wakes up . . .”
(Click to enlarge)


“The train leaves the station with a loud whistle and the pirates fire their cannons.”
(Click to enlarge)

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In June, over at my Kirkus column, I wrote about the joys of the TOON Books (a Candlewick imprint), or emerging reader titles that are comic books designed for ages four and up. One of the latest in this series is Steven Kroll and Hilary Knight’s Nina in That Makes me Mad!

Yes, that Hilary Knight.

This one, a Level Two title released in September, features a young girl named Nina, who expresses to her family the many ways in which she gets frustrated. The text and illustrations were originally created in 1976 by author and illustrator, just now seeing the light of day after (in the words of Kirkus) some light massaging and re-formatting for beginning readers. (However, a 2002 picture book edition was published with the illustrations of Christine Davenier.)

This is a series of examples (“when you get mad at me and I didn’t do it,” “when you don’t let me help,” “when I do something nice and no one cares,” “when you promise and then you forget!”), followed by panels that illustrate her moments of frustration. It all closes with the revelation that it’s all better when she can tell her mother when she feels mad. But of course. In the vein of Molly Bang’s When Sophie Gets Angry–Really, Really Angry, we see the extreme emotions of a young child, and Knight brings that wide range of emotions to life with lots of melodrama, energy, and accuracy, as you can see below:




To see even more art, there’s a book trailer here for the title.

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Last, but not least, is Let’s Count to 100!, released by Kids Can Press in August, from Japanese author/illustrator Masayuki Sebe. This was originally published in Japan as Kazoetegoran Zembu de 100. Not surprisingly, this is a picture book devoted to counting to 100 — with eleven brightly-colored spreads for big eyes looking for details to pore over. It’s got lots of color, as you can see below, and humor. There’s a spread devoted to mice, cats, moles, sheep, fish, kids, ants, and more. No narrative thread here or story to tell — just good counting fun for young children. The final page asks children whether or not they caught a few details, including a snowman, an elephant holding a pineapple, and one very flatulent mole. Children are given clues here in the way of page numbers, since these are busy spreads.

Here are a few of them. Enjoy.


“There are 100 cats! How many cats have striped tails?”
(Click to enlarge)


“There are 100 fish. How many different kinds of fish are there?”
(Click to enlarge)


“There are 10 mice, 10 cats, 10 moles, 10 sheep, 10 birds, 10 fish, 10 elephants,
10 kids, 10 ants and 10 houses. That makes 100 in all!”

(Click to enlarge)

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SQUISH RABBIT. Copyright © 2011 by Katherine Battersby. Published by Viking, New York, NY. Images reproduced by permission of publisher.

SHHH! Copyright © 2011 by Valeri Gorbachev. Published by Philomel Books, New York, NY. Images reproduced by permission of publisher.

NINA IN THAT MAKES ME MAD! Text copyright © 1976 by Steven Kroll. Illustrations copyright © 1976 by Hilary Knight. Published in 2011 by TOON Books, an imprint of Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. Images reproduced by permission of publisher.

LET’S COUNT TO 100! Copyright © 2008 by Masayuki Sebe. Published in 2011 by Kids Can Press, Tonawanda, NY. Images reproduced by permission of publisher.

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7 comments to “Another Picture Book Round-Up,
Featuring Katherine Battersby,
Valeri Gorbachev, Hilary Knight, and Masayuki Sebe”

  1. Great round-up! JUST last night I was reading Christopher Counting to my daughter and I was reminded how much I love everything Valeri Gorbachev draws. He is really, really good.


  2. Oh, the Counting Nephew, age 2, can reliably make his way past twenty now, and is most of the time good to fifty. Unless he gets bored. I think the Sebe book will give him so much fun!


  3. Matt: YES. He is, isn’t he? Good to know another fan. I’d like to see *every*thing he’s ever, ever done, but most of his books, I would think, aren’t available here. I should try to find out.

    Tanita: Hope he likes it!


  4. I LOVE Let’s Count to 100. Aside from being a lot of fun visually, it’s useful in our collection. It seems like there are two million books that work on counting to five or ten or twenty, so it’s nice to have something really engaging that goes beyond that.


  5. Thank you for another glorious blog post. I feel like a kid in the proverbial candy shop when I am at 7 Imp.


  6. These are so diverse and wonderful! Thanks for brightening my day, Jules!


  7. Love the Nina book. (Except that I’m too old to carry it around myself and, well, you can probably guess that punchline.)

    Every year in November or December, The New Yorker features a series of columns called “On and Off the Avenue” (5th, presumably), with writeups about what to shop for for important people in your life. Not for the first time, this post makes me think they oughta turn over their kids’-book column to you.


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