Picture Book Round-Up: Funny Fowl,
Two Satisfyingly Snowy Surprises,
and Two New Bed-Timers

h1 February 3rd, 2007 by jules

It’s been a while since I’ve done a picture book round-up of more than two titles at once. Here are six from either the end of ’06 or just published in ’07 — and one is due to hit the bookstore shelves in February. So, let’s get right to it then . . .

Duck, Duck, Goose by Tad Hills (published by Schwartz & Wade Books; on the shelves — February 2007; my source: review copy) — I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of Tad Hills’ Duck and Goose (published in January of ’06) for the Cybils committee work I did (unfortunately, I never got around to reviewing it). This book got all kinds of well-deserved accolades thrown at it, and it became a New York Times bestseller as well. “Readers will hope to see more of this adorable odd couple,” wrote Kirkus Reviews. And now said readers can cheer, because Duck and Goose are back. Hills’ sophomore Duck and Goose title debuts this month (on the 13th, to be exact), and it’s just as endearing — if not more so — than last year’s. The moment you open the book, Hills shows us in one sprawling endpaper illustration that Goose, alone in the grasses near the river, is having a rather Zen-like moment, communing with Mother Nature. A butterfly is perched delicately upon his head. On the CIP and title page we get a closer-up look at this breathless moment for Goose. When the narrative begins, we learn that he can’t wait to show Duck. But when Duck arrives, he’s got a rather manic new friend with him (think Phillip, The Hyper-Hypo from the Mike Myers-era SNL days), another duck named Thistle. Or think of the neighborhood kid who loves to brag about his accumulating AR points and/or winning soccer matches and/or his mom’s my kid is an honor student at such-and-such bumper sticker — that really over-scheduled kid who gets carted around from activity to activity and doesn’t know how to entertain himself. Yup, that’s Thistle. So, Thistle is bustlin’ and jumpin’ about, trying extra hard to prove how cool he is, wearing ‘ol Goose out, and wrapping Duck around his little, uh, feather. Eventually, Goose hits the road, really bummin’ out his true friend, Duck. And then how the two of them decide to deal with Thistle once Duck finds Goose is quite amusing. Kirkus Reviews nailed it when they said this story has a definite Story of Ferdinand vibe (Ferdinand and Goose both would rather sit quietly for a moment and enjoy the beauty around them, thanks very much). Hills brings us some deliciously colorful and expressive oil paints in this one (with spot-on composition). Lots of movement and humor and emotion. Welcome back, Duck and Goose (and breathe, Thistle. Just breathe).

Chickens to the Rescue by John Himmelman (published by Henry Holt and Co.; October 2006; my source: library copy) — May I just defer to Liz at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy who said: “This is funny as hell”? ‘Cause she’s right and says it better than I ever could. Himmelman’s brave and foolhardy and charitable chickens have got your back, man — specifically, they have the backs of one Greenstalk family. Farmer Greenstalk drops his watch down a well. “Chickens to the rescue!” Mrs. Greenstalk is too tired to make dinner. “Chickens to the rescue!” The dog ate the young Greenstalk boy’s homework. “Chickens to the rescue!” For every day of the week the chickens have got it covered. The text is short and sweet with pleasing repetition, and there’s tons of humor in Himmelman’s cartoon-like colored-pencil and watercolor illustrations. Another reason to see Liz’s review? As usual, she directs you to other reviews of the title in the land of kidlitosphere, including a link to Fuse #8’s dramatic stage adaptation of the title. Weston Woods, here she comes! . . . where are those chickens when I need my desk cleaned? I oughta move to a farm.

New Clothes for a New Year’s Day by Hyum-Joo Bae (published by Kane/Miller; first American edition — January 2007; my source: review copy) — New Year’s Day in Korea celebrates the start of the Lunar New Year by which Koreans count their age (instead of via their birthdays), thus making it one of the most important holidays. Hyum-Joo Bae brings us a young girl in Korea, rejoicing in New Year’s Day: “It’s a new year, it’s a new day, and it’s a new morning. It’s the first day for the beginning of everything.” She’s looking out her window, hoping for snow to make her festive day even better. Then commences the young girl’s description of her sartorial bliss (“the very best new things of all the new things”) — her new skirt and jacket (crimson silk and rainbow-striped), her delicate socks, her hair ribbon, her flowered shoes from Father, her warm, furry vest, and a special winter hat. The eager girl shows us how to put on each beautiful, traditional item of clothing, all special for this special day. Bae’s illustrations are elegant, detailed, meticulous, depicting the clothing and the traditional furniture surrounding the girl. She makes good use of her white space, giving the book a crisp, clean look. But there are many full-page illustrations that bleed all the way to the edge of the papers that depict the girl either trying on or showing off her items of clothing and that include exquisite patterned backgrounds. This is a beautiful book and one that gives young readers a peek into Korean culture while also transcending any one particular place (the girl’s excitement, without doubt, depicting a universal joy). In an afterword, Bae explains the New Year’s tradition in Korea as well as the significance of the dressing up and the devotion that goes into creating the items of clothing. And the little girl’s snow arrives, too, making it “{t}he perfect day to make New Year’s calls and to wish everyone good luck in the New Year” . . . pair with Margaret Chodos-Irvine’s Ella Sarah Gets Dressed (2003), and have a ball comparing and contrasting.

The Snow Globe Family by Jane O’Connor and illustrated by S.D. Schindler (published by Penguin Group; September 2006; my source: library copy) — A quirky story (with glitter on the front — woo hoo!) about a big family in a big house with a mama, a papa, a boy, a girl, and Baby and a small family in a snow globe with a mama, a papa, a boy, a girl, and a little baby (the snow globe residing in the home of the big family). Amusingly and strangely enough, the snow globe family misses having their world rocked upside down by some big person picking up the globe to shake it. But, you see, they love snow and love the big hills just right for sledding that are created when their world is shaken. The baby of the big family is the only one who hasn’t forgotten the snow globe and aims to get her hands on it — with happy results for all. This is the perfect story for those a> fascinated by small things and b> children who wonder about the lives of their toys. O’Connor and Schindler — via his colored inks and gouache art work — get to bring us some fun perspectives (the huge eye of the big baby peeking into the window of the snow globe family’s home) and juxtapose the two Victorian-era families’ lives with fun details for the observant eye. A good snow-time read.

The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds by Marisabina Russo (published by Random House Children’s Books; January 2007; my source: review copy) — “Nighttime is here. Little bunnies are tucked in bed. Good night, good night, sleep tight.” AS IF. Mama and Daddy are kickin’ back, enjoying their kid-free time when lo and behold, they hear a CLICK CLACK, CLICK CLACK and then a CHUGGA-CHUGGA-CHUGGA and then CLIP CLOP, CLIP CLOP . . . you get the idea. Those rascally rabbits are hopped up on fun and simply not sleepy. With several recurring refrains (“Mama and Daddy tiptoe up the stairs, open the door, and what do they see?”, for one) and with a lovely, lilting rhythm, Russo brings the story to a clever and creative conclusion that doesn’t stifle our imaginative heroes’ antics. Her vivid, slightly folk-art gouache illustrations bring much humor, particularly in the form of the exasperated parents. Plus, she brings us an endearing spread of the rabbits’ best sleep-time procrastination technique yet — a night-time bedroom parade — which is somehow reminiscent of Margaret Wise Brown’s famous bed-time protagonist and his room. Maybe these three mischievous bunnies are distant cousins to Brown’s bunny. Either way, they’re worth hanging out with in order to put off slumber. But, no worries. They succumb to sleep in the end with a warm farewell. “Sweet bunny dreams to all” . . .

Sleepyhead by Karma Wilson and illustrated by John Segal (published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing; September 2006; my source: library copy) — And finally, here’s another little one determined to put off sleep. A small bear has been read to, had his teeth brushed, been on the receiving end of several hugs and kisses, has his quilt spread on his bed, you-name-it. He should be sleepy and in bed, figures the feline caretaker. No, one more hug, one more kiss, one more book, one more blanky, insists Sleepyhead. Wilson’s text invites many opportunities for little bed-time listeners to laugh at the creative off-putting techniques of Sleepyhead. And the text is wonderfully lilting and mellow, another one I’d like someone to read to me every night. The text varies in both size and movement across the page, though sometimes not quite jibing with the text’s meaning. And, though sometimes Segal’s warm watercolor characters get a bit lost in his use of white space, it’s still fun to see him bring to life the adventures Sleepyhead undertakes in his mind that are inspired by the images seen on the quilt draped over his bed. There’s a lucidity to Segal’s artwork, as if possibly he could wow us even more with complicated, impressive paint strokes but purposefully keeps things unadorned in an unpretentious, child-like way. All in all, it’s an appealing night-time read for those children who may scoff at the rituals necessary at bed-time while, at the same time, crave their ability to lull them to dreamland.

7 comments to “Picture Book Round-Up: Funny Fowl,
Two Satisfyingly Snowy Surprises,
and Two New Bed-Timers”

  1. I loved Duck and Goose. One day you’ll have to tell me why it didn’t make it on the Cybils shortlist, because I fully expected it to. Haven’t seen the new one, but can’t wait.

    Also loved Chickens to the Rescue and Sleepyhead. Good choices. (Haven’t read the others, but I’ll love for them.)

  2. I also count myself among the legions of Chickens to the Rescue fans, and keep letting my dirty dishes pile up in the sink, hoping they’ll come to my rescue. So far, nada.

    I’m really interested in the New Clothes one. That looks really cool.

  3. Eisha, I think Hyum-Joo Bae’s book is breathtakingly beautiful. I tried to stop just short of saying that in the review, lest I sound hyperbolic again, but it’s just gorgeous. And my almost-three-year-old looks at it in hushed amazement, giving in to the little girl protagonist’s awe and excitement over her lovely, new, special clothes. And then she says “AGAIN! AGAIN!” — ah, the Read-It-Again Seal of Approval means it’s a winner.

  4. We have a Korean family with two little boys among our frequent patrons, and the mom is particularly interested in picture books that depict Korean culture. So this is a great find.

  5. Very exciting that a new Duck and Goose book is coming! I have totally fallen in love with the first one:-)
    Thanks–I need to find a few of these that I don’ t know. The Bunnies Are Not in Bed looks quite fun!

  6. I adore Duck and Goose, and I am looking forward to DDG!

  7. […] that my children and I have enjoyed, including the Duck & Goose books, one of which I covered here at 7-Imp in 2007 (back when, shudder, I only included book […]

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