Skip to main content

Neville, written by Norton Juster with illustrations by G Brian Karas

Neville, written by THE Norton Juster and illustrated by G Brian Karas received a really great review in the mega-mondo kid's book issue of the New York Times Book Review a couple of weeks ago. It is such a rare and wonderful book that I wanted to call it to your attention one more time or, maybe for the first time. Besides the fact that the book is just plain great, it bears mentioning because, like picture books about birthdays, there are actually very few quality picture books out there about moving to a new house, school, city, neighborhood.

A boy moves to a new neighborhood and, understandably, is having a tough time with it.

His mom suggests he take a walk around the neighborhood where he might even meet some kids, although he doesn't seemed too convinced that this is such a good idea. He heads off down the block and, on a whim it seems, starts calling out the name "Neville." As he walks through the streets calling this name kids emerge, curious. They ask the boy what's going on and he tells them he's looking for Neville. Intrigued, and, in the wonderful way that kids have, they want in on the action. They want to help find this Neville kid. Calling out along with the boy, the other kids begin to ask questions about this Neville. Is he nice? Does he like to play baseball? Is he your best friend?

Soon a whole gang of kids is helping out. No one asks the boy's name, and this feels just right to me. Kids just don't think about asking for a name. I can't tell you how many times my kids have been at a playground, party, whatever, and they make a new, nameless friend. As the sun goes down the kids begin to think about going home, but first they arrange to meet again the next day and continue to look for this Neville kid. I don't think I'll be ruining the story for you if I reveal that the new boy is in fact Neville himself. Juster is a genius! Not only has he written a perfect (and much needed picture book on an under represented topic) book, but I think he's come up with a great gimmick for making friends. I might even send my seven year old out into a new crowd to test this idea...

As always, Karas' illustrations are magnificent. They managed to be both muted and colorful and different times, following the emotional ups and downs of the main character. His cartoonish style can evoke the empty feeling of being somewhere new, alone, and also the colorful, joyful experience of being part of a gang of kids.

Norton Juster is the author of a handful of other picture books, including The Hello, Goodbye Window, illustrated by Chris Raschka, which won the Caldecott Medal in 2006.  The Hello, Goodbye Window is a very sweet story about yet another under represented topic in picture books, grandparent care givers. Of course, it's not as dry as I just made it sound. Juster tells the story through the voice of a little girl for whom the kitchen window at Nanna and Poppy's house is a magic gateway.

Sourpuss and Sweetie PieThe Hello, Goodbye Window

The Odious OgreAlberic the Wise and Other JourneysThe Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics


Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…

The Seeing Stick, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Daniela J Terrazini

The Seeing Stick is an original Chinese fairy tale written by the prolific (and prolifically award winning) Jane Yolen. First published in 1977 with illustrations by Remy Charlip (author and illustrator of the brilliantly fun picture book Fortunately and friend and muse to Brian Selznick, who asked him to pose as George Méliès while he was working on the Caldecott winning The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Seeing Stick was reissued with new illustrations by Daniela J. Terrazini in 2009. I have not seen Charlip's version, but Terrazini's is a beautiful work of art and the book itself is yet another magnificently packaged book published by Running Press, the house that brought us Steven Arntson's The Wikkeling, yet another superbly and uniquely packaged children's book with artwork by Terrazini. Interestingly, both The Wikkeling and The Seeing Stick were designed by Frances J Soo Ping Chow.

The Seeing Stick begins, "Once in the ancient walled citadel of Peking there l…