Showing posts from September, 2014

Digby O'Day: In the Fast Lane by Shirley Hughes & Clara Vuillamy, 96 pp, RL 2

Shirley Hughes is a Grande Dame of British children's literature, her 1977 picture book, Dogger, which she wrote and illustrated won the Kate Greenaway Award (the British Caldecott) that year and, in 2007 it won the public vote of best Greenaway every. Hughes has teamed up with her daughter, Clara Vuillamy, a fantastic picture book illustrator and author in her own right, to create a chapter book series that is utterly charming and out of the ordinary, in story, illustration and design. 

The first book in the series, Digby O'Day: In the Fast Lane, introduces us to the main characters and the world they live in. In fact, the first two pages of this heavily and wonderfully illustrated book look like the feature pages of a magazine where an interesting person is being interviewed. We find out Digby's favorite color, favorite biscuit (cookie), most prized possession and most extravagant purchase, which was "fifty-four bow ties! They were on sale, though." We also lear…

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

Shh! We Have a Plan is Chris Haughton'sthird picture book and the third book of his I have reviewed. The palette Haughton used in his first book, Little Owl Lost, caught my attention right away. Haughton's choice of potent colors, the kind you might be more likely to find in 1960s décor than a children's book drew me in. But it is his skill at story telling, both with words and pictures, along with a gift for creating likable characters, that completely charmed me. Haughton's second book, Oh No, George!did not disappoint, but I think that his newest, Shh! We Have a Plan, is my favorite of his three. And this is after 30+ readings! During the first weeks of school I read Shh! We Have a Planto all the classes, grades K - 5, and, besides being totally entertaining and getting lots of laughs, the repetition in the story lent itself to a great lesson in making predictions. I also read A Piece of Cake, LeUyen Pham's newest picture book, which was an equally great lesson …

Go to Sleep, Little Farm by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

I became an instant fan of artist Christopher Silas Nealafter reading Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animals' Lives, a fantastic non-fiction book, by Lola M. Schaefer. His newest book, Go to Sleep, Little Farm, writtenMary Lyn Ray, is another visual treat. While the illustrations, which often play nicely against the text, may be a bit stronger than the writing, there is much to enchant little listeners.
Go to Sleep, Little Farmbegins, "Somewhere a bee makes a bed in a rose, because the bee knows day has come to a close."
Rhymes and almost rhymes drift across the pages while Neal's illustrations show the natural world shutting down for the night and the parallel story of a little girl getting ready for bed. The page that reads "Somewhere a bear," is followed by, "finds a bed in a log," while the page turn reveals the little girl reading a book under the covers of her bed, just like a bear in a log.

Ray does create some lovely lines, like when "…

Baby's First Book Blocks by Dan Stiles

It still surprises me how much pleasure I get from a really good board book. Something about the synthesis of form and function and the combination of concept and presentation, perfectly balanced for little hands, eyes and brains is exciting. I also find myself surprised, after 21 years of parenthood and 18 years of bookselling, that there are still exciting new board books being published. Baby's First Book Blocks by artist and designer Dan Stiles is a perfect example of this. Baby's First Book Blocksis published by Pow!, a new, independent publisher dedicated to publishing "visually driven, imagination-fuelled" books that combine an "offbeat or humorous sensibility with outstanding design that delight children and grown-ups equally." 

Baby's First Book Blocks incorporate the latest research about vision development in a series of board books designed to engage infants and develop visual acuity. When my daughter was born in 1993, high contrast black and…

Big Whoop! by Maxine Lee

Big Whoop! is the second picture book by illustrator, graphic designer and author Maxine Lee. It's also another great kids book fromPow!, a new, independent publisher dedicated to publishing "visually driven, imagination-fuelled" books that combine an "offbeat or humorous sensibility with outstanding design that delight children and grown-ups equally." Big Whoop!is definitely filled with an offbeat and humorous sensibility from cover to cover as well as perfectly matched illustrations that combine elements of collage with a colorful palette and very charming characters bursting with energy and imagination.

Big Whoop!, which has awesome endpapers covered in an array of mustaches, features Mr. Fox, who never smiles, and his friends, Roman and Harrison, who think that this is not healthy. Harrison and Roman try to get a response out of Mr. Fox by telling him that they have been to the zoo, parading their alligator and tiger costumes as well as a giant "zoo lol…

Oh, Baby! by Chad Geran

As a parent and bookseller, one thing I learned more than 20 years ago is that babies love to look at pictures of other babies. Yet, as a bookseller I was continually perplexed by the scarcity of board books featuring babies - human babies, not cute animals. This alone could have me excited about Chad Geran's new board book, Oh, Baby!, published by Pow!, a new, independent publisher dedicated to publishing "visually driven, imagination-fuelled" books that combine an "offbeat or humorous sensibility with outstanding design that delight children and grown-ups equally." 
Geran definitely fulfills the promise of visually driven with an offbeat or humorous sensibility. But, almost better than that, Geran clearly has spent time around babies. In fact, he is the father of two little boys and understandably lists himself as a "former sleeper." 
Geran's big-eyed babies will definitely capture the attention of the intended audience, and the round, chunky shap…

Quest, written and illustrated by Aaron Becker

JourneybyAaron Beckerwas definitely one of the most exciting picture books of 2013 and I was thrilled when it won a Caldecott Honor in January of this year. As someone who has read books out loud professionally and parentally for over 20 years and as someone who holds a deep appreciation for picture book illustrations, wordless picture books have always held a special place in my heart. And head - it takes more than a little thinking and planning before reading a wordless picture book to a group of little listeners. One of the first articles I wrote for this blog was How to Read a Picture Book Without Words (Out Loud). While there is much to be gained from the quiet fascination that comes with "reading" a wordless picture book on one's own, there is also much to be gained from the communal experience of "reading" a wordless picture book with a group, interpreting and enhancing the story together. Aaron Becker's books have so much to offer to a singular read…