2010 Caldecotts

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

All of the books that are on the Caldecott list this year are new to me. I hadn’t read any of them as of the awards’ announcement last Monday, but I’m caught up now.

lionmouseCaldecott Medal Winner: The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney.

I was disappointed with this one, I have to say. But it’s probably more of a personal taste thing. I know Jerry Pinkney’s illustrations are beautiful, and as his books go this one really stood out to me. But it’s not my personal taste in illustrations, and I have a hard time getting students into his books. The text is actually very lengthy and very difficult for my students, and since the artwork is much more traditional they reach for modern, more accessible stories every time. This one has no text, so the Aesop’s Fable is told just through images. Worked into a lesson or story time about the fable I can see it working. But there were other books this year whose illustrations just blew me away. Peter Brown’s The Curious Garden, for example (which I really thought was robbed for not even an Honor this year).

All the WorldCaldecott Honor Book: All the World, written by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Marla Frazee.

I love, love, love Marla Frazee. Really, I do. And I’m completely charmed by this book and happy to see it take a Caldecott Honor. But it is not as great as her A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever from last year. However, I’m going to try not to compare the two since, after all, I really did like this book. And they are very different. Liz Garton Scanlon’s poem is beautiful, and Frazee’s illustrations give it the kind of look that would make my kids excited about poetry and give them that warm, fuzzy feeling that books should. It’s a book about a family’s day out, a rainstorm, a cafe, a trip home. The multi-racial family would speak to my students as well. There is lots to celebrate with this one, which somehow manages to take the whole big world and make it feel incredibly cozy and familiar.

redsingsCaldecott Honor Book: Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski.

Of the 3 Caldecott books this year, this one is by far my favorite. So much so that it’s visual impact is inspiring my crafty life as well as my book life. The lyrical tale of how colors change and reflect each season is magical to look at, with a crowned figure who dances through the year and acts as a sort of visual narrator for all the colors in nature. The possibilities with this one are endless: nature observation projects with students, poems based on colors, etc. And something about that crowned mystery figure throughout made this feel almost like a fairy tale to me, with the collages and paintings working perfectly to make it feel slightly otherworldly and also perfectly familiar. Books like this are why I’m a childrens’ librarian. I get to combine my love for art with my love for kids and books. Loved it.

Wink! The Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed by J.C. Phillipps

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

winkI read this book months ago, but I have been woefully negligent in posting book reviews this year. I’ve mainly posted booklists and books I’ve taught, so it’s time for some more reviews.

All of Wink’s dreams come true when he is accepted into a school for young ninjas. He wants nothing more than to be a ninja. During each lesson he has a great deal of trouble following directions. While everyone else is silent, Wink makes noise. When everyone else is stealthy, Wink makes his presence known. He is constantly sent home with proverbial notes from the ninja school master (“The loudest cricket is the first to be caught”). His grandmother has equally great proverbs to offer about the importance of having fun and being yourself.  When he decides to do his best to be both silent and stealthy, it works so well that no one notices. Wink doesn’t see the fun in this at all, so he breaks free with hilarious results.

I loved this book. Wink reminded me of myself (a ninja who also wants to sing and wear colorful outfits? Love it!). And I think kids will see a little of themselves in him, too. The illustrations are so bright and appealing that every page makes the reader excited to see the next. Wink is made out of energy and has real trouble conforming to other people’s ideas. In the end he finds a way to have everything he wants. The idea of using ever-popular ninjas to teach a lesson in tolerance is so clever and outrageous that I was hooked. When Wink eventually found himself, I cheered.

Wag by Patrick McDonnell

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

wagThis was one of the ARC’s I received when I attended BEA09 back in May. I know, it’s taking me forever to post these. This is the second review of a BEA book, the first was Pingo.

Wag is due out in October 2009.

There are few things that get a universal happy response from small children like puppies and kittens. I’ve never seen a member of The Picture Book Set resist a book that features them.

This does not mean that every book featuring puppies and/or kittens is GOOD. Kids might like them, but the adults doing the storytelling might find them excruciatingly dull. Come on, grownups. We’ve all read a book to munchkins that they fell out over, but we nearly fell asleep 2 pages in. We’ve all been there.

So here is a delight for kids AND for grownups. Patrick McDonnell’s Wag, featuring Earl and the gang from his MUTTS comic strip, is just fun. It’s entirely about the joy Earl finds in wagging is tail. He wags it for snowflakes, for belly rubs, for friends, and just because. But why does his tail wag? We find out at the end, and it’s really very sweet. The illustrations are sure to delight little kids, and adults will find it charming. It’s a true example of how the simplest joys can make us happy. I dare you not to smile with this one.

Not Your Typical Damsel in Distress

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

I love these two books because they flip the whole Damsel in Distress thing on its head. As I’m talking about fairy tales at school (with the second graders), these came to mind.

The poor heroine of Brock Cole’s Good Enough to Eat is called many names by the townsfolk. She gets by begging, selling food scraps and paper creations. The townspeople thinks she’s a nuisance, but the mayor insists that the town look after the poor. Then one day an ogre comes to the gate demanding the fairest maiden to be his wife. Everyone, including the mayor, decide that this poor girl (called Scraps-and-Smells, Skin-and-Bones, Sweets-and-Treats) is the perfect offering. They can get rid of her and the ogre at the same time. But our heroine proves more resourceful than they could have imagined, and in the end she has the last laugh over the townspeople and the ogre. The illustrations are fantastic, and this is a great fairy tale story of a clever girl.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch is one of my favorite picture books of all time. Princess Elizabeth is all set to marry Prince Ronald when a dragon kidnaps him and burns down everything around her. With nothing to wear but a paper bag, Elizabeth sets off to defeat the dragon and save her prince. But things don’t go quite as she plans with Prince Ronald. A great Girl Power story about a very clever girl and a not very nice prince.

Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

superheroabcBob McLeod’s Superhero ABC is one of the most fun alphabet books I’ve ever seen. It was published in 2006, but my copy just came a few weeks ago in my first big book order at school. And the boys are jumping all over it. I’m thinking about getting another copy for next year. McLeod is a noted comics artist, and this is his first children’s book. It is made entirely out of energy. Brand new superheroes illustrate alliteration for every letter, and they are clever, funny, and random (“Astro-Man is always alert for an alien attack! He avoids steroids! He has asthma!”). It is bright and lively, and I think it’s great for reluctant readers.