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.
I 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.
Bob 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.
I read Chicken Cheeks a couple of weeks ago when it first arrived in stores. And I haven’t been able to get it out of my head because it’s hilarious. Hilarious in a way that sort of lingers with you. I read it and thought it was funny at the time, but then over the next couple of weeks I’d find myself randomly saying things like “Moose Caboose” and laughing out loud when I remembered the story.
Puff the Magic Dragon has finally been immortalized in print. It surprised me that a picture book has never been created from Yarrow and Lipton’s famous song, but illustrator Eric Puybaret is the first to bring Puff to life in this format. And the book looks great. It also comes with a CD featuring the song and some others from Peter Yarrow.
I’m really excited about this book. I bought a copy on Sunday after looking through it at the book store. I’m not normally a fan of books written by celebrities or of iconic music transformed into a blatant storytelling format (musical, movie, book). Maybe with the exception of Mamma Mia, but I love that purely for its ridiculousness. Those things aside, I liked this book. It’s straightforward, stylized in a way that is really appealing to me, and fills in historical figures of the time and references to Dylan songs without beating the reader over the head with them. It’s the kind of thing I would read to my own kids, if I had any, and that’s all this book needs to be. I don’t know if I would buy it for my school’s collection, but I wanted it in my own.
Stories Without Words (the subject heading to use if you’re ever searching for them in a catalog) are great tools for emerging readers, reluctant readers, story times, and all kinds of programs. I love them because I’m a visual person, and sometimes the absence of words makes these books feel much more poignant to me. So this is the latest booklist I’ve made. The first couple of books are my absolute favorites, then I’ve added the complete booklist I compiled. The ones with an * link to whole posts I wrote about them.
The Adventures of Polo by Regis Faller (2006). This French book introduces us to Polo the dog, who steps out of his front door and embarks on a long journey where he flies, sails, climbs, and gets lots of help from new friends he meets along the way. It is whimsical and full of imagination, the kind of story kids will return to again and again. The illustrations are simple and gorgeous, and while I think it’s too long for a single lesson or program, it has a lot of potential for parent/child reading and maybe a unit on imagination and resourcefulness.
The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2006) is a work of art. This surreal and moving story of a man who immigrates to a foreign land to make a better life for his family is beautiful and strange. Shadows of dragon-tail like shapes haunt the home and family he leaves behind. Wondrous creatures, a language of symbols, and strange machines greet him in his new country, bringing the reader in to the feeling of isolation and frustration. He meets new friends and learns how to survive in this new place. This is not only a powerful story of immigration; it’s also a beautiful fantasy.