Before I forget, the new issue of Middle Shelf Magazine is out, and I’ve got a review in it! Please go take a look!
Here are five new picture books and one older one from our recent library hauls.
Boom Snot Twitty by Doreen Cronin. Illustrated by Renata Liwska. Viking, 2014.
This quiet picture books shares a day in the life of three very different friends: Boom the bear, Snot the snail, and Twitty the bird. They wake up, make plans for their day, prepare and react to a rain storm, and come back together afterwards before falling asleep. The words are few – mostly one-or-two word utterances by the characters – and the soft pictures have lots of open space. But for all its simplicity, it tells a deep story of friends getting along and thinking about each other even when they’re not doing the same things. This is a real testament to the power of simple picture books, one my daughter went back to look through on her own many times.
A Dance Like Starlight by Kristy Dempsey & Floyd Cooper. Philomel Books, 2014.
A young African-American girl in 1950s hangs out in the ballet costume shop, trying on the costumes her mother sews and doing the ballet steps behind the scenes. She’s not allowed to take the classes with the white girls, but the dance master notices and praises her efforts. Then comes a life-changing event: her mother uses her savings to take them to see Janet Collins, the first African-American dancer to be on stage at the Met (a real historical event). Now the girl knows that she could really have a future as a ballerina. The beautiful pastel illustrations and slightly oversized pages work together with the text to capture the emotion and the romance of the ballet, making this is a gentle introduction to racism perfect for younger children. My own ballet-obsessed four-year-old loved it.
Except If by Jim Averbeck. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011.
I chanced to find this book on the library shelves, and took it home because we enjoyed Averbeck’s Oh No, Little Dragon! so much. This book starts like this: “An egg is not a baby bird/but it will become one… [page turn] except if” There’s one unexpected change after another, as the egg looks like it’s hatching a baby bird, which might instead be a snake… or a lizard… or even a dinosaur! The words are brief, the illustrations also minimalist, with thick outlines and simple fills. The story is simple enough for two-year-olds, but clever enough that both the four-year-old and the nine-year-old were intrigued.
Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan. Pictures by Nancy Carpenter. Simon and Schuster Kids, 2014.
I read this aloud to my kids’ summer camp, and had to explain about Victorian-era clothing and modesty – the queen shouldn’t be showing anything but her face! Even when swimming! This tells in hilarious rhyme, the true story of how Prince Albert built a bathing machine for Victoria so that she could go swimming without parading across the beach in her bathing dress. Here’s a sample of the rhymes:
“’My dear,’ said Prince Albert, ‘If it is your wish
to dabble and splatter and swim like a fish,
there must be a way to transport you with ease,
while keeping the populace from glimpsing your knees.
I’ll give all my genius and all my attention
To devise a device, to invent an invention.”
The ink and watercolor illustrations’ subdued colors give a sense of the propriety of the era, but are crowded with expressive details, including Victoria and Albert’s many children, that show the liveliness and humor as well. This has been a hit with everyone from kid to adult.
Soo’s Boo-Boos by Tilda Balsley. Illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas. Tiger Tales, 2013.
This is a short, sweet story for the younger picture book audience, featuring what looks like a Korean-American family. In short, rhyming text, Soo catalogs her 10 different kinds of boo-boos to her mother, who fixes each of them. When she’s all better, Soo heads out to play on her scooter again (my daughter was shocked that Soo was allowed to go on the scooter without a helmet!) This features counting forwards and backwards, with a reassuringly loving message and bright, cheerful watercolor or guache illustrations. This was a hit at our house!
This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris. Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Little, Brown and Co., 2014.
Someone is trying to make a movie about a moose. But while Moose is fine with being in a film, he doesn’t want to be in a nature documentary – Moose wants to be an astronaut. While the director tries and tries again to get Moose to cooperate, Moose’s friends and relations turn up with their own ideas. This is a hilarious book, told with regular text, movie boards, speech bubbles, and lots told just in the pictures. Behind all the silliness is a message about how everyone needs to follow their own calling, not what they’re told to do – and the foolishness of judging other people’s choices.