[Those in bold are books received for review from either the publisher, author, or illustrator. All others not in bold are either ones I purchased or checked out from the library. All links and images are Amazon affiliate links. Worldcat.org can find the book for you at your nearest library and Indiebound.org can locate the book for you at your nearest local independent bookstore.]
The Leaf Men by William Joyce (2001) — I’m always amazed at how beautiful this book is, both in its illustrations and the story. When a grandmother falls ill, and her garden fails — the Long-Lost Toy tells the doodle bugs that only the Leaf Men are able to help save the garden. Battling the evil Spider Queen and her goblins, the doodle bugs are able to summon the Leaf Men and save the garden. But only the Long-Lost Toy is able to save the grandmother — will he prevail? The Leaf Men is touching, adventurous, and joyous!
Late Larva written by Josh Prigge and illustrated by Minha Park (2014) — is a stunning picture book about a cherry blossom tree that is a late bloomer. This book is everything beautiful and wonderful and you can read it with anyone. The story’s build up and anticipation is perfect. It’s an uplifting tale that promotes patience and self-acceptance without ever being preachy. The soft layers and textures of the images give it a dream-like quality that pulls the reader in. The personification of the trees with huge eyes speak directly to you. This book is as much for parents and adults as it is for children.
Randolph Caldecott’s Picture Books reproduced from nieteenth-century copies in the Huntington collection. Hunting Library, San Marino, California (2008)– The Caldecott Award is being announced in less than a month! I realized that I’ve never read any of Randolph Caldecott‘s books and set off for the library. This book is elegant, timeless, and very funny. I am so surprised by how much I love this book. I thought it would be stuffy or outdated or just boring… but it really isn’t!!! It’s an amazing collection of picture books! There’s wine, guns, the word “ass”, and other things you just don’t find in picture books anymore. My son loves it, too! He thought the ‘The Diverting Story of John Gilpin’ was very funny and when we finished reading all 236 pages of it — he asked me to read it to him again immediately. I was so pleased he enjoyed this book. You can read it on Project Gutenberg. [But I implore you to read Caldecott’s works from this physical copy. Maybe check and see if your local library has a copy?]
Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers (2014) — is WONDERFUL! Oh, what a good book! Reading With Rhythm has a brilliant review of it here. Once Upon an Alphabet is funny and happy and breaks and bends all kinds of rules in storytelling and illustration that make it so much fun to read. It is 112 pages and is taller than all but a very few of our picture books. It is also a very-don’t-you-dare-ignore-me red, making it especially easy to spot in a crowd. Each letter of the alphabet has its own story and the stories have little details throughout the book that are like little Easter eggs and loosely connect the letters’ stories together. It’s creative, funny, educational, and brilliant. It prompted my son to ask questions ranging from “What are molecules?” to “What time is forever?” to “Can I have a Whiraffe?” It’s so much fun!
Bear in Love by Daniel Pinkwater and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand (2012) — This is such a sweet book! It is about a bear that wakes up one more to find a carrot left for him by someone. As the days go on, he receives more carrots. He realizes that he has a friend and he finds something special to leave for his mystery pal. Finally they meet and it is only sweet and happy. The illustrations are stunning and the story is wonderful for everyone. It’s the best book in the world when you want to read a happy, conflict-free tale about how two animals become friends.
The Runaway Dinner by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman (2008)– is another book that makes me think about Forensics Storytelling. There’s such a distinctive voice and energetic pace to this story. It is lively and completely captivating. It is about a little boy, Banjo, and how every day he eats a sausage. One day though… the sausage, peas, and everything else that goes with eating gets up and runs away! Follow them on their chase and see what craziness ensues. The story is funny and creative and so much fun to read to my son. The illustrations are hilarious, smart, and as energetic as the writing. We really enjoy this one!
Too Many Toys by David Shannon (2008) might be listed as a work of fiction — but it speaks the truth. Spencer has too many toys and one day his parents have had enough! His mother bargains, pleads, argues, and debates over every single toy. Finally, when the box is full and is ready to be donated — Spencer’s mother comes to find that Spencer has taken all of the toys out and is playing with the box! IT’S SO TRUE!
This is a great book for parents to read when they resolve not to buy another toy! David Shannon’s illustrations– the child’s saucer eyes, the mother’s huge screaming mouth and utter exhaustion — accurately and fairly depict both the parents and the child. It is a therapeutic read and a glorious way to stand your ground.
The Market Square Dog by James Herriot and illustrated by Ruth Brown￼ (1989) — is a book about a stray dog that is injured, brought to the village vet, saved, and then eventually adopted. The illustrations are so… romantic? Every image is absolutely beautiful. Every person is wonderful, kind, and good. A police officer plays a very mild joke on the vet — but it is so mild. Here’s another book that’s perfect to read when you want to read a picture book that is only good things. There’s a little bit of drama when they bring the dog in after being injured — but again, it is very mild and everyone is kind and good. It is sweet, but not sappy. I think if I could live in a picture book, I’d live in this one. I hadn’t realized that James Herriot had also written picture books. He’s actually written quite a few and I’m going to have to hunt them down. They’re so beautiful and while I do love edgy and subversive picture books — it is so nice to find picture books full of good people.
Lost Sloth by J. Otto Seibold (2013) — is very quirky, funny, and very surreal. Sloth gets a phone call that he has won a shopping spree — he just has to get there by three p.m. Can he do it? After reading and reviewing the book, Where Is It Coming From? [links to review], which is one of our favorites, I learned more about McSweeney’s, the publishing company Dave Eggars founded. When I saw that Lost Sloth is published by McSweeney’s and is by the same author of Olive, the Other Reindeer, which is another favorite, I figured this book would be a hit. It is! It is so bizarre, though. The cover is nothing like what’s inside the book — so while I think judging a picture book by its cover is completely fair game — this one definitely surprised me. Inside the book you’ll find screamingly-bright multicolored backgrounds, unusual expressions on the sloth and the other people, an Occupy Wall Street reference, and one repeated image (intentionally done), make for a very fun, and very surreal experience. It’s friendly and happy, but definitively unconventional. We love it! I don’t know if everyone will love it, but those that do will adore it. The anticipation as you wait to see if the sloth will make it to the shopping spree had my son yelling at the book, cheering the sloth on. See if you can spot Olive in the background.
The Iridescence of Birds written by Patricia MacLachlan and pictures by Hadley Hooper (2014)– is an astounding and stunning and superb work of art. The words are sparse, but exact. (How many days, weeks, months, years? of editing, revision, and contemplation must this have taken?) The words let you step into the images and you get to become Henri Matisse, if only for 32 pages. You get to see the world from Matisse’s perspective as a child. You follow along and see how his personality, life, and environment set the stage for him to become Matisse, the artist. The illustrations are so clean, balanced, and for lack of a better word… perfect. It’s a beautiful book.
Mouse House Tales by Susan Pearson and illustrated by Amanda Shepherd (2013) — is seven tales about a little mouse and how she would like a house, her friends getting together to help build a house, then her finding out what is making those spooky sounds in her house. This book reads like an early/easy reader but feels like a picture book. The text is simple enough for a very young child (maybe 18-months?), but the story is interesting and will hold their interest as they get older. The illustrations are wonderful! The mostly-clothed animals have huge eyes that are typically seen from a profile view giving it a very playful feel to it. The colors are especially well done, there’s beautiful Korean writing on paper for the spider’s web and curtains, and the overall layout makes it easy to follow and enjoy. This book has all of the things that my son loves: building a house, animals, friends, a cheese-obsessed goat (always a hit), something spooky, and a sweet resolve. Everyone is nice and all is well. We’re big fans!
Boot & Shoe by Marla Frazee (2012) — has my son giggling uncontrollably every single time we read it. We read it when he was younger and he liked it, but now he loves it. Boot and Shoe are two dogs that do everything together but one sits on the front porch during the day and the other sits on the back porch. Then one day a crazy squirrel gets all up in their business and wreaks havoc! When all is said and done, Boot and Shoe can’t find each other. What are they going to do?!?! Oh the drama! The giggles! The cheers at the wonderful ending! The writing and the illustrations has the whole family hooked. Frazee’s latest picture book, The Farmer and the Clown, is also amazing. I’d be very surprised if it doesn’t receive a Caldecott Award or Honors.
Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (2006) — is one of our all-time favorites. We’ve been reading it since my son was almost two and now he’s four and almost a half. A lion comes into the library and wanders around. He finds that he enjoys listening to the story time. He roars loudly when there are no more stories and is told that he’s only allowed to stay if he doesn’t roar in the library. He keeps coming back and starts contributing to the library by dusting the encyclopedias, licking the envelops, and helping the children. Then something happens that causes the lion to roar in the library! What will happen to him? Will he never be allowed back? This book is so wonderful and reminds us that sometimes there is a good reason to break the rules… even in the library. This book has so many awards and honors I’m sure one day there will be an award called the Library Lion Award.
There are more books I want to tell you about, but I’m running out of time for today. I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful week and Happy Reading!