Saturday, October 9, 2010

Winter & Spring HarperCollins Children's Books

HarperCollins Children’s books
Written by Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrated by Matthew Myers
April 5th, 2011
In the Robot Shoppe, there are robots who can do all sorts of amazing things. But poor old Clink can only make burnt toast and play crackly old music. Clink tries to do the things the other robots do, but he only causes trouble. One day a boy comes to the shop, and he’s not interested in all the fancy new robots. Is this Clink’s chance to have a home?

Though a relatively conventional story, Myer’s illustrations are zany and fun. His characters, especially the robots, are fun and quirky with classic feel reminiscent of William Joyce’s work. With dynamic compositions and bright colors, this book is sure to appeal to robot lovers of all shapes and sizes.

Dear Tabby
By Carolyn Crimi
Illustrated by David Roberts
February 8th, 2011
Tabby is an alley cat, but with the help of a typewriter he’s also an advice columnist. Over the course of the book he hears from another cat, a parrot, a hamster, a skunk, a groundhog, an ex-circus bear, and a dog. Through letters and newspaper articles we trace the lives of these animals and how, over time, they eventually find happiness- including Tabby himself.

This wordy picturebook is perfect for those in early grade school to read to themselves. Readers will find themselves trying to figure out and patch together each animal’s story, something made especially fun by inserts of newspaper advertisements, posters, etc. Roberts’ illustrations are fun and balance the text well; I especially love his full-page spread of the runaway circus bear on her tricycle.

Bedtime for Bear
By Brett Helquist
December 21st, 2010
Bear is just settling into bed for a nice long hibernation, when his friends come to beg him to play outside. Knowing he should be beginning his hibernation, bear tries to sleep instead. But the sound of his friends playing is just too enticing so he sets out for one last day of snowy fun.

Helquist is an incredible illustrator and his illustrations are what make this book. Special attention is paid to the movement of bear and his two raccoon friends. The palette changes from oranges to blues as the sun sets and the colors of the sky are reflected in the snow. Delightfully expressive characters and beautiful illustrations make this a wonderful holiday gift for any young child. Ages 2-4.

New Picturebooks on the Shelves

The 3 Little Dassies
by Jan Brett
Penguin Young Readers Group
This retelling of the three little pigs has an African twist. Instead of three little pigs setting off, three little dassies, cute furry creatures who live in Namibia, set out to find a cooler, less-crowded place free of eagles. But the place to which they move is within the territory of an eagle, who would love a tasty dassie (or three) for his chicks. The story unfolds as you might think, excepting the addition of an agama lizard, who rescues the dassies of the straw and stick houses.

The illustrations, as always, are exquisitely detailed. Jan Brett is a master at using frames to expand upon her story. On some pages the frames show impending danger as the eagle heads out to find some food. On others, we see the rescue taking place while the larger illustration is concerned with the dassie of the stone house. Brett's vivid colors and intricate patterns make this book, like her others, a glorious work worthy of the hours children will spend pouring over it.

by Suzy Lee
Chronicle Books
From the creator of the award-winning Wave comes a stunning new book. In Shadow, Lee utilizes the gutter to create two worlds- the real one and that of shadows. Using the objects she finds around her, a little girl creates worlds and characters with the shadows she casts. But as her creations become more intricate, the shadows begin to take on a life of their own.

This book is practically wordless and incredibly designed. I wonder at the stories children might weave about each page as each shadow scene presents opportunities to explore what the little girl might be pretending. Lee's use of the gutter is ingenious; here is a book that embraces its form. If there's one book I'll buy for myself this fall, it'll be Suzy Lee's Shadow.

13 Words
by Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by Maira Kalman
On the inside flap of the dust jacket 13 words are listed. There are words you might expect in a picturebook, like bird, dog, hat, and baby, and some absolutely splendiferous words like despondent, haberdashery, panache, and mezzo-soprano. And here's the thing, children love large interesting words, especially when they sound a little funny. Snicket's humor is, as always, spot on. As I read this at my desk I was giggling so much a coworker decided to come investigate. I ended up reading the book aloud, the two of us laughing with each turn of the page. Customers came over and we ended up with a small, impromptu storytime. What better recommendation is there?

Maira Kalman, who you may recognize from her work for New Yorker magazine, creates vibrant, quirky illustrations. Her gouache paintings are luscious with bright, sunny colors. Her work, with its references to art history and whatever happens to catch her fancy, is a perfect match for Snicket's writing; I'd love to see more from this bizarrely fabulous pairing.

Flora's Very Windy Day
by Jeanne Birdsall
illustrated by Matt Phelan
Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

From the author of the Penderwicks series comes a picturebook perfect for a blustery fall day.
One windy fall day Flora and her brother go outside to play. Flora has super-special heavy-duty red boots that keep her from flying away, but her little brother Crispin doesn't have super-special boots and is so small he gets blown away by the wind. What will Flora do?

Birdsall's story explores the complex relationship older children have with their younger siblings. As Flora realizes, younger siblings may be annoying, but that doesn't mean you should give them up.

Three Little Kittens
by Jerry Pinkney
Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin
Though the cover is a little too cutesy for me, Pinkey's retelling is a wonderful rendition of the classic rhyme. He begins his story on the endpapers, where we see the three kittens longing to go outside. The illustrations are beautifully composed and young children will have no trouble following the story even without knowing the words. An added bonus, music for the text is provided on the inside of the dust jacket, so a musical storytime may be had by all.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to hear Pinkney talk about this book. Each page turn, each rotation of viewpoint, is carefully considered and as someone studying the picturebook, it was interesting to hear Pinkney talk about his choices, and changes, during the creation of the book.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dick and Jane and Vampires

Dick and Jane and Vampires
Written by Laura Marchesani, Illustrated by Tommy Hunt
Grosset & Dunlap, Penguin Young Readers

Let’s face it, there have been a lot of zombie & vampire mash-ups, more than I’d like to deal with as a matter of fact.
But sifting through the jumble you occasionally find a good one. Dick and Jane and Vampires is one of these. We always knew Dick and Jane were a little frightening, so why not throw a vampire into the mix? Told with classic Dick and Jane syntax and featuring the blond-haired children you may remember (I’m a little young for that) Dick and Jane and Vampires is a perfect early reader for you and your child. After all, having a bat in your house really is a terrifying idea (rabies, etc) and one really should look out for strangers (especially those with pointed teeth) so why not frighten your child with the very real possibilities he or she faces?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2011 Picturebooks!

Blue Chameleon
by Emily Gravett
Simon & Schuster, March 8th
Poor chameleon feels blue and goes looking for a friend. But though he can change his color to look like a snail or a sock or a rock, none of these are willing to be his friend. Who can he find who will appreciate him for being a chameleon? This simple book is wonderful for very young children. Simple words on each page indicate the pattern or color of the chameleon and the object he mimics. But being a copycat is not a good way to make friends and, as chameleon learns, the best way to find a friend is to be your colorful self. 1 year plus, this book would make a wonderful baby gift- hopefully we’ll see it in board book form in the future.

Say Hello to Zorro!

By Carter Goodrich

Simon & Schuster, March 22

Mister Bud is a dog, and he leads the good dog’s life. He has his own things and his own schedule, and life is good. But one day a little pug named Zorro shows up. The two are grumpy until they realize they share the same schedule. And guess what? You can be louder and more persistent when there are two.

Goodrich’s illustrations capture the exuberance of the characters. Though the watercolor paintings are soft and light, the colors have a wonderful warmth and richness. The expressions of the dogs are hysterical and children will delight in their battles and companionship, seeing a similarity to their own relationships with their siblings.

The Secret River

By Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon

Simon & Schuster

January 4th, 2011

A Leo & Diane Dillon cover will make me pick up a book and, if it’s a picturebook, take it home before I even open it. The Secret River is beautiful story with the feeling of a folk tale. When hard times come to the forest and Calpurnia’s father can’t catch fish to sell, Calpurnia sets out with her dog to catch fish and help her father. Following her nose, she finds the secret river, bursting with fish.With hard work, determination, and belief in the extraordinary, Calpurnia brings softer times to the forest and reaches the understanding that sometimes the answers are in your own mind.The Dillons’ illustrations bring depth to the story, expanding the text and showing the magic and imagination present in Calpurnia’s world.