Thursday, January 13, 2011

Picture Book Reading Challenge - First 5

So my first five books for the reading challenge I picked at random from the shelves of the new picture books at the Elmhurst library.

Book #1/120 - The Rabbit Problem written and illustrated by Emily Gravett (Simon & Schuster, 2009).
The first one, The Rabbit Problem appealed to me because I have read and enjoyed Emily Gravett's books before. Her website is extremely cool. The back of the book says: "This book is based on a problem that was solved in the 13th Century by the Mathematician Fibonacci, but it is NOT (I repeat NOT) a book about math. It is a book about rabbits...Lots of rabbits!"

It actually is a book about math, that is, the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. (I had to look it up on Wikipedia, which says that his goal was to create a sequence in which each number is the sum of the previous two numbers). How Gravett frames the idea is very clever: she creates a family of adorable rabbits and shows the sequence of numbers on the months of a calendar. So, in January, there is one lonely rabbit (0 + 1). Then, February has a pair (1+1). March shows two baby rabbits, plus the couple, and so on. There are cool little interactive elements on each month (an invitation, a newspaper, etc.).

In my opinion, it is one of those kids' books that a child reader would flip through for 1.3 seconds and then set aside. It would definitely take a teacher or a parent explaining what is happening on the pages to help the child understand its significance. However, the artwork is charming and the concept is intriguing.

Book #2/120 - Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Sophie Blackall (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2010).
Love this gentle treatment of the feelings of jealousy and uncertainty of an older child expecting a new baby in the house. My favorite part about the book is the language--so kid-friendly, so authentic. Woodson refers to "jacket weather" instead of October and this I love: "Upstairs, I got that teary, choky feeling." Isn't that just how it feels? "Choky"?

Book #3/120 - The Princess and Her Panther by Wendy Orr, illustrated by Lauren Stringer (Beach Lane Books, 2010).
I'm getting to know the Beach Lane list fairly well, and I love it. It feels familiar, like the books I write and hope to write. Wendy Orr wrote Nim's Island, and Lauren Stringer also published Winter is the Warmest Season with Beach Lane, which I love.

The strength of this book is the more-than-meets-the-eye story of two girls camping out in their backyard one night. It delves so nicely into the imagination of children, that world they slip into so easily. The text is spare, and while I loved the concept, the language, in my opinion, might have been a bit more interesting. The refrain, for example, is fairly simple: "The princess was brave and the panther tried to be." Maybe a rhyme or clever turn of phrase could have spiced this up a bit more. However, I do like how the girls solve their own problem with a nice story arc and climax.

Book #4/120 - Chick 'n' Pug written and illustrated by Jennifer Sattler (Bloomsbury, 2010).

So adorable! So clever! Love this book! The main character, Chick, loves to read about the adventures of Wonder Pug and then finds his very own Wonder Pug to befriend. Warm, charming characters, easy language, clever concept, and funny climax. It's got everything!

Book #5/120 - Just One Bite by Lola Schaefer, illustrated by Geoff Waring (Chronicle, 2010).

My first nonfiction pick! The subtitle is: "11 Animals and Their Bites at Life Size." It reminds me a bit--though the link may be a stretch--of a cool book (and now I can't remember the title or find it) which examines one square foot of ground, on the surface, a bit lower, and still lower into the earth to show what lives in this one spot. If anyone knows the book I'm thinking of, will you comment, please?

Anyway, Just One Bite shows the size of the food that animals in increasing size eat. For example, Schaefer begins with a worm. A speck of dirt the size of the head of a pin is the meal of a worm: "With just one scoop, a worm can eat...this much dirt (and everything in it)!" Then the animals move up in increasing size, until finally we see how much food a sperm whale eats. Clever idea that I think would interest kids.

So, there we have it--my first five!


  1. I saw The Rabbit Problem in the bookstore, opened it at the back and thought "Yay! A pop-up book!" (since time immemorial, I have loved pop-up books) but then, I started going through it and thought, "A calendar?" I enjoyed the book, but you're right, it would take explaining to get a kid to get into it.

    I think I'd like "Just One Bite"!

    Such nice neat bite-sized reviews. I have trouble reining in my words (as you've likely noticed)...

  2. I wrote a post on Fibonacci for kids last year. I'll have to add the rabbit book to that post and take a look at it with my kids. I agree the concept is very hard for little kids to understand. We focused more on patterns instead of the math when we learned about it last fall.

    I also very much enjoyed your brief reviews.

  3. I checked out Chick-n-Pug at my local library and it was adorable. I have a dearly-loved pug of my own, and I have to say that the author got the pug's personality spot on. It was a very funny book.