Friday, May 27, 2011

New Picture Book reviews

Ages and ages ago, I started my lofty goal of reviewing at least 10 new picture books each month. Here is my first five, and now, four months later, I am ready to review my next five!

So, here's the real deal. I took a 5-week term off of teaching in January/February, which allowed me to a) spend more time writing in general, and b) write more on my blog. Since then, however, I have been back to my many-faceted writing/teaching combo of life, and have not posted nearly as much.

Before I do my next chunk of picture books (maybe I'll catch up this summer?? Probably unlikely), I thought I'd share an AWESOME book I ran across at the library this morning. It's called The 100 Best Vacations to Enrich Your Life by Pam Grout. If this author even got to take one of these to do her research, I am insanely jealous. The book is chock-full of creative vacation ideas, like taking classes in Door County at a woodsy sounding place called The Clearing where they have all sorts of workshops on arts, crafts, and writing. Another vaca option is going on an authentic Oregon Trail covered wagon ride. (When I asked my husband if he wanted to try that one, he said no-go...why, I cannot fathom.) You could monitor active volcanoes in Hawaii, track mountain lions in the Rockies, and the list goes on and on. I'm buying this book. That's all I can say. 

I know you've all been dying for more picture book here goes.

If You're Hoppy by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic (Greenwillow) #6/120

Adore. Love. Smile. Laugh! The author of this clever and creative book took the familiar children's song and made it fresh, original, and fun. This is a great book for storytime. And to my dear editors, would you please, please consider Jackie Urbanovic's whimsical, charming, and slightly-over-the-top illustrations for one of my books?

My Cold Went on Vacation by Molly Rausch and Nora Krug (Putnam) #7/120

Not sure I'm loving this book. I hate to say that about any children's book, but I found the illustrations somewhat off-putting. The concept is clever--following a cold germ around the world. But a) it's kind of strange to see an illustration of a cold germ, and b) the two-dimensional look of the illustrations didn't really appeal to me personally. The "feel" from the illustrations was a bit cold. But it is an interesting concept.

Who Stole Mona Lisa? by Ruthie Knapp, illustrated by Jill McElmurry (Bloomsbury) #8/120

Charming book! This would be perfect for anyone wanting to share the story of the Mona Lisa with children--art teachers, parents, librarians. The text is a tad longer than a typical picture book these days, but then again, it is non-fiction and still within the perfect word count range for squirmy kids. The artwork in this book is a story in itself. The artist brilliantly shows changes in Mona Lisa's face as she is adored by the public, stolen, bored, lonely, and finally returned to the Louvre. And the author's reason for Mona Lisa's smile is adorable. I won't spoil it for you!

My Farm Friends by Wendell Minor (Putnam) #9/120

This feels like a throw-back book to the days of the 1950s when Margaret Wise Brown was writing her remarkable books about animals, farms, and the moon. The cover even looks like it could be a Golden Book cover. I'm so happy to see books like these that parents and kids both love. There's nothing edgy or modern or chic about this book. It's just a book about farm animals. (I also love it because there are lots of kittens pictured throughout.) Thank you, Wendell Minor and Putnam for still producing lovely, timeless children's books such as these.

Fairly Fairy Tales by Esme Raji Codell, illustrated by Elisa Chavarri (Aladdin) #10/120

One reason why this book caught my eye is because I'm doing some playing around right now with some re-tellings of fairy tales myself and wanted to see what else is working for authors today. True, there are a gazillion fairy tale books/versions/retellings, etc. But is there room for other clever, fun retellings? Of course, I think yes.This is one of those clever, very spare texts that just works beautifully.

RRRalph by Lois Ehlert (Beach Lane) #11/120

So, you get a bonus book review since I've been so lame for four months. Don't you feel lucky? The uniqueness of this book, of course, is in Ehlert's unusual "found" art--pop can tabs for noses, zippers for mouths, paper cut-out bodies. etc. I'm not sure the text was satisfying enough for me to warrant a full book-length story (it might be more appropriate for a poem or magazine piece?) but it's a cute concept--the dog "says" things like "rough" and "bark" and "wolf" at appropriate times throughout the story.

So, there you have last. By the way, you might have noticed most of my links were through Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, IL. Let's support our local bookstores!