Thursday, March 9, 2017

Dynamic Duos

I'm always impressed with books that begin as a solo act and become so beloved that a sequel is commissioned. These hits are very different from a preconceived trilogy because it is only after the fact that a second book is written. So it is even more impressive when the second book takes the personality of the first book and successfully spins a new tale that is just as endearing. Let's take a look at two Dynamic Duos.

GASTON is one of my favorite picture books of 2014. It is cute, clever, and tackles the topic of blended families with humor and sensitivity. And now there is a companion book: ANTOINETTE. This spunky poodle isn't sure what makes her special, but she is about to find out that perseverance is key.

Author: Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrator: Christian Robinson

Marla Frazee's THE BOSS BABY is witty and spot-on in its assessment of how a baby turns a household upside down. And now there is THE BOSSIER BABY. A baby sister joins the scene! Bonus: A movie based on the concept of The Boss Baby will be in theaters soon.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

More Picture Books from 2016

So many books, so little time! Here is a quick round-up of some more picture book favorites from 2016.

Best book on grief
by Caron Levis
illustrated by Charles Santoso

Stories about writing stories
by Maggie Tokauda-Hall
illustrated by Benji Davies

by Jodi McKay
illustrated by Denise Holmes

Favorite rhyming book (with hugely satisfying plot)
by Jill Esbaum
illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi

Most fun I've had discovering the story as a reader in a race against spoilers (meta)
by Minh Le
illustrated by Isabel Roxas

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

2016 Picture Books: My Pile

2016 was another outstanding year for picture books. Here are four to whet your appetite:

by Stacy McAnulty
illus. by Joanne Lew Vriethoff
Running Press Kids

This book is the perfect juxtaposition of text and art. If you take the text alone, it reads almost like a mid-century book on etiquette. It is the vibrant illustrations that show the exuberance, curiosity, and individuality of a group of girls who have their own definition of beauty. BEAUTIFUL is PERFECT.

from the notes of Edward Hemingway
Clarion Books

The genius of this book is the mashup of dinosaurs, field guides, and the universal bad mood. Illustrated as a notebook, there are plenty of labeled diagrams, witty instructions, and a very satisfying twist at the end.

by Andrea Davis Pinkney
illus. by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson

Telling the story of a Jewish immigrant who grows up to be a beloved children's book creator, Pinkney's free verse is full of compassion and appreciation. In my opinion, this gorgeous book is one of the best of 2016.

by Emily Jenkins
illus. by Marie-Louise Gay
Candlewick Press

I picked this up because I am a huge fan of Emily Jenkins' TOYS GO OUT books. She has a way with making her characters believably flawed and yet, so lovable. Tiger and Badger are best friends...until they're not. The realistic dialogue leapt off the page and spoke to me and my two (often bickering) boys.

Storystorm 2017

Happy New Year!

Start the new year off write (typo intended!) with Tara Lazar's reinvention of Picture Book Idea Month. It is called Storystorm. Follow her blog for daily posts that will get your storm stirred up! (I realize the month is more than half over, but these posts are an amazing resource, regardless of when you start!) Here's the line up:

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Surprising, Refreshing, and So Original

Every so often I come across an article which states that there are only a small handful of storylines in the world. Or a blog that reminds picture book writers to put a fresh spin on an old theme... or forever be unpublished.

While I understand the logic behind these statements, they never fail to depress me. It's as if I should be able to sit down and pull a completely original idea out of the air. But I can't. I also have a hard time plotting a story without falling back on the tried and true. What I love about writing is the magical, unexpected nature of how a story goes from an inkling of an idea to a living entity on the page. If I just relax and let my fingers fly, the end result is always surprising. And that is my way of creating something unique.

I don't know how these authors did it, but I was thrilled to discover three completely original books within the past week. Head over to your library and check them out!

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles
by Michelle Cuevas
illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles takes his job very seriously. But what happens when loneliness and longing wash up on the shore just like messages in a bottle? This spare story with muted illustrations packs an emotional punch.

A Little Book of Sloth
by Lucy Cooke
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013

Nonfiction has never been so entertaining (or so cute)! Lucy Cooke's prose is witty and conversational. My boys and I found ourselves laughing on every page. Readers learn all about sloths while going on a photo-tour of a sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica. These "Jedi masters of the hug" are awww-inspiring at every turn.

A Child of Books
by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
Candlewick Press, 2016

This is a celebration of books where letters and text form the ocean waves and the mountains. Story is the path on your journey and imagination is the key. Each page is filled literary gems to discover, relate to, and build on as the reader and the book create a new narrative together.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

School Stories (with Surprises)

It's that time of year again! My boys are having an exciting first week back at school. We prepared for  a new year in the usual ways: school supply shopping, a new outfit, and a visit to the classroom to meet the teacher. But as any picture book loving parent knows, no event preparation or holiday celebration is complete without books on the subject. The ones I am sharing here struck a chord with my boys and I. They got us laughing, thinking, and imagining. Our brains are fired up and ready for a great year!

by Richard Torrey
Sterling Children's Books

Ally loves dinosaurs. In fact, she is a dinosaur! At least in her imagination (shown in crayon, drawn by a child-like hand). But when Ally goes to school, she learns that not everyone is a dinosaur. And that's okay. This is one of the best back-to-school books I've seen that playfully depicts what it is like for a child to navigate the first day of school. (P.S. Walter is one of my favorite minor characters of all time!)

by Trudy Ludwig
illustrated by Patrice Barton
Alfred A. Knopf

There are all kinds of children in a class. Some are sporty, others are loud. Some are social, others are needy. But what about the one who is invisible? On the first page, we learn that "Even Mrs. Carlotti has trouble noticing (Brian) in her classroom." This picture book adeptly focuses a lens on the child who is left out and alone. And what a difference small kindnesses and acknowledgements make. If I were still teaching, I would definitely use this book as a read-aloud during the first week of school. Kids need opportunities to observe difficult situations and discuss the positive actions they can take. There are even questions in the back of the book for this purpose.

by Pamela Zagarenski
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

First, I would like to point out how gorgeous the illustrations are in this book. Each one is vibrant and magical, inviting the reader to imagine the story along with the girl. With the feel of a folktale, the girl is given a magical book by her teacher. She is disappointed when there are only pictures, but a whisper encourages her to write the words herself. In this enchanting story, the voracious reader becomes a writer, discovering that everyone has a story within.