Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Spooks in Books for Halloween

October is here! Crisp air, crunchy leaves, and that witch next door that has flown into a tree. Ouch!
 Try your hand at making your own crashing witch by clicking here!


Here are some picture books with spooky themes and not-so-spooky storylines.

IT'S RAINING BATS AND FROGS
Written by Rebecca Colby
Illustrated by Steven Henry
Published by Feiwel and Friends, 2015

What is the enemy of a parade? Rain, of course. And for the Witch Parade, it is no different. Filled with apt idioms and clever rhymes, a Halloween parade gets more and more chaotic as rain becomes "cats and dogs", then "hats and clogs", and "bats and frogs." Next time it's raining on your parade, be glad there are no witches nearby trying to help.


LEO: A GHOST STORY
Written by Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Published by Chronicle Books, 2015

The opening spread shows an empty room with the accompanying text: "This is Leo. Most people cannot see him."

I love this! What a hook. Leo is a ghost-child who lives alone in a house, until a family moves in. Unfortunately, his friendly intentions cause the family to conclude that the house is haunted and they try to get rid of him. Leo's subsequent story is one of finding friendship and acceptance. A story not so different from ours, really.


THE LITTLE BIT SCARY PEOPLE
Written by Emily Jenkins
Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
Published by Hyperion Books for Children, 2008

While not specifically a Halloween book, THE LITTLE BIT SCARY PEOPLE draws on the idea that the unknown is scary. It takes a closer look at those who are different or grumpy or mean. The narrator imagines a place where each of the scary people are happy or loving or creative. It is a lovely medium for teaching empathy and putting yourself in someone else's shoes.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Laugh-Out-Loud Funny: Part 3

Anthropomorphic animals are nothing new to picture books. But animals that shoot documentaries, sing in the opera, and wear underwear? The picture book tradition is getting wider in scope as it embraces quirky humor, books that engage the reader directly, and turn concept books on their heads. Check out these new favorites:

This is a Moose
Author: Richard T. Morris
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld

A director is set on filming an authentic moose documentary. The only problem is that the moose has other plans. The eye-popping illustrations combined with the outrageous (and director-infuriating) storyline creates a still-frame cinematic experience.  There's even a glossary with job descriptions for all that happens behind-the-scenes on a film shoot.




The Bear's Song
Author/Illustrator: Benjamin Chaud

Papa Bear goes on a journey to find Little Bear, who is "too caught up in honey thoughts to hear winter's whisper." Isn't that lovely? Super-detailed illustrations draw the reader in. Can you find Little Bear on each page? For us, the laugh-out-loud part came when Papa Bear finds himself on the opera stage and decides to sing  "a lullaby that all bears love."

Backstage at the Opera

One Big Pair of Underwear
Author: Laura Gehl
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld

This is a counting book. An unconventional counting book. It's also about sharing. But all a preschooler wants to know is why are there two bears in a pair of underwear? And why is the underwear so BIG? There's never enough to go around in this book, so someone is always feeling like they got the short end of the stick... Until a group of pigs decide to go "Piggyback!" so they can all play. Cleverly written, this more-than-a-concept book also tickles the funny bone.

You may have noticed that Tom Lichtenheld is the illustrator of this book and This is a Moose. Check out his website for some great resources and a listing of his fabulous books.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Laugh-Out-Loud Funny: Part 2 (Chicken Books!)

I'm not sure why chickens frequently make their way into picture books. Maybe their status as farm animals makes them accessible to the youngest book lovers. I'm not sure why chickens are inherently funny. Maybe it all flows from the chicken crossing the road joke. Regardless, children's chicken books are often hysterical. Here are two that had my boys laughing out loud this month.

Chicken Big 
by author/illustrator Keith Graves


Opening: "On a teeny little farm, in an itty-bitty coop, a very small hen laid a big, humongous egg." 

Talk about a juxtaposition! The illustrations of a huge chick combine with bird-brained dialogue to create a very silly situation. The smallest chick's contributions are especially funny. ("She was not the sharpest beak in the flock.") As the title suggests, the plot also draws on the story of "Chicken Little", stirring up a flurry of crises that the humongous chick diverts while the chickens all try to identify him: "Apparently, he is an umbrella!" Will the chick's heroic actions at the end finally gain him some acceptance?

Interrupting Chicken 
by author/illustrator David Ezra Stein


Told mostly in dialogue, parents will recognize the theme of this silly bedtime story. One of my boys is an "interrupting chicken", so this hit home for me and was definitely laugh-out-loud funny. Not only does Chicken interrupt the bedtime stories, but her interruptions also end the stories by nipping the problem in the bud. When Chicken heard the part where Little Red Riding Hood met a wolf in the woods, she interrupts, "Out jumped a little red chicken, and she said, 'Don't talk to strangers!' So Little Red Riding Hood didn't. The end!" As a writer, I find that Chicken highlights the need for a story arc with tension in order to create a satisfying experience for the reader. David Ezra Stein certainly does this with his clever book.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Laugh-Out-Loud Funny: Part 1

Wow, it's been over a year since I published a post. Sorry to all my loyal fans, but I had to set the blog aside so that I actually had time to WRITE! I've felt encouraged to get back to blogging, but I'm not going to do it on a schedule. I'll add books when they inspire ideas, mentor my writing, or display emotional truths that move me.

To reboot our journey down picture book lane, I'd like to focus on humorous stories. Laugh-out-loud funny books. Tales that literally had my boys guffawing. They begged for these books to be re-read and they got funnier every time.

I have a nine-book high pile of rib-ticklers, so this post will be in many parts. Enjoy!

1. STUCK by Oliver Jeffers
Oliver Jeffers is a master storyteller. He took a common expression and built a literal tale around it. Every page is more outrageous than the last and there are surprises at every turn. 

2. THIS ORQ. (he cave boy.) by David Elliott; illustrated by Lori Nichols
Orq has a pet. His mother does not approve. Sound familiar? David Elliott and Lori Nichols breathe fresh life into this evergreen theme by taking a step back in time. The unique voice doesn't hurt either. Check out this opening:
This Woma.
Woma woolly mammoth.
Orq love Woma.

Here's the page that had my boys doubled over with laughter: