Posts tagged Books of Wonder

Bob and Otto: Friends are important.

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Bob and Otto

 

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

By Robert O. Bruel

Pictures by Nick Bruel

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2007

 

 

Nick Bruel is a Books of Wonder alum, and the author and illustrator of the wildly popular Bad Kitty books. He’s also written and illustrated many other books and has a clear knack for speaking directly to his audience. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of Nick’s work. His latest book, Bad Kitty School Daze, was just recently released and I have it on good authority that another Bad Kitty book is in the works.

Nick’s father, Robert O. Bruel, wrote this story. Discovered shortly after his father’s passing, Nick adapted it for the picture book audience and created the art to accompany his father’s beautiful tale.

Bruel’s illustrations have a cartoon-ey feel; he uses rich, saturated colors with bright accents and bold edges. He has interspersed double page spreads with pages of panel art—similar to those in a comic strip—an unusual tactic in a picture book that works perfectly here. Four double page spreads are divided horizontally, depicting the divergent activities of our main characters—the top features preparations for a transformative snooze, while the bottom focuses on a subterranean tour.

Bob, a caterpillar, and Otto, a worm, are completely adorable and surprisingly expressive, considering their faces have only little black dots for eyes. (They also have no mouths except in the final spread when little smiles suddenly appear.)

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Bob and Otto are good friends. They both like to play in the grass and eat leaves, but when Bob says he needs to climb a tree Otto doesn’t understand and asks why.

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‘“Because it’s important.” said Bob.”’

Otto wants to dig into the ground. “It’s important down here too.”

So the two friends part ways. Bob climbs and climbs, Otto digs and digs. Bob eats the fresh green leaves off the tree. Otto dines on leaf litter underground. Bob gets sleepy and wraps himself in a cocoon. Otto digs, until he gets quite sleepy, then he digs some more.

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After many days and nights, Bob awakens as a beautiful, yellow butterfly. He flies all around the tree, testing out his new wings. Soon Bob misses Otto and flies down to the ground to find his old friend. Meanwhile, underneath the tree, Otto misses his friend Bob and starts digging his way to the surface.

The friends’ reunion is awkward. Bob has changed. He has wings, and has gained the astonishing gift of flight! Otto thinks maybe he should have climbed that tree too; maybe he would have also grown wings. But instead he’s still a worm, whose only mode of locomotion is crawling.

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Bob knows how very important Otto is and explains that it was Otto’s digging that loosened the soil, allowing the rain to reach the tree’s roots, which helped the tree to grow tall and strong, and made it a perfect home for Bob to eat, sleep, and grow wings.

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‘“I owe it all to you, Otto,” said Bob. “You’re not just a worm. You’re my best friend.”’

“And friends are important.”

 

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Bear Has a Story to Tell: An utterly sublime picture book.

Bear Has a Story to Tell

 

Picture Book

Ages 2 to 6

By Philip C. Stead

Illustrated by

Erin E. Stead

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2012

Book Trailer

 

A lot of my friends are people who worked with me at Books of Wonder. A lot of those friends went on from Books of Wonder to become published writers and illustrators. They’ve made, and continue to make, great books and they are all extremely talented. I’m not saying that because they’re my friends either. They’ll tell you the same thing. This is all to say you may often see the term “Books of Wonder alum” on this site. In this case, it’s Erin E. Stead.

Each year, the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, honors the illustrator of the most distinguished American picture book for children with the Caldecott Medal. You can recognize it by the gold sticker, as on the cover of this book. 

Sick Day for Amos McGee, Erin E. Stead and Philip C. Stead’s first book, is extraordinary, and was awarded the Caldecott Medal. That was Erin’s first book. Philip is an illustrator, as well as a writer, and has published three other books of his own (Creamed Tuna Fish and Peas on Toast, Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat and A Home for Bird). Erin’s second book, And Then It’s Spring— written by Julie Fogliano, another Books of Wonder alum—is stunning. Bear Has a Story to Tell is Erin’s third book, and the second for the husband and wife team.

I am not overstating when I say this: these three contributions to the world of children’s books have already changed the industry. They are much appreciated additions with their sweet, simple stories and their exceptional art.

Erin’s art is delicate yet strong, tight yet free, subtle yet imposing, and overwhelmingly beautiful. Not every illustrator can draw and paint. Often, an artist’s strengths lie in one area or the other. Erin is a skilled draftsman and an amazing painter and she knows just when to let the right art form shine through. Her art appeals to all the senses; you can feel the wind, hear the leaves rustling, smell the winter air, feel the heavy sleep and taste the anticipation. Her art is breathtaking and frequently astounding.

Phil’s text is perfectly paced, allowing you to drink in the art. There’s nothing unnecessary or extraneous about the story. And nothing is missing. Volumes are being said with just a few sentences per page. It is precisely this kind of text that leads people to proclaim, “I could write a children’s book. It’s easy!” I assure you, it is not easy.

Bear has a story to tell. He’s getting sleepy but he’d like to share his story with his friends. Though his friends clearly love him, they do not have time for a story right now. Winter is coming and they must prepare. Mouse needs to gather seeds. Duck has to fly south.

Bear graciously understands when his friends decline, and even assists them with their tasks. It’s also time for Bear to prepare for winter, just as the first snowflakes fall.

Bear wakes in the spring, eager to tell his story. He waits patiently for each of his friends to rouse, or return, so he may gather them together.

All his friends are listening. Bear has a captive audience, and he can’t remember his story.

Bear’s friends offer ideas and suggestions; maybe it was about a bear, getting ready for winter. And maybe his friends were there too.

Bear Has a Story to Tell is an utterly sublime picture book.

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