Posts tagged books

Clown by Quentin Blake: A wordless delight.

DSC01877

Clown

Picture Book

Ages 2-10

By Quentin Blake

32 pages

Henry Holt

1996

 

 

The work of Quentin Blake has appeared before on TurtleAndRobot.com,  here and here. He is perhaps my most favorite illustrator. Fortunately for me, he is extremely prolific. Unfortunately for me, I may never be able to collect all his books. His skilled storytelling, expert lines, quirky style and exceptional art never cease to amaze me. Clown, a wordless picture book, is among my favorite picture books ever. Blake’s generous palette is radiant and expansive. The story is sweet and sad; the art, as always, is active and expressive.

Though this is his only wordless picture book to date, Blake’s art often needs no words; with a quick line and a splash of color he is able to convey more energy and emotion in one panel that some artists can achieve in an entire book. The small and elite group that I consider to be in the same realm of Blake’s artistic genius includes only two other illustrators: Shel Silverstein and Tomi Ungerer. Each of these men is able to breathe irrepressible life into a single line. Though the style may appear to be easy and uncomplicated it is in fact richly complex and expertly crafted.

Wordless picture books can be off-putting to some adults—they panic, “What do I read if there are no words?” But a wordless book can be liberating. Readers have an opportunity to change the story every time they tell it. The story is right there in the pictures and how it’s told is up to the reader. Wordless books offer children and adults an opportunity to observe the action, follow a sequence of events and tell their own version of what they perceive. Wordless stories can aid in developing visual literacy, narrative skills and creativity. Freed from the confines of text, novel nuances emerge every time the book is opened.

 

Clown opens with a grandmotherly figure descending the steps of a brownstone, her hands full of old, worn dolls. Into the garbage they go; the lifeless toys oblivious to their new unfortunate situation. In the next spread, a surprised Clown—who is amongst the recently discarded—looks around in dismay and quickly wriggles free. He drops to the ground and brushes himself off. Noticing his ragged shoes, the quick-thinking Clown roots through the neighboring pile of garbage and finds himself a sporty pair of high-top sneakers. The rejuvenated Clown is off and running!

DSC01887

 

He soon spots a young child and rushes to tell her his story, but before he can finish she is scooped up by her parents and taken away. The baffled Clown is wondering what to do next when he’s picked up by an adult and promptly added to a group of costumed children being photographed. Clown, growing distressed, tells his story to a young girl dressed in a fairy costume. She happily picks Clown up and takes him with her. When she arrives at home her mother promptly throws the used toy out the window.

DSC01888

 

Clown lands safely on the street and is immediately chased down by an angry dog. The situation seems dire but the ever-energetic Clown jumps onto a crate and puts on a show of acrobatics for the now bewildered dog. Just then, the dog’s owner comes along and Clown quickly finds himself being tossed aside again.

DSC01889

He flies through the air and lands inside a home where a woeful caretaker is desperately trying to comfort a crying child. Clown’s unexpected appearance shocks them both. Without delay, the charming Clown begins entertaining his new audience. Swiftly relieved of their tears, the guardian and her charge are won over. Once again he explains his predicament. Clown and the caretaker quickly come to an agreement: he will help her clean up the house before the child’s mother arrives and she will help him rescue his friends from the garbage.

DSC01890

The new friends work wonderfully together and the apartment is soon in perfect order. Clown, caretaker and baby head out to liberate the toys from their difficult situation. After retrieving his rejected comrades from the garbage, Clown finds a lovely blue ribbon for the babysitter’s hair and a bouquet of flowers to decorate the apartment; the jovial trio returns home.

DSC01891

When the tired-looking mother arrives, she’s surprised and delighted to find a happy child, a clean home and a menagerie of new friends. Clown rests happily, his ordeals behind him, with his old friends and his new family.

DSC01892

View the Book!

IndieBound / Powell’s / Amazon

Advertisements

Comments (11) »

Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat: World’s best boy detective.

Nate the GreatNatetheGreat

Early Reader

Ages 3-9

By Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

Illustrated by Marc Simont

64 pages

1972

Delacorte Press

 

 

Marjorie Weinman Sharmat has published over one hundred and thirty books, though her Nate the Great books, with twenty-six in the series, are the most well known. Her descriptive text and direct dialogue are peppered with a dry humor. With the exception of one single word—Nate sports rubbers, instead of boots, in the rain—this forty-year old story holds timeless appeal.

This is the fifth book illustrated by Marc Simont to be reviewed in this blog. Like his art in A Tree is Nice, the spreads alternate between color and black and white. Simont uses vivid pinks and bold yellows in one spread and warm grays and lush blacks in the next. No matter the medium, Simont’s art is always expressive and energetic, pleasing and comfortable.

 

“My name is Nate the Great. I am a detective. I work alone.”

NatetheGreat1

Using classic hard-boiled detective language, Nate tells readers about his latest case: helping his friend Annie find a lost picture.

He’d just finished a breakfast of pancakes (Nate loves pancakes) when she called and enlisted his help. He donned his trench coat and Sherlock Holmes style hat and headed straight out to Annie’s, but not before leaving a note for his mother.

NatetheGreat2

When he arrived at Annie’s she was just sitting down to a pancake breakfast, so Nate joined her. They discussed the missing picture. Using bright yellow paint, Annie had painted a picture of her dog Fang the day before and left it out to dry, and then it was gone.

After breakfast, Nate searched Annie’s room. He was already sure of one thing, Annie liked yellow.

NatetheGreat3

He asked her who had seen the picture.

“My friend Rosamond has seen it, and my brother Harry. And Fang.”

Nate started with Fang. Fang was big, with big teeth. Nate watched him eat, then he watched him bury a bone. Nate had an idea that maybe Fang took the picture and buried it, but after two hours of digging in the backyard Nate and Annie only found rocks, worms, bones and ants.

NatetheGreat4

It was time for more pancakes.

“Cold pancakes are almost as good as hot pancakes.”

Nate and Annie when to Rosamond’s house next. Rosamond was dubious of Nate’s detective status so she asked him to solve a case of her own: find her missing cat, Super Hex. Rosamond had four cats, all named Hex, and a house full of cat paraphernalia. Nate sat down and Big Hex jumped onto his lap. Nate wanted to leave immediately; he stood up to go and stepped on something long and black. There was a loud meow. He’d stepped on the tail of Super Hex, who’d been hiding under the chair. The case inside a case had been solved. Nate and Annie left.

NatetheGreat5

Nate knew Rosamond did not take the picture, she clearly only liked cats. They headed back to Annie’s house to question to her brother Harry. Like Annie, Harry liked to paint; the walls of his room were covered in his art. There was painting of a red house, one of a red clown, and one of a red tree. There was also a painting of a three-headed monster but that one was orange.

“I, Nate the Great, have found your picture.”

NatetheGreat6

Annie was confused; Nate explained. All of Harry’s paintings were done in red paint, except the monster. Annie’s picture of Fang was yellow. When you mix yellow and red you get orange. Harry had painted his red, three-headed monster over Annie’s yellow picture of Fang. The case was solved.

‘“I don’t know how to thank you,” Annie said.”’

“I do,” Nate said. “Are there any pancakes left?”

 

View the book!

IndieBound / Powell’s / Amazon

Comments (6) »

May 23rd is World Turtle Day!

I was born loving turtles. Okay, I’m not completely positive this is true but I know I cannot recall a time I didn’t love turtles. My pet red-eared slider, Earl, has lived with me for over twenty years. Here he is doing yoga.

DSC01747

My large collection of turtle figurines resides next to Earl’s tank. My collection of children’s books featuring turtles takes up a whole shelf. And what better day to share a few of those books than World Turtle Day?

 

Turtle and SnailTurtle&Snail

Beginning Reader

Ages 4-8

By Zibby Oneal

Illustrated by Margot Tomes

48 pages

Lippincott

1979

Out of Print

 

Poor Snail, he just wants a friend but “nobody wants a friend in a shell.” A shell can’t hop or fly or fit in a hole. Then Snail meets Turtle! Now they each have a friend in a shell.

Turtle&Snail1

When Snail gives Turtle a mud pie for his birthday, Fly, Ant and Bee all tell him that turtles don’t eat mud, but Snail knows what his friend likes. Snail brings the gift to his friend. Turtle loves it so much that he promptly sits on it.

Turtle&Snail2

Turtle explains that turtles don’t eat mud; they love to sit in it! But Snail is so sad that he pulls his head far into his shell and doesn’t hear how much Turtle loves his present.

Snail, convinced that Turtle thinks he is dumb, decides he must find a new friend. But Baby Robin and Fly flew off and Ant ran down a hole, so Snail decides to visit Turtle one more time. He finds Turtle stuck on his back in the tall grass. Snail gets Grasshopper, Ant, Fly and Baby Robin to help tip Turtle back onto his feet. Now they are all good friends!

Turtle&Snail3

View the Book!

 

The Great Turtle DriveTurtleDrive

Picture Book

Ages 4-8

By Steve Sanfield

Illustrated by Dirk Zimmer

32 pages

Knopf

1996

Out of Print

 

An old man, who used to be quite a cowboy, tells a story from his youth about how he made and lost a million dollars before he was old enough to vote. After a long cattle drive he liked to enjoy a meal at Frenchy’s Gourmet Eating Establishment and Pizza Parlor in Kansas City. During one such meal he had the best thing he’d ever eaten in his life, a bowl of turtle soup. Although it was quite delicious, he was shocked to see the teeny tiny bowl cost an overpriced $4.00!

He had an idea, he would head back to his home state of Texas to capture as many turtles as he could and sell them to the restaurant.

TurtleDrive1

Before long he had a herd of twenty thousand turtles. He was going to be rich! But first he had to get them to Frenchy’s. He was unable to recruit any of his fellow cowboys for the turtle drive, and was forced to go it alone.

Driving turtles was slow going, and the tired cowboy couldn’t get a moments rest; as soon as he stopped circling the herd, the turtles would start to disperse. The cowboy realized that he could flip the turtles on their back and keep them from deserting. He finally got some rest.

TurtleDrive2

Soon he realized that all the walking was rough on those little turtle feet; in lieu of turtle shoes he slipped large paper clips onto the turtles’ feet. The paper clips worked, and the turtles moved faster, but winter was coming and they needed to be protected from the cold. The cowboy paid a farmer to dig a trench so the turtles could hibernate.

When the cowboy dug up the turtles in the spring his herd had grown to forty-two thousand! Though they were moving faster, it was a long way from Texas to Kansas City and it took many years. Each winter the cowboy buried the herd, and each spring he’d dig them up to find more, until he had five hundred thousand turtles!

DSC01849

After five years had passed, they all arrived in Kansas City. Frenchy’s had closed! So, they all turned around and headed back to Texas. Good thing they knew the way!

 

View the Book!

 

My Turtle Died Today

MyTurtleDied

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture Book

Ages 4-7

By Edith G. Stull

Illustrated by Mamoru Funai

28 pages

Holt, Rinehart and Winston

1964

Out of Print

 

This is a delightfully odd book with some very funny non-sequiturs. Also, the illustrations reek of 1964 and are clearly stereotypical of that era. Think: the artwork on greeting cards you’d find stored away in an old case in someone’s attic.

Our narrator, a nameless young boy, is very upset; his turtle, Boxer, is sick. The boy asks his father what to do. His father says to give Boxer some food but it doesn’t help. He asks his teacher but she says, “I’m sorry, I don’t know how to help turtles. Ask the pet shop man.”

When the boy asks the pet shop man to help Boxer, Mr. Riley says “Boxer will die.” (Don’t sugar coat it Mr. Riley!) Then Boxer dies.

The boy cries. Then he puts Boxer in a small wood box, ties a ribbon around it and buries it near the old oak tree. Then this happens:

DSC01851

“Tommy said, “Leave food for Boxer.” I said, “No, dead turtles don’t eat.” Billy said, “Leave water for Boxer.” I said, “No dead turtles don’t drink.” Tommy said, “Is Boxer in heaven?” Billy said, “My mother’s in heaven.” I said, “But now you have a new mother.” Billy said, “Yes, now I have two mothers.”

Then, on the very next page, this happens.

DSC01854

‘”What’s that?” Tommy said. There in the leaves, near the kitchen door, Patty’s babies had just been born. “There are three babies,” Billy said. “Look at Patty lick them,” Tommy said. One of the kittens made the funniest cry. It was hungry.”

While the boys play with the kittens, Tommy asks if the kittens will die too. Billy says, “All living things must die.” The narrator says the kittens will not die for a long time.

“They have to live first, before they die.”

DSC01853

“Billy said, “I’m hungry. Tommy said, “Me too. Let’s go to my house to get something to eat.” I said, “Yes, let’s go get something and we will bring something for Patty to eat. She is hungry, too.”‘

The boys headed to Tommy’s house to have lunch. The end.

No, seriously.

 

View the Book!

 

Turtle Time: A Bedtime StoryTurtleTime

Picture book

By Sandol Stoddard

Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

32 pages

Houghton Mifflin

1995

Out of Print

 

Lynn Munsinger has illustrated several books for children, including Tacky the Penguin. It’s probably no surprise that Turtle Time is my favorite of her books; it’s also one of my favorite turtle books. The title refers to the act of a turtle pulling in his head and limbs—going inside himself—for some quiet time; it’s also something our young narrator, an exuberant red-haired girl, likes to do. She crawls into her bed, snuggles deep under the covers and enjoys a little peace.

In a bouncy, sing-song-y rhyme, the young girl—wearing the most adorable red shoes—tells the story of finding a small turtle egg that was in the process of hatching. Once the baby turtle fully emerged, the joyous girl named him Fred and promised to bring him home to keep her company. She imagines all the wonderful activities they will share!

TurtleTime1

But when she picked him up, he retracted into his mobile home. The persistent miss brings Fred home anyway. Eventually, he peeks out from his shell and has this to say;

DSC01855 

“And when I hold him in my hand, we close our eyes and understand. Our little song, our little rhyme, and when I need a nap I climb, into my bed for turtle time, turtle time.

TurtleTime2 

View the Book!

 

The Flying Tortoise: An Igbo TaleFlyingTortoise

Picture Book

Retold by Tololwa M. Mollel

Illustrated by Barbara Spurll

32 pages

Clarion Books

1994

 

Tololwa M. Mollel, a Maasai from Arusha, Tanzania, retells this Nigerian myth of how the tortoise got his shell. Barbara Spurll’s vibrantly colored illustrations are full of emotion and character.

 

Mbeku was a vain and selfish tortoise. He was extremely proud of his smooth and shiny shell. Because he was so magnificent, he believed he deserved more food than any other creature in the forest. Mbeku had an insatiable appetite and was always eager to eat.

FlyingTortoise1

One day he came upon a group of birds celebrating; the king of Skyland had invited the Earth-dwellers to a feast! Mbeku yearned to attend even though he did not have the means to travel to Skyland. He convinced each of the birds to give him a feather so that his (only) friend Ngwele could fashion a set of wings so that he could fly.

When the birds and Mbeku arrived in Skyland, Mbeku tricked the birds and consumed the entire feast himself. The angry birds pounced on the trickster and tore apart his wings. Now he had no way of getting home! Mbeku put on a great show of apologizing and pleading for forgiveness until the birds eventually took pity on him.

FlyingTortoise2

Mbeku decided he would have to jump from Skyland and tells the birds to ask Ngwele to build a giant soft pile so he could land softly. The birds agreed and flew back to Earth. But one small swallow, still in a nearby bush, overheard Mbeku mocking the silly birds for trusting him yet again. The swallow immediately flew off to tell the others. Tired of playing the fools, the birds decided to teach the deceiving tortoise a lesson—instead of a soft pile, they ask Ngwele to build a pile of the hardest things she can find.

Mbeku, unaware that his duplicitous behavior has been discovered, sees the readied pile from Skyland and jumps down to earth. Upon landing, his shell scattered in a million pieces. Ngwele gathered up every single piece and worked all through the rainy season patching Mbeku’s shell. The new patchwork shield looks just like the shell we know turtles to carry today. It’s not nearly beautiful enough for the ungrateful reptile.

FlyingTortoise3

Despite not wanting to be seen in his hideous shell, the tortoise went out for a walk. When he heard birds nearby, he “drew himself into his checkered shell and lay as still as a stone.” The birds, unaware that their old nemesis is nearby, chattered and laughed about having finally outsmarted Mbeku. They laughed so hard that they didn’t even notice the large rock that they were resting on was chuckling too.

 

View the Book!

Comments (12) »

The Story of Little Babaji by Helen Bannerman and Fred Marcellino: a perfect update to a classic story.

BabajiCover

The Story of Little Babaji

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By Helen Bannerman

Illustrated by Fred Marcellino

72 pages

HarperCollins

1996

 

 

Helen Bannerman (1862-1946), the author and illustrator of The Story of Little Black Sambo (published in 1899), lived in India for several years; the basis for the story came from illustrated letters she wrote to her children during her time there. Though “sambo” was a term used throughout the 1800s it seems to have risen to its now well-known racist usage in the first half of the 1900s, perhaps in part owed to this story.

The Story of Little Black Sambo has been a point of controversy for nearly as long as it’s been in print. The story itself obviously took place in India, featuring tigers and ghee, or clarified butter, but Bannerman’s art featured an offensively caricatured black child.

LBSambo

Despite being married to some highly objectionable art, the story itself features a wonderfully clever and brave boy who outwits four hungry tigers to escape the jungle without being eaten. I did not understand the connotations of the word “sambo” as a child, and I loved the story. It was included in Volume 2 of the My Book House series and featured illustrations of distinctly Indian characters.

MBHLBS

I loved all the fancy clothes and their vivid colors. I was fascinated by the idea of the tigers turning into butter, and then being used on pancakes, and eaten! And the number of pancakes the family consumed, two hundred and fifty-one, astounded me.

The Story of Little Black Sambo has been retold many times. The Story of Little Babaji, illustrated by Fred Marcellino (1939-2001), was published the same year as another retelling, Sam and the Tigers, by Julius Lester and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. In Lester and Pinkney’s version, a whole new story is fashioned and takes place in the fictional village of Sam-sam-sa-mara, where everyone is named Sam.

In general, I object to publishers altering or removing what is, now, deemed to be offensive material from books. In addition to the fundamental danger of hiding a rightfully shameful past, these books provide an opportunity to see how attitudes have evolved. Historically speaking, I think it’s important to be aware of the original book, with all its faults.

Marcellino’s version adheres to the original tale; he simply changed the names of the characters and created art to reflect the story’s Indian setting. He also chose a trim size (6.5 in x 6.5 in), close to that of the original book (4 in x 6 in). This decidedly improved edition is a beautifully designed book and a wonderful story worth sharing.

Fred Marcelino illustrated several children’s books; in 1991 his lavishly illustrated version of Charles Perrault’s Puss in Boots received a Caldecott Honor. Its striking cover bore no title and featured a gorgeous illustration of a finely dressed cat.

puss_in_boots

Marcelino’s stylish watercolor art in the Story of Little Babaji is lighter and airier. Each exquisitely delicate and lively illustration is rendered in a wide-ranging, joyful palette. The highly detailed art alternates between being elegantly simple, with no background, and lusciously full, showing the surrounding environs.

 

“Once upon a time there was a little boy, and his name was Little Babaji. And his mother was called Mamaji. And his father was called Papaji.”

Babaji1

Mamaji made Babaji a fine red coat and a pair of lovely blue trousers. Papaji bought him an ample green umbrella and a lovely pair of purple shoes.

“And then wasn’t Little Babaji grand?”

Babaji2

After donning all his new items, Babaji went for a walk. Before long he encountered a tiger who threatened to eat him! Babaji pleaded with the tiger and offered his fine red coat in exchange for his life. The vain tiger accepted the deal and walked away declaring, “Now I’m the grandest tiger in the jungle.”

Babaji escaped unharmed but in no time at all his path crossed with another tiger who also threatened to eat him. This time Babaji surrendered his blue trousers to remain uneaten. Now a second tiger was claiming to be the grandest in the jungle.

Babaji3

Babaji continued on his way and soon came face to face with another hungry tiger. When Babaji offered to trade his lovely purple shoes for freedom the tiger responded that he had no use for two shoes when he has four feet. But Babaji convinced the foolish tiger to wear the shoes on his ears. Another vain beast marched off announcing his grand status.

When Babaji met the fourth (and final) tiger, he had only his umbrella left to offer and since tigers have no hands to carry umbrellas, Babaji tied it to the tiger’s tail.

Babaji4

“And poor Little Babaji went away crying, because the cruel tigers had taken all his fine clothes.”

Before Little Babaji could reach safety he heard the tigers growling nearby; the growling grew louder. Babaji hid behind a palm tree and spied the tigers—all in their fine new items—arguing over which of them was the grandest in the jungle. The tigers removed their adornments in a fury and began clawing and biting each other; forming a circle around the tree, each tiger grabbed hold of another by the tail.

Babaji4 1

While the vicious creatures were otherwise occupied, Babaji retrieved his things and rushed off to a safe distance, where he magnanimously provided the opportunity for the giant cats to reclaim their items! But the tigers were too angry and refused to let go of each other’s tails and Little Babaji re-dressed in all his resplendent finery and walked off unscathed.

Babaji5

Meanwhile the tigers, still bound in a circle by tails and teeth, began chasing each other faster and faster until they were a blur of orange and black; then the tigers ran so fast that they melted away into a pool of ghee (though this is the common spelling, in the book it’s spelled ghi).

Babaji6

As it happened, Papaji was on his way home from work and came upon the beautiful buttery pool and scooped it all into the brass pot he was carrying. He brought it home for Mamaji who used the ghee to make a pancake feast for the whole family. The pancakes “were just as yellow and brown as little tigers” and “Little Babaji ate a hundred and sixty-nine, because he was so hungry.”

Babaji7

View the book on IndieBound, Powell’s or Amazon!

Comments (6) »

The Boy and the Airplane by Mark Pett: Love at first sight.

The Boy and the Airplane

boy and airplane

Picture Book

Ages 2-8

By Mark Pett

40 pages

Simon and Schuster

2013

 

 

 

I know the old adage “you should never judge a book by its cover” but sometimes I can see the cover of a book and just know I’m going to love what’s inside. Such was the case with The Boy and the Airplane, a beautifully designed book that quietly demands to be picked it up and enjoyed. Its unfussy composition outshined the loud, glittery jackets that surrounded it in the bookstore. It has a faded, brown paper cover with a crimson spine. Block letters, whitened with light scribbles, spell out the title next to a small, delicately drawn boy holding an airplane that shares its luscious crimson color with the book’s spine.

The art, which seems to be made primarily with watercolor and colored pencils, looks as though it’s been created on butcher paper of various hues—earthy, faded tones of blue, grey, brown and green. Mark Pett is the creator of two syndicated comic strips, Mr. Lowe and Lucky Cow, and this wordless picture book has the feel of a perfectly crafted comic strip extended over forty mesmerizing pages. There are no backgrounds and the action consists only of the boy and his activities.

The book opens with the boy—curly-haired, wide-eyed and with no mouth—holding a large, wrapped box that he has just received from an unseen man exiting off the left side of the book.

DSC01845

In the next spread the boy unwraps the gift to find an airplane, deep red with a white propeller; a large smile appears on his face and he’s off and running.

DSC01838

Over the following several pages the boy joyously entertains himself with the new toy while a small, subtly drawn bird, watches the action. Occasionally, Pett draws a faint, barely-there line to denote movement but the energy of the art conveys plenty of motion without additional indicators.

Before long, the airplane lands on the roof of the house; with the plane stuck, the boy’s smile (and mouth) disappears.

DSC01839

He tries several methods of retrieving the plane, many of which are accompanied by adorable costumes, but he cannot free it from the high perch.

DSC01840

Then the boy has an idea, an idea that will take years to execute. He plants a tree.

Over the next several pages, readers watch on as the seasons change and the boy and the tree grow.

DSC01841

Before long the boy is an old man and the tree is broad and strong. The old man, bald, bearded and sporting overalls, climbs the tall tree. He reaches the roof and reclaims his plane at long last.

DSC01842

Finally reunited with his toy, a wide smile emerges through the man’s fluffy beard. And just as he’s about to give the plane a vigorous toss into the air, he thinks the better of it.

The book closes with the still-smiling old man exiting on the right; on the left, a small, mouth-less girl holds a large, wrapped box.

DSC01846

 

Buy the book!

IndieBound / Powell’s / Amazon

Comments (6) »

Happy World Penguin Day! Here’s ten books to celebrate with.

Earlier today I discovered that it’s World Penguin Day. Though I had no idea such a day existed, I happen to love penguins. The penguin room at the Central Park Zoo is one of my favorite places in New York City.

So, in honor of this sacred day and my love for these utterly delightful creatures, I present ten of my favorite books featuring penguins.

 

Your Personal PenguinPersonalPenguin

Board Book

Ages Birth to 4

By Sandra Boynton

24 pages

Workman

2006

 

I’ve mentioned before, and can’t stress enough, how much I adore Sandra Boynton; her books—full of humorous stories, adorable characters, and warm, fuzzy feelings—are perfect for babies and toddlers. Her straightforward text and instantly recognizable, simple art is utterly appealing and completely irresistible.

In this heartwarming story, a darling little penguin is attempting to endear himself to an initially confused, eventually amenable, hippopotamus.

“Now, lots of other penguins seem to be fine in a universe of nothing but ice. But if I could be yours, and you could be mine, our cozy little world would be twice as nice. I want to be Your Personal Penguin.”

Who could truly resist such an offer?

View on Amazon

 

A Penguin StoryPenguinStory

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

By Antoinette Portis

40 pages

HarperCollins

2008

 

As with Portis’s other books (Not a Box and Not a Stick), she uses limited colors and produces beautifully austere, perfectly textured art.

Edna is a small and inquisitive penguin. She’s surrounded by white—the ice and snow, black—the night, and blue—the sky and the water. When she goes searching for more color, she finds an orange tent.

She brings some of her penguin friends to check it out and one of the human researchers inhabiting the tent gives Edna an orange glove. She dons it as a hat and wonders what other colors the world might have to offer.

View on Amazon

 

Penguin and Pinecone: A Friendship StoryPenguin&Pinecone

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

By Salina Yoon

40 pages

Walker

2012

 

Yoon’s bold, cartoon-y illustrations and sparse text combine to produce an endearing story of friendship and patience.

When Penguin found Pinecone he didn’t know what it was but it seemed like it was cold, so he knit a scarf for it. Grandpa explains to Penguin that pinecones live in forests, not in the snow.

Penguin is sad but he must do what’s best for Pinecone, and he returns him to the forest. Later, when Penguin comes back to visit his friend, he discovers that Pinecone has grown, and so has Penguin’s love for Pinecone.

View the book trailer!

View on Amazon

 

Lost and Found Lost&Found

Picture Book

Ages 2-7

By Oliver Jeffers

32 pages

Philomel

2005

 

Oliver Jeffers’s, This Moose Belongs to Me (2012) was a NYTimes Bestseller. His soft, calming art is crisp and expressive.

“Once there was a boy who found a penguin at his door.”

The boy, thinking the penguin is lost, sets out to find out where this quiet bird belongs. He learns that penguins live at the South Pole; the boy and the bird make the trip together.

Once at their destination the boy learns his new friend wasn’t lost at all, just lonely, and the two friends decide to stick together.

View on Amazon

 

Tacky the PenguinTackythePenguin

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By Helen Lester

Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

32 pages

Sandpiper

1990

 

This pair has created some wonderful books together; Tacky the Penguin was one of my favorite books to sell. Lester’s stories are touching and funny and Munsinger’s art is whimsical and vibrant.

Tacky is not like the other penguins. They wear bowties, he wears a Hawaiian shirt; they are quiet and polite, Tacky is loud and graceless. But it’s Tacky’s odd behavior that scares off a pack of hunters and saves them all.

View on Amazon

 

The Emperor Lays an Eggemperorlaysanegg

Non-fiction

Picture Book

Ages 4-8

By Brenda Z. Guiberson

Illustrated by Joan Paley

32 pages

Owelet

2004

 

Clear text and luscious collage art take us through a year in the life of Emperor penguins—their harsh environment, their family dynamic and their eating habits.

After the mother lays the egg, the father must carefully roll the egg onto his feet and keep it warm. Once the egg hatches, both parents must work diligently to feed the chick and keep it safe and warm. The chick will make its first swim during the short summer, then the whole family must fatten up for the approaching winter.

This informative non-fiction book is also a beautiful storybook.

View on Amazon

 

If You Were a PenguinIfYouWereAPenguin

Picture Book

Ages 4-9

By Florence Minor

Illustrated by Wendell Minor

32 Pages

Katherine Tegen Books

2008

 

With playful, rhyming text and lush, detailed art, this husband and wife team takes readers on a journey through some of the fun activities a penguin experiences—diving, swimming, and sliding on the ice, to name a few.

There’s also a visual key to the ten different species of penguins found in this book and resources for learning more about penguins.

View on Amazon

 

One Cool FriendOneCoolFriend

Picture Book

Ages 4-9

By Toni Buzzeo

Illustrated by David Small

32 pages

Dial

2012

 

Small’s clean, loose line drawings and restricted palette bring Buzzeo’s spare and quirky text to life.

Young Eliot visits the zoo with his father and decides to bring one of the penguins home with him! His father—easily distracted and often otherwise engaged—doesn’t seem to notice the new resident at his house, or so readers are lead to believe.

View on Amazon

 

The Adventures of Marco and PoloDSC01831

Picture Book

Ages 4-10

By Dieter Wiesmuller

40 pages

Walker

2000

Out of print

 

Stunningly beautiful, sumptuous paintings cover every page of this over-sized picture book.

Polo Penguin and Marco Monkey meet when Marco’s cruise ship arrives in Antarctica. Marco is amazed at all the icy sites Polo introduces him to; he’s also amazed at how cold he is.

When Marco says he must go home Polo decides to travel with him since he’s eager to learn all about Marco’s home. The lush, green world is very different from his icy blue environs, and so, so hot!

The two friends would like to be together but realize they must each return to their own home; now they each have a pen pal.

View on Amazon

 

And Tango Makes ThreeTango

Picture Book

Ages 4-10

By Justin Richardson

and Peter Parnell

Illustrated by Henry Cole

32 pages

Simon & Schuster

2005

 

This beautiful book is based on a true story about an unorthodox family at the Central Park Zoo. Soft, realistic watercolors adorn this uplifting and sweet story.

While all the other mated penguins are tending to their newly laid eggs, Roy and Silo—two male penguins—find a rock to care for together. The zookeeper notices their activities and trades the rock for a penguin egg in need of nurturing.

The two take turns caring for the fragile egg and before long their daughter Tango is born.

View on Amazon

 

Mr. Popper’s PenguinsMrPoppersPenguins

Middle Reader

Ages 5-12

By Richard & Florence Atwater

Illustrated by Robert Lawson

140 pages

Originally published: 1938

Reprint edition: Little, Brown

1992

 

This fantastically ridiculous story—and 1939 Newbury Honor book— was illustrated by the extremely talented Robert Lawson (The Story of Ferdinand). 

Mr. Popper wishes he’d seen more of the world before he married Mrs. Popper. He spends his spare time reading and daydreaming about Arctic explorers. Then one of those explorers sends him a penguin in response to a fan letter!

When that penguin gets lonely, the Poppers acquire another lonely penguin to be his mate; eventually the pair produces ten more penguins. And that’s when Mr. Popper starts touring the “Popper’s Performing Penguins, First Time on Any Stage, Direct from the South Pole” show.

And hilarity ensues.

This is not only an excellent read-aloud book for the whole family, but also an enjoyable (and quick) book for any reader who loves to laugh.

View on Amazon

Comments (11) »

Old Thomas and the Little Fairy by By Dominique Demers and Stéphane Poulin: a beautifully haunting picture book.

Old Thomas and the Little Fairy DSC01816

Picture Book

Ages 5-9

By Dominique Demers

Illustrated by Stéphane Poulin

32 pages

Dominique and Friends

2000

Out of print

 

Dominique Demers is a best-selling French-Canadian author but, sadly, most of her books have not made it across the border. Old Thomas is the only book by her I’ve ever read, and I adore it. Demers’s writing is beautiful; she carefully chooses her words, imparting as much information as possible without weighing down the story. It’s like a fairy tale—not in the usual sense, though the story does involve a fairy—in that it follows that clear, quick style of writing. With just a few short sentences readers are drawn into Old Thomas’s world.

This is also the only book I’ve ever seen illustrated by Stéphane Poulin, whose somber art is the perfect complement to this odd and touching story. Somehow dim and radiant at the same time, his deeply rich,  stark oil paintings seem to fill more space than the pages that contain them. Each spread is its own masterpiece. Old Thomas bears a striking resemblance to Geri from the Pixar short Geri’s Game and looms large on the pages in which he appears, especially in contrast to the small, delicate fairy.

 

Old Thomas lives alone by the ocean. He no longer fishes and he’s sworn off humans. He’s very old, and very angry. At night he walks the beach and shouts insults at the moon and stars. But when he finds a tiny girl no bigger than a matchstick washed up on shore, he cannot leave her behind. She’s probably not human, she’s so small; might she be a fairy? Old Thomas takes the diminutive being home.

DSC01830

He makes a small bed for her out of a shell; he drips rain water into her miniature mouth. Taking excellent care of his new charge, he brings her back to health. He starts walking the beach collecting sweet fruit for her and he begins fishing again. When he next goes out to shout insults at the sun, he discovers his anger has left him.

DSC01828

One day Thomas is out in his boat catching fish for his wee friend when he is overcome by an ominous feeling; he rushes back to shore. Upon reaching his home he finds a large dog standing over the frightened girl. Thomas summons all his strength and courage and successfully fights off the beast. The girl, having fainted from the scare, awakens to a battered Thomas lying unconscious on the floor.

DSC01826

Returning all the love and tenderness Old Thomas has shown her, she brings him sweet fruit and fish, but Thomas won’t have it. He knows his time has come and he’s ready to go.

“He no longer wanted to insult the moon or the sea, the sun or the wind. His little fairy was there at his side, safe and sound and wonderfully alive. Old Thomas was content.”

That night, Old Thomas surrendered himself to the sea.  As the waves washed him away there was a great chorus of birds singing, and the little girl disappeared. The beach was empty, save the “mulitcoloured pebbles, ribbons of seaweed and pearly nuggets” left behind.

DSC01827

This is a beautiful and haunting story. Is the young girl a fairy? Has she appeared to prepare Old Thomas for his death? Why does she disappear after he dies? Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Perhaps it only matters that Old Thomas did not leave this world angry; he was able to love and be loved, however briefly, before it was all gone forever.

 

Buy the Book!

Amazon

Comments (11) »

I love kids books

Children's books. My kids, Max and Calvin. Random thoughts connected to books and my kids.

The Belugas are Watching

...as we write, draw, and blog.

Children's Books Heal

Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else. -- Margaret Mead

Pretty Books

One girl's adventures in books, food and travel

Design of the Picture Book

the intersection of graphic design + picture books

David Gaughran

Let's Get Digital

BookPeople

Howdy! We're the largest independent bookstore in Texas. This is our blog.

The Librarian Who Doesn't Say Shhh!

Opening books to open minds.

The Book Wars

💕📚💕

This Kid Reviews Books

A Place for Kids and Grown-Ups to Discover Books

Kid Lit Reviews

Honest, Thoughtful Reviews

Loren Long

children’s book illustrator and author

Creative Grove Artist & Designer Market

artist and community festivals in the public space held from 2009 - 2014

Delightful Children's Books

Find a book to delight a child.

Book Blogger Directory

The Big Blog of Book Blogs

Nerdy Book Club

A community of readers

Sommer Reading

A Blog About Books

educating alice

monica edinger, teacher and reader of children's literature

Bobs Books Blog

Childrens and Young Adult Book Reviews by Bob Docherty

Random Acts of Reading

reviews, raves and a random assortment of book buzz

children's books for grown-ups

Natasha Worswick's blog

Watch. Connect. Read.

Children's Book Reviews

Book-A-Day Almanac

Children's Book Reviews

100 Scope Notes

Children's Lit

%d bloggers like this: