Posts tagged kids books

A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na: A beautiful slumber inducer.

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Board Book

Ages Birth-3

By Il Sung Na

24 pages

Knopf

2011

 

 

 

In Il Sung Na’s first picture book, A Book of Sleep, he utilizes a mix of hand painting and computer enhancement to create soothingly beautiful illustrations. Intricate designs and complex textures are etched into his bold, simple artwork; lovely little details implore the reader to fully inspect each spread. His rich, saturated palette captures the blue hues of night and, in the last two spreads, the golden brightness of day. The simple, direct text describes the different ways in which several animals sleep—an ideal topic for bedtime.

 

The book opens: “When the sky grows dark and he moon glows bright, everyone goes to sleep…except for the watchful owl.”

Over the next several pages, readers learn that some animals sleep in peace and quiet; other animals make lots of noises.

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Some animals sleep standing up, while others sleep on the move.

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There are animals that sleep with one eye open and some that sleep with both eyes open!

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Some animals sleep alone; other animals sleep huddled in groups.

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The sharp-eyed owl appears throughout the book—sometimes sitting plainly on a tree branch, sometimes hidden among the slumbering animals—and children will delight in locating the hidden observer. 

“But when the sky turns blue and the sun glows bright…everyone wakes up! Except for the tired owl.”

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Na’s gorgeous art engenders peaceful feelings; the serene nighttime scenes will surely set the stage for little ones to demonstrate favorite sleeping positions of their own.

 

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Will Goes to the Post Office by Olof and Lena Landström: A charmingly simple picture book.

Will Goes to the Post Office

Will Goes to the Post Office

Picture Book

Ages 2-5

By Olof and Lena Landstrom

28 pages

R&S Books

1994

Out of Print

 

 

In addition to several other picture books, this husband and wife team created four books featuring Will: Will Gets a Haircut, Will Goes to the Beach, Will Goes to the Post Office and Will’s New Cap. Though the plot is neatly summed up by their titles, each of these simple picture books is marvelously satisfying. The straightforward action is conveyed via short, simple sentences and the colorful, uncluttered art is cheerful and sweet.

“Will is going to the post office to pick up a package. It is from Uncle Ben.”

On his way out of his building, Will sees his friends Karen and Peter playing on the stoop. He shows them the card from the post office; Karen and Peter join Will on the adventure.

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Soon they arrive at the post office. Luckily, the line is short and Will’s turn comes fast. He hands his card to the postal worker and looks around, wondering which package is his. Peter hopes it’s something big.

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The woman returns with a very large box for Will. The package isn’t heavy but it’s hard for Will to see where he’s going with such a large box. Karen and Peter are very helpful navigators.

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Mama is surprised to see Will arrive with such a large parcel.

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She gets the scissors to help get it open. Though at first it seems like there’s nothing but paper in the box, Will quickly discovers a globe inside—a globe with a light!

Mama plugs in the globe. She, Will and all the friends gather in the closet—where it’s dark—to see Will’s wonderful new present in all its luminous glory.

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This delightful picture book’s pleasing story and utterly adorable art are sure to be a favorite with toddlers and adults alike.

 

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Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin: A non-fiction delight.

Island

Island: A Story of the Galapagos

Non-Fiction Picture Book

Ages 4-10

By Jason Chin

36 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2012

 

 

Jason Chin (another Books of Wonder alum) is an unsurpassed master of presenting non-fiction to picture book fans. His first book in the genre, Redwoods (2009), followed a young boy who discovers a book about the Redwood forest and soon finds himself walking amongst the woody giants. Coral Reefs, published in 2011, is about a young girl in the New York City Public Library who soon finds the library, and the city, transformed into a marine adventure.

Chin carefully researches his subject matter and adeptly translates the information for his intended audience. Coupling his straightforward, informative text with his exquisite and detailed art, he creates compelling and beautiful books—no small feat when dealing with non-fiction, just take a look at some of the other options in your local library.

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Island: A Story of the Galapagos reads like a biography of the islands, beginning six million years ago, and is told in five short parts. It began with a volcano that had been growing in the ocean for millions of years. Finally erupting, it created the landmass that would eventually become home to a unique variety of plants and animals; first it would lay barren for many, many years.

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The island’s first bit of life arrived on the waves—a mangrove tree seed, from a nearby island, took root and began to grow. From that modest beginning, an ecosystem gradually began to flourish. Sea birds and marine iguanas followed the arrival of vegetation. More and more life forms followed, and over the course of millions of years the animals adapted to their new, and ever-changing environment. Finches on the island evolved to have larger beaks so that they could open larger seeds; seagulls began to hunt at night and evolved to have larger eyes.

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All the while the island had been slowly sinking, and after nearly six million years it eventually disappeared under the ocean.

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But the other islands of the Galapagos (there’s fifteen now) inherited the descendents of the plants and animals from the sunken land mass. The plants and animals—many of them endemic species, meaning: unique to this specific location—have once again adapted to their new environment. And like the other island, these will eventually sink into the sea as well.

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The book’s epilogue shows Charles Darwin’s ship, the HMS Beagle, arriving on the shores of the Galapagos. The last four pages of the book give further information on Charles Darwin, natural selection, endemic species and the amazing islands of the book’s title. Chin’s full color pages highlight the beauty of the island and the sea surrounding it; he utilizes small pieces of panel art throughout which succinctly illustrate the processes of change on the island.

Island: A Story of the Galapagos will be a delight to any child interested in biology, geology or the history of the natural world.

 

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Courage by Bernard Waber: Sometimes even the smallest act requires bravery.

Courage Courage

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By Bernard Waber

32 pages

Houghton Mifflin

2002

 

 

Bernard Waber (1921-2013) wrote and illustrated over thirty books for children and is best known for his series of books featuring Lyle the Crocodile.

The first book to introduce the world to the lovable and talented crocodile was The House on East 88th Street (1962). It tells the story of Primm family, who has just moved into their new home when they discover Lyle living in their bathtub. In no time at all, the talented and helpful Lyle is a loved and cherished member of the family! Several more books featuring Lyle followed.

Waber’s straightforward and often humorous text coupled with his approachable and cheerful art results in entertaining stories with enormous appeal. Though his characters are rarely human, their troubles are familiar and are gratifyingly resolved in an encouraging manner.

Waber departs from his customary animal characters in Courage; his quivery-lined, active art depicts human children carrying out every day acts of courage. It’s easy to spot courage in a firefighter or a police officer or an ordinary citizen performing a brave act, but sometimes very small endeavors also require boldness.

 

The opening illustration features a female ice-skater executing a mid-air split.

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“There are many kinds of courage.”

 

In the following pages, Waber expounds on the many varieties of courage; some are awesome, like performing in a trapeze act or climbing a mountain—others are small, such as having two candy bars and saving one for tomorrow.

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Courage is riding your bicycle for the first time, going to bed without a nightlight, jumping off the high dive, or getting a haircut. Courage can also be checking out the noises in the dark or keeping the secret you promised not to tell. Courage is telling the truth, exploring new places or holding onto your dream.

 

“Still, courage is courage–whatever kind.”

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More a guide than a story, Courage offers parents an opportunity to teach their children an invaluable life lesson: experiencing fear is a universal trait and overcoming that fear, large or small, is an act of bravery. Furthermore, once we find that bravery within ourselves it can be shared with and fostered in those around us.

 

“Courage is what we give to each other.”

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Uncle Bigfoot by George O’Connor: A Mysterious Branch on the Family Tree.

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Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By George O’Connor

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2008

Out of Print

 

 

Uncle Bigfoot was George O’Connor’s fourth picture book. He has since gone on to create several graphic novels, including the New York Times best selling Olympians Series about the Greek gods and goddesses of Olympus. I reviewed the first book in the series, Zeus: King of the Gods, here. The sixth book in the series, Aphrodite: Goddess of Love, is due out later this year.

O’Connor’s fifth picture book, If I Had a Raptor, will be published in 2014 followed shortly thereafter by If I Had a Triceratops. O’Connor’s picture books have an irrepressible humor and immense appeal to both kids and adults, which is very important to parents who find themselves coaxed by little ones to read a book again and again.

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In Uncle Bigfoot, our spirited narrator, a nameless young boy, is intrigued when he learns his Uncle Bernie is coming to visit. He doesn’t recall ever hearing about this uncle before so he asks his father if there are any photos of this mysterious person. The only picture they find is of Bernie, back to the camera, running away.

‘“Uncle Bernie’s a little shy around cameras,” said Dad.’

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The young boy imagines a multitude of scenarios as to why his uncle would not want to be photographed and when his uncle finally arrives, the answer is obvious.

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Stupefied, the boy runs to consult his book on Bigfoot. He’s quickly able to confirm all the telltale signs, but each time he tries to convince his parents of his findings they have perfectly reasonable responses, which negate the boy’s pronouncement.

Uncle Bernie is hairy, really hairy, just like Bigfoot.  When the determined boy points this out to his father, his response is no comfort, “Just wait until you get older, you’ll be hairier too.”

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Uncle Bernie has big feet, just like Bigfoot but Mom tells the persistent boy that lots of people have big feet.

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However, the guidebook also says that Bigfoots are mean and scary and Uncle Bernie is neither of those things. He just seems different from the people our inquisitive narrator knows. Maybe Uncle Bernie is just a little more different than most.

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Relieved of his suspicions, the boy and his family enjoy a wonderful visit with Uncle Bigfoot. The newly won-over boy confesses that he misses his uncle (he left last Tuesday) but he’s excited about a pending visit from his Aunt Nessie!

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O’Connor’s sardonic humor is coupled with cartoon-y illustrations, further highlighting the absurdity of the boy’s suspicions. Visual nods to various mythical creatures and unsolved mysteries—UFO’s, Mothman, aliens, Atlantis, to name a few—will amuse older readers and O’Connor’s knack for depicting expressions adds yet another level of amusement and charm to the art. Uncle Bigfoot is a lighthearted, joyous picture book and an enjoyable read for parents and children alike.

 

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Who Is Melvin Bubble? by Nick Bruel: Fun with point of view.

Who Is Melvin Bubble? cover

Who is Melvin Bubble?

Picture Book

Ages 3-9

By Nick Bruel

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2006

 

 

Nick Bruel is the creator of the enormously popular Bad Kitty series, which features a feisty and mischievous cat. His writing is funny and clever, his exaggerated characters have vast appeal and his art is brightly colored and engaging.

 

Who Is Melvin Bubble? opens with a letter from a boy named Jimmy, imploring the author to write a book about his best friend Melvin Bubble. What follows is both an excellent lesson in perspective and a well-crafted picture book.

The author asks several people the same question, who is Melvin Bubble? Each response generates a different perspective on this young boy, and gives a bit of insight on the responder as well. The caricature-like characters are vibrantly colored and their responses are encapsulated in giant word bubbles and coupled with visualizations.

 

Melvin Bubble’s dad calls Melvin a chip off the old block; his mom says he may be the messiest boy in the world.

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Melvin Bubble’s teddy bear tells readers how much Melvin likes hugs.

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His best friend says “Melvin’s the coolest kid I know! He can whistle “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider through his nose!”

 

Santa Claus has only good things to say about the boy who always makes his nice list, but the Tooth Fairy had an unfortunate experience having to do with the boy’s very large head.

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Taking some hilarious turns and building comic momentum, the author also solicits responses from a big, ugly monster with three eyes, a beautiful princess and a magic rock (a wonderful homage to Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig). The rock turns out not to magic after all so the author turns to a talking zebra instead. The zebra’s response, a nod to the humor of Looney Tunes, is my favorite.

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Finally, the author asks Melvin Bubble himself to describe who he is, and all the pieces fall neatly into place.

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Through its layered perspectives, Who is Melvin Bubble? offers children an opportunity to recognize alternate points of view. It may also prompt them to think more about the concept of identity and how one person can be different things to many people. This hilarious and energetic picture book is sure to be a read-aloud favorite.

 

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Clown by Quentin Blake: A wordless delight.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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