Posts tagged Reviews

Stormy Night, a must have for every library.

Stormy Night

 

Picture Book (see page count)

Ages 8 and up

240 pages

By Michèle Lemieux

Kids Can Press

1996

 

The first time I read Stormy Night I was stunned. This was exactly the kind of book I wish I’d seen when I was a child, but one I still very much needed to see as an adult. The ideas raised and questions asked can sometimes be unnerving but the whimsical art is comforting and the overall tone is uplifting and encouraging. Profoundly addressing questions of self and the world around us, this book is a necessary reminder that we are never alone.

Stormy Night is not a typical picture book in format or content. It’s two hundred and forty pages long and 5.75 by 8.5 inches, an unconventional trim size. The text is sparse and largely philosophical, interspersing unanswerable questions with expressions of delight, despair, confusion and curiosity.

Beautifully rendered in black and white, the art perfectly complements the text in mood and tone. Some illustrations are full spreads, saturating the reader’s feelings. Other illustrations convey the enormity of life with only a small, understated line drawing.

The book opens with a storm brewing outside; inside a young girl is getting ready for bed. Her dog is by her side. The first text appears several pages in:

“I can’t sleep! Too many questions are buzzing through my head.”

 

The young girl, lying awake in her bed, ponders questions of science, of self and of life.

 

“Where do we come from?”

 

“Who am I?”

 

“Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit in my body!”

 

She expresses feelings of joy, sadness, anger and uncertainty.

 

“I’d like to be able to do things no one else can do…”

 

“What exactly is fate?”

 

At the closing of this book our young thinker, finally able to sleep, curls up with her dog and a new and beautiful day dawns outside.

 

This perfect little package of a book is an absolute treasure and a must have for every library. It offers comfort to children, and reassurance to adults, that we are not alone—that the questions and feelings swirling around in our heads are normal, natural and universal.

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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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