On my blog:
- A celebration of fine old dogs, tidying up, relaxed socks, pancakes with ice cream and more
- A review of a picture book biography of Noah Webster
- A Slice about motherhood and adopting older children
It was a very scatterbrained kind of week. I started a dozen books and couldn’t commit to anything. Thank goodness for graphic novels and my #nerdlution challenge to read a picture book every day!
Lucy Knisley’s new graphic novel travelogue, An Age of License, sneaks up on you. It seemed very slight to me for the first third or so of the story. Knisley travels to Europe to attend a comics convention, do some presentations about cartooning, and visit friends, and she sketches different meals, different tourist sites, different hotel rooms. It doesn’t add up to all that much. But then the book takes a more introspective turn as Knisley’s meandering journey becomes a metaphor for her 20s, as she experiments and tries to figure out who she is and what she wants from life.
Mike Curato’s Little Elliot Big City is seriously sweet but never saccharine, perhaps because of the period look and feel of the illustrations. Little Elliot might be a polka-dot elephant, but he lives in a city that Curato depicts with a sophisticated, elegant style and color choices. Little Elliot is sad because he is easily overlooked–which seems a bit ridiculous at first. I mean, he’s a polka-dot elephant in a city populated with human beings: he ought to stand out. But he’s small and shy, and somehow Curato makes it believable. The text is simple and brief (usually no more than a line per spread) and tells a surprisingly rich and resonant story of how Little Elliot finds a place for himself by noticing and helping someone else.
Peter Sis’s The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery tells a very strong story visually. The quality of the writing and storytelling through text wasn’t quite there for me, but the more I think about the visual storytelling, the more I think this book deserves serious Caldecott consideration. The illustrations are gorgeous, detailed, and often surprising, especially the wordless spreads. I thought the wordless illustrations were some of Sis’s best work: they had an emotional power that the text itself didn’t have for me. But that might have been the point. The text is clear and informative, but the power of the story is all in the art. Warning for middle-aged readers: this book is hard on the eyes! I actually struggled to read the often miniscule text. I took my glasses on and off a dozen times reading this book and ended up just skipping some of the smaller text when my eyes got tired.
I reread Jacqueline Woodson’s The Other Side this week, mostly to enjoy E.B. Lewis’s exquisite illustrations. This is a really good book!
Sky Dancers is a fictionalized account of the building of the Empire State Building seen through the eyes of John Cloud, a boy from the Mohawk Reservation in New York whose father is a steelworker in New York City. I found the Native American characters somewhat stereotyped, but it might be interesting to pair with Deborah Hopkinson’s terrific Sky Boys.
I loved Sergio Ruzzier’s illustrations for Eve Bunting’s sweet story about an elephant exploring the world with its mother.