On the blog:
- My Top Ten Desert Island Books
- A list of 20 great nonfiction picture books for upper elementary classrooms and libraries
That’s Papa’s Way, written by Kate Banks and illustrated by Lauren Castillo, is a sweet story about a little girl’s fishing trip with her Papa. Their different styles and habits are contrasted throughout in writing that is simple and clear. “That’s his way” or “That’s my way” gets repeated throughout the story but never in a way that seems forced or irritating. There is an ease to the relationship between father and daughter that feels comfortable and comforting. Lauren Castillo’s warm art is the perfect match for the story and text.
First Grade Dropout is a clever story by Audrey Vernick about a boy who has the most embarrassing day ever when he accidentally calls his teacher Mommy. Apparently this really is a typical thing kids do because—over thirty years after it happened—I can still remember the time I called my beloved second-grade teacher, Miss Collins, Mama. Matthew Cordell’s illustrations add humor and heart. Could be a good text to stimulate discussions about friendship, embarrassment, laughing at others, laughing at ourselves.
I love illustrator Meg Hunt’s color palate for Deborah Underwood’s Interstellar Cinderella–she uses colors that we rarely see in picture books and certainly not together. The colors and style of the illustrations gave the book a retro feel to me, which is a neat juxtaposition with the futuristic, space-age setting. The story started a bit slow for me, and I did get tripped up numerous times on the sing-song rhyme (as in, I’m sing-songing in my head as I read and suddenly realize I comprehended not a word on the previous three pages because I was too busy sing-songing). But the rhyme was often clever and rarely felt forced, and Underwood gives a lot of strength and independence to our fairy-tale heroine, who is a gifted mechanic. In the end, Cinderella spurns the Prince’s offer of marriage but volunteers to be his chief mechanic instead.
Big Wolf & Little Wolf: Such a Beautiful Orange! An odd little story about Big Wolf and Little Wolf who covet the same beautiful orange. Big Wolf plucks it from the tree but has second thoughts after seeing Little Wolf’s longing gaze. He tosses the orange to Little Wolf much too hard, and the orange goes rolling down the hill. Little Wolf takes off after it and disappears into the city for hours. Big Wolf finally sets off in pursuit—and eventually finds the orange but not Little Wolf. Somehow or other he ends up on a train that takes him far out of the city to a new hill where he finds Little Wolf, looking happy, with a big smile on his face. I realize I’m not supposed to read this story so literally, but why did Little Wolf walk past the orange when he found it on the city street? Why did he get on a train and head out to the ocean? How did Big Wolf know to catch the same train later on? I feel that it’s all supposed to be very deep and philosophical, but it left me unsatisfied. Still, I did appreciate Olivier Tallec’s moody art that uses unusual vantage points and perspectives to disorient the reader.
Nimona is a terrific graphic novel about a shape-shifter who invites herself to become the cherished sidekick of her kingdom’s main bad guy villain, Lord Ballister Blackheart. Despite his name, Blackheart is really more of a good guy than the so-called good guys are. The characters are wry and well-developed, it’s plenty page-turny, there are dragons and science and cool battle scenes galore but also plenty of quiet moments where we see more deeply into the characters. Well-drawn and colored. A really strong debut from Noelle Stevenson.
This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is a collection of 22 nonfiction magazine and newspaper pieces written by novelist Ann Patchett. The subjects range from divorce to dogs to bookstores to RV vacations and, yes, happy marriages, and all together, they constitute a kind of memoir of her life. She is often witty, frequently wise. There are several strong pieces about writing and reading, so it’s an especially good collection for bookish types to read.
#Classroombookaday continues. College students have turned out to be a very appreciative audience for picture books! Two of my classes also participated in #DotDay. I’m loving the gallery wall outside my office.