On the blog:
- A slice about watching a cheetah run on our recent vacation in San Diego
Susan Goldman Rubin shares the story behind the famous quilts of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, for younger readers. This is a long picture book, but on the short end of long picture books, with lots of photographs and manageable amounts of text. Rubin is especially good at writing about social and historical context in a way that is clear and understandable. I’ve seen many images of these quilts, but never learned much about the women who created them, and I did enjoy learning more about their stories and, especially, hearing their words. There is useful back matter, including instructions on making your own quilt block.
Another stunner by Aaron Becker. I hadn’t read much about A Stone for Sascha before I sat down with it, and the story surprised me. I had gleaned just enough from reviews to know that a pet dies, but I should have known Becker would tell that story with so many twists. Sascha, grieving for her pet, finds a stone to place on his grave, and the book is the back story of the stone’s long life–starting with hitting the earth in the form of an asteroid. The book is as gorgeous and intriguing as you’d imagine and seems like one that could spark all kinds of wonder and curiosity in young readers.
Another loopy collaboration between Mac Barnett and Dan Santat. Our heroine is annoyed by her less-than-perfect score on a history exam (less than perfect, meaning she missed one question), and decides that the natural course of action is to build a time machine and go back in time to “fix” her wrong answer and make it right. Sadly, the cavemen take off with the time machine and wreak havoc on the history timeline. Funny text and even funnier illustrations.
A Round of Robins is a book of rhyming poetry about a pair of robins nesting, laying eggs, hatching and growing fledglings. I am not the biggest fan of rhyme, but I think this book works pretty well. It’s also surprisingly informative for a book of poetry. Sergio Ruzzier’s illustrations are splendid.
Jerome by Heart is the story of an intense friendship between two boys who love each other’s company and don’t hesitate to express their deep affection for each other. It’s a very European picture book, by which I mean that the story itself is a container for an almost philosophical exploration of big ideas like the meaning of life and how to live. Jerome by Heart is sweet and charming, as a story of friendship should be, but it’s also about loving so passionately that the love overwhelms everything else and having to deal with the shame that other people’s discomfort or rejection of feelings may bring. In Raphael’s case, the shame comes from his parents’ concerns about the intensity of the friendship. Although I wasn’t always sure what the author was trying to get at, I did like that Raphael rejects the shame that his parents would have him feel and embraces his feelings with confidence. Brain Pickings has a lovely celebration of the art and the text. (Maria Popova writes about picture books so eloquently and generously.)
Everything You Need for a Treehouse has the most extraordinary art by Emily Hughes. I could have poured over her drawings of fantastical treehouses for hours, and as a child, I’m sure I would have. Carter Higgins’s text is poetic and strong, though, for me, it was so overshadowed by the illustrations that I could barely remember what it said from one page to the next.
Trombone Shorty would definitely be on my list of favorite picture books of all time, so I was thrilled to see another collaboration between Troy Andrews and Bryan Collier. The 5 O’Clock Band is a little didactic. Trombone Shorty misses a band rehearsal and feels like he’s let his band down. He wonders how he can be a great leader, and so he walks the streets of New Orleans, asking the different people he meets about the secret to their success. The structure felt a little heavy-handed at times to me, but I still think the story is interesting and engaging and the message may be inspiring for many readers. There is helpful back matter, and Collier’s art brings New Orleans to life.
Julie Fogliano’s A House That Once Was was my favorite book this week. Two children explore an abandoned house they find and speculate about its previous life and inhabitants. The writing quietly dazzles, as Fogliano’s writing always does, and I think this is maybe the finest illustration work Lane Smith has done, which is really saying something. A book I think I’m going to have to own.