Tag: creativity

Review: Lenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead

Lenny and Lucy and Philip Stead

Lenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (InfoSoup)

This award-winning husband and wife team return with another winner of a picture book. Peter knows that moving to a new house is a bad idea, especially when he sees the dark woods. Their new house is on the other side of a bridge from the woods. Peter and his dog Harold spend a sleepless night watch the bridge to make sure nothing crosses it from the woods. Then they head out and use pillows and blankets to create Lenny, a guardian. Unfortunately, they worried that Lenny might be lonely out there at night all alone, so again they did not sleep. The next day, they took blankets and leaves and created a second guardian, Lucy. That night, everyone slept. And the next day, a visitor arrived, one who shows that despite the scary woods this might be a good place to live after all.

Stead has the beautiful ability to create a story out of leaves, pillows and blankets. This book speaks to all children who have moved and those who have been afraid of other things too. There is a menacing sense from the woods, and Stead combats that with a concrete feel of normalcy but also a strong creativity. This all feels like childhood to me, capturing that wonder mixed with fear that turns into something else all the more powerful.

Erin Stead’s art has a delicacy about it that matches Philip’s tone in his prose. She creates a linear forest, uncluttered and somehow all the more strange and alien because of that. The hulking bodies of Lenny and Lucy are so solid on the page that they combat that feeling just by being there. Readers will immediately see the safety in these creatures.

This is a story of moving but also about wonder and fear. It’s a brilliant picture book, one to finish with a contented smile. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

Review: Some Things I’ve Lost by Cybèle Young

Some Things Ive Lost by Cybele Young

Some Things I’ve Lost by Cybèle Young (InfoSoup)

Explore a world of lost items that when lost change and grow and become something else. Figure one is a roller skate, laces flying that was last seen in the basement. Turn the foldout page to see it become something ethereal and unreal. The visor on the next page that was last seen on the lawn grows into something organic and living. One-by-one objects change into a landscape of imagination, becoming something far different than where they began but still having connections to the original object in form and color.

Done with almost no text except a description of the original items and where they were lost, this book is all about the incredible illustrations. Done in 3-D paper art, Young created not just the original object and the final transformation, but several stages in between where you see the clear connection between where we began and what it became. Part way through the book, readers will start to notice an underwater theme to the transformations, as we see coral, jellyfish, fish and anemones. There is a delicacy and luminous quality to the entire book, showing both the lack of permanence and the power of imagination.

Brilliant, surreal and completely amazing, this picture book is an inspiring look at creativity and imagination. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Written and Drawn by Henrietta by Liniers

Written and Drawn by Henrietta by Liniers

Written and Drawn by Henrietta by Liniers

Released September 29, 2015.

A new book from the author of The Big Wet Balloon, this graphic novel for young readers encourages creating your own books. Henrietta has a new box of colored pencils and sets out to create her own book with help from her cat, Fellini. It becomes a tale of a brave girl named Henrietta who discovers a three-headed monster in her wardrobe. The wardrobe turns out to be a magic one, leading to a labyrinth filled with clothes. They search for a hat for the one head of the monster that doesn’t have one to wear. But when they find a hat they also discover another monster, this one has one head and three hats. How will they escape?

Liniers is a well-known Argentinian cartoonist. This book embraces the creative work of children, nicely capturing the simple story arc of a child as well as the colorful and loose art style. The creative process is also captured with asides from Henrietta to Fellini that show her having problems at times coming up with new ideas and at other times having problems with the continuation of the story line after something dramatic happens. It’s a clever way to demonstrate the hurdles of creativity and story writing without lecturing.

The art is wonderful. Linier uses two clearly different styles in the book, one for Henrietta’s real world and the other for her written story. The real world ones are quieter and more realistic while the story is zany. It is filled with scribbles, colors, and really looks as if a creative child could have done it. The result is a book where the real world pieces are clearly different than the story, avoiding any confusion at all.

A solid graphic novel for young readers, children with dreams of writing their own books will love this journey through creativity. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from TOON Books.

Review: I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard by Jennifer K. Mann

I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs Bensons Blackboard by Jennifer Mann

I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard by Jennifer K. Mann (InfoSoup)

Mrs. Benson gives stars on her blackboard for things like spelling, neatness and raising your hand. Rose though, struggles with all of those things. Plus she isn’t good at math, her voice is too quiet for a star in reading, and she spilled snack on Mrs. Benson. Rose had been distracted by the artist who came to speak with them and dreaming of all of the things that she could create. At the end of the day, there was going to be a check for desk neatness, and Rose knew that she would never get a star for that. Mrs. Benson didn’t quite reach Rose’s desk that evening, so the next day Rose came in early and cleaned her desk. Then they got to make thank you cards for the artist who had visited, but doing art was messy and Rose undid all of her cleaning. At the same time, Rose had made an incredible card and who knows maybe art was a way that she could finally get that star!

Mann captures the pressure that a student who does not conform to classroom norms can feel. Rose desperately wants to do what is right, but none of the qualities that Mrs. Benson wants come easily or naturally to her. The presentation of someone to inspire her to do her best on something that she is definitely good at makes for a natural turning point in the book and allows Rose to continue to be herself all the way to the end. This is a celebration of artistic children who may lack in social graces but make up for it in boundless enthusiasm and creativity.

Mann’s illustrations make the book very kid-friendly as does the subject matter. The friendly round-headed characters are shown in a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Rose stands out in the illustrations with her bright-colored clothing and then the fact that at the artist presentation she is standing and listening rather than sitting. It all shows that she is a vibrant kid, filled with so much zing that it would be impossible to contain her.

A celebration of kids who don’t fit into classrooms easily, this picture book celebrates creativity and being yourself. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Pool by JiHyeon Lee

Pool by JiHyeon Lee

Pool by JiHyeon Lee (InfoSoup)

A boy stands at the end of a swimming pool, ready to hop in. But just as he is about to, a crowd of people arrive and take over the pool. It is crammed full of them with their floating tubes and boats, leaving no area of water open. But the boy finds a sliver of water along the side of the pool and dives down underneath the crowd. A girl sees him dive down and heads down herself. The two meet underwater and head deeper together. Down at the bottom of the pool they discover a coral reef filled with wild fish that swim in large schools. There are also tubes large enough for a kid or a colorful eel to hide in. Large toothy fish swim by and then a gargantuan white whale too. The children head up to the surface again, as the rest of the crowd head out of the pool. The two of them are left to dry off side by side and wonder at what else could be underneath that water.

Lee captures the beauty of swimming and the wonder of imagination in this wordless picture book. The two children are distinct from the others floating on the surface, built in a more delicate way and almost matching except for their swimsuits. As they dream of reefs and fish, the water fills with animals. There is a playfulness to their imaginations, creating a world together that is filled with amazing things.

Delicate illustrations are filled with the blue of the pool. As the coral reef appears, there are animals of all sorts, even water spiders. The wonder of the huge white whale is a moment that is lengthened and filled with importance in this picture book. Throughout the pacing is masterfully done, allowing readers time to explore and dream themselves.

A book that encourages long looks and your own fish designs, this picture book is an inspiring and refreshing watery read. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Review: This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary

This Is Sadie by Sara OLeary

This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Julie Morstad

Released May 12, 2015.

Sadie can take a cardboard box and make it into a ship where she looks for land, but not too hard. She can sail all the way around her room before breakfast. Sadie loves to spend time with her friends, whether in real life or in books. She has pretended to be all sorts of things from mermaids to wild boys raised by wolves. She can be Alice in Wonderland or a hero on a horse. She can even have wings, almost invisible ones but they can still take her flying. She fills her days with imagination, play and reading. What could be better?

O’Leary captures the wonder of a child’s imagination in this gorgeous picture book. Right from the beginning the tone is light and playful, inviting the reader to see the world as Sadie does. Perhaps they have wings too? Adults do not appear in the book at all, giving the entire story to Sadie and her imagination. They are referred to in passing, but that’s about it. The book whirls with ideas, all gathered together from heroes to wings to undersea adventures, we are riding along with Sadie in each of her imaginary places. It’s a confectionery of creativity.

Morstad’s illustrations are done in gouache and watercolor. They fully embrace the worlds that Sadie envisions, bringing them into full color vibrancy on the page. The book changes from the imaginative worlds to Sadie’s room and reality, but each are just as winningly portrayed as the other. Her room has lovely touches like a mushroom lamp, beds for stuffed animals, and a chair piled high with books.

An invitation to come and play is clear in this imaginative picture book that will dazzle readers. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from digital galley received from NetGalley and Tundra Books.

Review: My Pen by Christopher Myers

my pen

My Pen by Christopher Myers (InfoSoup)

A new picture book from an award-winning illustrator which shows the power of art in a child’s life. Using powerful sketches, the book talks about the freedom and self-esteem that comes from creating art. Myers also speaks to the importance of imagination and creativity, showing an elephant in a teacup and the protagonist riding a dinosaur. He plays with different perspectives and plays the simplicity of ink and pen art against the complexity of world problems that art also speaks to. Even mistakes and errors are embraced along the way, showing children that the goal is not perfection but the experience of creation.

Beautifully written and illustrated, this picture book is a compelling look at creativity and art. The words in the book demonstrate the various aspects of art, showing a playfulness throughout but also allowing moments of gravity and seriousness as well. The book ends with an encouragement to the reader to pick up a pen and see what worlds they discover inside it.

The real focus of this picture book is the art, which is incredibly beautiful. Done in pen, of course, the art is detailed and distinctive. The boy’s face is expressive throughout, as he takes imaginary travels and as he responds to making mistakes on the page. Thanks to the creative subject, one is never sure what is going to be revealed on the next page. With art of this quality, it’s a delight to turn the pages and discover each new image.

Share this with art teachers or in units that encourage creativity. Then have pens ready for children to create their own art on the page, blots and all. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.