The Numberlys by William Joyce, illustrated by Christina Ellis
In a world where there are only numbers, everything is very orderly and neat. But it’s also very gray, even the food. Then five friends started to wonder if there was something more than numbers, something different! So they started inventing and they slowly came up with letters. And when they reached the final letter Z, things started to change. Color entered their dreary lives as the letters fell into place. Once the letters formed words, real changes started and the entire world was flooded with color and yummy foods and possibilities.
Based on the app, this is a second picture book from the creators of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which also started as an app. Joyce creates a numeric and order-filled world reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984 in the first pages of the book. The text here is very simple, allowing most of the storytelling to be done by the illustrations. Joyce keeps a light hand here and uses humor to show how dark the world is. Who could imagine a world without jellybeans?
It is Ellis’ art that brings this world to life. Her orderly world has the feel of wooden toy soldiers and the five friends are wonderfully different and unique even before they invent the alphabet. The gray tones of the early part of the book give way to jellybean colors that jump on the page.
This celebration of words and books also examines the importance of independent thought and creativity. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Published June 27, 2013
Duncan is all set to color, but when he opens his crayon box he finds all sorts of letters written to him by his crayons. And they are all letters of complaint! First, Red wants to complain about being overworked because of all of his work on apples and fire engines. He even works holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day! Other crayons like Beige are complaining about not being used enough. Then there is the feud between Orange and Yellow about how is the real color of the sun, since Duncan uses them both. Peach crayon is upset about having his wrapper peeled off leaving him naked and unable to come out of the crayon box. Purple scolds Duncan for coloring outside the lines and Pink complains about not being used except by Duncan’s little sister. Luckily, Duncan has a great solution to all of their complaints.
Daywalt has created a book that is such fun to read aloud. Each crayon’s letter really has its own voice, making it a pleasure to give new voices for each crayon character. This mix of tones and voices also results in a very robust story, much more than one might expect for such a simple concept. The entire book is cheerful and has laugh-out-loud moments throughout.
Jeffers’ art is as always playful with his own particular whimsical touches. His crayons come to life with just a few lines that convey emotion through eyes, mouth and arms. Simple and completely convincing.
A colorful look at crayons, personalities and ultimately creativity, this picture book should be shared aloud with plenty of paper for coloring on. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Philomel.
Love, Mouserella by David Ezra Stein
Mouserella misses her grandmother. She had to go back to the country, and Mouserella lives in the city. So her mother suggested she write a letter, and she did! The pages are filled with drawings, photographs, and plenty of great details. Though Mouserella doesn’t think there is much to share, she actually finds lots of everyday things to talk about: creating seed parachutes, visiting a museum, experiencing a blackout, and playing with her brother. The story is jolly and warm, filled with homey details, a loving family and the joys of the small things in life.
Stein’s writing and art here create a harmonious whole. The writing is winningly child-like and wandering. Mouserella’s voice is clear and personal throughout, creating a solid base for the book. Stein then embellishes the book with art that ranges from Mouserella’s drawings to photographs of her world. The combination of crayon art with Stein’s own more realistic but still whimsical art makes for a striking read.
This warm, wonderful picture book will be enjoyed by grandmothers and grandchildren alike. It is a perfect accompaniment to letter writing units or story times about grandparents. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Penguin Young Readers Group.
Also reviewed by A Year of Reading.