Almost by Richard Torrey

Jack is almost six. He is also almost a big boy.  Almost ready for a big bike.  Almost able to make his own breakfast.  Almost grown up in so many ways.  The text of the book repeats the fact that he is almost capable of all these things, but the illustrations tell the real story.  Jack fails at each of these, hence the “almost.”  Along the way, he is accompanied on most pages by his older brother whom he is eager to emulate.  The older brother is driven mad by Jack a lot of time, but when he gets hurt he is right there. 

This book cleverly captures the essence of a child eager to be bigger right now.  Nicely, the book also manages to show the point of view of the older sibling at the same time.  And all of this is accomplished with few words, vivid illustrations and plenty of humor.  The illustrations are bright, funny and will work well with a large group. 

Don’t save this one for almost six-year-olds.  Four year olds will be equally enchanted by the book and understand the eagerness to be bigger.  This one would make a great read aloud for a sibling story time or a mixed age group since both sides are portrayed so well.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Crazy Hair

Crazy Hair by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean

Hurrah!  Another picture book from the creators of The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish and The Wolves in the Walls!  Enter at your own risk, but also know that you will see something amazing and unique!

Bonnie tells the man that he has crazy hair.  The man turns to her and starts telling her just how crazy his hair really is.  Birds nest in it, gorillas leap, tigers stalk, dancers dance, and pirate ships sail.  All in his head of hair.  Bonnie offers a comb to help make it less crazy and despite his warnings, she does comb his hair.  But this is crazy hair, remember, and the results are not what she expected.

Gaiman’s words have great rhythm and embedded rhymes that swirl around in poetic forms and lines.  His writing echoes the wildness of the hair, waving, mysterious and unknowable.  McKean’s illustrations are equally wild.  The hair in them is so very real even when a yellow-green, that it is spellbinding.  Intermixed with the vividly real hair, are Picasso-esque broken faces and characters.  The effect is captivating and chilling.

Highly recommended for those who like their picture books odd and interesting.  But what else could you expect from them?  Appropriate for ages 6-10.