Monster Book by Alice Hoogstad
This wordless book shows the power of art for a whole community. In a black-and-white town that looks like a coloring book with black outlines, a little girl picks up a red crayon and starts drawing a heart on a wall. Soon she moves on to creating a monster on the road and her dog picks up her heart drawing and runs after her. The orange monster comes to life and the girl quickly moves on to another creature. One after another, she draws them and they come to life. The rest of the town looks on with amused expressions and no alarm even as monsters dance in the streets. Soon the monsters have crayons too and are coloring the buildings and people. This though is too much and the townsfolk order them to leave town and the children start to clean up the walls back to white again. Rain falls and washes all of the color away, or does it?
This is a picture book that celebrates public art and then turns whimsical and magical as the creatures come to life. Despite their fearsome appearance, they are friendly and silly rather than mean. The art is quite unique with its color-book feel and then the colors being drawn in. There is a radiant quality to the colors that are used and the loose and generous way the colors are applied invites children to be even more creative when they color too.
While this could encourage children to color on white walls, this book is much more likely to end up in a family coloring together appropriately and creatively. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Lemniscaat and Myrick Marketing.
Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton
The author of Little Owl Lost returns with another great picture book in his signature style. In this book, four people head into the forest with nets at night. There, they find a gorgeous red bird. The littlest of them calls out “hello, birdie” but the others shush him and declare that they have a plan and show the cage they are holding. They slowly tiptoe up to the bird, count off and jump! But the bird flies up into a tree. No worries, they have another plan. And when that fails, another and another. Finally, the smallest of them comes up with a plan that just might work, or maybe not.
This book is a stupendous read aloud. The chipper, bright voice of the littlest of them, the hushed shushing from the others, the counting off and finally the shout of GO! This happens again and again and will keep even the wiggliest of children paying close attention. Even better, the little one is the one who figures things out and presents a solution. Add at the end a wonderful twist to continue the story, and you have an outstanding picture book for sharing.
Haughton’s illustrations are created digitally but have the feel and texture of cut paper. He uses beautifully deep blues throughout the nighttime story and then the bright red of the bird pops. It also helps that the bird seems to live in its own beam of light, one that follows it as it escapes again and again. It’s a clever use of stage lighting in a picture book.
A top pick for sharing aloud, this picture book is a dazzling dark delight. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Author Zilpha Keatley Snyder has died at age 87, according to Publisher’s Weekly. She won three Newbery Honors for her novels for middle graders.
I love this quote from the Publisher’s Weekly article about her writing and her connection with middle graders:
By the early 1960s back in California, Snyder’s two children (a foster son would join the family a few years later) were in school and she found the time to begin writing in earnest. She carved out hours for writing while working around her teaching joband said in her autobiography that her time with her students “had given me a deep appreciation of the gifts and graces that are specific to individuals with 10 or 11 years of experience as human beings.” “It is, I think, a magical time – when so much has been learned, but not yet enough to entirely extinguish the magical reach and freedom of early childhood.”