Tag: books

The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild

The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild

The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Freya Blackwood (9780763690847, Amazon)

Nominated for the CBCA Picture Book of the Year, this picture book is exceptional. In a time of war, the library is burned and only one book survives. Peter’s father has that book and creates an iron box to keep it safe. When Peter and his father flee their town, they carry the book with them. Peter’s father dies on the journey and he continues to carry the book with him, even leaving behind his suitcase to manage it. Finally, Peter must leave the box behind, but he hides it safely first. Years later, Peter is able to return to the box and rescue the book, restoring it to his hometown and its library.

Wild’s lovely and simple text allows the drama of the story elements to speak for themselves, never injecting more horror into it. That approach allows the reader to feel deeply the loss and pain of losing one’s homeland. Even the death of Peter’s father is subtle and gentle, allowing the grief to permeate more fully. It makes the focus on the importance of the book all the more tangible and vital.

It is Blackwood’s illustrations that truly make this book amazing. She has created layered illustrations that have shadows and depth to them. Throughout the images, there are pages of books shown. They fall as scraps of paper with words of hope on them, dash across the page as rain, and form the smoke of the burning town. They create the landscape and the foundation beautifully.  Here is an image from the book and Blackwood’s blog:

Treasure Box Image

A war-torn book that speaks to the power of history and knowledge along with resistance and resilience. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Balderdash by Michelle Markel

Balderdash by Michelle Markel

Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (9780811879224, Amazon)

This picture book biography is the story of John Newbery, the man who first created books for children in the 18th century. Books were popular in London at the time, but all of the fun books were for adults. Children had to read poems and fables that were dull and taught them about social niceties. John Newbery grew up to be a publisher and realized that children needed different books. He created a book that was filled with fantasy and games and then he made it very attractive and paired it with a toy. Next came a magazine for children and eventually a novel. The books were written anonymously but all were sold and printed by Newbery himself, the man who created children’s literature.

Markel has captured the feel of the creativity and wildness of someone who decided to make a major change in the world. The text here is celebratory of the new discoveries and new chances being taken in books. Markel points out all of the positives about Newbery’s book and avoids noting that his books don’t bear any resemblance to children’s books of today. Rather, the focus is on the invention, the cleverness of the marketing and the popularity of children’s books from the very beginning.

Carpenter’s illustrations are filled with pizzazz. They have a great energy about them, depicting the bustling streets of London, the desirability of the books, and even showing sad children with real humor. She uses slightly turned pages to show other images underneath along with speech bubbles. The text of the book is also playful, moving through different fonts and text sizes for emphasis.

A glimpse of the earliest children’s books, this historical picture book biography is a pleasure just as Newbery’s were. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney

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A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson (InfoSoup)

The son of Polish immigrants, Ezra Jack Keats grew up in poverty in Brooklyn. Early in his life, Ezra followed his dream of being an artist. As an 8 year old, he earned money painting store signs. His father worried about this dream, but also helped by bringing home partially used paint from the artists at the cafe he worked at. Ezra was encouraged at school by teachers and at the library by librarians. Just as Ezra was about to leave for art school, his father died. He thought his artist dream was gone, but then during the Great Depression the New Deal emerged with The Art School League. It was then that he discovered what would be the beginning of The Snowy Day, but World War II would intervene before that dream could come true.

Pinkney’s poem sings on the page, telling the story of how an image can create real magic, just like the snow that inspired it too. She writes with real passion about poverty, the transformation that snow brings to poor neighborhoods, the delight of creation, the wonder of art and the long path it takes to bring a story to life sometimes. Pinkney’s words are magic, dashing and reacting along with the reader, swirling like snowflakes against your cheeks.

The illustrations by Fancher and Johnson are wonderful. Done in collage and paint, they capture Brooklyn as a clear setting and the hardship of Keats life enlivened by art. They then go on to inspire new thoughts of snowflakes and snow as they pay homage to The Snowy Day.

Perfect for fans of The Snowy Day, this picture book speaks to the power of art in one’s life and the way that one man’s dreams have inspired generations to dream too. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Six Dots by Jen Bryant

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Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Boris Kulikov (InfoSoup)

Louis Braille lost his sight at age five from an accident and a resulting infection. His family helped him learn to cope, making him a cane that he could use to explore a little farther from home each day. His brothers taught him to whistle and his sisters made him letters out of straw. He could play dominoes, knew trees by touch, flowers by their smell and could listen to books being read aloud. But there were no books for blind children like him. Even when he got into a school for the blind in Paris he had to work very hard and become one of the best students to be able to access their books. When Louis achieved that though, he found that the books were done in large raised wax letters so thick books were actually quite short. Then there was news that a French army captain had created a way to send secret messages that was read by touch. Louis worked to make the system readable by the blind, creating his own alphabet system as a teenager!

Bryant writes in first person from Braille’s point of view. She explains how Louis lost his sight with just enough detail to make it understandable how tragic it was but doesn’t overly linger there. When Louis’ sight is gone, the text changes to become filled with noises and other senses than sight. Bryant moves the story forward using Braille’s desire to read for himself, that drives both the story and Braille’s own life. As each opportunity proves to be disappointing, Braille does not give up hope, instead developing throughout his life a tenacity to find a solution.

Kulikov’s illustrations play light against dark. When Braille loses his sight, the pages go black with shadowy furniture forms only. Color is gone entirely. The reader is not left there, but moves back into the world of color unless the story is speaking about Braille’s blindness specifically, so when Braille finally gets to try reading the wax lettering, the page goes dark again, also showing his disappointment in the solution.

Intelligently designed and depicted, this is a warm and inspiring look at the life and achievements of Louis Braille. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Knopf Books for Young Readers.

 

How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett

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How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex (InfoSoup)

How is a book made? Well this book was made in the regular way with an author making many drafts, and editor offering firm advice, an illustrator taking a long time to create the art, and it being printed halfway around the world. But it is also an amazing story and one that will surprise when the tiger keeps reappearing, the pirates raid the slow boat full of books, and the news that there is one last important piece to the book really being A BOOK. You will just have to read this book to see what that is.

Any book by Barnett and Rex is going to be wonderfully surprising and funny. This book is no exception. Barnett immediately makes sure that this book is not taken too seriously by starting it with him arm wrestling a tiger. The tiger then returns at important moments in the book, sometimes to be scared off and other times with a posse. The editor’s role is also depicted in the book with a lot of tongue-in-cheek but also honesty too. Throughout there is real information on how books get made with plenty of imagination added as well. Just like any book.

Rex’s illustrations are done with pencil on paper combined with photography. Some of the illustrations have cotton clouds and others are 3-d objects or 2-d objects photographed. This gives a great sense of space and distance, shadows lengthening across the page. Throughout the art is as clever as the words, which is a compliment to both.

A funny and imaginative look at the making of this book, both unique to this book and universal to the process. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers

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A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston (InfoSoup)

This striking picture books tells the story of a young girl who loves to read, who is “a child of books.” She meets a boy who seems lonely, his father only reading the newspaper and ignoring the sea of words from fiction swirling around them. She leads the boy off on an adventure of stories. Down rabbit holes, up mountains, through dark tunnels, into fairy tale woods, past monsters in castles, into the clouds for bedtime stories, and much more. They return home, to a bright colored house on a gray street, and the boy leaves with a book under his arm trailing words behind him.

My description above doesn’t capture the beauty and wonder of this picture book. Jeffers’ poetry looks deeply into our relationship with fiction. Into the joy of discovering new adventures of heading down rabbit holes that other readers’ feet have merrily disappeared down before yours. He celebrates the shared language of story, the shared settings of tales, and the shared experiences that we have all had, separately but also together.

The illustrations are unique and very special. The merger of the painted characters with amazing typeface art is dynamic and original. It slows you down, naturally asking you to read the words that the mountains, clouds, and forest are made from. If you do, you discover old friends hiding there, beautiful words from classic children’s books. They invite you to read more, to rediscover those books of your childhood or introduce your favorites to your children. By the end of the book, I was slowly reading each word in the illustrations, lingering and sighing contentedly. My day slowed and enriched by memories.

Beautiful and luminous, this picture book is rich and unique. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Nibbles the Book Monster by Emma Yarlett

Nibbles the Book Monster by Emma Yarlett

Nibbles the Book Monster by Emma Yarlett

Nibbles is a monster who eats his way through all sorts of things, but his favorites are books. Soon Nibbles has left this picture book entirely and chewed his way right into a fairy tale instead. There he meets Goldilocks who desperately tries to explain the huge damage Nibbles leaves behind to the three angry bears. Nibbles next moves on to Little Red Riding Hood where Little Red is entirely shut out of the story and Nibbles saves Grandma from the wolf. Next comes Jack and the Beanstalk where Nibbles bites a bit of giant rump and steals the golden goose. The goose drops Nibbles back into his cage but wait, could it be that he is nibbling once again?

Yarlett very successfully combines a hungry little yellow monster with fractured fairy tales in this dynamic picture book. She keeps the menu lean and focused, just enough of a glimpse of each of the stories to understand the story clearly and then Nibbles messes everything up and dashes off. The story books are built into the pages as flaps to turn, adding to the appeal of the book. The same is true of Nibbles’ cage where children both release him in the beginning and capture him again at the end.

The artwork is filled with humor and the flaps add a level of participation to the book. Yarlett’s art really works well in the small story books themselves where her style changes as one enters each book. There is the playful cartoon of Goldilocks, the muted black-and-white colors with pops of red for Little Red Riding Hood, and a more vintage feel for Jack and the Beanstalk. These changes in the artistic style really make each book feel unique and as if they really have just been discovered in a pile.

Cleverly designed and immensely appealing, this picture book is worth a nibble or two. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Kane Miller.