Tag: books

Six Dots by Jen Bryant

six-dots-by-jen-bryant

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.

This Is Not a Picture Book by Sergio Ruzzier

This Is Not a Picture Book by Sergio Ruzzier

This Is Not a Picture Book by Sergio Ruzzier (InfoSoup)

Duck discovers a book that doesn’t have any pictures in it. He takes a look at it but kicks it away. When his friend Bug asks if he can read it, Ducks starts to try. But words can be difficult to read. He does see some words that he knows and keeps on trying. Soon Duck is finding that words can take him special places, on wild adventures or into quiet calmness. Words can be funny or sad. And words return you home again in the end, where they stay with you. Even in a book with no pictures!

Ruzzier has created a picture book that proudly sends children on their way to harder reads where they won’t have pictures to ease the way. The way that Duck deals with it, first to be frustrated and then to work hard at it speaks volumes about the way that children work to learn to read better and better. There is also a strong and soaring message about the power of words themselves and how they can convey emotions and meaning.

The book design here is wonderful. The end pages are filled with words that are just jumbled enough to be confusing, but if readers work like Duck did, they can puzzle their way into making sense of them. Ruzzier’s illustrations are always a bit wacky with strange landscapes and bright colors. The settings match what Duck is reading, showing through pictures what the words are conveying.

An inspirational book that will encourage reading, this book certainly IS a picture book that belongs in all libraries. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

 

The Book Itch by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

The Book Itch by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (InfoSoup)

This book is about the National Memorial African Bookstore and how it became a center for black culture in the 1960s. Told from the point of view of the son of Lewis Michaux, the owner of the store, this book looks at the figures like Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali who come to the store. It is also the story of how Michaux fought to have a store, selling books out of a pushcart at first and being denied a business loan from banks. Michaux was known for his slogans which he shouted on the street, told to his son and painted on the front of his store. The book continues through the assassination of Malcolm X. Readers must look to the note at the end to discover what happened to the store.

This nonfiction picture book speaks to the power of bookstores to inform and to keep a culture strong. One man’s vision comes to life thanks to his own determination and also the way that it spoke to others. The choice location near the Apollo Theater also helped get African-American celebrities to come to the store. The choice to have the story told from a child’s point of view was what makes this book appropriate and understandable for children.

The illustrations by Christie are filled with deep color and thick paint. They directly show the effort and intensity of determination of running a book store like this one. Some pages light with oranges and yellows while others are darkened by death.

A powerful book about an important book store and the vital need for information and books as part of a movement. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Look! by Jeff Mack

Look by Jeff Mack

Look! by Jeff Mack (InfoSoup)

A little boy won’t look away from the TV even with a very active gorilla in the room. The gorilla tries wearing books as a hat and then starts balancing them on his nose. The little boy just pushes him to the side. The gorilla ties to balance on three books set end to end, managing to knock the TV over. The boy kicks him out of the room. But the gorilla returns juggling books and riding a tricycle. When he falls over, the TV is broken and smoking on the floor. The boy is furious and kicks the gorilla out. But then a book captures his attention and soon the two are looking at stories together.

Told in just two words, Mack masterfully takes those two words and makes them work in a variety of ways. “Look” and “out” pair up over and over again, creating moments where the gorilla is demanding the boy look, times when the boy throws the gorilla out the door, and other times when disaster is about to happen. It’s a clever use of just the pair of words and the concept really works well.

The art is particularly interesting. The gorilla is a puff of watercolor where his fur is almost touchable on the page. The backgrounds of some of the pages are book covers, used both subtly and to strong effect. The page where the boy is truly angry is filled with ripped paper and jagged edges.

A celebration of books and words, this simple picture book will have new readers and young listeners alike enjoying the interplay of the two characters. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from ARC received from Philomel Books.