This surreal picture book takes the paintings of the late Giuliano Cucco and uses them to tell the story of his childhood. Cucco’s journey to becoming an artist is shown in his creativity as a child. From games he played with his mother to imagining paper boats he made floating away. His father was a scientist who studied light and preferred to spend time alone. Cucco spent time in his mother’s garden, dreaming and imagining as he lay surrounded by flowers. Sent to the city to live with his aunt and uncle, the book becomes more surreal and wild with a moon rising out of a box, swinging priests, and doves saved from the dinner plate. Returning to the country, he reconnected with the land and water of his childhood, creating paintings of ocean, violins, and the landscape.
This tribute of a picture book is one that celebrates the creativity of childhood and how allowing unfettered time and space allow that creativity to carry into adulthood. Miller uses his words as a minimal framework to offer a glimpse of the artist’s life and also to share his work. It is those paintings that truly tell the story, sharing emotions through the art. From darker moments to those filled with inspiration and light. The art is whimsical at times, literal at others.
A lovely surreal look at an artist, creativity and childhood. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Dad’s office is off limits for playing. But the temptation to enter is irresistible. Maybe if the little girl just looks around and doesn’t touch anything. Perhaps one piece of tape won’t hurt anything… Soon the lamp has a tape scarf and looks lovely. She then discovers the paper clips and binder clips which quickly form into necklaces, crowns and more. Post-It notes come next and soon the room is filled with paper chains, lines of notes, and that’s when she realizes that it’s gotten out of control. She sneaks out, trailing office supplies in her wake to hide in her room. But what does she find there?
Yoon has taken my own love of office supplies and turned it into a picture book that celebrates creativity and the joy of tape, post-its and binder clips. Readers will feel the barely suppressed need to play with the office supplies at first and then the relief of just giving in and doing it. Told in the voice of the little girl, the text is entirely her dialogue as she plays, rationalizing along the way what she is doing and then her horror at discovering how far she went.
The illustrations are a huge part of the delight of this picture book. The tape alone offers so much visual pleasure with it in her hair, dangling like earrings, and taping her mouth shut. Then come the clips and the sticky notes, and the entire book swirls with ideas until in one final amazing page, it all comes together into a stage-like finale. Add in the twist in the end and it is so much fun!
A dazzling look at office supplies that get out of control. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Sato became a rabbit one day and has been one ever since. Told in short chapters, Sato goes about his days. He waters the plants around his house using a very long hose, a very special hose. In the second story, there is a sea of grass where Sato hangs his laundry that soon becomes a rollicking sea of water. A meteor storm becomes a way to light a path. A watermelon becomes a boat. After the rain, puddles reflect the sky, giving Sato a portal to the clouds. Walnut shell halves lead to unique little worlds of their own. Colored ice from the forest lets Sato taste emotions.
It’s a marvelously surreal little picture book that invites readers into Sato’s imagination as he explores the world around his home. It’s particularly marvelous that each of the inspiring elements is ever so normal, from laundry hanging near grass to eating watermelon or walnuts. The text is perfectly descriptive of what is happening, not giving away when reality becomes magical, just stating things frankly.
The art is bright and colorful, using the white space on the page to create smaller illustrations and then suddenly move to full-page spreads that delight. The colors used are deep and rich, allowing Sato in his white rabbit outfit to really stand out on each page.
Wild and imaginative, this book invites children to join in the fun. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Mabel lives at the Mermaid Hotel near the sea where she goes on many adventures without shoes. When a strange new guest arrives at the hotel, Mabel becomes a spy to try to figure out the story of the woman she dubs Madame Badobedah. The lady comes with her pet tortoise and lots of bags and trunks that could be filled with anything, including stolen treasure. After watching her for awhile, Mabel decides that the woman must be a supervillian who is hiding out at Mermaid Hotel. When Mabel’s spy cover is blown, Madame Badobedah invites her into her room for tea. Soon the two are traveling on imaginary adventures together that feature pirates and mermaids, a partnership of young and old.
This picture book has more text than many, but please don’t let that stop you! Dahl’s writing is sharp and witty, offering exactly the right amount of detail to conjure up the hotel fully and craft interesting characters who are fully realized. Told in Mabel’s voice, the book has the feel of a vintage book but with a modern sensibility as well. Filled with creativity and imagination, the stories Mabel conjures are fascinating and the journeys the two kindred spirits share are marvelous.
The illustrations by O’Hara capture the vivid red hair of Madame Badobedah, the wonders of the hotel, and intrepid Mabel on her many adventures. Real life swirls effectively with the imaginary worlds on the page in both text and illustrations.
An adventure worth taking with two great partners. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Unstoppable by Adam Rex, illustrated by Laura Park (9781452165042)
Beginning with almost wordless panels of a cat jumping at both a crab and a crow, this book quickly transforms into a picture book that is made to share aloud. Crab and Crow join forces to be able to both fly and pinch the cat with claws. They are unstoppable now! But then they both thought about being able to swim too, so they talked to a turtle and transformed into something even more unstoppable. When an angry bear tries to attack them, they invite him to join in too. Upon finding out that forest demolition is what is making the bear angry though, they have to take action and become truly unstoppable!
As always Rex delights and surprises with his story lines. While this seems like a straight forward cumulative story at first, it transforms much like the animals themselves into something far more interesting by the end. Rex injects the tale with plenty of humor as the creatures come up with a variety of mash-up names for each of their combinations. The refrain of unstoppable will be a great way to get audiences participating in the book too.
Park’s illustrations are crisp and clear, bright colors against a white background. They will work particularly well with a group, adding even more to the readaloud appeal of the title.
Funny, surprising and empowering. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
A grandmother’s special birthday party brings together an entire community in this picture book. Celebrating what can be done with one’s hands and created for another person, this book looks at the power of using hands for kindness and creativity. An old sweater is made into a fish-shaped pillow, hands make the six-tier birthday cake, a blanket is woven, a wooden box whittled, bread is baked, and children are cared for. The party is prepared for by the family and community, the event is held, and the book closes with the quiet afterwards.
McClure excels in all of her books in making small moments meaningful and impactful. Here, she does exactly that with making things with one’s hands. In her note at the end, she points out that the art for her books is done entirely by hand by cutting paper with an exacto knife. Her poetic text invites readers to think about all the ways they can use their hands to create something too. Her art is as lovely as always, remarkable in that it is cut paper creating the faces of characters and their world. She uses selective colors to create special moments like the grandmother’s white hair, the red sweater, and the deep browns of wood. The entire book is done on darker paper that evokes brown paper bags and wholegrain bread.
Another delight of a book from a master artist. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.
Told in fragments of stories with stirring paintings to accompany them, this book is like a series of gems on a necklace, each discrete and beautiful. Just like the necklace, they also work together side-by-side to create something larger than themselves. There are glimpses of large sea creatures. A girl journeys in the forest, but she is not alone. Cats and birds, flowers and lions appear on the pages. There are masks to conceal and masks to reveal. There are bats that soar and an alligator to ride.
Each image is paired with writing on a literal scrap of paper. Torn from envelopes, carefully folden, sometimes corrected, on the backs of postcards, each one is different and fascinating. Take those lines from untold stories and pair them with images that create something incredibly moving, bright glimpses into one story and then the next. These are tales you long to be completed, where girls perch on the moon and libraries are filled with music and animals. It is to Martin’s credit that they feel like a whole piece rather than transient images and words set side-by-side. They form a universe of stories to linger in.
The illustrations are whimsical and beautiful. The effect is rather like looking into a series of windows and being able to linger with a story for just a moment before moving on. There are repeating themes of companionship, concealment and surprise on the pages, each captured in a painting that is lush and carefully done.
A very unusual book and one that is at times almost surreal, this is one to celebrate. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
A little girl explains to readers what it takes to write a book. First, you need a “Good Idea” that you can get from all sorts of places, including your own brain or staring out of the window. You have to know what you are talking about in your book and also know who you are writing it for. Grandmothers are a very different audience than kids who like dump trucks. Books for babies should not be incredibly scary. Then you must concentrate and create a plan for your book. A good title is necessary too. Start strong and then fill in the middle. The ending comes last. Share the book with friends, revise as necessary. Create a cover and an “About the Author” page. Then start selling your book, perhaps with cookies as an incentive and if that doesn’t work tying a person to a chair. Maybe it’s time for a sequel?
The best part about this book is that it is a combination of complete silliness and also good information about the steps in writing a book. Lloyd-Jones uses zany humor to really get her point across about writing taking time, creativity and a willingness to revise. Still, the book is also about frightening babies, boring grandparents, tying people up, and being interesting along the way.
The illustrations help tell the story with their clever depictions of the little girl’s imaginative stories. Using a mixture of textures and patterns, they also incorporate collage elements as well. The result is a modern and silly mix that suits the book nicely.
Silly and serious all at once, this really is a book about writing a book where you will giggle along the way. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.
Jamie spends her time at the edge of the quiet beach near the waves. She is hard at work making something, but she isn’t sure what quite yet. People walk past and ask her pesky questions, but Jamie just wants to be alone with the swish of the waves and her own humming as she works. Then someone else comes to the edge of the water. She has a lot of things along with her and sets up an easel to paint. She starts to work, and Jamie asks her what she is making but the painter isn’t sure yet. Jamie agrees. The two work side-by-side silently with only the hum and swish of their work making noise. Still, they are clearly friends. Finally, Jamie is done with her sandcastle, bridge and creatures made of rocks and objects. The painter is done too and they share their work with one another.
Myers captures the intensity of a young artist who just wants to be left alone to quietly work on their project. The importance of silence and space to think and be creative is emphasized here, along with the need to not explain during the creative process. The simple and limited text in the book is used very successfully to show Jamie’s brisk responses to those who ask her questions and also her connection to the ocean and her kindred spirit.
Myers, who has illustrated several picture books previously, shows great skill in his illustrations here. From the images of Jamie and the ocean together in their isolation to the lovely connection she forms with the painter. There is a strong sense of place, of art and of introversion on the page that is very welcome.
A lovely look at creating art and finding space to be quiet. Appropriate for ages 4-6.