Review: Imagine by Raul Colon

Imagine by Raul Colon

Imagine by Raul Colon (9781481462730)

This wordless picture book invites readers to be inspired by fine art in a playful yet profound way. A boy skateboards over to the Museum of Modern Art. He views several paintings that make him stop and look. Soon the paintings have come to life with the boy entering the scene and the characters in the paintings entering the real world. Together they all traverse New York City and have several seminal experiences together. They climb the Statue of Liberty, ride the Cyclone, take the subway, and even stop for a hotdog. After a visit to Central Park, they return to the museum. On his way home, the boy is inspired to create a mural on a blank wall near his home, inspired by the three paintings.

Don’t miss Colon’s Author’s Note at the end of the book where he speaks to the power of fine art to inspire young artists. Colon saw master artworks later in his life and was still inspired by them, yet he wonders what impact seeing them as a child would have had. Colon has created a picture book that is a tribute to the power of art and the ability for it to inspire creativity and new ways of thinking. It is also a tribute to New York City as they tour around the sights and enjoy a day on the town.

In a wordless picture book, the onus is on the art to carry the entire book. As always, Colon’s art is inspiring itself. His use of texture through lines and softening by using dots makes his work unique in the picture book world. His illustrations glow with light, whether they are interior images or out in Central Park.

An exceptional wordless picture book, this one is a must-have for libraries. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.

 

Review: Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell

Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell

Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell (9781524719371)

An entire neighborhood of children steadily join together into one epic summer of fantasy fun built entirely out of cardboard. The book begins with The Sorceress, a boy who finds great power and identity in an evil sorceress character who uses magic and a sibling minions to try to take over the world. She is battled by the girl next door who dresses as a knight with a large sword to save the world. As more children join in, they take on characters who speak to what they need in their lives and to who they are deep inside. There are roaring creatures, a rogue, a prince, a huntress, and many more. Even the neighborhood bully ends up joining in as part of the epic final battle of summer.

Filled to the brim with diverse characters, this graphic novel is something very special. There are characters of different races and cultures, and LGBTQ characters. Written by several different authors who all drew on parts of their own childhood, the book speaks in a variety of voices that really feel like a neighborhood of children. There is a real spark here that demands creative thinking by the reader, looks beyond the cardboard and tape and sees the magic of imagination happening.

The art is bright and colorful, filled with family dynamics that are clearly felt deeply by the children in the book. Some stories like The Sorceress are told mostly in images while others have speech bubbles. This book embraces the fantasy motif and has a dynamic mix of superhero and classic fantasy elements that come together into one great adventure.

This one belongs in a every public library. Make sure to have some boxes on hand to build your own castles and creations. Appropriate for ages 7-10. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Knopf Books for Young Readers.)

3 New Picture Books Where Imaginations Soar

Blue Rider by Geraldo Valerio

Blue Rider by Geraldo Valerio (9781554989812)

This wordless picture book tells the story of a little girl who discovers a blue book on the ground. She lives in a bustling gray city filled with people moving in all directions. Taking the book home, she reads it and the blue horse on the pages inspires her. Soon the blue horse is flying above the city and then moving to the countryside where the art becomes more geometric and even more colorful. Out of that burst of color, the girl emerges riding the blue horse. Then we are back in her bedroom where her dreams and her room are filled with color.

Valerio tells the story of how art can inspire and create wonder and a space to dream. The illustrations are done in mixed media, combining paintings with paper collage. The edges become more frayed as the art from the book takes over the page. The movement to a more abstract type of illustration is particularly effective, bursting across the page. A great picture book to share with art classes who will be inspired themselves. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Stone Bird by Jenny McCartney

The Stone Bird by Jenny McCartney, illustrated by Patrick Benson (9781541514553)

Eliza finds a stone shaped just like an egg on the beach one day. She keeps it, even though her mother says it’s not an egg. She sleeps with it under her pillow and then places it on her nightstand, until one day it transforms into a little gray bird made of stone. Eliza takes the stone bird with her everywhere. Then one morning there is a little stone egg next to the bird when she wakes up. Eliza makes a nest out of a pair of socks because winter has arrived. When spring comes again, there are two stone birds in the nest. Then one summer morning, the birds are gone. Eliza misses them dreadfully until her birthday morning when she sees two gray birds on the roof outside her window.

A story of transformation and belief in magic, this picture book is a gentle tale. Eliza is shown mostly alone or with her family and the focus is on her relationship with the stone egg and stone birds. That narrowed focus serves the story well, allowing it to be about seasons passing and the way that birds would act. The illustrations are soft and show the changing seasons with clarity. They have an intimate feel, particularly when it is Eliza and her rocks. A quiet book that asks you to let your imagination soar with Eliza’s. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Andersen Press.)

Groundwood Logos Spine

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki (9781419728518)

This rich picture book looks at colors and inspires children to look deeper at what the colors inspire. While the sky is blue, so is water, until you hold it in your hand and it is clear and sparkles like diamonds when tossed in the air. There are hidden bright colors like the gold of an egg yolk and the red of blood in our bodies. Golden waves of the field look like they could be sailed on with a boat. Until the gray clouds come. Seasons bring their own colors. Black is the color of hair and also the crows outside the window who fly off into the colorful sky.

This is one of those books that you can read over and over again, different words and illustrations touching you each time. For a picture book for very young children, it has an unexpected depth, inviting children to see in a new way as they experience their days. The playfulness of color and imagination delight. The illustrations are exceptional, created with acrylic paint and PhotoShop. Rich and filled with color and sweeping lines, they carry the reader away into dreams of seasons, weather and wonder. A great picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia (9780062290137, Amazon)

No one knows that Eliza, a senior in high school, is the creator of the immensely popular webcomic, Monstrous Sea. She spends her days at school working on art for the comic and trying to be invisible. Then a new boy, Wallace, comes to her school. He has the looks of a football player, but doesn’t seem to say much at all, instead spending his time writing. Eliza soon learns that he is a major fan of her webcomic. As their friendship grows and starts to turn into a romance, the two of them do most of their communicating through texts, online chat and written notes. Eliza has to decide whether to share her secret of being the creator of Monstrous Sea with Wallace or whether she can stay anonymous much longer.

Zappia’s writing is completely captivating. She writes with a lovely confidence, telling the story of an introverted young creator with grace and understanding. Her characters are deeply human, struggling with real trauma and finding their safe place in communities online where they can be authentic and original. She speaks to the power of art and creativity in your life, making something that you can’t stop creating and having others find value in it too. Still, there is a tipping point where fans’ expectations can become too much and overwhelm the creative process. Zappia shows how mental distress can be dealt with and progress forward can be made, slowly.

Perhaps one of the greatest things about this book, though there are many great elements is Zappia’s portrayal of introverts. There is a coziness here, a feeling of safety in the pages, as if they are forming a critical spot for introverts to bloom, just like an online community. The book shows how introverts may be awkward but are also incredibly creative, thoughtful and deep people who just need their home and dog to recharge sometimes, alright often. The book allows Eliza and Wallace to steadily use online tools to communicate and learn about one another, building their relationship with honesty and humor.

Get this in the hands of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Carpenter by Bruna Barros

The Carpenter by Bruna Barros

The Carpenter by Bruna Barros (9781423646761, Amazon)

In this wordless picture book, a little boy is playing with his electronic device. His father works near him on a carpentry bench. Suddenly, the little boy is distracted by the zigzag folding ruler that his father has been using. He imagines at first that it is a snake hissing at him, but is soon building with it by folding it into shapes. He creates a house, a car, a large tree, an elephant and even a whale! When the whale spouts water that floods the floor, his father saves him by pulling him up onto the table and into the boat that he’s been building. Now they can float safely and the ruler can become the sail.

Barros embraces the nature of children at play in the modern world by capturing the little boy’s love of digital devices at the very beginning. The ruler though sparks new creativity in the boy, allowing his imagination to guide him through all sorts of playful ideas. The wordless format also invites readers to use their imaginations to fill in the story. The bright pictures have a great graphical nature to them that has a strong boldness.

As a child I managed to break my share of zigzag rulers, so I completely understand their appeal. This book is filled with imagination for children and memories for us older folks. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken  (9780735227927, Amazon)

One mistake in the drawing of a girl leads to new choices and changes. Making one eye bigger than the other was a mistake, so was making the other eye even bigger, but the glasses were a good idea. Other mistakes are covered by elbow patches and a lacy collar. Strange animals are turned into nice rocks. The girl with the long leg looks good climbing the tree. The other girl needs roller skates to fix the spacing with the ground. On and on, the mistakes continue showing the artistic process when you incorporate mistakes into your work rather than giving up, creating something really special.

Luyken demonstrates the way artists of all ages can use mistakes to inform their work rather than starting again or stopping altogether. The text is simple and funny, showing the frank acknowledgement of errors and then showing what good decisions can result out of the oops. The artistic process is on display here, inviting readers to explore their own artistic journeys.

The art plays a central role of course and the art is wonderfully quirky as characters emerge with lanky limbs, big eyes, and helmets. As the story pulls back from the central character, there is an intricate image filled with more children, fabric, ropes, ladders and balloons. The images pull back farther, showing even more of an inventive landscape in an unexpected place.

Creative, inviting and a gorgeous book to explore, this picture book will have everyone trying art even if they make mistakes. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books for Young Readers.

 

This Is My Dollhouse by Giselle Potter

This Is My Dollhouse by Giselle Potter

This Is My Dollhouse by Giselle Potter (InfoSoup)

Released on May 10, 2016.

A little girl shows readers the dollhouse she has made from a cardboard box. It is filled with inventive furniture, food made from string and paper, and a set of dolls that don’t all match. The house has an elevator on the side and even a swimming pool on the roof. Then she sees her friend Sophie’s dollhouse where everything matches. The dolls all look the same, all of the rooms match with furniture that is all perfect. But when the girls play a little with the dollhouse, it doesn’t really work. When Sophie comes over, the girl is very nervous about showing her the handmade dollhouse, but soon the two girls are playing together in a way that they never did with Sophie’s perfect dollhouse.

I absolutely adored this book. It captures the wonder of creating your own toys and your own world of play. The cardboard dollhouse and all of the art supplies allows a little girl’s imagination to really soar. The book does include instructions for making your own dollhouse out of a box. And the story also shows how to make furniture from blocks and a TV from a small silver box. Children will be inspired to make their own.

The illustrations here are such an important part of the story. They clearly show that there is a warmth and homeyness to the handmade dollhouse. When the girls play with the perfect purchased one, readers will immediately feel the chill of that dollhouse and realize all that it is missing. This plays so beautifully against children’s own expectations too.

A grand picture book that will inspire creative play and the building of a place for adventures of your own. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Schwartz & Wade and Edelweiss.

This Is Not a Book by Jean Jullien

This Is Not a Book by Jean Jullien

This Is Not a Book by Jean Jullien (InfoSoup)

Open this “book” and you will find that it is not a story and doesn’t act like a book at all. Some pages open up to be held at an angle and become computers, couches and refrigerators. Others flap like monster mouths chomping, butterfly wings flapping, and hands clapping. Still others turn upside down like the tent. It’s a book that is meant to be interacted with, seen in new ways and that becomes something new with each turn of the page.

Done in sturdy board book pages, this book will withstand being turned around, passed to other children and interacted with by small hands. Libraries will appreciate the lack of tabs and moving parts, the magic of the book is brought to life solely by the illustrations in this wordless masterpiece.

One of the most inventive and simple board books around, this one is a keeper! Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Lenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead

Lenny and Lucy and Philip Stead

Lenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (InfoSoup)

This award-winning husband and wife team return with another winner of a picture book. Peter knows that moving to a new house is a bad idea, especially when he sees the dark woods. Their new house is on the other side of a bridge from the woods. Peter and his dog Harold spend a sleepless night watch the bridge to make sure nothing crosses it from the woods. Then they head out and use pillows and blankets to create Lenny, a guardian. Unfortunately, they worried that Lenny might be lonely out there at night all alone, so again they did not sleep. The next day, they took blankets and leaves and created a second guardian, Lucy. That night, everyone slept. And the next day, a visitor arrived, one who shows that despite the scary woods this might be a good place to live after all.

Stead has the beautiful ability to create a story out of leaves, pillows and blankets. This book speaks to all children who have moved and those who have been afraid of other things too. There is a menacing sense from the woods, and Stead combats that with a concrete feel of normalcy but also a strong creativity. This all feels like childhood to me, capturing that wonder mixed with fear that turns into something else all the more powerful.

Erin Stead’s art has a delicacy about it that matches Philip’s tone in his prose. She creates a linear forest, uncluttered and somehow all the more strange and alien because of that. The hulking bodies of Lenny and Lucy are so solid on the page that they combat that feeling just by being there. Readers will immediately see the safety in these creatures.

This is a story of moving but also about wonder and fear. It’s a brilliant picture book, one to finish with a contented smile. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.