Grandpa’s Stories by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Allison Colpoys (9781419734984)
A little girl visits her grandfather all through the year. In the spring they walk together in the garden. The girl thinks of replanting her grandpa’s birthdays so he won’t get old. In summer, the two of them play together with a secondhand racing track. The cars fly off into space and the girl thinks of their laughter being like shooting stars. In autumn, her grandpa gives her a book he’s made for her to draw in. She’d like to capture all of her bright feelings about him there. In winter, the two stay inside and Grandpa shares his stories with her. But then her Grandpa dies. While cleaning out his room, she discovers reminders of their time together as well as a new blank notebook that he made her for spring. She fills it with her memories of her Grandpa.
The writing in this book is exceptional. Coelho captures seasonal moments of the pair together, weaving in the joy that they feel, the connection that is being maintained and built. He uses imagery of the little girl’s thoughts to really create sincere memories for her to have that are compelling for the reader as well. When the death in the book happens, it is to be expected as one can feel some sadness in the book throughout as Grandpa ages more. It is a gentle moment, one done with care and thoughtfulness.
The illustrations by Colpoys depict a family of color joyfully spending time together and then experiencing and processing their loss. She uses amazingly bright colors on her pages, incorporating neon-poppy red, zinging sunshine yellow, waves of water blues and many more. Those colors never dim throughout the book, offering hope in their cheerfulness even during times of loss.
A beautifully written and illustrated picture book of love and loss. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams.
Perfect by Max Amato (9780545829311)
An eraser wants to keep everything neat and clean on the pages of this picture book, but a playful pencil has other ideas. The pencil draws mocking images of the eraser, which are then erased. But the scribbles become a whirlwind that knock him into pages of even darker scribbles and marching pencils. The eraser escapes into a deep dark forest of pencil-drawn trees that become a solid darkness. Unable to fix all of the pencil marks, eraser discovers his own playful side and draws his way out onto a clean page. Though now he just might enjoy a bit of mess instead.
In his debut picture book, Amato demonstrates a real sense of play. The eraser character is tightly wound and rather obsessive and makes a great foil for the silliness of the pencil. The book has a great story arc that works well and makes a compelling and interesting tale. Children will enjoy both of the characters, since even the eraser gets in on the fun by the end of the book and leaves his complaints behind. The illustrations are particularly effective with both the pencil and eraser popping visually from the drawn backgrounds. Particularly funny is when eraser turns his back to the reader and one can see the butt print from his fall.
A great sense of humor and playfulness make this one worth sharing. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Draw the Line by Laurent Linn (InfoSoup)
Adrian works hard to stay invisible in the high school hallways, because otherwise he seems to always get the attention of the school bullies. Adrian uses a lot of his free time drawing his superhero, Graphite and posting new stories and art anonymously to his website. He also has his two best friends who offer him some safety at school, since he is an art geek, sci-fi fan and gay. When Adrian manages to give himself a shocking haircut, he stops being invisible. Then a hate crime happens right in front of him and Adrian has to step forward and speak the truth about what really happened even if the police and others don’t believe him. It’s what any superhero would do.
This book is a dynamic mix of graphic novel, science fiction and LGBT reality. It looks at high school right now, showing that even if people know better there are still gay teens being beaten up just for being themselves. It asks the question of whether being closeted is safer or not, whether putting yourself out there is worth the risk, and whether it is ever suitable to try to be invisible. It also shows readers what a real hero looks like. The type that can’t fly or live in space, but one that walks high school halls and steps up for others.
Linn combines his writing and drawing skills in this book, giving Graphite his own look and feel. I appreciate that the art is well done, but also something that could be done by a talented high school student. It displays a sensitivity that is right in line with Adrian’s perspective as well as a certain theatrical nature too.
An amazing and unique teen novel, this book offers several heroes in and out of costume. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from copy received from McElderry Books.
My Pen by Christopher Myers (InfoSoup)
A new picture book from an award-winning illustrator which shows the power of art in a child’s life. Using powerful sketches, the book talks about the freedom and self-esteem that comes from creating art. Myers also speaks to the importance of imagination and creativity, showing an elephant in a teacup and the protagonist riding a dinosaur. He plays with different perspectives and plays the simplicity of ink and pen art against the complexity of world problems that art also speaks to. Even mistakes and errors are embraced along the way, showing children that the goal is not perfection but the experience of creation.
Beautifully written and illustrated, this picture book is a compelling look at creativity and art. The words in the book demonstrate the various aspects of art, showing a playfulness throughout but also allowing moments of gravity and seriousness as well. The book ends with an encouragement to the reader to pick up a pen and see what worlds they discover inside it.
The real focus of this picture book is the art, which is incredibly beautiful. Done in pen, of course, the art is detailed and distinctive. The boy’s face is expressive throughout, as he takes imaginary travels and as he responds to making mistakes on the page. Thanks to the creative subject, one is never sure what is going to be revealed on the next page. With art of this quality, it’s a delight to turn the pages and discover each new image.
Share this with art teachers or in units that encourage creativity. Then have pens ready for children to create their own art on the page, blots and all. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Journey by Aaron Becker
This stunning wordless picture book tells the story of a young girl who is very lonely. Her parents are busy doing things and she has no one to play with. Then she discovers a red crayon on her bedroom floor and draws a door on her wall that she can open. She finds herself in a forest light with strings of lights, a river running by. Her red crayon is in her hand, so she draws a boat that she can use to travel down the river. Her incredible journey is just beginning and you will want to be along.
Done first in sepia tones with bursts of red, the book quickly changes to full color once the girl opens the magic door into another world. Happily, this is not a world that readers will have visited before. It is a dynamic mix of steampunk, fancy castles, and wondrous creatures.
Becker’s art is incredible intricate, inviting closer inspection. Just the castle alone had me gazing for some time to see it all. HIs art is also very beautiful. The depth of color is lovely, particularly the colors of the sky and the landscape.
Beautifully done, this book is a gorgeous testament to the power of creativity and the amazing places that great art can take us. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
You can see some of this incredible journey on the book trailer:
Reviewed from library copy.
The 13-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths, illustrated by Terry Denton
Andy and Terry live together in an amazing 13-story tree house. It has a bowling alley, a secret laboratory, swinging vines, a see-through swimming pool and even a man-eating shark tank. Unfortunately, all of these fun things around them are distracting them from finishing the book that is due in to the publisher! They have barely started and it needs to be finished quickly. But what are you supposed to do when there are flying cats, giant bananas, an evil sea monster, gangs of rampaging monkeys, and burp-filled bubblegum bubbles around you? You will just have to read the book to find out how Andy and Terry managed to finish their book in time.
Wildly funny and perfect for children who enjoy books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The author and illustrator worked together beautifully, creating a hilarious world that is a pleasure to visit. The book has illustrations throughout, black and white line drawings that add to the silliness of the story. Do not read this one looking for logic, just enjoy the giggles!
A great pick for reluctant readers who will appreciate the silly storyline and funny illustrations that effectively break up the text. Get this into the hands of your Wimpy Kid fans! Appropriate for ages 6-10.
Reviewed from copy received from Feiwel and Friends.
Dog Loves Drawing by Louise Yates
The charming dog from Dog Loves Books returns in this second story. When dog receives a blank book in the mail, he’s not sure what to do with it. Then he sees the note from his Aunt Dora that told him it was a sketchbook and wished him wonderful adventures. The first thing that Dog drew was a door, he walked through it and then drew a stickman and a duck. The duck drew an owl and the owl drew a crab. Then everyone started drawing until they wondered what else to do. Dog then drew a train and they all hopped aboard, entering into an adventure on the page that they created themselves.
This jaunty picture book celebrates both creativity and art. Yates embraces the flow of consciousness story creating, merrily showing us how very freeing and fun it can be. Doodles are celebrated and there is no erasing and perfecting, just an acceptance of the art being done. I enjoyed the addition of the monster at the end of the book, giving that little extra jolt of energy at the end of the adventure.
The illustrations are colorful and done mostly in simple lines. Dog himself is sketched in black and white, but others have a looser feel of being quickly drawn. The addition of real-seeming paintbrushes and pencils adds to the feeling of being inside a sketchbook.
A welcome sequel to the first book, this is a lovely book that will have you doodling in your own sketchbook. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Knopf Books for Young Readers.
The Monster Returns by Peter McCarty
This sequel to Jeremy Draws a Monster continues the story of Jeremy, who is continuing to draw up in his room alone. Then he got a note from his monster saying that he should draw a compass and a telescope and look out the window. When he looked through the telescope, he saw his monster! The monster immediately called on the phone and announced he was bored and headed over to Jeremy’s house. Jeremy had to think quickly. He invited all of the children playing outside up to his room, gave them each a fancy pen, and had them each draw their own monsters. When Jeremy’s monster arrived, he was met with a big SURPRISE!
McCarty turns this book into one about making friends, whether through inviting them over to play or by creating them. It is also a book about creativity where the act of creation is also one of making friends and connections.
The delicate lines of McCarty’s illustrations add up to bright colors and plenty of fun. The mix of the human characters done in one style and the single-color monsters done in a different style make for a clever and memorable combination.
A stylish and fun book about friends, creativity and monsters. This will have children drawing their own monsters, so make sure to provide plenty of fancy pens and paper. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Company.