Review: A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel

A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel

A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel (9781452173184)

Described as a companion to his award-winning They All Saw a Cat, this picture book builds upon the success of the first book to explore one stone. That stone is so much to different creatures. It can be a home, a kitchen, a hill. It can be smooth or rough, loud or quiet. It can be smelled or felt. It can be dark or light. It can be an island, or disappear under the water. Yet it is still there, a world in itself.

This book is so impressive. It is a quiet picture book, exploring one specific stone and the many ways it can be experienced. The book has a refrain which lifts it beyond a list of different ways to view the stone:

and it sat where it sat

with the water, grass, and dirt

and it was as it was

where it was in the world.

This is a book willing to be slow and thoughtful. It takes its own time and asks the reader or listener to do the same. It is grounded in the most wonderful of ways.

The illustrations are simply amazing. They move forward with a feeling of time passing. Some are hazy while others are crisp. Some are done in scribbles of crayon while other have layers of collage. The variety of the media used adds so much dimension to the book, the stone seen in different ways in an organic way.

Brilliant. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Albert’s Quiet Quest by Isabelle Arsenault

Albert's Quiet Quest by Isabelle Arsenault

Albert’s Quiet Quest by Isabelle Arsenault (9781101917626)

In this second book in the Mile End Kids series, Albert is looking for a quiet place to read. His house is way too noisy, so he heads to the alley behind his house. There he notices a painting of the sea at sunset and imagines he is reading on a quiet beach. But the alley starts to get busier as he sits there. Some children are working on potting a plant. Others begin a badminton game. Another girl asks Albert to watch her doll while she gets her cat. Someone else plays music and kids start to dance. It gets too be way too much for Albert, who slams his book shut and yells at the kids to be quiet. The others sneak away and quietly bring out their own books, finally shushing Albert when he tries to apologize for his outburst.

Told only in speech bubbles in the illustrations, this story is about wanting to find a bit of solitude and quiet. The building of the noise around Albert is done well, layering on top of one another. The ending though is a pleasure and a surprise as the other children get books and read too, with the picture book ending with laughter together.

Arsenault’s illustrations are wonderfully ethereal and unique. Done in a limited color palette, they have a quiet nature to them. She plays nicely with Albert’s imagination taking up double-page spreads and showing all of the children on the beach together. The cacophony takes over the pages, a brilliant show of noise and activity on the page.

Just right for quiet and loud kids alike. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Random House Books for Young Readers.

 

Review: Hum and Swish by Matt Myers

Hum and Swish by Matt Myers

Hum and Swish by Matt Myers (9780823442867)

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.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Oink by David Elliot

Oink by David Elliot

Oink by David Elliot (9781776572144)

In this nearly wordless book, a little pig is getting ready for a nice calm bath all by himself. As he settles into the warm water, the door is opened by a sheep who brings a toy boat and climbs into the bath too. The next to enter is a cow, who asks the sheep if she can join and the sheep agrees. Cow brings a beach ball in, which bounces right off of the pig’s head. Then comes donkey who wears a floaty around his waist and hops into the bath too. The bath is noisy and crowded and not what pig wanted at all! What is a pig to do to find some peace?

The only words in this book are animal noises made by each of the critters. They use punctuation and emphasis to show what tone should be used when they are read aloud. It works very nicely. The book has a wonderful build up of frustration for the pig, as he gets more and more cross visually as the animals enter and the chaos increases. The humor of the solution is wonderfully timed and will have small children in stitches. Perhaps adding a little noise for that when sharing aloud would add to the fun.

A little fart of a book with lots of appeal. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Gecko Press.

3 New Picture Books about Compassion

The Funeral by Matt James

The Funeral by Matt James (9781554989089)

Norma has to go to her great-uncle Frank’s funeral. She has to miss school, and she gets to see her favorite cousin, Ray. But she still practices her sad face in the mirror. Their car joins a line of cars headed to the church. The funeral is long and Norma has to be quiet. Ray has trouble staying still for that long. Finally, the funeral is done. There are sandwiches to eat and then Norma and Ray head outside to play. They play all afternoon until it is time to go home. Norma thinks that her Uncle Frank would have liked his funeral.

James captures going to a funeral as a small child with a poignancy and beauty. Anyone who attended a funeral as a child will see their own memories come to life. Small things like the flags on the cars, playing outside the church, and the graveyard add up to a full day of remembering someone. James’ illustrations are done in acrylic and ink on masonite. They have deep colors and incorporate collage pieces as well. The illustrations open up and soar when the children go outside, the green of the grass taking much of the space on the page. This is a book that celebrates life and honors the perspective of the child. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Old Man by Sarah V

The Old Man by Sarah V., illustrated by Claude K. Dubois, translated by Daniel Hahn (9781776571918)

A little girl wakes up and gets ready for school. Outside, an old man gets up too from where he is sleeping on the ground. He is wet and very cold. He walks to warm himself up. He’s hungry and eats out of a trash can. But he is too tired to continue, so he falls asleep on the ground in a park. The police wake him and ask him to move along. He heads to the shelter for something to eat, but can’t remember his name when he’s asked. He leaves and it begins to rain. He sleeps on the bus but has to leave there too. Then the little girl from the beginning of the book appears and offers the man her sandwich. That evening, he is able to go back to the shelter and this time he remembers his name and gets a hot meal.

The author of this picture book focuses on the power of compassion for those around us. Societal issues are not tackled here, just the pieces of the day of a person experiencing homelessness. They are small but vital, each moment leading to the next and each impacting how the man feels and how well he is able to do. The text is very simple though the book is thicker than most picture books. That allows room for the sepia-toned illustrations that take us on a journey through the man’s day. They are shadowy, chilly and seep under the skin like a shiver. An important book about small acts of kindness. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld (9780735229358)

One day Taylor made a wonderful creation out of blocks. But then everything came crashing down. One animal after another tried to help Taylor feel better. Chicken wanted to talk about it, but Taylor didn’t want to. Bear wanted to shout, but Taylor didn’t feel like it. Elephant wanted to rebuild it exactly the way it was, but Taylor didn’t feel like remembering. Others came one after another, but nothing worked. Taylor was alone until Rabbit came in, moved closer and just sat there right next to Taylor. The rabbit just listened and Taylor talked, shouted, remembered and much more. Then Taylor was ready to create something even better.

Doerrfeld has skillfully created a picture book that looks at anger and disappointment, at the process of working through big emotions and the importance of taking things at your own pace and speed. I appreciate that Taylor eventually is ready to talk, be angry and much more. This is not about bottling up emotions but about listening, supporting and moving forward in your own way. Using animals as the emotional reactions was a smart move, with the frowning bear and chattering chicken. The rabbit immediately changes the tone and feel of the book, mirroring what he is doing for Taylor as well.

An intelligent look at big emotions and how best to deal with them and support one another, this picture book is exceptional. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

 

10 Great Picture Books on Quietness

There is something powerful about quiet and silence. It’s another important thing for children to learn, that silence is not frightening but offers space to think and dream. May you find time today for your own quiet time.

Before Morning An Egg Is Quiet

Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes

 

An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long.

Leave Me Alone May the Stars Drip Down

Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol

May the Stars Drip Down by Jeremy Chatelain, illustrated by Nikki McClure

The Night World The Quiet Book

The Night World by Mordicai Gerstein

The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Liwska

The Sound of Silence Tiptoe Tapirs

The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito, illustrated by Julia Kuo

Tiptoe Tapirs by Hanmin Kim

Waiting  The White Cat and the Monk: A Retelling of the Poem “Pangur Bán”

Waiting by Kevin Henkes

The White Cat and the Monk by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Sydney Smith

 

Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol

leave-me-alone-by-vera-brosgol

Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol (InfoSoup)

A grandmother is all set to start knitting for her very big family, but they just keep on interrupting her. The children love to play with her balls of yarn and she can’t seem to find a quiet place to work. So she packs up her knitting things and heads out the door, shouting “Leave me alone!” She finds a quiet place in the woods to knit, but soon she catches the interest of some hungry bears. She again has to pack up and leave, shouting “Leave me alone!” It doesn’t get any better when she climbs a mountain and finds a cave to work in. The mountain goats find her yarn delicious and even eat her scarf too. So the grandmother climbs up the mountain and onto the moon. Even there, the aliens won’t leave her alone. Where can one grumpy grandma go to knit? You will be surprised by the answer!

I applaud a picture book willing to take something that has a traditional folklore theme hearkening back to The Old Woman in the Shoe and then twists it into a modern and wild picture book that you never ever realized was even headed your way. It’s an impressive shift that happens in the story, leading back ultimately to an ended that restores the folkloric tradition but along the way takes it in a scientific and funny direction. Children will love the twist, adults will enjoy the surprise making this a great book to share aloud.

Brosgol’s illustrations are a hoot. With every new area that the grandmother attempts to quietly knit in, it seems like the perfect choice at first. Then slowly and with great pacing, the interruptions appear and then devolve into wild abandon. There are very clever moments in the illustrations: a goat perched on the mountain of yarn, the hungry bear who doesn’t scare the grandmother a whit, and the goat that wanders up to the moon too.

An outstanding read aloud with a very surprising twist, this picture book is a great example of mixing folklore and science. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Winter Is Coming by Tony Johnston

winter is coming

Winter Is Coming by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim LaMarche

A stunningly gorgeous picture book about the changing seasons, this is a perfect way to welcome winter even when you don’t want it to arrive.  The book begins on a cold day in September with a girl out in nature watching the animals.  She has along her drawing pad and climbs into a tree house to see even better.  From that platform, she sees a red fox stealing the last wrinkled fall apple from a low branch.  A mother bear and her cub are also in the woods searching for food.  As fall progresses, she sees different animals: a family of skunks, rabbits, woodpeckers, a lynx, chipmunks, deer and geese.  All are preparing for the approaching winter in their own way.  As winter gets closer, the animals stop appearing until the day the snow arrives when the red fox is out to see it too.

Johnston has created a book that truly shows children what it is like to be surrounded by the wonder of nature during one changing season.  Her poetry sparks on the page, showing not only the different animals but also explaining what is beautiful and special about each one.  Even more mundane animals like the chipmunks get this honor.  Young readers will be inspired to get outside and sit still and just watch.

The art from LaMarche is stunning.  He takes advantage of the length of the pages and creates wide landscapes that embrace the changing colors of the seasons.  They turn from the bright yellows of early fall to the deeper reds and browns and then to the chill grays of winter.  He uses light beautifully throughout and various perspectives that all center around one tree and one girl.  It is extraordinary.

Perfect pick for just this time of year, get your hands on this beautiful picture book and then be ready for adventures outside, hopefully with your own pen and paper along.  Appropriate for ages 4-8. 

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Review: The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood

christmas quiet book

The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Liwska

The duo who created The Quiet Book and The Loud Book have returned with a holiday version.  This simple picture book follows the same format as the earlier books, celebrating the small moments of the day that are quiet.  Here they are all Christmas themed with quiet moments like “Star on top quiet” and “Luminaria quiet” and “Listening for sleigh bells quiet.” 

As always, Liwska’s illustrations add a softness and warmth to the book that entirely suits the theme.  Her rabbits, owls and bears are all huggably fuzzy.  Their expressions are perfect for each of the moments, from the shock of a broken ornament to the bliss of gliding on ice to the horror of the mistletoe. 

A wonderful Christmas read for the entire family, this celebrates all of those moments between the hustle and bustle of the holiday.  It will get all of you thinking about your own Christmas quiet times.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.