And now for something completely different! All three of us are – or have been – involved with preschool storytimes and reading informally to kids, and we definitely appreciate the storytelling in words and illustrations of picture books. So here are several recent (and upcoming) works that have delighted us!
Title: Musk Ox Counts
Author: Erin Cabatingan, illus. by Matthew Myers
Publisher & Release Date: Roaring Brook Press, September 2013
The Lowdown (from the back): 1 rowdy musk ox + 1 annoyed zebra = 1 awesome counting book!
Overall Impressions: Not your usual counting book, this will be a total hit with kids who are into Mo Willems and Bob Shea. Musk Ox and Zebra argue their way 1 through 10, Musk Ox skipping 7 simply to annoy the zebra and using questionable math to justify his presence in the other pages. There’s a lot of details hidden in the pages, which are fun to find, and the expressions on the animals’ faces are hilarious.
Title: The Snatchabook
Author: Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty
Publisher & Release Date: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, October 2013
The Lowdown (from galley jacket): “In every house, in every bed, a bedtime book was being read. But then, one night, all the animals’ bedtime storybooks start disappearing. Is there a book thief? Who could it be? One brave little bunny sets out to solve the mystery.”
Overall Impressions: A delightful story to read aloud! Eliza Brown is determined to figure out what happened to everyone’s books and comes up with a clever plan. She does get scared but faces her fears because what she’s doing is important. The Snatchabook? Actually quite adorable and wanting some bedtime stories for himself! Eliza comes up with a solution that has a happy ending for everyone. The warmly charming illustrations are a perfect match for the rhyming story.
Title: Don’t Push the Button!
Author: Bill Cotter
Publisher & Release Date: Sourcebook Jabberwocky, November 2013
The Lowdown (From galley jacket): “There’s only one rule in Larry’s book: don’t push the button. (Seriously, don’t even think about it!) Even if it does look kind of nice, you must never push the button. Who knows what would happen? Okay, quick. No one is looking…push the button. Uh, oh.”
Overall Impressions: A simple, fun and playful interactive story. What child wouldn’t want to push the button?
Title: Dream Boats
Author: Dan Bar-El, illus. by Kristi Anne Wakelin
Publisher & Release Date: Simply Read Books, September 2013
The Lowdown (from the book): “I don’t have naps. I have adventures. I don’t sleep in a bed. I ride a Dream Boat.”
Overall Impressions: The artwork on this is stunning. Gorgeous artwork is paired with lyrical snapshots of children’s dreams and lives from across the globe. A perfect example of why picture books are not just for babies – I would hand this as easily to an adult or a kindergartener, and anywhere in between. Kids interested in mythology or other cultures will be especially interested, but the poetry would be soothing for a younger child’s bedtime, as well.
Title: Dinosaur Kisses
Author: David Ezra Stein
Publisher & Release Date: Candlewick, August 2013
The Lowdown (from the jacket): “For newly hatched dinosaur Dinah, the world is an exciting place. There is so much to see and do. She tries this — STOMP! And she tries that — CHOMP! Then she sees a kiss and knows just what she wants to try next. Who can she kiss? And after a few disastrous attempts, can she figure out how to give someone a kiss without whomping, chomping, or stomping them first?”
Overall Impressions: Emily and Julie loved this book – it’s perfect for the exuberance of toddlers and preschools and a hoot for adult readers. Uncluttered, friendly artwork and the simple, humorous text make it a winner for multiple re-reads. Dinah’s facial expressions capture the gleeful naughtiness of toddlerhood perfectly, and there are some great surprises that will evoke howls of laughter from little ones.
Author: Aaron Becker
Publisher & Release Date: Candlewick, August 2013
The Lowdown (from the jacket): “A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure, and danger abound. Red marker in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey toward an uncertain destiny. When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also lead her home and to her heart’s desire?”
Overall Impressions: An absolutely gorgeous wordless book. I think of it as a beautiful homage to the classic Harold and the Purple Crayon – there’s even a boy with a purple crayon at the beginning! The illustrations are a lush dream and the girl’s travels an exciting adventure with some worrisome but never too scary moments. Excellent for all ages.
Title: Hank Finds an Egg
Author: Rebecca Dudley
Publisher & Release Date: Peter Pauper Press, June 2013
The Lowdown (from the jacket): “While walking through the woods, Hank finds an egg all alone on the forest floor. Spotting its home high up in a tree, Hank diligently tries to return the egg to its nest, but is met with failure each time. After keeping the egg warm overnight, he returns to the scene the next morning. To his surprise, he is met by another forest creature. Will they find a way together to see the egg safely home?”
Overall Impressions: Sweet, charming and earnest! Hank’s a lovable little bear and he takes such careful care of the egg he finds. This is another wordless book, and the pictures are excellent for having children tell adults the story – especially the different ways Hank will try to return the egg to the nest and if they think he’ll succeed. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also tell you the art is amazing – Rebecca Dudley handcrafted each part of the miniature scenes and then photographed them.
Title: The Dark
Author: Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Publisher & Release Date: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, April 2013
The Lowdown (from Goodreads): “Laszlo is afraid of the dark. The dark is not afraid of Laszlo.
Laszlo lives in a house. The dark lives in the basement.
One night, the dark comes upstairs to Laszlo’s room, and Laszlo goes down to the basement.
This is the story of how Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark.”
Overall Impressions: It should come as a surprise to no one that when Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen came together to create a book called “The Dark”, the results would be a bit, well, dark. Illustrated in dark, muted tones and written in stark, declarative sentences, this book starts out creepy. Really creepy. As in, “this is a book for kindergarteners that might give ME nightmares” creepy. However, the story resolves itself into something infinitely reassuring, with a strong message about the importance of facing our fears.
Title: Warning: Do Not Open This Book!
Author: Adam Lehrhaupt, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
Publisher & Release Date: Simon and Schuster, August 2013
The Lowdown (from jacket): “CAUTION! This book contains monkeys, toucans, and a whole lot of silliness. You really shouldn’t be opening this book.
Just put it back on the shelf.
You’re still reading this?
Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you…”
Overall Impressions: This is another great interactive read for toddlers and preschoolers. As you turn the pages, you’ll release hordes of monkeys, toucans and other perils. It falls on you, the reader, to trap the animals on the back page. You’d be hard pressed to find a 2 to 4-year-old who doesn’t get a kick out of this type of book, and this one is a lot of fun. My favorite part? The monkey with a ukelele strapped to his back. Squee!!
Title: Romping Monsters, Stomping Monsters
Author: Jane Yolen, illus. by Kelly Murphy
Publisher & Release Date: Candlewick Press, July 2013
The Lowdown (from Amazon): Welcome to a playground teeming with monsters, bristling with energy, and scaring up ways to have fun! Monsters swing and slide and piggyback ride. Monsters run three-legged races and fall on their faces… In this high-octane sequel to Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters, wild and whimsical artwork revs up a read-aloud text that will have little listeners jumping up to join the action.
Overall Impressions: Short catchy rhymes and fun illustrations make this perfect for storytime, or a restless toddler. Warm and creative examples of all sorts of monsters playing fill each page, and kids will find they have a lot in common with these little monsters – from playing to settling a fight.