In the past I’ve enjoyed David Elliott’s books of short poems for young children (On the Farm, In the Wild, and In the Sea) illustrated by Holly Meade. In his newest book, On the Wing, his poems are illustrated by first-time picture book artist, Becca Stadtlander. Here, the 16 poems included are all about different kinds of birds such as the bald eagle, the hummingbird, the Caribbean flamingo, the Australian pelican, and the great horned owl. In free verse the avian-inspired poems are short and sweet and meant to be read aloud. Take the concise poem entitled, “The Puffin.” “The puffin/is unique–especially/it’s beak.” Or how about “The Macaw” verse: “The Macaw/Who spilled the paint?” I can just hear kids laughing at that one when they see the colorful gouache illustration of this particular bird. All of the pictures are a double-spread design and the print is large for young readers to read on their own. The artwork for the cardinal poem and the Japanese cranes poem are particularly lovely. Introducing preschoolers and primary grade children to brief poems helps them with language development and sparks their imagination. Books like On the Wing make a perfect introduction to poetry beyond nursery rhymes. Check out all of David Elliott’s neat picture books of verse and have fun sharing them with little ones. You can find this book on the New Book shelves in the Children’s Room of the Iowa City Public Library.
I got some big hugging energy this week at my outreach visits. I was greeted with hugs–lots of hugs! Those cute little hug machines! This is a picture book with some big hugging energy. I’d say it’s perfect for any time of the year, and double the fun around Valentine’s Day.
Hug Machine by Scott Campbell is about a little boy who is very good at hugging: “No one can resist my unbelievable hugging. I’m the Hug Machine!” He hugs people to calm them down and cheer them up. His hugs make the biggest feel small and smallest feel big. He even takes on extra special challenges like hugging a spiky porcupine and the too-big whale who says, “Surely I am too big for you to hug,” to which Hug Machine says, “Of course not! Not for the Hug Machine!” After a brief fueling of pizza, the hug machine is at it again and ready for more hugging action.
By the end of the day the boy is exhausted from all of the hugging, and can hug no more. But, he does have hugs for a special person in his life…Mom. It turns out Hug Machine is always open for business.
I love the illustrations in this book. They are gentle and sweet. I’ll bet after you read this book before bedtime your little ones will walk around with arms stretched out saying, “I’m the Hug Machine!”
I love hats! I started wearing hats in my 20′s when I was in college. I’m not talking about knitted wool hats, I’m talking fancy straw and felt hats that I would wear to complete my outfit. I still wear hats and am almost ashamed to admit that I have nearly 200 hats that are in boxes carefully organized and labeled so I can find just the one I want to wear to church on Sunday mornings. I love wearing hats to tea parties and I always take a couple of packable hats when I travel to give me flexibility to dress up an outfit.
As a children’s librarian, one of the best things about my job is doing storytimes for preschoolers, whether in the library or at one of our 40+ day cares and preschools we visit regularly. I always have a theme and hats has been a favorite storytime subject; kids love the hats I bring for show and tell.
A fairly new picture book that I was happy to discover is right up my alley. Happy Birthday Madam Chapeau by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts is one that I can’t wait to read aloud to 3-6 year-olds. The rhyming text tells of a milliner who makes all kinds of fabulous hats but is lonely. Once a year she dresses up and puts on a special hat and treats herself to dinner at the finest Parisian restaurant to celebrate her birthday. This year, as she’s walking to town to dine, a crow steals her birthday bonnet! Many onlookers offer her their hat to wear but she declines each one until a little girl offers Madame Chapeau a hat she has knitted. The illustrations are quite humorous and extend the text very nicely; David Roberts was a former milliner before illustrating children’s books and his knowledge of one-of-a-kind designer hats is evident. There is plenty for children to discover in the pictures that celebrate the joy of ribbons, baubles, bows, and veils. Have fun sharing this one!
A new picture book biography by Patricia MacLachlan is special in every way. The reviews have been great and it’s no wonder. The text is spare and suitable for K-3. I love how the author has made a book about a famous artist accessible for young children. The book begins, “If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary town in northern France where the skies were gray and the days were cold and you wanted color and light and sun….” We learn how he added vivid color to his surroundings and noticed with an artist’s eye the lovely things around him. Encouraged by his beloved mother, Henri learned to observe color, light, texture, and beauty. He loved the china plates his mother painted, the bright red rugs she hung on the walls, the fruit and flowers his mother brought home for him to arrange on the table, and the beautiful silk clothes the townspeople wore. Henri especially loved raising pigeons and observing how the sun made their feathers look iridescent in the light creating a shimmering effect. MacLachlan says it is no surprise that Matisse grew up to be a fine painter. The seed was planted in his youngest years when his mother gave him a set of paints to mix and notice the wonderful colors he could make on paper. The artwork in The Iridescence of Birds is by Hadley Hooper. After much research she decided to use relief printing. Hooper cut the characters and backgrounds out of stiff foam and cardboard, inked them up, made the prints, and then scanned them into Photoshop. The results are fabulous!
In his old age, Matisse turned to paper collage and cutting with scissors became his mode of expression. Another terrific picture book about his life is entitled, Henri’s Scissors, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter. She focuses on the artist’s later years when he was confined to a bed and a wheelchair. Here Matisse is depicted using colored paper and scissors and employing his vivid imagination to create artwork that his assistants put up on the walls of his seaside cottage. “A pair of scissors is a wonderful instrument,” says Matisse. He wonders why he never thought of using the technique of paper cutting for his designs earlier. In this book the pictures Winter creates are done in acrylics and cut paper.
Both books would pair nicely together and art teachers will find these titles useful in their classrooms. Parents will enjoy sharing them with their young children to foster their own creativity….and maybe give them a set of paints after reading the books together! Both books also include author’s notes with further information about Henri Matisse and suggestions for reading.
Moments ago I finished reading Pennyroyal Academy by M. A. Larson. I’ve been reading it on the bus, before bed, while I cook, and even on my walk home. It has been my constant companion since I first became enthralled by the girl with no name and her encounter with a witch and enchanted forest. After running into Remington, a knight-to-be, she soon finds her way to Pennyroyal Academy, where Princesses of the Shield are trained to fight witches. Here anyone can become a princess, if only they train hard enough and learn well enough. Given a diagnosis of suffering from a memory curse, the girl is also give a name, Cadet Eleven or Evie for short. With only a dragon scale and clothes of cobwebs as hints to her past, she feels a bit out of place. However, she soon befriends other outcast girls, though she does have trouble with a sour princess-in-training, aptly named Malora. Learning the history of princesses, navigating warrior training with a Fairy Drillsergeant, and even sewing lessons with the master tailor troll offer challenges Evie must find the strength to overcome. Twists and turns throughout the story left me guessing (and sometimes peeking to the last chapter). By discovering the truth of her memories and family, Evie is finally free to be herself. A slight undercurrent of romance between Evie and Remington satisfies without overpowering the main story of a girl deciding for herself who she is and what she wants to be. Cheeky nods to classic fairy tales round out this world of witches, princesses, dragons and knights. Pick up this story of self-discovery and adventure for a dose of princess power.
Fantasy dynamos Shannon and Dean Hale have done it again, this time for the younger crowd. Their most recent book, The Princess in Black, is the first installment in what is sure to be a beloved series. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham this early chapter book is loaded with high impact, full color illustrations that play beautifully with the delightful text.
Not only is she the quintessential pink wearing, tea sipping, delicate and dainty princess but Magnolia has a monster fighting, black wearing, day-saving alter ego–the Princess in Black. Even her horse, Frimplepants, is a unicorn by day and faithful crime fighting steed by tea time. Children and adults alike will get a kick out of the tongue in cheek humor, appreciate the bending of traditional gender mores and will love the way Magnolia shows us all that we can be whomever we choose.
On Monday, February 2, the American Library Association (ALA) announced the 2015 Newbery and Caldecott award winners. These books have won the most prestigious prizes in children’s literature.
John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander–Twin brothers Josh and Jordan are basketball stars and great friends, until a girl gets in the way. A middle grade story of brotherhood and basketball told in a variety of poetic styles.
Newbery Honor Books: El Deafo by Cece Bell and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children: The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, written and illustrated by Dan Santat–An imaginary friend sets out on a journey to find a real child to befriend.
Caldecott Honor Books: Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo, The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock and Mary GrandPre, Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet, and This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki.
For other award winners, see the full list.
Sam and Dave have dug a hole in my mind. At the risk of sounding like a heretic in the realm of children’s librarians, I’ll admit that I’ve not been a fan of Jon Klassen’s hat books. Grim humor is just not my thing. So with reluctance, and only after hearing all the buzz, I decided I did need to read Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. And my first reaction was bewilderment—“What happened there?” So I read it again. And again. And yet again. And then looked at the illustrations. And then looked at them some more. I shared it with my teenage daughter, who shared it with her friends. (“Freaky!” was their verdict, which was a compliment.) And somehow, it has grown on me. I still don’t really understand it. Neither does anyone else, I’ve learned. There are many theories about what it really means. But what did the dynamic duo of Barnett intend for it to mean? And will we ever find out where Sam and Dave really are? The ending is unnerving, and I keep turning it over in my mind. The spare text, subdued illustrations, and determined characters remind me a bit of The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson, though a bit grimmer. (Still, The Carrot Seed family is a bit harsh, too, don’t you think?) Will Sam and Dave achieve the same classic status? If you haven’t read it yet, get your hands on Sam and Dave Dig a Hole. And please…explain it to me!
P.S. Check out Barnett and Klassen’s other collaboration Extra Yarn, which I love. It’s sweetly satisfying and will always remind me of Iowa City’s Tree Huggers!
I’m a dog person, so naturally if I see a new dog picture book on the shelf I grab it. All of us in the Children’s Room will agree that a dog storytime is always a hit!
In 2014, there were lots of picture books about dogs published and so many of them are funny, clever and of course, cute!
Maggi is an adventurer and a pretty good songwriter. Her border collie, Milo, is her best friend. Maggi gets a package from her grandma with all the necessities for a frog hunt, boots, and a book about frogs. Why frogs? A quick look at her bedroom reveals a fascination with frogs, including frog drawings, slippers, etc.
“I’m a frog hunter and he is Milo!” she announces, and together they wander off to the pond. After waiting a “million minutes” for something to happen, she’s bored! Milo wanders off. A panicked search for Milo in the muck reveals Milo has found a frog! Milo finds even more frogs and at the end of the day,”Side by side, they sat on the edge of the world, just listening to the frogs say good night.”
Here are a few more doggie books to enjoy:
This Book Just Ate My Dog! By Richard Byrne
“When her dog disappears into the gutter of the book, Bella calls for help. But when the helpers disappear too, Bella realizes it will take more than a tug on the leash to put things right.”
Gaston words by Kelly DiPucchio; pictures by Christian Robinson
A proper bulldog raised in a poodle family and a tough poodle raised in a bulldog family meet one day in the park.
Time for Bed, Fred by Yassmeen Ismail.
A child has a very difficult time getting Fred, the dog, to bed.
Eddie and the Dog by Alison Brown
Eddie longs for a friend who likes adventure and finds the perfect match in Dog.