Well, I read a hundred new picture books yesterday. I do that sometimes, just chew through a teetering stack of new ones. There's no time - no time! to write reviews, so here are my snappety-snap judgements and random associations. Aren't you glad I'm not on the Caldecott Committee like our friend Travis? Those guys probably have to get all reasoned and articulate, instead of, like, holding up a book in front of my colleagues and going, "Look! Ha ha!"
Mr. Zinger's Hat by Cary Fagan and Dusan Petričić
For example! Here's one that I pushed across the lunchroom table to my friend Anna and went, "Look! MMMMmmm, huh? And the story is in the hat? And the art shows the process of the idea becoming more fleshed-out?" Anna liked it too. I added it to my Picture Books for Middle Grade list, subsection Books to Read Aloud Before a Story Workshop.
Kate and Nate Are Running Late! by Kate Egan and Dan Yaccarino
I like this one very much, but you know who's going to LOOOVE it? Parents who like rhyming picture books to read aloud. Me myself, I get so irritated by rhymes that don't work that it has almost spoiled my appreciation of rhyme even when it does work. As it does here. Except for mayyybe in one little place.
I like the family - single mom, two kids, pets. And I like that the little boy has to wake the mom up. Sometimes those little boys just JET out of bed - I have one of those. And I'm willing to bet that Dan Yaccarino is getting more and more attention as an award contender. His visually appealing, excitingly chunky shapes and strong colors convey an unexpected amount of movement and nuance. Looking forward to Doug Unplugged next month.
Unspoken: A Story From the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole
Finally got around to reading this wordless Underground Railroad picture book. That's a lot of pencil right there, yup. I get it. I would give it. This is a great 'put-yourself-in-her-shoes' book.
Black Dog by Levi Pinfold
I cannot think of this book without hearing Led Zeppelin in my head. Appropriate, actually, because if this book were an album, you'd be sitting on the floor of your bedroom with headphones on, scrutinizing every inch of the record cover and the inner sleeve. I.e., it is trippy and full of detail and internal references and repeated elements. (Also, I am that old.) Levi Pinfold is not for everybody maybe - the art is unconventional enough that some kids are going to find it "weird." Less Zeppelin II and more Presence.
Glamorous Glasses by Barbara Newman
This could be considered a "problem book," a book that you get for a kid when she finds out she has to get glasses. But I like it for everyday - it has enough style and humor to stand on its own regardless of its bibliotherapeutic uses. I especially like that the little girls are "best cousins."
Flabbersmashed About You by Rachel Vail and Yumi Heo
Yumi Heo and Rachel Vail? Yeah, they're the go-to girls for books about Strong Feelings Experienced by Small Children Who Do Not Yet have the vocabulary to (I got tired of the caps) express them. And I think I like this one best - it's about a little girl whose best friend wants to play with someone else at recess one day, and how mad she gets. Given that Rachel Vail's books always deal with articulation of feelings, this one is particularly good at mimicking that gibberish that goes through a kid's mind when he or she is absolutely enraged.
The Monsters' Monster by Patrick McDonnell
Genius. The amount of expression Patrick McDonnell can pack into each tiny flick of the brush - and the fact that he writes stories and characters that deserve all that artistic skill - means that his books are on the automatic to-read list. I love the giant Frankenstein's manners - to Mr. McDonnell I say "Dank you."
The Granddaughter Necklace by Sharon Dennis Wyeth and Bagram Ibatoulline
Bagram Ibatoulline is marvelously talented. His paintings in books like The Serpent Came to Gloucester, Russell Freeman's Marco Polo, and Crow Call show a mastery of technique and a sensitivity to subject that has got to provoke envy in other artists. But the cover of this book - and it's not because I've been watching American Horror Story - makes it look like that little girl is never going to make it to church. The over-the-shoulder angle mimics classic victim POV, plus the exposed neck, the detached tilt to the grandma's head - nope. That necklace is going to be remanded into evidence by the end of the day.
Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier and Suzy Lee
Let's close with a masterpiece. Simple, simple in concept - delightful in execution. We open a little red book to find a ladybug reading a green book. A littler... wait is there a trailer? Let me look. It's going to be tedious to describe but easy to show. Tsk. No trailer. Come on Chronicle, usually you guys are so good at supporting your masterpieces.
SO ANYHOO. Ever-smaller books are nested inside, revealing ever-larger creatures reading about each other, until in the middle, Giant can't even open her tiny book. So all the other critters read TO her, and then we say goodbye to them as we close the books, which are now increasing in size. The last page... OMG Jules has it, of course she does. Click through to 7-Imp to see more more more Suzy Lee artwork, the original concept rough for the book (executed by Jesse Klausmeier when she was FIVE), and bonus Adam Rex sketches. (Jules loves Adam just as much as I do.)
Don't you want that as a poster in your library? In your kid's room? The little boy in the foreground is reading Suzy Lee's Wave, one of my favorite-ever wordless books.
So Travis - and the other members of the 2014 Caldecott Committee - I envy the time you're going to spend with picture books this year, if this first month is any indication. Open ALLL the little books!