Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston. Candlewick Press, 2016
Sparse, lyrical text follows the ‘child of books’ and the young friend she asks to come away with her on a journey spurred by stories. The words show them the way, figuratively and quite literally. Winston’s typographical illustrations, comprised of text from classic stories and a few songs, are shaped into pathways, mountains of make believe and forests of fairy tales. There is also a fabulous page where the characters escape a monster by climbing from a turret on a rope made of a string of words from Rapunzel. The depth of this picture book is discovered upon rereading and may be lost on the youngest readers, yet their attention will still be held by the varied and clever illustrations. A Child of Books is an invitation into creativity and imagination. It is another picture book ‘win’ for Jeffers, who might just be my favourite picture book author.
Karen Beaumont, author; David Catrow, Illustrator. Harcourt, 2005
I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More is everything a picture book should be. It’s irresistible. I was once told the following formula for making a near sure-fire winner picture book: if you can sing it, it’s a keeper. My girls and I have found ourselves humming “I ain’t gonna paint no more no more, I ain’t gonna paint no more,” to the tune of, “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More” all week. It’s very catchy. The concept of this picture book is simple and universal. A child’s paintbrush finds its way to the walls, ceiling, curtains . . . you get the picture. His mom gets mad (rightfully so) and puts the paints out of reach. But there ain’t no way that this child ain’t gonna paint no more, so he gets the paints down and continues creating–this time on his body. The rhyming text allows readers to guess where the child will paint next, culminating to an adorably clever ending. The lighthearted story is coupled with subtly hilarious illustrations (check out the dog!) that are bright and paint spattered in all the right places. I try to moderate my book-buying, but this is one picture book that I will be stocking in my home library very soon.
F. Isabel Campoy and Teresa Howell, authors; Rafael López, illustrator. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
Books with the theme of making the world a more beautiful place do not grow old, especially when based on a true story. Maybe Something Beautiful is a picture book illustrated by the muralist who, with his graphic designer wife, led the transformation of the once grey East Village near downtown San Diego, California, into a neighbourhood of colour. In real life as in this book, the muralist did not work alone. The whole neighborhood, from children to policemen, teachers and mothers were handed paintbrushes. In addition to art, music, dancing, joy and a sense of community filled the streets. Then the muralist, almost like a magician, “pulled everything together in big, sweeping motions.” The San Diego project led to a movement of community-based art, transforming not only public spaces but hearts and minds throughout the world into places of loveliness. Definitely something beautiful.
Music is for Everyone (Jill Barber, author. Sydney Smith, illustrator. Nimbus Publishing Ltd., 2014).
Although most of us often listen to a few favourite genres, this picture book highlights a variety of different music styles. If its goal is to inspire readers to seek out new types of music for themselves and their families, it succeeded with me! It also reminds the reader that music is as accessible as the quiet tune inside our own heads. This book isn’t only educational; parents and children will laugh out loud as they try to scat. A few pages later, the illustration of a young girl, mouth wide open singing operetta-style, continues to inspire my 3 year-old to belt out a high note of her own. The illustrations are packed with detail, emotion, and action. Juno-nominated jazz musician Jill Barber authored this book and the illustrator and publisher are Canadian, as well. Well done, team Canada! This book is North American-centred; I would love to see a sequel inspired by international styles of music.
Harold and the Purple Crayon (Crockett Johnson, Harper Collins Publishers, 1955)
This is a gem of a picture book! My daughters and I were surprised and delighted by young Harold, who makes his own adventures by drawing them (of course). Particularly humorous is when Harold backs away from a frightening dragon, his crayon shaking in his hand behind him and creating, unbeknownst to him, a wavy ocean. Before Harold realises it, he is in over his head! But since he managed to hold onto his purple crayon, Harold saves himself by drawing a boat. In the final pages, the play on words is irresistible – Harold draws up his covers, drops the purple crayon on the floor, then drops off to sleep. Don’t let the publication date deter you – the fact that this picture book inspired a book series and adaptations for stage, television and beyond, should be enough to convince you to seek it out.