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.
Never Follow A Dinosaur (Alex Latimer, Peachtree, 2016)
Children love following animal tracks in the snow or mud. With each step further mystery unfolds as to who the footprints could belong to, why their pattern has changed and why they have suddenly disappeared. Joe and Sally have a lot of questions, but also answers. They are convinced that the footprints they’re tracking belong to a hungry, heavy, swimming, dancing dinosaur with a headache and sore foot, which also has wings! They set a trap to catch it, and are successful. But as their Mom reminded them, “You should never follow a dinosaur. Especially a hungry one!” Joe and Sally manage to escape the dinosaur’s dinner plate and a happy ending ensues in this picture book that is big on imagination and pushes the boundaries of silliness. Alex Latimer is the author-illustrator of a number of picture books; another favourite in my house is Lion vs. Rabbit.
I almost didn’t blog about these books because I am intimidated to try to capture their magic and message in a few hundred words. These books are a visual marvel. Although there are no words-not a one-this trilogy tells a story that is exciting and emotionally charged.
A bored child of a busy family uses a coloured crayon to draw a door and enter into a new world. At the end of her heroic adventures to save the purple bird from the evil soldiers in Journey, she meets a boy with an equally powerful purple crayon. In Quest, they achieve their mission to find the other four magical crayons and return them to the king. Return completes the trilogy’s emotional story as the distracted father realises his folly and follows his daughter into her secret world. Initially she is angry with him but he eventually saves the purple bird and the kingdom from the villains. All is forgiven.
There are many fine details sketched into each and every page. In an interview, Becker shared that he moved to Europe for a number of months so that he could become a better drawer; the intricate land of castles and kingdoms that the reader is transported to demonstrates the success of his experiment. The palette’s change from sepia tones to brilliant colours as the crayons are found and their powers unleashed adds a layer of visual interest. These books could be poured over for hours by children and adults. It’s no wonder that Journey received a Caldecott honour in 2014.
I was sorting through the pile of books on our coffee table this morning trying to figure out which ones could go back to the library. Before I take them back I try to read the ones that I didn’t get my fill of during the last few weeks. Jane Yolen’s Stone Angel almost leapt into my hands. I opened the cover and started reading. Ahh, it’s Remembrance Day today, that’s why this book jumped out of the pile.
I cannot get through this book without crying–the flight of this Jewish family of four from Paris, into the French woods, over the mountains to Spain and finally to England is unimaginable for me, particularly as a mother. The story is told through the eyes of a young girl who believes in angels. After tearing the Star of David off of her coat, she even keeps it in her pocket so the angels will know her. Her beliefs in angels are bolstered when she returns home to find the massive statue of a stone angel still guarding her Parisian neighbourhood. Stone Angel is a poignant and hopeful story that would complement any Remembrance Day or World War II history discussion.
Black Dog (Levi Pinfold. Templar Books, 2011)
This picture book was a perfect read at my house this week, as my daughters received vaccinations. In both families–the one in the book and my own, it is the youngest member that faces, without hesitation, the thing that the rest of the family is terrified of. My eldest daughter started crying about getting a needle the night before (I let it slip that we had an appointment the next day–dang!). By the time she was at the doctor’s office, the needle had grown, in her mind, to ten times the size. In Black Dog, Small Hope steps outside to confront the dog that her father cried was the size of a tiger, her mother the size of an elephant, her sister a T-rex and her brother a Big Jeffy (whatever that is). Small Hope’s complete lack of fear talks the dog back down to size, which she then shows to her family, who is barricaded behind a table and armed with kitchen utensils. The exquisitely detailed sepia drawings contrast with the blackness of the dog, which Pinfold draws fantastically. Prepare yourself for the spread that takes you nose to nose with the canine. Although the picture book closes with a message that may be a bit too well articulated, I cannot think of a better way to tell the story of confronting, and conquering, fears.
Beyond the Pond (Joseph Kuefler, Harper Collins, 2015)
Beyond the Pond is a magical tribute to the power of imagination. Ernest D. is bored. He decides to dive into the pond in his backyard, which is conveniently bottomless. He swims down deep to discover an amazing world, then comes out on the other side to find a land filled with things that frighten and wow him. When he returns home, his own yard seems much more interesting. The illustrations show that Ernest D. now sees the extraordinary in the ordinary and realises that there are many discoveries to be had on his own side of the pond. Ernest’s dog accompanies him on his adventure which adds to this book’s charm. This picture book is the first for Joseph Kuefler and has received a number of starred reviews. Lovely, lovely, lovely!