If by David J. Smith

The world is so big, I can understand my son not understanding some concepts. I tried to explain the amount of snow that recently covered Buffalo, New York, and he just shook his head. How can he possibly understand the distance to the moon? The extent of the universe?

If by David J. Smith and illustrated by Steve Adams (Kids Can Press, August 2014) is a nonfiction picture book that tries to give kids perspective. By comparing huge concepts to concepts that a child understands, the author makes the things that we cannot quite comprehend a little bit more real. Continue Reading

Picture Book Sunday: Herve Tullet, Peas, and An Oak Tree Grows

It’s so much fun to read picture books with my toddler. She simply loves reading, and although here books of choice often revolve around The Berenstain Bears and Clifford or Dora (none of which I enjoy all that much), sometimes I can get in some great books that I love too. Here are the ones we’ve been reading lately.

Help! We Need a Title! by Herve Tullet (Candlewick Press, 2014) is the newest book by the clever interactive book author of Press Here! My toddler daughter loves this book, and I must admit it has a certain charm, although it’s a pain to read aloud! In this book, the main characters (“heroes”) are not complete. The author has not figured out what story to write, and when the book begins, the characters are startled to “see” people reading a book. They call a monster to make it interesting, but they all know that they really and truly need an author in order to make their story into an actual story.

The pictures are created with pen, crayon, pencil, paint, a photo of the author himself, and probably more forms of art that I have not recognized. Most of the pages are truly messy, as a “work in progress” would certainly be. My daughter loves that the main characters talk directly to her, and the unfinished look to the pages throws her off, but I love how it’s an unfinished look: it opens up discussion on the writing and creation process itself!

Little Green Peas: A Big Book of Colors by Keith Baker (Simon and Schuster, 2014) is a follow up to LMNO Peas and 123 Peas, with a new focus on colors. This book is not quite as fun for me as the original alphabet book, but I still really enjoyed it. There is something delightful about illustrated peas having fun! Each page has two or three items mentioned in the given color, followed by the phrase “and little green peas” or a similar variation of the phrase, which shows the little guys enjoying the red leaves and red fence, and so forth. Strawberry loved naming the colors on each page.

As An Oak Tree Grows by G. Brian Karas (Nancy Paulsen, 2014) follows 200 years in the life of a mighty white oak tree. It begins with a small child (living in a wigwam), planting an acorn. Each subsequent page shows the changing world around the oak tree grows larger. The date on the bottom of the page move in 25 years, from 1775 to 2000. I loved seeing the changes from year to year. Although I’m not sure Strawberry understood the message of the changing generations, but it was something Raisin and I could enjoy. I also loved the emphasis at the end, that (spoiler!) although the tree was eventual injured and had to be taken down, there was still hope as a small oak sprouted next to the stump.

We recently had to have a few diseased trees removed from our backyard. Counting the rings of the tree was an encouraging thing as we thought about where on the tree rings we’d moved in this house, and how old the kids were when the tree was it’s various ages. I love the emphasis on history as a part of the tree. The book comes with a poster to illustrate various changing through history according to the tree rings: since I read a library copy, I was unable to see it. It definitely seems like a great book to put in our history and science collection!

What picture books have you discovered lately?

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires


The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires (Kids Can Press, April 2014) is a STEM book. (For those not in the “know,” as I was not until recently, STEM is educational slang for something relating to Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mechanics.) A creative girl heads out to make the “magnificent thing,” but cannot seem to get it right for quite a while. Trial and error, experimentation. She keeps going. It is not easy, and finally she succeeds!

I loved how the author-illustrator included multiple pictures per page. You can see the girl’s growing frustration as she works, creates, and starts anew. I also enjoyed how we could see her creations throughout the story, but we could never quite see what she was making until the very end. Her facial expressions can show the reader (and young STEM workers) that creation takes lots of work, lots of mistakes, and lots of concentration. She had a great idea, but it took quite a while to get to her finished “magnificient thing.”

I see lots of educational value in this book for schools, but I also believe it is a strong, fun story with clever illustrations. Non-readers can still enjoy it by reviewing the pictures. This will be a winner with kids, for sure!

Note: I received a digital copy for review consideration.