As I mentioned the other day, nominations for the Cybils are open! I am a first-round panelist, so that means I get to read all the books (so far, 80 and counting; last year it was more than 200) that get nominated in my category, fiction picture books. If you have a book to nominate, published between October 16, 2011 and October 15, 2012, make sure you submit it before October 15!
Last year, when I reviewed Cybils books, I tried to do it in a topical manner. That is just not going to work for me this year. Nevertheless, my son and I are going to have a blast reading through the books. He and I have been watching the nominations come in and we’re always excited when we see a book we’ve already enjoyed show up on the list! He also has noted a few that, either because the title is so interesting or the cover illustrations is intriguing, he really wants me to get soon so he can read them!
I will plan on posting on whatever books we found in the previous week, and I’m really going to try to post on Cybils at least once a week from now until December! This week has a number of books that we found earlier in the year but didn’t have a chance to post about them at the time we first read them. The quality of the books we’ve read this week bodes well for the rest of this year’s Cybils panel.
The first book my son saw on the list that caught his eye was The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by the ever-wonderful Mo Willems (Hyperion, 2012). He has always loved Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, and this spin-off takes the same spoiled, cranky, impolite pigeon and teaches him a lesson in manners. An adorable large-eyed duckling asks politely for a cookie and is delighted when a cookie appears. Pigeon, of course, feels he has been slighted, and, as often the case with Willems’ pigeon, he has a tantrum of complaints. When Duckling turns the table by sharing the cookie, Pigeon has to re-think his response. The illustrations are typical of Willems’ stories: deceptively simple crayon birds created with just a few lines, and yet they perfectly display emotion: delight, frustration, anger, sadness, sincerity. I like the message in this book: think before you judge, be grateful, be polite. Raisin’s thoughts: Love at first sight.
Wumbers by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle Books, 2012) is a beautifully illustrated tribute to William Steig’s C D B!, a favorite from my own childhood. In C D B!, Steig tells stories only using letters, the title, for example, becoming “See the bee!” Wumbers, then is a new creation, using numbers to create words: ca9 means canine, ba6 means basics, and so forth. As such, it is not a story the follows logical progression but a series of mini-stories of a page or two that create scenes. I love the Lichtenheld illustrations, and the number-words are clever and interesting. It was a chore to read it aloud, however, as one must read ahead and make sure you know what is intended in each phrase before you try to read it. For the older child, however, I suspect the delight of creating “wumbers” will carry over into their own writing as they discover “wumbers” of their own. Raisin’s thoughts: “Is this in Spanish? I can’t read it.” When I read it to him, he didn’t seem engaged and interested, since the pages didn’t relate to each other. He did say he liked it, and he asked me about C D B! (which I told him it was like) so I went off to search for my copy of that.
Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff (Beach Lane Books, 2012) is a different kind of colors book, and one of my favorites this week. It approaches color-learning from a new direction, much like Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? or The Black Book of Colors approach colors from a different perspective. Baby Bear Sees Blue has a gentle story about a bear awaking from his dark cave for the first time. As he experiences things for the first time (the sun, a waving leaf, a sweet smelling strawberry, a fluttering orange butterfly) he sees the colors for the first time. All the while, Baby Bear relies on his mother to help him figure out the new world: the jumping brown fish, the scary gray stormy sky, and ultimately, the sweet beauty of a rainbow after the storm. The illustrations are block printings with hand-colored watercolor. I’m sure they were made with painstaking care and yet the end result is gorgeous, gentle, and deceptively simple. The sweet story, the bright colors, and the careful design make this book an elegant, lovely one for children of all ages. Raisin’s thoughts: “I liked it.”
Stuck by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel Books, 2011) is one silly book. A boy gets his kite stuck in a tree and so he throws his shoe up to knock it loose … which also gets stuck. He tries to think of other things to throw into the tree to get the shoe out, and then of course to get the other items out of the tree. By the end, he has forgotten about the kite when it amazingly is knocked loose. I won’t tell you the hilarious end or the extent of the ridiculousness of Floyd’s day but let me say that my easily distracted five-year-old related to him very well. The front-matter indicates that the art
was created by compositing various scribbles and blotches of pain, made on small pieces of paper, all together inside of my computer.
It’s amazing what computer composite artwork can do, because the confused but crafty mix of paint, crayon, and pencil, mixed together in ordered lines and shapes and scribbles and blotches, created a look just right for silly Floyd. Raisin’s thoughts on finishing the book: “Read it again!”
A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham (Candlewick Press, 2011) is a story of a community coming together over a junkyard bus, a bus labeled “Heaven” and left on the street. Young Stella, a somewhat mysterious girl whom we don’t know much about, adopts the bus and, with the rest of her community, they make the rundown bus into a home-like gathering place with the neighborhood’s used and unmatched dishes, furniture, and so forth. The bus became a place to play table soccer with friends, to sit and chat, and to hear about a neighbor’s vacation. The illustrations emphasize the joyful position of the bus: using both ink and watercolor, the bus becomes bright and colorful, while the rest of the city and the dump where the bus is to be sent is washed out and dull. Raisin even wondered aloud why part of the book was “black and white.” We talked about how the bus brought color into their life in a symbolic way. While I was not fascinated by the story, it was certainly well done. I liked how the seemingly sullen Stella (mostly because she was somewhat “washed out”) was the star of the story, from her influence in the neighborhood at the beginning to the rescuing of the bus from the junkyard. Raisin’s thoughts: We found this book months ago, and when he saw it on the Cybils list, he was excited to find it again and revisit it. He enjoys reading it very much.
Me Want Pet! by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Bob Shea (Simon and Schuster, 2012) is the story of a cave boy who wants a pet. He tries a wooly mammoth, a saber-toothed tiger, and a dodo bird, and none of them seems right. How will he get a pet?! The humor is obvious, given the list of of animals he’s trying to adopt as a pet (although young children won’t get the references to extinct animals) and the end result (how he gets what he wants) is likewise silly. I can’t talk about this book, though, without mentioning my own bias against a book depicting a cave man as an unintelligent, grammatically incorrect being. I also don’t like books for kids with incorrect grammar (even if the narrator is ELMO, whom I especially dislike) so I was biased against this book from the title alone. That said, there is obvious kid appeal in both the desire to have a pet, the humor of the pets the boy chooses, the playful crayon-like illustrations by Bob Shea, illustrator of our perennial favorites about Dinosaur (Dinosaur vs Bedtime and Dinosaur vs the Potty, for example). As the humorous book it is, it widely succeeds. For me, I’d rather give it a pass. Raisin’s thoughts: He liked it.
Kali’s Song by Jeanette Winter (Schwartz and Wade Books, 2012) is more my style, however. Again, a young boy who lives thousands of years ago in a cave with his mother finds joy in his life, but his journey is more serious. He watches his mother paint images of the animals on the wall of the cave, and then he must go out and practice shooting his arrows for the upcoming hunt. As he practices shooting arrows, however, he finds a different way to spend his time: making music on his bow. Over the coming weeks, he finds that making music relaxes him. He dreams in music, and joys in it. when the day of the big hunt comes, he finds that his music brings the buffalo to him, and he is celebrated as a special shaman in his community. The illustrations are produced on handmade paper and drawn with paint, pen, and ink. The entire book is a work of art. While I accept the fact that this has far less kid-appeal for the young than the Me Want Pet! (see Raisin’s thoughts that follow), I also suggest that this book provides a sweet reminder that we all are different and that we find joy and satisfaction in different ways. It may also be a useful book for those studying ancient history, interested in showing their young kids how life may have been different thousands of years ago. Raisin’s thoughts: He was not very interested in this book. He listened to it once and said, “It’s OK.”
Which of these books have you read? Which sounds most interesting to you? Remember, if you have a book to nominate make sure you submit it before October 15!