Animals, whether they are talking animals or pets, are a popular subject in picture books. Below, I mention a few of the many Cybils Fiction Picture Book Nominees on the subject, from zoo animals and farm animals to wild animals, including some animals who don’t quite behave like animals “normally” do. Most animals in picture books talk or otherwise have some marvelous talent and personality. No wonder kids all want a pet! Animals are so exciting in picture books. (I may have to revisit the animals theme for Cybils this year: there are plenty omitted from this list.)
Summer by Edith Wharton (published 1917) is a short novella about a young woman searching for her place. In some places, it’s been cited as Wharton’s most “erotic” work(more…)
- In a 1917 sense, that may be so. There is little “erotic” from a modern stand point beyond some symbolism, like the firecrackers during the first kiss. It would be interesting to find all the potentially “erotic” things in the book, but really, it’s very tame book ↩
I Must Have Bobo! By Ellen Rosenthal and illustrated by Marc Rosenthal (Atheneum, January 2011) tells of a different kind of friendship. Young Willy wakes up only to find that his dear sock monkey Bobo is missing! He is found, much to Willy’s relief, as the boy cannot get through his day without Bobo. But as Willy and Bobo play, the sneaky cat repeatedly sneaks off with Bobo. Raisin and I loved this story: Raisin because he loved finding Earl stealing Bobo on each page, myself because the simple illustrations show just how less can be more. The most important things are colored in the illustrations (Willy, Bobo, that silly Earl) and the rest is left in sketch, a way of imitating a young child’s life when really, only a few things matter all that much. Raisin could relate to Willy’s dependence on Bobo. Bobo and Willy are great friends, much as, I suspect, Raisin is such great friends with his imaginary friend Goldbug, who is always by his side. (Nominated by Kara Schaff Dean)
Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox by Susan Blackaby and illustrated by Carmen Segovia (Sterling, January 2011) is partly a Groundhog Day book and partly a most unusual story about a groundhog and a fox becoming friends. When Brownie appears on February 2, she’s welcomed by a deep snow. She’s of course bothered by the residual winter, but knows she must be patient: Spring will come. Meanwhile, the fox is very hungry and wants to eat Brownie. As Brownie encourages his patience by getting a few things done first (like ice skating), Fox begins to have fun playing with Brownie. By the end, they both are willing to wait for spring, because there is plenty of fun to be had with each other as friends. I love the soft illustrations in the white wintery landscape, and I found the friendship that developed and the reminder to be “patient” a spectacular and memorable one. (Nominated by Jone MacCulloch)
Mudkin by Stephen Gammell (Carolrhoda, April 2011) is an clever book about an imaginary friend, in this case, one that comes from playing in the mud. A little girl discovers a mud creature called Mudkin who invites her to his castle where she will be queen. Although there is little text (Mudkin does not speak English but actually in muddy smudges), the story celebrates imagination. I loved the muddy illustrations and loved the overall effect of the story. Raisin liked it, and I suspect older children may grasp the imaginative aspects of the story more readily than Raisin did. As an adult, I loved it. Raisin needed some prompting to understand it. (Nominated by Elizabeth Dingmann)
Perfect Soup by Lisa Moser and illustrated by Ben Mantle (Random House, October 2010) tells the simple story of Murray the mouse that wants to make “perfect soup.” When he finds himself short a carrot, he tries to borrow one from someone else but the farmer wants him to help in order to “earn” the carrot. One thing leads to another and it takes all day to do chores for others in order to get his carrot. In the end, the lonely snowman gives him a gift, and Murray learns from the snowman that giving something without expecting something is what friends do: and soup doesn’t need a carrot to be perfect. (Nominated by JoAnn Early Macken)
Willow and the Snow Day Dance by Dennise Brennan-Nelson and illustrated by Cyd Moore (Sleeping Bear Press, November 2010) tells of a bright and pleasant girl who organizes community events to bring people together, including the grouchy Mr. Larch. When Willow dreams about snow, Mr. Larch tells her how to do a snow day dance. When it does snow, he welcomes the neighborhood kids to sled on his hill. This was an inspiring story of how one child made a difference in a community by being a friend to all. (Nominated by Lois Hulme)
In You Will Be My Friend! by Peter Brown (Little, Brown, September 2011), Lucy has decided that today she will make a new friend. However, as she approaches potential friends with that demand, she finds it much harder than she anticipated. Never fear, Lucy finds friendship when she least expects it. Peter Brown’s illustrations are well done and the message about friendship one that little children (like Raisin!) certainly need to learn. (Nominated by Laura Given)
Two Non-Cybils Nominated Books
I don’t want the other great books we’re reading to go by the wayside, so I wanted to mention two great Jan Thomas books. We loved Jan Thomas’s books a few months ago, so we have been looking for more. Raisin loves Rhyming Dust Bunnies. Friends Ed, Ned, Ted, and Bob are quite silly, but Bob’s quick thinking keeps them out of danger. On the other hand, in Here Comes the Big, Mean Dust Bunny! a grumpy dust bunny learns what it means to have a friend. Both books are silly and lots of fun for young kids. (Both published 2009)
Grandpa Green by Lane Smith (Roaring Brook, August 2011) is the story of a past generation through the eyes of a great-grandson. The young great-grandson knows Grandpa’s story because Grandpa, a gardener, has created topiary garden with statues that remind him of the past. Raisin and I loved the story of Grandpa’s life, and I think an older child would appreciate it even more. Although the story of remembering Grandpa’s life is notable and memorable in and of itself, Grandpa Green is also fantastic because of its wonderful illustrations. The front matter indicates that they are partly water color and oil paint and digital paint (the green foliage) and partly brush and waterproof drawing ink (the sketches of the people). I loved the blend of two types of illustrations. As the young boy walks through the garden illustrating Grandpa’s life, he finds gardening tools Grandpa has left behind, thus hinting to the fact that we’ll discover at the end: that Grandpa is now forgetful. From now on, the grandson will remember for him. Fantastic book in all ways. (Nominated by Isaac Z)
Raisin and I really enjoy the rhymes and the stories in Anna Dewney’s Llama Llama books. Llama Llama Home with Mama (Viking, August 2011) is no exception, and I particularly related to it since I was sick for much of the summer due to my early pregnancy. In this story, Llama Llama wakes up feeling sick and cannot go to school. Mama carefully nurses Llama Llama, only to begin sneezing herself! Using Mama’s example, Llama Llama takes care of Mama, bringing her tissues and books to read. Raisin did this for me all summer when I was feeling unwell, and I found it so sweet. Dewdney’s book will remind kids to think of others, plus it’s a good book for those miserable days when our children are disappointed at missing that field trip or other fun event due to being sick. The bonus is that you can stay home with Mama (or Daddy…)!. (Nominated by Liza Wiemer) Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from the publisher at BEA 2011.
Leap Back Home to Me by Lauren Thompson and illustrated by Matthew Cordell (Margaret K. McElderry Books, April 2011) reminded me of Margaret Wise Brown’s Runaway Bunny: a young one goes out on his own, but always must come back home to his mama. The difference is that in Leap Back Home to Me, the mother frog encourages the child to set off on his own: “Leap frog over the sun. Leap frog as high as you please. Leap frog out to the farthest stars. When you leap home, here I’ll be.” Watercolor (I think) illustrations give the book a soft and calm feel, to match the comforting story. (Nominated by Tobin Harper)
When all the lights in Brooklyn go out one summer night in Blackout by John Rocco (Hyperion, May 2011), families are suddenly not busy, much to the delight of the young child. Without power, the family cannot work on computers, or otherwise engage in their many tasks. When their powerless home gets too hot, they go to the roof and to the street, where the entire community is gathered as one. I loved the illustrations, and the wonderful “not normal” end reminds families that slowing down and turning off the distractions is for the best, especially for a little kid who treasures those family times. (Nominated by Jennifer Donnovan)
Mitchell’s License by Hallie Durrand and illustrated by Tony Fucille (Candlewick, April 2011) is a fun father-son bedtime book. Mitchell does not want to go to bed, so Dad lets him have a driver’s license, Dad being the “car” as Mitchell perches on his shoulders. This is a true-to-form picture book, meaning the pictures are essential to the text. Never in the text does it say “Dad is Mitchell’s car.” Rather, Mitchell gets his car ready every night via text and in the illustrations we see the humor of Dad being the car. Raisin loved this book because it was so silly to see how Mitchell drove around the house. Raisin can’t wait to have his own license! (Nominated by Hollie Thompson)
And for a wonderful non-Cybils nominated book
Shhh! by Valeri Gorbachev (Philomel, September 2011) is perfect for a soon-to-be big brother. A big brother informs us that when his baby brother is asleep, he is quiet. Beyond walking on his tip-toes, he tells the clown to stop laughing, the tigers to not growl so loud, the train to stop making loud noises, and the pirates to stop their cannons. But that’s not all, for when baby brother wakes up, the boy is able to play noisily again: laughing with the clown, making the train noises, and otherwise jumping around the room. I love how Valeri Gorbachev in the first pages shows the boy talking to a real clown, tiger, pirates, and so forth. Once the baby brother is awake, the boy is shown with his toys, and the younger child is laughing on his blanket. Over everything, I loved how the boy told his story with no bitterness or jealousy: he’s telling us how things are in his house, and that helps Raisin get ready for how things will be around our house too!
Unless otherwise noted, books were read via library copies; I was not compensated for review.
I’ve said many times I’m not a fan of horror or ghost stories, but the gentle spookiness of the stories in my ghost story collection has been wonderfully fun. This week’s stories, “The Friends of the Friends” by Henry James (1896) and “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs (1902) were very different, but both of them left me with a sense of delightful unease. It made me happy to live in my own, non-ghost inhabited world.
In “The Friends of the Friends,” Henry James tells the story of two strangely similar people who have claimed to see ghosts in their lives. The two friends of the narrator, as well as the narrator herself, all remain nameless, which to me added to the eerie, anonymous feel of the story. Henry James’ careful and ponderous writing slows down the plot of the story: this becomes a psychological look at the narrator’s growing jealousy, rather than a plot-induced ghost story. I liked the overall feel of the story, and the twists at the end were wonderful. What really happened? We get everything through the perspective of the paranoid and unreliable narrator. I certainly enjoyed the unknown in “The Friends of the Friends.”
“The Monkey’s Paw” is a completely different feel, style, subject. Using mostly dialogue to drive his story, W.W. Jacobs tells of a mysterious monkey’s paw with the power to grant three wishes to each man who possesses it. Of course, the soldier who gives it to Mr. White warns against his using it, but the Whites cannot resist the temptation to try fate. I’m pretty sure I’d read this before, as it seemed quite familiar. I loved the outcome, and I’d highly suggest this story for the fan of ghost or horror tales. It was also tame enough for myself. Read it online here or listen to an NPR podcast reading of the story by John Lithglow.
I’ll attempt to get my regular short story posts up on Monday, from now on. I’m finding I run out of time by the end of the week! Next week: Stories by M.R. James, Saki, and Katherine Mansfield.