Family — 2011 Fiction Picture Books (Cybils Nominees)

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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.

Reviewed on October 19, 2011

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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