Miscellaneous 2011 Fiction Picture Books (Cybils Nominees)

Note: I occasionally accept review copies from the publisher. Posts written from review copies are labeled. All opinions are my own. Posts may contain affiliate links. I may receive compensation for any purchased items.

This is my last week and last post of sharing Cybils Fiction Picture Book Nominees, so I’ve got to go for a miscellany this week. Sub-topics: Roads and Trucks; Fine Arts; Non-Western Traditions; and, of course, Christmas, Christian, and Winter Books.

Roads and Trucks

Along a Long Road by Frank Viva (Little Brown, 2011) is a simple illustrated story about a man riding a bike down a long road. The illustrations are somewhat subdued graphic designs. The book uses only a few colors and a few words on each two-page spread to create a world, road, and people to populate a long path that travels through cities, by oceans, and in and out of tunnels. According to the front matter, the artwork was produced by the author/illustrator using Adobe Illustrator in one continuous 35-foot long work of art. I could tell: on each page, the yellow road continues where it left off on the page before. Raisin loved to follow the road with his finger as the bicyclist progressed. It was fun to see where the long road would go next. (Nominated by Janssen Bradshaw)

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle, 2011) is a typical “goodnight goodnight” book in format, but spectacular in illustration. the text reminded me of many other goodnight books, such as Goodnight Moon. Each construction truck is introduced with its daily tasks, and then it settles down to sleep. The detailed pencil illustrations give the trucks personality and life, such as holding teddy bears and snoring. The construction site rests well as the sun goes down, and the book sets the perfect tone for “bedtime” for the busy kid who loves trucks and constructing things. Raisin really enjoyed finding the fun details in the human-like construction trucks, as well as the ultimate “shh! it’s bedtime” feeling as we came to the end of the story. (Nominated by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg)

Dinosaur Dig by Penny Dale (Candlewick/Nosy Crow, 2011) combines two things my little boy loves: construction trucks and dinosaurs! In a typical counting book style, on each page, a number of dinosaurs (from one to ten) dig, shovel, dump, mix, and so forth as they build themselves a pool to relax in. The inside front cover lists the names of the dinosaurs and the inside back cover lists the names of the trucks: what a perfect combination for a young kid! Although I must admit that I’ve never been a fan of partial sentences in counting books like this (and this book is no exception), the kids don’t mind and it does make for a fun read aloud. The watercolor and pencil illustrations give plenty of details for the young dinosaur-truck fan to pour over. (Nominated by Shati Khan) Note: I received a review copy from the publisher for consideration for the 2011 Cybils awards.

Fine Arts

Boogie Monster by Josie Bisset illustrated by Kevin Atteberry (Compendium, 2011) celebrates dancing! The Boogie Monster, who has visited from another planet, has come to encourage the kids to try dancing like a robot, to try dancing like they’re on a bicycle, and otherwise to get their bodies moving. With fun cartoony illustrations and catching rhyme, kids will love to participate and the reader probably won’t mind reading it either, as it’s a fun book to read aloud. Boogie Monster is a nice break from the lethargy induced television world we live in these days, although with all that moving and dancing, it probably won’t help get kids ready for bed but get them ready for just a few more stories first. (Nominated by Laurie Thompson) Note: I received a review copy from the publisher for consideration for the 2011 Cybils awards.

A six-year-old must walk across a large field and near woods to get to her school bus stop, but in Singing Away the Dark by Caroline Woodward and Julie Morstad (Simply Read Books, 2011), she pushes away her fears by singing as loudly as she can. Although four-year-old Raisin was a bit concerned that she was by herself, the story reminds us that we can find solutions to eliminate our fears. The text is rhythmic and rhyming, but not overly sing-song or formulaic, perfect for the singing tone of the girl’s message. The illustrations (paintings) bring the early morning rural world to life.  (Nominated by Kallie George)

Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite by Anna Harwell Celenza and illustrated by Don Tate (Charlesbridge, 2011) tells the story of the creation of Duke Ellington’s unclassifiable jazz redefinition of the classic Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky. I must admit that I absolutely love the music from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet and my husband has converted me to jazz in general, so this was a fascinating story and it was fun to listen to the music with familiar themes. The true story has been fictionalized in the conversations Duke Ellington has with his band as they approach his reworked music. I loved listening to the CD of the music (included with the book), and I enjoyed the illustrations (ink, watercolor, and chalk) which help capture Duke Ellington’s creativity in reinventing the classic themes to fit 1960s Las Vegas. (Nominated by Cynthia Leitich Smith)   Note: I received a review copy from the publisher for consideration for the 2011 Cybils awards.

Although I’d never before heard of the collagist Romare Bearden, the fictionalized account his inspiration was not only interesting, well written, and creatively illustrated, but I’m now quite interested in the artist himself. My Hands Sing the Blues: Roman Bearden’s Childhood Journey by Jeanne Walker Harvey and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon (Marshall Cavendish, 2011) reveals a blues-like rhythm as Romare Bearden shares some of the things that inspired him in his art and got him from North Carolina to Harlem, where his collage work was recognized throughout his life. I loved the rhythm to the text, and the memories from his childhood fit in quite well with the bright oil painting and collage illustrations (one of which has a depiction of his own most famous work). After I read the book, I found myself browsing a few websites seeking more samples of his work.  My Hands Sing the Blues is a creative and well done fictionalized biography. (Nominated by Doret) Note: I received a review copy from the publisher for consideration for the 2011 Cybils awards.

Non-Western Traditions

Tashi’s grandfather Popola is very ill in Tashi and the Tibetan Flower Cure by Naomi C. Rose (Lee and Low, 2011), but after reflecting on her grandfather’s stories of the traditional Tibetan healing power of being out in a garden, Tashi decides to help him get well by surrounding him with flowers, even in the American world they live in. She takes him to a flower store, where week after week, the flower shoppers greet him and wish him well. Tashi’s thoughtful reflection on Popola’s non-American heritage bring him out into the community, and he begins to get well. Will the Tibetan Flower Cure work for all aging and ill grandparents? Certainly not, but Tashi’s story may inspire youngster to remember family heritage as they consider the older generations and their needs. I liked learning about Tibetan medicine in the author’s note in the end. (Nominated by Shellie)

Cinderella: An Islamic Tale by Fawzia Gilani and illustrated by Shireen Adams (The Islamic Foundation, 2011) is simply what the title indicates: a retelling of the Cinderella story using an Islamic context. I am not as familiar with Islamic traditions as I am with Hispanic or Judeo-Christian traditions and so forth, and this book was a fascinating beginning. I liked the interspersed Arabic, much as I enjoyed the Spanish vocabulary in other picture books, and I liked learning a little bit about the culture through a familiar fairy tale. (Nominated by Jessica Sattell) Note: I received a review copy from the publisher for consideration for the 2011 Cybils awards.

Christmas, Christian, and Winter Books

Brother Sun, Sister Moon by Katherine Patterson and Pamela Dalton (Chronicle, 2011) is one that I love for its simple beauty, although I can’t get my son (age 4) interested in it at all. A retelling of a hymn of praise by St. Francis of Assisi, Brother Sun, Sister Moon is made spectacular by the careful cut-paper illustrations which celebrate nature. This book is a simply stunning creation in its detail and scope. (Nominated by Kelly Fineman) Note: I received a review copy from the publisher at BEA 2011.

The Lighthouse Santa by Sara Hoagland Hunter and illustrated by Julia Miner (New Horizons Partners, 2011) is based on the true story of the man who brought Christmas presents to the distant lighthouses along the New England coast each year. It tells of a fictionalized family in a remote location, where one Christmas a snow storm meant the airplane would not be able to come. Never fear, the Lighthouse Santa found a way to come, bringing the one gift young Kate wanted: a friend to play with on Christmas Day. The painted illustrations radiate the Christmas spirit, and the story as a whole is a nice Christmas-y one. (Nominated by Mary Bisbee-Beek) Note: I received a review copy from the publisher for consideration for the 2011 Cybils awards.

Baby Santa and the Lost Letters by M. Maitland DeLand and illustrated by Phil Wilson (Greenleaf, 2011) is a rather silly tale of how Santa’s son (Baby Santa) saves Christmas by finding the missing Christmas letters, which had been sent to the South Pole instead of the North Pole. This stood out to me because it emphasizes world geography to recover the letters, letting native animals of each continent save the day. Although not much about the cartoony illustrations or silly story stand out, Raisin is fascinated by world maps and geography, so I suspect he’ll really enjoy this one (we haven’t read it together yet). (Nominated by Abby Kitten) Note: I received a review copy from the publisher for consideration for the 2011 Cybils awards.

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner (Chronicle, 2011) captures the fascinating natural worlds below the snow. As a child cross-country skis with her father, she learns about the animals hiding underneath her feet. In beautiful illustrations, the over and under natural worlds are revealed. Raisin loved finding the mice, bears, bullfrogs, and so forth in the illustrations, and he was fascinated by the concept of the animals living underneath the snow layers during the winter. Over and Under the Snow is a fantastic picture celebrating nature; I imagine it will open up plenty of discussion for the child interested in animals and nature. I love engaging picture books that also happen to teach me something – even as an adult! (Nominated by Jo Knowles)

Reviewed on December 13, 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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