Some Miscellaneous Cybils 2011 Books

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: Dealing with Life; Kids’ Fashion; Roads and Trucks; Fine Arts; Non-Western Traditions; and, of course, Christmas, Christian, and Winter Books.

Dealing with Life (In General)

Samantha really wants to try out her new roller skates in Samantha On a Roll by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Christine Davenier (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011), but her mother can’t help her right now. Samantha can’t wait and as she skates outside, she finds herself in the midst of a series of ridiculous adventures since she can’t stop herself from moving. The fun illustrations (I believe done in pencil) and adventures she has outside are certain to be a hit with kids. Raisin really enjoyed reading it repeatedly to see the exaggerated adventures. (Nominated by Lalitha Nataraj)

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein and illustrated by Mark Pett (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2011) is another silly book. In this book, Beatrice is perfect: she never makes mistakes and so is followed by paparazzi everywhere she goes. When she performs at the school talent show, however, something different happens. Beatrice’s story, impossible and silly as it is, prompts one to step back and recognize the need to enjoy the mistakes we make in our lives. The illustrations (I believe done in pencil) add to the humor of Beatrice’s story. (Nominated by Derry Wilkins) Note: I received a review copy from the publisher for consideration for the 2011 Cybils awards.

Tia Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina and illustrated by Claude Munoz (Candlewick, 2011) is one I enjoyed by never expected Raisin himself to love so much as he did. It quickly became a favorite for us. Tia Isa really wants her own car to be able to go to the beach (and she knows just what kind of car she wants) but with the need to send money back to family far away, there just isn’t a way she can see to get a car. Her niece decides to help out, by finding ways in their community in which she can help earn the money. I loved the emphasis on working toward a goal and the need for hard work to get there. The success of their hard work also depended on teamwork. Tia Isa Wants a Car also showed a Latino family somewhere in America and revealed to my son (who lives in a suburban home with two cars) that there are different economic realities in our communities. I also enjoyed the interspersed Spanish vocabulary as the niece talked with her aunt and uncle; Raisin is quite interested in learning Spanish, so it was fun for him to learn some new words (and nice for me to practice my Spanish in our repeated readalouds). The illustrations (watercolor and pencil or ink?) are simply perfect for the tone of the story and bring the easy-to-like, hard-working characters to life. Each time we finished the story, Raisin asked to go to the beach too. (Too bad we live in the Midwest and it’s almost winter.) (Nominated by Danielle Smith)

Samson’s Tale by Carla Mooney and illustrated by Kathleen Spade (Story Pie Press, 2011) is a sensitive story about a boy dealing with recovery from leukemia, as viewed from the perspective of his best friend, his dog Samson. By telling the story from the dog’s perspective, there is appropriate distance for the reader, thus avoiding melodrama that otherwise might belittle the delicate story. Samson the dog wags his tail when he sees Daniel return home (finally) from the hospital, and he comforts and supports Daniel during his ill days. With this perspective, the story of Daniel’s recovery is memorable, and it shows what a loved one (in Daniel’s case, his best friend Samson) can do to support an ill child. The mixed media illustrations treat the story with sensitivity as well, and the overall result is one that may comfort children dealing with sick family or friends. (Nominated by Mary Rand Hess) Note: I received a review copy from the publisher for consideration for the 2011 Cybils awards.

Kids’ Fashion

Big Bouffant by Kate Hosford and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown (Carolrhoda Books, 2011) tells the story of an inventive and creative girl, Annabelle, who is tired of seeing the same hair styles at school. It takes a gusty girl to set the fashion fad and Annabelle is able to pull it off by creating a “bouffant” hairstyle that makes heads turn. Soon, the others in the class copy Annabelle’s big hair, but that’s okay because Annabelle has more ideas up her selves! I love the emphasis on someone finding her place by being different from everyone else.  The illustrations are fabulously exaggerated and match the humorous tone of Annabelle’s quest to be different. (Nominated by Lindsey Matvick)

Birdie’s birthday party is tomorrow but in Birdie’s Big Girl Dress by Sujean Rim (Little Brown, 2011), she discovers that her favorite party dress is too small! Thus begins a search for the perfect party dress for Birdie. When the stores prove fruitless, she finds treasure in her attic. With detailed watercolor illustrations and just a little bit of collage, Birdie’s ultimate discover appears as a multi-dimensional treasure. Once again, this book celebrates a child finding their own way to express themselves, and I enjoyed following Birdie on her search and as she created her final solution. (Nominated by Ames O’Neill)

I Had a Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn and illustrated by Julia Denos (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2011) likewise emphasizes childhood creativity and recycling when clothes stop fitting. The narrator’s dress stops fitting, so her creative mother adapts it into ruffly shirt. As that item of clothing becomes too warn or too small, the narrator and her mother find a way to adapt it for further use. The narrator wears her favorite dress on Tuesdays, her favorite shirt on Wednesday, and so forth, and the book rotates through the seasons, thus bringing the story in a satisfying circle of passing time. The illustrations are a mixed media collage, including watercolor, graphite, colored pencil, and needle and thread. I loved the addition of sewing stitches to highlight the means in which the narrator and her mother are recycling the clothing item. It is truly a fantastically illustrated story highlighting the extended life of a young girl’s favorite dress. (Nominated by Maggie Lehrman)

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)

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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