Did you know November is Picture Book Month? I didn’t either, until Scarletta Press brought it to my attention! They have been seeing a lot of picture book manuscripts lately, and they have published their own list of 10 Elements of a Good Picture Book. Hey, wasn’t it the late great Maurice Sendak who said that it was harder to write for children than adults? (Or something to that effect; I'm paraphrasing here. Or was that Seuss?)
I make it no secret that I love children’s books, especially picture books. I have a reasonable collection, going back to when I was a kid (luckily I hung on to those). I often give books as gifts to kids, who love them and don’t know any better. My most recent purchase (and I was soooo excited about this!) is the Nutshell Library from Maurice Sendak, which I picked up at the Twin Cities Antiquarian Book Fair this past June. I would sooner buy a collectable children’s book than just about any other genre. The last current book I bought was at Boswell Books in Milwaukee, where I got my hands on The Amazing Flying Books of Morris Lessmore. Something I can identify with.
Here are five beautiful books that you should consider when choosing a book to buy. Notice I did not say ‘for a child.’ I buy them all the time, and my kids are grown (mostly). There is nothing so delightful as a very well-done picture book.
These beautiful gems came to me by way of the Heartland Fall Forum. I regret that I did not stand in line to receive a copy of David LaRochelle’s newest book It’s a Tiger!, because I have been familiar with David’s work for many years and his books are always a treat. You can go ahead and add that to the list, even though it is not formally reviewed here.
The following are all beautifully produced, and delightfully imagined.
Waking Dragons by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Derek Anderson
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, jacketed hardcover
Anderson is from Minneapolis, so I got a lovely little dragon doodle in the front of my book. This is a wonderful romp through the morning routine of dragons, shepherded by their knight-in-training, who is told “Don’t forget to wake the dragons before school.” It’s fun, right down to the fire extinguisher labeled “In Case of Dragon Breath.” With text in rhyming couplets, the big, bold illustrations will appeal to many ages.
Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta, illustrated by Ed Young
Little, Brown, jacketed hardcover
The illustrations for this book are cut paper, textured cloth, string and colored pencil. It has a tactile element to it that will make kids reach out and touch the page. The story is of a stealthy little ninja, creeping out of bed, until he is discovered and his mission is interrupted by mother. The story has just the right amount of mystery to appeal to young readers. The author is a Minneapolis resident, and this is her first picture book. She’ll be at Once Upon a Crime on Saturday, Dec 1 and other events around town. Oh, and you may recognize the stylings of Ed Young, who wrote and illustrated The House that Baba Built, and received a Caldecott for Lon Po Po.
Nalah and the Pink Tiger by Anne Sawyer-Aitch
Scarletta Kids (an imprint of Scarletta Press), large format, full-color paper
This story is about a girl named Nalah who shares her house with a host of oddball animals – that only she can see. Her family just thinks she is a trouble-maker. Things are under control until the day Tico the Pink Tiger follows her home from the zoo. The chaos of the story is added to beautifully by the “illuminated illustrations’ created by the author (who works as a puppeteer). It’s an incredible process, and the result is a rich tapestry of color and pattern throughout the story, with a fun heroine to lead the way. The author lives in Minneapolis and can be found with her tiger puppets at many local events, including the Once Upon a Crime event tomorrow.
Otis and the Tornado by Loren Long
Philomel Books (Penguin Young Readers), jacketed hardcover
Because the Heartland Fall Forum combined the MIBA and the GLIBA shows, we got to see some authors from a little further east than normal. Long is a New York Times bestselling author, and his latest installment starring the little tractor Otis will appeal to all those for whom the farm may be only a generation or two away. This is a very exciting story about friendship and a frightening day on the farm. Little kids especially will love all the farm animal and tractor sounds, as Otis puff puttedy chuffs through the story. Illustrations by Long are watercolors which give Otis quite a personality.
The Year Comes Round: Haiku through the Seasons by Sid Farrar, illustrated by Ilse Plume
Albert Whitman & Co, jacketed hardcover
The richly detailed watercolors by Caldecott-winner Plume accompany beautiful haikus which take the reader through the seasons, month by month. Each is a little surprise, as a haiku should be. The last three pages contain a little discussion of what a haiku is and a bit about seasons. The author lives in Minneapolis, and was a charming addition to our table at the Moveable Feast. He is surprised as anyone that he is now the author of a book, as he wrote most of these poems for his own children many years ago. A delightful way to spend some time with a child.
My favorite haiku:
Surprised by her new
Webbed feet, tadpole considers
A career on shore
My favorite illustration:
Lawns call a truce with
Mowers and slip beneath their
White blankets to sleep
(It's a winter scene that reminds me of The Mitten)
Well, what are you waiting for? Get on out there and grab a beautiful picture book! If you don't want to keep it, I'm sure you can think of someone to give it to!