So, since this blog was technically supposed to be an exploration into children’s media, I have decided to introduce a new series titled “Creeping Around the Picture Books.”
When I go to the public library, I always like to stop by the “Young Readers” section and randomly pick up picture books to read at home later. Since I am 24 (and since I look 24), this is a bit awkward. I’m clearly too old to be reading these books, but I’m also clearly too young to plausibly have children of my own. I could be a teacher…but I don’t think anyone’s buying that. So, wearing barely cleaned clothes, I look like the old weirdo who likes to read 20-32 page children’s books in the library. Thus…the title of this series.
Today, I “randomly” picked six books from the shelves, thus preventing a legitimate child from reading them. Whatever…I couldn’t find that Beekle book so I guess we’re even. I will be offering a very quick review and, in some cases, rating them out of “10.” Ready? OK!
A Picture Book of Eleanor Roosevelt (1991) by David A. Adler / Illustrated by Robert Castilla: I always forget that Eleanor Roosevelt and FDR were cousins…Anyway, Eleanor Roosevelt is someone I admire greatly. She’s probably the country’s greatest First Lady; and this book, geared towards Elementary School Students, does a very nice job of offering a simple introduction to her life; although there were a couple facts that even I didn’t know (like the whole Marian Anderson debacle). Anyway, this book is part of the book series “A Picture Book of…” If my library has more, I’ll try to pick a couple more up.
Hiromi’s Hands (2007) by Lynne Barasch: This book is about Hiromi Suzuki, one of the first female sushi chefs in New York. The book does a nice job of illustrating how her father became a sushi chef in Japan, and how he passed down his skills to his daughter, despite her gender. This is an overall wonderful and inspiring book; and, right now, I am seriously craving some sushi. This book is littered with pictures of sushi and fish and rice and…I have to run to Krogers now!
Julia Morgan Built a Castle (2006) by Celeste Davidson Mannis / Illustrated by Miles Hyman: I guess I must have been creeping in the biography part of the picture book section. This book details the life of one of the first woman architects Julia Morgan. I really really liked this book. The illustrations are big, beautiful, and detailed. And I just found the story so interesting. I had never heard of Julia Morgan before, but it’s certainly admirable everything she overcame (the sexism) to be an architect. Every girl needs to read this one.
Pool (2015) by JiHyeon Lee: So this book was first published in South Korea in 2013, and then it was finally published in the United States in 2015 by Chronicle Books. Usually, it’s pretty rare for a “foreign” children’s book to be translated and published in the United States. However, this book perfectly lends itself to be published in America since it’s one of those newfangled picture books where there is no text or dialogue. The pictures tell the story. In this case, the story is about two kids who meet at the bottom of a crowded pool and discover a new world. It’s a quiet, reflective book that I could see kids spending hours on, despite the lack of text. A very nice import indeed.
Harlem Renaissance Party (2015) by Faith Ringgold: As someone who is a huge fan of Tar Beach, this book was pretty disappointing. It’s about an African American boy and his uncle who travel back in time to the Harlem Renaissance. They meet many famous black artists and innovators during that time. The illustrations are good, but the text and dialogue are WAY too didactic and dry. Some of the dialogue is clunky and expository, like: “Mr. Woodson, you started Negro History Week. Now it is Black History Month. I want to thank you for that.” I know what Ringgold is trying to do. This book is geared towards young children and it’s supposed to be informative. However, there’s a really nice glossary in the back that explains everything. If the story itself is interesting enough, then kids will read that glossary and learn more. I think Ringgold should have focused more on telling an interesting, cohesive story, rather than lecturing her readers. However, I do commend her on having a main character who is either albino or REALLY light skinned. I give this 5 trumpets. Classic Ringgold-like illustrations with good intentions, but a disappointing text.
Graphic Biographies: Rosa Parks: The Life of a Civil Rights Heroine (2007) by Rob Shone / Illustrated by Nick Spender: I think it’s clear from the title what this book is about. There are so many children’s books about the life of Rosa Parks…I don’t really think this one stands out too much. However, Shone still does an effective job of detailing the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and, does a nice job of avoiding a “happy ending,” since, in real life, the Montgomery Bus Boycott did not end “happily.” In terms of illustrations, Bryan Collier’s Rosa’s are more inventive.
That was fun. I will definitely be doing this again very soon. Thanks for reading!