I haven’t done one of these in a while. I’ve been busy writing recaps/reviews for my favorite television show. But, I’m taking a little break from that…and hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze in a couple more of these posts before I get right into that again. We have a lot to get through, so I won’t write an introduction about how awkward it was carrying a stack of flat hardcover picture books while the parents of little kids in the play area gave me “Why???” eyes.
The Greatest Skating Race: A World War II Story from Netherlands (2004) by Louise Borden / Illustrated by Niki Daly: This story (set during World War II) is about a boy named Piet who must guide two younger children across the Border to Belgium in order to save them from German prosecution. They must do this by skating down the frozen river. It’s a picture book, but it’s a little shorter than a standard novella and seems aimed more towards the 10 to 14 crowd. Overall, this is a really really wonderful story. The story seemed so authentic that it almost reads like a personal memoir than actual historical fiction. The illustrations are good, but I was more captivated by the text and the story. This is definitely another children’s book to add to the “World War II” canon.
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend (2014) by Dan Santat: I finally got the Beekle book!!!…OK, I had to actually purchase a copy using a Barnes and Noble gift card my in-laws gave me but…nonetheless, I finally get to read it! First thought…this is pretty much a prequel to Inside Out, right? And two…is Pixar going to get on this? I really liked this story, and I can certainly see why it won the Caldecott. The illustrations, which use a mixture of watercolor and computer technology, are gorgeous, without being too “in your face” about it. The story is about an Imaginary friend who travels to the big city in order to find a little boy or girl to believe in him. It’s so sweet. There’s not much text, but I could see little kids just pour over these pictures. Heck! I’m pretty much going to spend the rest of day looking through the pictures. I am getting my money’s worth!
Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children (2013) written by Jan Pinborough / Illustrated by Debby Atwell: This book is about Anne Carroll Moore, an author and a librarian who was instrumental in creating “children’s sections” in libraries all across America. Before she came along, most libraries were primarily for wealthy adults, and children were not allowed to check books out. However, Moore made it her life’s mission to make libraries more accessible for children. This book also highlights how Moore overcame the societal expectations of women during the early 1900’s. As a 24 year old, I learned a lot reading this picture book. Libraries are wonderful places for children…and creeper adults who prey on the picture books.
What James Said (2015) by Liz Rosenberg / Illustrated by Matt Myers: This book is pretty much a “Telephone” story; how one boy’s words can be misinterpreted by the girl on the other end of the chain. What I like most about this book are the pictures by Matt Myers. They are so big, and bright and colorful. They’re inventive and consistently creative. However, I think the “resolution” (aka, what James actually said) is a bit muddled. I had turn back a couple times before I sort of understood what exactly happened between the two friends. I think the last third of the book could have been better written. But, again, the pictures make the story worth it.
Yard Sale (2015) by Eve Bunting / Illustrated Lauren Castillo: So, I usually like to go on Goodreads and read the reviews of the books I review for these posts. So, I did that for Yard Sale…and while the book, on average is in the 4-star range, some of the “top” reviews are pretty negative. And while I found a couple of them really funny, I still think this is a great wonderful, yet realistic story, about what many American families are going through today. As someone who just a week ago saw that new Andrew Garfield movie 99 Homes, families losing their homes is still a reality here, and this book does a good, if not a bit heavy handed, way of talking about that issue through a child’s perspective. The story is about a family holding a yard sale to sell all the stuff that won’t be able to fit into the apartment they plan on moving into. The illustrations are simple, yet bold. And the dialogue seemed realistic, filled with honest nuances. In the end, what’s important is family. The book isn’t depressing, it’s realistic, and I think a lot of kids could relate to it.
…OK, the book is a little depressing.
First Grade Dropout (2015) by Audrey Vernick / Illustrated by Matthew Cordell: I need to find more of Vernick’s stuff, because this book is off da chain! It’s adorable. It’s HILARIOUS. The story is simple. It’s probably been told a million times before. Kid gets really embarrassed when he accidentally calls his teacher “Mommy.” But Vernick puts such a sassy, fun twist to it. I love it! The illustrations remind me of those Quentin Blake illustrations from the Roald Dahl books so that’s cool! It’s just a comic-like book that kids have to love. I loved it. I cracked up while reading it. I give it 10 out of 10 junk shots!
Barack (2008) by Jonah Winter / Illustrated AG Ford: Let’s finish things off with an older book about our current president, Mr. Barack Obama. I did not know this book existed. First things first, the illustrations are really great. Barack Obama is pretty much drawn perfectly (The Michelle Obama is a little wonky, but it’s only one panel so I’ll let it go). The text itself is interesting, but a little meandering. If you’ve read Dreams of My Father, you’d know that Obama’s background is a very complicated story that spans two continents. This book does a pretty good job trying to make it understandable for young readers…but I think Winter could have gone deeper and been more honest. But, otherwise, it’s a nice book about a president who will surely have many more picture books created about him in the future.