Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Monday, March 29, 2010

Book 22: How Will We Get to the Beach?

Book 22: How Will We Get to the Beach?, written by Brigette Luciani, illustrated by Eve Tharlet, North-South Books 2000.   Toddler to Preschool.

I just love Roxanne in this book. She is so scattered, a bit disheveled and, yet, so chic and quintessentially French. Alas, despite my French middle name, I am only scattered and disheveled. When I go to the beach, I, like Roxanne, take along five items. We have one item in common -- the little boy -- but then my list becomes quite prosaic, with items like suntan lotion, snacks, towels and a pail. Her list is much more interestingly and logistically challenging.

It's great fun to see her different modes of transportation and to see which item cannot go to the beach with her for each mode. The illustrations only add to the fun. Happily, she does make it to the beach with all five items and has a wonderful time.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book 21: Princess Peepers

Book 21: Princess Peepers, written by Pam Calvert and illustrated by Tuesday Mourning, Marshall Cavendish 2008.   Preschool to early elementary.

Ah, the perfect marriage. Not necessarily between a prince and a princess, but between the writing and the illustration. Tuesday Mourning's illustrations are light, bright and a little silly, and the perfect match for Pam Calvert's writing which is also light, bright and a little silly.

I bought this purple and pink princess book for my sixteen-month-old son for three reasons. First, Pam Calvert offered to send me bookplate signed for my son, and I'm a sucker for a signed book or bookplate. Second, I started wearing glasses when I was six -- I probably needed them when I was four, but that is another story -- and my husband wears glasses, so there is a good chance that our little boy's beautiful blue eyes will one day become nearsighted. And third, I don't believe in "gender" books. If we adhered to "gender" books, half of the population would never read "Huckleberry Finn", and the other half would never read "Alice in Wonderland", and since they both have been banned books, don't you want to read them now to see what all the fuss was about?

Anyway, don't shy away from this purple and pink princess book for a little boy. A good story is a good story, no matter who the protagonist.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book 20: The Great Pizza Contest

Book 20: The Great Pizza Contest, written by Riley Roam and illustrated by Fyllis Nadler, Funny Story Media 2009.   Preschool to early elementary.

I am a visual person, so when it comes to choosing picture books, I tend to favor a well-illustrated book over a well-told story. Ideally, of course, I want both. I nearly did not purchase The Great Pizza Contest because the illustrations did not win me over. They are colorful and consistent, which, as someone who has tried book illustration, I do appreciate. However, they do not add to or propel the story.

Based on a friend's recommendation (Louise of Louise's Blog) I did purchase the book and loved the story. Riley Roam is one-half of Page Turner Adventures. The other half is Kenny Mikey, her husband. Together they write and perform skits for schools, libraries and other places where children gather. The Great Pizza Contest was one of those skits, and it translates very well into book form.

The other day, I reviewed a book illustrated by the very talented Nikki Shoemaker. Now if Nikki and Riley were to collaborate, that would be an effort worthy of every child's bookshelf.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Book 19: What's Wrong with Mud?

Book 19: What's Wrong with Mud?, written by Gillian Colley, illustrated by Nikki Shoemaker, ABC Press 2009.   Preschool.

What's Wrong with Mud? is a cute story, a fine story, a serviceable story, but what really makes this book stand out is the illustration.

From the first page, Nikki Shoemaker manages to infuse her barnyard animals with so much color, expression and vivaciousness that they nearly jump off the page and compel you to read their story. And she carries that standard through to the very last page. Her illustrations are perfect for a toddler or preschooler who loves to get caught up in the silliness of a book.

Later this week, I'll review a stand-out story with adequate illustrations. It would be wonderful if that author and this illustrator collaborated on their next projects.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Book 18: Old Bear

Book 18: Old Bear, by Kevin Henkes, Greenwillow Books 2008.   Toddler to Preschool.

I'm not a big fan of all Kevin Henkes' books, but, lately, his picture books have been astonishingly lovely.

Old Bear, like Kitten's First Full Moon, is a sweet, gentle tale, but unlike Kitten, Old Bear is at the end of his life and he dreams about becoming a cub again. He first dreams that Winter has passed into Spring and that he is sleeping inside a giant crocus. Kevin Henkes takes us through the rest of the seasons with the same amount of imagination, humor and brilliant-hued illustrations. Even the fly-leafs boast outstanding artwork.

After Kitten and Old Bear, I can't wait to read (and probably buy) his next picture book.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Book 17: The Magical Garden of Claude Monet

Book 17: The Magical Garden of Claude Monet, by Laurence Anholt, Barron's 2003.   Elementary.

I've always had a special affinity for Monet. I am quite sure he suffered from myopia because his paintings look like my world without corrective lenses. Also, his water garden in Giverny is one of the most beautiful places in the world. So I saved this book for last (so far) and Laurence Anholt did not disappoint.

The illustrations are lush and gorgeous, especially the fold-out pages, and again, Anholt highlights an interaction that reveals so much about the personality of his subject. Another sweet, and this time almost magical, book.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Book 16: Camille and the Sunflowers

Book 16: Camille and the Sunflowers, by Laurence Anholt, Barron's 1994.   Elementary.

Many people have made much money from Vincent Van Gogh's paintings -- sadly, he was not one of them. This sweet story from an incident in Van Gogh's life both delighted and saddened me. I was delighted to find out that the lonely painter had non-family benefactors and non-painter friends; and I was saddened to find out he was run out of town.

Unlike other of Laurence Anholt's artist series books, the pictures in this book have the feeling of Van Gogh's work, but are not illustrated in the style of Van Gogh's work. For a children's book, that is a good thing. Van Gogh's work is not especially pretty, but is incredibly powerful, evocative and complex. I think Laurence Anholt struck exactly the right tone in these illustrations.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Book 15: Degas and the Little Dancer

Book 15: Degas and the Little Dancer, by Laurence Anholt, Barron's 1996.   Elementary

This was the first book about an artist by Laurence Anholt that I read -- many years ago, long before I had a child for whom to build a library. I loved this book the first time I read it, and when I re-read it recently, I still love it, so I bought it.

Now that I have a collection of Anholt's artist books, I can appreciate how the pictures are illustrated in the style of his subject. Since he has written many books about artist, Laurence Anholt must be a gifted and versatile artist himself. It is worth buying his books for the artwork alone. However, that is not necessary. His handling of an incident in the artist's life, in this book Degas' meeting of the little ballerina whose image would become his most famous sculpture, humanizes the artist in a way my college art history classes never did.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Book 14: Herbert the Lion

Book 14: Herbert the Lion, by Clare Turlay Newberry, Smithmark Books 1998 (story originally published in 1931)  Preschool to early elementary.

This book is an example of one that I bought for myself, before I was a mommy and before I was a children's librarian. About ten years ago I was intrigued by the wave of retro-looking illustrations that began to hit the bookstores, so I picked up this book that has older-looking illustrations, because it is an older story.

Having said that, this book should not be dismissed as only have reference value for those wanting to create retro-looking illustrations. The illustrations do propel the story, and improve it, but standing alone, the story is charming. And this book passes the toddler test.