Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Book 179: Cupid and Psyche

Cupid and Psyche, told by M. Charlotte Craft and illustrated by K. Y. Craft, Morrow Publishing 1996.

I bought this book in 1996.  I was not a children's librarian then, nor did I ever expect to become one; I did not have any children then, nor did I expect to ever have any.  I did, however, have a cat named Psyche.  I also owned and loved the book Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis and had two versions of The Golden Ass (where the story of Cupid and Psyche first appeared in written form).  The spectacular cover art of this edition made me pick up Cupid and Psyche, and when I flipped through the book, I saw that the retelling was very well done.  So I bought it.

I do not mean to dismiss the skill involved in a retelling of a classic myth by dwelling on the artwork in this book.  It is no easy task -- I have attempted it myself with Before the Beast -- but the illustrations in this version of the Cupid and Psyche tale are breathtakingly gorgeous.  I have read comparisons of K. Y. Craft's work to the Pre-Raphelite Brotherhood.  I don't disagree with the comparisons, but I don't think that as a description goes far enough.  There is something more than just a PRB influence.  I'm not sure what that more is, except that it is magical.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Book 178: We Planted a Tree

We Planted a Tree, written by Diane Muldrow, illustrated by Bob Staake, Random House 2010.

Today is Earth Day, so it seemed like the perfect day to review this book.  Earth Day celebrations began in 1970, but the earliest one I remember is 1974.  I was in first grade, and, at my school, we planted a tree.

We Planted a Tree is a sweet story that is told through a gentle, lulling poem.  Diane Muldrow manages to explain the benefits of trees without lecturing and in a way that is a delight to read out loud.  And in a way that an active four-year-old boy can understand and enjoy.

Bob Staake illustrated this lovely poem-story, so that should automatically translate as the artwork in the is book is brilliant.  If you are not familiar with Mr. Staake's work, it is brilliant; both as in colorful-brilliant and in clever-brilliant, and infused with a healthy dose of humor.

We Plant a Tree IS a perfect book for Earth Day, and for every day thereafter.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Book 177: A Treasury of the Great Children's Book Illlustrators

A Treasury of the Great Children's Book Illustrators, by Susan E. Meyer, Harry N. Abrams, 1997.

I bought this book because of a recommendation by Tony DiTerlizzi, who is himself a pretty great children's book illustrator.  No doubt, he and Brian Froud will show up in later editions.

I am happy to say that I recognized all of the names except Kay Nielsen, who is now one of my favorite illustrators.  I grew up reading fairy tales -- I thought because of the stories themselves -- now I think because of the delightful and engaging classic illustrations.  For example, I had a Walter Crane-illustrated edition of Beauty and the Beast.

 I love the stories behind the illustrators and the illustrations, and the artwork contained in this book is alone worth the price of the book.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Book 176: The Goldfish Yawned

The Goldfish Yawned, by Elizabeth Sayles, Henry Holt and Company, 2005.  Baby, Toddler, Preschool.

The Goldfish Yawned is one of those books that my son checked out from the library and he loved so much that we had to buy our own copy.  Before the three-week check-out time had ended.  It is also a perfect book to read during April, a/k/a Poetry Month, because it reads like a whimsical poem.  It begins:  The goldfish yawned.  The firefly blinked.  The yellow cat licked her tail.

My little boy was drawn to the stunning artwork on the cover (as was I).  The artwork within the covers is every bit as stunning and delightful.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book 175: BLUEBIRD

BLUEBIRD, by Bob Staake, Schwartz & Wade Book (Random House) 2013.

I could not love this book more.  BLUEBIRD unfolds gently, sweetly without a single word of text.  In fact, text not only is unnecessary, it would impede the flow of this tender story.

The artwork features a remarkably subtle palette -- only grays and blues -- but conveys so much through darkness and light and the shift from grays to blues.

The topics within BLUEBIRD are weighty and universal.  I did cry when I reached the end of the book.  My son, who is four, understood the story and proclaimed it "very beautiful".  Perhaps I should be more like my son.

This is my son AFTER he read BLUEBIRD.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Book174: Goodnight, My Duckling

Goodnight, My Duckling, by Nancy Tafuri, Scholastic Press, 2005.    Baby to Toddler to Preschool.

Once of the first books I bought for my son, before he was even born, was Nancy Tafuri's I Love You, Little One.  I started reading it to him when he was only a few weeks old, and now that he is almost four-and-a-half, we still read it.  I picked up I Love You, Little One because of the wonderful cover art.  I picked up Goodnight, my Duckling for the same reason.

The text in Goodnight, My Duckling is simple enough for my son to read on his own, and it is charming enough that he wants to read it.  Those two qualities made this book perfect for young beginning readers.

Nancy Tafuri's illustrative style is a wonder.  She renders her artwork so accurately that it is even very young children have no trouble recognizing the animal (or plant or object) she has drawn, but in a way that is infused with such sweetness and loveliness.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Book 173: A Pale View of Hills

A Pale View of Hills, by Kazuo Ishiguro, G. P. Putnam & Sons, 1982.

A Pale View of Hills is one of the few non-children's books that I bought recently for myself.  I bought it for a reading group because it wasn't available at our library.  I intended to donate it to the library after I finished reading, but I can't quite let this one go.

A Pale View of Hills is a confusing book.  By the time I reached the final page of the book, I found that the story had not resolved for me.  Instead of annoying me, this intrigued me.  It made me want to set this book aside for a while and then read it again.  A Pale View of Hills is also a linguistically beautiful book.  The scenes painted with the words are, at times, mesmerizingly beautiful, and at other times, hauntingly sad, and at still other times, both.

The dialogue in this book is so well-defined that the speaker is almost instantly clear.  And this quality adds to the mystery and confusion that infuses the story.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Book 172: 10 Little Rubber Ducks

10 Little Rubber Ducks, by Eric Carle, HarperCollins 2005.

This book is wonderful for so many reasons.  First, it's about rubber ducks.  Second, it by Eric Carle.  Third, it's a counting book.  Fourth, it's an ocean book.  Fifth, it's a book about traveling.  Sixth, it's a book about adoption.  And finally, it's a rubber duck book by Eric Carle.  It's hard to imagine anything better than that, except, maybe that this book was part of the Kohl's Cares Book.

My son received this book for Easter.  He didn't get past the title page with the numbered ducks; he was pretty happy with that page.  I, however, have read this book when I used it for library Story Time.  Kids do love the counting-to-ten part, but they also really enjoy all the directions the little ducks go, their adventures, and what they encounter.

The artwork, of course, is spectacular.  Eric Carle has a unique gift for painting by subtraction as much as by addition:  Every brush stroke that removes the paint from the canvas is just as eloquent as every brush stroke that puts it on.