Picture Book Month

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November 24, 2014

Dog’s Colorful Day / Emma Dodd

Dog

Combining colours and counting, Dog’s Colorful Day is a great read-aloud for story times. Children love making the different sound effects (“splash!” “swish! “squish!”), and I like to increase the repetition a bit by counting all of dog’s spots on each page. Dog’s Colorful Day is easily turned into a great felt story, and I have also heard of colleagues using it in multilingual story times as a way of introducing the names of the colours in different languages.

November 23, 2014

From Head to Toe / Eric Carle

head

Got some wiggly toddlers or preschoolers who just can’t seem to sit still through a picture book? This classic from Eric Carle is the perfect compromise – a beautifully-illustrated, informational book that gets kids up and moving. Children are introduced to different animals and parts of the body through Carle’s signature collage illustrations, then encouraged to follow directions and participate in the action. The bright colours and large format make this great for sharing with a large audience, as it’s sure to catch the attention of everyone present! Pro-tip: A librarian colleague once showed me how she paperclips pages together when she wants to seamlessly skip over them while reading, and in this case she likes to skip over the pages featuring the donkey who kicks his legs – depending on how much space you have available, this might be a good action to skip, to avoid potential injuries and tears!

November 22, 2014

Sparky / Jenny Offil

sparky

Our narrator, an imaginative, unflappable little girl, longs for a pet – something interesting, like a bunny or a bird or a trained seal. Her mother says she can have any pet she wants, as long as it doesn’t need to be walked or bathed or fed. After a visit with a knowledgeable school librarian,  she decides to order a pet sloth, who arrives in the mail and is promptly dubbed Sparky. Sparky is a bit of an unusual pet – he doesn’t perform tricks or play games, and he certainly doesn’t live up to the high expectations of Mary Potts, a know-it-all, snooty little neighbor. But our narrator eventually discovers that while Sparky isn’t like other people’s pets, he does have a quiet charm of his own, and in the end, that’s good enough for her. This is a gentle, heartwarming tale, simply told and beautifully illustrated, about appreciating the special things that make each of us unique.

November 21, 2014

Hopper and Wilson / Maria Van Lieshout

hopper

Hopper, a little blue stuffed elephant, and his friend Wilson, a little yellow stuffed mouse, wonder what lies across the big blue sea, and set out on an adventure to the end of the world. I know I say this about almost every picture book, but Hopper and Wilson really is a beautiful picture book, with a sweet, simple story (I feel like I say that a lot too…) about friendship and discovery. Maria Van Lieshout’s water colour illustrations are classic, even elegant, and lend the picture book a timeless quality that should stand the test of time. Hopper and Wilson would make for a lovely bedtime story, perfect for a quiet moment with a loved one.

November 20, 2014

Please, baby, please / Spike Lee

baby

Please, baby, please celebrates the every day realities of raising a baby, from the maddening to the heart-melting. With a rhythmic refrain that’s a delight to real aloud, and exuberant illustrations that capture the sweet impishness of toddlers, this is a fabulous book to share at baby times. Finding picture books that feature diverse families can be a challenge, and Please, baby, please features an African-American family, and can add much-needed diversity to a story time collection.

 

November 19, 2014

Thank You Bear / Greg Foley

bear

Thank You Bear is absolutely charming. Bear finds a little box that he is sure would be just perfect for Mouse. As he shows his discovery to the other animals, though, their negative responses make Bear question just how special the box actually is.

In addition to the sweet, approachable story, this is a beautifully designed picture book. The text is printed in a modern, eye-catching font on one side of each spread, which are complimented by beautifully expressive illustrations that just melt my heart.

While I love over-the-top singable picture books that turn story time into party time, I also love simple, gentle stories that call for quiet moments and lap time reads. Thank You Bear is just a lovely little story about appreciating the simple things in life, and finding wonder in the every day, with your true friends.

 

November 18, 2014

This Little Chick / John Lawrence

little chick

This picture book is so much fun for sharing with groups! There are few things more fun for small children than making animal noises, and this story has plenty of them. A bouncy, rhythmic refrain is repeated on each page, encouraging children to join in and participate. My family times are pretty much toddler times, so I’ve been building my collection of simple, interactive toddler-friendly picture books. John Lawrence’s rustic illustrations are just another delightful feature of this crowd-pleasing alternative to the more familiar “Old Macdonald”.

November 17, 2014

Dear Zoo / Rod Campbell

dear zoo

“I wrote to the zoo to sent me a pet….”

In response to his inquiry, the narrator receives a series of animals in crates from the zoo. Each of the animals proves ill-suited to being a pet and is sent back, until a puppy finally arrives that is just perfect.

This simple, classic picture book works well with all sorts of different groups, and can be shared in a number of ways for variety. I’ve read it to babies, toddlers and preschoolers, all of whom loved the thrill of lifting the flaps. With a group of older children, Dear Zoo led to an engaging discussion, as the children shared their opinions on whether each animal would be a good or bad pet. The picture book also makes for a delightful felt story, as well as a brilliant oral story (plenty of fun animal noises and actions!).

One book, multiple ways – that’s just what we librarians love to discover and share with families!

November 16, 2014

The Bus For Us / Suzanne Bloom

the bus for us

The Bus For Us is absolute simplicity at its best. The text is just about as repetitive as can be, with a young girl asking her friend “Is this the bus for us, Gus?”, only to have him reply “No, Tess, it’s a _______” (fire tuck, ice cream truck, tow truck, etc.), until finally the long-awaited school bus appears.

I used this picture book as part of a series of Language Fun Storytimes that I co-facilitated with an SLP. It’s a perfect choice for children with language delays because it provides so much opportunity for practice and repetition, without ever becoming boring or frustrating.

Suzanne Bloom’s illustrations can really take a lot of the credit for making this simple picture book so much fun for small children. The large illustrations dominate each spread with vibrant colours and charming figures. While the pictures are eye-catching enough to use in a group setting, the amount of detail in each image can be best appreciated when sharing the book with smaller groups of children, or individually.

I’ve used this picture book with children with language delays, in family story times and in baby times, and it’s always been a favourite. As a former ESL teacher, I can see this picture book also being a favourite with ESL story times, or with instructors working with ESL children. Repetitive yet vibrant, The Bus For Us shows that with picture books, sometimes less really is more.

 

November 15, 2014

Silly Doggy! / Adam Stower

doggy

I first came across this book when I was volunteering in an elementary school library, and the grade 1 and 2 students in particular just thought it was hilarious. It’s also pretty adorable, so I have to share it.

A little girl named Lily finds a bear in her backyard, and assumes it’s a lost dog. She’s always wanted a dog, so she adopts the bear, and treats it just like she would any other dog – taking it for walks, teaching it tricks, giving it a bath – all with hilarious results. But the “silly doggy” is lost, and Lily decides to help it find its home. A sweet little spread on the end pages reveal just where the bear lives, and what becomes of Lily and her new pet, a “kitty”!

Now, overprotective, helicopter parents might frown at a book that depicts a small child riding a bear. I doubt any of the kids I saw checking out this book took it at face value, but one never knows!

The illustrations are the real stars of this picture book – vibrant water-colour illustrations that fill the majority of each page and bring the spunky Lily and her bemused pet bear to life.

 

November 14, 2014

The Midnight Library / Kazuno Kohara

library

A sweet little librarian in pigtails works at a little library that only opens at night. With her three owl assistants, the little librarian helps all the animals in the town find just what they need, be it a perfect book, a quiet place to study, an activity room, a story time, or a library card.

Words cannot express just how much I love this book. I love everything about it. I love the simple illustrations, done only in black and yellow with the odd splash of blue. I love the sweet little animals and the adorable little librarian (I can only wish I was that cute, or that stylish). I love the gentleness of the story. I love that it’s a little bit old-fashioned (nobody comes looking for wireless or help with printing), but still recognizes that libraries have a lot to offer beyond just the perfect book (though that’s pretty important in itself!).

I love the innocence and the gentleness of this story, and I especially love the tortoise’s response to getting his first library card:

“How wonderful”, said the tortoise. “And how lucky I am!”

Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to have libraries and the great staff members who bring them to life.

The little librarian even says “Shhh!” in the most adorable way. I can only wish I could shush people that adorably.

Did I mention I love this picture book?

November 13, 2014

Duck & Goose Go to the Beach / Tad Hills

duck

Duck decides it’s time he and Goose went on an adventure, somewhere far beyond their peaceful meadow home. Goose is less enthusiastic. When the feathered duo stumble upon a sandy beach, Goose realizes just how exciting it can be to try something new, while Duck discovers just how much he loves their meadow home.

Duck & Goose Go to the Beach is a sweet, gentle story with soft, charming illustrations that just melt my heart. While the story is definitely too long and too complex for my story times, I would happily recommend this picture book to parents as a nice option for one-to-one reading time.

November 12, 2014

Tiny Little Fly / Michael Rosen

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“My, oh my, Tiny Little Fly! Tiny Little Fly see great big toes….Tiny Little Fly sits on Elephant’s nose.”

Tiny Little Fly has a wonderful sense of rhythm, making it an ideal picture book to read aloud to a crowd and encourage audience participation. There are great sound effects to be made as the bigger animals all attempt to catch the Tiny Little Fly (to no avail), and Kevin Waldron’s illustrations are stunning. The four page fold-out spread is an audience favourite, as the mud-splattered antics of the big animals are captured in beautiful, rustic detail. There’s just the right amount of suspense to keep kids enagaged, and small children will enjoy seeing the tiny little fly outmaneuver the bigger animals!  Perfect for family story times.

November 11, 2014

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More / Karen Beaumont

Paint1

Be warned – the tune for this joyful, riotously colourful picture book is seriously catchy. Share it at story time and I guarantee that you will be humming the song all day long. You can certainly read this one as you would a normal book, or chant it, but for best results sing it to the tune of the old folk song “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More” (here’s a video of the awesome Fred Penner performing the folk song live). A small child just will not stop colouring him/herself in messy, gloopy, slimey, colourful, wonderful paint, promising each time that he/she ain’t gonna paint no more. Encourage your audience to clap along or stamp their feet, which really gets the energy in the room flowing. I love, love, love to sing my picture books in story time, and this cheeky story is a reliable audience favourite.

November 10, 2014

Little Owl Lost / Chris Haughton

owl

I read this picture book at a family story time recently, and it was a hoot. The kids just loved the enthusiastic, well-meaning but very confused squirrel and his misguided attempts to find the little lost owl’s mother. This is a simple, gentle story with some fun repetition that is really fun to read aloud. I particularly like Haughton’s striking visual style – the illustrations in Little Owl Lost are really unique, and so unlike the eye-searingly bright, candy-coloured illustrations you often find in children’s picture books. Something a little bit different, but still very visually appealing, and an audience favourite.

 

November 9, 2014

Bark, George! / Jules Feiffer

bark george

If you’re looking for a story time winner, this is it. I have used this book so many times in different story times, and it has always been a crowd favourite, particularly with older kids who really get the humour. Lots of fun animal noises, adorably melodramatic illustrations, great repetition (perfect for audience participation), and a hilarious twist ending – this simple story is a consistent winner. Highly, highly recommended!

November 8, 2014

Jump! / Scott M. Fischer

jump

I love this book. I love the simple, rhythmic text that’s just so much fun to read aloud. I love the charming illustrations. I love the silly, over-the-top scenarios. I love that I can use this story with just about any age group – I particularly love using it in baby times and having caregivers lift their babies every time we say “jump!”. I love using it with wiggly toddlers and antsy preschoolers who just need to…..jump! It’s also a picture book that I can see converting nicely into a felt story or puppet show. Does it have a complex story or message? Not at all! But it’s a lot of fun, and I strongly believe in the importance of fun.

November 7, 2014

Doodleday / Ross Collins

doodle

Nobody draws on Doodleday, and that’s that. Nobody, that is, except Harvey, who’s never heard of Doodleday. Harvey’s innocent doodles start coming to life, with disastrous results, until Harvey’s mom comes up with a pretty ingenious solution. Doodleday is a lot of fun. I love the illustrations (which are madcap and zany and cartoony and adorable), and I really love Harvey’s mom, who doesn’t just use her wits to save the day, but also looks pretty spiffy while doing it.  I can imagine this picture book flying off the shelves at an elementary school library, particularly with the grade 1-3 crowd.

November 6, 2014

 There are cats in this book / Viviane Schwarz

cats

As a librarian I am duty-bound to love books about cats. I came across There are cats in this book on the shelf one afternoon, and naturally had to pick it up. Duty-bound, you see. Well, there certainly are cats in this picture book – three cats, to be exact – as well as a lot of flaps to lift and pages to turn and fun to be had. I love picture books that encourage children to actively interact with the book and participate in the story (sort of like ipad picture book apps without the annoying sound effects and unending tinny background music…). In There are cats in this book, children are encouraged to play with the cats by following simple instructions, such as lifting flaps to take part in a pillow fight, turning the page to reveal a ocean full of  fish, or blowing on the book to dry out the soggy felines. It’s simple, it’s fun, and there are cats. What more can I say?

November 5, 2014

Here I Am / Patti Kim

here i am

Here I Am is proof that a picture really can be worth a thousand words. This wordless picture book tells a complex story of immigration and adaptation, loss and acceptance, friendship and belonging, using stunning mixed-media illustrations. A little boy immigrates from Korea with his family, and struggles to adapt to life in his new city. He clings to a little seed he brought with him from his homeland, which reminds him of everything he’s left behind.  When the little boy accidentally drops the seed out a window, he is forced to venture out in search of it, where he discovers that the world isn’t such a dark, lonely place after all.  Here I Am is a picture book, but I think it would perhaps speak even more eloquently to older readers, including teens, who can more fully process the complex illustrations, and decode the emotions hidden inside each image. Picture books like Here I Am challenge traditional understandings of what a picture book is, what it means and who it is for, suggesting that picture books can be art form as valid as any other, complex and lyrical and beautiful.

November 4, 2014

Kitten’s First Full Moon / Kevin Henkes

kitten

It’s no secret that I am drawn to picture books with striking or unusual illustrations. This classic by picture book maestro Kevin Henkes is no exception. Kitten and her world are depicted in beautiful back and white illustrations – an unusual choice for a genre that typically features bright, bold colours. Little Kitten sees her first full moon and thinks that it’s a giant bowl of milk in the sky. She wants that bowl of milk, and will stop at nothing to get it. This is a lovely story for preschoolers, who might giggle at Kitten’s discomfort, but who will get a gentle reminder of the importance of persistence and perseverance.  Kitten is also just about the cutest little cat I have ever seen in a picture book, who acts just as adorably as a little kitten should –

So she pulled herself together

and wiggled her bottom

and sprang from the top step of the porch.

A charming little picture book about a charming, plucky little kitten.

November 3, 2014

Too Small for my Big Bed / Amber Stewart

tiger

A rambunctious little tiger is frightened of the dark, and finds it difficult to sleep alone, away from his mother. His wise mother gently helps him overcome his fear and develop the confidence he needs so that he can sleep alone in his big bed. The illustrations are extremely charming, and work well with the gentle text to keep the story from sounding like a parenting manual or an “educational” book. A sweet, positive story that many parents of toddlers will relate to.

pbmIn honour of this most wonderful (and adorable) of celebrations – Picture Book month! –  I thought I’d share a different picture book every day for the rest of the month. These will be picture books that I love – some might be good for story times, some might be perfect for bed time, and others might just be ones that I loved as a child. I won’t be sharing in any particular order, because variety is the spice of life, and I’m not nearly organized enough for that.

With out further ado….

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