Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cybils Picture Books

My house is still a big fan of picture books, although P usually reads them with me while X takes them off to read by himself. So we enjoyed this years crop of Cybils Finalists, with the boys now old enough to talk about why they liked or disliked things, and to appreciate the art as separate from the text.

Blackout,  John Rocco.  X, P and I cosied up under the covers to read our first Cybils of the year.  We enjoyed the energy of the pictures and the interaction between the text and the illustrations, sometimes contrary and sometimes supportive.  It brought back some good family memories -- the free ice cream we got when the cafe freezer lost power, my New Years Resolution to play more table games, the mom who found a flashlight in seconds flat (not always in my capability, but I've had some lucky moments).  A strong start.

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Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow?, Susan A. Shea.  I tossed this one to the fifth graders on the way home from the library, and they were in a jaded mood.  How stupid does a kid have to be not to know that inorganic things don't grow?  I tried to push them towards thinking about younger kids, and that maybe the book was more in fun than a quiz, but it was hard.  Even N later took a while to warm up, but at the end the opening pages lured him into the fun.  The transformation were eye-catching; some favorites were cupcake-to-cake and shovel-to-plow.  I knew I had hooked N when he complained that the baby was missing from the final summary page, and then I triumphantly turned to the very last page with the kid waving good-bye, and he was warmly satisfied.

I Had a Favorite Dress, Boni Ashburn.  This bright book is based around the folktale of Joseph's overcoat, as a talented mom adverts disaster by skillfully remaking outgrown items into smaller options -- the dress becomes a shirt, becomes a top, a skirt, down through hair doo-dads and finally an illustration.  The pictures are painted on white and the text hovers on the edge of poetry, while the mom and kid step back a few paces from cloying.  I liked the mom's motto of not making mountains of molehills which the girl is applying by the end, although I'm not sure she knows what a molehill is.  The boys really enjoyed this one, especially N, and A found it relieved the tedium of being sick.

I Want My Hat Back, Jon Klassen.  We actually read this one last year, which gives me a smug, special, in-crowd feeling.  P especially found the understated humor and grisly ending enchanting; I also enjoyed the take-no-prisoners finale. Although the smallest kids might miss the deadpan humor and find the bear's feelings uncomfortable, older and more sophisticated three year olds (and up) should have a blast.

Me... JanePatrick McDonnell. We had fun reading this biography of Jane Goodall, from the finely detailed illustrations done in soft colors the the actual science entries from her juvenile notebook. My boys found the life of an actual scientist to be a good nonfiction relief from the frivolity of most picture books, especially with the good humor on each page.

Press Here, Herve Tullet.  Both of my boys embraced the conceit for this book (5th grade and 7th grade), although 7th grade X couldn't resist cheating a bit.  He recommends it for "kids who like the follow the rules," and P just looks forward to reading books like this with his younger sister in a year or so. N kept this book for extra days, and A gave it a "Good for kids" seal of approval.

The Princess and the Pig, Jonathan Emmett. Both boys gave this book an enthusiastic thumbs up, enjoying both the energetic pictures and the happy ending, with the human staying with the family that loves her and the foolish royals embracing a pig.

So, time for the votes!  X, P, and I all loved Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back.  Even though we first read it last year, we clearly remembered it with joy and fun. I did ask them what they would buy as a gift for a child, and P and I would give Herve Tullet's Press Here to the small set. X would prefer to give The Princess and the Pig, unless the kid was a baby, in which case he thinks Press Here is the only one appropriate for the under one crowd.

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