|This Kid Likes Picture Books|
This renewed interest in picture books makes me examine what I really look for in one. An excellent picture book relies on its illustrations as much as its text, so that the words alone don't convey the whole story. In my favorite books, the illustrations often run counter to the text, contradicting or undermining the words on the page. This requires a bit of sophistication on the audience's part; tiny toddlers might wrestle with this but in our house the boys loved this for as far back as I can remember.
Looking at the picture books of the week, this tension between words and pictures clearly runs in my favorite stories. The Klassen does it to perfection, and the Piggy Wiggy uses the illustrations as punchlines for the text. And on the opposite side, the Pharos book has pictures that reflect the words, illustrating a scene straight from the text but without adding surprises, and that's probably why it felt a bit flat to me.
This Is Not My Hat, J. Klassen. Universally popular, from the early-reading nine year old through the sophisticated eighth grader, and including me and my sister. I read it today with N, and he adored the contrast between the text and the pictures, burying his head in excitement as the great fish arrowed down on the little guy. I think this would be an excellent way to introduce "point of view" discussions in elementary (or even junior high) writing classes.
Voyage to the Pharos, by Sarah Gauch, illus Roger Roth. Egyptian, ancient wonder of world Alexandria lighthouse. Cosy, fresh pictures, slightly androgynous boy. Not enough pyramids, really.
The Return of the Library Dragon, Carmen Agra Deedy. (no kids yet). Ah, my beloved genre of books about books! I think this is a sequel to a book I read ages ago, although this time the librarian confronts a paper-hating ebook revolutionary. The message is a bit muddled, but kids might not mind since the illustrations of the dragon erupting from the librarian's shadow and soul are entertaining enough.
Ten Little Mummies, Philip Yates. Enjoyed by N, the pyramid-loving nine year old, but not really ground breaking. A cute little counting book, not irritating but not outstanding.
Around the World, Piggy Wiggy, Christyan Fox. I checked this out for the pyramid page, but in general it's a refreshing and joyful pop-out book, with each page unfolding into a giant picture of a famous location, but done in an innovative way. So the rocket page unfolds only vertically, while the pyramid goes in all directions and reveals a surprise with the last crease. I also appreciated how the text is repeated on each section, so you don't lose the story as you unveil the picture. Well done. N wants to renew it, so it succeeds with the target as well.