Sunday, September 23, 2012

Three Cheers: The Power of Positive Thinking

When I find something I like, I tend to stick with it.  I always order Margherita pizza at Biaggi’s, write with 0.7-lead mechanical pencils, and buy the same brand of running shoes.  But with such a wide variety in terrific pictures books, it would be a shame to get stuck in a rut when choosing books to read to my kids.  (And to read to myself -- who am I kidding?)  So today we have three new books from this year, each with very different (though all delightful) illustrations.

First up, Tara discusses Oh No, George by Chris Haughton.

I have three types of picture books on my shelf:
  1. The books that I think are amazing, but we don’t read very often because the kids aren’t really drawn to them;
  2. The books the kids love - but I don’t necessarily want to read and;
  3.  The books the kids love, and I can read over and over.

 Oh No, George! fits nicely in the third category.

Set against pages filled with bold orange paint-tones, Harry with his green face and blue hair is dwarfed by his dog, larger-than-life George. This is partly what makes the book fun to pick up. The art is different enough to be unique, but not so out-of-the-box that the kids can’t recognize the characters. With minimal, boxy details and vibrant colors, the illustrations of George manage to express his personality so well that they really tell a story of their own.

The book begins with Harry going out.  Harry asks, “Will you be good, George?” Then George answers, “Yes.” He even takes it a step farther and says, “I’ll be very good.”

This is a story about a dog who wants to be good. He tries very hard to be good. But, sometimes he isn’t very good. Poor George reminded me of my little toddlers running around the house getting into trouble. I feel like I have had this discussion so many times. “Will you be good?” “Yes, Mommy.” Then, within a few minutes they are getting into trouble again. You know they had every intention of making you happy . . . until a better offer came along!

As you read the story, you see George face a temptation . . . “What will George do?” Then you turn the page, and you know what is coming. “Oh no, George!” The predictable text perfectly fits with the page turns as you anticipate George’s guilty face. My favorite part of the story is when Harry comes home and, instead of hiding in the corner, repentant of his mischief, George (in typical dog, or child, fashion) is excited to see him, “Hello, Harry! Great to see you!”

It is nice to have a story where the character is trying to be better. Oh No, George! is an easy-to-read story that will have your kids saying, “I hope I’ll be good” in no time.

Next, Diane talks about one of her favorites, Good News, Bad News by Jeff Mack.

I loved reading this book! It was one of the books that I read over and over again.

Rabbit and Mouse go for a picnic and, depending on how you look at it, the picnic went terrible, or it went really well. Bunny finds “good news” and Mouse finds “bad news”.  Finally, it is all too much and Rabbit gives up, but a repentant Mouse decides to turn things around and find the “good news”.

There are only five words in the entire book, with “good news” and “bad news” repeating throughout.   So the mixed-media pictures with clean, black outlines really tell the story--a story that will keep kids laughing.   

My favorite part of the book is when Rabbit and Mouse are under the tree (good news) and an apple falls on mouse’s head (bad news); but they can eat the apple (good news) until they see the apple has a worm in it (bad news).  It makes me laugh time and time again to see how well Jeff Mack illustrates the expressions on Mouse to make him look annoyed.  The plot was hilarious, and the art was even better.

Finally, Danyelle looks at I Like Old Clothes.

Mary Ann Hoberman’s 1976 book, I Like Old Clothes, got a make-over this year with new illustrations by Patrice Barton.  Hoberman’s poem finds joy in old clothes, and Barton’s pictures extend the text, telling a story in pictures.  The young narrator likes old clothes, “Clothes that were worn/Before I was born.”  She collects clothes (with her brother in tow) from a second-hand shop and from a girl who is helping hang wash on a clothesline.  Then she and her brother dress up in “Clothes with a history,/Clothes with a mystery,” and try on the hand-me-downs that seem all the more adorable for not quite fitting right.

The girl wonders where the clothes have been as she cuts, trims, and sews to refit a dress for herself.  (Then she playfully uses the fabric scraps to dress up her cat.)  She remakes old socks into sock puppets and imagines games her dress may have once “played.”  The clothesline hung at the center of the final double-page spread hints that the clothes will find yet another owner to appreciate them.

Barton’s illustrations are all about texture.  You can almost feel the weave in the plaid dress and the ridges of the corduroy pants.  Polka-dots, stripes, plaids, and florals -- all in muted fabric-like swatches -- fill the pages.  Sidewalks and walls in plaids and a faded canvas house with windows that resemble patches are especially fitting in a book about clothes, as are the zigzag stitches, pattern markings, and measuring tapes that Barton incorporates into the illustrations.  Running stitches outline clouds and define flower stems, while the flowers themselves are buttons.  Machine stitching runs loosely along the edge of the floor, window frames, and a house edge.  With theme-supporting elements, the exuberant illustrations give new life to this book about old clothes.

Pick up a picture book and think happy thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. I love the format of this post - 3 different views and books! So fun! What a perfectly described mommy-reading situation, Tara. We work the same!