Friday, July 19, 2013

Spotlight on Picture Books

Nighttime Ninja
by Barbara DaCosta
illustrated by Ed Young

When the clock strikes midnight, the ninja sets out on a mission.  He sneaks through the house, climbing, balancing, leaping, until . . . . a light flips on.  He is caught.  The fun of the story is in discovering just who the ninja is and what his mission is.  This is a ninja that every kid can relate to.

Ed Young uses cut paper, fabric, string, and colored pencil to create collage illustrations that convey stealth and mystery with a silhouette of the ninja who climbs hand over hand up his rope and creeps down the hallway.  With restrained energy he balances, ready to spring, and breaks out of the pictures’ frames.

I admit it, I am not a ninja fan, but I fell in love with this book when I first read it.  And the first-grade class I read it to loved it just as much.  Kid friendly, beautiful art, and great for ninja and non-ninja fans alike.

Lucky Ducklings: A True Rescue Story 
by Eva Moore
illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

When Mama Duck takes her five ducklings for a walk, the ducklings fall into a storm drain in their path.  People in the town come to the rescue and work together to get Mama Duck and her ducklings safely home.

Moore’s rhythmic text repeats the ducklings’ names, “Pippin, Bippin, Tippin, Dippin . . . and last of all, Little Joe” and Mama Duck’s forceful, “Whack! Whack!”  She sets up suspense before the page turns and pulls listeners along with “that could have been the end of the story.  But it wasn’t because  . . .”

Realistic illustrations by Nancy Carpenter give the ducks personality and are reminiscent of Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings.

Perfect preschooler read-aloud.

Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad?
by Julie Middleton
illustrated by Russell Ayto

When Dave and his dad visit the dinosaur exhibition, Dave asks, “Are the dinosaurs dead, Dad?”  “Yes” is the answer, and Dad begins sharing his considerable knowledge of dinosaurs as they visit each exhibit.  “You see . . . that dinosaur there is the Deinocheirus.  It has some of the longest arms of all the dinosaurs.”  “You see this one with the very l-o-n-g neck, Dave? That’s a Diplodocus.”

But Dave is more interested in the fact that the dinosaurs are winking at him, trying to tickle him, and eating his hamburger.  Is it just Dave’s imagination?  I don’t want to give away the ending, but I will say this . . . “Run, Dave! Run!”

The stylized and uncluttered illustrations by Russell Ayto are hilarious.  Details inject humor and encourage a second visit.  And the dinosaurs are wickedly funny.

Oliver and His Alligator
by Paul Schmid

Oliver is nervous about his first day of school, so he stops by the swamp to pick up an alligator -- “Just in case.”  (Because, of course, who wouldn’t want an alligator “just in case”?)  At school when a lady who is not his mom asks, “What might your name be?” he suddenly can’t remember his name, but he can say “Munch, munch!”  And that takes care of the problem as his alligator swallows the lady.  In the classroom a little girl tries to talk to him and “Munch, munch!” the alligator swallows her, too.  And so it goes with the alligator swallowing all Oliver’s problems until Oliver is sitting alone in an empty classroom, thinking that maybe school is a little boring.  And that is a problem . . . (and if you want to know how he solves it, you’ll have to read the book.)

This is a funny, offbeat look at first-day-of-school jitters.

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein
by Jennifer Berne
illustrated by Vladmir Radunsky

“Over 100 years ago, as the stars swirled in the sky, as the Earth circled the sun, as the March winds blew through a little town by the river, a baby boy was born.”

With this opening sentence, author Jennifer Berne introduces readers to a boy who was different -- a boy named Albert Einstein.  As a young child Albert took so long to start speaking that his parents worried that something might be wrong.  Later when he went to school, he asked so many questions that his teacher told him he was a disruption to the class, but he continued to ask questions -- continued to wonder about the world around him.  An insatiable curiosity drove him to read and study and ask even more questions.  Whether he was playing his violin, sailing in his boat, or wandering around town, he was wondering and trying to figure things out.

Berne doesn’t attempt an overview of Einstein’s entire life -- or even to touch upon major events -- instead, she celebrates his curiosity and his ideas.

Personality-filled ink and gouache illustrations by Vladimir Radunsky convey the essence (perhaps more effectively than photographs) of who Albert Einstein was.  Pages crowded with thoughts and ideas reflect his continually-engaged mind.  Loose line work communicates Einstein’s nonconformity and unbounded imagination.  Radunsky even manages to express concepts like atomic theory and time dilation in pictures.

Even in you are not interested in reading the book, pick it up and look at the double-page spread of Einstein in his sailboat.  Nearly blended paint and fading outlines suggest boundaries and create a dream-like scene that is perfectly suited to this man with visionary ideas.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful recommendations! Nighttime Ninja has become a fave in our house due to your recommendation!