Friday, July 18, 2014

Spotlight on Picture Books 2014

Little Santa
by Jon Agee

I know . . . it’s 93 degrees outside, but just for a minute, imagine snow--lots and lots of snow.  Because in Jon Agee’s book, Little Santa, that is what there is--snow, cold, and hard work.  In fact, life is so tough at the North Pole, that the Clauses (well, the parents and six of the children, at least) are miserable.  Santa, the youngest of the bunch, loves the North Pole, and his red suit and cheerful face stand out in comical contrast to his family’s glumness.  Just when the Clauses decide to leave the “miles and miles” of snow and move to Florida, they get trapped by a “terrible blizzard,” and young Santa has to go for help.

This is not the story from the TV specials, instead it’s the story of how Santa flies on a reindeer, meets some helpful elves, and ends up staying at the North Pole--all told with Jon Agee’s characteristic dry humor and cartoon illustrations.

Perfect for Christmastime . . . and pretty terrific even in July.

by Lori Nichols

Before she was born, Maple’s parents planted a tree for her, and as Maple and her tree grow, she spends
time singing, swaying, and pretending with her tree.  Some days the “leaves . . . dance for her.”  Then one day, a sapling appears near Maple’s tree, and she learns that she will soon be a big sister.

A restrained text in this sweet book about sisters lets readers discover for themselves just what is happening in the story, creating a couple of great “Aha” moments.

Details in the pencil and digital-color illustrations, including Maple’s toys and a nest made by the birds in spring, encourage multiple readings.  The painterly feel of the maple tree, created with gorgeous shades of green and yellow, will have you seeking out the shade of a welcoming tree.

Look for the next book about these sisters, Maple & Willow Together, due to release in November.

Peggy: A Brave Chicken on a Big Adventure
by Anna Walker

Peggy (the chicken) lives in a “small house on a quiet street” where she enjoys a nice, simple routine, until “one blustery day” when a “gust of wind” scoops her up and carries her far from home.  Undaunted our plucky heroine “pick[s] herself up, ruffle[s] her feathers, and [goes] for a walk.”

Here the splendid, double-page, ink and photo collage illustrations tell the story best and heighten the humor.  Peggy wanders amidst an umbrella-carrying, faceless crowd, rides the escalators, tries on shoes, and watches a movie (with popcorn, of course).  Just try not to giggle when she comes face to face with the chicken-shaped gravy boat.  After exploring the city, Peggy makes it safely home, but her daily routine will never be quite the same.

Anna Walker is an Australian author and artist whose concern for her own bantam hens blowing over the fence sparked the idea that grew into Peggy’s adventure.  It’s funny, beautiful, and utterly charming.

Rules of Summer
by Shaun Tan

“Never leave a red sock on the clothesline.”

That’s the first rule of summer.

“Never be late for a parade.”
“Never give your keys to a stranger.”
“Never forget the password.”

While it seems to be all about the rules, it is more about the relationship between brothers.  This is one of those books that you really have to read for yourself, but I’ll give you half-a-dozen adjectives:  captivating, enigmatic, emotive, thought-provoking, powerful, and inimitably Shaun Tan.

One reading is not enough.

Have You Seen My Dragon?
by Steve Light

In Have You Seen My Dragon by Steve Light, a small boy searches the city for his dragon.  “Maybe he got hungry and stopped for a hot dog./ Or perhaps he went downtown on the bus.”  Detailed illustrations capture the frenetic energy of a city.  And the dragon looks perfectly at home in the busy double-page spreads where he can be found swimming in the harbor, riding atop a subway car, and visiting the playground.  As readers join in the search for the dragon, they will find something new to count with every page turn.  Splashes of color on the otherwise black and white pages highlight 2 hot dogs, 3 buses, 4 sailboats, and so on, up to 20 Chinese lanterns.

This book works on multiple levels: a spot-the-dragon book; a counting book; a wow-check-out-everything-that-is-going-on-in-this-city book.  And besides, who wouldn't love to pick up a book with a green foil dragon on the dust jacket?

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