Friday, October 23, 2015

Spotlight on Picture Books 2015

Float by Daniel Miyares

Miyares is fairly new to picture books (his first illustrated book came out 2010), but boy, does he know what he is doing!  Float is the wordless story of a boy who takes a boat folded from newspaper out to play.  When the rain starts, he floats it in puddles and in the gutter, but the boat gets away from him and ends up destroyed.  Dejected, he trudges home holding his water-soaked paper.  But, with a little comfort and help from home, he is soon off on a new adventure.

The gorgeous illustrations are filled with movement and the exuberance of childhood play.  Ink and watercolor backgrounds in shades of gray with a just a hint of color make the pages look as rain-soaked as the boy's adventure, and his rain jacket in brilliant yellow foreshadows the final scene while keeping readers' attention focused on the boy.

Varied perspective, perfect pacing, and impeccably-placed page turns make this one of my favorite picture books of the year.

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zacharia O’Hora

If you are looking for a fabulous and funny new read aloud, Wolfie the Bunny is it.

The Bunny family finds a baby on their doorstep.  A wolf baby--an adorable wolf bunny.  Dot, the bunny daughter is understandably concerned.  "He's going to eat us all up!"  "But Mama and Papa [are] too smitten to listen."  Oblivious to any danger, her parents take pictures and dote on their new son, Wolfie, as Dot continues to warn them: "He's going to eat us all up!"

Dot's persistently annoyed expression makes her all the more delightful, and her feisty protestations make for some of the funniest moments in the book.  In a twist at the end of the story, it's spunky Dot who proves herself the hero of the family.

Adults will appreciate the tongue-in-cheek mocking of any parent who has even been "smitten" with a child, and kids will understand--and laugh at--Dot's frustration with her new brother.

Gingerbread for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockcliff, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch

We all know Revolutionary War heroes like George Washington, Nathanael Greene, Patrick Henry, and Ethan Allen, but in Gingerbread for Liberty, we meet an unlikely hero--a baker.  Christopher Ludwick was a German baker who owned a gingerbread bakeshop in Philadelphia.  He had a big booming laugh and a kind and generous disposition.  And he was a patriot.  When the Revolutionary War started, the baker (who was too old and fat to be a soldier), built ovens and made bread at his own expense for the soldiers.  Then, when England sent Hessian soldiers to fight the patriots, the baker volunteered to talk to them.  Under cover of night, he rowed out to the Hessian army and convinced many of the soldiers to switch sides.

Bits of humor in the text and art add a touch of lightness to this war story that will draw in young audiences.  Paper cut-out illustrations resemble gingerbread cookies, creating stylized scenes that allow the baker's personality to shine through.  An author's note at the end has additional information that you must read before sharing the book.

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

This true story of the original bear named Winnie was written by the great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn, the man who raised the bear, as a bedtime story for her son, Cole.  Harry was a veterinarian serving as a captain in the Canadian military during World War I when he saw a trapper with a bear cub at a train station.  He purchased the bear for $20 and named her Winnipeg (or Winnie for short) after his hometown.  After Harry convinced his Colonel to let him keep the cub, Winnie became a mascot of sorts for the brigade and traveled with them across the ocean to England.  But when the men had to join the fighting in France, Harry left her at the London Zoo.  It was there that she was visited by Christopher Robin (son of A. A. Milne) who was allowed to play in Winnie's enclosure.  Their friendship inspired  Milne's Winnie the Pooh stories.

Beautiful illustrations by Sophie Blackall include panels, spot art, double-page spreads, and details that encourage readers and listener to linger over every page.  Period photos decorate the final pages in scrapbook style.

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