Saturday, October 9, 2010

New Fall Picturebooks Currently on Our Shelves

The 3 Little Dassies
by Jan Brett
Penguin Young Readers Group
This retelling of the three little pigs has an African twist. Instead of three little pigs setting off, three little dassies, cute furry creatures who live in Namibia, set out to find a cooler, less-crowded place free of eagles. But the place to which they move is within the territory of an eagle, who would love a tasty dassie (or three) for his chicks. The story unfolds as you might think, excepting the addition of an agama lizard, who rescues the dassies of the straw and stick houses.

The illustrations, as always, are exquisitely detailed. Jan Brett is a master at using frames to expand upon her story. On some pages the frames show impending danger as the eagle heads out to find some food. On others, we see the rescue taking place while the larger illustration is concerned with the dassie of the stone house. Brett's vivid colors and intricate patterns make this book, like her others, a glorious work worthy of the hours children will spend pouring over it.

by Suzy Lee
Chronicle Books
From the creator of the award-winning Wave comes a stunning new book. In Shadow, Lee utilizes the gutter to create two worlds- the real one and that of shadows. Using the objects she finds around her, a little girl creates worlds and characters with the shadows she casts. But as her creations become more intricate, the shadows begin to take on a life of their own.

This book is practically wordless and incredibly designed. I wonder at the stories children might weave about each page as each shadow scene presents opportunities to explore what the little girl might be pretending. Lee's use of the gutter is ingenious; here is a book that embraces its form. If there's one book I'll buy for myself this fall, it'll be Suzy Lee's Shadow.

13 Words
by Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by Maira Kalman
On the inside flap of the dust jacket 13 words are listed. There are words you might expect in a picturebook, like bird, dog, hat, and baby, and some absolutely splendiferous words like despondent, haberdashery, panache, and mezzo-soprano. And here's the thing, children love large interesting words, especially when they sound a little funny. Snicket's humor is, as always, spot on. As I read this at my desk I was giggling so much a coworker decided to come investigate. I ended up reading the book aloud, the two of us laughing with each turn of the page. Customers came over and we ended up with a small, impromptu storytime. What better recommendation is there?

Maira Kalman, who you may recognize from her work for New Yorker magazine, creates vibrant, quirky illustrations. Her gouache paintings are luscious with bright, sunny colors. Her work, with its references to art history and whatever happens to catch her fancy, is a perfect match for Snicket's writing; I'd love to see more from this bizarrely fabulous pairing.

Flora's Very Windy Day
by Jeanne Birdsall
illustrated by Matt Phelan
Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
From the author of the Penderwicks series comes a picturebook perfect for a blustery fall day. One windy fall day Flora and her brother go outside to play. Flora has super-special heavy-duty red boots that keep her from flying away, but her little brother Crispin doesn't have super-special boots and is so small he gets blown away by the wind. What will Flora do?

Birdsall's story explores the complex relationship older children have with their younger siblings. As Flora realizes, younger siblings may be annoying, but that doesn't mean you should give them up.
Three Little Kittens
by Jerry Pinkney
Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin
Though the cover is a little too cutesy for me, Pinkey's retelling is a wonderful rendition of the classic rhyme. He begins his story on the endpapers, where we see the three kittens longing to go outside. The illustrations are beautifully composed and young children will have no trouble following the story even without knowing the words. An added bonus, music for the text is provided on the inside of the dust jacket, so a musical storytime may be had by all.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to hear Pinkney talk about this book. Each page turn, each rotation of viewpoint, is carefully considered and as someone studying the picturebook, it was interesting to hear Pinkney talk about his choices, and changes, during the creation of the book.


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