Thursday, June 28, 2007


Let's give a little jump-start to our summer blogapalooza with a picture book throw-down of a few choice picks from the new picture book pile!

THE STORY OF CHERRY THE PIG by Utako Yamada (Kane/Miller) When I read this book, I thought, "ah, what an absolutely darling story, and so old-fashioned in the best sense of the word! They don't make 'em like this anymore!" And I guess they don't, because it turns out this author has been writing for decades, and now we have the chance to discover her talents! This Japanese reprint import is the charming story of a piggy who bakes her best apple tart to enter in the big bake-off, but is discouraged when some nibbling mice give it less than rave reviews. Can she still make the cut in the competitive world of pastries? A sunny, retro take on the subjectivity of art, and the author went on to open a dessert shop, so she knows from whence she speaks! (4 and up)

FIX IT, SAM by Lori Reis, illustrated by Sue Rama (Charlesbridge) This little gem achieves a kind of picture book perfection. A few well-chosen words and jubilant crayon-scribbled depictions manage to speak volumes about the far-reaching effects of patience and kindness. Baby break, baby spill, baby drop, and brother fix, fix, fix. Though big boy Sam sometimes rolls his eyes, scratches his head and bends an eyebrow, in the end, it's the helping of his little brother that makes his rugrat counterpart want to follow in his footsteps. Just look at that little guy on the last page, bursting with pride after helping to assemble a motley tent for make-believe! This is the kind of unassuming book that may not win big awards, but kids will ask for it again and again, and it also shows boys in the best and brightest light. (3 and up)

THE DUMPSTER DIVER by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by David Roberts (Candlewick)
As a die-hard reader of ReadyMade magazine, I was thrilled by this ahead-of-its-time tome about Steve, a laid-back hipster bent on giving old things new life. Donning full protective regalia (half scuba-diving, half spaceman suit), he braves winged roaches and possible tetanus to dumpster-dive in search of treasure. To the delight of his young neighbors, a blender becomes a lava lamp, an old computer becomes a flowerpot, a tubeless tv becomes an aquarium. When Steve hurts himself, its up to the kids to collect Useful Junk from other neighbors to create something their friend will use...and love. In addition to developmentally affirming kids' desires to make things using what they have, the book realistically portrays the dangers of actual dumpster diving and underscores the pooh-poohing of it by old-school consumers ("The Grouch...says Steve is crazy--too lazy to work hard to make enough money to buy new stuff at the store like good people should. She says his apartment is full of junk!" ) Love those buggy endapapers and Steve's groovy digs, decorated with a Bette Midler poster and bike-wheel mobile. This is an upbeat book to dive into again and again as a springboard for meaningful discussions about consumerism and recycling with the next Greatest Generation. (6 and up)

GATOR by Randy Cecil (Candlewick) When business at the amusement park carousel slows down, the most popular animal on the ride goes out to explore the world on his own. Children will appreciate the sense of adventure and the expressive, memorable hero with a hole in his heart where the pole used to be. (4 and up)

SKY SWEEPER by Phyllis Gershator, illustrated by Holly Meade (Farrar Straus & Giroux) The monks need a temple, the temple needs a garden, and the garden needs a flower keeper...Takeboki! As one season follows another, though, members of the Japanese community question why Takeboki's ambitions do not stretch far beyond the garden gates. In the end, Takeboki's dedication and singleness of purpose inspires all. In these days of unnecessary competition, this story of a boy who is content to do one simple job well is very refreshing...and this book will also awaken an understanding in children to give thought to workers who do the tasks that may seem mundane, but are necessary and deserve appreciation. (6 and up)

I DON'T LIKE GLORIA by Kaye Umansky, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain (Candlewick) "The first thing she did was eat out of my bowl. MY bowl. She has her own bowl. It says GLORIA on it. Mine says CALVIN. Can't she read?" One pet feels displaced by another, but then again, it could always be worse in this bold and funny tribute to family rivalries. If you liked the brave, rueful art and humor of Sam Lloyd's MR. PUSSKINS, you will like this title as well. A nice storytime pairing with I DON'T LIKE GLORIA would be LOVE THE BABY by Steven Layne, illustrated by Ard Hoyt (Pelican), about a poor big brother bunny who is perpetually entreated to "help me love the baby," which is hard to do when Baby is getting lap time with Mommy and blocks with daddy and the special Scrub-a-Dub song from Nana! Brother manages to help love the baby when only he has the magic touch that can get wascally wabbit back to sleep. Especially comical text and illustration keep this book fresh...yes, this "newcomer-grows-on-you" theme has been visited before (as in Kevin Henkes' JULIUS, THE BABY OF THE WORLD), but who can tire of seeing it done right? (4 and up)

THE DOG CHILD by Simon Black, illustrated by Gernimo Garcia (Cinco Puntos Press) Well, I'm afraid this book's execution really stretched the limits of credulity for me, but given the wildly enthusiastic response of the children, I would be remiss if I did not recommend it. Ever meet those kind of people who, when you ask them to show you a picture of their kid, they show you their dog or cat? Such are the "parents" of the Dog Child. They push the limit between loving and loony by enrolling him in school, signing him up for t-ball, and when they ultimately throw him a birthday party, he uses his wish upon the candles to ask for a human addition to the family (when this canine backed up to the cake I thought we were going to have a derivative toot-salute to William Kotzwinkle's WALTER THE FARTING DOG, but no, he blows out the candle another way). Good call, doggie! (5 and up)

DELILAH D. AT THE LIBRARY by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Rosie Reeve (Clarion) Delilah D. hails from a faraway land where they eat doughnuts and cupcakes in the library, a dreamy princess delivers storytime and trapeze are handy for reaching the high shelves. Where is this land? Alas alack, even a double-page spread cannot help Delilah D. find it on the map, and her ambassador status does not exempt her from following the library rules. Oversized format, a jaunty font, smiling faces a-plenty and a push-the-limits little girl all converge to give this book energy akin to the work of Lauren Child. A dandy read-aloud choice whether starting the summer library reading program or hosting a storytime amidst the shelves. (5 and up)

AND THE TRAIN GOES... by William Bee (Candlewick) Clickerty-click, clickerty-clack, an onomatopoetic train comes down the track! Do you hear the whistle blowing? The book calls for you to get on board with some choral reading. Quirky swirls and lines, bold symmetry and patterns bring to mind vintage Ed Emberley revisited for a new century (check out the Caldecott-winning classic, DRUMMER HOFF to see Bee's stylistic cousin). (2 and up)

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Esme
for all you do!
And your review,
I liked that too...

I heard you speak at the SCBWI conference in New York a few years ago and you moved me so, I laughed from the heart, you knocked me over.

You are the little gem.
Sue Rama

Ben Ottenweller said...

We just finished Sahara Special. We loved it! It has helped us open up and write freely in our journals. Can't wait to read another one!

Mr. Ottenweller's 4th graders
Canterbury School
Fort Wayne, Indiana


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