New (to me) Picture Books

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XO, OX: A Love Story written by Adam Rex, illustrated by Scott Campbell

I really wanted to like this one, but fell flat. Despite the wonderful illustrations. Ox loves Gazelle (who seems like a celebrity of some sort, and who we assume Ox has never actually met), and writes her love letters. At first Gazelle is annoyed and then Ox accidentally insults her, but they keep writing. By the end Gazelle has fallen for Ox. Maybe XO, OX is supposed satirical, but clearly many of us are not getting that intent. Instead, it reads like a creepy (stalkerish) story and is not sending a good message about consent and respect.

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The Giant Jumperee written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

I really liked the illustrations in this one, and the surprise at the end will sure to delight kids. I think The Giant Jumperee would work really well in a storytime setting. Although I always have to wonder where these stories take place. Do all these animals really coexist in areas around the globe? I guess this is what happens when you are married to a naturalist.

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Not Quite Narwhal written and illustrated by Jessie Sima

Kelp is a unicorn born to a family of narwhals. This is super cute, but definitely playing into current trends/pop culture. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t know how much of the praise is due to the story and how much is due to the unicorn love at the moment.

Overall, it’s a very sweet story about making family and being true to yourself.

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A Greyhound, A Groundhog written by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Chris Appelhans

This is so sweet. I love the watercolor illustrations and the repetition. It’s very reminiscent of Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett. I also think this one would work well in a storytime setting. Maybe around Groundhog Day?

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Best Books of 2016: Goodreads (picture books)

While voting on the Goodreads Best of 2016 lists this year, I realized I’ve read very few. Given that I noticed this in late November or early December there was not a lot I could do to alleviate the problem. The wait list for The Underground Railroad and Truly, Madly, Guilty and The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo are massive! I could, however, read all the picture books my library owned. And so I did.

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My thoughts are as follows. Starting with the winner:

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

I love Elephant and Piggie, I really do. I’m so sad they are leaving us. And while I think The Thank You Book is a sweet tribute to the readers of the series, it’s not my favorite of the bunch. However, We are in a Book! Is pretty hard to top.

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel, illustrated by T. Ryder Smith

The concept is great– everyone sees the same thing a bit differently. The illustrations are also wonderful. But, for whatever reason, it didn’t wow me like it did my coworker.

Are We There Yet? By Dan Santat

This is a very clever story about boring car rides and the passage of time. I especially enjoyed the use of the book itself (having to turn the book itself upside down).

What do you do with a Problem? By Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom

I’m torn, because I love the illustrations and the idea of facing problems is something kids should learn and discuss. I especially like that the problem is not named, so it can be anything.

However, it seems overly didactic to me. Not all problems affecting kids can be tackled as simply as this book implies.


Ida, Always
by Caron Levis, illustrated by Charles Santoso

An absolutely beautiful story about friendship and and the loss of said friend. I cried.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers, illustrated by Sam Winston

My library doesn’t carry this book and I apparently am awful about remembering to pick up holds at non-work libraries.

Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke

A fun story about a goblin and other fairy tale villains. While not bad, it wasn’t anything special.

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

This is another my library doesn’t carry, which is unfortunate, because I’m already loving the female scientist.

Otter Goes to School by Sam Garton

How did I not know about Otter until now? She’s adorable! I want an otter! I love the clever humor that’s fun for adults but still accessible to children. Also, the illustrations are amazing! To me it reads very much like Winnie the Pooh (which makes sense, Garton is also British).

We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

Not bad, but hard not to compare We Found a Hat to the previous I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat, which are delightfully dark.

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales

I absolutely love Alexie’s YA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, but this is the only other piece I’ve read by him. This picture book about a boy who doesn’t like his name is a fun, relatable read. However, there are some criticisms, which are worth mulling over.

When Green  Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Julie Morstad

I love the illustrations! Many of the poems are wonderful.

I especially like “December 29.”

“and I woke/ to a morning/ that was quiet/ and white/ the first snow/ (just like magic) came/ on tiptoes/ overnight.

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato

When I first started reading I was bored. The words are simple and so are the illustrations. However, as I kept reading, it struck me. This book is deep! It also subtly promotes acceptance of different sexualites and orientations and differences in general, without being “a teaching book.” The worms are what they are.

Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Tim Miller

This was by far my least favorite of the  bunch. It felt like Falatko and Miller tried to be Mo Willems and failed. This type of humor is difficult to pull of successfully and breaking the fourth wall is oftentimes very confusing (unless you’re Mo Willems or William Goldman). Also, the illustrations were way too busy, with no clear focus.

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson

I’ve already written about this picture book, but it’s seriously one of my favorites. Almost makes me want to go back to school. Also, I adore Christian Robinson’s collage like illustrations.

A Hungry Lion, or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins

The title alludes to it all. Gotta love a dark picture book when it’s so tongue in cheek.

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

This is a very sweet bed time story, but the best part is the diverse family. It’s just there. I love that it’s never mentioned because diverse families are everywhere and books with diverse families shouldn’t only be “issue books.”

Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle

Beautiful wordless picture book. The only issue I have (solely  from a library point of view), is that those poor pull out pages will get destroyed. Other than that, the illustrations and dance tell a lovely story about sharing and friendship.

King Baby by Kate Beaton

Yet another (only three!) that I did not get my hands on.

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael Lopez

I like that this book is based on true events, and the illustrations are very interesting (and very reminiscent of the original murals). However, the story is so-so.

The Ms. Elizabeth’s Libraryland winner? It’s hard to choose, because many are so wonderful. But, currently, my favorite is Ida, Always by Caron Levis, illustrated by Charles Santoso.

Mo Willems

My husband and I were in New York for a big family event last week. So before the rest of his family arrived we went to the New York Historical Society Museum and Library for the Mo Willems exhibit. It was amazing!

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The exhibit started with Willems’s early work with Sesame Street and Cartoon Network. It then moved to the first Pigeon books and early Elephant and Piggie. We watched a movie on the process involved in creating a Mo Willems picturebook.

I loved hearing about he uses text almost as another character–the change in font, size and color changing how the words are read. That aspect is my favorite of all his book. We also learned that Pigeon is drawn simply so children can easily emulate the drawings. I love it!

The exhibit did a great job of appealing to children and adults. If you’re in the area I highly recommend visiting. The exhibit runs through September 24.

My 2015 Favorites

It’s a few days late, with the holidays and everything I’ve been a bit distracted. It should be no surprise that I love lists, so of course I compiled my own personal best and worst of 2015 list.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Since reading this book in November I still think about the ingenious way Walter told this story. The narrative jumped between characters, timelines, and formats. It should be confusing, but somehow it wasn’t, and only added to the epic nature of the story.

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Rain, Reign by Ann M. Martin

When I think Ann M. Martin I think fluffy babysitters club. I don’t think moving narrative about an autistic girl and her loyal dog. I am not personally familiar with  Autism Spectrum Disorder, but I’ve worked in enough schools to glean a broad understanding, and I found Martin’s portrayal to be pretty realistic. Listening to the book as opposed to reading it, and hearing all the homophones, really made Rose’s obsession real to me. Also, I’m a sucker for dog stories even though they always make me cry.

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Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

I love elephants. For Christmas I got a “Save the Elephants” sweatshirt from my mom and an elephant watch where proceeds go to help Indian Elephants. Anyway, I noticed we have a great influx of new picture books with elephant characters and I read them all. This one was my favorite. Between the beautiful illustrations and the spunk of the character, I couldn’t wait to recommend it patrons and parents.

Red Sled

I used this book in my “Red” storytime the other day and I loved it! There are almost no words, save for the noises the animals make when sledding (think “whoa” and “eeeee” and “floump…ft”), but the illustrations and animal expressions more than make up for the lack of words. Almost every child’s eyes were glued to the pictures and they all laughed as the mouse flew down the hill holding onto the porcupine’s quills. “Ouchey!” I heard one child whisper.

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I can see myself using this book in many storytimes to come: winter, bears, forest animals, sleds, snow etc. The possibilities are endless.