Today I'm happy to have Molly from Librarian Style here to guest post. I love Molly's book recommendations, as well as her delicious vegetarian recipes, and posts about gorgeous Santa Barbara where she recently moved.
Molly is a feminist gemini vegetarian librarian who lives on California’s Central Coast. She write the lifestyle blog Librarian Style, and you can read more of her musing on books for all ages at Book Riot, where she’s a contributing writer.
I’ve been reading a lot of picture books lately because I’ve taken over ordering children’s books for my library while we’re hiring a children’s librarian and because my partner, a special ed teacher, has been moonlighting at the library by leading storytimes. (Okay, also because I’ve been a little behind on my Goodreads Challenge). When Shea asked for guest posts while she’s enjoying her new baby, I thought I’d love to share some of my favorite picture books of the year.
Picture Books for Animal Lovers
My favorite books to read aloud are those that have funny words and repetitive phrasing that builds on itself, like Shel Silverstein’s A Giraffe and a Half. I’m better with the 3-8 year old crowd when I can be a little silly. Which is why I was delighted to add One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree by Daniel Bernstrom and Brendan Wenzel to my favorite read alouds.
In the picture book, a boy with a pinwheel is eaten by a snake in a Eucalyptus tree, but the boy convinces him to eat so all sorts of other funny critters and he gets so full he spits them all back out again. The drawings are richly colored and broken up into easy to follow sequences that play with perspective and light.
It’s no wonder I love the illustrations. Brendan Wenzel excels at painting bright, funky animals. I love Some Bugs, Some Pets, etc, by Angela DiTerlizzi, which he also illustrates. His debut solo project, They All Saw A Cat, was an immediate new favorite. Not only do I love a good cat book with a fresh premise, the philosophical bent is just my style.
His words are chosen very deliberately, and have a lovely cadence to them, and the illustrations of the perspective of a cat from a variety of creatures—a bird, a flea, a mouse, a bee, and more—are thought-provoking. This is a great prompt for a discussion on perspective and the way the world looks to all different types of people (or animals).
Picture Books to Prompt Discussion
As much as I love the more whimsical picture books, I’m also a big advocate of making time for quiet, contemplative stories. As an adult, many of us are still not the best at expressing our emotions, and children sometimes don’t have vocabulary to talk about them. There are also a lot of terribly things that happen in the world that are difficult to explain to a child. Reading is a way to explore thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the world. Stories help us understand.
The Journey by Francesca Sanna is not just beautiful, it’s profoundly powerful and timely. The illustrations remind me of vintage posters, and the color palette is rich jewel tones is striking. The simple story chronicles a family’s journey from a war-torn country to a new, safe place to live. The threat of violence manifests as black shadows, and the family travels across land and sea, seeking asylum. The intense subject is handled delicately. This book would serve as an excellent way to answer questions that a child may have about world issues. Pair it with another story of immigration, Sean Tan’s classic, The Arrival, the wordless picture book about a man’s voyage to a new, curious, world.
Not quite as heavy, but still contemplative, is The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas and Erin E. Stead. This picture book follows a solitary but hardworking man who has the job of finding all the messages in bottles floating in the ocean and delivering them to their intended recipients. Wistfully, he wishes for a letter of his own. Then he uncorks an unaddressed letter that happens to be an invitation to a party. He doesn’t find out who the letter is for, but he does collect a one-man band and a girl with a green dress and several other new friends for a party on the shore. This is a subtle book about community, friendship, and loneliness, with beautiful pen, ink, and woodblock printed illustrations.
Picture Books to Inspire Young Artists
For an uplifting book about community, I recommend Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy, Theresa Howell, and Rafael López which is based on the true story of how a residents of a San Diego area came together to transform the buildings from a grey landscape to one bursting with color by painting murals. It’s an uplifting story of hope and transformation.
Vivid colors spring, swoosh and whirl around across the pages of Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color by Julia Denos Bright blues, deep reds, and lively greens splatter, splash, and soar through the story. These colors are positively riotous, and Swatch, a brave girl, must tame them. Not only are the illustrations gorgeous, but the language is inventive and would serve as a great jumping off point for a discussion of personification or imagery.
What are your favorite new picture books of 2016?
Thanks so much Molly! I can't wait to head to the library to look for some of these to read to Jona.