Picture Book

Show Me a Story! (Why Picture Books Matter)

“Before they read words, children are reading pictures. In picture books, the illustrations work in concert with the text in a way that is unique among art forms.”

In the forward to Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter: Conversations with 21 of the World’s Most Celebrated Illustrators, award-winning author and illustrator David Wiesner explains why we celebrate National Picture Book Month in November (actually, MCPL Children’s Services Librarians celebrate them year-round! Here’s more from Wiesner about why we love picturebooks…):

Learning Right From Wrong with the Brief Thief

We often get requests for books that help teach children about proper rules of behavior – everything from sharing to telling the truth. While we frequently turn to our nonfiction collection for titles designed to teach children about specific subjects or topics, often picture books more powerfully portray the importance of doing the right thing.

The use of humor is one reason the messages in picture books can have a greater impact with children. And you can’t get much funnier with preschoolers (or even the K-2 crowd) than the word underpants – not to mention the word poo. (Please, don’t mention it!) The picturebook Brief Thief by Michael Escoffier uses both words in a span of a few pages while reminding readers that it’s not right to take things that don’t belong to you.

You see, poor Leon the Lizard finds himself without a necessary item after relieving himself. He notices an old pair of underpants hanging from a nearby tree branch and uses them to “finish his business.” As he discards the underpants behind a bush, a voice calls to him. It claims to be Leon’s conscience: “The little voice you hear inside your head whenever you get up to something naughty.” The voice continues: “… Since when are we allowed to touch other people’s things? What do they teach you in school, anyway?”

Leon never learns the real identity of his conscience, but readers will be amused to learn that the voice belongs to a rabbit who had been using the underpants to complete his superhero costume. We don’t learn his superhero name, but I’m guessing that it’s Superego.

Recommended for ages 3-8.

 

And the winner of the 2013 Caldecott is...

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It's that time of year again, awards season! Sure the Oscars and Golden Globes may get the most media attention, but the announcement every children's librarian looks forward to is the Caldecott Medal. Each year the Caldecott Medal is awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children to "the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children". The ALSC may also name a few runners-up, or Honor Books. We'll learn the 2013 medal winner tomorrow, Monday, January 28th.

So who will win the 2013 medal? In anticipation of this year's announcement our Children's Department pulled as many contenders as we could find. We chose our books based on recommendations from School Library Journal, Horn Book, and the more populist list put together by Goodreads. We dubbed our cart of thirty-some books "The Caldecart" and over the past week we've read as many of them as we could, making notes and picking our favorites. Was there a consensus? Nope! But here are a few of the books we liked the best and a few on which we couldn't quite agree.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

The versatile Mo Willems, author and illustrator of popular picture books about the much loved Knuffle Bunny, the demanding Pigeon, and Early Readers featuring good friends Elephant and Piggie, has unleashed his creative humor into the realm of classic folk tales. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs as retold by Willems, follows the basic plot of the familiar story featuring the three bears and an adventurous blond haired girl. But instead of porridge, the dinosaurs are preparing bowls of delicious chocolate pudding at varying temperatures. They seem to be setting a trap for an "unsuspecting kid" as they loudly announce their departure for "someplace else" -- not necessarily a walk in the woods.

Looking at Lincoln

I've always loved the artwork of Maira Kalman and was pleased to see she has a new picture book out this year - on good ol' Abe Lincoln.  Her presentation of Lincoln is both biographical and based on her own impressions of how he must have felt in certain situations, so to call this book strictly nonfiction might be a bit of a stretch.  (Additionally, complex history is, of necessity, oversimplified - so parents and teachers may want to provide more context for children just being introduced to slavery and the American Civil War.)  But don't let these small complaints keep you from reading this book with your kids.  Kalman provides a child-friendly portrait of Lincoln and his family and adeptly hits the high points in the life of the great historical figure.  I especially like her notes on various topics in the back of the book - such as the one that explains that members of the Association of Lincoln Presenters abide by the motto "We are ready, willing and ABE L."  For some lovely examples of Kalman's quirky, colorful art, as well as her writing, see her old blog for the New York Times, called "And the Pursuit of Happiness."  Recommended for grades 2 and up.

Huff & Puff

We receive wonderful questions from kids at our "Ask Questions Here" desk, and in our programs. But we also get a lot of terrific statements. One of my favorites is: "I know that book!" or "I know that story!" This statement is typically shared as an excited, gleeful shout. It feels good to know something. It's empowering.

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