This post is a bit different than the kind of books I usually talk about. However, one of my jobs is working in the children’s room of a library, which means (in practice) I’m dealing primarily with picture and early reader books.
I was raised on a diet of classic children’s authors–Barbara Cooney, Robert McCloskey, Tomie dePaola, Patricia Polacco. Also, Frog and Toad and Little Bear. A little bit of Dr. Seuss crept in there, but for the most part we were pretty firmly in that vein. Now, I’m not complaining about any of this–I loved those books then and I love them now!
And then, of course, I grew up and I started reading chapter books and stopped reading picture books and I Can Read books. So I’ve been somewhat conversant with current chapter books and not at all conversant with current picture books, really. But now they’re all around me! I shelve them every day! I’ve been trying to read a few when I have a minute to spare. Here are some I’ve enjoyed:
* Anything by Mo Willems. Okay, I’m a little less crazy about the Cat the Cat books, but the Pigeon? Is awesome. Elephant and Piggie? Um, YES. Animals who are friends are one of my favorite early reader themes (Frog and Toad. Little Bear. Frances.) and I love Gerald and Piggie. Secretly, I wish I was Piggie, but I think I’m Gerald. When the middle schoolers are driving me crazy, I read an Elephant and Piggie book (assuming there are any checked in) and all is well.
* I Want my Hat Back. I KNOW, but…okay this came in on our new book cart and I’d heard a bit of buzz about it so I picked it up and read it and when I got to the end I had to work very hard to keep myself from laughing insanely in the middle of the children’s room. And I think that older kids would really enjoy the humor of the ending, while younger ones would just be glad that the bear got his hat back.
* Charlie and Lola. I like Charlie and Lola a lot, despite not being a super huge fan of Lauren Child’s illustrating style (sorry, Lauren Child). Part of this is the fact that we have a series of books about two siblings who don’t hate each other or engage in severe sibling rivalry. I mean sure, sometimes Charlie’s expression makes it very clear that he finds Lola both funny and a bit daft, but he routinely sacrifices his own sensibleness to make her happy. In short, this is a great series to model how to be a good sibling, without ever feeling preachy or didactic. Lola is funny, and the scrapes they get into are too.
* Brother Sun, Sister Moon, adapted by Katherine Paterson. This was another one I saw on the new book cart and fell in love with. I’m a fan of papercutting anyway and Pamela Dalton’s exquisite papercuts are both classic and vivid. To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to the text the first time I read this and would like to go back to see how well I think that part of it works. But Katherine Paterson, you know? It’s hard to imagine she would go wrong. I did really appreciate that the full text of Francis’ actual canticle was included at the back of the book. Without that, it would be aimed too firmly at a very young crowd, whereas with the full text, slightly older children (and adults) who might be drawn in by the beauty of the illustrations would also be able to appreciate the original language.
I’ll probably be doing more posting about picture books and early readers. For one thing, I’d like to talk about some of my favorite Christmas stories, and some of the older ones that I grew up with and still love.