Monday, December 1, 2014

Recent Favorite Picture Books. Part Two

Last Monday I shared six picture books I love. Here are six more!

Big Snow by Jonathan Bean
Gaston by Kelly Dipucchio illustrated by Christian Robinson
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
Welcome to Mamoko by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski 
It's a Tiger! by David LaRochelle illustrated by Jeremy Tankard 

Big Snow by Jonathan Bean. This book is ridiculously adorable. Little David is waiting and waiting for the snow--a BIG snow, he hopes. The progression of no snow, to flurries, to a full-on snowstorm is gorgeously depicted in the warm illustrations. Mom's attempts to distract him from his wait-induced boredom are sweetly futile as David is only momentarily distracted. Baking turns into a flour snowstorm. Cleaning turns into a soap bubble snowstorm, etc. In the end David's father comes home, and the little family goes out to explore the big snow together.

Gaston by Kelly Dipucchio illustrated by Christian Robinson. This is my other contender for 'most favoritist picture book of 2014.' It's almost impossible not to fall in love with the goofily adorable Gaston, who tries the hardest but never quite quite manages to hit the mark. As you can see, Gaston doesn't quite fit in with his proper poodle family. One day at the park, the family encounters a family of bulldogs that includes a poodle pup, and it's clear there was a switched-at-birth mix-up. What follows is an exploration of acceptance, nature vs. nurture, and love. LOVE this one. 

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd. Talk about GORGEOUS. Holy moly this wordless picture book is one I can stare at for hours. The magic of light vs. dark and how different things look in the dark, the use of color, the small details to pore over--this book is so so lovely.

"When it was time to make supper, Sophie's mother looked at the squash. She looked at Sophie. 'I call her Bernice,' Sophie said. 'I'll call for pizza.' said Sophie's mother."
Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf. This book is so funny. Sophie's parents pick up a squash from the farmer's market, but when Sophie discovers that the squash is "the perfect size to bounce on her knee--the perfect size to love" the squash becomes a friend instead of supper. Sophie and Bernice are inseparable for a while until Bernice predictably begins to rot, and Sophie has to figure out how best to care for the ailing Bernice. So cute it hurts, but without ever becoming saccharine.

Welcome to Mamoko by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski. All the best parts of I Spy or Where's Waldo, but with a lot more imagination and narrative mixed in. In this book, there are multiple characters you can follow from page to page, and each character has its own adventures, mysteries, and resolution. Sometimes the stories intersect. Additionally, there are tons of other characters and details that appear from page to page. There are countless stories to be found in these illustrations, and they are so funny and charming you will be immediately sucked in. 

It's a Tiger! by David LaRochelle illustrated by Jeremy Tankard. This a great choice for anyone who has ever enjoyed 'going on a bear hunt' although this story is completely original and fresh. The narrator keeps describing his safe surroundings until he spies something out of place--is it? No. Yes! IT'S...A TIGER! RUN! A perfect blend of humor, action, and a satisfying conclusion.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Recent Favorite Picture Books. Part One

In no particular order and with no particular parameters, here are six picture books that I love:

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Houghton
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett illustrated by Jon Klassen
This is Our House by Hweyon Yum
Dinosaur Kisses by David Ezra Stein
Miss Maple's Seeds by Eliza Wheeler
Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier illustrated by Suzy Lee

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Houghton. Quite possibly my favorite book of 2014. I also love Houghton's previous book, Oh No George! but I think this might be his best yet. The repeated phrase, "Shh! We have a plan!" is irresistible, and you'll find it invading your speech even when you're not reading the book.

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett illustrated by Jon Klassen. Sam and Dave won't stop digging until they find something spectacular. Unfortunately luck is not on their side. Viewers have an agonizingly clear look at just how close the boys come to making a discovery before they decide to change direction--again and again. Adults may be confused by where the boys find themselves at the end of the book, but kids take it in stride. I've had so much fun reading this book to my Kindergarten classes this fall, inspiring questions like, "What do diamonds smell like?" and comments such as, "I'm going to faint!" "Awwwww crap" and ""

This is Our House by Hyewon Yum. As a new homeowner this book gets me right in the feels, telling the story of a family through their beloved home. A little girl is the tour guide, showing all the special places and events, "This is the house where my grandparents arrived from far away with just two suitcases in hand. This is the tree that blossomed in the spring when my mother was born." My favorite page is the one where the second generation is repainting the nursery for the third generation, and you can see in the illustrations that they are bickering. A true slice of life. You know that once scene from Pixar's UP? The one that makes everyone cry? This is like owning a picture book version of that scene, only with a happier ending.

Dinosaur Kisses by David Ezra Stein. This book makes me laugh so much. Dinah the dinosaur is freshly hatched, and on a mission to give someone a kiss...whatever 'kiss' is. She exuberantly whomps, chomps, stomps and--"Whoops!" eats other prehistoric creatures until she finds her match. I can never get sick of this one. 

Miss Maple's Seeds by Eliza Wheeler. Miss Maple is a tiny old woman who cares for seeds that haven't sprouted. She collects them, bathes them, reads to them, and teaches them how to become what they are meant to be. The next season, she sends them away to fulfill their potential. The pictures are full of whimsy and magic in the best possible way. This is one to cherish and reread over and over.

Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier illustrated by Suzy Lee. This story literally draws you into it, as each page turn opens a tinier book than the page before. Hard to explain, so best to watch the book trailer above. I would have found this book absolutely fascinating as a child, so I love sharing this one.

More titles coming later this week!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Once Upon a Reader

My 'free' time for blogging became non-existent last February when I accepted an independent contractor position working as a project manager for a new "One Book" initiative in Minnesota.

When I took the position, there was a vague idea of what the program would look like, and how it would be formed, but other than that it was something completely new. It has been a wild ride!

I am so happy to finally be able to share the program, Once Upon a Reader: Minnesota Libraries Bring Young Children and Books Together. Each year, OUR will choose a book with a Minnesota connection and unite children all over the state with early-literacy based programming that revolves around that year's book.

My role in the project was about program development--what would the program look like and what would it offer? I advocated strongly for the book that was chosen by the steering committee for our first year--Moo! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka. Because David and Mike are both local to me, I knew that both of them would be great to work with, and Moo! had just won a Minnesota Book Award. I was excited to work with Moo! for a bunch of reasons: I loved it, I knew that it was popular and well-received, and it was less than six months old. I was really excited to create programming around a book that new! Part of the program includes getting a free copy of Moo! into the hands of every Head Start student in Minnesota. That's nearly 17,000 kids with a free book in their hands. How cool is that?!

My highlights from Once Upon a Reader:
  • Getting to call both David and Mike to tell them their book was chosen and invite them to be part of the project
  • All of the amazingly talented people I got to work with on the project
  • The original moo-sic that we commissioned for Moo!
  • The (moo-velous) Moo!-based puppet show that David and Mike wrote and developed
  • The custom Cow puppets we commissioned--she is one sassy bossy!
  • All of the cow puns
Watch the Moo-vie, listen to the Moo-sic (AWESOME FOR STORYTIME!), and watch the "Creation of Moo!" interviews here (really! Go do it).

One of the things that I was passionate about with the project was finding a way to provide high-quality programming that would be easy for ANY library in Minnesota to quickly implement. To make this happen, I created the concept of the Program Menu. Instead of a curriculum of ideas for libraries to adapt, they would have a 'menu' of fully realized programs that they could order from. The menu items range from a puppet show/author and illustrator visit (the "Traveling Trunk Show"), to the simple passive program, "Cow's Scavenger Hunt." Each program on the menu has detailed instructions, templates, signs, AND all the supplies that libraries need to do the program. Hopefully, with the range of options, any library in Minnesota--no matter their size or staffing reality--can easily take part in Once Upon a Reader. Whether or not this was a successful method remains to be seen, but I'm very proud of the programs I've created. You can find the Program Menu here.

And finally, even if you're not in MN, you can still take advantage of all the music, movies, and program ideas for your library. Lots of free downloads and activities on the page for parents and caregivers, here.

Thanks for looking, and for still reading after my long silence!


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