Monday, February 1, 2016

Picture books that will steal your heart

I FINALLY got to read "Last Stop on Market Street" by Matt de la Pena.  In case you haven't heard, it won the Newbery award as well as a Caldecott honor.  That's pretty unusual but one look at this book and you'll see why everyone was putting it up for awards.  The story is about CJ who lives in a big city.  CJ is leaving church with his grandmother and wants to go play, but they have somewhere else they need to go.  CJ sees a lot of negative things as they ride the bus but his grandmother only sees positives.  The language in this one is terrific and will go a long way with the little kids and oral language.  The pictures are flat, folk lore kinds of pictures that still manage to look modern and up to date.  It's also terrific to see the kind of multiculturalism infused in this book so it doesn't feel put on or forced-it's about a community of different kinds of people and lots of different kinds of people are present.  This one would be great paired up with "Something Beautiful" by Sharon Dennis Wyeth.

Here is the author reading his awesome book!

The second one came recommended to me by someone I can't remember.  I put the book on hold (apparently some time back) but boy was I glad that I had a chance to read it.  It's called "Oskar and the Eight Blessings" by Richard Simon and Tanya Simon.  It's about a boy named Oskar who is growing up well loved and well taken care of by wonderful parents in Germany in the 1930s.  After Kristallnacht (the horrific night when Jewish shops were looted and Jews were terrorized openly in Germany), Oskar's parents decide it's not safe for him so they put him on a boat to find his aunt in New York.  The boat ride is greatly abbreviated but once he gets to NY, he ends up meeting many notable figures of the time.  The book has a happy ending and lovely pictures, but what I was really thinking about was what a great book this would be as a mentor text.  One of my friends is a reading coach in a high school and recently did a research project where the kids researched a decade and then created a news broadcast about the decade.  I thought a book like this would be an awesome application of any period in time.  Not to mention the fact that it's a good (if fictitious) story.  

The last one is a biography and it's pretty long for a picture book but wow, is it terrific. I read it as an advanced readers copy on Netgalley.  It's called "Some Writer" by Melissa Sweet.  It's a biography of E. B. White and it goes into great detail of the writer's life.  It has lots of graphical elements including photographs and Melissa Sweet's original artwork around the photographs.  It also has lots of E. B. White's completely amazing writing, which is like reading a deliciously complicated stew... layers of flavors and textures within a single sentence.    There will be lots of people who love to read a biography like this-it probably won't be a read aloud because it's over 100 pages (at least you won't be able to read it all at one sitting) but it will certainly be a great addition to any library, for the opportunity to get to know one of America's favorite writers, E. B. White, as well as to marvel at Melissa Sweet's terrific story telling and art work.  The only bad part about this book is that it's not scheduled to be published until October of 2016.  Trust me, it will be worth the wait. 

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