My, how I’ve missed blogging about our picture book picks! Life is happening at warp speed right now, but there’s hardly a week that passes that I don’t wish for time enough just to share what the DLM’s enjoying at the moment. Well, this week I’m going to take a few minutes to blog about a few Cybils nominees we’ve enjoyed lately.
It is no secret that I’m a fan of Philip C. Stead (especially when he collaborates with his wife, Erin). His newest book, Hello, My Name Is Ruby, is just the sort I like: quiet, thoughtful, sophisticated, and with interesting and whimsical illustrations. It’s the story of a little yellow bird named Ruby who goes about introducing herself and making friends. She befriends a wading bird, a long-beaked bird, and a bird like herself, only (funnily enough), red. (In fact, there’s a whole flock of those birds.) She meets a penguin, a humming bird, and a large, plump dodo-looking bird, and all treat her kindly. Then she meets a peacock-like bird who turns down her offer of friendship, and Ruby is crushed. All is made right when Ruby meets a Skeepwock (the long legged fellow on the cover) who then introduces her to a treeful of Rubys. (It turns out their names come from the noise they make.) See, it’s a simple story about friendship and belonging and life, but like everything else Stead writes and/or illustrates, it’s pitch perfect and beautiful. It also reminds me a lot of his last offering, A Home for Bird, both in terms of spirit and quirkiness. Add this one to a growing list of books by Philip C. Stead books I love: A Sick Day for Amos McGee, Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat, and A Home for Bird. Highly Recommended. (Roaring Press, 2013)
Side note: I want to be a children’s book illustrator when I grow up. Never mind the fact that I haven’t an ounce of artistic talent–I just think there isn’t a more perfect job. Read Stead’s interview at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast and/or watch this short video trailer to see what I mean:
Another gentle read with beautifully evocative illustrations is This Is Our House by Hyewon Yum. Yum is a new-to-me author, but I can see that she is no lightweight. This is one of those full-circle stories that often make me cry. 🙂 A little girl is telling the story of her home, and she begins with her grandparents who
arrived from far away
with just two suitcases in hand.
The young immigrant couple soon has a daughter who is born in the spring, just in time for the blooming of a gorgeous, pink-hued tree outside their house. The story continues with all the things that happens through childhood into adulthood: learning to walk, playing on the steps, running down the stairs, sharing a bedroom, eating soup in the kitchen, etc. The next thread of the story picks up with these three lines below a picture of a groom and his blushing bride:
And this is the front door
she came back through
with the boyfriend who would be my father.
And now we see the little girl’s story–her birth, sitting on those same steps in the autumn sun, and so on. The last page shows a multi-generational family portrait outside the front door of their house. Beautiful. I think this one’s a winner, too. (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013)
Train by Elisha Cooper is one of those books that I didn’t think twice about when I saw it in the new books bin at the library. I knew it would be a hit with the DLM, and I was right. This isn’t so much a story-story as it is an extended observation of several different types of trains. The transition from Commuter Train to Passenger Train to Freight Train to Overnight Train to High-Speed Train is seamless, with three or so two-page spreads devoted to each train before the next sort of train picks up the restrained narrative thread. This is a detailed look at the different types of trains that any train-lover will like. At three, the DLM is a little on the young end for this one I think, but he does enjoy it and even sits through repeat readings of it. His favorite part is the Freight Train bit, with the heavy equipment loading the railcars and the list of all their contents. (I’ve considered making this one the DLM’s Christmas book, but right now his taste runs more to Shark Vs. Train, so I’m undecided.) I’m impressed by the fact that this picture book even includes a glossary and notes for those (like me) who aren’t well versed in train terminology, but mostly we’ve just enjoyed reading this one and studying the gorgeously muted and detailed illustrations (see samples here or check out a brief interview with Cooper and lots of photos of his sketches and illustrations here). This one, too, deserves a Highly Recommended. (Orchard Books, 2013)
All three of these books are Cybils picture fiction nominees. I don’t envy the panelists! 😉