I’m joining in today with a couple of terrific 2012 picture books I found at the library. The first one is A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead, a book I have been eager to get my hands on since I first heard it was in the works. (Okay, okay–that’s only half true. I was excited when I first heard of it, but then I forgot about it. I’m forgetful, and I don’t make notes, though I probably should. However, I was extremely excited when I saw it at the library.) Philip C. Stead is the author of one of my favorite picture books ever, A Sick Day for Amos McGee, as well as the sweetly charming Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat. (Both links are to my reviews.) A Home for Bird is just as gentle as the other two books, with an added quirkiness that my girls really liked. It’s the story of a frog named Vernon, a collector of “interesting things,” who finds a wooden cuckoo-clock bird in the forest. Vernon does the polite thing and introduces Bird to his friends, but Bird (of course) isn’t much of a talker. Shy and a good listener are the words Vernon uses to describe Bird. When Bird remains nonresponsive to all the charms of Vernon’s home and neighborhood, Vernon decides he must be homesick. What’s a resourceful frog like Vernon to do then, but try to find Bird’s home? He and Bird set sail in a teacup for Bird’s happy place, the stoic Bird noncommital about any of his choices (a birdhouse, a nest, a bird cage, a powerline dotted with many other birds) and Vernon convinced that “Bird will speak up when we find the right home.” Through a rather fortuitous turn of events, Vernon and Bird do indeed end up in Bird’s real home, and yes, Bird does indeed “speak up.” The ending is too good to be true but oh-so-satisfyingly good. The story’s great, but the illustrations propel it past extremely good to wonderful. They are creative and messy and evocative of the sweet spirit of this tale of friendship. A Home for Bird gets a Highly, Highly Recommended from me and my girls. (Roaring Brook Press, 2012)
(Oh, and the Steads–Philip C. and his wife, Erin–have a new book out that looks wonderful. Maybe I’ll remember to look for it. 😉 )
The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool is a slightly more complicated tale, but my girls absolutely fell in love with this one. I even found Lulu gravitating toward this one and reading it by herself, which is something she usually doesn’t do. She’s almost exclusively a chapter book reader at the ripe old age of eight, which is why I have a moral obligation to keep up the picture book reading around here. 😉 The Cloud Spinner is the story of a little boy who spins clouds into thread and then weaves the thread into cloth. The cloth is beautiful: golden from the morning clouds, white from the afternoon, and crimson from the evening clouds. Not only did his mother teach him to spin, she also taught him an important principle: “Enough is enough and not one stitch more.” Thus, the boy spins, weaves, and makes only what he actually needs, which happens to be two scarves. He wears his golden scarf around his neck one chilly market day, where he is spotted by the king with the “greedy eyes” who demands that the boy make for him “a longer one, much longer, for I am the King!” When the boy objects on the grounds that the king doesn’t need such a long scarf, the king lambasts him for his impertinence and demands the scarf, all the same. This leads to demands for more clothing, and of course, the boy must comply, but the making of all this material has disastrous results for the entire kingdom. In the end, it’s the wisdom and self-control of the king’s daughter and the little boy that save the day. It’s a story with a message, but the message isn’t preachy, although it is straightforward. Alison Jay‘s illustrations match the mood and spirit of the story, and they have a distinctive old-world appearance to them. (I wrote about her style here.) For some reason–and it has been a long time since we’ve read this book, so I’m not exactly sure why–The Cloud Spinner reminds me a bit of The Apple Pip Princess, another book my girls absolutely loved. This is another winner around our house. (Knopf, 2012)
I won’t be a bit surprised if both of these are nominated for the Cybils, though I think A Home for Bird has more general kid-appeal than The Cloud Spinner. Are you making your Cybils list? It’s almost time! 🙂
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