Once upon a time I worked as a library aide at a local public library–way back in the dark ages before there was much to do online except painstakingly catalog our own books with our very limited knowledge of MARC records. I worked there for five years–from the time I was an eighteen year old fresh out of high school until I was a twenty-three year old college graduate about the begin her first year of teaching. I hold a very warm place in my heart for that library–that was probably the job situation that suited me best out of all the other jobs I’ve had since then, including my professional years as a teacher and school media specialist. I liked working at a public library, and honestly, it’s the job I imagine myself holding in some far-off future when I retire from my current position. 😉 I said all that to say this: I once again owe this little library a debt of gratitude, for when I have gone to the head librarian with a request for books, she has never failed to order what I request. Never. That means that all the Cybils books I wanted or needed but couldn’t get elsewhere locally–and there are many of them–I simply requested that this library purchase, and a short while later I’d get a phone call letting me know the books were waiting for me at the circulation desk. Just like that. I am really, really thankful for this. The two titles I’m sharing today from the 2012 Cybils picture fiction finalist list came in in the last shipment. 🙂
Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford is one of those books I have a hard time categorizing. It’s the perfect example of the type of book I’d look for for some of our Fun Friday explorations, or at least I would’ve back in the day when I actually looked for fun math picture books to read every week. (I’ve fallen off the wagon with this and so many other things. Again.) The puzzling thing to me is that it’s in the picture fiction cateogry, although I do get that infinity is a mind-boggling concept to pin down to pure facts. This picture book puts more a philosophical spin on it, too, so I guess that’s it. It’s the story of a little girl, Uma, who begins to ponder infinity and then asks friends, acquaintances, and family members how they imagine infinity. She gets answers as varied as “It’s a giant number that keeps growing bigger and bigger forever” to a school cook explaining it as a noodle that can be cut in half forever. The story ends in a heartwarming scene between Uma and her grandmother during which Uma realizes that she sees infinity as the love she has for her family. My girls liked this one better than I expected, but honestly, I think it’s a little weird. Gabi Swiatkowska‘s illustrations are striking, which is both a good and bad thing in my book. It’s good because she includes visual details that support the text and make an observant reader think. It’s bad because I think Uma is just sort of. . . extreme. . . looking, with her black hair, pale skin, and almost black lips, and to me, this was just distracting. This is a good title to explore the concept of infinity, but in the end it leaves me scratching my head as to why it made the Cybils picture fiction finalist list. (Carolrhoda, 2012)
Quirky is the order of the day today. Chloe and the Lion, though, leaves me chuckling instead of scratching my head. This is one of those stories that is somewhat hard to explain, other than to say that in this story the author, Mac Barnett, is an actual character in the story. He “tells” the story while the illustrator, Adam Rex, plays along by illustrating it. Things go awry when Rex decides to make his own decision about what to include in the story, and this snowballs into a very funny argument between them. I don’t want to say much more than that, other than to say that this story is a wild and fun ride. I love the book’s artwork, which “was made with basswood, balsa wood, oil and acrylic paints, pencil, Sculpey clay, modified doll clothing, toilet paper, photography, and Photoshop.” (Toilet paper?) The only other book that I can think of right off that does this funny author-illustrator conflict as an element is Deborah Hopkinson’s Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek. Chloe and the Lion also reminds me a tiny bit of that little piece of picture book genius, Harold and the Purple Crayon, because of the way it seems like the story is still being written as you read it. Really, this is a book you almost have to see for yourself. The book jacket says this book is for ages 4 to 8, but I think it would take a mighty perceptive eight year old, even, to get all the subtle humor in this one. Still, it’s a good pick for a Cybils finalist, because everyone between the ages of 2 and 38 (!!) at our house liked it a lot. (Disney Hyperion Books, 2012)
What are you reading aloud these days?