Brimsby’s Hats by Andrew Prahin is one of the sweetest picture books I’ve read in a while. It’s the story of a cute little hatmaker (the little critter pictured there on the cover) named Brimsby who lives in a little cottage, makes hats, and visits daily and sips tea with his best friend. Life is pretty nearly perfect until his best friend announces that he’s running away to be a sea captain. Brimsby’s life is pretty lonely after that, until finally he is struck with an idea that will help some of his neighbors. This act of kindness results in the beginning of new friendships for him. The last sentence of this story elicits from me a sigh of happy recognition:
And the large group of friends would drink tea and talk about hats and shovels and ships and how wonderful it was that they had all been lucky enough to meet one another.
At the ripe old age of forty, I finally, finally get this. 2014 was hard on so many levels and for several reasons, but I feel like I’ve made and/or deepened some real and lasting friendships this past year, too. There are people about whom I feel the very sentiment that this book expresses (only I’d consider it God’s care rather than luck), and I’m so thankful. The only thing about this book that at first gave me pause was the artwork–it’s pretty obviously computer generated, and that’s not my favorite medium or style. However, the color palette is just lovely, if unusual. The characters in the story are so, so cute, even if they are the product of Prahin‘s skill and artistry with Adobe Illustrator. The illustrations have definitely grown on me. Couple the unusual illustrations with unexpected touches of whimsy, and we have a real winner on our hands. Of course, all of this is one forty year old woman’s opinion, and since the Cybils are concerned with kid appeal, let me just say that this one was a hit with both my big girls and the four year old DLM. This is a snuggle-up-and-read-together sort of book because it’s on the small size. We give it a Highly, highly Recommended. (Simon & Schuster, 2014)
I should probably preface this review with what I always say about wordless picture books: they’re just not my thing. However, I think this is the last time I’m going to say that, because I absolutely LOVE this wordless picture book. The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett is old-fashioned, sweet, and warm–three things I love. In a nutshell (and with no spoilers!), it’s the story of a little girl who sees a bicycle in a storefront, wants it, and works for it. However, after the little girl works for her neighbor to earn the money, the story takes a disappointing turn. The story ultimately ends very sweetly and happily, and all is well. The star here, of course, are the illustrations. The paper used for this book is a light greyish brown color–almost like a grocery sack (remember those?) The pictures are mostly tri-tone: grey/black/white, with the exception being the green bicycle (and yes, a red toy airplane, which I spotted after a bit o’ internet sleuthing in a previous Mark Pett book (& here)–I knew there was something significant about that little red plane!) What shines most to me in this story, though, is the warmth of the relationships–the little girl and her brother, the little girl and the kindly neighbor (and owner of the red airplane). Seriously, y’all–the end of this picture book almost makes me cry. I love this one so much. I’ve “read” it aloud to the DLM twice now, having picked it up at the library just before lunchtime today. He loves it, too. I’m never exactly sure about how to read a wordless picture book. It seems I usually just start out by asking my listeners questions about the illustrations/storyline. Tonight when I read it to the DLM for the second time before bed, he insisted that I read it this time. I took that to mean that he didn’t want me to ask him a bunch of questions about it. 😉 Whatever he was thinking, he really likes this story, lack of words and all. Highly, highly (HIGHLY) Recommended. (Simon & Schuster, 2014)
- Mark Pett’s website (I absolutely love this idea for a Zip Code Trip from his blog)
- See quite a few of the illustrations (which are the story) at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Since the theme of this post is super sweet, heart string tugging picture books, I must include Maple in this post. I reviewed it months ago, and my opinion of it hasn’t changed. In fact, I’m probably a little more excited about this one now than I was when I first wrote the review because Nichols has come out with a sequel of sorts, but that’s a review for another day. 🙂
All three of these books have been shortlisted for a 2014 Cybils Award in the fiction picture book category. I have now read six of the seven books for this category, and I’ll go ahead and say that these are my three top picks (obviously leaving a little room for error since I haven’t read them all). Of these, picking a number one is tough, but right now I’m feeling the most affection for The Girl and the Bicycle.