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Hats off to Magritte

Hats off to Magritte

posted by:
May 9, 2012 - 1:11am

Magritte's Marvelous HatYou don’t have to be familiar with artist René Magritte’s work to appreciate Magritte’s Marvelous Hat by D.B. Johnson. His homage to Magritte is a wonderful introduction to surreal artwork for the preschool to elementary school set.  In this book, with all canine characters, Magritte is a painter who buys a magical hat that floats just above his head.  The hat stays with Magritte as he heads home and is inspired to paint his best work ever.  He has fun with his hat, playing hide and seek and walking through the park. When he starts painting day and night, the hat feels neglected and runs away. 

 

The story is charming, but it is the illustrations that will wow the reader.  Inspired by Magritte’s surreal paintings, the book is filled with references to his greatest works.  Readers will be tickled to look into the fish market and see an ocean with fish clouds above.  Did you notice that it is raining under the umbrella? Does the reflection in the mirror seem “off”?  Johnson includes four transparent overlay pages that further delight. With its bright, bold illustrations, Magritte’s Marvelous Hat is a visual treat for any age. Take your time, and let your young reader really absorb the artwork.  They’ll have fun picking out what’s wrong(?) and maybe they’ll ask for a book about Magritte's art!

Diane

 
 

The Pigeon is BACK!

The Pigeon is BACK!

posted by:
May 9, 2012 - 1:11am

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?Mo Willems delivers his first Pigeon book in four years with The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?, and it’s worth the wait.  When the Duckling asks politely for a cookie and gets one, the Pigeon is SHOCKED! True to form, Pigeon falls into a major tantrum and lists all of the things that have been unfairly denied him: driving the bus, hot-dog parties, a walrus, one more story, and even his own iceberg. The Pigeon's rant is quickly terminated when the Duckling generously offers him the treat.  (In a funny twist, by book’s end, the Duckling’s motives will be revealed to be less than pure.)  As Pigeon moves from apoplectic to apologetic, he is almost speechless.   

 

Simple text within balloons and animated illustrations highlight the story and mark Willems’ popular brand of storytelling. This is a fun read-aloud and an excellent way to introduce topics of manners and politeness. While the Pigeon may not get the point, young readers and listeners will. This is a fabulous and funny addition to the Pigeon stories. The legion of Pigeon fans will be delighted and new fans will be looking to catch up on all of the Pigeon’s previous antics. Be sure to have plenty of cookies on hand for this treat!

 

Willems maintains an active online presence, and www.pigeonpresents.com is a treasure trove for kids and grown-ups with games, teacher’s guides, and event planning ideas.  Also available for ipad and iphone is Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App. It allows children and adults to participate even more in the Pigeon’s stories, and includes an interactive Mad Lib and a Draw with Mo feature. And the Pigeon tweets!  Become a follower on Twitter @The_Pigeon.

Maureen

 
 

The Wild Rumpus Falls Silent

Where the Wild Things AreLittle Bear AudioBumble-ArdyMaurice Sendak, beloved children’s book author and illustrator, died Tuesday as the result of complications from a recent stroke. A prolific creator of picture books that have become part of the American psyche, Sendak is perhaps most widely remembered for his groundbreaking classic, Where the Wild Things Are, which delved into the imagination of young Max, escaping from punishment in his room to a land populated by monsters who welcome chaos. Sendak was awarded the Caldecott medal in 1964 for this groundbreaking book.

 

His career began as an illustrator of others' work, most notably the Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik. Sendak’s carefully detailed, expressive animal characters are an integral part of the success of those titles, beginning with the original Little Bear in 1957. Still popular with children today, Sendak’s illustrations were brought to life as an animated series.

 

Sendak’s most recent picture book, Bumble-Ardy, was the first both written and illustrated by him since 1981. Bumble-Ardy began life as an original "Sesame Street" animated segment, also by Sendak, centering around a nine year-old pig who had never been given a birthday party. According to the storyteller of the book, “Bumble-Ardy had no party when he turned one (his immediate family frowned on fun).” He decides to make up for this grievous neglect by throwing his own raucous event (which quickly gets out of hand) at his aunt’s house while she’s away. Like most of Sendak’s work, this acknowledges a dark side to childhood.

 

Visit a Baltimore County Public Library branch to explore more of this beloved author’s body of work.

Paula G.

 
 

Into the Woods...

Into the Woods...

posted by:
May 2, 2012 - 1:02am

Baby Bear Sees BlueMy Bear GrizA House in the Woods

Take a break from technology with three charming stories full of simple, yet wonderful elements, where kids are encouraged to experience nature and explore their imaginations.

 

In Baby Bear Sees Blue, a curious bear cub and his mother spend the day from morning to night, exploring nature and its many colors. The rustic, brightly colored images have a vintage feel and beautiful details. Similar to woodcuts, the illustrations are made from images carved on linoleum blocks, then black ink applied to print outlines of scenes. The outlines are then hand-colored with watercolor. The simple, yet lyrical, language leads the reader through Baby Bear’s world as he experiences the warmth of the yellow sun, the tickle of an orange butterfly, the delicious smell of red strawberries, and the boom of gray thunder, ending in a beautiful, colorful surprise. This book is a nice way to learn about colors and nature together.

 

Remember your imaginary friend?  Billy loves bears, especially his enormous friend, My Bear Griz. Griz is, of course, short for grizzly bear, and the two explore the simple joys of childhood – playing hide and seek, looking at stars, sharing secrets, and more. The story develops slowly through homey, unaffected line drawings using biro (the commonly used British term for pen) and watercolor. Short, simple, wording and white space allows imagination to blossom and fill in the pages with new adventures and ideas.

 

Soft, muted earth colors and gentle illustrations of pencil, pastel, and wash, draw the reader into A House in the Woods, a whimsical story of two little pigs who each build a special home in the forest.  While the pigs are out for a walk, Moose and Bear move in. Unfortunately, they are a bit too large and the houses are a bit too small, so the little pigs’ creations are accidentally destroyed. Back to square one, these four unique friends decide to build a new, much bigger home together. They hire a ready team of Beaver Builders, who cheerfully request to be paid in peanut butter sandwiches. Readers can share the process of building the animals’ new forest home and learn about teamwork and the fun of having different kinds of friends.

 

 

Andrea

 
 

Rosemary Wells and the further adventures of Yoko

Yoko Learns to ReadMax, Ruby, Timothy, and of course Yoko, are just some of the best loved characters from acclaimed author/illustrator Rosemary Wells, who has created more than 50 books for children. You can also enjoy her animated characters on PBS Kids.    

       

Her newest title, Yoko Learns to Read, is another adventure for little Yoko, an adorable striped gray kitten. Yoko and her Japanese-born mama are acclimating to a new culture, learning new ways, foods, and language.     

 

Yoko’s mama prepares school lunches of sushi and reads wonderful books with Yoko in Japanese. But Yoko wants to keep up with her classmates and learn to read more books in English to earn more “book leaves” to add to the classroom tree.  Mama wants to help Yoko, but Japanese letters and words are very different from English.

At the suggestion of her teacher, Yoko and her mama put on their best kimonos and make a trip to the library. With a new library card in hand, Yoko checks out more books, learning new words and the key to reading, and in the process helps teach her mama to read a new language too.

 

Relatable, universal situations, multicultural experiences, adorable animal characters, bright colors, and beautiful origami paper prints are the hallmarks of these oil pastel and collage design illustrations, which include examples of Japanese calligraphy and the difference between the Eastern style of reading from right to left and the Western style of reading from left to right.

 

Visit www.rosemarywells.com to learn more about Yoko and her friends.

Andrea

 
 

A Rainbow Connection of Picture Books

Blue ChickenPete the Cat I Love my White Shoeslitte blue and little yellowRemember learning your colors?  Madly scribbling with crayons, dabbing with a paintbrush, or smearing finger paints, while discovering new color combinations through happy accidents?  That was one of the many things we learned as kids. Check out these three books and experience the fun of colors, with a dash of playful wisdom, all over again!

 

An enthusiastic chicken makes a splash in this new title, Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman.  The story comes alive from the pages of an almost-finished illustration of a barnyard scene.  Seen from the perspective of the artist’s desk, Chicken decides to help, but instead accidentally knocks over a jar of blue paint. Mayhem ensues, as the “sincerely sorry” once-white Chicken turns yellow ducklings green and the barnyard blue. Simple text and lively images draw the reader through the story, as Chicken tries to fix her messy mistake. Will Chicken ever find a solution and clean up the barnyard?

 

A favorite at story time, Pete the Cat – I love My White Shoes, may just become another color classic. Author Eric Litwin (aka Mr. Eric) and illustrator James Dean create a silly, easy to follow day-in-the-life of Pete, who happens to be one cool blue cat, sporting white high top shoes. And Pete really loves his white shoes.  Using repetition and crazy, cartoonish illustrations, readers follow Pete as his white shoes change color each time he encounters a new situation. Does Pete cry? No way! He keeps walking along and singing his own special song, while thinking his cool-cat thoughts. Kids love Pete’s adventures and mellow way of rolling with it. Want to sing along with Pete? Readers can download Pete the Cat’s shoe song for free at www.harpercollinschildren.com/petethecat.

 

Hard to believe, but Leo Lionni’s colorful, classic story, little blue and little yellow, has been delighting generations of kids for 53 years!  Lionni created this renowned  tale in 1959 while keeping his young grandchildren, Pippo and Ann, occupied on a train trip from Greenwich, CT to New York City. Tearing up little pieces of colored paper, he told an incredibly imaginative, insightful story of two friends. The illustrations may seem nothing more than ragged blobs of color on a white page, but combined with the sweet, simple story they each take on a character of their own. As blue and yellow happily hug one day, they suddenly become one - and green!  After an eventful day of play, they go home to find their families don’t recognize them.  Understanding blossoms and everyone, adults and kids, learn something new.

 

From new to classic, these titles are great ways for kids to make the rainbow connection of color, optimism, perseverance, flexibility, and fun!

Andrea

 
 

Speechless

Speechless

posted by:
April 18, 2012 - 11:39am

ChalkYou Can't Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum Bow-Wow Bugs a BugA fun way to “read” with your emergent reader is to check out a wordless picture book. Take turns telling the story in your own words. Encourage your young reader to add sound effects and dialogue. Try Chalk by Bill Thomson. Three kids go to the park on a rainy day and find a bag of magic chalk. Everything they draw comes to life! How will they cope when a mischievous boy draws a dinosaur?  Wonderfully expressive artwork drawn in big, bold color will make it easy for you and your young reader to “write” the story.

 

You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman is full of action. The story is drawn in pen and ink style with touches of color. A security guard is entrusted to watch a balloon for a young patron. See what happens when the balloon gets loose and he has to chase it around New York. The story takes many twists and turns as the action outside the museum seems to match the artwork inside. Try this one out with your kindergartener (or older child).

 

In Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug, Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash illustrate a story of a dog that follows a bug around the neighborhood. Using bright, simple illustrations, the authors draw a surprising weird, charming and funny story. The bizarre adventure lends itself to some surreal storytelling which is probably more suited to 1st grade or older. Give it a try with any of your kids and see what develops.

 

If you have a good time with these, be sure to ask your librarian for more titles or search the catalog for keyword “wordless”.

Diane

 
 

Plenty

Plenty

posted by:
April 18, 2012 - 11:32am

Another BrotherThe Unruly QueenMore Three picture books take on one of the first questions that kids have to come to terms with: when is enough enough?

 

For a while, Davy was an only lamb. He enjoyed the focused attention he received from his parents, until one after another brother arrived on the scene. Before he knew it, there were twelve brothers, all of which wanted to follow in Davy’s hoofsteps, everywhere he went. Matthew Cordell, author and illustrator of Another Brother, uses bright, funny line drawings and successful, subtle ovine humor in this satisfying and surprisingly touching sibling story.

 

Minerva is the subject of The Unruly Queen, written and illustrated by E.S. Redmond. This is largely a tale of gluttony, as Minerva seems more interested in using as many resources (and exasperated nannies) as she possibly can. However, when her fifty-third nanny finally beats her at her own game, Minerva receives her much needed comeuppance. The rhyming couplets match the art, which is reminiscent of Edward Gorey and Tim Burton.

 

An unnamed magpie has what we would refer to as hoarding tendencies, in More, written by I.C. Springman and illustrated by Brian Lies. Acrylic and colored pencil drawings of the magpie, mice, and objects star in this timeless fable that mirrors present-day issues of materialism. A field mouse offers the magpie the gift of a marble, but after collecting many more items, its nest becomes overwhelmed by many other found objects. After a catastrophic incident, the field mice help the magpie determine just what matters, and what is enough. 

Todd

 
 

Baby on Board

Baby on Board

posted by:
April 18, 2012 - 10:35am

Lola reads to LeoPecan Pie BabyChloe, InsteadThe challenge of a new sibling is addressed in several new picture books which provide different spins on the blessed event. In Lola reads to Leo, by Anna McQuinn and illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw, our favorite book lover Lola is delighted to welcome new brother Leo. Lola helps care for Leo by sharing her love of reading. She brings him a soft book for his crib when she meets him, holds her best bear story while Mommy feeds him, and tells him a duck tale during his bath time. While many new baby books focus on the negative, this gentle celebration of family and reading offers the fun side of being a big sib!  Other Lola stories include Lola Loves Stories and Lola at the Library

 

Gia has heard all she can about "the ding-dang baby" that her mother is expecting in Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. But that baby is all ANYONE wants to talk about.  Gia is worried about the upheaval ahead and already knows what she will miss the most:  “My whole, whole life.” Her emotions come to a head with a very public meltdown.  But Mama is able to calm her by showing Gia her important role in their expanding family. The subtle seasonal changes complement Gia’s changing attitude. This is an honest story about the very real feelings children have when faced with change.  

 

Molly already has a sister, but not the sister of her dreams.  “I was hoping for a little sister who was just like me, but I got Chloe instead.”  In Chloe, Instead by Micah Player, Molly colors with crayons while Chloe eats them. Molly loves books. Chloe loves to tear pages. Molly is frustrated but still sympathetic and Player uses stylized, colorful graphics and simple text to share her perspective. Player is a graphic designer whose work might be familiar to Target shoppers – he designed the branding for their popular Paul Frank line. (Learn more about this exciting new voice at www.paperrifle.com.) With this fresh story, Molly does come to see that Chloe’s personality can be fun too, and readers who are still on the fence about a younger sibling will see that there may be some good in it after all!

Maureen

 
 

One Cool Book

One Cool Book

posted by:
April 18, 2012 - 10:32am

One Cool FriendQuality picture books have the ability to engage both the youngest and oldest of readers with stories and illustrations that work together to capture the imagination. One Cool Friend, by Toni Buzzeo with illustrations by David Small, falls into that elite category of books we return to again and again. Tuxedo-clad Elliot is a “proper young man,” a boy who prefers quiet, solitary pursuits. When his scientist father proposes a trip to the aquarium, Elliot is unsure. He’s quickly enchanted by the penguins, asking his distracted father if he might have one. A misunderstanding leads a confident Elliot to pop the smallest Magellanic bird into his backpack for the journey back to their spacious, well-appointed home. His new friend proves to be a delight, if not a bit of a challenge.

Small works in pen and ink, ink wash, watercolor, and colored pencil, rendering charmingly witty pictures that add a surprising amount of humor and depth to the story. Readers will delight at the details Small works in to give depth to the character of Elliot’s father, details that begin to hint at the surprise that reveals itself as the story progresses. This is a sophisticated, nuanced book that demands multiple readings in order to fully appreciate the interdependence of Buzzeo’s highly original plot and Small’s clever illustrations.

 

Paula G.