Monday, December 2, 2013

Raves & Faves 2013 Part I: Picture Books

I didn't realize how many books I loved this year until I started trying to list them. And then I realized I needed at least two posts. Here's the first: a few of my favorite books this year that fit at least some definition of the term picture book; I'd call this my Best Illustrated list, but that would exclude at least one title that's going in Part II. We live in category-busting times, my friends.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, by Peter Brown. I almost don't know why I love this book so much. The story is pretty simple: Mr. Tiger wants to stop being so prim, and he does, and then he makes it easier for others to do the same. Maybe it's partly that I'm really proud of Mr. Tiger; there are reasons, some of them straight out of crit class, that so many people embrace "be yourself" stories. Or maybe it's just that Peter Brown knows how to create really, really appealing illustrations.

Xander's Panda Party, by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Matt Phelan. I always find myself starting the pitch for this one with the fact that even though the text looks like prose, it's actually a great rhyming text, perfect for reading aloud. But there's so much more to  XPP. Kids love to categorize, and as Xander's birthday guest list grows from "bears" to "creatures," they get to become miniature taxonomists. Matt Phelan's animals of all phyla and classes are pretty darn huggable.

The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. This longer picture book's popularity is a mini-phenomenon. Duncan's crayons are fed up, all for wholly original reasons that made perfect sense to my inner six-year-old. Yes, yellow and orange would fight about who should draw the sun. Yes, black would be sick of making outlines. Yes, if crayons wrote angry letters, they would look just like that.

Battle Bunny, by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Matthew Myers. A syrupy story about a birthday bunny might be right for some readers, but not for Alex. He scribbles all over the book - it's his book, after all - and turns it into a much higher-octane story. I am all about books that show kids that reading - and writing! - can be about anything they want, and I have visions of reading this aloud in tandem, with one reader reading the "original" story and the other grabbing the book and roaring the changes. (The book is probably too small for this to work for large groups.)

Nelson Mandela, by Kadir Nelson. It's been pretty comforting to have Mandela's face watching us from displays throughout the year. And the poetic language inside feels reassuring, too, even as it deals with the difficult parts of Mandela's life. This sort of book is why we have picture book biographies.

Coming soon: middle-grade and YA!

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