Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ode to a Picture Book

A great picture book can tell a story, impart a lesson, encourage a hug and make us laugh, all in 5 minutes!  How wonderful is that.  Even though my children are getting older, at snack time they still pull down a picture book for a quick read or read aloud.  We are always discovering new things in the best picture books, even though we have read them over and over!  I also have a confession, I am not the most sentimental, so I love a picture book that gives me a good guffaw!  I like to leave my kids chuckling.

So here is my not so clever ode to the picture book:

          Picture books are a nugget of wisdom so styled
          With stories that interest both parent and child
          When words come together with pictures that glow
          The book is a masterful piece we can read over and over and over again!

Oh well.  Thank goodness the following books are far more clever than I!

Title:       Betty Bunny Love Chocolate Cake
Author:  Michael B. Kaplan
Target:   Preschool - Grade 2
Ohh this is such a delightful book!  Betty Bunny tries chocolate cake for the first time and says, I quote “I am going to marry chocolate cake!”  and her brother Bill replies “But you’re going to have really weird-looking kids.”  Betty has decided she loves chocolate cake and she and her cake cannot be parted!

This book will make you and your kids laugh out loud, as the character talk just like a real family, only funnier!  Betty is a precocious handful, but the messages of healthy eating and patience are delivered in such a humorous way that kids wont know they are being lectured to!
The illustrations are perfect and Betty is so much fun that your whole family will enjoy this book.  Even though my kids are getting older, I think that Betty Bunny will find a permanent home in our house!

Title:       Little Pea / Spoon
Author:  Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Target:   Preschool - Grade 1
Ok I admit it, I have a crush on Amy Rosenthal!!  Her talent is fabulous.  I love it when an author can take something we look at everyday and give us a new perspective.  This is what she does so marvelously in her children’s books.
In Spoon, our hero spoon is lamenting that life would be so much more exciting if he were a fork (spaghetti twirling), a knife (jelly spreading), or even a pair of chopsticks (cool and exotic!)  It turns out that all the other utensils are jealous of his abilities (diving headfirst into a bowl of ice cream for example!) With this newfound knowledge, he climbs into bed with his parents, and you guessed it, spoons!  
In Little Pea, our hero loves being a little pea.  The only thing he hates is having to eat candy, because that is what you have to eat every day when you are a pea.  How he forces that candy down to get to the good stuff, which is ... spinach!  This will leave your little ones laughing with delight!
Her story lines are just charming and endearing.  They are also wonderful for preschoolers as my children counted down the pieces of candy little pea had to finish, and the days of the week which represented all the different types of candy that had to be consumed (the horror!)  These books are ones I pick out time and time again for new parents so that their kids can enjoy Amy Rosenthal as much as our family has. 

Title:       Guess Again
Author:  Mac Barnett
Target:   Preschool - Grade 2
          “He steals carrots from the neighbor’s yard.
           His hair is soft, his teeth are hard.
           His floppy ears are long and funny.
           Can you guess who?  That’s right! My
           Grandpa Ned.”
I love it when an author creates the unexpected for kids, and Barnett does this in spades with wonderful illustrations by Adam Rex.  Just when you think you know the answer to the rhyme in this book, you are utterly surprised and delighted by the outcome.  My children and I laugh every time we read this, and it has delighted both my younger children’s classrooms.
I will say that it is probably not good for the youngest of kids.  Their humor level has to be sophisticated enough that they aren’t disappointed that they can’t predict the rhyme, and instead take joy in the absurd.  
This book is really for anyone with a silly sense of humor!  The riddles on each page are a delight and the answers are laugh out loud funny!

Title:       13 Words
Author:  Lemony Snicket
Target:   Preschool - 99
I seriously debated including this book.  It will not appeal to everyone.  The author gives us 13 random words and links them together in a quirky story with even more quirky illustrations, by one of my FAVORITE illustrators, Maira Kalman!  What type of story could you make with these words:
  1. Bird
  2. Despondent
  3. Cake
  4. Dog
  5. Busy
  6. Convertible
  7. Goat
  8. Hat
  9. Haberdashery
  10. Scarlet
  11. Baby
  12. Panache
  13. Mezzo-Soprano
Imagine you toddler referring to a “despondent bird,” “spiffy goat” and “hats from the haberdashery that are full of panache!”  In true Lemony Snicket style (remember he is the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events) the ending is bittersweet, and he did start off with unlucky 13 words.  However, Kalman’s illustrations are full of color and interest and sophisticated subtleties.  It is one of those books where you find new things each time you read it!
While not for everyone, if your sense of humor leans towards the absurd and you enjoy the illustrations of a celebrated artist, then this is the book for you and your family.

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