Good Monday to everyone out there. Here’s Abby’s latest review of Just Bunny and the Great Fire Rescue, by Jean LaSala Taylor and illustrated by Ana Sebastian (Mascott Books, $15.95). It’s a sweet reminder that we owe a hearty thank you to all the first responders out there, especially at this moment.
Garth Williams (1912-1996) probably illustrated many of your favorite books from childhood. The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature in Abilene, Texas, is hosting a exhibition dedicated to his work and life. Read all about it on the Fine Books Blog.
Firefighter Duckies! by Frank W. Dormer; Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 40 pages, ages 1-4.
The firefighter duckies are brave little quackers who valiantly race into all sorts of dangerous situations. Whether they’re rescuing gorillas from cupcake pyromaniacs, whales stuck in carnivorous trees, entangled lemurs, or monsters from bad hair days, the mighty ducks are here to help. After each drama unfolds, our fearless heroes slowly begin to tire, and by the end are ready for some well-deserved shut-eye. Socksquatch and The Obstinate Pen author Frank W. Dormer delivers an over-the-top absurdist’s delight, with bright and bold illustrations dominated by ducky shades of orange and yellow. The art has a slightly cartoonish feel and expertly matches the silliness of the book. The repeating text of They are brave. They are strong mimics the ducks’ energy level, both gently losing steam as the day wears on.
An excellent read-aloud selection sure to become a regular on the storytime rotation.
Hello, World! series author Ashley Evanson is back with This Book is Magic! (Grosset & Dunlap, $14.99 32 pages, ages 0-4) an interactive picture book-board book hybrid for emerging readers. Evanson’s clearly got a knack for getting kids interested in reading and she kindly answered a few of our questions about her craft and the magic of childhood.
Below is an edited transcript of our question and answer session from January 17, 2017.
- What was the inspiration for this book?
A couple of years ago my little brother called to ask a few questions about the first Harry Potter book, which I happily answered since I’m a huge fan of the series. The phone calls continued and I decided to read the books along with him so we could call each other every night to chat. Over the next year we read all seven Harry Potter books, Lord of the Rings, and the entire Sherlock Holmes series. I looked forward to our “book club” with great much excitement. These nightly discussions had me constantly thinking about magic, which is why I dedicated my book to my little brother.
- Why focus on magic? You have a whimsical, bright style that youngsters gravitate towards.
I think childhood is its own element of magic, and everything in this book is something I imagined as a child or see my own children imagining.
- Your Hello, World series is adorable–I have all 4 titles here–do you have plans to add to that series?
I would love to create more Hello, World books! But first I’m publishing a companion book for This Book Is Magic.
- What’s your medium?
Everything I do is on Adobe Illustrator.
- How do you approach a project? What’s your process?
My approach is pretty primitive. I mean, my rough drafts contain stick figures! The concept always comes first and the art follows, but I only include concepts of things I know I would love to draw. I have inspiration boards of my favorite artists, color palettes, and photographs of the images I’m drawing.
- Do you work solely in children’s picture-book illustration?
I feel like if I tried to illustrate anything else it would still end up looking like a children’s book illustration. It’s just who I am.
- Could you tell me how you think your work is helping shape and excite young minds.
I feel like the most unqualified person to be publishing books so I tell people if I can do it, seriously, anybody can do it!
- What are you working on now?
I’m in the brainstorming phase for the companion book to This Book Is Magic, but it feels a little more like the writer’s block phase! I’ll get there!
- What else should I have asked you that I didn’t but that you would like our readers to know about you?
My occupation may be an author-illustrator, but my number one job is being a mother. There is nothing more magical or important than childhood and raising your little ones.
Robert McCloskey’s classic turns 75 this year, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is hosting a retrospective. Read more at the Fine Books & Collections Blog.
(Drawing for Make Way for Ducklings (“‘Look out!’ squawked Mrs. Mallard, all of a dither…”) by Robert McCloskey, 1941. Reproduced with permission from MFA Boston.)
So many wonderful titles appear in the fall and winter months that it’s hard to keep up with all of them. To wit, here are four fantastic titles sure to brighten your day, no matter who wins at the ballot box:
Madeline Finn and the Library Dog, by Lisa Papp; Peachtree Publishers, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 4-7 (October 2016).
Reluctant readers, rejoice: Madeline Finn hates to read, too. That is, until she meets Bonnie, a docile, patient library dog whose calm, quiet presence encourages the young girl to keep on trying, despite making mistakes. After all, practice makes progress. Award-winning author-illustrator Lisa Papp makes a warm and furry case for canine companions as literary sidekicks in this fun and uplifting tale.
(Copyright 2016 Lisa Papp. Image courtesy of Peachtree publishers.)
Sweaterweather and Other Short Stories, by Sara Varon; First Second Books, $19.99, 128 pages, ages 8-12 (February 2016).
Sara Varon is something of a cult figure for the pre-teen set: her offbeat cartoons and graphic novels are deceptively clever and engaging. Fans will find much to enjoy in this re-issue from 2003 of seventeen illustrated essays exploring the creative process, short stories, and, of course, comics, in which cats, ducks, and elephants share real estate in Brooklyn alongside their human friends. Updated with Varon’s notes for a new generation.
Dinosaurs in Disguise, by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger; HMH Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 32 pages, ages 2-5 (October 2016).
Veteran author-illustrator duo Stephen Krensky and Lynn Munsinger have teamed up to explore a tantalizing hypothesis: What if the dinosaurs never actually went instinct? A little boy imagines where the giant lizards may have hidden throughout human history, from ancient Egypt to modern times. Expect much laughter with this lovable read-aloud.
(Text copyright 2016 Stephen Krensky, art copyright 2016 Lynn Munsinger. Reproduced with permission from HMH Books for Young Readers.)
We Found a Hat, by Jon Klassen; Candlewick Press, $17.99, 56 pages, ages 3-7 (October 2016).
Two desert-dwelling turtles come upon a hat in the sand that bears a strange resemblance to the one worn by The Man in the Curious George series. Both creatures take turns wearing the topper, and decide the best thing to do is leave it for its owner. But will they? This is a Klassen book, so the resolution to the great moral conundrum plays out with delightful poker-faced quirkiness. In this finale to the Hat series, don’t be discouraged by the length–fifty-six pages seems long, but the pacing is just right for indecisive turtles.
(We Found a Hat. Copyright © 2016 by Jon Klassen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.)
Dojo Surprise, by Chris Tougas; Owl Books, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 3-6.
The ninja master thinks he’s all alone at Dojo Daycare. After all, it’s early in the morning, and his charges haven’t arrived yet. But whither the strange noises, shadows, and–is that dragon drool on the floor? While Master wrestles with his daybreak demons, six little ninja boys and girls sneak into the complex to arrange a birthday surprise for their kindly yet befuddled teacher. This charming offering by award-winning Canadian author-illustrator Chris Tougas is the third in his Ninja series, though Dojo Surprise certainly stands on its own without any prior introduction. Written in bouncy rhyming couplets, young readers will enjoy knowing about the birthday secret before Master is, and the text offers opportunities for active reading participation. Tougas’ digital renderings of a slumbering, semi-conscious ninja master and his delightfully enthusiastic students are bright, engaging, and full of movement. Little ninjas will do roundhouse kicks for the opportunity to read this book.
We couldn’t get through October without mentioning wolves, and herewith are two tales that celebrate the oft-maligned and misunderstood canis lupus.
The New York Review Children’s Collection recently reissued Catherine Storr’s (1913-2001) collection of modern-day fables called The Complete Polly and the Wolf. Originally published in the U.K. in 1955, Storr’s stories of little Polly outwitting the doltish Wolf are not terribly familiar to American audiences; the last publication of a Polly book in the U.S. was in 2007, and it didn’t make the international splash that it should have. Here’s hoping the New York Review’s incarnation encourages a new generation to discover the plucky, mid-century heroine who relies on her own cunning and resourcefulness not to become the Wolf’s dinner. Original black-and-white drawings by Marjorie Ann Watts and Jill Bennett are as delightful and whimsical as the tales they illustrate. Anglophiles and collectors of children’s literature will want to add this one to their collections. (The Complete Polly and the Wolf, by Catherine Storr, illustrated by Marjorie Ann Watts and Jill Bennett; The New York Review Children’s Collection, $17.95 304 pages, ages 6-9.)
Meanwhile, in Jean Leroy’s recent picture book entitled A Well-Mannered Young Wolf, the hungry protagonist sets out on his first hunting excursion. Wolf law decrees that before enjoying a meal, a predator must honor his prey’s final wishes. Though the well-mannered young wolf accommodates various last requests, they’re at the expense of his empty stomach. Will courtesy prevail in the wild? Young readers will adore this wry unexpected examination of manners (especially with a kindly wolf as the nice guy). Illustrator Matthieu Maudet’s latest collaboration with Leroy proves the combination is a winning match; deceptively simple pen-and-ink illustrations rendered in a trio of tints are bold and reminiscent of comic-book art. Originally published in 2013 in French as Un jeune loup bien éduqué, the story retains its wit and charm in translation. (A Well-Mannered Young Wolf, by Jean Leroy, illustrated by Matthieu Maudet; Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, $16.00, 30 pages, ages 3-7.)