Numerous legendary author--illustrators have likened picture books to film, as both mediums tell their stories through visible action. Some illustrators construct their stories in ways similar to film in even more creative and dramatic ways, as Raúl Colón does in his dynamic new picture book, Draw!
It may be hard to imagine growing up as a young girl in Sudan, raking cow plop, but with gentle restraint, award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney brings readers into the heart and mind of Amira, whose life is forever changed by the Janjaweed’s attacks in Darfur.
There’s something about cats. In 2010, Benno and the Night of Broken Glass by Meg Wiviott and Josée Bisaillon showed the Nazi Kristallnacht riots from the point of view of an alley cat. Before that, The Cats in Krasinski Square by Karen Hesse and Wendy Watson told how stray cats distracted Nazi dogs, allowing food to be smuggled into the Warsaw ghetto. And now there’s Clare, a cat who sees the contemporary Israeli/Palestinian conflict from a unique point of view.
Quite appropriately, The Memory of an Elephant is a large picture book, measuring 11 by 14 inches. It’s a big, unusual book in every way, featuring not only a story about an old, distinguished elephant named Marcel, but a compendium of assorted facts about everything from musical instruments and classic modern furniture to a variety of gourmet desserts.
Grief isn’t an easy thing, nor is it something that provides easy answers. Stian Hole’s Anna’s Heaven, an introspective picture book aimed at older children and originally published in Norway, isn’t afraid to ask the big questions.
Jaden is sure that his parents aren’t satisfied with him. And why would they be? They adopted a kid who lights things on fire, hides food in his closet, steals tip money from restaurants, and has to be sent from one therapist to another. In Half a World Away, written by Newbery Award-winner Cynthia Kadohata, Jaden knows that his mother in Romania didn’t want him, and now his parents in America, Penni and Steve, are trying to replace him. That’s right; he’s so disappointing that his adoptive parents are going to adopt another child.
Twelve-year-old Candice Phee figures that her life needs fixing. Her father and her uncle need to end their longtime feud, and her mother needs to find a way out of her depression. Also, her pen pal Denille needs to finally write back, and her new friend Douglas needs to return to the real home he claims is in Another Dimension. Candice knows she can solve these problems, big and small, because she’s daring, determined and bursting with creative ideas.
Mac Barnett, author of the Caldecott Honor-winning picture book Extra Yarn, turns a popular children’s game into a high-wire act in his latest offering. In many picture books featuring people and animals, the animal world serves as the background. In Telephone, the opening spread features a wordless panorama in which children playing outside offer a clue of what’s to come for the many birds sitting on the telephone lines high above.
Hearing aids aren’t what they used to be. When author-illustrator Cece Bell was a child, it was the Phonic Ear, a bulky one partly strapped to her chest (not the smaller, unobtrusive ones of today), which served as the best option for amplifying her hearing and enabling her to better lip-read the world around her. In her new graphic novel memoir for children, Bell brings this childhood experience to life with humor and style.
Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1963, in a “country caught between Black and White.” John F. Kennedy was president, Martin Luther King Jr. was planning the March on Washington, and Malcolm X talked of revolution. But, like her picture book Show Way (2005), Woodson’s new memoir-in-verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, is of the ages—an African-American family’s story traced across the generations to Thomas Jefferson Woodson, perhaps the first son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, and William J. Woodson, who fought for the Union in the Civil War. Her story is “history coming down through time,” narrated as if she is standing right next to us, pointing out family pictures on the wall of her childhood home.