Somewhere around a child’s fourth birthday, the whine begins. At first it’s a soft sound, the gentle “aww” whenever anyone walks by with a puppy or friendly dog, and the begging grows with every cat video that pops up on any website. It hits a fever pitch when someone—a neighbor, a relative—gets a puppy or a kitty or a goldfish. Soon, you give in and get a pet. Thank goodness there are some new picture books that are almost as lovable as your new responsibility.
I feel confident that many of us will look back on 2014, once it’s all said and done, and acknowledge that Peter Sís plus Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was one of the best possible pairings. In The Pilot and the Little Prince, Sís explores the writer and aviator’s life, from childhood to death, with engaging reverence and intricate, detailed illustrations for which he’s won multiple awards.
The co-creator of the best-selling Ladybug Girl series brings readers an entertaining tale of sibling camaraderie, starring three bears who live by the sea. Their story, a classic hero’s journey (home, adventure and home again), is one of excitement, danger, a little bit of mischief and lots of understated humor.
When you open a children’s book, it’s not fair to expect the characters to be ready every time. This is especially true if it’s by Hervé Tullet, the New York Times best-selling author of Press Here. When you open the equally inventive Help! We Need a Title!, you find a princess and a pig tossing a ball together until they notice that you, the reader, have arrived. “Hey! Someone’s watching us! . . . And they’ve opened our book!” The full cast of characters appear and realize that—of course—you would like a story.
It’s an accepted fact that elephant seals (who can weigh between 2,000 pounds for females and 8,000 for males) live their lives by and in the ocean, where they eat squid, cuttlefish and even small sharks. But as a young boy named Michael and the rest of the friendly folks in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, find out, there are always individuals—whether humans or seals—who prefer doing things exactly their own way.
Three picture books about racing use the excitement of competition to introduce themes of cooperation, collaboration and sharing.
Alan Rabinowitz is a champion of wildlife conservation. He is president and CEO of Panthera, a nonprofit wildlife organization devoted to protecting big cats. As he shares in his charming picture book for children, A Boy and a Jaguar, Rabinowitz's passion for defending wildcats comes from the struggle to find his own words as a child.
BookPage Children's Top Pick, May 2014
I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that Shaun Tan’s books are breathtaking—just consider his wordless graphic novel, The Arrival. But the effect is even more astounding when he puts words and images together, as he’s done in Rules of Summer. There is an underlying beauty to his work that transcends our everyday lives. His design sense is striking, and he pushes the boundaries of picture books in delightful ways.
Let’s hear it for the where-do-babies-come-from picture book of the 21st century, Sophie Blackall’s The Baby Tree! If any author-illustrator working today is going to address this topic—the one that makes parents squirm the most—I’m glad it’s Blackall. She does so with wit and honesty, never once talking down to children. And she executes it with her distinctive Chinese-ink and watercolor illustrations—and with good humor to boot.