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.
The city of Hamburg has become a prison for its smallest citizens. Where once they ate their fill and ran the streets freely, the invention of the mousetrap has forced mice underground. Some flee by ship, but the ports are now guarded by cats, and owls watch from every steeple. One mouse has a revelation when he sees bats flying overhead: They’re little more than mice with wings, so who’s to say a mouse can’t fly? The adventures in Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse are ready for takeoff.
“Is it time?” asks Little Blue, who can’t wait to start the blue whales’ summer migration to their feeding ground. In this companion to Meet Me at the Moon, Gianna Marino’s tale of a mother elephant and her child, fathers now have their day.
In our information-rich world, Mark Pett’s wordless picture book, The Girl and the Bicycle, is a refreshing change. This is Pett’s second such book, following The Boy and the Airplane. Somehow, by omitting words, the story seems more powerful; perhaps because instead of reading about events, we see and feel what’s happening.
The Farmer’s Away! Baa! Neigh!, written and illustrated by Anne Vittur Kennedy, uses rhythmic animal sounds and clever drawings to show that “when the cat’s away, the mice will play.”
The world of Abuelo, written by Arthur Dorros and illustrated by Raúl Colón, is warm, windy, wild and free. The story depicts the affection between a boy and his grandfather, his abuelo, as they ride horseback across the colorful and wide-open backdrop of the Pampas, the vast, low-lying grasslands of Argentina.
In a book that manages to be both cosmic and grounded at the same time, author-illustrator Claire A. Nivola explores no less than the notion of one’s very soul. This isn’t a picture book that addresses merely birth and death. It’s a story that suggests that we are beings who originate from stars; we enter a “river of time” on Earth; and we return to the “elders” at the star homes from which we came.
No one can ever have too many picture books about smart girls who love science—or too many stories about big, loyal dogs. Still, a book with these elements needs other features to stand out, and Maggi and Milo delivers.
In Aaron Meshon’s Tools Rule!, the tools in a very messy yard need to get organized, but how? By building a tool shed, of course! From the obscure awl to the ubiquitous drill, all the tools pitch in and, in turn, teach the reader about what they do.