Here are two picture books that make anything seem possible.
, by Graeme Base, Abrams, $16.95, ages 4 and up, 40 pages, 2012.
When locusts threaten a boy's farm, a stranger appears with a magical horn that brings a herd of tiny elephants to the rescue. In this enchanting picture book, Jim and his mother are nearly out of luck -- their harvester is broken and a swarm of locusts is headed their way. But then something incredible happens. Jim sees a mysterious vagabond wading through the wheat stalks. Though the man cannot stay to help, he tells Jim the wind will bring good luck. That afternoon, Jim discovers a bullhorn left on the gate and as he blows into it, clouds of dust waft out and set off a wondrous chain of events. First, a wild mouse that Jim had let loose the day before returns to his bedroom with a surprise: A herd of toy-sized elephants scuffling under his bed. They're frisky and mischievous, and Jim tries to hide them because his mom doesn't want animals in the house. But then the locusts descend, and the elephants break cover and come charging out. They sprout wings and with trunks swinging, launch themselves at the locusts and drive them away. At last, the wheat is safe. But how will Jim and his mother ever harvest it? Base once again dips his pen into a magical place and gives readers something to dream about. Best parts:
Nighttime scenes of the elephants racing around Jim's room on toy cars and frolicking in the yard with egg beaters and spoons -- and later, flying off with the stranger into the sunset.
The Man from the Land of Fandango
, by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Polly Dunbar, Clarion, $16.99, ages 4 and up, 32 pages, 2012.
A jolly man in a tricolor jacket leaps off a painting on a magical journey into make-believe, in this sparkly treasure by the late Mahy and her long-time illustrating partner Dunbar. After a girl and boy dab the last paint onto the man's portrait, he "bingles and bangles and bounces" off the picture and takes them on a musical romp with instrument-tooting animals. By the end of the picture book, the showman has danced on ceilings and walls, and taken the children bouncing on kangaroos and sliding down a wave of dreams. Mahy's rhymes skip and somersault across the page, while Dunbar's watercolors shout with glee. Characters smile with half-moon eyes and take trampoline leaps as stars and bubbles float about them. Every character in the story looks dizzily happy and that makes readers want to feel that way too. A wonderful farewell from one of the world's most beloved writers. Favorite part:
Watching the man from Fandango leap into life and show us all that you're never too old to be playful -- "He comes in at the door like a somersault star" and dances around as merrily as chimney sweep Bert from Mary Poppins before popping back into his portrait.
Thanks to the very generous folk at Walker Books I got to do something which makes me very happy earlier this week – read aloud lots of fabulous picture books with friends and their kids, and then give the books away, all part of a Picture Book Picnic…
The day started early, baking “Walker Bear” Gingerbread biscuits…
With the first of our “emergency supplies” ready for scoffing, we got to to the main business of the day – reading together!
We started with The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems, humorous take on why it’s so nice to be polite.
Full of chocolate chip cookies (we used this recipe) and cold milk I then read How to Get a Job by me The Boss, actually by Sally Lloyd-Jones & Sue Heap. After a long conversation about what everyone wanted to be when they grew up, I interviewed the kids for the post of Explorer. All the kids sailed through their interviews (Do you like being outdoors? Yes! Are you afraid of snakes? No! Do you like climbing trees? Yes!) and so we got down the map of our local area and off we set on our bikes to have an adventure.
We set up our first camp by a sunny stream, perfect for a reading of Arthur’s Dream Boat by Polly Dunbar.
After the story we made paper boats and floated them off down the river.
Then we climbed up a hill to one of my favourite climbing trees, and in we all clambered to read Anna Hibiscus’ Song by Atinuke and Lauren Tobia.
Anna Hibiscus’ Song is an exuberant, joyous book about what makes people happy – just perfect for me on a day doing what makes me happy!
Anna Hibiscus (yes, the very same character as in the fabulous early chapter books also by
This is amazing good news. Great news, in fact. I’m happy and proud to say that my book, Bystander, is included on the ballot for the 2012 New York State Reading Association Charlotte Award.
To learn more about the award, and to download a ballot or bookmark, please click here.
The voting is broken down into four categories and includes forty books. Bystander is in the “Grades 6-8/Middle School” category. Really, it’s staggering. There are ten books in this category out of literally an infinity of titles published each year. You do the math, people.
For more background stories on Bystander — that cool inside info you can only find on the interwebs! — please click here (bully memory) and here (my brother John) and here (Nixon’s dog, Checkers) and here (the tyranny of silence).
Below please find all the books on the ballot — congratulations, authors & illustrators! I’m honored to be in your company.
GRADES pre K-2/PRIMARY
Bubble Trouble . . . Margaret Mahy/Polly Dunbar
City Dog, Country Frog . . . Mo Willems/Jon J Muth
Clever Jack Takes the Cake . . . Candace Fleming/G. Brian Karas
Lousy Rotten Stinkin’ Grapes . . . Margie Palatini/Barry Moser
Memoirs of a Goldfish . . . Devin Scillian/Tim Bower
Otis . . . Loren LongStars Above Us . . . Geoffrey Norman/E.B. Lewis
That Cat Can’t Stay . . . Thad Krasnesky/David Parkins
Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out! . . . April Pulley Sayre/Annie Patterson
We Planted a Tree . . . Diane Muldrow/Bob Staake
The Can Man . . . Laura E. Williams/Craig Orback L
Emily’s Fortune . . . Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Family Reminders . . .
I don’t know about you, but since Christmas we’ve been seeing a lot of grey. Grey clouds, grey sleet, grey sky, grey rain. I’m beginning to get a bit itchy now for some splashes of colour. Some early crocuses would be nice, or even just some sunshine!
So I’m having to get my colour fix another way, and one source of rainbow delight this last couple of weeks has been Flyaway Katie by Polly Dunbar.
Katie is feeling grey. Finding inspiration from a beautiful picture on her wall of birds with colourful plummage she sets about trying to cheer herself up. First she puts on her most colourful clothes, and although that helps she doesn’t yet feel quite right. So, Katie then paints herself – her face, her arms, her fingers, and whilst the paint is drying magic occurs.
With a fizz and a flutter Katie is ably to fly into the picture on her wall and spends the rest of the day living in colour, making friends with the cheerful, exotic birds around her, having a great deal of fun right up until it is time to return home for her bedtime bath.
Both girls (and me!) love this book. The illustrations are a tonic – Dunbar’s use of colour is most definitely what the doctor ordered for us. Stars and sparkles fizz over the pages and the birds’ feathers come in a riot of colours. Katie’s imagination and can-do attitude, as well as her body language and fashion choices remind me somewhat of Lola (as in Charlie and Lola) – a great little hero to identify with. Although a short read, it carries a great message worth reminding ourselves of sometimes – with a bit of creativity we can do a lot to help cheer ourselves up! No more complaining about the weather and the cold then for me
As soon as we’d read the book for the first time, M and I both wanted to do exactly as Katie had done – find our best, brightest, cheeriest clothes and fly away into a magical place. So the first thing we did was to recreate a picture to hang on our kitchen wall in hommage to Katie’s picture. I cut out bird shapes from card and “feathers” from multi coloured tissue paper and we all sat down as a family to stick, glue, and decorate our birds.
The final result has certainly brightened up our kitchen!
One friend saw this yesterday and commented “Hmm, not a lot of parental involvement there, then!” – but that was missing the point entirely I think – this was a great project that got all four of us sat together around the tabl
Author: David Almond (on JOMB)
Illustrator: Polly Dunbar (on JOMB)
Published: 2007 Candlewick Press (on JOMB)
Airy illustrations, playful, British dialogue and sprightly dipping, gliding narrative give flight to a zany father-daughter adventure that dances delicately between tenderness, tomfoolery, hope and despair landing lightly in the comfort of allied abandon.
You can read the first three chapters of this book here.
More dreams of flying on JOMB:
Author: Suzan Nadimi
Illustrator: Ande Cook
Published: 2007 Albert Whitman & Co. (on JOMB)
ISBN: 0807550590 Amazon.ca Amazon.com
Lyrical dialog and sweet, somehow soothing illustrations bring to life an 800 year old story of fondness and freedom that challenges us to make space for the perspectives of both captor and captive.
Other books mentioned:
You can read more about thirteenth century mystic poet Mawlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi and the designation of 2007 by UNESCO as the International Year of Rumi here.
, Ande Cook
, childrens book
, Suzan Nadimi
, The Rich Man and the Parrotafghanistan
, Ande Cook
, childrens book
, Suzan Nadimi
, The Rich Man and the Parrot