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Posts from December 2011

Grandpa Green: Lane Smith

Book: Grandpa Green
Author: Lane Smith
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5 and up

2011Lane Smith's Grandpa Green is a picture book that stands out from the crowd. It's a bit difficult to even describe, but I think that it's brilliant. Green's young protagonist tells the story of his great-grandfather's life, illustrated by a blend of topiary images and pen and ink sketches. We see the topiaries that Grandpa Green, a gardener, has constructed to help remember the different stages of his personal history. Eventually, we see the intrepid young narrator learning from Grandpa Green, and then honoring him with his own topiary.

Grandpa Green is about family and history, and about love and respect. It's truly beautiful, although a bit too obscure to be appreciated by the youngest of readers. There is, however, humor, too. Particularly early in the book. Like this:

"He grew up on a farm with pigs and corn and carrots ...
and eggs.
In fourth grade he got chicken pox.*

*Not from the chickens."

This is accompanied (over multiple pages) by a topiary of a carrot, and then a topiary of a chicken, with a raised tail, and a chick hatching out of an egg below, and then a topiary of a boy in bed with (berry-generated) chicken-pox.

Generally the humor in Grandpa Green is the tender sort of humor, the kind you see in families. Like when you tease Grandpa for forgetting his hat, but you also quietly find it for him.

This is a book in which the text and illustrations are so well integrated that they couldn't possibly have been produced by separate people. I especially loved this page:

"He had to stay home from school. So he read stories about secret gardens and wizards and a little engine that could."

This is paired with a topiary of the Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman, and a tiny house perched on top of a twister. Gorgeous! And the text doesn't need to specify that one of the "wizards" that the boy read about was the Wizard of Oz.

The pictures, as befitting a story in topiary, are mostly green and white, with a few dashes of other colors (mostly red) thrown in here and there. There is one special illustration near the end of the book where two pages fold out, and a four-page-wide picture lies on the inside. As a parent, I worry about those fold-out pages tearing. But as a reader immersed in Grandpa Green's story, I find them magical.

Lane Smith uses a unique illustration style to bring Grandpa Green, a story with warmth and humor, to life. Grandpa Green is a book to be cherished by families everywhere. I think that it would pair well with Dan Yaccarino's All the Way to America (though very different in style). I do think that it's more suited to a one-on-one read-aloud session than to large group reads. But it's a wonderful picture book for families with kids in the 5-8 range. It would also make a nice gift book for the grandparents. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (@MacKidsBooks)
Publication Date: August 30, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Isaac Z
Reviewed by: morninglightmama | Natalia | rebeccareid | scope notes

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

The Best Kind of Kiss: Margaret Allum

Book: The Best Kind of Kiss
Author: Margaret Allum
Illustrator: Jonathan Bentley
Pages: 24
Age Range: 2-6

51Do0Hk8ymL._SL500_AA300_The Best Kind of Kiss is a brand new picture book written by Margaret Allum and illustrated by Jonathan Bentley, due out in just a few days. It's not a 2011 Cybils nominee (since it missed the October 15th deadline). But it is a book that I'm enjoying reading aloud with 20-month-old Baby Bookworm.

The Best Kind of Kiss is a simple book aimed at preschoolers. A little red-headed girl proclaims her love for kisses. She runs through all of the general kinds of kisses that she likes (including the "smoochy, lip-smacky" sort of kisses), and then moves on to the various people and things that she enjoys kissing. Like:

"dandelions for a whispery kiss,
and snowflakes for a frosty kiss."

Me, I'm kind of partial to the idea of the "snuggly-cuddly-mommy kiss". But that one isn't quite "the best kind of kiss." Can you guess? Who does a four-year-old girl love to kiss more than Mommy? I can't call it unrealistic.

Allum's text is warm without being excessively sappy. (Consider the "smelly-yelly-brother kiss".) She uses playful language, like "waggly", but no words that are likely to trip kids up, and just enough description to bring things to life for young listeners. 

Bentley's pencil, ink, and wash illustrations stick to the yellow/orange palette seen on the cover. He has a knack for adding surprising images that I think will delight young readers. Like the little girl up on a stepladder kissing oversized flowers, or a picture of a lion when the text just says that she kisses the cat. As befitting a young target audience, most of the illustrations aren't particularly detailed. But they all carry a sense of joy and discovery. The illustrations are a nice pairing with the text, supporting the cozy tone, but adding humor.

The Best Kind of Kiss would make a fun read-aloud for a preschool storytime, I think. And it's a lovely, snuggly, book for reading at home with your favorite preschooler. Recommended for home and library use.

Publisher: Walker Children's Books (@BWKids)
Publication Date: December 6, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Cybils Fiction Picture Book Status

Cybils2011As of December 1st, I have read 216 of the 265 eligible titles nominated for the 2011 Cybils Award in Fiction Picture Books (where I am a Round 1 panelist). The others have been requested from publishers, as they are not available from either of my library systems, and I do hope to be able to get my hands on most of them before the end of the month. Many thanks to the publishers who have already sent review copies of scarce titles.

LibrarylogoI must say that I have been VERY impressed by how many of the nominated titles are available from the Santa Clara City Library. Many of the books were not available from the San Jose system at all (alas, budget cuts). Not only did Santa Clara have them available, they generally had them all in one room at the Central Park Library, making obtaining the books relatively easy (apart from the shoulder pain stemming from picking up dozens of books at once ;-)). In the interest of full disclosure, I'm on the board of the Santa Clara City Library Foundation and Friends. But I would be impressed with the library's selection of recent picture books in any case.

Click here to see the full list of nominated books, including links to reviews by Round 1 panelists. Cybils database guru Sheila Ruth will be updating the review links periodically over time, and I'll link to the list again towards the end of the Cybils season.

I've discovered lots of wonderful picture books so far this Cybils season, and expect to find at least a few more gems before the end of the month. I've been spreading out my reviews, and I currently have about 30 stored up for future publication. So, stay tuned, and you'll hear about some of the individual books over the coming weeks and months. And, of course, the Cybils shortlists in all categories will be announced on January 1st.