It is clear from reading Emily Gravett’s delightful new picture book that bedtime stories and toddler tantrums become slightly more dangerous when you are dealing with a dragon.
Gravett usually works with limited text and unusual animals as characters and this book is no exception. The spunky little dragon only speaks a single word throughout the entire story: “Again!” His parent is a little more verbose, reading (and re-reading) the favorite book identified only by a red dragon on the cover. As the night goes on and the child keeps demanding “Again!” readers will notice that the story in the book changes little by little, until the parent has fallen asleep. This of course, only enrages the small dragon further, which slightly disastrous results for the book (remember that dragons breathe fire, and you can probably guess the outcome).
Gravett’s pencil and watercolor illustrations perfectly complement the sly humor of the text, with the expression on the parent dragon’s face going from indulgent to long-suffering, to flat-out exhausted. Gravett plays cleverly with color, contrasting the red dragon in the bedtime book with the bright green of the parent and child. Of course, as time passes and emotions run high, you can bet that the little dragon will not stay green very long. The hand-lettered text of his cries perfectly reflects the frustration of someone who is NOT tired and wants to hear the story just one more time. Small listeners will sympathize with him, even as they gently touch the results of his rage in the back cover of the book. This is a great choice for a read aloud, bedtime or anytime story.
Again, by Emily Gravett, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $17.99
We’ve mentioned Candace Fleming’s book Oh No! recently, and for those of you who enjoyed it, I highly recommend That’s Mine! I love this brand-new picture book by Michael Van Zeveren. In That’s Mine! a frog discovers a mysterious egg, which he claims as his own, despite the protests of the other animals. The snappy dialogue and animal sounds make this book perfect for read-alouds. Little ones will enjoy guessing whom the egg belongs to and what’s inside. Its bright colors and humorous twist at the end are sure to please even the youngest reader.
That’s Mine! by Michael Van Zeveren; Gecko Press; $17.95
As we wind down from the big election, check out Abe Lincoln’s Dream by Lane Smith, a delightful little story about our nation’s past and future.
While on a field trip to the White House, a little girl named Quincy gets separated from her class. Wandering into the Lincoln Bedroom, she encounters a tall figure dressed in black, wearing his signature stovepipe hat. It’s the ghost of the sixteenth president! But he’s not scary, Quincy reflects. In fact, “he had a long face that made her feel sorry for him.”
Poor President Lincoln is haunted by a dream in which he is on a ship, lost on a perilous sea. He’s worried about the state of the union he left so suddenly. So Quincy takes him on a trip to show him how the nation’s doing today. And, because there are perks when you’re friends with a ghost, it’s a magical flying trip. Soon Mr. Lincoln sees that, while we’re still working on some things, “it’s getting better all the time.”
I loved the gentle humor of this book—Lincoln likes to crack jokes that aren’t very funny (but Quincy still laughs politely). And the illustrations, based on Civil War-era political cartoons, are unique and eye-catching. Lane Smith is known for the versatility of his artwork (he won a Caldecott Honor last year for Grandpa Green), and he delivers here once again.
Check out Lane Smith’s interview on NPR’s “All Things Considered” here.
Read on, readers!
Abe Lincoln’s Dream by Lane Smith; Roaring Brook Press; 16.99; Ages 3-7
This book is the perfect read for mothers and daughters. I’m buying it for my mom as a Mother’s Day gift. (I hope she’s not reading this blog.)
Told from four different perspectives, this is a charming generational tale that is ultimately deeply moving and powerful. Young Mary O’Hara’s granny is in the hospital. Just when Mary and her mother are sure they can’t handle the grim situation anymore, a mysterious woman appears, full of friendliness, comfort, and what seems to be very specific knowledge about Granny. Gradually, Mary, her mother, and her grandmother realize that the woman isn’t a stranger at all: she’s Tansey, Granny’s mother who died years and years ago.
In one night, the three women and the girl revisit their family’s past and embrace their present. Together they visit the old farm where it all began, and, along the way, their individual stories are told.
I couldn’t put this lovely story down. If the above synopsis sounds vaguely like a road trip story you’ve read before, think again. Roddy Doyle’s little novel is a sweet, gentle story that never goes over the top with melodrama. It’s truthful without being harsh, nostalgic without being sappy, and humorous without trying too hard. And it’s just the right length. It’s been a long time since I’ve said that about a book, and it feels good! It’s easily read in an afternoon, and it still has the perfect emotional impact. Well done, Mr. Doyle!
I love this book. I think my mom will, too.
A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle; Amulet Books (Abrams); 16.95; Ages 9+
This book is almost too cute for words. But I’ll try.
Fresh off the presses, a beautiful green book is sent to a busy library, quickly devoured by adoring young readers. The book is happy to be checked out often and loved by so many children. Time goes by, and newer books take its place. Gradually, it gathers dust and is taken out less and less often. Then, one day, when it thought it has been abandoned, a little girl named Alice discovers it where it has been left carelessly on the floor. It’s love at first sight for the little girl, and she takes the book everywhere. Once again, the book is happy and content.
But when Alice, in a moment of forgetfulness, neglects to renew the lonely book, it is again relegated to a dusty shelf. One afternoon, it is laid out in the sunshine with other volumes at the library book sale. No one seems to want the old, fragile book with the faded green cover. Just as the skies darken and rain begins to shower, the book hears a familiar voice. Alice has returned at last, and this time she’s taking the lonely book home for good! Finally, the book has a forever home where it will be loved and cherished.
Maybe it’s my childhood love of Corduroy that drew me to this delightful little story about a forlorn, forgotten little soul. Or maybe it’s just my general love of a good book. But one thing’s for sure–The Lonely Book is simple and wonderful, with a sort of comforting nostalgia that’s especially charming. Kate Bernheimer’s tale feels like a classic, and Chris Sheban’s illustrations are soft and full of glowing light. Seriously, seriously beautiful.
You don’t want to miss out on this lovely read aloud story. Cuddle up with your little one in our storytime corner and see for yourself!
The Lonely Book by Kate Bernheimer, illus. by Chris Sheban; Schwartz & Wade (Random House); 17.99; Ages 3-7
Get ready for the funniest picture book since I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (who, incidentally, illustrated Mac Barnett’s delightful Extra Yarn)!
Mac Barnett is an author. He, like most authors, is trying to write a story. His friend Adam Rex is illustrating the story. The story is about a little girl who encounters a ferocious lion. Simple, right? Mac thinks so, but Adam has ideas to share. Too many ideas. So Mac has him eaten by the lion. A new illustrator (the imaginary hipster artist Hank Blowfeather) takes over, but his drawings don’t have the same pizzazz as Adam’s. Mac begins to regret his decision, and eventually swallows his pride and apologizes to Adam. The lion spits Adam back up, and the book reaches a happy ending for everyone involved.
I laughed my way through this book. The breaking of the fourth wall is brilliantly funny, and the graphic and text layout support perfectly placed laugh lines and dramatic pauses. And the illustrations! Various techniques make this an awesome visual feast. The author and his illustrators are claymation-style figures, while the story characters are cartoonish drawings who perform on a more realistically-drawn theatre set. Simply put, there’s a lot to look at here, and it’s all awesome!
So come to the store and find this book. Read it to yourself or a child. Enjoy a healthy dose of the chuckles.
Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illus. by Adam Rex; Hyperion Books (HarperCollins); 16.99; Ages 3-8
Sometimes poetry gets a bad rap. In school, poetry always ended up being the “boring” subject that no one wanted to participate in and I think if kids just had the right poems in their hands, they would see how fun and interesting poetry can really be!
April is National Poetry Month and we have a great poetry section in the store that will certainly spark an interest in your kids. Funny poems, shorts poems, long poems, dog poems, etc. We have something for every reader! If you or your children haven’t yet read any poetry together, April is definitely the month to do so. You can learn more about National Poetry month here.
One of the fun events that happens during Poetry Month is Poem in Your Pocket Day, which we encourage everyone to participate in! It’s easy: just selection a poem that you love, carry it in your pocket on April 26th, and share it with your friends, family, coworkers, etc. Spread the poetry love!
If you come into Hooray for Books! and share your poem with us, you’ll receive a gift from our grab bag!
Poetry can be cool, fun, and exciting! Just because it’s not a book with chapters or a picture book with lots of illustrations doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. Encourage your kids to read poetry and to have fun with it! We would love to show you some of our favorites in the store.
Every Thing On It by Shel Silverstein;$19.99; HarperCollins; Ages 4+
Here’s A Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry by Jane Yolen and illustrator Polly Dunbar; $21.99; Candlewick Press; Ages 4+