Pied Piper Pics
This spring, I had the opportunity to work with the library’s technical services department, cataloging youth and young adult materials. The internship allowed me the chance to catalog books I might not otherwise notice during the course of my regular duties. One such book was Luke Pearson’s charming graphic novel Hildafolk.
The protagonist of this short, colorful graphic novel is a young girl named Hilda. One evening, while engrossed in a book about trolls, she overhears the weather report on the radio. Delighted to hear that the forecast calls for rain, she asks her mother if she can sleep outside in her tent. This is the start of a wondrous adventure for Hilda, who takes great delight in the natural world around her. As Hildafolk unfolds, the heroine encounters giants, trolls, and a very unusual figure made of wood.
I was initially drawn to Hildafolk because of the art. Pearson’s illustrations are whimsical and colorful, and Hilda’s eyes in particular are quite large and expressive. Although the story is fairly simple, Hilda’s sense of wonder and delight really brings Pearson’s narrative to life.
Hilda’s adventures continue in two sequels: Hilda and the Midnight Giant and Hilda and the Bird Parade.
Check the WRL catalog for Hildafolk.
One of the most beautiful picture books I’ve come across recently is Ari Berk’s Nightsong. It is a sweet story with large, expressive illustrations by Loren Long that capture the beauty and wonder of the night and the unknown.
Nightsong is about a bat named Chiro who lives with his mother in a cave. One night, Chiro’s mother tells him it is time for him to fly out on his own into the world. She tells him to go no further than the pond and then come home after breakfast. Chiro is scared because it is dark and he cannot always see. He asks his mother how he will find his way. His mother says he should use his good sense, which is “the song you sing out into the world, and the song the world sings back to you.” Using his good sense, Chiro embarks on a wondrous adventure that leads him to the pond and beyond before returning to the safety of his mother.
At some point, every child will have to go out into the world on their own and Nightsong presents this in a manner that is relatable for both parents and children. Ari Berk’s confident storytelling is enhanced by Loren Long’s illustrations. Long uses just the right amount of light, shadow, and color to illustrate Chiro’s adventure, and the expressions on Chiro’s face as he gains the confidence to follow his good sense and explore his world are simply delightful.
Check the WRL catalog for Nightsong.
Here’s a book full of movement and sound that is perfect for energetic preschoolers. Told in a rhyme, animals leave their footprints while they dance across the page. “Tippity! Tippity! Little black feet! Who is dancing that tippity beat?” Young children will enjoy interacting with the story and guessing which animal uses their feet to make these sounds when they dance. A turn of the page reveals the answer, “Ladybugs are dancing on tippity feet. Tippity! Tippity! Happy Feet!” Lindsey Craig has teamed up with Marc Brown, author of the award winning Arthur series, on her debut book. Marc Brown’s simple shapes, collage-style art, and textured patterns will appeal to readers. Dancing Feet! is an ideal choice for getting children moving and singing during story time.
Check the WRL catalog for Dancing Feet!
Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow, written by Robert D. San Souci and illustrated by E.B. Lewis, is a re-telling of a traditional English ballad. In this story, Robin Hood and his Merry Men once again find a way to outsmart the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. The Sheriff thought it would be clever to catch them using an archery contest as a setup, as he knew the men greatly enjoyed archery and in fact had quite a knack for it. However, Robin Hood and his men knew the contest to be a trap, and so went to it disguised and arriving individually from different directions. When a stranger triumphs over the Sheriff’s best archer, but refuses to work for the Sheriff afterwards, the Sheriff becomes angry and leaves. Later, a poem informs the Sheriff that the very man he wanted to catch that day won the contest, further infuriating him. It was a victory for Robin and the Merry Men.
This awesome story is accompanied by fabulous illustrations. The colors bring the reader back to Medieval England, and the characters look so realistic. The forest is absolutely beautiful and the costumes look period accurate. For those who love adventure, this book is for you. With lots of page-filling pictures, this book is perfect for reading to a young one.
Check the WRL catalog for Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow.
Pandora, written by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Raul Colon, is an interesting rendition of the ancient Greek tale of Pandora. In this version, Pandora has a jar instead of a box, which is in fact more in keeping with the original Greek word used in the old tellings of the story. Day and night, Pandora stares at the sealed jug on the pedestal, wondering what could be inside. Despite warnings not to open it, her curiosity only grows. Eventually she opens the jar and empties it of all its contents. In a frightening display of artistic talent, the horrors released from the jar are materialized, and they are seen to be all the evils of the world. However, there was still one thing left in the jar that did not escape before it was closed again. No matter how many evils were released into the world, Pandora still had hope in her jar.
The art in this book is simply beautiful. The colors, the technique, everything is meant to bring the reader back to Ancient Greece. The details are amazing. Colon’s figures come to life on the page, especially on his two-page spread when Pandora has opened the jar, her emotions are captured with the lines and colors.
This book is highly recommended for lovers of mythology. It is most likely better for an older elementary school child to read this book for two reasons: There are a lot of words, some of which may be difficult to pronounce and some of the images and themes may be a bit frightening to younger children. Robert Burleigh’s mythological books are excellent, most of them staying as true to the original story as possible, and all of them with fantastic artwork.
Check the WRL catalog for Pandora.
Part-Time Dog, written by Jane Thayer and illustrated by Lisa McCue, is about Brownie, a dog who just wants to find his place in the neighborhood. As he makes his rounds to the different houses on Maple Street, the women who live there all tell him to go home. However, Brownie does not have a home of his own. Eventually, the women begin to realize this and so they call the dogcatcher to take Brownie away to the pound. As soon as he is gone though, the women realize how much they miss Brownie and each of them wants to take Brownie home. They agree to pick Brownie up from the pound, sharing him, so he becomes everyone’s part-time dog.
Lisa McCue’s artwork is colorful and cute, creating the image of a light and playful book. This would make an excellent book for story time, as well as for individual reading. The pictures fill most of the pages and the sentences are fairly simple, making this book ideal for early elementary school children.
Check the WRL catalog for Part-Time Dog.
Misery Moo, written by Jeanne Willis and illustrated by Tony Ross, is the story of a cow that has trouble seeing the beauty in life and her friend, a lamb, who does all he can to cheer her up. After what seems to be several hopeless attempts, the lamb gives up and becomes very sad. Then, the cow comes back to check on the little lamb and, discovering his misery, uses the same techniques used on her to make the lamb happy once again. In the end, the cow and the lamb realize they love each other very much and it is their friendship that brings them happiness.
Tony Ross’ artwork truly captures the moods in this book. The colors in the beginning show the foul moods of the cow and, eventually, the lamb with gray and blue tones. Later on, when both animals find happiness, the colors become more vibrant as Ross uses yellows, greens, and other bright hues. This book is great for individual reading or reading together. With its large pictures, it would also be ideal for a story time feature!
Check the WRL catalog for Misery Moo.
Rocco and his friends are superheroes whose superpowers come from their long, unwieldy manes. One day, Rocco gets “captured” by his parents and driven to the “villain’s lair”, the barbershop. Rocco’s “powers” were stolen by the barber so he tried replacing them by putting various items upon his head where his huge mass of hair used to be. None of it worked! It turns out all of Rocco’s friends had been captured as well and their “powers” were also stolen. Rocco and his friends tried together to replace their powers but nothing worked until they saw a kid who needed their help. They saved the day and realized they were still superheroes, with or without their hair.
Super Hair-O and the Barber of Doom is a fun read all kids who have been dragged to the barber can relate to. And it sends a great message that the world will not end even after a haircut! Its unique comic book style and fantastic, colorful illustrations are sure to capture the attention of all kids ages 4-6. This book was inspired by the childhood of author and illustrator John Rocco, who is a Caldecott Honor winner for his picture book, Blackout.
Check the WRL catalog for Super Hair-O and the Barber of Doom.
Josh woke up on a Wednesday morning and had a very BIG and brown idea. He decided to wear a brown paper bag on his head all day. His mom did not think it was a good idea, and neither did any of the adults he saw at school or at soccer practice. When Josh got home, his little sister asked why he was wearing the brown bag. He revealed that he had tried to cut his own hair! On Thursday morning, Josh’s sister had a very cool and spiky idea. Instead of wearing a bag, she thought Josh should spike up his hair so no one could tell he had a bad haircut.
Baghead is a fun story time read that will keep kids’ attention because they will enjoy guessing why Josh has a bag on his head, and the surprise reveal at the end will make them laugh. Most kids can probably relate to having a bad haircut as well! This book has minimal text which makes this a great story time read for ages 4-6. The illustrations, also by the author Jarrett J. Krosoczka, are very colorful and large which makes this book a great pick for sharing with a group.
Check the WRL catalog for Baghead.
The gentleness of this story will please readers as they travel back to a simpler time. Little Lizzie lives with mama, papa, and baby in the Australian bush country during the pioneer days. Lizzie’s playful imagination keeps her and mama entertained while papa is away. Children will be amazed by the character’s ability to create such fun and uplifting diversions for herself. We all desire creativity to be ours and to witness it in Lizzie is to have insight into a true dreamer.
Check the WRL catalog for Lizzie Nonsense.
The Bravest Knight was one of the first books Mercer Mayer created. This story was originally titled “Terrible Troll” and has now been entirely redone in vivid color. It will remind parents of the Little Critter stories they have read over the years. As the main character wishes to have lived a thousand years ago, the reader goes to the land of castles, Kings, Queens, good knights and bad knights. The small boy fancies that he works for the bravest knight in the kingdom and they proceed on many brave adventures. The illustrations have numerous clever details. The ending has a twist that will have children picking up this book again and again.
Check the WRL catalog for The Bravest Knight.
The Love of Two Stars is a retelling of a traditional Korean legend. It tells the story of two stars, Altair and Vega – or Kyonu and Jingnyo as they are known in Korea – that meet in the Milky Way on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar year.
Kyonu, a farmer, and Jingnyo, a weaver, live in a kingdom in the starry sky. Kyonu is a good farmer and has the strongest steers in the land. Jingnyo is a good weaver and makes the strongest and most beautiful cloth in the land. One day, they meet in a garden and fall instantly in love. But they spend too much time together, and the people’s farms go unplowed and their clothes begin to wear thin. The king becomes angry with the lovers and banishes them to the ends of the galaxy – Kyonu to the East and Jingnyo to the West. They can only meet once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.
But when the time comes to be reunited, there is no bridge or boat for them to cross the Milky Way and so their tears flood the earth – until the magpies and crows realize they can help! (But I won’t give the ending away!) The tears Kyonu and Jingnyo shed when they have to part this time are gentle tears that nourish the earth.
The author was born in Seoul, Korea, and was told the tale by her own grandmother when she was a little girl. The book is full of rich, lush acrylic illustrations and is probably best suited to children aged four to eight. It can be read individually, in small groups, or even perhaps in a story-time. The Love of Two Stars provides a nice counterpart to Western fairy- and folk-tales, particularly in our increasingly diverse classrooms. It is valuable for children to realize that those who live in or come from different countries have their own treasured stories.
Check the WRL catalog for The Love of Two Stars.
Jemmy Button tells the story of a young boy from a faraway, tropical island, who is taken to England to be “civilized” and the book illustrates his encounters with a strange new world and his decision to return home.
Jemmy Button is based on the true story of Orundellico, a native of Tierra del Fuego, who was taken to England in the early 1800s by Captain Robert FitzRoy, in order to be educated in Christianity and the ways of Western world. Jemmy is named for the mother-of-pearl button that the captain gives in exchange for him. But several years later, he returned to Tierra del Fuego with the captain on the HMS Beagle, accompanied by a young Charles Darwin. Upon reaching the island, he quickly shed the clothing and trappings of Victorian England and relearned his native language.
However, the book is not so much a biography, as a representation of this terribly alienating experience from Jemmy’s point of view. The lyrical prose (The British explorers tell Jemmy, “Come away with us and taste our language, see the lights of our world”) is complemented by beautifully imagined illustrations. The first thing that struck me about this book was the cover, with its bold, simplistic design and Jemmy’s little face peeking curiously out from the tangle of greenery. It made me curious to discover Jemmy Button’s story. Throughout the story, he is painted with red ochre skin and curly black hair, and he walks naked through crowds of overdressed silhouettes in shades of blue and black. He is bought clothes, taken to concerts, and even meets royalty, but he never feels at home.
“Jemmy felt almost at home. Almost, but not quite.”
After experiencing all these new places, he realizes where he truly belongs and decides to return home. The illustrations are rudimentary and unsophisticated – and very powerful. Jemmy stands out in every illustration – he is often painted in a more childlike way, with blurred lines and messy hair, whereas the English men and women he is surrounded by are painted much more deliberately.
The story explores themes of travel, homesickness, longing, and diversity. In today’s multicultural environment, this book is particularly appropriate. It teaches us the dangers of treating those who are different as inferior and the insensitivity of attempting to impose one’s culture on others.
Jennifer Uman is a self-taught painter and illustrator and Valerio Vidali is an Italian illustrator of magazines and children’s books. Historical notes are available at the end of the story.
Check the WRL catalog for Jemmy Button.
The famous author of Good Night, Baby Bear; Happy Birthday, Moon; and Moon Bear, Frank Asch, has done it again in this picture book. The Sun is My Favorite Star has Asch’s signature illustrations and teaches young children about the sun in an appreciative manner. The young girl depicted in this book lists many reasons why the sun is her favorite star, including: “In the evening, it paints pretty pictures in the sky for me. Even in the night, it sends some light to keep me company.”
This book should be part of any Frank Asch collection because it helps introduce abstract concepts to small children while wowing readers with the gorgeous drawings.
Check the WRL catalog for The Sun is My Favorite Star.
This whimsical tale takes readers inside a magical world where a Thumbelina-sized girl is stuck within a castle in a museum. She likes when the children come to visit her, but she has a tendency to get lonely after they leave for the night. Readers are sucked into her miniature activities and pensive solitude. Elementary-aged children will enjoy this book, and Nicoletta Ceccoli’s illustrations capture the imaginations of readers of all ages.
Check the WRL catalog for The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum.
This new twist on a classic will be a big hit with dinosaur lovers! The discovery in 2005 of modern birds living amongst dinosaurs inspired Cheryl Bardoe to create this cute story. As you can imagine, when the little ducklings see the baby Tyrannosaurus rex they all agree with the neighbor that he is “the ugliest duckling I’ve ever seen!” As the baby T. rex travels to make his home away from his duckling family, he finds that he inspires only fear in all the other creatures he encounters. He is convinced that he is a monster until a lovely large green dinosaur who looks a lot like him takes him home to live with her and her children.
The last few pages containing “scientific illustrations of the dinosaurs and other flora and fauna that play a part in this book” and the author’s and artist’s notes demonstrate Bardoe and Doug Kennedy’s commitment to making not only an amusing book, but also one based on the most recent paleontological research. Kennedy’s watercolor illustrations bring a cartoon-like charisma lacking in many dinosaur books, which bring to life this prehistoric time.
Check the WRL catalog for The Ugly Duckling Dinosaur: A prehistoric tale.
2013 is shaping up to be a very good year for author and illustrator Jon Klassen. Not only did he win the Caldecott Medal for This is Not My Hat, but another book he illustrated, Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, was selected as a Caldecott Honor Book.
Extra Yarn tells the story of Annabelle, a young girl who finds a box of yarn while she is playing outside in the snow. She takes the box home and uses the yarn to knit herself a sweater. After she finishes the sweater, she notices that she has some extra yarn so she uses the yarn to knit a sweater for her dog, Mars. Soon, Annabelle’s sweaters attract attention and brighten her surroundings everywhere she goes. Not everyone is a fan of her sweaters; a local boy mocks her and her teacher says the sweaters are a distraction in class. Annabelle responds by knitting sweaters for everyone in her community, except for Mr. Crabtree who gets a knitted cap. Even the animals and buildings receive sweaters and she never runs out of yarn. News of Annabelle’s remarkable box of yarn reaches an archduke, who has a sinister plan to obtain the yarn.
Extra Yarn is a lovely story that shows how one girl’s simple act changes her entire community. The use of color is one of the most effective aspects of Klassen’s illustrations. Klassen begins with a drab color palette when Annabelle finds the box of yarn, then gradually adds a bright and varied palette as she knits more and more sweaters. Fans of Klassen’s other books will have fun spotting some very familiar faces, all surprise recipients of Annabelle’s sweaters.
Sweet and charming, Mac Barnett’s Extra Yarn is bolstered by Klassen’s clever illustrations.
Check the WRL catalog for Extra Yarn.
The pigeon receives an unforgettable lesson in politeness in Mo Willems’ hilarious The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?
All the duckling wants is a cookie, and just by asking politely he is rewarded with a large cookie full of nuts. The duckling’s happiness comes to a sudden end, however, when the pigeon spots the cookie. The pigeon asks the duckling how he got the cookie, and is flabbergasted to learn the duckling got the cookie just by asking. An indignant pigeon then tells the duckling all the things he asks for – from driving the bus to his own personal iceberg – but never seems to get. The pigeon’s lamentations finally come to an end when the ducking surprises him with an unexpected act of kindness.
Warm and humorous, The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? is a fun book that gently reinforces the importance of being polite. Willems’ illustrations are simple but effective, consisting of little more than the pigeon, duckling, and cookie set against a plain and uncluttered background. Willems’ dry humor will also appeal to older readers who will sympathize with the duckling’s request at the end of the story.
Check the WRL catalog for The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?
Written in a similar style to the classic “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” children take off in search of a moose. Their search is complicated by the fact that they’ve “never, ever, ever seen a moose.” The children scrape through bushes, wade through swamps and scramble up hillsides as they try to find a moose. Readers will enjoy discovering the moose hidden in each picture when the children are actively searching for the moose. Careful examination of the oil illustrations will show moose feet, snouts, antlers and other parts hidden behind trees, bushes and rocks. The story is told in a sing-song manner, with some creative rhyming thrown in. Ideal for one on one sharing due to the hidden picture aspect of the story, it will appeal to readers aged three through six.
Check the WRL catalog for Looking for a Moose.
Mole is content with his life until his friend Emerson causes him to doubt his simple lifestyle. Inspired by Emerson, Mole sets out to collect many things, which he drags along on a string. Mole gathers up “essential things” like a pirate flag and a traffic light, and his newfound possessions are gloriously shown in a huge, fold out illustration. The pictures effectively show Mole discovering that having everything is not all that is cracked up to be. After deciding that living with everything is just too much trouble, Mole decides to return to his simpler lifestyle. The paintings in the story help to subtly reinforce the author’s message that less can sometimes be more. This story will be enjoyed by readers aged four and up.
Check the WRL catalog for Mole Had Everything.