Friday, January 6, 2012

Best of 2011: Our Favorite Easy Picture Books

I've been working to compile a list of the Best Books of 2011 and have asked our entire library staff to participate. I hope to make this an annual event. So, without further ado... Here is part one of our series: Picture Books.

The Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz
This book gives new life to the classic "Wheels on the Bus" song and makes for a happy, loveable read-aloud and sing-along. The bright, colorful illustrations will hold toddlers' attention. Ages 3 to 5.

Blackout by John Rocco
Told through a series of graphic novel–style panels, this is the story of an ordinary summer night in the city. A little girl is eager to play a game, but everyone in her household is too busy. Then there is a blackout; with the power suddenly out, no one is busy at all and the the neighborhood comes alive. The visual images are bold and striking, and small details add a lot to this story about family togetherness. The contrast between light and dark plays an important but subtle visual role. Ages 4 to 8.

Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman
This deceptively simple farmyard caper is filled with bold splashes of color (mostly blue) and the discoveries of a curious chicken who accidentally spills some (blue) paint. Ages 3 to 5.

Bumble-Ardy by Maurice Sendak
Sendak's (Where the Wild Things Are) latest is a raucous tale populated by pigs, and his signature subtly sinister style is in full force. Ages 4 to 7.

Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld
This solo effort from the illustrator of Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Duck! Rabbit! is utterly charming and not a bit condescending to children despite the little "life lesson." This is a lovely book about self-determination and overcoming obstacles as Cloudette, a very small cloud, looks for a way to contribute. Side chatter from the bigger clouds provides comic relief, and the illustrations are surprisingly sunny and cheerful.

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith*
A boy follows his grandfather though his topiary garden in this moving and clever story about art, family stories, and memory. The gorgeously verdant illustrations are the star here, though the special relationship between the boy and his grandfather is touching. Ages 5 to 8.

Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator by Mo Willems
This playful collection of "6-1/2 stories" gives kids the feeling of reading their first chapter book. The highs and lows of Amanda's friendship with her pet alligator are treated with honesty and humor, and the text and simple illustrations provide occasional moments of real poignancy.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
The bear's hat is gone, and he wants it back. Patiently and politely, he seeks out his fellow forest creatures to inquire "Have you seen my hat?" It's like a sly game of clue, with clever visual hints. It's an adorable tale with a delightfully wicked twist at the end. Ages 4 to 8.

Little Owl's Night by Divya Srinivasan*
Little Owl is darned adorable, and this book provides a clever twist on the traditional bedtime story. Gorgeous, both visually and verbally. Ages 3 to 5.

Melvin and the Boy by Lauren Castillo
This quiet tale of companionship and compassion has a bit of an ecological message, but it is not overblown. The marker-edged watercolor illustrations are beautiful and echo and the book's gentle tone. Turtle FAQs at the end will appeal to budding scientists and animal enthusiasts. Ages 4 to 8.

Neville by Norton Juster, Illus. by G. Brian Karas
This is a one-of-a-kind picture book about about friendship and the trauma of moving, from the author of The Phantom Tollbooth. The illustrations are whimsical and nuanced despite their simplicity, and the story has a great payoff at the end. It should work well as a read-aloud with lots of opportunities for audience participation. Ages 4 to 8.

A Pet for Petunia by Paul Schmid
Petunia desperately wants a pet skunk, and she would do anything to get one. She wheedles, begs, and then lets loose with a rant that will delight children and feel all too familiar to parents. Think Viorst's Lulu and the Brontosaurus or Willems' Pigeon stories. The spare illustrations—in a limited color palette of black, white, purple, and hints of gold—perfectly reflect the childlike tone of the book.

Press Here by Hervé Tullet*
This ingenious, interactive picture book will incite wonder and delight in children ages 2 to 200. It doesn't require batteries or have any fancy flaps or tabs. Instead, Tullet asks kids to suspend belief and participate by pressing on dots, shaking the book, turning it, and blowing on it—gently of course. When they turn the page, they see the results of their actions. The illustrations—somewhat reminiscent of Lei Lionni, without the personification—are simple, leaving room for the reader's imagination. Ages 2 to 5.

Stars by Mary Lyn Ray, Illus. by Marla Frazee*
In direct and poetic language, Ray explores stars both heavenly and symbolic. This is a quiet, gentle read and the taller than average dimensions and gorgeous artwork by Frazee (All the World and A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever) help create a feeling of awe. Ages 3 to 7.

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers*
After he gets his kite stuck in a tree, Floyd heaves his shoe up there in an attempt to dislodge the kite. When that doesn't work, he tries something else, and then something else, each new rescue object becoming increasingly ridiculous. Jeffers's (Lost and Found) illustrations are vibrant and deceptively simple, leaving a lot of white space to keep the reader's focus on Floyd, his latest object, and the progressively overstuffed tree. This is an absurdly funny foray into logic and problem solving that is sure to elicit giggles and eager suggestions from the kiddos. Ages 4 to 7.

*Bullitt County Public Library copies have been ordered. If you are interested in placing a hold if/when the item is processed, you may fill out a patron request form at any Library location.

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