Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I’m reading picture books today. So many lovely ones!

Shanghai Messenger, by Andrea Cheng, illustrated by Ed Young. A poetic story of a girl’s visit to Shanghai to stay with her grandmother’s family. Very sweetly and charmingly told. I loved the Chinese words and phrases sprinkled throughout, the vivid descriptions of market sights, the scent of delicious food, the sound of rain splashing and bicycle bells. It brought back my time in Shanghai and Suzhuo and made me want to be the one who’s turn to visit comes next. The illustrations are wonderful.

Terrific by Jon Agee. Delightfully funny story of a gloomy man lost at sea, who teams up with a brilliant and loyal parrot. Reminds me of the ‘fortunately, unfortunately’ stories my brothers and I used to make up as kids. The illustrations are simple and clear and bold. This man’s poor sad face contrasts with the parrot’s deadpan optimism in a way that just has to make your rainy day seem a little more hopeful. The kids are going to love this one.

Earth Mother by Ellen Jackson, illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon. Lovely, lovely illustrations. Earth mother is beautiful and tender and patiently nurturing. Her creatures are complaining and self-absorbed, but we get the big picture and see how everything balances out. This is the perfect style of irony to share wisdom with children. Next time they are bothered by mosquitoes they will remember the frogs and smile.

Brothers in Hope by Mary Williams, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Wow. What a story. And it’s true too. You have to read this one. Did you know there were thousands of boys orphaned by the civil wars in the Sudan who walked to Ethiopia and then Kenya? They survived by teamwork, hope, compassion and the courage and strength of their love. This is their beautiful, amazing, inspiring story. Told in the voice of one of the survivors who made it to the States. Better for older kids, in the middle grades (4th and up).

Old Black Fly by Jim Aylesworth. This is one of the ABC books that had my 3 year old transfixed and delighted. Very clever text and perfectly fitting illustrations. It’s has the just right combination of yuck and silliness that leaves you smiling and grateful if you have no flies around at the moment. This one’s a keeper.

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel. Here is another winner. You have to get this one if you have kids or cats or just plain like either. It’s an ABC book where the cat is so fiendishly catty and the veggies so unappealingly vegetarian you have to cheer for every alphabetic protestation and sigh with satisfaction with every yummy carnivorous delight. We laughed all the way through it and had to read it night after night...

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