We have received a bonanza of delicious picture books. Not only are the orders of the ALA Youth Media Awards books are in (including additional copies of the Newbery Medal winner, The One and Only Ivan), but more and more new 2013 books are pouring in. I have my first pick for my 2014 Caldecott short list, and it's a love. Such a love. Let's get to them:
Up! Tall! And High! is economical in words, but there's a lot going on in this 2013 Geisel winner. The Geisel (named after Theodore Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss) recognizes outstanding easy readers. It's an award to which I always look forward, because finding terrific early readers can be difficult. Writing a quality beginner reader must be incredibly tricky; in addition to working with a limited vocabulary list, you also need to make the story appealing to the young reader. Not an easy task. Three birds demonstrate three words: up, tall, and high. Very simple, but the fun and attractive illustrations (along with folds to manipulate) make this an adorable reader perfect for very beginning readers. I ate it up.
There is no shortage of comforting bedtime stories. Sleep Like a Tiger is a special addition to this collection. The illustrations are captivating and offbeat (it's one of the five 2013 Caldecott honor books), it's ideal for reading aloud (not a criteria for the Caldecott, but I love love love it when the winner/honors are good read alouds), and it's educational (did you know that whales swim in a circle while they sleep)? Above all, it's a delightful and warm portrayal of a loving family; the parents gently guide the little girl through her bedtime rituals and calmly chat with her while she settles into bed. Very sweet, but not saccharine.
Creepy Carrots (one of the five 2013 Caldecott Honor books) is a deliciously bizarre and fun read. Jasper Rabbit, like any normal rabbit, is obsessed with carrots. Unfortunately, he's also obsessed with the feeling that his beloved carrots are out to get him. The carrots seem to follow him wherever he goes, feeding into his paranoia, so Jasper decides to rid himself of the carrots once and for all (it's a little like the rabbit version of The Tell-Tale Heart, except without the gore). I got such a kick out of this story; this will be a fabulous addition to a slightly spooky Halloween story time!
It's such a treat to follow the careers of second-generation children's authors and illustrators; Christopher Myers, son of legendary Walter Dean Myers, is creating a fine career in his own right. H.O.R.S.E: A Game of Basketball and Imagination is one of three 2013 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor books; not only are the illustrations bright and imaginative, but it would also be a fun read aloud for elementary school classrooms (even better, to read it aloud as a duo). H.O.R.S.E. (or Ghost, as one of the friends originally knows it) is a basketball game in which a player matches the style in which the other player tosses the basketball. If the player fails to match the shot, he/she earns a letter; the first person to spell "horse" loses. The two friends boast and trash talk--not uncommon in pick up games--but these boasts and claims are literally out of this world! Don't miss this one; it's a keeper.
Ellen's Broom is also a 2013 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor winner, and very much deserved. There aren't too many picture books that take place immediately after Reconstruction, so this one is quite special. Ellen's parents, and other slaves, were not permitted to get legally married. Slaves incorporated the custom of "jumping the broom" during their own wedding ceremonies. Now that slavery has ended, Ellen's parents are free to have their marriage legally recognized. It's a big day for the family, as you can imagine, so they put on their best clothes, pack a picnic lunch and travel to the Freedman's Bureau office. The family brings the jumping broom on their journey, but Mama and Papa hesitate when Ellen wants to see her parents jump the broom after their union is legally recognized. Recognizing that honoring your past is important while looking to the future, Mama and Papa jump the broom. This is a beautiful and touching book about a family who has faced unbearable struggles and situations, but have survived thanks to their deep faith and their commitment to each other. It is outstanding and to be cherished.
Rabbit and Robot; what a pair! Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover is one of three 2013 Geisel Honor books; as one of the longer books in our easy reader collection, this would be ideal for readers beyond basic early readers, but not quite ready to make the leap to our easy chapter book collection. Rabbit and Robot are excited about their sleepover; as anyone who had sleepovers with friends in their childhood, or have hosted sleepovers for their children and their children's friends know, it's not surprising that little conflicts pop up every now and then. Thankfully, Rabbit and Robot solve their conflicts without any major damage (Rabbit is a bit of a control freak, though). This is one of the few easy readers that would work as an awesome read aloud. *fist pump* I am delighted that Cece Bell is a Virginia author--yeah! (She lives in Montgomery County, grew up in Salem, VA, and graduated from the College of William and Mary!)
Finally, we come to my first pick for my 2014 Caldecott short list.
Folks, I am flipping out over Lucky Ducklings: A True Rescue Story. First of all--the illustrations. Gorgeous, intimate, heartwarming, and big enough for a story time crowd to appreciate and enjoy. Secondly--the story! Mama Duck proudly leads her ducklings on a stroll--Pippin, Bippin, Tippin, Dippin--"and last of all....Little Joe." All appears to be well, until--danger! The ducklings, one by one, fall into trouble. Luckily, kind and determined humans help the little duck family (not without being scolded by a very anxious mother from time to time). Oh, this such a LOVE of a book! It's a perfect read aloud, with darling illustrations, a great repeating hook ("Oh, dear! That could have been the end of the story....")...and who doesn't love a young duck family? You will love this book; I promise. It is indeed a true story (the town even fixed the danger zone so that ducklings may safely cross!), which just adds to the charm tenfold.
Don't miss out on these books! You will be richly rewarded.