I don't have an accurate count for the number of picture books I read. I only counted 68 picture books/easy readers, which isn't that much. However, I really only kept track of the picture books/easy reader titles that made an impression. Eight were especially awesome:
I adore this West African Beauty and the Beast a ton, and hope that it's recognized on Monday. H. Chuku Lee's illustrations are divine.
If you want picture books so cute you want to pinch them, you need to keep tabs on Il Sung Na. Just LOOK at that baby duckie. ALL of Na's illustrations are like that. Full of pep, personality, and adorable-ness. A Book of Babies features a baby duck observing other baby animals. The text is sparse but simply poetic.
Little Green rolls into town and only knows one word: "Go!" Everyone goes, goes, goes...and goes.Luckily, a new friend, Stop, shows up. Go! Go! Go! Stop! is hilarious, but it also has a well-crafted message about cooperation (without laying it on too thick).
Gus and Me was definitely the surprise (for me) of 2014. I certainly wasn't expecting a tender and wonderfully crafted picture book memoir about Keith Richards's relationship with his grandfather. It's a deeply heartfelt story about the importance of grandparents, mentoring, and music. Richards's daughter, Theodora (named after Gus, whose formal name was Theodore), created wistful and endearing illustrations that match the gentle tone of the story. I appreciated the simple biographical note about Keith Richards in the back matter ("Keith later began playing in a band with a group of friends, including Mick Jagger. They called themselves the Rolling Stones.") and an overview of Theodora Richards's research and technique for her renderings of post-war London.
HYSTERICAL. Absolutely hysterical. Here Comes the Easter Cat is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. Cat is jealous and wants to replace the Easter Bunny, but pretty much falls apart when he realizes what a strenuous job it is to be the Easter Bunny. Its sequel, Here Comes Santa Cat, is just as funny.
I realize that a story about a girl whose favorite playmate is a maple tree is rather out there, but Maple is such a tender and darling story about the arrival of a baby sister that it immediately became one of my year's favorite picture books. I prefer books that present the arrival of a sibling in a positive manner rather one that is is strongly negative (until the very end), so this one is on my recommendation list when people ask for "new baby books."
I'm a fan of everything Byron Barton creates, but his transportation-themed picture books (which make for great board books as well) are my favorites. My Bus is ideal for the youngest transportation-obsessed listeners. There's also a little bit of addition and subtraction going on throughout the story, which adds a great touch.
Remember the game "Telephone"? Perhaps you played it in Scouts/youth group or at summer camp. It starts when someone whispers a phrase into his/her neighbor's ear, who then does the same; this continues until the last person in the circle has to say the phrase out loud. Of course, it's usually completely different from the original phrase! I play this with my Tween Scene group in the summer, and it's always a hit. Telephone stars a mama bird who asks another bird to pass on an important message for baby bird Peter. As you can imagine, the birds add their own interpretations to the original message. Mac Barnett's picture books are wildly inventive and funny; this is fabulous.
And now, for my probably wildly off-the-wall predictions for Monday's big announcements!
Newbery: Brown Girl Dreaming
Honors: Rain Reign, Revolution, El Deafo (some are naming El Deafo for the Newbery; will be interesting to see if the committee can name a graphic novel according to the Newbery criteria)
Caldecott: The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
Honors: Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems, Beauty and the Beast (please?)
Want to catch the announcements of the Youth Media Awards live? You have several options:
Watch the live webcast.
Follow I Love Libraries on Twitter or Facebook.
The official hashtag for the announcements is #ALAyma. If you follow this hashtag, be prepared for an avalanche of tweets!
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library