A gently nuanced story of an early morning fishing trip shows the beauty and struggle of a Vietnamese American family. It’s a quiet story, but the words and images are so lovely, it conjures a pure picture of one day in one family’s life.
Based loosely on the boyhood of author Bao Phi, A Different Pond is brought to life by Thi Bui’s graphic novel style illustrations. Both the author and illustrator have informative notes at the end, along with photos from their childhoods.
Watch the book trailer from Capstone below and visit Joanne Roberts’ blog for more picture books surrounding Vietnam and immigration.
When Addie and Mommers move into a lonely trailer across from a parking lot filled with potholes and a minimart gas station, Mommers is less than thrilled, but Addie makes the best of it. In fact, Addie does almost everything, from making toast dinners to cleaning up. Mommers chats on the Internet and watches her favourite TV shows, and sometimes goes on “business trips” for days.
Addie has another family, too: Dwight, her ex-stepfather, and Katie and Brynna, her little sisters. They only visit once or twice a month, depending on Dwight’s work schedule, and though Addie feels best when she’s with them, she knows Mommers depends on her, and besides, Mommers is her legal guardian.
What’s great about this novel is Addie’s loyalty and tenacity. The reader knows something has got to change for Addie, but Addie has to come to this realization herself. Also, there’s a fabulous cast of interesting characters that come alongside Addie and round out the story.
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor is inspiring and authentic.
The title tells you everything you need to know. This is indeed a picture book about animal word pairs, and a pair of yaks yakking fills the first double page spread. Jennifer Black Reinhardt‘s clever illustrations show the yaks having tea, and a clever frame defines to yak = to talk. Each page spread is its own little narrative, and the fun is in the word play and the animal actions.
It reminds me of that old preschool song, Animal Action, except in picture book form. And it’s fun to act like the animals while you read. An added bonus is Linda Sue Park‘s extensive backmatter, which defines homographs, and lists the etymology of each animal name and each corresponding action.
When Mo got a Mustache, everyone else did too. So Mo got a scarf, and everyone else did too. “Ack!” is just the beginning of Mo’s frustration, until the Greek chorus explains and Mo comes up with a great idea.
The humour in this picture book comes from Ben Clanton‘s illustrative style and the funny speech bubble exclamations. And, of course, the fact that everybody looks better with a mustache.
Usually, I focus on new books, but today, I need to present a classic: Frederick by Leo Lionni. Published in 1967, this book is still in print and it still speaks to all of those dreamy, quiet kids out there who might just be poets.
Now we all know that everyone is supposed to help clean up, do their fair share and, if you are a field mouse, that means you are supposed to help store food for the long winter. But Frederick sits with his eyelids closed, collecting the sun’s rays, or staring at the meadow, collecting colours while his mice siblings bustle about. He doesn’t look like he’s doing much, but he is. He’s saving up all his words for the thick of winter when their food supplies are dwindling. His words and poems enable them to envision spring. Hope.
I love the Fredericks of the world, and this book is a great introduction to the different roles in society, or even a touchpoint for beginning philosophy.
Muddy Waters was never good at doing what he was told, a refrain that runs throughout this picture book biography by Michael Mahin (illustrated by Evan Turk). No matter who told him he couldn’t do something–his grandma, the boss man, or the Chicago club owners–Muddy did what he knew he needed to do, which was wail on his guitar. “He called up the sticky heat of a summer night, the power of love, and the need for connection in a world that was so good at pulling people apart.”
Evan Turk’s illustrations are lively and vivid, and Michael Mahin’s prose sings with passion and lyricism. Read Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters and discuss perseverance and the blues.
A warm-hearted cozy picture book is always on the reading menu, and Lilli L’Arronge‘s Me Tall, You Small is today’s special because it highlights the love between an adult and child. Throughout the day, they show how they are the same (“Me chomp, You chomp”) and how they are different (“Me tired, You Wired”), though always, always “You mine, Me yours.”
For fans of sweet but not saccharine, Me Tall, You Small is the sort of book that promotes a continuation of comparisons with your little one that you can mold to your life.
I love picture books with surprise endings, especially funny surprise endings. The Cave by Rob Hodgson delights readers (that’s me!) with expressive illustrations and a funny twist. One illustration shows just eyes in the dark cave with rain coming down and yet the reader knows exactly what’s going on: a complex mix of worry, tension, uncertainty. The wolf is waiting outside this cave for the little creature inside, and this wolf is hungry and tricky, just as all the fairy tales warn us. There’s no doubt that we are not misreading what the wolf wants to do. The surprise comes from the little creature, wholly satisfying because it confronts the assumptions we make.
A philosophical and hopeful picture book, Life, by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel, honors life, growth and change. The book starts with a small plant, and a small elephant, and takes us on a journey through days and animal habitats (Interestingly, the book is portrait-oriented, perhaps meant to focus our eyes on the animal characters, though the prose is decidedly a journey through life, which usually lends itself to a landscape-oriented book).
Life is not only a celebration of life, but an ode to the hard times: There will probably be a stretch of wilderness now and then. Rylant doesn’t skim over these wilderness patches; she does encourage us to see the vast growth around us and that it’s worth it to wake up just to see what’s changed.