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children's literature from a pineapple-lover's point of view…

Hello devout followers!

Now that I’ve graduated and I actually have time to devote to this blog, I’m moving it!

You can follow the re-vamped, way better, and totally awesome ramblings of yours truly at 

letstalkpicturebooks.blogspot.com

Hope to see all of you there!

Mel

Hey everyone!

If you’re interested, check out the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books Winners 2012. The judges were Caldecott winner Chris Raschka, Vanity Fair‘s Bruce Handy, and Cathryn Mercier, the director of the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College and ten books were chosen. Click here to see the ten winners!

Humbly yours,

Mel

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Okay, I have to warn you, this one is going to be long. Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday of the year (and I say that without putting quotes around holiday intentionally) and there are just too many books with too many Halloweeny undertones. So let’s divide up the Halloween vibes, shall we?

First we have the books that put you in the mood. One totally awesome book that does this is Jeremy Holmes’ There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. I actually mentioned it last year but never really described it. That was wrong. It deserves describing. Beautifully crafted, designed, and illustrated, Holmes creates a highly interactive book that proves to be a wonderful interpretation of the famous nursery rhyme. With a unique and innovative design, the book highlights the creepiness of the woman who continues to swallow animal after animal as the reader turns page after page over her stomach. The illustrations are dark and the end of the book is even darker as the woman shuts her eyes with the turn of the final page. Perfectly done. Other wonderfully dark books are those by Gris Grimly and Edward Gorey. Anything they touch is gold. Right now my favorite Grimlys are Wicked Nursery Rhymes, Boris and Bella, and his illustrated version of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Madness. I think my favorite Goreys have to be The Gashlycrumb Tinies and The Curious Sofa. Each of these books features dark, shadowy illustrations with dark messages attached to them and virtually every character in each book does meets a gruesome, if not deadly, fate. I also want to quickly throw in Brian Anderson’s The Prince’s New Pet and Mary Howitt’s and Tony DiTerlizzi’s The Spider and the Fly; they each feature dark, heavy illustrations with strong shadows, both of which are perfect for getting into the Halloween spirit.

If you’re looking for something spirited but not necessarily gruesome or dark, check out then look no further than Spells by Emily Gravett. She’s one of my absolute favorite illustrators and she creates a fantastically creative book with interchangeable flaps so readers can mix and match different spells. And, of course, there’s a surprise ending. Lisa Wheeler’s and Mark Siegel’s Boogie Knights is also a low key but super fun book with multiple story lines that are perfect for getting you into the Halloween spirit. A pseudo-counting book, Boogie Knights tells the story of a prince who watches the armored knights in his castle come to life and throw a wild party with the ghosts, witches, and goblins that roam the halls. But even better is the illustrated-only storyline of the prince making friends with the girl in the painting. Again, not scary but perfect for Halloween.

Now for the category of “yes, they have monsters but they’re adorable monsters so it’s not scary.” A couple of new books out this year are Frankenstein by Rick Walton and Nathan Hale, Vampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace and LeUyen Pham, and Hubble Bubble, Granny Trouble by Tracey Corderoy and Joe Berger. Each features an adorable set of monsters while still maintaining some level of cynicism and dark humor that makes the illustrations engaging and helps highlight the spirit of Halloween. There’s also a lot of buzz around Patrick McDonnell’s The Monster’s Monster. In all honesty, I haven’t had a chance to check it out but School Library Journal, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews (or the Big 4, as I like to call them) can’t stop talking about it. Check it out, let me know what you think. Finally, two previously-mentioned-but-still-great favorites are Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer and Scott Magoon and Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio and Scott Campbell: still funny, still Halloweeny, and still wonderfully dark.

So those are my favorite Halloween books. What are yours?

Hauntingly yours,

Mel

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I know it’s been forever since I’ve posted but check me out on Auntie Karen’s Book Pile at http://auntiekarensbookpile.blogspot.com/

Look for new posts coming soon!

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So I’m stuck in bed with the flu and thought that this would be an appropriate time to write about wordless picturebooks. Probably not the best reason I’ve ever had but bear with me…I have the flu.

Since picturebooks are equal parts words and pictures (or they’re supposed to be, anyhow), removing the words from a picturebook seems like it would throw off the balance of the book, make it an easier and quicker read for a child (or adult enthusiast). And yet, if done correctly, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all: wordless picturebooks have the ability to encourage a much stronger interaction between the reader  (or beholder as we might call her in this case) and the illustrations and because the only way to fully understand the narrative is to understand what is happening in the illustrations.

There are a few illustrators out there who are extremely familiar with the wordless picturebook. David Wiesner, Barbara Lehman, and Suzy Lee to name a few, have each created award-winning books that tell their characters’ stories without the use of words. Readers get drawn into their illustrations to understand the narrative of the story, making the book more interactive.

Some other awesome wordless picturebook include The Conductor by Laëtitia Devernay, The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney, A Ball For Daisy by Chris Raschka, The Boys by Jeff Newman, Mirror by Jeannie Baker, and The Arrival by Shaun Tan. Each of these books successfully conveys a story without the use of words and creates a deeper connection between the beholder and the artist, forging a connection between the two.

There are some absolutely beautiful wordless picturebooks and I’m definitely only naming a few of them. What are your favorites?

Never wordlessly yours (seriously, I have witnesses),

Mel

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I know, I know…I’m terrible. It’s been forever. But in my defense at least I didn’t completely forget…right? On the bright side, the blog has a new look so at least I’m keeping things fresh…

So what to write about for my first post in waaay too many months? Well in the spirit of February 14th (and because I’m in a super good mood these days) how about picturebooks about love? Or about zombies and love? They seem to intersect more that usual these days…

Zombies in Love by Kelly DiPucchio and Scott Campbell and Boris and Bella by Carolyn Crimi and Gris both stories about holding out for true love. Both Mortimer and Boris and Bella end up finding love in the unlikeliest of places (and in the case of Boris and Bella, the unlikeliest of people) and both books feature comical illustrations that highlight the hilarity of the situations the characters find themselves in. TEN LITTLE ZOMBIES: A LOVE STORY by Andy Rash is also a story of what someone will do for love, though the stake are slightly higher. Two people learn the true meaning of love as they run for their lives in Rash’s picturebook and his minimalistic illustrations are hilarious and engaging, practically daring the reader to turn the page to see what disaster will befall the next zombie.

If zombies and monsters are not your thing, check out Rob Scotton’s Love, Splat (Splat the Cat). It’s a fun read with illustrations that are extremely accessible to younger children and characters with whom children can easily identify.

Lastly, if you’re looking for picturebooks that say “I love you no matter what,” take a look at Even If I Did Something Awful? by Barbara Shook Hazen and Nancy Kincade and Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw. Beware that the stories are extremely didacti, and the artwork falls often flat because of the message-heavy text. However, the books do make good gifts if that’s your sort of thing and do send an important message: even if you burn down my house I’ll still love you because you’re my biological child.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Lovey-dovingly yours,

Mel

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Hellooooo!

I hope everyone had a successful Halloween! My house actually hosted a party this year with the theme “fractured fairy tales.” Of course, the problem with concentrating so deeply on fairy tale-themed decorations for the two months prior to Halloween is the withdrawal you experience when the party is over.

So naturally I purchased eight new fairy tale picture books and decided to blog about them. Yay!

The stories, of course, can be traced back to Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Anderson, etc., so it’s really the illustrations that make one picture book stand out over another: how and what an artist chooses to depict in an picture highlights what the artist thinks is important, or not, in the story. And that’s how I ended up with several versions of the same story—but it was totally worth it. There are some beautiful interpretations out there!

First, there are some obvious (but still amazing) illustrators like Paul O. Zelinsky and Ed Young. Rumpelstiltskin (Caldecott Honor Award) and Rapunzel (Caldecott Medal) are the only two I own by Zelinsky and they have definitely grown on me over time. While I wasn’t immediately drawn to the realistic illustrations, I found myself fascinated with Zelinsky’s use of light and shadow and I’ve decided that the cover illustration of Rapunzel is one of the most fantastic drawings I’ve ever seen. From the cover alone you can tell the time of day, location and height of the tower, that the hair is significant…the list goes on. And Ed Young is amazing, too: I currently have Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story From China (Caldecott Medal) and Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story From China and they’re stunning. His images become a part of their environments, blending into the backgrounds of the illustrations and leaving room for the reader’s imagination to take over and complete the drawings.

One fairy tale illustrator I was unaware of previous to my tirade on Amazon was Chihiro Iwasaki. The Little Mermaid arrived just yesterday and I’m already so in love with it that I’ve since purchased Snow White and the Seven Little Dwarves and Swan Lake. Iwasaki often worked with Anthea Bell (a well-known translator) to create beautiful interpretations of fairy tales that are colorful, yet minimalistic at the same time with dark lines and soft water colors. Danie Egnéus’ Little Red Riding Hood is kind of in the same vein, colorful yet minimal. It’s hands-down one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen, with washed-out images mixed with collages and heavy lines. It also has just the right level of creepiness which, if you find yourself interested, can also be seen in Camille Rose Garcia’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—totally awesome, but super creepy.

Ok, so some quick shout-outs: Marcia Brown won the Caldecott Medal for her Cinderella (and rightfully so), and Paul Heins’ and Trina Schart Hyman’s Snow White is also notable. Finally, while I’m not a huge fan of Angela Barrett, her depiction of The Beast in Beauty & the Beast is phenomenal.

Happily ever afterly yours,

Mel

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