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

Tag Archives: picturebook

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,




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,


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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),


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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,


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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,


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In the spirit of Halloween I’m going to talk about monster picturebooks. My new favorites for this year are Zombie in Love and Mostly Monsterly, both tales of creatures who don’t quite fit in with their surroundings. Written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Scott Campbell, Zombie in Love features Mortimer, a zombie looking for love in all the wrong places. DiPucchio and Campbell work together beautifully to fill in the comical gaps in the text and together they create a fun story about holding out for true love. Tammi Sauer and Scott Magoon take a slightly different route to self-fulfillment in Mostly Monsterly, the tale of a girl who is the only monster at her school who has interests in things other growling and lurching (like petting kittens and picking flowers). She struggles to reconcile these two parts of herself in a way that is comical and relatable, teaching readers the ideas of compromises and group hugs.

As I mentioned in the last post I have an awesome Frankenstein pop-up book, as well as the Maurice Sendak pop-up, Mommy? Frankenstein is set up as a pop-up book meets graphic novel so if you’re a fan of graphic novels it’s definitely worth checking out. Sam Ita does an impressive job of mashing the two concepts, as well as a fine job of engineering the pop-ups. Sendak’s Mommy? Is about a lost boy who looks suspiciously similar to Max from Where the Wild Things Are. He loses track of his mother and searches in various rooms of castle for her, including the laboratory and Dracula’s room. Will Bizarro Max ever find his mother? And when he does, what kind of monster will she be? Sendak worked with Arthur Yorinks, who won a Caldecott in 1987, and master paper engineer Matthew Reinhart (swoon!) to bring you the answers to those questions

The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey is an alphabetical list of ways to kill, be killed, die, etc. featuring zombie-esque children so I’m going to add it to the list of awesome monster picturebooks and if you’re a fan of Gorey you should definitely check out Ten Little Zombies: A Love Story by Andy Rash. Both Gorey and Rash find comical and unusual ways to kill their victims characters and the illustrations are always funny and straightforward. I’m also adding in the coolest/creepiest version of There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Jeremy Holmes because even though it’s not exactly “monster” it has a very monsterness about it. It’s by far one of the coolest looking books I’ve ever seen (

Spookily, Scarily yours,


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So I’ve been wracking my brain trying to decide which excuse works best for why I haven’t written in almost a month and here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. I could complain that the rest of August was filled with whirlwind family vacations that took me up and down the California coast and as far as Mexico so that left no time for writing, let along thinking, about books.
  2. I could mention that I flew to Boston with my eighteen-year-old cat on the 31st, moved into my new place on the 1st and the 2nd, and started classes only a few short days later and haven’t had time to do anything but read a list of scifi/fantasy books and essays due for class on Thursday.
  3. I could even blame the internet because I didn’t have wifi in my new house for almost two weeks and we all know that two weeks in blog time is, like, FOREVER and whatever I say now is probably archaic anyway.
  4. Or I could just suck it up and write a new post. Prepare yourselves.

So during the shame-on-me month I took off I got the chance to reorganize all of my books and rediscover my pop-up book collection which is something I’m excited to write about today. Pop-up books were actually my first introduction to the world of children’s literature almost four years ago and since then I have acquired seventeen by several different artists.

Like picturebooks, there is a ton of thought put into the text and the illustration but pop-up books take it one step further by incorporating engineering. True pop-up bookists know that illustrations are not enough and that the most memorable books are those that push the limits of paper engineering

It’s impossible to mention pop-up books without talking about the amazing Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart. Innovators of the pop-up book industry, Sabuda and Reinhart have managed to stand out by engineering books that are engaging, colorful, and informative. Although they have released dozens of books between the two of them, (Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book, and The Wizard of Oz just to name a few), their most notable (and beautiful and amazing and incredible) pop-ups are those on which they collaborated. Encyclopedia Mythologica: Dragons & Monsters, Encyclopedia Mythologica: Fairies and Magical Creatures, and Encyclopedia Mythologica: Gods & Heroes are the most beautifully designed picturebooks I have ever seen. The engineering is almost flawless and every page is adorned not only with a central pop-up but multiple pop-ups in the corners of every page. The books are informative about different culture’s myths and the illustrations beautifully enhance the text and the fact that fairies’ wings flip and the dragon is made of streamers only serves to make the books even more wonderful.

Some other burgeoning pop-up book artists include David Pelham (Trail), Sam Ita (Frankenstein: A Pop-Up Book), and even Mo Willems who came out with Big Frog Can’t Fit In not too long ago. Again, they are not up to the paper engineering standards of Sabuda and Reinhart but they are also worth checking out, especially because each has a little surprise to offer the reader.

That’s all for now. I promise to write more promptly next time and hope everyone had a great month!

Pop-uppingly yours,


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