Quick Picks in Picture Books

Picking picture books for kids can be hit or miss–the art’s good, but the story’s not, or vice versa. The text is too simple, or too long for my 3- and 5yo boys. I like it; they don’t. Or worse, they demand it and I groan. Inwardly, usually. But we’ve had some good successes recently, which makes happy readers, and listeners of us all.

Harry Hungry
by Steven Salerno is about a baby whose appetite grows, literally, out of control. Salerno’s retro illustrations, and the fanciful images of baby Harry eating ever-larger items, are delightful visuals to accompany a pleasantly simple text:

Harry headed outside. He ate the flower bed. He ate the garden hose. He munched the mailbox!

Salerno’s bio says he’s a graduate of Parsons School of Design. His design background is clear in this cool, funny, attractive book.

David Lucas’ Robot and the Bluebird is more lovely than cool. A broken robot and a homeless bluebird become friends, and give each other things the other needs. It’s a timeless story, made fresh with Lucas’ sweet but not saccharine story and pictures.

Leslie Patricelli is a longtime favorite in our house. I’ve read her board books, like Quiet Loud, countless times, yet didn’t tire of them. Her new picture book, Higher! Higher!, is very like the board books. A girl goes to the park with her dad and asks him to push her on the swing. She goes higher and higher, and the illustrations show this fantasy taken to its nth degree. Loyal readers will recognize other Patricelli characters, like the baby and the dog. The book has only a handful of words beyond those of the title, but there’s much to see, and charm, in the acrylic-painted pages.

Emily Gravett’s art, in The Odd Egg, is a fetching combination of pencil and watercolor.

All the birds had laid an egg.

All except for Duck.

Duck’s lack of egg isn’t hard for a grownup reader to figure out; Duck’s a he, not a she. So he finds an egg–a big, beautiful speckled one.

The other birds’ eggs hatch one by one in sequentially wider pages. Duck’s, though, does not. Until…

I won’t give away the ending. It’s a clever one, and funny. Duck’s not the one with the last laugh; it’s us, the readers.

All the books above received multiple readings this week. I wonder if part of their appeal, both to the boys and to me, is that they’re by author/illustrators. In music I tend to favor singer/songwriters, and I suspect the same bias in many of the books we like.

2 Responses to “Quick Picks in Picture Books”

  1. Jack Vinson Says:

    As you do, we (M_ mostly) find great stuff in the library — along with duds. We bring them home and discover what works and what doesn’t. The whole I’m series by Kate & Jim McMullan are winners (I’m Dirty, I Stink…). Even if we find groaners this way, they need to be returned after a few weeks, and the kids have gotten used to this process.

  2. thalia Says:

    We have 2 of the other emily gravett books in addition to the odd egg - monkey and me, and dogs are the other 2. Pob loves them all, particularly the doggie book. Which is probably too young for your two, but the pictures are lovely.