New Picture Books: Two Hits

The new favorite picture book in our house is AlphaOops! by Alethea Kontis, illustrated by Bob Kolar. (If you follow the link to amazon, be sure to check out the reviews by Alethea’s father and grandmother. They endeared this book even more to me.) It is the kind of book that editors talk about at writing conferences when they say they would never take an alphabet book, unless it were by an established author (like Betsy Cronin’s Click, Clack, Quackity, Quack) or were something fresh and different. This is a great example of taking a completely saturated type (alphabet book) and turning it on its head. The subtitle is “The Day Z Went First” but the book doesn’t simply go backward. The letters have differently personalities and get in fights that are remarkably similar to those of toddlers, especially re: turns and fairness. There is a band along the bottom keeping track of which letters went in the revised order, and many of the example props take an active role in the visual storytelling. The art is clear and engaging, but also so detailed that it compels one to go slowly to read all the visual jokes. This book is funny and clever, and the text and art are a joy to read. For more AlphaOops!, go to the author’s website.

Chowder, by Peter Brown, is another recent favorite. Chowder is an iconoclastic bulldog, who acts more like a person than a dog. When he tries to befriend the animals in a petting zoo, he fails initially but goes on to save the day. Brown’s art is distinctive and well executed, and the typesetting is varied and skillfully done. It’s a good story about finding friends and making family.

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