Wild and Wacky (Picture Book Roundup)

I’ve been home sick this weekend with a sore throat and a bad cold. I’ve been getting raging headaches and have been sneezing incessantly so I haven’t been able to read anything full-length, but picture books have always made good bedside reading for me, hence this picture book roundup.

In today’s lineup are: A Day With Wilbur Robinson, Guild Geniuses, Pignapped, The Hair Scare, Klutz, The Lady with the Ship on her Head, Flotsam, and Swine Lake — books #155-162 for 2010

I hope this flu passes soon, I’ve got a lot to read for November!

Continue reading “Wild and Wacky (Picture Book Roundup)”

More Po-Mo picture books (Picture book roundup 10)


I’ve been fascinated with postmodern picture books ever since I took a course in children’s books back in college. Since then I’ve been building up my collection of po-mo picture books, and I’ve now got over 20 of them, mostly from rummaging through bargain bins.

I love how po-mo picture books challenge the reader to look at things in a different way, offering an enjoyable experience to both the young reader, the parent reading to the child, and even an older reader randomly picking up the book and flicking through the pages.

The multiplicity of meanings also encourages creativity and imagination in constructing the meaning of the text or illustrations, as well as the interest to reread a book.

I also marvel at the writers and illustrators’ creativity in taking the craft of picture books one step further,  defying convention and structure

I have several books in this picture book roundup: The Story of a Little Mouse Trapped in a Book by Monique Felix; Wolves by Emily Gravett; Zoom and Re-Zoom by Istvan Banyai; Bamboozled by David Legge; and Pinocchio the Boy, or Incognito in Collodi by Lane Smith (books 175-180 for 2009).

(In case you missed it, I previously discussed the characteristics of po-mo picture books in the post I did on The Three Little Pigs.)

Continue reading “More Po-Mo picture books (Picture book roundup 10)”

Picture book roundup #2

Got myself some great picture books for my collection this week:

Jumanji written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg (#23 for 2009)
Monster! written by Angela McAllister, illustrated by Charlotte Middleton (#24 for 2009)
Tuesday written and illustrated by David Wiesner (#25 for 2009)

and I’m throwing in one other book from my “for shelving” pile (just finished covering, hehe): To Market, to Market written by Anne Miranda, illustrated by Janet Stevens

I was covering them in plastic this afternoon, so I decided I might as well read and review them so I can shelve them already.

To Market, to Market is a hilarious retake of the famous Mother Goose rhyme:

“To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, jiggity-jig!”

In this story, the old woman goes to the market and buys a fat pig… and also a hen, a trout, a goose, a lamb, a duck, and a goat.

Chaos ensues when she brings home the animals one by one and they start to escape and make a mess around the house, and the old woman gets crankier and crankier.

Finally, the old woman goes back to the market together with all the animals and buys a bunch of vegetables. Then they go home, and the old woman makes a rich, hot soup that she shares with all the animals, and they all collapse into a happy pile on the kitchen floor.

I actually let out a sigh of relief at the end of the book because I was afraid she was going to cook all the animals to get rid of the racket they were making.

I also liked the illustrations in the book — an interesting combination of photocopied pictures (black and white, for the backgrounds) and watercolor (full color, for the animals and the old lady), as they captured the humor of the story perfectly.

Check it out here.

I actually haven’t read the original Jumanji until today, but the movie (as well as the movie novelization) was a childhood favorite.

The storybook is actually a simpler version, without the Robin Williams plotline, but most of the elements from the game are there.

Jumanji is a Caldecott awardee, and Chris van Allsburg’s illustrations, are as always, superb. Monochromatic pencil drawings, clean lines, and masterful use of the play of light and shadow — his art never fails to awe me.

Check the book out here.

Next in the lineup is Monster! a story that deals with the responsibility of keeping a pet, an issue that is close to my heart. I agree that kids need to learn this, because they often think pets are toys, and even as grown-ups some people do not take pet-keeping seriously.

The story is quite effective in driving the message across. It’s about a kid named Jackson who wants a pet so badly, so his dad gets him a hamster, which he immediately names “Monster.” The hamster is a novelty, and after a week he forgets to clean Monster’s cage, and forgets to feed the hamster altogether (tsk, tsk, tsk…).

One day, Monster escapes from the cage, gets into the sack of hamster feed, and grows into a real monster, and things take on a surreal reversal of roles. Jackson becomes the pet and he finds out for himself how it feels to be neglected.

Thankfully, it is all a bad dream, and when he wakes up, he finds his hamster, renames him “Fluffy” and resolves to take better care of him.

The illustrations in this book are interesting too, as upon closer examination, I discovered they’re actually a collage of paper cutouts outlined in dark pencil.

The last book in this lineup is the Caldecott awardee Tuesday by David Wiesner, which I got, hardbound for *drumroll, please* P15! All right, so it’s a library discard and a little beat up, but I don’t really care, it’s nothing a fresh plastic cover and invisible taped won’t fix. I actually mooched a copy from Israel, but it’s been some months now and I think it might have gotten lost in the mail, so this will have to do for now.

It’s a book with very few words, about some very strange happenings one Tuesday night, when hundreds of frogs (what do you call them in collective anyway? Ooh, google says it’s “army”) fly into the night sky on lilypads, running into lines of laundry, inside windows, down fireplaces, past trees and dogs.

The lilypads lose their flight as soon as the sun rises, and the next morning, to the townsfolk’s puzzlement, the street is littered with lilypads and some people swear they saw things zooming across the sky the night before.

The story ends with a funny twist: next Tuesday, and this time, it’s the pigs that are flying.

I am not fond of frogs so I was actually queasy at the sight of so many throughout the book, but it’s fascinating how each frog’s pattern is painstakingly different from the others. The visual narrative is awesome too — Wiesner is a master of wordless picture books.

Check out the book here!

Sigh. Book Sale is a tre
asure trove for picture book collectors.

My copies: To Market, to Market, paperback (P30, from Pick-a-Book warehouse); Jumanji, hardbound but missing dust jacket (P55 from Book Sale); Monster!, paperback (P15 from Book Sale); Tuesday, hardcover with dust jacket (P15 from Book Sale)

My rating: To Market, to Market, 4/5 stars; Jumanji, 5/5 stars; Monster!, 4/5 stars; Tuesday, 5/5 stars

My best book for 2008

2008 was a landmark year for me and my books – my books tripled in quantity (thanks to BookMooch), my to-be-read stack (TBR) reached crazy heights (now I have a separate shelf for TBR) and was able to read a total number of 230 books.

This month, my book club, Flips Flipping Pages discussed our best and worst books for 2008.

It was challenging to pick out my best book, as I had a lot to choose from, including:

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Perfume by Patrick Suskind
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Ptolemy’s Gate by Jonathan Stroud
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (reread)
The BFG by Roald Dahl
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Daughter of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

After much deliberation I decided to choose a book that blew me away:
The Arrival by Shaun Tan.

From the moment I held the book in my hands, I was awed by how beautiful it was, and how it seemed to elicit from me a sense of reverence as I turned the pages. Turning the book on its back cover, the critical acclaim is staggering – it is all praises from an all-star roster of authors and illustrators: Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, Jeff Smith, Jon J. Muth, Brian Selznick, Craig Thompson, and David Small.

You might be surprised to learn that my best book for 2008 is wordless – The Arrival is told entirely in pictures, in a series of breathtaking pencil sketches that silently convey so much emotion.

The Arrival depicts the story of a man who starts a new life for himself and his family in a foreign land. Tan perfectly captures the emotional roller coaster ride the character goes through: sadness at leaving his family behind; the stress of a long journey; the relief of reaching the destination; the bewilderment towards a new way of life; the slow acclimatization to a different culture; and the joy of being reunited with family.

Surrealism isn’t ordinarily my thing (see my review for The Republic of Dreams), but I loved how it is used in this book, especially in the new country. Everything is strange and outlandish– from the landscape to alphabet, alien creatures (the origami birds remind me of the paper birds chasing Haku in Spirited Away and the pet-like animals remind me of daemons in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy), food, customs, and transportation – and creates a perfect metaphor for the immigration experience. It also makes a grown-up theme simple enough for a young reader to understand without making it childish.

The book exemplifies the power of imagery – it’s pretty hard to “read” this book and not feel the emotions wash over you, and its cinematic quality makes you feel you’re watching the events unfold right before your very eyes. It made me smile and laugh and sigh, and as I turned the last page, I wanted to burst into applause.

This is definitely a book to treasure, and a must-read for illustrators.

(The Arrival images from www.shauntan.net)

My copy: hardcover

My rating: 5/5 stars