Jerry Pinkney's Through Line
The holiday season is the ideal time for families to gather around a gorgeous story book. Jerry Pinkney's picture books are excellent candidates: they spark stories upon stories, retellings and recollections of childhood times.
When Pinkney began illustrating children's books, the line was all-important. Until the early 1980s, illustrations were created as pre-separated art. Three colors maximum could be used, and through a combination of those colors, an artist created an entire book. "We used the line to trap the color," Pinkney explained. Each time the art ran through the press with a single color, it had to line up with the image that came through the press before, layering color upon color.
Jerry Pinkney, flanked by Andrea Spooner (l.), senior executive editor and Patti Ann Harris, senior art director, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Today, Pinkney's books, such as his Caldecott Medal–winning The Lion and the Mouse and his most recent The Tortoise and the Hare (reviewed below), print on full-color presses. But the line remains all-important. "I am a drawer at heart," he said at a presentation in Hachette's offices last month. "The line is a simple tool that expresses so much." It still plays a key role in his watercolor compositions: the line shows through his transparent watercolor paints.
At age 12, in his hometown of Philadelphia, Pinkney sold papers at a corner newsstand--an ideal vantage point for a budding sketch artist. His drawings caught the attention of fellow Philadelphian John Liney, cartoonist on the comic strip Henry. At a time when no one in his family was an artist, the young Pinkney was invited to visit Liney's studio, and the cartoonist introduced him to the concept of "the usefulness of art," as Pinkney put it.
This past summer in Philadelphia, June 26 was named Jerry Pinkney Day and kicked off an exhibition of the artist's work. In 158 years of the Philadelphia Museum's history, its exhibition of Pinkney's work was the first devoted to a children's book illustrator. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Children's & Young Adult
A Number of Animals Nesting Block
by Kate Green, illus. by Christopher Wormell
A charming twist on Are You My Mother?, this set of 10 nesting blocks follows a freshly hatched chick as she sets out on a barnyard odyssey to find her family.
From the smallest block--"One little chick, lost and alone"--she marches across the farm, meeting ever-larger groups of animals, before her pluck (sorry, couldn't resist) is rewarded on the 10th block. Christopher Wormell's woodcut-inspired artwork is bold and classic, lending just the right touch of nostalgia. The subtle and satisfying layout of the blocks ensures that the single chick always lands on top; the story text on one side, and a number, a counting feature and a story frame round it out. Kids will love looking for the tiny chick among the animals in each illustration. With an attractive price and plenty of open-ended possibilities, these well-made blocks are the perfect holiday gift to invite young children to unplug & play. --Kristen McLean, former head of the Association of Booksellers for Children, founder and CEO of Bookigee
Discover: Ten bold and classic nesting blocks that trace a newly hatched chick's search for her family.
10 blocks, ages 3-6, 9781568462486
by Aaron Frisch
Dump Trucks--and the other titles in the Seedlings series (Bulldozers; Diggers; and Cranes)--exemplifies standout nonfiction for young children. The text works well both for those who are beginning to read and for parents and teachers to read aloud. Bright, crystal-clear photographs of bigger-than-houses dump trucks aptly support the text and will delight readers of all ages. In one, a man stands next to a tire twice as tall as he is.
The book identifies key vocabulary--such as "bed" and "rubble"--in different-colored print (e.g., "A dump truck has a big bed"), and their definitions appear in a "Words to Know" section at the back of the book. The back matter also includes a labeled diagram of a dump truck, plus a "Read More" page that offers books, websites and an index. A perfect book and series for those who are fond of facts and big machines. --Allie Jane Bruce, children's librarian, Bank Street College of Education
Discover: An exemplary nonfiction series for young children that features accessible text and engaging photographs.
hardcover, 24p., ages 2-6, 9781608183418
The Tortoise and the Hare
by Jerry Pinkney
With a playful buoyancy and minimal words, Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney (The Lion and the Mouse) here tells of another triumphant underdog, this time in the American Southwest.
A dapper hare in a burgundy vest removes a black-and-white checked kerchief to serve as the flag indicating the start and finish lines. (In a clever touch, the final image shows the hare fastening that same scarf around the tortoise's neck, like a good sport.) "On your marks," says the fox, holding the flag. With the word "Go!" the hind legs of the hare disappear off the right-hand side of the double-page spread, as the tortoise, sporting a red kerchief and blue engineer's cap, creeps forward at the left. Butterflies and flowers dot the landscape as the hare stops in a lettuce patch, and the tortoise soldiers on; one wondrous illustration depicts the reptile in a blow-by-blow tumble down a rocky ledge. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Another triumphant tale of an underdog hero from the masterful creator of The Lion and the Mouse.
hardcover, 40p., ages 3-6, 9780316183567
Oliver and His Alligator
by Paul Schmid
Paul Schmid's (A Pet for Petunia) hero Oliver, a cute-as-a-button, pastel-pencil blob of a boy, is scared of the first day of school. Clutching an apple and staring, pink-cheeked, at a long, scary sidewalk that leads to school, Oliver feels that his "brave [isn't] nearly as big as it [needs] to be." So he decides to bring along an alligator to protect him. If facing your fears is too hard, why not ingest them?
Oliver cues the alligator with a command to "Munch, munch!" when he encounters the teacher, a friendly girl, the rest of the class, the classroom decorations. But once they have all been swallowed, Oliver begins to feel... lonely. The alligator, an expressionless reptile consisting of a green outline, three stripes down its middle and small feet, swells so large it can no longer fit on the page--and yet, it keeps munching, right up to the book's deeply satisfying conclusion. --Allie Jane Bruce, children's librarian, Bank Street College of Education
Discover: A boy, unable to face his fears, picks up an alligator to ingest them.
hardcover, 40p., ages 3-6, 9781423174370
by Elisha Cooper
Have you rushed about a crowded train station seeking your train track? Or been caught at a train crossing, left to count the multitude of cars as they passed? Sharing experiences like these, Elisha Cooper (Homer) takes readers on a cross-country tour--by train.
After abundant research and with pencil and watercolor brush in hand, Cooper uses facets of the train world to depict urban, suburban and rural train routes. His illustrated journey from East Coast to West Coast provides insights into a range of commuter, freight and high-speed trains. The tour includes small and large stations, cityscapes and skylines, train yards and landscapes of America; as trains rush past, the art balances detail and ambiguity, not representing a particular moment, time or place but rather celebrating many and varied rail travel experiences. Complete with a glossary of terms, this book is for those who already love trains and those who want to learn more. --Mollie Welsh Kruger, graduate faculty, Bank Street College of Education
Discover: An informative picture book journey with scrumptious illustrations that celebrates the many facets of train travel.
hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780545384957
Gobble You Up!
by Gita Wolf, illus. by Sunita Sunita
Gita Wolf's (The Enduring Ark) catchy trickster tale in cumulative rhyme, with roots in Rajasthan, India, stars a lazy but clever (and hungry) jackal. The illustrations by Sunita, from the Meena tribe in Rajasthan, are rendered in an ancient art form called Mandna, taught and passed down from mother to daughter. Rendered in black and white on brown paper, the images resemble woodcuts, but Sunita actually applied the acrylics with her fingertips.
As the jackal swallows each creature, it appears in his ever-expanding stomach, and the cumulative refrain similarly grows ("Twelve fish/ in my tum/ sorry crane/ just too dumb"). Finally, the jackal's thirst, rather than his hunger, gets the better of him, bursting his stomach and freeing its contents. The arresting black-and-white images and gorgeous design of this handmade book make it an unusual and prized gift. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: A gorgeous handmade gift with artwork original to the Meena tribe in Rajasthan, India, and a catchy cumulative text.
hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9788192317144
Young Frank, Architect
by Frank Viva
It may be coincidence that many famous architects have been named Frank--Gehry, Lloyd Wright--but to that list we can now add Young Frank and Old Frank, at the heart of this delightful picture book.
Young Frank's expansive view of architecture includes whole cities and chairs, and his grandfather Old Frank insists that architects design single buildings and nothing else. After they visit the Museum of Modern Art and see that both are correct, they return home and make a bit of everything--even a chair for their dog, Eddie.
Viva's (Along a Long Road) lively art style makes a perfect match for the classics of architecture; his crisp lines and distinct palette will keep even youngest readers engaged. Most importantly, the creativity of Old Frank and Young Frank is infectious, and will inspire kids to build their own towers and creations. Have empty boxes at the ready! --Stephanie Anderson, head of readers' advisory at the Darien Library and blogger
Discover: The ideal blend of art history and inspiration for budding artists and architects of all ages.
hardcover, 40p., ages 3-7, 9780870708930
The Little Mermaid
by Robert Sabuda
All the stories of Hans Christian Andersen are beloved, but perhaps no other story has achieved the fame of The Little Mermaid. It is fitting then, that paper-engineering wizard Robert Sabuda should choose this story for his 25th pop-up book extravaganza. Like his other classic story adaptations, the artwork here calls to mind stained glass, and he integrates lots of interesting textures, details and sidebar texts to capture the imagination. Sabuda exploits the dimensionality of the pop-ups to their fullest: shipwrecks sail out at readers, and underwater castles, forests and a final wedding cathedral unfold in stunning paper architecture.
Although it's clearly about the art, it would be a mistake to pass over Sabuda's elegant adaptation of Andersen's text. He has freshened the language but stayed true to the original story--which means young readers will not find the name Ariel here, something they may not even notice. The only caveat is the fragility of the pop-ups--in even the most responsible hands, there are likely to be damages after a few readings. That being said, this is a lush, magical gift for children and grownups alike. --Kristen McLean, former head of the Association of Booksellers for Children, founder and CEO of Bookigee
Discover: Another pop-up tour de force from author-artist-paper engineer master Robert Sabuda.
hardcover, 12p., ages 6-up, 9781416960805
The Tiny Mouse
by Janis Ian, Ingrid & Dieter Schubert
Janis Ian's lyrics (commissioned for an album called Harbour of Songs for the 2012 Olympics) make an ideal debut picture book and cautionary tale upon which to build illustrations by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert (The Umbrella).
Ian's story of a tiny mouse who pines for adventure brims with his overlooked treasures, such as "a jack-in-the-box who popped every Sunday at five o'clock" (imagined as a cat's head in the Schuberts's illustration) and a clown with "a frown that was deafening," pictured on a bicycle. A glorious image of the "motion of the ocean" depicts the moon and its reflection as if they're the mouse's double vision, and a catfish (with a literal feline head) serves as figurehead on the prow of the ship. When the tiny mouse discovers that his captain is a cat, he jumps overboard, luckily making a safe landing and finding love. Sheet music and a CD recording round out this lovely package. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Grammy Hall of Fame singer-songwriter Janis Ian's debut picture book is about appreciating what you have.
hardcover, 32p., ages 4-up, 9781935954309
Electric Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World
by Elizabeth Rusch, illus. by Oliver Dominguez
It started with a spark and led to the lights on Broadway. For the tell-me-why-and-how young reader, this book puts the spotlight on Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla, and highlights the role he played in electrifying the world.
Rusch creates a compelling biography; readers learn about Tesla's initial collaboration with the better-known American electrical engineer Thomas Edison, which devolved into their well-documented rivalry. Told from Tesla's point of view, readers will root for Tesla to win the contract to light up the Chicago World's Fair despite the (not particulary accurate) campaign to show that Edison's direct current (DC) was safer than Tesla's alternating current (AC). The text and back matter, filled with clear scientific notes on electricity, will lead readers to seek out additional information on this fascinating subject. --Susannah Richards, associate professor, Eastern Connecticut State University
Discover: Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla and the role he played in electrifying the world.
hardcover, 40p., ages 7-10, 9780763658557
by Aleksandra Mizielinska, Daniel Mizielinski
This oversize volume combines elements of a visual extravaganza with fascinating trivia in pages as spacious and luxurious as a classic road atlas. It's an invitation to travel around the world one page at a time.
The excursions readers will take are no ordinary armchair atlas trips. While the husband-and-wife authors present the basic facts of each country--name, capital, language, population, flag--it's the details about the culture, people and natural resources that will make readers want to pour over each page, discovering something new with every viewing. Maps is a treat, with its richness of details catering to young readers in this electronic age who thrive on all kinds of visual stimuli. This book will also appeal to other members of the family. All will scour for details and trivia as obscure, fun and varied as where one might sandboard or see a yak. --Susannah Richards, associate professor, Eastern Connecticut State University
Discover: A visual extravaganza, with fascinating trivia presented in pages as spacious and luxurious as a classic road atlas.
Big Picture Books/Candlewick,
hardcover, 112p., ages 7-10, 9780763668969
Treasury of Egyptian Mythology
by Donna Jo Napoli, illus. by Christina Balit
The genesis of the Egyptian gods is complicated, beginning with Ra's breath (which becomes the god Shu) and spittle (which takes the form of Tefnut). The book hits its stride when readers get to the gods' individual stories.
These longer, more complex narratives will appeal to a slightly older audience than that of Donna Jo Napoli's Treasury of Greek Mythology and to those ready for more after D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths or Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles. The triangle between Usir (god of the Afterlife), his wife, Aset (aka Isis), and the jealous god Set is especially riveting. Set wreaks havoc on Usir and Aset's son, Heru Sa Aset, the inspiration for one of artist Christina Ballit's most glorious images. Hut Heru (Set's wife) restores Heru Sa Aset's sight by pouring the milky way over his brow, in midnight and cornflower blue swaths of swirling patterns--checks, circles and stars. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Another glorious collection from the team behind Treasury of Greek Mythology.
National Geographic Society,
hardcover, 192p., ages 8-12, 9781426313806
The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield
by John Bemelmans Marciano, illus. by Sophie Blackall
John Bemelmans Marciano's (Madeline and the Old House in Paris) debut novel is dark humor at its finest.
The Baddenfields descend from a long line of lying, thieving scoundrels who often die young and "in particularly grisly and poetically justified ways," because they refused to listen to the Winterbottoms who serve them. Winterbottom the Eighteenth endeavors to keep Alexander, the last Baddenfield, alive. The fun kicks off when Alexander undergoes a transplant to steal the extra lives of his cat, Shaddenfrood. Marciano will build readers' sympathy for vigilant Winterbottom as he attempts to rescue Alexander from daredevil experiments. Sophie Blackall's (the Ivy and Bean series) darkly comical illustrations depict a reaper watching Alexander's many deaths, including being swallowed by a python and repeatedly gored by a bull.
This quick read blends fantasy with fun, and the ironic touch at the end is sure to garner laughs from an otherwise unfunny event. --Adam Silvera, children's bookseller
Discover: The worst boy alive steals eight lives from his cat so he can beat his family's curse.
hardcover, 144p., ages 10-up, 9780670014064
Sure Signs of Crazy
by Karen Harrington
"I was only two when my mother filled the kitchen sink with water and tried to drown me," begins the second chapter, and the voice of 12-year-old narrator Sarah Nelson grows only stronger. Sarah and her father have spent the past 10 years moving around and avoiding recognition. But this fateful summer, they're staying put. As she finally tries to figure out the truth about her family, gets a crush and, most importantly, starts to decide who she wants to be, Sarah confides in her diaries and letters to her beloved Atticus Finch.
This is not easy subject matter, but Sarah's brave and genuine voice allows readers to live the rough patches of her summer alongside her. Karen Harrington's (Janeology) funny, thoughtful writing softens the gravity of the material. Younger readers may not be ready for some of the situations Sarah faces, but those who are will find their hearts permanently changed by this beautiful book. --Stephanie Anderson, head of readers' advisory at the Darien Library and blogger
Discover: One of the strongest middle grade novels of the year, thanks to good contemporary storytelling and great characters.
hardcover, 280p., ages 9-up, 9780316210584
The Grimm Conclusion
by Adam Gidwitz, illus. by Hugh D'Andrade
Adam Gidwitz's finale is the "grimmest, Grimmest tale" (as the narrator puts it), sure to have readers frightened and laughing.
In previous installments, we've journeyed with Hansel and Gretel (A Tale Dark and Grimm) and Jack and Jill (In a Glass Grimmly). Now Jorinda and Joringel take the stage--and are sometimes brutally killed. Their stepfather decapitates Joringel early on, makes a stew out of him, then feeds him to their neglectful mother. Jorinda inherits the role of Ashputtle (the Grimms' Cinderella), and it takes a really dark turn. The helpful narrator often jumps in to insist you stop reading if you have a weak stomach (since it only gets worse), but readers who stick around are in for a special treat as the narrator's identity is revealed.
Happy endings abound, but first Gidwitz lays down some wicked truths over everyone's favorite fairy tales, cushioned by comedy. --Adam Silvera, children's bookseller and reviewer
Discover: The final--and grimmest--installment in Adam Gidwitz's Grimm retellings.
hardcover, 368p., ages 10-up, 9780525426158
Guys Read: Other Worlds
by Jon Scieszka, editor
Part fantasy and part science fiction, the fourth volume in the Guys Read series provides plenty of satisfying glimpses into worlds created by 10 story masters, including Neal Shusterman, D.J. MacHale, Rebecca Stead and Rick Riordan.
While readers may not love all the tales equally, they will be able to sample a little Percy Jackson, fall into a medieval world with Shannon Hale and get their graphic fix from Shaun Tan. This diverse collection also includes three alien stories (by Stead, Eric Nylund and Ray Bradbury) to give an out-of-this-world experience. As in earlier Guys Read collections, readers will find a story by a favorite author or discover a new favorite within the pages. The final entry, "Frost and Fire" by Ray Bradbury, may be familiar to adult readers, but it is sure to be a bridge to his classics for new fans. --Susannah Richards, associate professor, Eastern Connecticut State University
Discover: A tour of diverse worlds created by 10 story masters such as Rebecca Stead, Rick Riordan and Ray Bradbury.
paperback, 342p., ages 8-12, 9780061963797
Loud Awake and Lost
by Adele Griffin
Ember Leferrier is not the same after the debilitating car crash that almost took her life.
Many of Ember's memories are missing, and her parents' support feels suffocating as they monitor her every move. Then she meets Kai. A scruffy artist who boldly kisses her during their first encounter, he couldn't be more different than her upper-crust Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, friends. But even Kai's easy presence can't erase a memory that has surfaced: there was someone else in the car with her who didn't survive. Who was Anthony Travolo and how does he connect to the girl Ember used to be? While Loud Awake and Lost is not as tightly plotted as the author's previous works, Griffin's trademark atmospheric style is still firmly intact. This moody romantic mystery will hit the spot for fans of Kat Rosenfield's Amelia Ann Is Dead and Gone and Nova Ren Suma's Imaginary Girls. --Jennifer Hubert Swan, middle school librarian and Library Department Chair at Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High school
Discover: A teenage girl struggles to recover her memories of a car accident that killed her fellow passenger.
hardcover, 304p., ages 12-up, 9780385752725
by Bennett Madison
Most people would prefer not to know anything about a teenage boy's thoughts regarding gorgeous girls at the beach, but in this fantastic YA novel, those thoughts are irresistible.
At first the premise of the book seems like a dream of the narrator, teenage Sam; when he goes with his brother and father to the beach, every beautiful blonde girl down the shore--and there are a lot of them--seems interested in him. But when it becomes clear that he's not insane, it also becomes clear that there is much more to these girls than long hair and fun parties--something otherworldly.
Madison's writing is somehow both dreamy and razor-sharp, like the ocean that laps quietly in the background. Teens and adults alike will be spooked and intrigued in equal parts as the book works toward an ending as satisfying and heartbreaking as the end of a sleepy summer. --Stephanie Anderson, head of readers' advisory at the Darien Library and blogger
Discover: A perfect mix of contemporary romance and modern magical realism that will satisfy both teen and adult readers.
hardcover, 342p., ages 12-up, 9780061255632
The Lucy Variations
by Sara Zarr
National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr (How to Save a Life) is a consistently excellent voice in teen literature, finding unusual angles from which to write about both daily problems and life-altering moments.
This latest novel asks us to consider how we find our way forward when our world turns upside down. Lucy Beck-Moreau has given up on her musical career at the advanced age of 16, she's got an admittedly pointless crush on her English teacher, and is barely speaking to her mother and grandfather. But when her younger brother gets a new piano teacher for his own career, Lucy's life starts to change--and more importantly, she realizes that she can change her life. The joys of this novel are many, but its most striking aspects are the genuine family moments that reflect both love and frustration, and the passion for music that permeates the structure, the plot and the characters' lives. --Jenn Northington, events manager at WORD bookstore
Discover: One family searches for a way to let their creative passions bring them together, instead of tearing them apart.
hardcover, 304p., ages 13-17, 9780316205016
by Robin McKinley
Robin McKinley (Pegasus) sets her fast-paced, often amusing fantasy in a universe with at least four different worlds and another universe making constant efforts to break through.
Maggie (full name Margaret Alastrina) complains about her mother's new husband, Val ("he was short and hairy as well as having a funny voice, and I've seen orangutans that wore clothes better"), who brought to the family weird shadows and is also a magician--a criminal defect in magic-phobic Newworld. When the dictatorial government sends the army to fight off one of the feared "cobeys," cohesion breaks from another universe, and the already suspenseful narrative accelerates with a whoosh. When Val is arrested, Maggie and her friends (including several wonderful animals) charge off to save him.
A winning combination of fast action, romance, likable characters and inventive language makes this YA novel hard to put down. The satisfying ending leaves hope of additional stories from this universe. --Ellen Loughran, reviewer
Discover: A world built by Robin McKinley in tribute to the late Diana Wynne Jones, whose fans will also find this a treat.
hardcover, 354p., ages 12-up, 9780399165795