Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Little Red Riding Hood

This is my favorite version of Little Red Riding Hood, which is retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Honestly my love of this book has everything to do with the pictures! I never tire of them. I find Tricia an enchanting illustrator, drawing a world with beautiful people and illustrations that have a very magical feel, rich in detail and color.

The Little Red Riding Hood in this book is as sweet and innocent as can be, and the wolf is everything a wily wolf should be. Riding Hood is lured off the path to pick a bouquet for Grandmother, while the wolf runs to Grandmother's house to take care of business. Be warned that this retelling is closer to the original story than some others, including Grandmother and Red Riding Hood getting swallowed hungrily, only to come out well and whole again when cut out by the huntsman. This is the version that I grew up with, but some may prefer the less horrific hiding-in-the-closet version, in which case they must look elsewhere.

There is a very clear moral for the little girl in this story, which is that she should have done just what her mother asked her to do--stay on the path. If you chance to meet this book, sit a spell and be drawn into Little Red Riding Hood's richly drawn world. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Dragon Snatcher

The next time you are at the library, notice how many cute animal picture books there are. There are many, and my six-year old no longer approves of them! In order to persuade him that he really is not done with picture books (especially for independent reading) I have been searching for picture books that appeal to him. These would include anything with adventure, fantasy, or a hero (and no cute dogs or cats to speak of). I have found a few of these books, and hope to find a few more! The Dragon Snatcher,by M.P. Robertson, is a book all three of my children love and approve of. At times I would like to have seen this story expanded a bit, even with just another sentence or two, but I think the fact that it is simple and short is part of what makes it special.

George loves to read, and one night as he is nestled in bed with a pile of books, his dragon wakens him from outside the window with a worried look. That night they go on a journey and discover a bad wizard with a bad plan. They takes strides to stop him, but something surprising happens to save the day for dragons everywhere, as well as the wizard's icy heart.

This book is written simply, but feels like a true fantasy book. The storyline is interesting, but the illustrations are incredible. Together the combination is absolutely winning for my little people.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In a Blue Room

At my library, they entice picture book readers by standing books up on top of the low bookshelves. This is one of my favorite places to search for great books, because the children's librarian here has such great taste. Because this book still had a clean and intact cover as it stood on top of the shelf, I could tell it was new, and the beautiful cover illustration drew me in immediately. I have not come back! In a Blue Roomis my current number one favorite when it comes to picture books.

In a very yellow room, a mother brings sleep-encouraging items to her little one. Consistently, the little girl demands each to be blue. None are, but her mother manages to convince her sleepy daughter to settle in for bedtime. Finally, as the little girl can withstand sleep no longer, she finally (and wonderfully) gets her wish for blue.

The text and pictures in this book are a match made in heaven. Tricia Tusa does great illustrations, and I have seen some, but after seeing this book, I would like to see more. They are perfect! Each illustration is done at a beautiful and creative angle, with details that give a lot of feeling to the home and atmosphere, and the relationship between mother and daughter. (I wish I could live in the adorable house!) Tusa also has a way of making magic known in her pictures, as she does in this book.

Jim Averbeck is an author I am not familiar with, but I hope this is not his last children's book. One thing I appreciate about a children's book author, is when it's obvious that they are truly familiar with children. This appears to be true with Averbeck. The little girl's insistence rings very true to me during the reading. The mother is as sweet and patient as all mothers wish to be, but also as inventive. This is a simple but clever story, one that can be read and appreciated at different levels by various ages, making it a book that allows much revisiting.

To see an interview with artist Tricia Tusa, click here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

George and The Dragon

George and the Dragon, written and illustrated by Chris Wormell, is a book that took me by surprise. When I started into this book my thoughts were along the lines of "Wow! This is a really great, simple book for young children who like dragons." It seems like just what a dragon-loving child would like, as it hits on all the major points of dragon life, with accompanying illustrations. But then there's more. This book takes a clever turn, and the dragon is faced with his own fear, an amusing one.

Have you seen a dragon brush away an army? Have you seen a dragon steal a princess, smash a castle wall, and burn down a forest with his fiery breath? Have you ever seen a scared dragon? The illustrations in this book clearly show you. Written with short and simple but expertly crafted sentences, this book is a must-have for dragon lovers! My six year old recently told me that he didn't want to pick books with me, he doesn't like books that are about dogs and cats. (And that's apparently all I choose.) He likes heroes. This story meets both of our good-book standards, is without dogs and cats, and has a very small and unlikely hero to boot.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mercy Watson to the Rescue

Would you giggle a little if your kids routinely said, "I want my toast with a great deal of butter on it?" Well, I do. I don't say that phrase, and don't know anyone else who often does, besides Kate DeCamillo in this series of early chapter books.

Mercy is funny pig whose favorite thing to eat is--what else-- but toast, with a great deal of butter on it. She is dearly loved by her human family, the Watson's, and strongly disliked by her neighbor. She is spoiled and manages to get into lots of trouble, but still, she is a lovable pig. Every page in these books has an illustration as well as fairly large words. The stories are pretty simple, but fortunately the vocabulary isn't. These books make everyone in my family laugh together. Chris Van Dusen, who also created If I Built a Car, does the fantastic and funny illustrations for these books. They are right on the mark for the story, and are humorous themselves. The books are great early chapter book read-alouds. Although my family hasn't tested them yet for independent reading, I suspect they would be good first chapter books as well.

When my kids start talking about toast with a great deal of butter, I secretly applaud inside. I know reading aloud is doing just what I hope it will. Besides inviting my kids to find the joy in reading, and sharing knowledge about the world that we may not otherwise get around to learning about, I know they are learning a lot about vocabulary and language. That makes me happy. And Mercy Watson makes me laugh.