Destination ‘Crabtree’: it’s all about the journey (and a few other things)...

Jan 30, 2014 by

(Disclosure: I received a review copy of this beauty.*)    Aaaannd, it’s 2014. To make up for my month-long absence and to celebrate the new year, I’ve got a very special treat. Not only do I have a scrumptious picture book to talk about, I also had the added pleasure of chatting with the makers of this delight. Brothers Jon and Tucker Nichols not only made Crabtree (their debut picture book) together, but they both wrote and illustrated it. Yes. It reads like the creation of one genius mind. But it’s actually two. Published by the wonderful McSweeney’s McMullens, this book is a work of art that I’ve been tempted to cut up and paste all over my ceiling to just lie down and stare at. Luckily to avoid such sacrilege, they very thoughtfully created a dust...

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You’ll never look at color the same way again...

Dec 13, 2013 by

The nature of concept picture books make them formulaic at a very fundamental level. Since these books are usually used to introduce an idea (shapes/colors/numbers), many of them tend to be constructed along similar patterns. Usually it’s over the illustration styles or the examples discussed that they differ. And luckily for us, sometimes, there are inventive exceptions to these rules.     The facing page of the illustration above has the text “But when clouds decide to gather up and the rain pours down, then the sky is white.” Above the printed words, the same sentence is in Braille. This is a spread out of the seemingly paradoxically titled  The Black Book of Colors written by Menena Cottin and illustrated by Rosana Faría. Groundbreaking in many ways, this book was awarded the Bologna Ragazzi New Horizons award back...

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Sometimes, two heads are way better than one: a picture book author-illustrator dream team...

Nov 1, 2013 by

Author Germano Zullo and illustrator Albertine have together given me endless hope for the future of the picture book and plenty of entertainment along the way. This creative Swiss duo is a match made in picture book heaven. I happened to stumble across their work quite serendipitously, when I picked up Little Bird at the library (I wrote about my love for this book earlier here), and since then I’ve been on a constant lookout for more. Be it witty or whimsical, their work is another example of an unclassifiable wonderful-ness that crosses borders and genres in the world of picture books.  The chemistry they have is striking, and with each collaboration they manage to bring something new to the reader and yet retain their signature style. I thought I’d talk about three of their books in this post:  Marta...

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Painting unique portraits: 3 noteworthy picture book biographies on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr....

Oct 13, 2013 by

The picture book is a form that lends itself very well to re-telling stories– even those of famous historical figures we know so much about, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. With different perspectives and visual narratives, these picture book biographies will offer you new ways to understand, discuss and celebrate this iconic activist. Martin’s Big Words is a visually stunning picture book biography published in 2001  by author  Doreen Rappaport and illustrator Bryan Collier. This book focuses on the inspiring influence of words on Dr. Martin Luther King as a child,  and how he grew up to harness and develop a powerful rhetoric that spear-headed a social revolution. Bryan Collier’s innovative pastiche of watercolour and collage art beautifully mimic Dr. King’s evolution as a man of words, adding depth and meaning to his journey.   At the...

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Concept picture books: a much-needed multicultural spin...

Oct 7, 2013 by

Round is a Tortilla has a refreshing take on the common concept picture book about shapes. Usually these kind of books target very young readers, and hence there isn’t a narrative; there are typically words with accompanying pictures. What I really loved about this book was how Roseanne Greenfield Thong‘s charming text and John Parra‘s gorgeous illustrations transport you into a distinctly Hispanic cultural space with a wonderful Latino flavor to it. Even though at its core it is still a ‘list’ book (where there isn’t really a plot), both the written and visual narrative elevate it to something more meaningful and creative than your standard concept book.   Spanish words pepper the rhyming English narration, and make for a great read-aloud experience. I’m not usually a big fan of rhyming text, but it’s quite effective...

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Not what they seem: playing with perception in picture books...

Oct 4, 2013 by

The most encouraging sign in the exploration of a form is when people really begin to think outside of its set definitions. It’s not every day you find a picture book that plays with readers’ expectations and takes them on a completely unexpected journey. Today I thought I’d talk about two books published this year that managed to do just that. Count the Monkeys is yet another example of the fabulous Mac Barnett‘s work. Anybody who is trying to be a picture book author, I think, should really do a study of his work to see just how creatively he thinks as an author. He understands that the medium is more visual, but he always comes up with witty and intelligent concepts that illustrators can then work with, which ultimately create a winning combination of both...

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Be curious: moulding a scientific mind through picture books...

Jun 13, 2013 by

I used to despise physics and mathematics in school. I was happy to leave them far behind as soon as it was possible. I couldn’t relate to them in any way and they felt so distant, boring and inconsequential. It was clearly a result of the way I was introduced to the subjects. I just wish someone had inculcated in me the wonder and spirit of science at the start. I found it so limiting, which it is everything but. Two picture books I read recently made me feel like science was exciting; a revelation indeed!   Infinity and Me  (written by  Kate Hosford  and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska) is a picture book that was published in 2012, and talks about the mathematical concept of infinity. Through the inquiring mind of 8-year-old Uma, we begin to ponder about...

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3 picture books deal with 2 complex issues: death and domestic violence...

May 31, 2013 by

What could be more difficult that dealing with the loss of a parent?  It’s a subject that most people have a hard time even comprehending, forget making it a subject of a book for children. But picture books aren’t meant to shield children. That’s my opinion, at least. There are people in the other camp who believe that hard subjects like death, loss, violence and abuse should be left out of books for children. But they’re all a reality of life, unfortunately. Isn’t it inevitable that they will have to deal with a whole host of issues as they grow up? Two beautiful picture books that I read recently reflect that if it’s done in the right way, they can be very valuable and effective.  My Father’s Arms Are A Boat  (written by Stein Erik...

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