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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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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It’s Picture Book Listmania Time! — AKA August 10 for 10 (#pb10for10)...

Aug 10, 2013 by

August 10 for 10 began in 2010 when Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek decided it would be a great idea, and wonderful resource, for people to share their 10 favorite picture books on the 10th of August. Cathy speaks about the history of  how the event started on her blog, and I’m sure there are going to be many, many awesome lists being put together to celebrate. And in that spirit, let me share mine. I have been waiting for an opportunity to talk about  picture books I love, so I might go into somewhat of a fervor; forgive me. I’ve decided to share two lists: one of my favorite picture books that I’ve read so far in 2013 (some are published earlier than that, but I read them only this year), and one of my top 10  picture book creators. To...

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New picture books, old stories: folktales and fables...

Jul 7, 2013 by

The danger in re-telling old stories is that if they don’t bring a fresh perspective, they can seem tired and uninteresting. Especially because folktales are  more ‘moralistic’,  re-working them in a way that makes them more creative and engaging is important. Making picture books out of traditional stories is a great way of adding fresh visual appeal, and if the text is written well, it can give new life to an old story.  When looking at folktale re-tellings, I think keeping in mind how the text flows is crucial. Traditionally all these stories were told orally, and they had a certain rhythm and lilt to them because the storyteller would be narrating them to his/her audience. Two picture books I found recently were  good attempts at re-telling popular folktales. I don’t know how much...

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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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More picture books: Spring brings kindergartners and other beasts...

Apr 4, 2013 by

The cherry blossoms are in bloom all over Seattle. Daffodils everywhere, tulip bulbs emerging and leaves slowly re-appearing on the trees. There could not be a more fitting time to talk about And Then It’s Spring, an enchanting new picture book written by Julie Fogliani and illustrated by Erin E. Stead. Since I don’t understand the concept of ever borrowing one book at a time from the library, I also got a few others. One amongst them was Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten! , written and illustrated by Hyewon Yum. Incidentally, both these books were recently awarded the 2013 Ezra Jack Keats Award for New Writer and New Illustrator , which I spoke about in this recent post.   Let’s start with And Then It’s Spring. Too often picture books and children’s books are littered with horribly bad...

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