This is part 2 in my year long series to share with your our favorite new picture books of 2013. We haven’t read every published book yet (but we are on our way). We are limited to what our library gets in a timely fashion and which books we read in bookstores. Make sure you read part 1 to discover more great books (trust me, you don’t want to miss Brief Thief).
As I’ve said before, I choose books as our favorites of the year, not “the best.” Sometimes our choices coincide with the critics’ “best” and sometimes they do not. I’ve found that often the critics’ don’t know my kids’ tastes as well as I do. Funny how that is. Nevertheless, there is often overlap.
The Story of Fish and Snail. It was no surprise that Freedman’s new book is a delight. After all, Blue Chicken was one of last year’s favorites. Also — hello! — you all know how I feel about metafiction in children’s picture books (and if you don’t, well, just click on that link). Fish and Snail live in a book and every day, Fish brings Snail a new story but then one day Snail wants Fish to leave the comfort of the book and experience the story for himself (it is about pirates, after all). Snail balks and so Fish leaves him in a huff. As Snail peers over the edge of his book he wonders, should he take the plunge…?
Journey. This is a truly magical book and both my 4 year old and 8 year old sons loved it. A girl uses her red crayon to draw a door leading to another world. While there she visits a castle, flies into the sky and rescues a bird, all with the help of her red crayon. She is captured by an emperor but her act of kindness towards the bird comes back to her and she finds her way home. The ending will delight you and have you quickly turning back to the first page to find the clues you missed. Becker’s illustrations are marvelous and worth studying. If you balk at wordless books (as I used to), take a look at my parent tips for reading wordless books.
I Dare You Not to Yawn. Everyone knows the infectious power of a yawn. Just try not to yawn when someone mentions it! (I bet you are yawning right now!) Fortunately, the narrator has all sorts of tricks to keep from yawning, thus avoiding bedtime. This is a fun bedtime book and my 4 year old and I like to see who can hold out from yawning the longest before the book is done. So far he has won every time.
Twenty Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street. This is a truck book, so of course it was a huge hit with my 4 year old. This rhyming counting book starts out with a ice-cream truck that stalls in the middle of the street (every kid’s dream). But then the different trucks start to pile up behind it, causing a rather large and entertaining traffic jam. How will the traffic be dispersed? My son kept offering various solutions to that problem during our reading. It turns out, one of the trucks provides the solution and the the ice cream truck (of course) provides the dessert.
The Dark. When I heard there was a collaboration between Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen being released I thought, “If that book is not good, I will just give up.” Fortunately it is great! Laszlo is afraid of the dark. It usually lives in the basement, although it also lurks in closets and behind the shower curtain. Every morning Laszlo says hello to the dark, hoping that the dark would stop visiting his bedroom at night. One night the dark speaks to Laszlo and leads him to the cure for his fear. Much has been said about this book and its meticulous writing, and I can not hope to compete with the prose of real critics. In the end, all that you need to know is that it’s a book my 4 year old, who is afraid of the dark, requested again and again. It didn’t miraculously cure him of his fears, but it’s a good book, nevertheless.
The Deep Deep Puddle. This is one of those books that may not be on the experts’ lists, but was a huge hit in our house. It’s another counting book (my son loves counting books right now) and is set in the city where a puddle begins to grow uncontrollably, sucking more and more items into its depths. 1 dog goes in first, then 2 cats, then 3 squirrels, then… you get the idea. After 10 police officers disappear, tanker trucks and hoses (11 and 12, respectively) begin to suck up the water and the backward counting begins. I found this book to be a great deal of fun and at first I thought my son would show some anxiety at the idea of animals and people being dragged into a puddle, but the absurdity of the whole situation and the wonderful illustrations prevented that. If you get a chance, I recommend you check this one out.
How To. These favorites of the year lists usually include at least one sleeper hit. By that I mean a book that I didn’t expect my kids to like even though I thought it was great. How To is that book. The text is simple. Each page is a simple how to, “how to wash your socks,” “how to make a sandwich,” “how to be brave,” but it is the juxtaposition between the text and the illustration that makes the book special. In the previous examples we see children dancing shoeless in puddles, lying between pillows, waiting at the top of a slide. The book is a testament to the imagination of childhood. On our first reading of this book my son just listened (rare for him – he’s a chatterbox during read alouds) but he immediately requested it again and then wanted to discuss each picture with me. It was a little bit amazing.
Little Owl’s Orange Scarf. First of all, can I just point out that the color scheme of this book is the same as that of this blog? That alone is enough to recommend it. Kids whose parents make them wear itchy-scratchy scarves will relate to Little Owl’s plight and cheer him on as he tries to lose his scarf everywhere he goes. His mom continues to foil his efforts until Little Owl is able to make a giraffe very, very happy. Mom and Owl get some new yarn that is super-soft and everyone is happy. This story is simple but engaging and I think my son liked this book so much because he could relate to Little Owl’s trickster ways!
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdös. It’s okay, I did not know who Paul Erdös was before I read this book, either! Now I wish I had known him! I think it must be quite difficult to write a successful and engaging picture book biography and every time I come across one that I love I am impressed. This is a perfect book for my 8 year old, who also is a boy who loves math, but even if your child doesn’t feel quite the same way, they will enjoy this book. Paul Erdös was an eccentric, but very sociable mathematician who traveled the world spreading and sharing his love of numbers. Heiligman does a great job of integrating math concepts into the writing and the end notes include some historical background and mathematical explanations.
Crankee Doodle. This book is hilarious, zany, goofy and completely ridiculous. In other words, we loved it. Riffing on the classic song, grouchy Yankee and his cheery horse have an absurd conversation about macaroni and hats and who-knows-what. It all ends in the inevitable trip to town, but not as you might expect. Super silly and super fun.
Have you read any of these new books? What’s your favorite new book of the year so far? Don’t forget to check out part 1, for 10 additional great books!