Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Delacorte Press
The Here and Now comes with a fantastic premise and from an author with a solid reputation for storytelling. I expected to like it a lot. I expected to tear into it and not let go until I was done reading the last page at least five times. I loved the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Brashares won me over with…
During this month, you saw Yash’s review of Lately Lily and Janet’s review of Busy Bunny Days. Both of these titles are part of Chronicle’s spring selection/releases and we were given the chance to review these books for you by Raincoast Books. I have two books to review today and I believe Stephie will be doing the last title sometime soon. That disclaimer of sorts of made, let’s move on to the…
The first book I thought of when I found out about this month’s picture book theme was Princess Smartypants (1986) by Babette Cole. I like this book because it’s about a princess who does things on her own terms. I was pretty excited to write about it and rushed over to Kidsbooks to pick up a copy. But of course one can never leave Kidsbooks with just onebook (am I right children’s lit lovin’…
Hardcover, 120 pages
Published October 2012 by Longacre Press
Dear Readers, meet my favourite book of 2014 so far. This non-assuming book that gives no indication that it contains such a magnificent story took me completely by surprise. In a good way. I expected something good, something funny and witty, something that would make me happy but nothing that would linger with me,…
“Bookish Things” includes things mentioned in books, right? Right. Well, in that case,
- A time-turner (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)
- Lissar’s doeskin dress (Deerskin)
- Alternately, Sabriel and Lirael’s clothing and armour (Abhorsen series) or the beautiful clothing picturebook characters have and mithril (The Lord of the Rings).
- Wings (Catwings)
I am going to go with…
If you don’t know him yet, or his wonderful, creative and very child-minded picturebooks (and other works) then let me introduce you to – Oliver Jeffers!
Some colleagues and I had the chance to see Oliver Jeffers speak at a Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable event last spring, and there we got to see this video where Oliver talks about his inspiration and why picturebooks appeal to him so much. In this and other videos he talks about how interesting it is to tell stories with a combination of pictures and words, and how words can change pictures and pictures can change words. When we heard him speak he said that every story comes to him differently, but mostly they all begin with doodles, with the image that a story sort of appears around.
I wonder a little at the revolution that picturebooks are seeing, the way that they are being used like never before to convey stories that, beforenow, were unknown to the picturebook genre. I think that the way that Oliver Jeffers talks about writing and creating picturebooks is a testament to the power that picturebooks can have. They are stories like any other, with the potential to affect any number of people. They are powerful stories told through mixed media. They can be simple, funny, and sweet, or high concept, deep and difficult – unbearably sad even. Picturebooks are wonderful things.
Don’t forget the picturebook. In fact – if you haven’t lately, go to your local bookstore or library and just take a look through the picturebook section. One in five picturebooks will make you smile or perhaps make you sad, the rest will cause a reaction in you – an opinion “That was bad”, “The art didn’t work”, “The story was bland” – how interesting that we can be so critical of a book that is only 32 pages long. Wonder at that.
Anyway – back to Oliver Jeffers. His picturebook art is generally mixed media, pencil drawings with a whole lot of fancy design – paintings upon old borrowed paintings. The art, if you really look at it and consider the design, layout and format of the book – well it’s complex.
While, I have to admit, I’m not in love with all of his books, but I do love most of them.
(Have no fear, NOT MANY SPOILERS!)
There are a set that centre on a particular boy: How to Catch a Star (2004), Lost and Found (2005), and Way Back Home (2007). A penguin is introduced in the second text. These are just delightfully simple tales that light up imaginations as they unfold.
How to Catch a Star features the protagonist little boy as he wishes he had a star and imagines all the things he could do if he did have a star as a friend. Then, of course, he goes off and catches one. It’s sweet and it’s simple – and it’s about the power of determination and imagination and really, what it is to seek a friend. Lost and Found has a penguin show up on the doorstep of our protagonists house and the adventure that ensues as the boy helps the penguin get home – and then of course, the realization that they are at home when they are together. The Way Back Home sees the protagonist help and alien return to space – it’s cute. The character of the little boy is just so enjoyable! These three stories don’t have to be read together at all, they just seem to centre on the same character and focus on very similar themes that are explored throughout them – the power of being alone, but also loneliness. Imagination and the simple way that the world is just accepted as it is, is wonderful and allows for so much creativity and wondering.
Next we come to my all time favourite The Incredible Book Eating Boy (2006)! I love this book because it really would have been something even as an older child I would have loved because.. people kept telling me that I devoured books! I just gobbled them up. And that’s – literally – what this boy does. So it’s still funny for me to read today (my own signed copy that sits on the shelf, hahaha!) but I think it’s just a great play with words. And taking things literally, well, it’s always great fun!
This one is great fun and I think this also sets up a sort of theme for many of Oliver Jeffers’ works. He gets to play with the literal minds of children, with the way that the world can be perceived and it’s just hilarious.
The Great Paper Caper (2008), Stuck (2011) and This Moose Belongs to Me (2012) have the same sort of feel to them. They are very funny, very direct – and, well, very literal translations for the world. Making them funny for all ages – and so easy to relate to. It’s easy to step into these worlds because they automatically appeal, we get where the protagonist is coming from and the art helps to do the explaining. ALSO – If you haven’t figure it out yet, the titles give away what the story is going to be about – but don’t fear, there is always a twist or two, and the art does a lot to create intrigue (and side-plots) in the tales.
Not all of Jeffers’ work is hilarious and cute and charming.
There is also the wonderfully heart-wrenching Heart in a Bottle (2010) – which focuses on a girl protagonist going through depression. There is an app for this picturebook which has won a ton of awards and is just a wonderful adaptation of the picturebook with it’s incorporation of sound, animation and interaction. If you have the chance – check this out. This book is appropriate for anyone who knows anyone with depression, who suffers from it – or even who has gone through loss, or will go through loss, or as a way to explain how it feels to lose someone close. It remains in Oliver’s simple style, with few words, a very profound picturebook (and app). Most certainly worth checking out. For books written, not necessarily just for young people, but with young people in mind, that help to explain the emotions that surround loss, death and the scary things in life (and death) – I would call it a draw between this book and A Monster Calls (by Patrick Ness). They are the best texts I can think of to give when you want to figure out how to express sympathy. In fact, just give both books. Books are wonderful.
Finally, we get to The Hueys in the New Jumper (2012) and The Huey’s in “It Wasn’t Me” (2013). These are the “not so favourites” that I was mentioning earlier. HOWEVER! They are still worth mentioning here for a couple of reasons – I feel that, though they are of course still simple, I think they are interesting concepts to present in picturebooks.
In each of these texts we get The Hueys. All the Hueys are the same – only they aren’t. In the first book, one Huey gets a new jumper – some chaos and fun ensues but then, everyone else has a jumper too – so they are, once again, The Hueys. I’m not a big fan of this, but I think I still enjoy the social commentary here. The way that people think, they way that they want to fit in but simultaneously want to be different – I didn’t like the consumerism aspect of it – but perhaps there is a little commentary in the text on that as well.
Then we come to the second Huey’s book – which is really about arguments and being argumentative and how human emotion gets so wrapped up the debate that – well, we forget why we got so upset at the beginning. It is also a very interesting study on human and child behaviour – but again I wasn’t the biggest fan of the resolution (we never get the reason for the argument). While I like the psychology and the idea that this kind of human concept can be explored in the picturebook format – there needed to be a little bit more truth to it. The Hueys seem to represent children, and children have such a literal and strict sense of justice and I think that this story could have worked just wonderfully had there been a cause for the argument, there is always a cause. This books helps give an outsider perspective to the absurdity of arguments and arguing at all – but perhaps just a nudge further would have done it for me. Haha, perhaps I just don’t like The Hueys (apologies Mr. Jeffers, please keep making books and trying new things!!).
I realize now that I have ended on a bad note! So here, please visit this site and learn how Oliver Jeffers draws penguins!
p.s. They are adorable!The Wonderful Works of Oliver Jeffers If you don’t know him yet, or his wonderful, creative and very child-minded picturebooks (and other works) then let me introduce you to - Oliver Jeffers!
Janet: The trailing red cloth, like trailing long hair, just irks me. I like the marsh reeds and grass, but the title font not so much. The author endorsement ensures that I would read the back, however.
Yash:I was drawn in by the red and the thorny font but the title made me go, “Oh no. Snow White. Again.” However, I like what the little blurb tells us. I am intrigued by fairy tale inspired…
“Composer” is a word which here means “a person who sits in a room, muttering and humming and figuring out what notes the orchestra is going to play.” This is called composing. But last night, the Composer was not muttering. He was not humming. He was not moving, or even breathing.
This is called decomposing.
The Composer is Dead, written by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Carson Ellis…
One of the best-known fairy tales, “Beauty and the Beast” has been reproduced hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times in various media: oral narratives, written form, in plays, musicals, films, photographs, visual art, full-length novels, poems, and, of course, picturebooks.
I though I’d take the opportunity to revisit a few picturebook versions of “Beauty and the Beast” and look at what makes or…
This is going to be one of those long horrid blog posts that no one wants to read but is present because the author feels this overwhelming need to pontificate. Sort of. No honestly, I think we can do with some variety in the posts and I haven’t done a discussion post in a long while so really, you, my darling Reader, cannot complain about this post. Not too much anyway.
But before I begin…
Hello everyone! Each month as you may have noticed we have a theme and I was wondering if there were any themes that we haven’t done and you, our awesome readers, would wish we did. This is just for curiousity’s sake so if you have anything you’d like us to cover, now is your chance. Tell us and we may!
- Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag. The book is written, illustrated, and hand-written (not typed). The closest thing to a protagonist (there isn’t really one) is an old man who sets out to find a kitten for his wife – neither a child nor a child-substitute. Charming and quirky.
- A Friend is Someone Who Likes You by Joan Walsh Anglund.
- I Like Youby Sandol Stoddard Warburg (illustrated by…
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Chronicle Books
In the early 1980s Ada and Stefan are young, would-be lovers living on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall–Ada lives with her mother and grandmother and paints graffiti on the Wall, and Stefan lives with his grandmother in the East and dreams of escaping to the West.
What do I say about this book?