Monday, February 18, 2013

Surprise Picture Books With Ninjas! (and other exciting stuff)

Yes, I admit it, I don't know every book on our shelves. It was a terrible shock to me, too. When we did a section overhaul early in January and I had to go through every single picture book we have (which is a lot!), I discovered some absolute gems that, I'm embarrassed to say, I'd never seen before.

But! I've seen them now and have been dying to share them.

Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz, ill. by Dan Santat

This cover. I mean, really?? ... and then I actually opened and read the book. I'm not gonna lie, I was sitting on the floor by the picture books rocking with laughter and alarming people. I admit that there is a bit of the Kung Fu Panda going on with fighting animals. But because illustrator Santat holds a black belt in Shotokan and because author Schwartz did her research, there are a lot of clever details in the illustrations and creative tweaks to the traditional Three Little Pigs storyline that make Ninja Pigs a truly unique and worthwhile read, both for kids and for parents.

The Queen of France by Tim Wadham, ill. by Kady MacDonald Denton

No, it's not Marie Antoinette. It's a little girl named Rose who "woke up one morning [and] felt royal." Another of my beloved anti-princesses (up there with Olivia and the Paper Bag Princess), Rose has a active imagination, drawing her parents into her realm. Denton's illustrations are lots of fun, too, taking the theme of pink princesses and skewing them to properly dress the character in too much jewelry and layers of dress-up clothes that everyone wishes they had in their closet.

City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems, ill. by Jon J. Muth

Bet you haven't seen this Mo Willems masterpiece! Neither had I. It's unheard-of for Willems to forgo doing his illustrations but, in giving up the honors, he could do no better than Jon J. Muth (author/illustrator of Zen Shorts and The Three Questions). This touching and humorous story of two friends from very different homes who meets four times during the year is a great read for spring - or, really, any time of year!

Follow Follow, A Book of Reverso Poems by Marilyn Singer, ill. by Josée Masse

I was thrilled when this companion to Singer and Masse's Mirror Mirror turned up on the receiving shelf last week! Reverso poems are poems that can be read in two ways - when the order of the lines is reversed, a new poem emerges. Singer has taken classic tales like "Thumbelina" and "The Little Mermaid" and retold them through reverso poetry. Sometimes, the two poems act as conversations between two characters (as in "The Tortoise and the Hare") and sometimes, they explore two sides of the same character (as in the poem based on "The Princess and the Pea," in which the princess debates with herself about the luxuries and consequences of being a real princess). Masse's illustrations, vibrant and with the same duality as the poems, add humor and engaging visuals to Singer's poems. This is a fantastic read-aloud and a great introduction to poetry.

and then it's spring by Julie Fogliano, ill. by Erin E. Stead

Now that a proper New England winter has finally settled in, the first thing on my mind is warmer weather. Fogliano's story documents the transition from the bare brown of winter into the slow growth and bloom of spring, accompanied by Caldecott medalist Stead's gentle watercolor illustrations. The story illuminates all the anticipation, doubt, impatience, and hope inherent in the changing of seasons through the planting of a garden. With the help of his dog, his rabbit, and possibly some birds and bears (and a turtle and some ants and a couple of mice), the narrator patiently awaits a time when "the brown isn't around and now you have green, all around you have green." Another engaging read-aloud with beautiful poetry.

These are a few of my favorite recent discoveries. I think everyone who loves books and bookstores has walked unsuspectingly in one day and walked out with a book that made their whole week a bit better. What are some of your favorite surprise finds in bookstores (specifically, this one!)?


Corey Schwartz said...

Thanks so much for the wonderful review! I'd be happy to send you some Ninja Pigs bookmarks, if you are interested?


Tess Williams said...

Corey, we would absolutely love that!! The book is fantastic, our readers are loving it, and we do love bookmarks here ^_^

Corey Schwartz said...

Oh, great! I'll send some out and if I'm ever up in your area, I'll try to stop by!