Halloween or Year-Round Monster Trucks [Book Review]

Brilliant concept! (Why didn’t I think of this?) After Halloween, for the rest of the year, monsters drive trucks and utility vehicles. The werewolf drives a back hoe to dig deep holes for bones and squeaky toys; the yeti drives a snow plow; the minotaur cleverly drives a BULL-dozer. The witch appropriately trades her broom in for a street-sweeper. And the mummy drives (can you guess?) the ambulance, of course! Kudos for including an ogre, yeti, and minotaur among the diverse monsters. Humorous illustrations by Misa Saburi. This is a gem of a book. I only wish there had been some literal oversized big-wheel monster trucks. A year-round book for toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary; not only for October.

Keller, Joy and Misa Saburi (illus).  Monster Trucks. New York, NY : Goodwin Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2017


Piper [book review]


Piper the dog runs away from a mean master and finds a loving mistress. A grim and disappointing offering from the author of the lighthearted “No More Kissing” and Blue Kangaroo books. Sad beginning, happy ending. Good word choice conveys tone: “fierce” and “grimly.” Dark illustrations (oil? not sure) do a skilled job of conveying the scenery of the text, especially the “lonely crooked house” with a gray sky background and the (from the dog’s point of view) intimidating cityscape painted (?) in browns and grays. I credit the author with expanding her repertoire and acknowledge that my expectations for a lighter book may have influenced my reading. Probably too dark to use in preschool story-time, but perhaps it might fit into a lower elementary unit on not-fitting-in, animal cruelty, or perseverance. The best part is when Piper “took care of” the rabbits by playing with them instead of hunting them because the master poorly explained the command. Then the rabbits brought him food. I would have liked to see more of the rabbits.

Chichester Clark, Emma. Piper. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books For Young Readers, 1995. Print.

Reviewed on GoodReads




Let the Wild Rumpus Begin: Picture Books and Illustrated Stories

     The classic definition of a picture book is that the illustrations participate in telling the story. Without the pictures, the story fails to make sense. In Maurice Sendak’s beloved Where The Wild Things Are, the wild rumpus is only indicated through illustration: a wordless double-page spread features distinctive beasts partying their monster hearts out. In David Wiesner’s modern classic Tuesday, after pages of levitating frogs, the reader is left to surmise what happens next Tuesday with the final illustration of flying pigs.

            Closely related, and often seen as synonymous by parents and laypersons, is the illustrated story. Here the pictures are nonessential; remove them and the story remains intact. Illustrations may be lavish, although artistic design is becoming increasingly less traditional. A good example is any piece of literature set into a typically 32-page color format, from illustrated versions of Clement C. Moore’s The Night Before Christmas, Truman Capote’s The Thanksgiving Visitor, or Virginia Woolf’s Nurse Lugton’s Curtain. Of course the majority of illustrated storybooks feature texts initially intended for children, but keep in mind that to the purist, not all illustrated books are picture books.

            The popular Golden Books from my youth, my favorite The Poky Little Puppy, is a typical illustrated story. Illustrated folktales, like Paul Galdone’s The Three Billy Goats Gruff, are another subset.  Many publishers actively pursue fresh versions of non-European fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Don’t worry if you can’t draw. Although author-illustrators are increasingly being sought, most publishing houses have anArtDepartment, and they will select the artist who accompanies your words. Indeed, expect little input toward the final design. Vocabulary need not be basic. Consider Peter Rabbit’s “soporific” lettuce and the aforementioned rumpus. Publishers know parents and caregivers will be reading these books at story-times or bedtime: adults are the number one purchaser of children’s books.

Tomorrow: Easy Readers