Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Spring! with Picture Books

I don't know why spring makes us want to pull out picture books but I would guess it's because they're so bright and happy and so many of them are about nature and exploration. And these are a special bunch because they aren't from the U.S. so they are just a bit different than what we're seeing at our local library.

Pip the Gnome by Admar Kwant (an artist who lives in the Netherlands), is a gently drawn board book that takes a child through the four seasons, starting with spring. There is a surprising amount of detail in the drawings and a real sense of peace and oneness with nature. Z loves the page when Pip is catching leaves in the fall. I think my favorite thing about these drawings is that Pip has legs! I'm tired of the "garden gnome" with no knees. How would a creature like that even walk? Pip is an adorable little guy.

Wee Granny's Magic Bag, written by Elizabeth McKay and illustrated by Maria Bogade, is a Scottish picture book (as you can probably guess from the title and cover). Wee Granny is a marvelous woman who calls her two grandkids her "bonnie darlings" and has a tartan handbag that literally has everything in it but the kitchen sink. I so wish I could do a good Scottish accent for reading this one aloud but I don't think that it would work in my Sean Connery imitation. The book has great flow with many of the page turns revealing a surprise item emerging from Wee Granny's bag. Z screamed with delight when the item happened to be a donkey! The landscapes and dwellings are inviting and definitely Scottish and the grandkids have two different but equally gorgeous shades of ginger hair. And the website for the publisher (Picture Kelpies/Floris Books) continues the fun with a colouring page and some granny and dog jokes!

My Think-a-ma-Jink by Dave Whamond is from Owlkids Books in Canada. It's centered around a fairly simple and common idea -- that kids can come up with much better games and adventures through their own imaginations than by playing with predefined-action toys and games. But what sets this book apart are the fun and vivid illustrations of young Jack's imaginary lands and creatures. From aliens to dragons to a delicious-looking candy land, this book could definitely initiate some fun imaginings in young readers and have them asking for their own Think-a-ma-Jink.

Tom the Tamer by Tjibbe Veldkamp (Dutch), drawn by Philip Hopman (also Dutch),  is a very unique and wonderful book about Tom, a young boy whose father won't come out of the house because he's afraid of animals. This is unfortunate because Tom is an animal tamer who has tamed snails and squirrels in the yard and he wants his dad to see the show. But Tom has an idea for how to change his father's mind and it all starts with going to the local pet store and picking up an untamed polar bear. This book is absolutely brilliant! From the unconventional idea of a scared parent instead of a scared kid to the bright and detailed artwork, this is going to be a book that I start giving as a gift to 4-7 year olds.

The final book for today is The Umbrella by Ingrid & Deiter Schubert (German but living in Amsterdam). This is a wordless picture book about a small black dog who finds a red umbrella in the garden on a windy day. He travels all around the world, riding the wind, and has fun and sometimes harrowing adventures. When he finally returns home and sets the umbrella down, a curious cat can't help but take a peek at it. This book is really unique because it starts and ends on the endpapers. The drawings of all the animals around the world are very realistic and large in scope -- showing entire savannahs and underwater seascapes. Sometimes a wordless book is just what you're looking for and this would be a good one to choose!

Doing a bit of armchair travelling,
K and Z

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