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Jan. 31st, 2012

10:00 am - Rita Book Today: My Top Picture Books Picks from The Year of the Rabbit (2011)

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Happy Chinese New Year, Everyone! Gong Xi Fa Cai!!

I was going to post my "Top Picture Book Picks from The Year of the Rabbit" list last weekend (before the Year of the Rabbit ran out), but I ran out of time. Little did I know that last Monday--the first day of the Year of the Dragon--was also the day ALA would announce all of their major book awards for this year. And that so many off my list would get picked!

Now I don't get to say I found them first. :(

For what it's worth, here are my top picks of picture books from the past year. I went through a lot of picture books to come up with these, and if I'd had more time, I would have kept on going. But now that the Big Awards have come out, I feel pretty good about my coverage. :)

As with last year, in annual countdown fashion . . .

(drumroll . . . )


6.

Shoes for MeShoes for Me by Sue Fliess, illustrated by Mike Laughead

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cute, exuberant pictures and words, perfect for all the parents I know who have been charmed by their kids' first pairs of shoes. The book is decidedly girly, although the shoes Hippo chooses from aren't. The styles include lots of favorite shoe trends I recognize from both boys and girls I know.

I recently had the pleasure of overhearing one two year old shout, "Shooss for Me!" as her mom pulled this book off my shelf. (They had their own copy at home--from me, of course!) I've given out lots of copies this year, because this book is a charmer.

There's a sequel coming out in 2012: A Dress for Me! I can't wait to check it out.


5.

That's How!That's How! by Christoph Niemann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I couldn't resist this punchy picture book by Christoph Niemann, the same artist who brought us Subway last year, which made my "Top Picture Books from The Year of the Tiger" list.

Just tested this out on our friend C's four year old and, man, it was a hit. He loves all things that go and is mechanically inclined, so we wondered whether he might object to the "unreality" of these answers. Nope, he burst out giggling at every page, and it was music to hear him explain how each picture worked. Not only that, the repetitive text meant that after my husband read it the first time, and I read it the second, our pal was able to "read" the entire book to his dad on his third time through (slight variations included), and show off all the fun, extra pictures on the book's hard cover (under the dust jacket).

I read the debate on GoodReads with great interest about whether this book offends, because the girl does most of the asking and the boy most of the explaining, even though the girl gets the final say. That thought crossed my mind, too, actually, but I decided to read this book as being about the fun bigger siblings get out of explaining the world to their youngers. Our pal has a little sister, so this was perfect, and I gave this out to plenty of other boys this year, too.

Would I give this book directly to a girl, especially one that didn't have siblings? Um . . . maybe? What do you guys think?

One girl I know is going through a phase right now where she asks how everything works, all day long. At first I thought, That's great! That's How! is perfect for her! Then I hesitated, because she's seven and seems so intent, she might not want these silly answers anymore. (I could be wrong.) Anyway, that's a question of age, not gender representation.

I haven't let this concern get in the way of sharing lots of copies, but I would love some more insight. Chime in!


4.

Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-jiHot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia, illustrated by Ken Min

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

* * Winner!! Winner!! * * Of the 2012 APALA Honor in Picture Books! * *

Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji is just beautiful. The illustrations by Ken Min are warm and all-embracing, just like the relationships and fantastical feats described, with bold, textured colors and crisp, clean shapes, and innovative close-ups and camera angles. It also doesn't hurt that the book is about food. By the end you'll feel inspired to whip up some roti yourself on the spot, yum, yum--which is great for kids, not to mention grown-ups. The process is described so clearly, you don't even need a recipe at the back of the book. It sounds just like making Chinese scallion pancakes, which really are that easy (and mouth-watering).

But you don't have to take my word for it. Fuse #8 gave this book an awesome review on School Library Journal--and she's a pretty good predictor of awards; maybe even better than me. ;) And now--as of last Monday--the book has won the 2012 APALA (Asian Pacific American Librarians Association) Honor in the Picture Book category! Go, Ken!! Woot, woot! YEAH!!!


3.

A Ball for DaisyA Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

* * Winner! Winner! * * Of the 2012 Caldecott Medal! * *

My husband and I argued about this one, so ha hahh to him. It won! It won! It won the 2012 Caldecott Medal! (Well, okay, my husband didn't "argue." He liked it. He just didn't go as nuts as I did--which still offended me.)

The illustrations are adorable!! This dog's emotions are right there on the surface, which is exactly what you want in, well, a dog, but also in a wordless picture book. I read this story as a lesson on a theme near and dear to my heart, which is that I've always had a hard time learning to let go of favorite possessions. But even if you see this as a simple story about a dog who loses a favorite toy and then has all made well again, it will bring you joy. Daisy's happiness at the end makes us root for her and love her more.

This is my favorite wordless picture book to come out in a long time.


2.

All the Water in the WorldAll the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gorgeous words. Gorgeous illustrations. This book leaves you with a delicious feeling of how precious water is to all of us. The illustrations make me feel cool and wet, and then thirsty and expectant, just the way they should. The rhythm of the words makes me want to dance, as does the traveling of the scenes all around the world. There is a conservation message and a discussion of the water cycle lightly embedded in here, but the main focus is on poetry and sensation.

I love it. Spread the message, spread the word!


And my number one pick out of all the picture books I read from The Year of the Rabbit is . . .

1.

Me...JaneMe...Jane by Patrick McDonnell

* * WINNER! WINNER! * * Of a 2012 Caldecott Honor! * *

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blend of illustration, stamp art, and memorabilia from Jane Goodall's real life teased out a sense of wonder even before I knew where the story was going, and the transition from daydreams to reality at the end--from illustration to an unexpected photo of her real, adult life--gave me chills. This is a picture book biography that packs a punch. Simple, neat, fascinating, empowering.

A must for every child!

And, one that my husband and I agreed on.


I'm going to be ordering copies of all of the above by the dozens for my friends.

Cheers, Everyone! Gong Xi Fa Cai!!
r

P.S. BONUS! This book came out in 2010 but I discovered it too late for inclusion in last year's "Top Picture Books from The Year of the Tiger" list.

A Pig Parade Is a Terrible IdeaA Pig Parade Is a Terrible Idea by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wonderful! Such excellent Voice. Such excellent illustrations. I am delighted.

The voice reminds me of my friend Irvin, who loves to set up what sounds like "a good idea" and then hilariously shoot it down. (So, Irvin, if you're looking for books to read to little ones, get this one! No one will know you're reading! They'll just think you're talking!)

Anyway, everyone should get this book. I'm guessing I'll give it to kids who are on the slightly older side--by which I mean 5 and up. But I could go younger if I know the parents already say ridiculous things to their kids all day long. It's a matter of tone.

A pig parade is a terrible idea. After you buy this book, you'll know why. :)


P.P.S. Oh, nuts, I forgot to add Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature, by Joyce Sidman and Beth Krommes! It's because I discovered this one last, and I don't have my own copy yet. (I should note, by the way, that my "Top Picks" lists are based both on debate between my husband and me, and on how many copies we actually buy for our friends. So I don't know where this fits in yet, but it definitely goes on the list.)


One More Tip Top Picture Book from The Year of the Rabbit

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in NatureSwirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, what is not to love? This book combines art and science, teaching us to find beauty and shapes in the natural world. It shows us the many special functions a spiral has for all different kinds of animals and plants, and it's . . . so . . . beautiful.

I loved Joyce Sidman's past books--a poetry book called Red Sings From the Treetops, illustrated (phenomenally) by Pamela Zagarenski; and Ubiquitous, illustrated by Beckie Prange, all about how long various life forms have existed and which has the best endpapers ever; to name a couple--and she keeps knocking them out of the park. She is my nonfiction and poetry hero.

You should also check out:

Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in ColorsRed Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

and


Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature's SurvivorsUbiquitous: Celebrating Nature's Survivors by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beckie Prange

My rating: 5 of 5 stars





Click the "Rita Book Today" tag to read all of my book reviews on this blog. And don't be shy about telling me what I've missed!
 

Comments:

[User Picture]
From:Karol Ruth Silverstein
Date:January 31st, 2012 10:43 pm (UTC)

Best PBs of year of the Rabit

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Thanks for a great list of awesome books-to-check-out. You have never steered me wrong on picture books (and other things, too). Why, Charlie & I might just include a link to your yearend wrap up when we do the blog post for the PB critique Schmooze next month!
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[User Picture]
From:rhcrayon
Date:January 31st, 2012 11:05 pm (UTC)

Re: Best PBs of year of the Rabit

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Yay!! Thanks, Karol! I would love that!
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 1st, 2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
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J took "That's How" to school today and is really excited to share it with his friends. Yay!
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[User Picture]
From:rhcrayon
Date:February 11th, 2012 08:06 am (UTC)
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Hooray!
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 10th, 2012 05:14 pm (UTC)

Favorite Picture Books

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These suggestions (the ones that we don't already have) sound lovely. Also, your past suggestions have also been big hits. A large number are featured in our current book rotation, which include:

1. Shoes For Me (of course!)
2. Subway by Christoph Niemann
3. Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park
4. Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
5. In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck (shades of The Little Prince in it)
6. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
7. Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever

Thanks for giving us more books to consider!

--Karen
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[User Picture]
From:rhcrayon
Date:February 11th, 2012 08:05 am (UTC)

Re: Favorite Picture Books

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I love In A Blue Room, by Jim Averbeck! How did that book come to you? Did you buy it spontaneously in a store? Inquiring minds want to know!

So glad to know she likes our picks! And I always loved Richard Scarry growing up . . . Who didn't? :D
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 29th, 2012 07:13 am (UTC)

Re: Favorite Picture Books

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He looks so young!?!

--K
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[User Picture]
From:rhcrayon
Date:March 1st, 2012 05:16 am (UTC)

Re: Favorite Picture Books

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Jim Averbeck is devilishly handsome. :D
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 29th, 2012 07:12 am (UTC)

Re: Favorite Picture Books

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Oooh... this comment is way overdue! I discovered In a Blue Room when I was looking up book reviews for The Quiet Book (maybe it was a link that I clicked on through your website???). Anyways, it's also become one of my favorites, too!

Did I mention that G was really into I Took the Moon for a Walk by Carolyn Curtis (illustrated by Allison Jay) for a while? I borrowed it from the SF library a while ago, and I'm thinking of borrowing the Mandarin version from the library to revisit it.

--K
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[User Picture]
From:rhcrayon
Date:March 1st, 2012 05:22 am (UTC)

Re: Favorite Picture Books

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Ooh, I'm putting it on hold at the library right now. I love that you are exposing G to the Mandarin versions as well! I just created a Mandarin section on my shelf today. (So far, all it has are the Mandarin versions of The Stinky Cheese Man, Millions of Cats, I Like You, and Disney's Aladdin, but I decided they merited their own section anyway.)

Can't wait to see you and G again soon . . . !!

r
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