Jan. 16th, 2016

maribou: (book)
I was almost done writing this post and then Semagic ate my draft. For the first time in years. (It also reset itself in multiple other ways.) GRAAR. Here's take two.

A Perfectly Messed-Up Story, by Patrick McDonnell
Cute story, charming illustrations, not nearly as good as the other picture book of his I'd read.

Dream On, Amber, by Emma Shevah
I really liked the parts of this middle-grade novel that were about interactions between the two sisters, and their relationship more generally. There was not a lot else that was remarkable in the book, other than its ease in reading. As a middle grade reader I read so voraciously that, while I did occasionally find Amazing Memorable Cherishable Books (eg the Green Howe series), when I was hearing about a book, I mostly wanted to know which of three categories it fell into: "Solid and Indvidual," "Weirdly Addictive Series [or Author] of Dubious Quality," or "UGH BORING SKIP IT." This one fits neatly into the first category.

The Potato King, by Christoph Neimann
UGH BORING SKIP IT ;). More specificallly, it's weirdly monarchist and anti-democratic in its implications, and I've seen better potato stamp pictures back when I was a kid making potato stamp pictures with my
friends. Not sure why this was so well-reviewed.

Blown Away, by Rob Biddulph
An elegant, stylized picture book with heart. Made me think of Mad Men aesthetically (and ONLY aesthetically). I was thoroughly won over.

Dreaming in Indian, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Leatherdale
A thought-provoking and well-designed anthology that showcases Native American writers. Aimed at young teens, enjoyable by everybody. Sometimes rather heart-breaking, but only in the service of more fully communicating some very rough experiences.

The Fun Book of Scary Stuff, by Emily Jenkins
It was fun! And full of monsters! Does what it says on the tin. (Though *I* wasn't scared ;).)

The Song Within My Heart, by David Bouchard, paintings by Allen Sapp
The paintings in this book are exquisite, and grounded. Unfortunately, I really didn't care for the accompanying text.

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras, by Duncan Tonatiuh
Perfectly balanced nonfiction picture book about the Mexican artist Posada and, well, you already read the subtitle. Anyway, the art is beautiful, the narrative is compelling but has lots of interesting factual stuff, and the whole thing fits together to be more than the sum of its parts. Nifty!

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise, by Sean Taylor
Goofy, zippy picture book about a young owl who thinks very highly of himself. It made me giggle.
maribou: (book)
On the Ball, by Brian Pinkney
Picture book about a kid and his soccer ball. I know it was fun and well made but it was very much NOT memorable, ie I already don't remember anything else about it.

Night Animals, by Gianna Marino
Suuuuper cute picture book about night animals who are worried about Night Animals. Not very complex, but that's fine.

Lenny & Lucy, by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Sweet, slightly melancholy story with beautiful illustrations. Magical realist? I think?

A Mile in Her Boots, edited by Jennifer Bove
Ooh, this was a cracking read. A plethora of essays about working in the wild, all by women. You're probably either already investigating how to get your hands on this book, or already tuning me out, so I don't need to say more than that.

M Train, by Patti Smith
I absolutely loved this book. It's very internal, but also very interested in the world. She writes so sparingly, but every word is there for a reason. And her life has been rich, and full, and she skims around over top of it in a way that should be confusing but actually just helps you to pay closer attention. And it was so WORTH the attention I paid it. I'll definitely reread this some day, and I hope she writes another one this good soon.

The Octopus Scientists, by Sy Montgomery
Really cool YA nonfiction picture book, tons of very engaging andbut information-stuffed prose, tons of pictures, and I feel like I can take as long as I want to get around to the author's adult work Soul of an Octopus now, because I suspect this one might be better.

Drum Dream Girl, by Margarita Engle
Some pictures books just fly, you know? Everything comes together and the experience of reading them is a bit like listening to a poem while dreaming. Marvelous book.

Nueve Dias Para Navidad, by Marie Hall Ets
I wanted to learn more about traditional Mexican Christmas celebrations and this picture book from the 50s was the only book my library had. It's written at like a 2nd-grade level? I was pleased to still have at least enough Spanish to read it. Glad that stuck. The book itself is quite fun in that old-picture-book way.

Lizard from the Park, by Mark Pett
Very well made, did not blow me away as there is an entire genre of such books (SPOILER: kid discovers dinosaur), for many different age levels, and I read pretty much ALL of them as a kid (and still do for that matter, 'cause my niece likes dinosaurs too). So, you know, it's cool. But there weren't really any distinguishing features.

The Grasshopper and the Ants, by Jerry Pinkney
The art is the amazing beautiful Jerry Pinkney art, but I felt like his retelling really didn't have the power I was hoping for (based on my love for his book about the mouse and the lion). It's a perfectly *serviceable* retelling, but that's all. Good thing that art is so amazing.

Leo: A Ghost Story, by Mac Barnett
Probably my favorite of all the picture books I read this year. The illustrations and the text are very old-school but also very fresh and the story and the word choice are so darn good. Gnah! Why are the best picture books always the hardest to talk about? Even though it was published this year, I felt like I was discovering a lost classic from Crockett Johnson or something, like it had just been part of the Ursula Nordstrom canon since long before I was born and I had never happened to come across it before. LOVED it.
maribou: (Default)
Waiting, by Kevin Henkes
Cute but not super-memorable picture book. The situation was a lot more compelling than the plot. The illustrations were very pretty.

Ask Me, by Bernard Waber
This is a sweet, bright, and movingly illustrated story about a girl and her dad that I very much would not recommend to anyone who is estranged from their dad because of some really terrible stuff. Especially if some of the GOOD things they remember about their dad had to do with being out in nature together. Hooboy. *feels sad just remembering how sad and wistful she felt reading the book*

Earmuffs for Everyone!, by Meghan Mccarthy
A delightful nonfiction picture book biography about the guy who gets all the credit for inventing earmuffs. The pictures are funny and the text is thought-provoking. When I was a kid I went through an obsessed-with-the-processes-of-invention-and-being-famous-for-inventing phase and my head would've exploded over this book.

Mr. Postmouse's Rounds, by Marianne Dubuc
Absolutely lovely. Richard Scarry-esque, yet also quite clearly coming from the French rather than the American picture book tradition. I felt lighter after reading this book.

The Princess and the Pony, by Kate Beaton
I liked this! Quite a lot! Perhaps I have broken my weird aversion to Kate Beaton (who I really OUGHT to like as her stuff is right up the maribou alley) and I will now be able to appreciate her cartoons for grownups! We can only hope!

Sona and the Wedding Game, by Kashmira Sheth
I have no idea how I ended up reading this but it was really nice. A sympathetic main character, secondary characters that are fleshed out beyond one-dimensionality by pictures that make you feel like you're in the room with the people being portrayed, and a plot that is both funny and educational.

Mama's Nightingale, by Edwidge Danticat
This is a polemic in the clothing of a picture book and if it were written by anyone other than Edwidge Danticat it would probably fail miserably. Because she is an amazing writer (and found an excellent illustrator), it has loads of attractive personality and can get away with its polemic-ness. At least for those readers (like me) who agree with it. I feel a bit weird when picture books are so cheerfully banging kids over the head with a political message that is pretty darn upsetting, but in this case I think it walks the line well enough to school them without hurting them. Still, feels a bit weird.

My Pen, by Christopher Myers
A marvelous illustrator who is not so good at telling a story. But the illustrations were fabulous!

I Will Chomp You!, by Jory John
This is one of those break-the-fourth-wall picture books. At first I thought it was just another solid example of such with lots of repetition and bright colors, but then I ended up reading it aloud to some of my college-age student workers (long story) and it is AMAZING as a read aloud. They loved it, I loved it, my spouse and our friend who walked into the library in the middle loved it, random people in the library lobby loved it... score!
maribou: (book)
The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015, edited by Tim Folger and Rebecca Skloot
NO content-less polemic! Only a BIT of content-full polemic (and it was good)! More nature writing than technology writing (O.O)!! I liked, or more than liked, every single essay!!! BEST AM SCI NAT EVER!!!!!

Third Grave Dead Ahead, by Darynda Jones
This series is getting a lot more tightly written and it's still just as funny. (I also think it's heating up, although that might have more to do with where in the hormonal cycle I am when I read one than anything else... *blushes*) Love it when I am sitting near the beginning of an urban fantasy series wishing there were MORE than 8 books already written ...

Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate
The most charming and hopeful middle-grade problem novel I have ever read. Really well done, and I love the ambiguity about Crenshaw's reality juxtaposed with the stubborn, endearing realness of his character.

Loula and Mister the Monster, by Anne Villeneuve
This picture book is as playful and floppy as the titular monster (really a dog). Thumbs up.

It's Only Stanley, by Jon Agee
I wanted to love this scifi picture book, because it is so creative and funny (both text and drawings) and the story is neat. But we just never clicked that well. I did like it though.

The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt
I had been avoiding this picture book ever since it came out because it was SOOOOOOOO overhyped, but then the sequel came out and I wanted to read it. So, you know. It was actually pretty awesome! But not quite as awesome as the children's-book-reviewing community would lead one to believe. Fun pictures, funny epistolatory text, sly references from one to the other, kids no doubt dig it.

Dear Yeti, by James Kwan
ADORBS. I just want to pick this book up and squeeze it and kiss it on its dear little head. Pictures are adorable, story is adorable, messages are adorable. *beams*

The Girl Who Spun Gold, by Virginia Hamilton
A retelling of Rumpelstiltskin in the style of an African folktale, with vivid and suitably mythic illustrations. I like this BETTER than the usual version of Rumpelstiltskin. Which is surprising (I have been borderline obsessed with Rumpelstiltskin since small) - except that it's Virginia Hamilton, so, you know, not surprising.

The Whisper, by Pam Zagarenski
A strong contender for Favorite Picture Book of the Year. Not, this time, for what it does for my little-kid side (though she approves), but instead because it makes grown-up me so happy. Inspiring text that does not set off my cynic alarms, beautiful art that is delightfully strange and just a tiny bit uncomfortable. I checked it out from the library, read it twice, and then purchased one copy for me and one for my oldest niece.
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