It seems I have been reading about the death of the printed book for half my life. And still we keep reading real books and writing about them, too. And now I find myself picking up so many wonderful picture books in which the main character is a book. It’s enough to bring a tear to this book lover’s eye and a smile to teachers and librarians everywhere.
A BOY FINDS HIS BOOK
One intriguing new book feels good to read. Its red cover and faux linen spine harkens back to the days when picture book covers were plain, with little more that the title and author on the cover. Perhaps that’s where the adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” comes from. The cover of The Good Little Book does have googly eyes and the hint of a smile inside the word “good,” but that’s it. It’s just a book. If you want to know more, you’re going to have to open the cover. Canadians Kyo Maclear and Marion Arbona must have had a ball with this one, imagining a bad little boy, sent to the book-filled study to “think things over.” This is not a book-loving boy, either, at least not until he reads The Good Little Book.
Wildly imaginative, colorful gouache and pencil illustrations and fabulous storylines amaze the boy so much that he finishes the book, and turns right back to the beginning and reads it again. And again. The book is the boy’s constant companion for months, until it is lost. He imagines the worst and searches for the book everywhere, even putting up posters and looking in the library. Eventually, he “opens up to other stories,” which is just what a good book does. I'm not usually given to fables about books, but I'll make an exception for this little treasure and will read it aloud over and over, knowing its humor will lead many children to find their very own special book.
THE JOY OF LIBRARIES
Another book about books, this time a compilation of poems, is Jumping Off Library Shelves. It’s hard to say what’s more delightful, Jane Manning’s warm, watery gouache and pencil illustrations or the 15 carefully chosen poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Just when I think I have found a favorite, I turn the page and the next poem tugs at my heart. In the middle is Hopkins' lovely tribute to Augusta Baker, the groundbreaking African-American librarian who was heralded for her storytelling skills. Turn the page and smile to find a red-faced girl lifting a heavy dictionary, the perfect accompaniment to Deborah Ruddell’s "Dictionary Dare," which ends with the delicious “Raise me above your head / fell the quiet weight / of words.” This beautiful volume belongs in every library. Children and adults will find the poems easy to love and easy to memorize.
Young readers often want to write their own stories. And why not? It looks so easy! Rebecca Kai Dotlich teams up with illustrator Fred Koehler in One Day, The End: Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Stories for a humorous but clever look at children’s storytelling. Any parent who has asked, “What happened today?” will recognize their child between the pages of this book. The first “story” is, “One day . . . I went to school. I came home. The End.” The “stories” continue with every page turn: The beginning and end are there, but the middle is missing, much like many a story in an early elementary writing classroom. While a teacher might tease out the middle of a classroom story, the illustrator provides all the details in his humorous, action-packed digital drawings. One can imagine teachers reading this book aloud and encouraging students to slow down and really explore the illustrations, catching details and nuance along the way. Beginning writers and storytellers are often told by their flabbergasted teachers, “You need more details in your story.” This picture book will allow the young writer to really understand what a detail is and how to add it to her stories.