Saturday, December 21, 2013

Last Minute Gift Ideas: books for the kids in your life

Books always make great gifts.  Especially if you're shopping last minute.  Your local Barnes & Noble is a great place for clutch gifts.

For kids, I love to give funny books.  Some of my top picks for funny gift books are:

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers:  full of wonderful absurdity.  We never get sick of it.

Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger:  unexpectedly funny, with a point.

That Is Not a Good Idea!  by Mo Willems:  hilarious twist ending and lots of kid participation.

Also, you can never go wrong with my very favorite picture book, Extra Yarn  by Mac Barnett.

Or Red Cat, Blue Cat by Jenni Desmond.

I'll force myself to stop there, I could go on forever.  If you're interested in more ideas, check out my Best Picture Books of 2013 or 31 Days of Children's Book Crushes.  If you have a Young Adult you are buying for, check out 31 Days of Young Adult Book Reviews for ideas.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Once upon a northern night

I have a new illustration crush.

Isabelle Arsenault.  

Oh my.  The beauty.  

I am currently enthralled with grey-toned illustrations with limited hits of color.  Isabelle does this and creates infinite gorgeousness.  Forgive me for my penchant for hyperbole when I am in love.  I can't help myself.

You must get yourself a copy of Once Upon a Northern Night .  The text is a poem by Jean E. Pendziwol and I love the way she fashions words almost as much as I love Arsensault's artwork.  The poem is dreamy, a soft wintry love note to a child.  I want to type you every word, right here.  But I don't think that's legal.  Enlarge these photos for a taste.

Now please excuse me while I update my Best Picture Books of 2013 booklist.  This calls for an amendment.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On Sale: The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park

I love to pass along great book deals.  Author John Green is wonderful for noting this one earlier today:

HARDCOVER edition of The Fault in Our Stars is only $5.99 on Amazon right now as Lightning Deal.   The same is true for Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.  Two of my favorite reads this year.  You can read my original reviews of each {TFIOS here} and {E&P here}. Great Christmas gifts for yourself or a friend.

**FYI - You have to click the link and look to the right side of the screen to see the deal.  It's only going on a bit longer today...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What I'm Working on Wednesday: Dream Chasing

Chasing a dream can be really scary.  Many days it's easier to get discouraged and quit than to keep going.  I'm getting crazy close to wrapping up a book dummy to send to my dream agent.  The closer I get, the louder the fear gets.

(I would use a marathon analogy here, but if you saw me try to run, you wouldn't be able to take me seriously.)

I just read {this} on Jon Acuff's blog and it made me smile and feel hopeful.  So tonight I plan to gather up my courage and my best ninja skills -- and draw more Beatrice, my favorite well-meaning thief.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Best Children's Picture Books of 2013

There are already tons of BEST OF lists floating around, but I had to pull one of my own favorites together.  The first section I dart to every week at my library is the New Books display.  There is hardly anything more fun than the joy of discovering a new great book to love.  

by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Bully is pure brilliance.  I haven't laughed this hard reading something in a very long time.  Minimalist, hilarious and deep -- Laura Seeger hit a home run.

That Is Not a Good Idea!  
by Mo Willems

Another hilarious winner.  It's Mo Willems after all.  A nasty wolf attempts to lead the mother duck home for dinner.  Her little chicks continually interject, "That is NOT a good idea!"  -- a phrase that children quickly grab onto and shout along.  The ending is an awesome, and very funny, twist.

If You Want to See a Whale
by Julie Fogliao, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

I hope that Julie Fogliao and Erin Stead continue to make lots of books together.  After reading about Stead's wood stamping process, I am endlessly enthralled with her illustrations.  And Fogliao's text is lyrical poetry.  I love reading every word.  What amazes me most is that my kids ask for it again and again.  I happily oblige.

The Dark  
by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen

I was looking forward to this one for quite a while.  Then the nicest friend in the world gave it to me for my birthday shortly after its release.  Little Laszlo is afraid of the dark, until he and the dark get on friendlier terms.  The illustrations are as fabulous as you would expect from Klassen.  And Snicket's writing is perfectly timed, except for one oddly verbose page...(which I choose to ignore and love the whole thing anyway).

Journey  by Aaron Becker

Aaron Becker's wordless journey in ink and watercolor is dreamy and full of wonder.  It's reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon, but with more enchantment.

The Day the Crayons Quit
by Drew Dewalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Though I don't love that the crayons are so cranky, I love the creativity this book encourages. If there is anyone qualified to produce a book about using color more freely it's Oliver Jeffers.  I often stare at the illustrations from Stuck, smiling and marveling at his bizarre color selections.  The Day the Crayons Quit has already inspired many zany coloring sessions around here, and I've heard the word "Again!", again and again and again.

Exclamation Mark  
by Amy Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

Poor exclamation point just doesn't fit in, no matter what he tries.  Eventually he discovers the joy and uniqueness of being himself.  After all, he is, inherently, very exciting.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
by Peter Brown

Some people just know how to make a picture book.  Peter Brown is one of those people.  With amazing artwork and perfectly paced text, he tells the amusing tale of Mr. Tiger who just wants to loosen up a bit.  When he finally does, others around him feel more free to be themselves too.

Flora and the Flamingo
by Molly Idle

A rare illustrated masterpiece.  Another wordless book staking a spot.

Rosie Revere, Engineer  
by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

Years ago I had an idea for a book called Ollie Quid, Architect Kid.  I was totally geeked.  While searching to see if the idea had already been done, I found Iggy Peck, Architect.  I would have been mad if it wasn't so well done.  Rosie Revere, Engineer has the same cheeky, rhyming text and awesomely textured illustrations.  What surprised me was the tie in to Rosie the Riveter and the history of women in the field.  Double bravo, Andrea Beaty and David Roberts.

Inside Outside
by Lizi Boyd

Inside Outside wordlessly explores the seasons in this book full of cut-outs and peek throughs.  I love the graphic quality of the artwork and my boys are completely fascinated with the peek-a-boos.

Fraidyzoo by Thyra Heder

I love the quirky joy that exudes from this book.  One sister can't wait to go to the zoo, but the other is afraid...though she can't remember why.  The whole zany family takes part in a memory-jogging guessing game through an alphabet of choices.  Thyra Heder takes alphabet books to the next level with this one.  It's a book that champions family love, creativity and intelligence.

hello! hello!  
by Matthew Cordell

There have been a lot of anti-technology books lately.  I find most of them cumbersome and deflating.  Hello! Hello!, though, left me with a bursting feeling in my chest, rejoicing in the wonder of life.

Lion vs Rabbit by Alex Latimer

Alex Latimer is consistently climbing my ladder of favorite picture book makers.  I'm so glad that he didn't turn out to be a one-hit-wonder.  All of his books combine wit and humor with deceiving simplicity.  Lion vs. Rabbit confronts the topic of bullying, as the animals in the jungle enlist the help of a want-ad to find a solution to their lion problem.  A little rabbit answers their ad, and beats the lion -- almost fair and square.

Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Matthew Myers

I smirk just thinking about this one.  Though it's not a book for everyone, it is definitely a book for us.  Irreverently funny, the premise is that a little boy desecrates a typical boring birthday book to make things more...interesting.  The original story is there, with erasure marks and penciled in words and drawings overlaid, as Alex creates a new story all his own.  It can be a tricky read.  My boys liked hearing the original story first, then reading it again with all of Alex's changes.  You can feel the fun that was had in this collaboration of children's book masters.

Once Upon a Northern Night
by Jean E. Pendziwol, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Pure gorgeousness.  A soft, wintry love note to a child.  With this I have fallen utterly in love with Isabelle Arsenault and her beautiful artwork.  And this is a perfect pairing. Pendziwol fashions words with the same grace.  {See my more lengthy, swoony review here}.


Finally, a little honorable mention, for a book that was originally released in 2010, but was just printed in the U.S. in 2013:

Which Is Round? 
Which Is Bigger?
by Mineko Mamada

A clever, clever little book about changing perception.  We've had tons of fun reading it over and over and even creating our own pages.

My conclusion about our favorites:  Mostly, we like to laugh.  Occasionally we like to inspired with dreamy poetic wonder.

What were your favorites this year?  
Any Caldecott predictions?