Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Picture Books

I love kids picture books. Seriously. love love love love

I always look forward to the awarding of the Caldecott medal every January. (The Caldecott medal is given by the American Library Association to the "most distinguished American picture book for children.")

Last year, the award was given to The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The kids and I were very excited because we loved that book and even had the great thrill of seeing the author/illustrator Brian Selznick give a fascinating talk at the Dallas Museum of Art last year.

This year the Caldecott Medal winner is The House in the Night, illustrated by Beth Krommes, written by Susan Marie Swanson. We haven't read this one, but our local library has it, so it's on my list for our next trip. (Though honestly, from the images I've seen on Amazon, I don't think it's going to blow me away.)

The Caldecott Committee also names three honor books (runners up, I guess). This year they chose A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, written and illustrated by Marla Frazee.We haven't read this one either and our local library doesn't even have it. Yet. (I will put in a request straight away.) But, I adore Marla Frazee. She is the author of one of my all time favorite kids' books, Seven Silly Eaters.

Also winning an honor medal, How I Learned Geography, written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz.

We did read this book. It was ok. The kids didn't love it. I will say that as I peruse the Caldecott winners and honor books of the past several years, there always seems to be a suspiciously political book among the winners. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But, "distinguished" illustrations? I'm not so sure. Shulevitz also won an Honor medal for his book Snow. I liked it better.

And the final Honor Medal went to ...

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant.

This book is extraordinary. I loved it so much!

In fact, I'm sad I've put it way down at the bottom of this post. Are you still reading? If so, stop right now and rush out to the library to get this book.

I can't begin to say how much I loved it. The illustrations are an inspired combination of collage, mixed media, sketches, words and other ephemera. It's the story of the great American poet, William Carlos Williams. He was also a doctor and wrote poetry when he wasn't treating patients. I think it's a great message to share with kids: find a place for art and creativity in your life.

Apparently, the committee has been criticized in the past for ignoring books of poetry for children. Though this book is not an anthology of poetry, it certainly could inspire kids to embrace poetry. Which is good!

William Carlos Williams' poems also play an important part in another book that we loved: Love That Dog by Sharon Creech.
If you love dogs, poetry, school, kids and/or books you should read this book. (And the sequel Hate That Cat.) Tuck a tissue in your pocket before you get to the end.

I have also discovered that Melissa Sweet has two other similarly illustrated books called Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women and The Sky's the Limit: Stories of Discovery by Women and Girls. You know they are all my library list!

Ok, those are my recommendations for now. If you've read them, I'm eager to hear what you think!


Joanne said...

We are going to expand our horizons today! (We might have to wait until you return the books back to the library tho'!)

dee said...

I have a collection of William Carlos Williams and an thrilled that you found him. He was a favorite writer of mine for many years. His Biography is good reading-a very interesting Dr. and man.

Anonymous said...

I have long been a collector of Caldecott and Newberry award winners. First, for my sons and, now, for my future grandchildren (if either of the boys ever gets around to getting married- ok, Joey is only 17; no hurry there).

Wanted to let you know the quilt arrived safely and is happily hanging in my bedroom cheering me every morning! I think it will have to be a "traveling" piece as it can go to Nova Scotia with me for the summer. I am going to show it to my guild and see if they will consider you to teach in 2011 (next retreat).



Olenka said...

Although I don't have children of my own, years ago I taught music & art to 5-9 year olds. I enjoyed discovering a few of these at our new library. Love That Dog felt so true to a child's perspective and I love the way he interweaves the poetry. Thanks for the recommendations!

Lauri said...

Thank you so much for that great list! The Williams book sounds fantastic, and seriously, I think I need that geography book for my ninth grader!

I was SUCH a reader when I was a Mom even says that I "always had my nose in a book". I assummed my children would be big readers also. I was so wrong! They are just like their engineer dad. So I'm always looking for good books to get them reading.

Thanks again!