Archive for February, 2012

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Press Here

February 19, 2012

Title: Press Here
Author: Hervè Tullet
Illustrator: Hervè Tullet
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9780811879545
Publisher: Chronicle (2011)
List Price: Hardcover, $15.99

I have a little bone to pick with the world. And that little bone is that we have become quite an impatient bunch of individuals. Spoiled by our iPhones, iPads, iEverything, we want what we want when we want it. And we want it right now. Delayed gratification is just not an option. And, to be honest, we’re not even that great at simply sitting still anymore.

Thus, it isn’t too surprising that “plain old” picture books are being tossed aside for interactive ebooks; in which, letters glow, pictures move, and characters come to life. But the question must be raised: Is the child even reading anymore at that point?

So for those naysayers out there, who claim that printed books are not nearly as entertaining or interactive as their technological brethren, I present Press Here.

Hervè Tullet’s imaginative and engaging picture book is practically flying off bookshelves everywhere (we can barely keep in it stock at my bookstore because it is in such high demand). Tullet greet’s his eager readers with a single yellow dot in a sea of white, and one word, “Ready?”

Seriously, what child wouldn’t be?

After turning the page you see the same yellow dot, and a simple request, “Press here and turn the page.” When you turn the page you see that the single yellow dot has turned into two yellow dots, and you’re asked to press the same dot again. So you do as you’re told, and you turn the page to find that there are now three yellow dots. Tullet congratulates you on your work so far, and urges you on,  “Perfect. Rub the dot on the left… gently.” You rub the dot on the left, turn the page, and see that the yellow dot on the left is now red.

On and on, Tullet has his readers pressing here, tapping there, shaking the book up and down, tilting it too and fro, blowing on the the pages to move the dots this way and that, and clapping to make the dots grow.

Kids (especially those aged four to six) LOVE this book, because they feel like they are in charge of something magical! Little do they know that they are actually learning how to follow directions, and absorbing important information like knowing right from left.

Tullet’s dots are colorful and imperfect, which gives the reader the feeling that each page has been freshly finger-painted just for them. And to make the book even more kid-friendly, it is published with a hard cardboard cover, which provides the sturdy casing needed to meet the demands of all that pressing, poking, and shaking.

Now, a lot of adults don’t understand this book. You want proof? How about the fact a number of big name publishers actually rejected Tullet’s ingenious proposal. Thankfully, the fabulous, and über creative, Chronicle Books, located in San Francisco, saw Press Here for what it was– a silly, but brilliant, text that children could not only learn from, but actually interact with.

Press Here is an automatic favorite with little ones everywhere!

So, TAKE THAT, ebooks!

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Dear Hug Time, Will You Be My Valentine?

February 14, 2012

Title: Hug Time
Author: Patrick McDonnell
Illustrator: Patrick McDonnell
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 978-0316114943
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co. (2007)
List Price: Hardcover, $14.99 / Board Book, $6.99

I know that a lot of people are not too fond of Valentine’s Day. They argue that it is some sort of corporate conspiracy– an evil marketing ploy invented to make us spend money. But don’t you fret, because I am not one of those people. And if you are one of those people… well… you should maybe still read this because it just might melt that cynical little heart of yours…

Homemade Valentine, next to a photo of my actual Valentine. (Please, don't sue me, Maurice Sendak...)

I love February 14th because it combines most* of my favorite things:

  • Chocolate
  • Flowers
  • Snail Mail
  • Super Cute Children’s Books!

The new board book format!

Patrick McDonnell’s Hug Time is the perfect book to read to your little loves this Valentine’s Day. This oh-s0-adorable rhyming picture book, which is also now available as a board book, follows a little kitten named Jules (as seen in McDonnell’s MUTTS comic strip), on his trek around the globe. What is driving this furry feline’s adventure? Why, only his desire to give the whole world a hug, of course!

“There was no one this kitten wanted to miss, so he made (and checked twice) a Hug To-Do List. He hugged his best friends, Mooch, Noodles, and Earl, a butterfly, buttercups, a little gray squirrel. He hugged all the birds he could find in the park. So many to hug before it got dark! Jules jumped on a boat and set out to sail and soon he spotted a big blue tail… attached to a huggable BIG blue whale**”

McDonnell’s writing is simple and sweet. His soft rhymes have a natural flow to them, which make the book perfect for reading out loud (just ask my friends… they’ve all sat patiently to hear it from me at least once). And the story’s soothing message of peace and love is ideal for a cozy bedtime setting. McDonnell introduces his readers to the most lovable, and empathetic, little kitten. And Jules’ genuine care for this world is not only heartwarming, it is also inspiring.

“The boat docked in Africa and Jules kissed the ground– the earth so precious, so fragile, so round. He hugged an elephant and a chimpanzee… a giraffe, a hippo, and a baobab tree. Exploring the rain forest by foot and canoe, Jules discovered a species brand-new. Kneeling, he whispered, ‘We welcome you.'”

Of course, McDonnell’s illustrations are what really make this story a smash. With so few words, each page of colorful drawings is what really carries the reader along Jules’ journey. McDonnell’s strokes may seem simple, but they create so much life. Each of the animals that Jules encounters seems to be more animated than the last. Please pay particular attention to each animal’s facial expression, like the lion’s below. Every animal’s demeanor is different, and yet they are all adorable. With just a few lines, McDonnell can create an exceedingly life-like expression of calm, delight, surprise, or indifference (as with the giraffe, who seems entirely unfazed by the little kitten clutching his nose in a hug). Each animal is beautifully depicted, and each page presents something lovely for little eyes to devour. Honestly, if I could have any of these pages framed for my wall at home, I would do so immediately.

So this Valentine’s Day, instead of those gross conversation hearts, treat the little ones that you care about to Hug Time!

I’m sending love to you all! Thank you for reading!

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Notes:

* If Valentine’s Day somehow included whales and Jane Austen, I would probably die of happiness…

** Ah ha! This Valentine’s Day DOES include a whale! Wait ’til you see the illustration of Jules trying to hug a giant blue whale… le sigh…

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Like Patrick McDonnell? Check out what I have to say about one of his other books, Me… Jane.
 
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One Cool Friend

February 3, 2012

Title: One Cool Friend
Author: Toni Buzzeo
Illustrator: David Small
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9780803734135
Publisher: Dial (2011)
List Price: Hardcover, $16.99

So… I know it is only February, but I think I may have found my favorite book of the year. Is that even possible?

If One Cool Friend, by Toni Buzzeo (Penelope Popper, Book Doctor) and David Small (Imogene’s Antlers, So You Want to Be President?) is any indication of the quality of picture books that will be published in 2012, then we are in for quite a treat. Clever, silly, and surprising, young readers will love this tale of unlikely friendships and hilarious misunderstandings.

Buzzeo writes that “Elliot was a very proper young man,” which all readers can see from his quiet disposition, elevated language, and a black & white wardrobe (complete with bow-tie) that would make Edgar Allen Poe proud. While visiting the aquarium with his father one day, unruffled Elliot becomes quite taken by the Magellanic Penguins.

“In their tidy black feather tuxedos with their proper posture, they reminded Elliot of himself.”

Elliot identifies with the little dapper dudes so much that he decides to take one home with him… only after first asking his father for permission, of course.

Unfortunately, Elliot’s turtle-obsessed father, distracted by his latest copy National Geographic Magazine misunderstands Elliot’s request, and believes that the boy would simply like to take home a plush penguin from the gift shop. Hilarity ensues, as the young boy turns his room in to an Antarctic wonderland for his new friend, Magellan, and Elliot and his father continue to misinterpret one another. Can Elliot and Magellan successfully evade detection? Readers will be laughing out loud when all comes to light at the end of the story.

I fell in love with David Small’s art at a very young age, when Imogene’s Antlers was my bed-time book of choice (I could, and probably should, write a whole separate post about that one, because it such a personal favorite, so stay tuned). However, his illustrations for One Cool Friend are just as charming. His celebrated mixed-media artwork is full of creative details, interesting snippets of newspapers & maps, and fabulous pops of color. He has also drawn speech and thought bubbles around Elliot & his father’s dialogue, as well as their inside thoughts, which adds a creative, and slightly comic-strip, feel to the text. Readers will find themselves looking back through each page, searching for the small details that hint at the book’s silly conclusion.

One Cool Friend is an absolute joy to read! It is imaginative, hilarious, and adorable. I also find it rather amusing that it is a book about a penguin, and it is published by Dial, which is an imprint of Penguin… is that only funny to me?

Either way, I’m serious folks… this one is a winner…