Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wandering the library

I'm at a library waiting while Abbie is in Mandarin class, so I took some time to browse the picture books. Some random reactions:

Will Hillenbrand's illustrations for Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep! are wonderful. There's something really captivating about a childlike bear. I also love Jez Alborough's bear from Where's My Teddy? I wonder what it is: the hope that all big, scary things have a soft side? the desire of a big person to still be a child?

(Aside: I was somewhat gratified to see that Hillenbrand, who lives in Cincinnati, doesn't keep his website up to date. Because I like knowing that successful people fall down on the job sometimes too.)

Another book whose illustrations I liked was The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino. Sort of retro in feel, but nice. Lots of information packed in, too.

The Clever Stick by John Lechner is well done and has a good moral, but I guess what bothers me is the very fact that I think it has a moral. Perhaps a little too straightforward for my tastes. Interesting to compare it to the recent Not a Stick by Antoinette Porter and think about all the other picture books where a stick plays a major role: The Seeing Stick by Jane Yolen, Anansi and the Magic Stick by Eric Kimmel, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

A title I've seen mentioned a lot, partly because it was released about the same time as Maggie's Monkeys and both end up on lists of books about zoo animals (!), is Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo by Ayun Halliday and illustrated by Dan Santat. Great title, great premise but I felt a little uneasy when it got into what various animals fattened their heinies on:
"The panda's can is fattened on bamboo. The lioness's? On zebra and gnu."
An unsuspecting parent could get drawn into a conversation he or she wasn't ready for with that one. Love the back cover illustration, though. After a discussion of how humans keep their heinies covered at the zoo, it shows the backside of a joyful-looking toddler in birthday suit.