Picture Book Fall 2013 Must-Reads
Kids and adults alike will find plenty to enjoy in our fall picture book preview, with its blend of the familiar and the new: Beloved author/illustrators Eric Carle and Peter Brown return with engaging new tales of friendship and breaking the mold. Another familiar face is pint-sized protagonist "Madeline"--John Bemelmans Marciano has taken over his grandfather's legacy to release new additions to the beloved series. In addition, check out charming debuts such as Pat Zietlow Miller's "Sophie's Squash." Whether your ideal picture book stars humans and animals, or covers love of felines or more serious issues such as bullying and the Vietnam War, our shortlist will keep you and your little ones turning pages all through autumn.
Beloved picture book author Eric Carle drew on his memories of a childhood friend to create this tale of a boy whose closest friend, a girl, unexpectedly moves away. Young readers will be encouraged to stretch their imaginations as they join the boy on a magical trip, swimming through rivers and tumbling down mountains, to find his friend. Onomatopoetic asides ("Then, all of a sudden, it began to rain. Splish! Splash!") will make kids feel as if they're with the boy on his journey all the way through to its happy conclusion.
Young readers will sympathize with being told not to act like wild animals… but what if you are actually a wild animal? That's the dilemma for Mr. Tiger, who's fed up with a life of top hats and table manners. As he gets on all fours and sheds his civilized life for the wilderness, the color scheme changes from dull browns and grays to the vibrant colors of the jungle. Peter Brown's illustrations are subtle yet vivid, and make for a dazzling read.
Readers of "The Hunger Games" are aware that Suzanne Collins knows plenty about war, but her first picture book reveals how closely the Vietnam War affected her. In "Year of the Jungle," Collins recalls the period of her childhood in which her father was overseas fighting. For the most part, the reminisces focus on his absence in her and her siblings' lives as the seasons and milestones pile up. However, she also incorporates tidbits of news stories that provided a limited, but anxious, context. As Walter Dean Myer does with "Invasion," Collins doesn't gloss over the dangers of war: Little Sue's dreams of an idealized, "Where the Wilds Things Are"-esque jungle gradually turn dark and ominous, the animals replaced by tanks and helicopters.
Jerry Pinkney follows up his celebrated "The Lion & the Mouse" with another illustrated Aesop's fable, perhaps the most well-known: "The Tortoise & the Hare." Unlike other retellings, the book includes almost no dialogue, save for the tortoise's famous phrase--"slow and steady wins the race"--that takes pages of action to build up to. One especially nice touch is that, while the tortoise wins as usual, the hare doesn't throw a tantrum. Instead, he learns humility.
Writer/illustrator John Bemelmans Marciano carries on his grandfather Ludwig Bemelmans' "Madeline" legacy with this newest adventure--which sees the 12 little girls in two straight lines coming face-to-face with an unhappy ghost. As usual, Madeline is the bravest of the bunch, investigating the moans coming from their attic with her friend Pepito in tow. Marciano's mix of full-color narration and eerie yellow tones for the spirit tell a fun ghost story without giving young readers nightmares.
We've heard stories of children who become attached to animals their family is later supposed to eat--but how about a squash? In Pat Zietlow Miller's celebrated debut, Sophie picks up a butternut squash at the farmer's market, then names it Bernice and refuses to let her mother cook it. "Well, we did hope she'd love vegetables," her helpless parents joke. This quirky premise makes the lessons of friendship and love go down smoother than a bowl of butternut squash soup.
It's tough being alone on top of the food chain! Cleverly drawing from the shark attack movies and "big bad wolf" folk tales from our childhood, Aaron Reynolds presents the archetypal predators--then reveals their sensitive sides. Dan Santat's coy illustrations make the carnivores seem even more sympathetic. This book would make a great pairing with Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph," which contains a similar philosophy about how it's OK to embrace being a bad guy--or, in this case, a meat-eater.
In his new picture book, William Joyce reaches out to all the kids who suffer itches they can't scratch, embarrassing smells or missing homework. It's not their fault! It's the Mischievians--impish creatures who cause trouble and get kids blamed for their antics. In his inventive new work, little ones can meet the Homework Eater, the Yawn Mower and more. Warning: "The Mischievians did it!" may become a more frequent excuse in your household.
Lulu's romp through the snow casts a snow day in a delightful new light: Snowdrifts are frosted cupcakes, and her icy breath is a dragon's plume of smoke. But, with the fun comes the frustration of slogging through the snow--until Lulu remembers that she's Ladybug Girl, and she can make it to the top of the snowy mountain. Whether or not your kids live in a snowy climate, they'll enjoy this wintry tale.
Brian is a sweet, quiet boy with a vivid imagination and the artistic talent to put the creatures in his head to paper--but he might as well be invisible for the way he's ignored by fellow kids in the cafeteria and his teacher in the classroom. However, when new boy Justin arrives, Brian sees an opportunity to reach out to someone who hasn't yet had the chance to disregard him. Patrice Barton's illustrations reveal how a vibrant child can hide in the shadows, while Trudy Ludwig's story is spare but inspiring.
11.I See Kitty
As if her "Cat vs. Human" webcomic weren't enough of an argument, Yasmine Surovec's delightful picture book proves that we all have felines on the brain. Little Chloe sees kitties everywhere--at the pet store, at the bus stop, even in the starry night sky. Trading snark for sweetness, Surovec uses her bold artwork to celebrate how irresistible these fluffy pets are. Whether or not they like cats in real life, little ones will be charmed.