I recently attended the Great Books Consortium, in which Pete & Pickles by Berkeley Breathed (creator of the comic strip Opus) was chosen by a committee of children’s librarians from across the state of Maryland, as the best picture book of the past year. It’s certainly an interesting story, about a pig named Pete, who lives a quiet and simple existence, until he runs into Pickles, a runaway circus elephant. At first Pete is alarmed by the changes Pickles brings to his life, but soon finds himself unable to live without the unpredictable pacidurm. The book deals indirectly with the loss of a loved one, so it may not be suited to especially sensitive children.
I love Baseball Hour by Carol Nevius with illustrations by Bill Thomson. In it we are privy to an hour of practice for a little league baseball team. Every type of child is represented–all races, boys and girls, tall and short, lean and portly–working as a team, having fun, and competing. Watch them jog, stretch, toss and catch balls, swing bats, and win! Talk to your child about the importance of exercise and teamwork with this action packed story filled with realistically detailed sepia-toned illustrations. This book truly scores a homerun!
For a child, being served a dinner of your least favorite foods can be a devastating event. So begins Last Night by Korean artist Hyewon Yum. A little girl, dejected by an unsavory meal, goes to bed, finding consolation in the form of her stuffed bear. In her dream world, the bear comes alive (growing to the size of a real bear), and takes her on an adventure. She and Bear travel to the forest, to meet some woodland friends. They dance, play hide and seek, go fishing, have a bonfire, then fall asleep in a clearing. When the little girl wakes, her disastrous supper is forgotten and so starts a new day.
Who is Melvin Bubble by Nick Bruel is a very clever book that might help introduce your child to the concepts of identity and perspective. Melvin Bubble appears to be a regular kid. But who is he really? If you ask his dad, he’ll say he’s a chip off the old block! If you ask his mom, she’ll ramble on about his messy room. If you ask his friend Jimmy, he’ll say Melvin is the coolest ever because he can whistle through his nose! But don’t stop there–ask his dog: “Woof Woof Arf Woof,” ask his teddy bear: “He really likes hugs!” Ask a talking zebra, or a magic rock, or even Melvin himself. They’ll all have something different to say. Because a person can be significant for multiple reasons, and everyone has a unique opinion.
Cat & Mouse by Ian Schoenherr was one of my favorite books last year, but it kicked up a bit of controversy among my colleagues in the children’s librarian community (and what a community it is! I’m so proud to be a member). Schoenherr adapts a few well-known nursery rhymes, “I Love My Little Kitty,” “Hickory Dickory Dock,” and “Eeny Meeny Miney Mo,” into a Tom-and-Jerry-esque romp between a saucer-eyed cat and an acrobatic mouse, natural enemies who turn out to be best friends in the end. The illustrations are strikingly detailed. I think they’re just gorgeous! But you may want to have a discussion with your child about the proper way to treat animals, before and after you read it (some might say the mouse is a little malicious).
To celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss, who was born 105 years ago this month, we held a large celebration at our library centered around his masterpiece Horton Hears a Who, the story of a kind-hearted elephant who discovers an entire city of tiny people living on a dust speck and vows to protect them because, after all, “a person’s a person no matter how small.” It was a pleasure to share my love for Horton with the children who attended our party. Like many of Seuss’s works, Horton Hears a Who teaches us valuable lessons, in this case about tolerance for others’ cultures and beliefs. If everyone was as caring and open-minded as Horton, I believe the world would be a better place. So please read this book to your child! A young person can’t have much of a better role model than Horton the elephant.