Noted by The New York Times to be one of the best illustrated children’s books of 2008, A River of Words by Jen Bryant, is a wonderful juvenile biography of William Carlos Williams, American poet, 1883-1963, best known for works like “The Red Wheelbarrow” and “This is Just to Say.” Willie Williams grew up in Rutherford, NJ. In school, English was his favorite subject. He loved to read and write poetry, and was inspired by simple things found in everyday life. But Willie knew that poets did not earn much money, and he needed to support his family, so he went to medical school and became a doctor. Although he spent his days healing the sick, he always found time for poetry. An inspiring story, with touching collage illustrations by Melissa Sweet.
Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein is a book with many layers, much like its collage art illustrations by Ed Young. On the surface it’s the story of a cat named Wabi Sabi, who is trying to discover the meaning of her name, but underneath it is influenced by Zen philosophy. Wabi Sabi is a Japanese concept which finds beauty in things that are simple, imperfect, natural, modest, and mysterious. This explains why everyone the cat asks tells her “it’s hard to explain,” why the city she walks through is not as pretty as the woods that surround it, and why she finally understands the meaning of her name when she sees herself, plain but beautiful, in the reflection of a wooden bowl of warm tea.
Frankenstein Takes the Cake is a humorous book of poetry by Adam Rex. It begins in a graphic-novel-esque format, with comic panels depicting Frankenstein’s bride introducing her green fiance to her judgmental mother. Wedding plans follow, interrupted occasionally with blogs by the headless horseman, and musings from Edgar Allan Poe and his rather unimpressed pet bird (quoth the raven “What a bore”), among other meanderings, up until Frank’s big day, featuring a very bewildered flower girl, and best man Dracula disgusted by the garlic bread at the buffet. Check out this story for a frighteningly good laugh.