Both the release of A Child of Books and a new school year got me thinking about wonderful picture books that celebrate reading. So here goes—some of my favorites that say cheers to a good book, to reading, to story itself:
“The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws…”
So starts this genius picture book.
And then, different beings see that cat walking through the world. And they all see the cat differently according to their own perspectives, interpretations, and even the way their sense of sight works. Those whiskers, ears, and paws are not as fixed as they may first appear.
Brendan Wenzel has created a book that explores subjectivity and imagination through how one cat can contain multitudes and many disparate qualities depending on who’s doing the seeing. (And, by extension, how all the things and people and events in the world contain multitudes if you look from different points of view.)
Not to mention that the mediums and evocations of the art are as varied as the perspectives. I also love the furry endpapers.
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Let’s take a look. Is the seer up close or far away? In a bowl, like the fish? On its back like the flea? In the sky like the bird?
What does the seer see when it sees a cat? A friend or foe? Something innocuous or something threatening?
Does the seer see in pixels or in black and white? In infrared like the snake? Those are probably my favorite spreads: the bee, the snake, and the skunk. How fun to imagine how other creatures see the world! And how important to imagine how other humans see the world too.
In the end, the cat is all of these things.
What do you see when you see a cat? What do you see when you see this or that? What do you see when you see yourself?
Big thanks to Chronicle Books for images! A perfect publisher for this book as its motto is “see things differently”!
And you may want to check out the activity kit for the book too.
Emily Arrow has stopped by once before and I couldn’t be more honored and delighted that she’s here once again to share her singular talents and premiere her “They All Saw a Cat” song for you!
Could there be a more perfect summer reading tribute? This picture book is about the joy of reading—alone. Only in this case, the main character can never get to the alone part. That’s because this lively, clever story is full of spoiler alerting animals. Without the alerts and just the spoilers. Any reader can relate.
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All the boy wants is to dive into and finish his book without being disturbed. But no matter how hard he tries, some animal who loves to read comes along and spoils all the juicy parts.
So he finds an unspoiled book and sneaks away. But things don’t go as planned.
Can we talk about Isabelle Roxas’s illustrations? The oversized glasses. The grape rhino. In a cave, in ice, or in a jungle, the colors and patterns pop on the page. And the hide and seek animals! There’s more to those yellow tree trunks than at first meets the eye. There are so many storytelling details like that. The art starts in muted, earthy tones of yellow and brown. And when things get going, when something crucial changes, the palette turns to blues and purples. There is so much style and substance in this artwork.
That dragonfly there? He’s important. He’s the only one who doesn’t get to give anything away. But if he’d finished his sentence, he would have. Let’s just say our main character is about to engage in the story in a pretty big way.
This book celebrates the way reading can be an immersive experience. You might just get soaked.
You know what every reader needs? Reading glasses. And not necessarily the kind that help you see better. The kind that let everyone know you’re reading alone and not to be disturbed (or have the story spoiled).
So, I give you pipe cleaner Do Not Disturb Glasses!
All you need is pipe cleaners, that staple of kids crafts, and a pair of scissors. Then, shape and bend and and twist and cut away! A kid can make the glasses while a grownup is probably better suited to make the letters (and make the cuts). But anyone can wear them once they’re done! You can even custom-size a pair to its owner. One tip is to connect the letters to one another to form a kind of base/underline. That way, you can more easily twist them onto the glasses. Another tip—the round lenses are actually a double layer of pipe cleaners in order to keep the front edge tidy, not showing the fastening of letters to lens. Big thanks to my dude, Todd Davis, for crafting the glasses with more finesse than I could ever muster.
I’m giving away a copy of Let Me Finish! that’s autographed by both Minh Lé & Isabel Roxas! (And there will be a few other goodies in the winner’s envelope as well.)
This Picture Book Life is three years old this month. Woo hoo!
The Importance of Being Three by Lindsay Ward (2016) is a joyfully good book to celebrate threes. And while a perfect toddler birthday gift, I think it works pretty well for a picture book blog third birthday too.
“Three bears, three pigs. Three kittens, too!
Three primary colors—red, yellow, and blue…
I’ve learned so much since I was two.”
To thank you for reading along here, I’m giving away a copy of The Importance of Being Three. Just leave a comment below for a chance to win.
(Open to N. America only; ends Saturday, July 23 at midnight PST.)
And cheers to the next year of picture books brought to life! I hope you’ll join me.
This book reads like an old-timey movie, in a very good way. Spotlighted moments. Text that accompanies the illustrations, but feels like captions, almost like the title cards of silent films. Just look at that lamppost on the cover and the illustrations—grainy black and white.
And then there are threes. A girl. A stray dog who was not always a stray. A juggling father. Three mornings. Three flashbacks to life before. Three times on stage. Three characters who come together in the end in the most wonderful way.
“About six years ago I adopted a little dog I named Lucy. I soon found that she was funnier, more energetic, and more mischievous than just about any dog I had ever known.”
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First, we follow Lucy the dog through town, all the way to the girl, Eleanor Wische’s house. Eleanor attaches sausage to a piece of string and lowers it through the window to where Lucy waits. This feels like a magic trick and relates to the father, Sam, who is a juggler, its own kind of magic. The dog is the girl’s secret. Juggling is the father’s—every time he unveils it, his hands don’t work. Lucy the dog has secrets too: her sneaks into the butcher shop to steal a snack, her untold memories of her former life.
As for how juggling made its way into the book, it definitely has nothing to do with my ability to juggle, because I can’t juggle at all.
I probably had the idea of a vaudeville environment first, because I thought it would be visually interesting, and because of all the fun acts I could potentially come up with. So I wanted a character that aspired to be a part of that world.
And I naturally have a lot of empathy for anyone trying to make a career in the arts, and felt very comfortable writing about that. Juggling is just a lot more fun to look at than images of someone writing or drawing!
There is also a great deal of searching in this book. A dog searches for a girl. A girl searches for a dog. Sam searches for a way to perform in front of people without fright. And in the end, they find what they are looking for at The Palace Theater in a show that brings all the story strands together. And then they all go home. They find home.
I thought it would be fun to watch some juggling in the spirit of Cecil’s Lucy and then, perhaps to try some ourselves. Sounds like a pretty good summer activity for kids.
Francis Brunn was a regular on the Ed Sullivan show and his performance incorporates dazzling gymnastics and dance and other feats of marvel and precision. (This clip has a whole lot of humor as well.) Adequately describing his juggling has been compared to “trying to describe the flight of a swallow.”
Francis Brunn’s sister Lottie was also a wonderful juggler (as showcased in this dreamy video)! I find this one mesmerizing.