Category Archives: picture books for pairing

a pair of picture books on saying goodbye

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Two picture books on saying goodbye, the first an imagination-infused farewell to a grandparent, the second, a love letter to companionship. Both reassure us that goodbye isn’t the end of the story.

 

Grandad’s Island by Benji Davies (2015)

Grandad is going on a journey and he invites Syd along. They embark through Grandad’s attic, which serves as portal. It makes sense that the attic is the portal. It’s full of all Grandad’s things, fragments of the adventures and obsessions of a well-lived life.

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They sail together to an island. But only Syd will return home (with the kitten).

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“…I’m thinking of staying.”

“Oh,” said Syd. “But won’t you be lonely?”

“No…no, I don’t think I will,” said Grandad, smiling.

Grandad will stay in the jungle on his island with all kinds of creatures, his book and tea, his phonograph. It’s wonderful on Grandad’s island. What a vibrant place for Syd to imagine his Grandad hanging out.

 

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This saying-goodbye story shows how our imaginations can help us cope with loss while commemorating a loved one. While Grandad’s final adventure is on his island, Syd will carry that adventurous spirit with him every time he himself sets sail.

 

Big thanks to Candlewick for images

GRANDAD’S ISLAND. Copyright © 2015 by Benji Davies. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

 

 

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Ida, Always by Caron Levis and Charles Santoso (2016)

Gus and Ida are friends. They’re also polar bears who live at the zoo in a big city. The city is another character in this book, a backdrop  whose heartbeat Gus and Ida hear and that’s beautifully weaved into the illustrations.

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“You don’t have to see it to feel it,” said Ida. 

These two spend every day together in this zoo, in this city. Until the day Ida gets sick and the zookeeper tells Gus he will need to say goodbye. I love the sadness and anger these two bears express. The growl and stomp and snarl. It feels no good to have to say goodbye.

 

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But then, they start to. They snuggle and laugh and comfort. They growl some more. They spend time alone and together. This portrayal of letting go feels so true to life, so true to love.

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And then, a goodbye is never final. Because you don’t have to see someone to feel them. They’re there. Always.

 

Big thanks to Simon & Schuster for images!

 

 

14463272I’ve written about picture books on loss before and I’d add My Father’s Arms Are a Boat and Boats for Papa to that list as well. If a child (or anyone) is in the unfortunate position of having to say goodbye, I think these books make worthwhile companions to the process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

picture books on opposites

opposites-picture-booksThese picture books explore opposites, but not just in terms of stripes or colors, in terms of characters as well. And in both cases, they not only show us what it means to be opposite—horizontal or vertical; black or white—they demonstrate the saying that opposites do, in fact, attract!

 

Mister Horizontal & Miss Vertical by Noémie Révah and Olimpia Zagnoli (2014).

 

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Two characters, one drawn to tall, the other to long. Miss Vertical is a fan of elevators, hot air balloons, and bungee jumping. Mister Horizontal likes scooters, naps, and the ocean. And yet, they’re a perfect match.

 

 

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This is a wonderful book to illustrate a concept, which is a great skill on its own. But it’s so much fun along the way, thanks in large part to the poppy design that dances on the page in all directions. So bold. So graphic. So Olimpia Zagnoli!

 

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Miss Vertical’s gestures are straight and up and down. Mister Horizontals are curved and round. Together, they’re an X and O.

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That’s my one of my favorite spreads, Miss Vertical dangling from a tree, the forest background a lot like her shirt. And the perfect pop of red shoe.

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The story was inspired by this photograph by René Maltête. So in a spoiler alert, these two have a child at the end of the book. And the child isn’t exactly like mom or dad. Nope, neither type of stripe will do!

 

Big thanks to Enchanted Lion Books for images!

 

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Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando (2014). 

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And now, another kind of opposite! Black and White cats, from the tips of their noses to the tips of their tails. And they like opposite settings, which help them stand out—night and day!

 

719hInVgsMLBlack Cat likes daytime, when dark-colored swallows soar. White Cat likes nighttime, when bright stars twinkle. But they’re not stuck in their ways. They’re curious cats, adventuring into the reverse unknown.

 

 

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And there, on the way to new things, they meet. I imagine it’s dusk, but it could be sunrise too. Each experiences new things: fireflies and bumblebees. They discover how much they like to be together.

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And at the end, six kittens! And neither black nor white at that. You’ll have to read the book to find out their colorful surprise! (Hint: it’s not a tomato and tasty as juice.)

A pair of picture books. Two love letters to contrast.

 

Coco and the little black dress & Cinderella, a fashionable tale

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 3.50.11 PMThese two titles tell us about main characters who rose from rags to riches. They also tell us a great deal about modern fashion history. The first is a biography of Coco Chanel, the second, a Cinderella retelling with a fashion-centric twist.

Coco and the Little Black Dress by Annemarie Van Haeringen (2015).

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This picture book biography focuses on how Coco Chanel came from nothing and succeeded through her own hard work and ingenuity, that she bucked conventions of femininity, and that she has had unfathomable influence on fashion right up until today.

She embodies simple, sophisticated cool.

Coco learned to sew and embroider in the convent where she grew up after her mother died. I love the image of that giant nun looking over the girls and can’t help but notice its simplicity and starkness, a signature for Coco’s later self. I also love how Haeringen has given young Coco red lips. Another signature!

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“I’ll never wear a corset!” said Coco. “Nor endless skirts with full hips. I’ll make a dress that you won’t even feel when you’re wearing. A dress you can dance in and ride a bicycle with.” And that’s what she did.

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Coco made hats for wealthy people, but hats that were less ridiculous than the day’s typical fare. She made a classic perfume. And, yes, she popularized the little black dress.

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Big thanks to NorthSouth Books for images of Coco and the Little Black Dress!

 

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Cinderella, a Fashionable Tale by Steven Guarnaccia (2013).

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“Cinderella” is full of fashion. The gown, the shoe!!

From Grimm‘s: “They [the stepsisters] took her beautiful clothes away from her, dressed her in an old gray smock, and gave her wooden shoes.”

Guarnaccia’s version makes perfect sense! It’s a fairly traditional telling but with illustrations brimming with famous frocks.

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You may notice that this Cinderella looks  a lot like Twiggy. One nod to fashion history of many!

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And of course Cinderella and her fairy godfather must try on more than one gown to get it just right!

 

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The book has a 60s modern feel; only the cruel stepsisters feel decidedly older-fashioned.

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The endpapers serve as a kind of visual glossary and I love how this book could be a perfect foray into fashion for a future dressmaker.

Images of the book from Steven Guarnaccia‘s website. 

 

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Left to right: Jean-Philippe Worth Red Velvet Coat; Vivienne Westwood “Statue of Liberty” dress; Yves Saint Laurent “Barbaresque” dress.

 

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Clockwise: Miuccia Prada PVC sandal; Katharina Denzinger racing car shoe; André Perugia fish shoe for Georges Braque.

 

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Kansai Yamamoto bodysuit designed for David Bowie; Varvara Stepanova sports clothing design.

 

 

happy_birthday_madame_chapeauYou might also be interested in my post on Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau for some history of fashionable hats!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

recent non-fiction picture books that will make you cry (in a good way)

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The Case for Loving by Selina Alko, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko.

This book. It’s by an interracial couple about an interracial couple in the past, the Lovings, who went to court to fight for the legality of their marriage and changed everything. Qualls and Alko combined illustration techniques to create a truly special, collaborative book with love at its center.

 

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Growing up Pedro by Matt Tavares.

Even if you’re not a baseball fan, I guarantee this story of two brothers looking out for each other will get to you. Pedro Martinez was once a kid growing up in the Dominican Republic, dreaming of the major leagues. This is the story of how he got there and the relationship with his older brother that sustained him.

 

 

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Enormous Smallness by Matthew Burgess, illustrations by Kris Di Giacomo.

This biography of E.E. Cummings is moving because of its beauty—in illustrations and layout design and in poetry. Not only that, but it’s infused with spirit and the idea that you can accomplish your dreams with courage and by staying true to yourself. Yes.

 

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Swan by Laurel Snyder and Julie Morstad.

The perfect combination of joy and melancholy, this tribute to Anna Pavlova’s life (and death) brings sweet, satisfying tears.

 

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Ivan the Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherin Applegate, illustrated by G. Brian Karas.

If you loved the middle grade novel, The One and Only Ivan, then you’ll love this pared down picture book version for younger readers. It gives us the real life story of a gorilla captured from his home and family, living an isolated shopping mall experience, and then finally finding a new home and companions.

 

 

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Firebird by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers.

This book will make you feel things because of who wrote it (principal ballerina Misty Copeland) and how she did so. And it will make you feel things because of who it’s addressed to: young people with dreams that seem far away to impossible. Plus those vibrant, fiery illustrations that dance on the page.

 

 

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And finally, one to look forward to!

Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (out in October!).

This is the origin behind the origin of Winnie the Pooh, the real life bear named Winnipeg. It’s a beautiful example of a story within a story—a mother telling her son a bedtime tale about their family history: a veterinarian in the army during World War I and the bear cub he bought for twenty dollars at a train station. It’s a masterful book and has so much to say about those moments when one’s “heart makes up one’s mind.”

 

Thanks to Little, Brown and Company for the image of Finding Winnie.

 

 

Any tear-inducing (in a good way) non-fiction picture books to add to the list?

 

 

 

 

a pair of girl power picture books

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Today I’m pairing two picture books with strong girl characters—one mechanic and one ninja-in-training. 

 

Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt (2015).

The rhyme really shines in this girl power book. It’s a Cinderella retelling of a character who dreams, not of a prince, but of fixing rockets. Yes!

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No gown for her, but a bejeweled space suit and sonic socket wrench. And a mouse named Murgatroyd. Yes, again!

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In the end, she does win the space prince’s admiration, but it’s by showing she can fix his ship. And the happy ending doesn’t involve wedding bells. Instead, the resolution is summed up in my favorite line of the book:

 

“She thought this over carefully.

Her family watched in panic.

‘I’m far too young for marriage,

but I’ll be your chief mechanic!'”

 

Thanks to Chronicle Books for images!

 

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Little Kunoichi: The Ninja Girl by Sanae Ishida (2015).

The artwork in this one is what really gets me. Those watercolors are so sweet, dainty, and colorful; I want to live in this book! The illustrations match the whimsy of this story as well as its message of fun without rigidity or perfection.

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Little Kunoichi goes to a secret ninja school but she is not a very good ninja (yet!). She meets a little boy who attends a secret samurai school and together they get better at their respective skills in order to wow everyone at the island festival. How do they do that? Practice.

Practice is really the message of this book. Referred to here as shugyo, these two characters become friends and spur each other in their “training like crazy.”

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This kind of heroine is so relatable because she’s not perfect but is persistent (which is more important). She’s also not someone who goes it alone, but who learns from others and has a close friend—all great qualities. Plus, I mean, she’s training to be a ninja. Sooooo, there’s that.

 

Thanks to Little Bigfoot for images!

 

 

Layout 1You might also be interested in my post on Rosie Revere, Engineer.