Category Archives: PICTURE BOOKS +
I’m super excited that YiLing Chen-Josephson from The Picture Book Club is here to share picture books about mail. It’s a fitting post because the subscription service is all about two wonderful things: books and mail!
YiLing, take it away!
There has never been a time in my life when I haven’t loved mail. I can still remember what day of the week each of the family’s magazine subscriptions would arrive, and the names of all the companies — many long since shuttered — whose catalogs I would pore over. As I got older and started to write and receive letters of my own, the prospect of mail took on a whole new richness of anticipation.
YiLing Chen-Josephson reads hundreds of picture books every month. Her favorites make their way to other families via The Picture Book Club, the subscription service she runs. The Picture Book Club offers completely customizable subscriptions as well as themed packages such as Around the World in 12 Books and the Big Sibling Book Bundle. Before launching The Picture Book Club, YiLing worked as a writer, an editor, and a lawyer. She lives in NYC with her family and many, many books.
This Picture Book Life readers get $5 off any purchase at The Picture Book Club with the code, “Dd.” Hooray!
This picture book is full of the narrator’s problems. Which means they’re the penguin kind. But basically they’re the kinds of problems anyone can relate to. The kind that stem from being bummed out about every little thing and how the world and our place in it sometimes feels completely utterly wrong, wrong, wrong.
Luckily, this little guy is hilarious.
Penguin’s problems include a cold beak and a lack of fish, the too-salty ocean, the inability to fly, and the way everybody looks the same. This narrator even mistakes the wrong penguin for his own mother. See?
The voice here is downright hysterical and as a reader you’re right there with the narrator’s list of grumbles. Until. There’s a big until in this book. The until is for a walrus. When the walrus talks, the whole tone changes. No more clipped complaints. Instead, a long zen speech about mindfulness ensues. And you know what? It works! It works in the book as a technique and it works for our little penguin’s problems. Well, sort of. You know how it is when you’re trying to be mindful and grateful and stuff. Your beak might still get cold.
A perfect prescription for a grumbly kind of mood or a book for when you want a good laugh. Penguin Problems is super clever and amusing at the same time and one of my top-shelf picture books in recent memory.
My favorite part of the book (aside from the waddle demonstration) is the “Everybody looks the same as me” section. So, I thought this craft called for not just one penguin, but many penguins. The kind that all look pretty much the same. Enter, penguin paper dolls!
(Extra points if you spot one that’s slightly different!)
What you need:
Black marker; orange marker
Black colored pencil or marker
Fold an 8 1/2 by 11” sheet of paper into quarters long ways and then cut along the folds. With one long strip, fold in half and in half again until it’s all folded like a book. Then, unfold and refold accordion style.
Draw half a penguin shape along the left/folded edge of the top of the accordion booklet making sure its wing extends beyond the edge of the paper. Cut around that shape and unfold to see your paper doll penguins! Then, draw in the eyes and belly and color in. Voila! Penguins holding hands. (Repeat if you want more penguin chains.)
These would be cute on a wall, in a doorway, or as company any place. It’s nice to have company when you’re dealing with so many problems, right?
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:
A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston.
“We’re made from stories.” And many of the book’s extraordinary illustrations are made from the typeface of beloved ones. Stories make life exuberant, colorful, and imaginative. Come see.
Just right for a struggling reader who needs a kind, quiet ear in order to overcome the worry of not getting words right.
There is a special moment of finding a book just for you and this book imagines what it must feel like to be found.
Surf’s Up by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Daniel Miyares.
The surf may be up, but when you’re in the middle of a good book (or in this case, a classic one), you just can’t be torn way. And your friends may get hooked too.
This is Sadie by Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad.
Sadie is sometimes The Mad Hatter, or Mowgli, or on an adventure riding a white horse. You can be those characters too and step into stories with your imagination.
This is Not a Picture Book by Sergio Ruzzier.
This will convince a kid they can read a book that’s not a picture book (by using a picture book to do it!). Always Ruzzier’s quirky, wonderful illustrative charm.
Red Knit Cap Girl and the Reading Tree by Naoko Stoop.
A reading nook turns into library with the help of friends. After all, “It is good to share books.”
How to Read a Story by Kate Messner, illustrated by Mark Siegel.
The nuts and bolts of how to go about it.
The Story Blanket by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz, illustrated by Elena Odriozola.
This is really a story about kindness, sharing, and community, but it all starts with how the children gather on that blanket to listen to Babba Zarrah’s stories.
Let Me Finish by Minh Lê, illustrated by Isabel Roxas.
A plea against spoiler alerts, taken to great lengths. (p.s. I’ve made a reading glasses craft for this one.)
Mom, Dad, Our Books, and Me by Danielle Marcotte, illustrated by Josée Bisaillon.
Celebrating all the different kinds of reading one can do—where and how and what. Read the sky! Read a book! Read a cookbook! In a hammock. In a waiting room. In a kitchen.
Books Always Everywhere by Jane Blatt, illustrated by Sarah Massini.
An adorable ode to reading for the youngest set. “Book park/book shop/book start/book stop.”
The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski.
A book about the magic of reading a wordless book in a book with words. A story in a story that empowers readers to invent their own.
“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.
(click image(s) to enlarge)
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.
The setting: the back porch at Green Bean Books in Portland.
The stars: super sweet kids doing animal hand motions with panache.
The song: singable, hummable, even clappable!
Emily has such a special way of making a song that captures a book’s essence while elaborating on the elements that seem meant for music. This is no exception. Kids will love it.
Check out Emily’s full album, Storytime Singalong!