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.
Even now,with so many communication options available to us, I love the mail. Especially now, in this age of instant gratification, I feel like there’s something important about having to wait for something to arrive. Part of the impetus of The Picture Book Club was to create a gift that would unfurl over time and that would arrive, of course, through the mail.
I’m thrilled that Danielle has asked me to share a few of my favorite picture books about mail.
Peter decides to write a letter to his friend Amy to invite her to his birthday party because it will be more special than asking her in person. Keats’s nuanced exploration of the joys and challenges of being 7 is a thing of beauty.
The fun of this book, which details the correspondence received by familiar nursery rhyme characters, is that actual envelopes are affixed to its pages. Open them to find letters, postcards, catalogs, and gifts!
I love the kind of non-fiction picture books that make you cry. But also the kind that inform and dazzle. Here are a few of those about the natural world that will enlighten, enchant, and knock those socks right off!
I adored the first book and the follow up. Each of these is a compendium on its subject told and illustrated in fascinating ways; both include information about challenges facing each species. I can’t recommend this pair highly enough.
What will knock your socks off? The combination of stylish design and spellbinding information.
Rats and lice have never been so charming. Each narrator introduces you to one critter-kind by way of hilarious spreads with at least one attribute to learn and at least one joke to laugh at (from the critter herself). Not to mention, the art is bold, vivid, and engaging. What better way to learn about the creatures who’ve been relegated to repulsive, but are anything but boring.
What will knock your socks off? The concept and humor.
A beauty indeed. This is an ABC, from aloe to bougainvillea to coconut and beyond. Each page has exquisite photos of elements of the natural world, some familiar, some perhaps new additions to a child’s vocabulary. But this is a book for any age to bask in the amazing stuff of nature told in lovely rhyme.
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?
read the book, make a string of penguin paper dolls!
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.
(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.
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!