Category Archives: picture books for pairing

fifteen fresh and first-rate fairy tales, folk tales, myths, and more

I’ve been wanting to put together a list of recent (published in the last couple of years) picture books that fall into the fairy tale, folk tale, fable, or myth categories and are also first-rate. And here it is!

 

FAIRY TALESthe-night-gardener-fan-brothers

The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers. Grimloch Lane is forever changed by the gardener who shapes trees into whimsical animals overnight. And so is young William.

 

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Bloom by Doreen Cronin and David Small. An unusual fairy, a girl, a kingdom in disrepair, and mud. This tale tells us: “…there is no such thing as an ordinary girl” and that magic can be found in the most commonplace materials and in the willingness to be open and work hard.

 

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The Only Child by Guojing. Wordless with expressive drawings and lots of wonder, this reminds me of the kind of story a child might invent for herself or dream about.

 

 

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Little Red by Bethan Woollvin. I’ve talked about this retelling’s A+ qualities before.

 

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The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakashi. A contemporary fairy tale complete with a girl’s trek through the woods to her grandmother’s house. But the animal characters aren’t scary in this one—on the contrary, they’re magical, welcoming, and have plenty of pie to share.

 

 

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The Song of Delphnie by Kenneth Kraegel. A bit of a Cinderella in the savannah story, Delphine the palace servant’s singing attracts giraffes to her window each night. It also brings her freedom.

 

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Fairy Tales For Little Folks illustrated by folk artist, Will Moses. Five familiar tales with fun to pore over illustrations.

 

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The Ugly Dumpling by Stephanie Campisi, illustrated by Shahar Kober. A dim sum restaurant take on “The Ugly Duckling” that’s substantial and sweet! (See Bonnie from Thirsty for Tea‘s recipe from my original post on the book here.)

 

TALL TALES

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Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bidner, illustrated by Jake Parra. The inspiring story of a large-spirited person who cleaned the city with purpose and pizazz before the storm and helped piece it together after.

 

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Abukacha’s Shoes by Tamar Tessler. The quirky collage illustrations really shine in this passed down folktale about a man whose discarded giant shoes always return to him. It’s special in part because the historical photos included are of the author/illustrator’s family members who perished in the holocaust as a way to honor their memories.

 

FABLESthe-tiger-who-would-be-king

The Tiger Who Would be King by James Thurber, illustrated by Joohee Yoon. This fable features a tiger who’s thirsty for power at any cost. It’s boldly illustrated and doesn’t shy away from vivid and violent (though stylized) depictions to make its point about the futility of contests and war.

 

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Louis I, King of the Sheep by Olivier Tallec. A lighter take on the lure of power. A paper crown blows onto Louis the sheep’s head while going directly to his head.

 

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Tokyo Digs a Garden by Jon-Erik Lappano and Kellen Hatanaka. An environmental fable/fairy tale about cities and nature and how to balance both. Also, magic beans. (I interviewed both author and illustrator here.)

 

 

MYTHS

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Echo Echo: Reverso Poems about Greek Myths by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josée Masse. This series of poem-pairs is quite a feat! The first tells the story from one character’s perspective and the next reverses the lines to tell the story from the other’s.

 

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From Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs by Hudson Talbott. A “myth of origin” (based on research) about how wolves were tamed, developed a symbiotic relationship with humans, and became the dogs we know and love today.

 

 

Your turn! Any recently published fairy tales, folk tales, myths, or legends to add to this list? 

 

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.

 

growing-up-pedro

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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?