Category Archives: picture books for pairing
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
No gown for her, but a bejeweled space suit and sonic socket wrench. And a mouse named Murgatroyd. Yes, again!
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!
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.
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.”
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!
You might also be interested in my post on Rosie Revere, Engineer.
There is something truly magical about holding a glowing book in a dark space. I imagine blanket forts as perfect habitats for glow-in-the-dark books. (Just remember, they must be charged by a lamp or flashlight first in order for their magic to work!)
The Spanish edition is NOCTURNO: Recetario de sueños.
This book demonstrates the true creative genius that is ISOL. She sets it up to be used, literally, as a way to guide dreams right before bed. You can pick a different page each night—charge it up, turn out the lights, and then see what appears and how it influences your dreams!
This is a truly original book and nothing else exists that’s quite like it. Dream Journal. Book of discovery. Science project.
From “The distracted fisherman Dream” to “The Dream of being another” to “The Dream of the Dead Singer,” each has ISOL’s signature style.
The very last page is blank (but covered in glow in the dark) for you to draw your own dream and see if it visits you!
The Game in the Dark by Hervé Tullet (2012).
This one is much simpler and would be great for very young readers. Tullet is another creative genius for kids and here he plays with glowing spacey shapes.
While simple they are still wonderful to behold.
This gif from Babouches says it all! Wow!
Why am I pairing these two (excellent) picture books? They both have language concepts that really shine while not outshining their spirit and heart! Both are excellent examples of a successful contemporary picture book—spare, clever, funny, AND touching. All that in so few words!
In small packages, both books accomplish a lot. Come see!
There is a small creature and a big creature. But neither creature believes herself to be respectively small or big. There is evidence given. Arguments break out. Until…other creatures arrive to put everybody’s perspective in perspective.
The conclusion is that nobody is small or big. Everybody is small AND big. Which is pretty profound, no?
But most of all, for me, the magic I want to point out today is the words. Those two words, amidst the others, are omnipresent, played-around-with opposites. Small. Big. Kang’s experimentation with those words (and Weyant’s visual play) is what makes this one sing for big readers and small ones.
Look! by Jeff Mack.
This book plays with two words too. The only two words in its pages! LOOK and OUT.
There are two characters, too. A boy and a gorilla. For me, the gorilla is the one that anchors the book, the one we care about and feel for. (I cared so much I almost cried.)
Ostensibly, this is a book about how reading is better than watching TV. But it’s also about friendship and kindness and giving others attention. (And then, it’s a bedtime book too. You’ll see.)
But that masterful language makes it. The gorilla says, LOOK. He wants the boy to look, to see his tricks, to spend time with him. But every time the boy looks, there’s a mishap and the gorilla’s pleas and ploys fail. So the boy says, OUT. As in, go. Leave me alone, with my TV show.
In the end though, don’t worry, gorilla and boy come together, united by something novel to look at together—a book. And that’s when the boy changes and the conclusion is sweet, sweet, sweet.
But I used all those words to tell you about it when the book is only two words and a few pictures. That’s the amazing thing about picture books.
Thanks to Penguin Young Readers for Look! images!
Any other picture books that play with words like this?