Tag Archives: kidlit blog
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.
David Small. There are six pages of his books in my library’s online catalog and that doesn’t include all of them. He’s an illustrator and an author and he’s been working in the field of children’s books for over 30 years.
He’s from Michigan. He has an MFA from Yale’s Graduate School of Art. His work has appeared in places like The New Yorker and the NY Times. He’s won two Caldecott honors and a Medal (The Gardener and One Cool Friend; So You Want to Be President, respectively).
His graphic memoir, Stitches, was a finalist for the National Book Award. It’s hauntingly good and true and sad and hopeful. I loved it and can’t recommend it highly enough.
His first picture book was Eulalie and the Hopping Head.
He’s also collaborated with kidlit greats like Jane Yolen.
There’s a loose and carefree quality in Small’s work, which is done in watercolor, pen, ink, and pastel. His lines are prominent and masterful.
Even in the saddest illustrations, there’s often a hint of joy or, always, humanity. That’s the word that most comes to mind for me when I consider Small’s illustrations. Humanity.
From Imogene’s Antlers.
He does humor or poignancy well and his illustrations have a classic, timeless quality; they can look old or new.
From Elsie’s Bird.
From The Quiet Place.
I posted about it here. I love how personal the story was for Small and how it portrays a girl whose family doesn’t “get” her strange affliction, but she’s okay with it. (Brings to mind the very recent, Hug Me, in that way.)
One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, pictures by David Small. These characters are two of my favorite picture book pairs.
The Library by Sarah Stewart, pictures by David Small. Ahhh. This is a book for book lovers. A classic.
The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, pictures by David Small, a great example of one of Stewart’s epistolary stories.
The Quiet Place by Sarah Stewart, pictures by David Small. Another beautiful story told through letters.
Glamourpuss by Sarah Weeks, pictures by David Small just came out and is hilarious! My favorite spread is the second one, in which Small has included a couple of black and white photographs that fit the outrageous mood of Glamourpuss’s owners, Mr. and Mrs. Highhorsen, perfectly!
Check out my last Their Picture Book Life feature on Sophie Blackall too! (I go girl, boy, girl, boy in case you were wondering.)