"Chowder," written and illustrated by Peter Brown. Chowder's owners think their bulldog is quirky, but other people think he's weird and other dogs say he belongs in a zoo. He uses a toilet, loves riding on the mechanical horses at the supermarket, and goes for walks with his owners - in a baby backpack. Despite his abilities, poor Chowder is lonely. So when the Food Ranch grocery store adds a petting zoo, Chowder wonders if maybe the dogs are right and hatches a plot to find out. The brilliantly goofy pictures really make this story about learning to enjoy being yourself something special.
"The Growing Story," by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. First published in 1947, this pastoral book shows a year in the life of a young boy who is sure he isn't getting any bigger, even though everything around him is. It's spring and the grass and the flowers are growing, though the boy, his puppy, and the chicks are all very small. As the seasons progress, the boy can see that his puppy and the chicks are getting bigger, but he's not sure about himself. But when autumn comes and the warm winter clothes that kept him cozy the previous year are brought out of storage, he realizes with contagious joy that he's growing too! Pair this with Olivia Esh's "The Fence Was Too High" for another kid-sized view of growing up.
"Where is the Cake?" written and illustrated by T.T. Khing. This delightful wordless book has mysteries to solve, piglets to save, and cake to eat - if you can catch it! There's much here to see and many storylines to "read": follow the small wailing rabbit throughout the story to see what's wrong, chase the opossums who steal the cake, see what happens when a piglet with a balloon sets off to explore on his own, and keep an eye on the benevolent snake who appears on each page. Cleverly detailed, this book will captivate youngsters with observant eyes.
"Jabberwocky," words by Lewis Carroll, reimagined and illustrated by Christopher Myers. Though Carroll's classic is usually drawn as a knight-against-monster scenario, Myers sets it against an inner city game of basketball (and provides a fascinating note at the back explaining why he believes this may be closer to what Carroll himself pictured). The illustrations are bold, colorful, fierce, and somewhat alarming, and completely unlike anything you may be picturing. Though this book may take more than one viewing before traditionalists feel comfortable, it is well-suited to showing elementary and older readers the power of words.
"Good Enough to Eat," written and illustrated by Brock Cole. The orphan girl who is sometimes called Scraps-and-Smells and sometimes Skin-and-Bones and sometimes even Sweets-and-Treats doesn't look brave and clever, but in the best tradition of fairytale heroines, she certainly is when it counts. Barely tolerated by the rest of the townsfolk, she makes a living selling paper birds and stale cookies, and often by begging. When an ogre comes to town, threatening to destroy it and the townspeople unless they give him a maiden, the girl is dressed up and bundled into a sack so she won't run away. But Scraps-and-Smells isn't good enough to make the ogre happy; neither is Skin-and-Bones - but Sweets-and-Treats sure is! The girl's triumphant smile as she vanquishes the ogre should herald a celebratory return to town, but in this new fairytale, the girl takes her hard-won treasure to live elsewhere under a brand new name: Good-Enough-to-Eat.
"The Dumpster Diver," by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by David Roberts. The young narrator of this recycling story is on his adult neighbor Steve's Diving Team, which hoses Steve and his acquisitions down after a dumpster dive. After the dive come weekends of hard work creating useful things out of the discards the team has rescued. From a broken lamp - a table! From some skis, roller skates, and a parasol - a paraskater! Temporarily derailed by an injury Steve suffers when some trash collapses under him, the team gets to work collecting things before they hit the trashcan to make Steve a gift. Some parents may cringe at the fun the kids are having with stuff recently occupied by roaches, but the quirky illustrations show the safety precautions Steve takes while diving, and it's made clear that while the kids are encouraged to create, the dumpster and its dangers are strictly for adults.
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