New crop of picture books awaits young readers at the local libraries

Posted: Thursday, October 21, 2010

New picture books at the Juneau Public Libraries range from books about being (almost) grown-up ("Almost," by Richard Torrey) to books about squirrels ("Those Darn Squirrels," by Adam Rubin) and the truth about mysterious trippers ("Jack the Tripper," by Gene Barretta).

"Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don't)," by Barbara Bottner, illustrated by Michael Emberley.

Our first grade narrator (who resembles a young Daria from MTV) is puzzled and a bit disturbed by her school librarian's vast depths of enthusiasm for books. All year long, Miss Brooks dresses up and reads about dragons, leprechauns, mooshy valentines, and other pink and silly topics, and when book week comes along, requests that each child dress up and share his or her favorite book. But our heroine doesn't have one... until she meets a very warty, very snorty sort of hero and discovers that there's a book for everyone, even her.

"Instructions," by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Charles Vess.

Originally published as a poem, Gaiman's enigmatic words have been set to charming, vibrant illustrations by Vess. Fairy - and folktale readers know that there are things you don't do in that other realm, such as tell wolves where you are going or be rude to strangers, but here are additional warnings and lessons. Familiar characters appear: the Twelve Months, the three princesses, giants, witches, and worms at the hearts of castles. This really isn't a story per se, but for the right readers, this dreamlike book will be a passport into their own fairytales (others may just find it puzzling).

"Puffling," by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Julie Vivas.

This delightful parent-and-child book skirts the edge of saccharine in tracing the path of a baby puffin who is anxious to grow up. Readers watch as the puffling hatches, learns to paddle his feet, and wonders aloud whether he's strong enough, tall enough, and brave enough to leave the cozy burrow and venture out onto the ocean. His parents bring him fish, measure his height, test his bravery, and tell him stories about what it will be like when he leaves the nest, and finally one day give him the answer he's longed for. Gentle and tender, beautifully imagined and drawn, this is not only a lovely gift book, but also a real story that will be read over and over again.

"Duck! Rabbit!" By Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtensheld.

Rosenthal and Lichtensheld are wizards at creating picture books with delicious twists - most of their books are spot on for kids and parents. Their latest is a classic of visual interpretation: double page spreads feature a duck who... no, it's a rabbit who... hops into... nope, the duck flies... Well, let the reader decide whether the duck is drinking water or the rabbit is cooling its ears. And about that anteater...

"Animal Soup," by Todd H. Doodler.

Part lift-the-flap book, part joke book for little ones, this colorful little book has board pages and sturdy flaps that will take a lot of handling. Each two-page spread asks "what if?" and the illustrations show two animals whose names can be easily combined. When readers lift the flap, they'll see the new animal and its name: for instance, a turtle with wings turns out to be a birdle. The youngest kids will love lifting the flaps and discovering the easily recognizable blended animals underneath, older preschoolers will have fun figuring out the riddles.

"The Snow Show," by Carolyn Fisher.

Get ready for snow - it's coming soon! Set up like a cooking show, this fun beginning science book features Chef Kelvin and his lovely assistants Snow White and Jack Frost, who show a bundled-up audience exactly how snow is made. The ingredients are simple: water, heat, cold, and wind, but the results vary with the amounts of each. There's a nice graph showing how temperature and moisture affect the shapes that ice crystals take, from plates to dendrites to needles to columns (persnickety readers - be aware that the temperature line is backwards, probably because this is aimed at early elementary school kids). Simple enough for kids, but adults will learn a lot, too!

At 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22, the library will welcome children's author Deborah Hopkinson, known for her inspired and inspiring non-fiction and historical fiction. Aspiring adult and young adult writers are invited to return Saturday at 9 a.m. for a writing workshop with Hopkinson and learn how to bring your stories to vibrant life. Call 586-0434 to register.

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