Picture Book Blog 1: Thinking Outside The Box

pictuebookblogI love picture books! While my kids are choosing chapter books and non fiction to check out at the local library, I’m collecting an armful of picture books. This year, I’ve decided to start at A and work my way through the picture book section, I’ll choose around 5 books from each shelf, each week and then write a blog with my thoughts on each book.

This is Emma Apple’s Picture Book Blog: Shelf 1. You can also read along on goodreads.

My Choices This Week

Who’s On First? by Abbot and Costello, Illustrated by John Martz

We all know this one right? Time magazine called it the best comedy sketch of the 20th century. It’s the classic baseball themed comedy routine. In case you don’t know it: the player’s name is Who and he’s on first base, a guy named What is on second base, and it goes on from there. I know my kids love these sorts of wordplay jokes, so I thought this one was a guaranteed laugh.

I must say, I was a little disappointed, the routine doesn’t translate as humorously as I hoped it would. It’s cute but not quite as funny as I expected. The illustrations are minimal and beautifully done, the style relies on the words and the facial expressions and body language of the characters. Like I said, they’re beautiful, but I found them a little underwhelming. If you want to introduce your kids to this routine, or you have baseball fans at home, it’s worth checking out.

2.5/5. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it.

Nothing by Jon Agee

This book was funny and thoughtful. It seems to be poking a bit of fun at fashionable trends and our always wanting more stuff, more something, more anything! It’s also very amusing! Kids will find the opposite element silly and funny. The illustrations are charming and simple with just the right amount of drama on each page. Really enjoyed this one and the kids and I laughed a lot, definitely check it out with your littles.

4/5. Loved it!

The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg, Illustrated by Bruce Ingman

Such a sweet marriage of story and illustration. This one made me a little nervous in the middle when the town and its inhabitants that we had watched come to life, were suddenly being erased by an overzealous eraser. It all works out in the end though and the story is a wonderful one of discovery, creativity, overcoming challenges and working together. I loved that it was almost like peeking behind the curtain, it was essentially a picture book, about how pictures books are made.

4/5. Definitely worth a few reads.

A Night Time Story by Roberto Aliaga, Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer

This was a little dark and abstract. I’ve seen a few story books in this style lately, they are sweet in an artsy way, but probably not as appealing as more traditional styles, at least not to me. I found this one a little indulgent, the illustrations are absolutely beautiful, if potentially a little unsettling in some areas, and the story introduces dreams as a kind of mothering companion, which I found endearing. It took me a while to realize it was dreams I was reading about, but maybe that’s a good thing. It’s a sweet book, worth checking out, but not a favorite.

3/5. Sweet and artsy.

Black is Brown is Tan by Arnold Adoff, Pictures by Emily Arnold McCully

Now this one, I loved. Being the Mama in a mixed race (Arab/White) family, I got this one off the shelf primarily because of the mixed race family on the cover – representation matters – but also because of the beautiful watercolor illustrations (I’m a sucker for beautiful watercolors). It’s a re-release of a book written in the 70’s describing the author’s family. It’s a poem more than a story, which was fun to read and my kids really enjoyed it. We meet a whole, happy, normal family, and, as any book that deals with differences should, it teaches us to accept, respect and appreciate differences just by showing us the characters and allowing us to relate to them “this is the way it is for us, this is the way we are”. My favorite bit of the book? My kids relating to it and seeing our family in it. A great addition to your library bag or bookshelf.

5/5. Representation matters!

Bonus Book (Not From the Shelf)

Lailah’s Lunchbox by Reem Faruqi, Illustrations by Lea Lyon

This is a beautiful new book that teaches courage in accepting your differences, tolerance, and respect for each other. I love the diversity in the illustrations and in the text. There are so many nuances to the story and illustrations that make it such an endearing book. There’s the classmates offering to share, there’s the librarian’s welcoming smile and the teachers gentle response to Lailah. A perfect book for Muslim families this Ramadan and a perfect book for any diverse bookshelf.

4/5. Beautiful diverse book.

Emma Apple

Emma Apple

Author-Illustrator at Books by Emma Apple
Emma Apple is a Chicago based children’s author-illustrator and designer from New Zealand.

She is author of How Big Is Allah? and How Does Allah Look? and founder of Creative Muslim Women.

Emma converted to Islam as a teenager and currently lives in Chicago with her husband, daughter, son and Ash the parrot. She only reads books that have lots of pictures, loves to look at planets through her telescope and is a big fan of yellow and Star Trek.
Emma Apple

One Response to “Picture Book Blog 1: Thinking Outside The Box

  • Wow, what a neat roundup, Emma. I’ll be definitely looking out for Nothing and The Pencil, as well as Laila’s Lunchbox, inshaAllah – they sound great!

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