The CYBILS logo was downloaded from the CYBILS official website.
The CYBILS logo was downloaded from the CYBILS official website.

Myra here.

I have seen these two picturebooks being shared and featured by a few of our book-loving friends. I am glad that I finally have a chance to read them. Definitely a few ticks off my reading list this year. These two titles have been nominated for the Fiction Picture Book Category in Cybils 2013 but did not make it to the top seven. Before I do my assignment of reading through the finalists for the Second Round judging, I thought it would help if I also familiarize myself with the titles that have been eliminated.

IMG_1143How to

Written and Illustrated byJulie Morstad
Published bySimply Read Books, 2013
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

I love practically everything that Julie Morstad creates and this book is certainly no exception. Deceptively simple and seemingly-like-an-instruction-manual, this book shows children various ways on how they can do certain things such as “how to go fast”


or “how to go slow.” Morstad is evidently a designer. I love all the white spaces where the eyes can rest, providing stark contrasts to her drawings of many children doing a variety of things, showing the reader how to do certain things.

Almost all of the pages contain full spreads of artwork and just a few lines of text. In some of the pages, the text is strategically placed in clear unpretentious fonts in a solid pastel background, with beautiful illustrations on the opposite page.


I find this book poetic in how it managed to distill something so huge in something so deceptively small. This is my favourite illustration from the book showing “how to stay close”


One of the most charming books I’ve read this year.

Building Our House IMG_1135

Written and Illustrated By: Jonathan Bean
Published by: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

Now I understand why so many people are gushing about this book. The story is told from the eyes of a young girl who is part of a strong crew of four (plus a truck named Willys) whose project is to build a house “in the middle of a weedy field Dad and Mom brought from a farmer.” The reader is privileged to witness how this weedy field is slowly transformed from a skeletal outline of how a house should look like to a home in the last few pages of the book.


Every step of the building process is documented, including the time that the family had to live in a small home on wheels as they slowly build their house that they work on during the weekends or in the evenings after Father arrives home from work, whatever the weather.


As each page shows how the entire family rallies around doing their labor of love in painstaking and tender detail, there were also friends, neighbors and other family members who show up to be part of the “frame-raising crew” or the “moving party.”


This book is a testament to how dreams are built from solid foundations, and how comfort is created from insulation built into the wallboards, and how plans such as the one above are fashioned by working hands, a loving heart, and a steadfast spirit. I love this picture too:


This is the author-illustrator’s retelling of his childhood and how his parents took it upon themselves to build a house literally from the ground-up. As could be found in the Author’s Note:

My parents thought of themselves as homesteaders and brought to house-building a pioneering spirit of ingenuity and independence.

I reflected on what moved me so deeply about this book and I realized it was the reverence in how the story was told and the quiet spirit of accomplishment in knowing that this can be done with “old-fashioned bit and brace” and a lot of love.


Bean went on further to say:

Of course, a homestead would not be complete without a large garden, fruit trees, pets, woodland, and a stream flowing through mysterious marshland. Add to that the wise love of two parents, the companionship of three sisters, and a practically lived faith, and it’s hard for me to think of a better place to have grown up.

A truly inspiring book that should be read by all.



Reading Update: 10 and 11 of 25

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

3 comments on “[Saturday Cybils] Spirit of Ingenuity in Fiction Picture Books

  1. Fats Suela

    I don’t think I’ve seen any work by Julie Morstad. Certainly talented. Love the illustrations on Building Our House, too. It reminds me of The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale. =)


  2. They are both just beautiful books, aren’t they, Myra. There were so many last year, & hard to believe these didn’t make the final seven! Thanks for the book love to them!


  3. Pingback: The Beauty Of Lost Things And Those That Once Were… – Gathering Books

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