Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Check Off your Reading List Challenge 2014.


Click here to sign up. If you have already signed up, here is the January-March linky where you can link up your reviews or updates from your reading list.

Carrie Gelson of There is a Book for That is also hosting #mustreadin2014.

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

We have just announced the winners for Cybils 2013 during Valentine’s Day, and so we are taking a break from our current bimontly theme to do a CYBILS highlight (which we have been doing as well for Cybils Saturdays this January-February). I am very privileged and thrilled to once again be one of the second round judges for one of my favorite genres in children’s literature.

With the exception of Journey by Aaron Becker which I have already read and reviewed a few months ago, and Mr Tiger Goes Wild which I will be reviewing this Saturday, these are the finalists for the fiction picture book category.

IMG_1564Sophie’s Squash

Written by: Pat Zietlow Miller Illustration by: Anne Wilsdorf
Published by: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2013
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

Sophie is an unusual little girl who, for some reason, decided to transform the squash that her parents bought from the farmers’ market to her very own pet.

At home, Sophie used markers to give her squash a face. Then she wrapped it in a blanket and rocked it to sleep.

Sophie named the squash Bernice who gets a hug, a kiss, and her own baby bottle in her very own crib.


I enjoyed the endpapers of this book as well as the overall layout and design. I also found the child to be animated, fun, lively, despite its minimalist expression; and the girl’s ardent desire to nurture, love, and be loved. Parental presence is there but never really intrusive, nor patronizing or condescending, just conveying a sense of gentle understanding.


Storyline is good as well with surprising puns (case in point would be Bernice having ‘freckles’ instead of spotty things) which made me laugh aloud. The best thing for me as well is the mention of the library and the concept of growing things and the entire cycle of growth and letting go. Final endpapers also show Bonnie and Baxter, further reinforcing that concept of growth and comfort with play, fun, and imagination.

The Bear’s SongIMG_1577

Written and Illustrated by: Benjamin Chaud
Published byChronicle Books, 2013
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

It is winter. Time for bears to hibernate and dream winter dreams. Little Bear however, has a different thought in mind. Little Bear chases after a busy buzzing bee as he is “caught up in honey thoughts to hear winter’s whisper.” Isn’t that beautiful?


And so Papa Bear chases Little Bear who is in turn chasing an elusive little bee all over the city to the grand theater house with beautifully-dressed people ready for a night at the opera.


I have a special fascination with narratives like this and I am truly awed by the illustrations. I like the consistency of the design and layout – with sparse text found at the bottom end of the page and full-spread artwork throughout the book. And yes, it did have a Where’s Waldo element to it, but with a bit of aesthetic refinement and delicacy as well, akin to Mitsumasa Anno’s journey books, but with a European feel and slant to it, with the occasional bright splashes of colors amidst the muted hues and shades.


The picture above is my favourite from the entire book. Here, Papa Bear faces the audience, his back to the reader, frozen by fear, and the reader gets a glimpse of what he sees through his eyes. I love the extent a Father would go through just to find his missing child. Truly a gorgeous book, and I am happy that it is a 2013 finalist.

IMG_1596Count the Monkeys

Written byMac Barnett Illustration by: Kevin Cornell
Published by: Disney Hyperion Books, 2013
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

Now this one has it all practically, the bold colours, the counting, the monkeys (or its absence). I found it to be a very ingenious counting book and is perfect for a read-aloud with the ‘raise your hand’ before turning the page, moving hand in a zigzag, putting arms above one’s head – I could imagine kids doing everything along with the narrator who is evidently fun, playful, and silly. For kids who are well-read, they would also recognize a few intertextual elements with the lumberjacks taking care of the wolves (especially as they are bringing along their axes).


The book kind of acts like an iPad with that interactive quality to it as narrator speaks to the reader. This is an in-your-face kind of book that I can see appealing to high-energy kids. How many monkeys the reader would be able to count in the end, I shall leave for you to discover.

if you want to see a whaleIMG_1570

Written by: julie fogliano pictures by: erin e. stead
Published by: A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2013
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

This is the kind of book that would grow with the child in each retelling. Masking as a kind of instruction manual for a child who wants “to see a whale” this is really a poetic rendering of what it means to wait, and the value of ignoring everything else (a pelican, a potential pirate, not even the clouds floating in the skies) just in case you miss the whale passing by.


I love the collaboration between fogliano and stead. and then it’s spring brought unbidden tears to my eyes. I love how both books express a sense of gentleness and a palpable sense of quiet and seemingly-infinite patience. For children who are always on-the-go, climbing all over chairs and walls – their squealing glee would magnify the contrast through this book’s muted hues, consistently horizontal lines that evoke that sense of peace and soothing silence. And oh, the words, the lyrical text, the play with P’s  (pink roses, pelicans, possible pirates) – truly beautiful. This is my favorite from the book – so poetic and so artfully rendered.


IMG_1582Open this Little Book

Written by: Jesse Klausmeier Illustration by: Suzy Lee
Published by: Chronicle Books, 2013
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

I was thrilled to find out that this book is a finalist. Suzy Lee is no stranger to us here at GatheringBooks as we did a special feature on her creative process and her border trilogy. She was also one of the keynote speakers during the Asian Festival of Children’s Content here in Singapore in 2012. Now that she is back in Korea, we do miss her here in Singapore.

I love the typography in Open this little book and the entire concept of bringing the book to a whole new level entirely. I can imagine a lot of kids going ‘wow’ as they open the book cover of another book cover of another book cover where there is an infinite loop of opening another book within the book.


For those familiar with Suzy Lee’s Alice in Wonderlandthis one is the kid-friendly, less dark, more colorful version of that book-within-a-book. I also consider this to be a publishing feat, add the color concept, the subtle interplay of helpfulness and sharing among friends for younger kids,


and the philosophical aspect of it for much older kids (of the ladybug who reads a story about a frog who reads a story about a rabbit and on it goes). It has a wide range of appeal and it’s just plain ingenious with loads of kid appeal.

Currently Reading…


I already finished reading The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen. I found that I actually liked the first book compared to this one. On several occasions, I sensed myself getting quite impatient with Sage and his decisions. Things do get become more complicated with this one as the attraction between Imogen and Sage become more palpable, and new twists in the narrative (betrayal, deceit, hidden agendas) are unraveled. However, I couldn’t help but feel that Sage’s voice doesn’t really sound much like a teenage boy. Perhaps it’s just me, but his wisecracks here distanced his character more from me rather than drew me in. I also found his desire to protect Imogen to be quite predictable. I just wished that the latter acted a little less like the usual damsel in distress. Regardless, it was still a page-turner and I do look forward to reading the final book in the trilogy.


I also finished reading Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos. I am saving this one for our next bimonthly theme.


This is another book that I am currently reading in preparation for our next bimonthly theme: The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. I am also looking forward to watching the Brat Packs. 🙂



Reading Challenge Update: 29-33 (Five Cybils Finalists), 34 (The Runaway King) (25)

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16 comments on “[Monday Reading] Finalists in Cybils Fiction Picturebook

  1. The problem with library books is that you can’t really remove the dustjackets to see if the book has an alternate cover illustration- like with If You Want to See a Whale and Count the Monkeys. The Bear’s Song will be perfect for Father’s Day!


  2. really like seeing the book pages! helpful.. thx for sharing!


  3. Love all the picture books you mentioned. I finished The Outsiders a week ago and can’t quit thinking about it. Wow, that must be a really old copy of the book you have since it features the cast from the movie version of The Outsiders. I realized some of my all time favorite movies feature C. Thomas Howell (Pony Boy Curtis), in fact, I was halfway through watching Red Dawn when I stopped to link up for #IMWAYR. He was also in Gettysburg which I could watch a million times.


  4. Each one of these picture books are fabulous, Myra. I don’t know how you chose a winner! My favorite still is If You Want To See A Whale-so pretty and clever. I love And Then It’s Spring from them too. I’m so intrigued by your next theme-The Outsiders is an old favorite! and The Sad Poet looks interesting-Hm-m. Thanks!


  5. The Outsiders is one of my all time favourite books. I can most probably quote at least half of the first page. You can check out my Monday here


  6. Beautiful picture book array this week! Enjoyed the learning about The Bears Song… cute book, lovely pictures to see featured… happy reading week!


  7. I honestly never heard of any of these, but i hope you enjoy them!

    This is what we are reading this week.

    Leydy @OUaT & RCE


  8. I love the Fogliano and Stead collaborations too. I could read them again and again. Will probably eventually have to purchase, as I check them out repeatedly from the library! I just brought Open This Little Book home this week! Really looking forward to reading it after seeing your pix. The Outsiders is the first YA book I ever read–at the age of 10. I still love so many things about that book. I’m hoping to read Dr Bird’s Advice in the next couple of months for The Hub’s Reading Challenge (which I’ll be blogging about later in the week)–just what I need, another reading challenge! Enjoy your week!


  9. Swoon. Swoon. Swoon. So many picture book favourites here. Love If you want to see a whale. I have bought multiple copies because I keep gifting it and I want to have my own! Finally put a book plate in my latest purchase! I also think Count the Monkeys is brilliant. Such a fun read aloud! Thanks for sharing these here in such wonderful detail!


  10. Wow, again a collection of gorgeous picture books, Myra! I love the one about the bears – the illustrations seem particularly rich.


  11. bluestockingthinking

    Hi Myra,
    You featured two of my recent picture book loves: The Bear’s Song, and If You Want to See a Whale…both of which I think I discovered because of Carrie’s wonderful recommendations! The art work for both is so appealing to me, despite being vastly different from one another. Bear’s Song was one my 4th grade students scootched up so closely to admire the illustrations!


  12. I need to read COUNT THE MONKEYS! 😀


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