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[Monday Reading] Unforgettable Animals in Fiction Picture Books published in 2014


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 Award Winning Books Reading Challenge for 2015 (#AWBRead2015)! It’s that time of the year to set new reading goals for the coming year.


Here is the sign up page and the January-February linky if you already have reviews up. One randomly-selected participant would receive a copy of Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly, courtesy of Pansing books. Click here to view my announcement post to learn more details.

Part of our current reading theme this January-February gives love to CYBILS. I am privileged to once again be part of the Second Round Judges for the Fiction Picture Book Category along with several other amazing kidlit enthusiasts.

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 4.52.17 pm

Second Round Judges for Fiction Picture Books 2014

Julie Larios
Books Around the Table

Dawn Mooney
5 Minutes for Books

Jennifer Reed

Julie Rowan-Zoch
Julie Rowan-Zoch

Currently, I am going through the books that have been nominated but didn’t make it to the Top Seven for Second Round Judging. These are four of my favourites that unfortunately didn’t make it to the second round.

IMG_9263The Pigeon Needs A Bath (I do not.)

Written and Illustrated by: Mo Willems
Published by: Hyperion Books for Children 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

I don’t know how Mo Willems always manages to come up with titles that seem so deceptively simple – making me wonder, how could anyone not have written about this yet? As the title suggests this Pigeon is filthy that a bath is sorely needed, but of course the pigeon is in denial.


I love the part when the Pigeon got all defensive and starts turning the table around and asking the reader about the time he or she took a bath:


Fair enough, right? I love how sparse Willems’ text is – I love the typography – and I love the movement in his drawings. With just a few lines, he makes this Pigeon come alive.


Now this full-page spread is absolutely brilliant – the prevarication, the sneaky hedging, the never running out of excuses – loved it. Whether or not Pigeon did take a bath, I shall leave for you to discover.


Written by: Mac Barnett Illustrated by: Jen Corace
Published by: Chronicle Books, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Again, another title that seems so simple and so familiar to a lot of readers’ sensibilities. So surprising that nothing has been written about it yet? I mean, come on now. We had a game similar to this when I was younger called “Pass the Message.” My friends and I would stand in line and whisper the somewhat-complicated message from one person to the next. The line that would get the message accurately wins. Barnett used that age-old concept with a cute twist in Telephone.


The message is really plain and fairly-simple enough: Peter needs to fly home for dinner. But the message goes horribly twisted along the line, becoming ever more strange as it is passed down from one winged creature to the next. The narrative is quite reminiscent of the early reader series I loved when I was young with the events becoming increasingly more absurd as one turns the pages:


See how much the message changed? Plus this one:


And there is increasing urgency too! But for all the wrong reasons! Whether or not Peter will find his way home, I shall leave for you to discover.

IMG_9242Little Elliot Big City

Written and Illustrated by: Mike Curato
Published by: Henry Holt & Company, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Little Elliot is not like other elephants. For one, he is way littler than everyone else, and he has beautiful spots all over his tiny frame; he does not seem to be the right color too.


Elliot also lives in a city filled with busy people who can not seem to be bothered by some of the things Elliot struggles with and most average-sized people seem to take for granted. See the gorgeous full-page spread below.


Mike Curato captures perfectly the sense of isolation, the feeling of being overwhelmed and seemingly-invisible, and the quiet sensation of being an island to one’s self:


What I loved about this book though is the play in perspective – and how one’s size is often relative, and contingent from which direction one views things. Things turn for Elliot when he meets someone even littler than he is. This gorgeous spread made me catch my breath several times:


I especially liked how Elliot did not seem to suffer from a sordid lack of self-esteem, nor did he lack self-efficacy. There were just things that were difficult for him, and that is that. No fanfare, no drama, but matter-of-fact. A beautiful, quiet book that is bound to be a favourite among many children.


Words by: Kelly DiPucchio Pictures By: Christian Robinson
Published by: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

I saved the best for last. Gaston is one among a litter of puppies. Unlike his siblings though, Gaston appeared glaringly different from everyone else. Yet despite this, his mother loved him just the same.


And while he was not the most graceful, the most delicate and refined among all the siblings, he worked doubly hard and gave the biggest smile despite the difficulties he encountered in the training that their mother gave them.

It was when they all went for their very first stroll in the park that Gaston and his family realized there might have been an unfortunate switch in these two groups of dogs:


The only thing to do of course is to make the switch since it’s pretty obvious that Gaston and Antoinette managed to get mixed up in the wrong family. Or did they? I like how this picturebook challenges gender role stereotypes – see how Antoinette and Gaston adjusted to their supposed-‘real’ families:


and how being in a ‘family’ can be a matter of choice rather than by chance or circumstance. A glorious book to celebrate one’s sense of self, and one’s definition of what it means to be family.

Currently Reading…

I am pleased to share that I finished reading Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. What a relatively quick read even at over 400 pages – it was that engaging! I made sure that I also read it in time for our book club discussion last Saturday.


Saturday Night Out for Book-Geeks.


Special thanks to David Seow for taking the picture. We enjoyed reminiscing our university years and discussing whether or not Levi is a full-bodied, credible, teenage boy – or a product of some naive girl’s romanticized fantasies. While I did enjoy this a great deal, I think I’d hold off reading Eleanor & Park just yet.


Right now, I am reading Teaching With Heart: Poetry That Speaks To The Courage To Teach edited by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner. This is our February book read for my book club at my institution with fellow professors coming from various academic groups. Here is our book tribe at my institution (GatheringReaders at NIE) after we discussed The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin this January.


I am also reading the fourth book in The Sandman Series: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman.


16 comments on “[Monday Reading] Unforgettable Animals in Fiction Picture Books published in 2014

  1. I don’t have kids so it’s been a long time since I’ve had cause to come across picture books. They certainly seem to have changed since I was a kid (in the late 60s, early 70s) – there seemed fewer options then, but perhaps that wasn’t the case!



  2. I just want to reread the picture books every time I see people talking about them! As much as I enjoyed E&P, I’m putting off on reading Fangirl or her other books for that matter. It’s weird since I would have thought I’d be rushing to read them.


  3. Gaston was one of my favourite picture books last year too – very hard to read out loud withour trying on a French accent 🙂


  4. I’m not sure I’ll ever get to that Gaiman series, but have read all the other ones you mentioned. Yes, loved Fangirl, & the illustrations/storyline of the picture books are wonderful. I’m sorry they didn’t make it, but still deserve much love, don’t they? Thanks, Myra!


  5. bluestockingthinking

    I love all your photos 🙂 Some sweet picture books to check out. Of course, you’ve got to love that pigeon 😉


  6. Gaston is one of my favourite picture books from last year. It’s such a beautiful book on so many levels. And Mo Willems, well, he is just bloody brilliant. His books show up as having been checked out of our library 90 or more times!


  7. Awww. poor Little Elliott! I do love him!
    I haven’t read Fangirl yet, but I own it. One day I will get to it! (I have a lot of books that I say that about!!)


  8. I read Pigeon Needs a Bath last week to my Children’s Lit class. It’s such a delight. I agree with you about the concepts of Willems’s books: so simple, so perfectly done. I didn’t like the last couple of Pigeon books quite as well, but I adored Pigeon Needs a Bath. Jen Corace’s art really elevated Telephone for me. I need to give Gaston a second look. I liked Robinson’s art but didn’t love the story the first time through. I just got it from the library and think I’ll try reading aloud to my son. That often changes my experience of a book (for better or worse!). Love the photos from your book groups!


  9. Love the selection of picture books, Myra – takes me back in time to when my three were little.Teaching With Heart: Poetry That Speaks To The Courage To Teach is a book that I have not heard of, but must have. Thanks for sharing it!


  10. Funny – I read E and P and am holding off on reading Fangirl. I am not sure why. Maybe just to many other books to get to. Thanks for sharing the picture books as well.


  11. I must get my hands on Gaston. I didn’t love Telephone but know that many did. Mo Willems is truly so very talented and Little Elliot, sigh. Beautiful picture book love!


  12. I’ve seen lots of raves of Gaston, but your review finally tipped it into my to-read list. Although I need my library to finish its renovations — the back up one has much less room for browsing displays, and with all my kids in high school I don’t have much excuse for checking out picture books.


  13. Loved The Storied Life of AJ Fikry- a favorite now… Happy reading…


  14. My students ADORED Little Elliot! I didn’t know there was a new Pigeon book out!

    I read the first volume of Sandman – that’s intense! I had to take a break and I’ll pick up the second volume soon.


  15. Pingback: Plush Toys, Philosophical Finches, Wolf-Bunnies, and Orion’s Darkness: Four 2015 Picturebooks Celebrating Anthropomorphic Creatures – Gathering Books

  16. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] Elephant and Piggie Say Thank You… and Goodbye – Gathering Books

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