Last week, I shared six overlooked fiction picturebooks published in 2015 by artist-illustrators that I feel deserve much more love. This week, I am sharing three #CYBILS nominated titles that did not make it to the CYBILS finalists for 2015 and two other titles that I am also quite glad to discover.
Bright Sky Starry City
Written by: Uma Krishnaswami Pictures by: Aimée Sicuro
Published by: Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, 2015
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
As the title suggests, this book is a celebration of the night skies by a father and his young daughter. As the father sets up the huge telescope in the middle of a busy street, the young girl is busy drawing the planets on the sidewalk, making them spin with her coloured chalks.
Amidst the frenzied nature of everyday life, it gives me great pleasure to witness a father and child taking the time to enjoy the splendor that is out there in the starry skies. The father also explained how the brightness of the night sky is dimmed by the artificial lights that illuminate the bustling city – making Phoebe wish that the city lights would go out even for just awhile “to give the night sky a chance.”
Whether or not she got her wish, I shall leave for you to discover. The story also comes with a very detailed backmatter (two full-page-spread-long) that provides information about the night sky, light pollution (a new concept for me), and planetary conjunctions just to name a few.
One Word from Sophia
Written by: Jim Averbeck Illustrated by: Yasmeen Ismail
Published by: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015
Book borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
Sophia is one decisive and determined little girl who is convinced that the absolute best birthday gift she could ever receive is a pet giraffe. Now the question is whether she could convince the rest of her family to appreciate the brilliance of her logic.
And so, armed with persuasive arguments (pronounced as too verbose by her mother), detailed powerpoint slides (too effusive says her dad), and very convincing pie charts (too loquacious says Uncle Conrad) – she outlined the very clear benefits of having a pet for a giraffe – she even has a business model to prove it!
As she distills her argument using fewer and fewer words, she is left with only one word a day before her birthday. What this is, you will have to find the book to know. This story made me chuckle out loud with its clever word play. I was also very pleased with Sophie’s tenacity who is more than willing to back up her request with quasi-evidence and semi-solid argumentation. It reminded me of those times when I would ask my young daughter to come up with an essay outlining why she needs to be given the things that she wants – an exercise in persuasive writing that she continues to do until now. I have a feeling that she and Sophie would get along just fine.
Written by: Eoin Colfer Illustrated by: Oliver Jeffers
Published by: Harper: An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, 2015
Bought my own copy. Book photos taken by me.
I am tempted to call this an illustrated short story/vignette rather than a picturebook per se that has the usual 32 pages and around 300 words for the entire story. Imaginary Fred has 52 pages (including the title and back pages) and definitely more than 300 words. Think of an early reader text marrying a picturebook, and this is their love child.
Told from the perspective of imaginary Fred who only waits until he is summoned by a lonely child for him to take form – he took note of unique conditions that make it possible for an imaginary friend to appear when needed (see below):
A dash of magic, flashing electricity, and a little bit of luck may be what is needed to make Imaginary Fred or anyone of his kind appear. And so it happened that all of these conditions were met when a young lonely boy named Sam wished fervently for a friend – and Fred appeared.
More than anything, I enjoyed the bits of word play in this book (I liked the names Fred and Frieda, Sam and Sammi), as well as a few visual clues that Jeffers has ingeniously put in his illustrations (look at what the two friends are reading below):
The entire concept of this book is very similar to We Forgot Brock – even the twists in the end are quite similar, except that I feel Imaginary Fred was too overly-extended. Yet despite this, fans of Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers would still be entertained by this ode to friendship, “imaginary or not, the same laws apply.”
The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have
Written by: Edward Van De Vendel Illustrated by: Anton Van Hertbruggen Translated by: Laura Watkinson
Published by: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2015
Book borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
Occasionally, you come across a book so delightfully complex and layered, and so beautifully made that you just want to hug the book close to you – this is one such book. I originally learned about this picturebook from Carrie Gelson and I knew that this is exactly the kind of book that would speak to me.
As the reader gets to know Nino and the dog that he didn’t have –
– the reader also gets drawn to Nino’s surroundings, his seemingly-transient and makeshift home, and the fact that he seems largely unsupervised and slovenly, with an environment that seems bleak and deserted. As Nino shares adventures with the dog that he does not have, the reader also gets introduced to the father that he has, but appears to not have anymore, as he calls on the phone “from a country far, far away.”
The special thing about this dog is that only Nino can see him. The dog that Nino doesn’t have also likes the taste of tears and salty water.
Told with amazing subtlety and with such stark, bold, almost-surreal illustrations, the reader is left to extrapolate on Nino’s life circumstances and stay with Nino as he feels the sense of loss, isolation, and the redemptive power of imagination.
The Most Wonderful Thing In The World
Written by: Vivian French Illustrated by: Angela Barrett
Published by: Walker Books, 2015
Book borrowed from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
This picturebook fits into both our fairytale and CYBILS theme quite beautifully and I am glad to have found it in our library. The story begins with:
Once, in the time of your grandmother’s grandmother, there was a kingdom.
Similar to most modern fairytales, the King and Queen are concerned about the Princess’ future and wish to find her a husband who would be deserving of her love. They sent a letter to Wise Old Angelo, presumably the wisest man in the kingdom, who told them that if they can find a “young man who can show you the most wonderful thing in the world” they have found their man.
As the King and Queen are busy interviewing suitors and potential candidates and being shown the most wonderful things in the world by various men from around the globe, Princess Lucia was exploring the city along with Salvatore, Angelo’s grandson, who just happened to be at the right place at the right time.
The illustrations in this picturebook are exquisite – reminiscent of Edmund Dulac‘s and Kay Nielsen’s delicate artwork – each gilt-edged, framed image is a sight to behold. The amazing thing about this book is that while the story is predictable, Vivian French and Angela Barrett managed to breathe fresh, new life into a story as familiar as the one your grandmama may have grown up with – and transforming it to an enchanting tale that young children can resonate with – yet retaining its classical vibe:
Exactly what the most wonderful thing in the world is, you will have to find out for yourself.