Plush Toys, Philosophical Finches, Wolf-Bunnies, and Orion’s Darkness: Four 2015 Picturebooks Celebrating Anthropomorphic Creatures

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Myra here.

As I was going through the CYBILS 2015 Nominated List, I was struck by how these four picturebooks feature anthropomorphic creatures – or beings that were imbued with human-like traits and characteristics. In stories like these, sometimes it works, oftentimes it doesn’t. These four CYBILS nominated titles, however, are not only entertaining, they also make the reader think.

IMG_8580Wolfie The Bunny

Written by: Ame Dyckman Illustrated by: Zachariah Ohora
Published by: Little Brown and Company, 2015
Borrowed from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

The story begins with a cute cub left on the apartment doorstep of the Bunny Family. It didn’t matter that it was a baby wolf, that it had sharp fangs that could grow into monstrous bunny-eating machines, nor did it matter that Dot cried out in a fairly credible scream: “He’s going to eat us all up!” Her parents were simply too smitten:

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And just like all smitten parents, they made sure that they documented every little thing that Wolfie does: from eating carrots for breakfast, drooling, and sleeping – everything was perceived as simply adorable by the doting parents. I especially liked this play of lights and shadows by illustrator OHora – showing exactly how Dot thinks about her new brother:

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I find that this story has perfectly captured inter-species connection reminiscent of Kelly DiPucchio and Christian Robinson’s Gaston, sibling love in such an authentic voice, and the unconditional acceptance of little miracles that chance upon one’s doorstep.

I Am Henry FinchIMG_8570

Written by: Alexis Deacon Illustrated by: Viviane Schwarz
Published byWalker Books, 2014
Borrowed from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Henry Finch is just like all the other finches who are part of a huge flock. Collectively, they greet each other Good Morning every morning, Good Afternoon every afternoon, Good Evening every evening, and Good Night before they go to bed. This goes on day in, day out, unless of course one of them gets swallowed whole by a Beast.

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Until now, I still don’t know exactly what I think about this picturebook. It has a meta quality to it that seemed incongruous to its nature, with Henry Finch acquiring a sentient quality as he realizes that he thinks, therefore he is – very Descartes:

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It’s a story that attempts to break free from expected boundaries, societal expectations, and self-imposed ideations – all brought about by the realization that one is able to think, a thoroughly empowering thought that allows one to celebrate individuality while understanding one’s connectedness with one’s flock.

IMG_8574Orion And The Dark

Written and Illustrated by: Emma Yarlett
Published byTemplar Books, 2014
Borrowed from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Orion is like most kids who happen to be easily anxious and perceive the world as filled with frightening things. However, there is one thing that Orion is scared more than anything else: he is afraid of the dark, and because of that he hates bedtime:

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I read this book sometime last year, and I did note how the typography and aspects of the illustration style reminded me quite a bit of Oliver Jeffers. That being said, Orion has a unique voice of its own, especially as he screamed his frustration away by challenging the dark to leave him alone:

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It was also fairly interesting to see how there is a lift-the-flap component in this story that added a different layer/texture to the narrative. It also portrays how a reified fear which takes on a life of its own could reach out to a frightened child and transform it to a friend:

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Unlike most stories with a resolved conflict, this story somehow seemed credible as the change in Orion is gradual, with its own deliberate pacing that is neither too hurried nor too drawn-out. A great book to add to one’s library.

Toys Meet SnowIMG_8565

Written by: Emily Jenkins Illustrated by: Paul O. Zelinsky
Published bySchwartz & Wade Books, 2015
Borrowed from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

I originally resisted this story, because for one, I am a daughter of the tropics and I hardly ever see snow unless I happen to be traveling during winter time in other countries. The book cover also did not particularly catch my eye.

I was absolutely smitten, however, from the first page – as the reader gets introduced to an inquisitive plush buffalo named Lumphy; a poetic, dry-clean-only stingray aptly named StingRay; and a book-quoting, facts-oriented rubber ball named Plastic.

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This is a story about various ways of seeing and knowing, how the same exact thing can prove to be different things to different people. While snow can be “a blanket of peace over the world” as noted by StingRay, it could also very simply be “frozen water” as pointed out by Plastic. Most importantly, this is a story that shows how a shared experience of sledding in snow and making snow angels together can transform perceptions and make strawberries out of sunsets.

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This is a truly special book; one that warmed my jaded heart.

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