Friday, January 25, 2013

What the Big Awards Don’t Tell You

On Monday, January 28, the American Library Association will announce the winners of the major book awards, including the Caldecott Medal. The Caldecott is given annually to “the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published by an American publisher in the United States in English during the preceding year.” (That’s the official verbiage from ALA.)

I love finding out what books won which awards, and I’ll be watching the webcast on Monday. But there are a few important things about the picture books of 2012 that won’t be revealed when the ALA announces the big winners.

Here’s what you won’t find out on Monday:

Best Depiction of Dog Nostrils in a Picture Book

And the winner is: Black Dog by Levi Pinfold (Templar Books/Candlewick, 2012)

I’ve never seen nostrils jumping across a page spread before. Frankly, I hope it doesn’t become a trend, but it’s fun to see in this particularly entertaining book about facing our fears.

Most Poignant Line of Text in a Picture Book

And the hands-down winner is: Big Little Brother by Kevin Kling with illustrations by Chris Monroe (Borealis Books/Minnesota Historical Society, 2012)

You simply cannot beat:

“With his largeness and his fists full of donuts.”

Playwright Kling packs large amounts of meaning into that sentence fragment. It nearly made me cry…and want to eat a donut. It also made me think of Sergio Leone movies, bullies, all of my big sisters, and kid-sized kitchens filled with plastic foods.

Worst Picture Book to Read on an Empty Stomach

And the crispy-tasty winner is: Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin with illustrations by Daniel Salmieri (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012)

So, you didn’t know either? You, like me, were unaware that dragons love tacos? Try reading this text and not simultaneously craving tacos:

Why do dragons love tacos?
Maybe it’s the smell from the sizzling pan.
Maybe it’s the crunch of the crispy tortillas.
Maybe it’s a secret.
Either way, if you want to make friends with dragons, tacos are key.

Really Bad (Actually, the Worst) Sweaters in a Picture Book

There’s no competition here. The winner is Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters by K.G. Campbell (Kids Can Press, 2012).

Trust me on this one. 

Lester's sweaters are beyond bad.

And all of these picture books are really good.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Small Wonders

I’ve been poring over a book for adults lately, but my fascination with the book and its subject goes back to childhood. The book is Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter, Scaling Back in the 21st Century by Lloyd Kahn (Shelter Publications, 2012). It’s a wonderful, rambling compendium of photos, floor plans, and stories about very, very small houses.

The maximum size of these houses is five hundred square feet. That’s tiny…and immensely appealing to me, both when I was young and (still on some level) today.

I can trace the fascination back to Scuppers, the hero of Margaret Wise Brown’s Sailor Dog (Golden Books, 1953), illustrated in loving detail by Garth Williams. 

Scuppers lived solo on a cozy ship where, Brown writes, “he put his hat on the hook for his hat, and his rope on the hook for his rope, and his pants on the hook for his pants, and his spyglass on the hook for his spyglass, and he put his shoes under the bed and got into his bed, which was a bunk, and went to sleep."

What’s not to like about a home that fits like a glove, a home with a place for everything and everything in its place?

If you’re interested in other books for children that feed a fascination with small spaces and life in miniature, try these:

The Sixty-Eight Rooms (Random House, 2010) by Marianne Malone takes readers inside the Thorne Rooms, a collection of miniature rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor (Katherine Tegen Books, 2010) drew me in with its original cover, showing a small trailer home. Not unsurprisingly, this tiny home is one of the most stable and comforting elements in the main character Addie's life.

The Doll People (Hyperion, 2000) by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, with exquisite illustrations by Brian Selznick, pulls readers into the life of a family of dolls in an antique dollhouse.

The Borrowers (Harcourt, 1953) by Mary Norton, illustrated by Beth and Joe Krush, posits that a society of very small people lives under our own floorboards, “borrowing” from us all that they need to live on a fascinatingly small scale.

None of these is a very long or large book, proving that great things come in small packages. Enjoy!