Before After

BeforeAfter

Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Anne-Margot Ramstein/Matthias Arégui

Before After is a neat book that can be enjoyed by people of all ages; it works just as well as a gift for an inquisitive child as it does sitting on a coffee table. It’s a very conceptual book in that there are no words and only sets of illustrations that show before…then after. Some of the sets of illustrations work together to tell a short story, and we might see a image later in the book that we saw before. Most of the images are connected in some way and this is the beauty of the book! Creating a story. It’s great for storyboarding and sparking imaginative thinking; who do you think ate all this cake and why? Why’d they leave one piece?

Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Anne-Margot Ramstein/ Matthias Arégui

Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Anne-Margot Ramstein/ Matthias Arégui

Some before and afters span a few hours, others thousands of years!! One of my favorite sequences is Octopus -> Ink. Carrier Pigeon -> Feather for a quill which sits in the ink. Quill and ink -> Typewriter. Carrier Pigeon -> Letter ready to mail. Airplane jetting off (from a city we’ve maybe seen before?)

Ramstein and Arégui’s digital illustrations are beautiful with clean lines and a wide range of colors. I like how striking they are with an outline of color that makes the images pop. They do an amazing job of storytelling and help the reader to think about beginnings, endings, the sequence of events, results, processes, building up and tearing down, time and life and death. Whew that’s a lot for one book right? Before After is pretty amazing and very worth experiencing.

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Animals, Colors, Storyboarding, Storytelling, Imagination, Discussion, Time, Process, Imagination, Inquisitive Minds, Wordless
Book Info: Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein & Matthias Arégui, 2013 Candlewick Press, ISBN: 9780763676216

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Sidewalk Flowers

Groundwood Logos Spine

Image Credit: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press), JonArno Lawson/Sydney Smith

 

I love seeing books about dads and their daughters. This relationship isn’t common to see in picture books but when its done right, it’s something special. Check out Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang for another great one.

Sidewalk Flowers features wordless comic strip-like panels that show inner city life. The pages are gray, black and white save for a bright streak of red for the girl’s cloak and oh, if you look closely…is that a flower growing quietly? A young curious girl explores her city while holding her father’s hand on a walk to run errands. He’s often on his phone but she’s tuned into the bustle, the people and the flowers. They are still connected though and she’s busy collecting her flower prizes. As they walk through the park, she gives a small gift for a fallen friend, a dozing friend and hairy friend. She brings color to what she touches and the pages slowly bloom.

Initially Smith’s illustrations highlight contrasting black and white lines, but he throws in moments of color as the story progresses. His watercolor illustrations are great and vibrant; it’s not a busy kind of vibrant but rather a comfortable vibrancy. The father and daughter enjoy each other’s company and its easy to see how much the girl is a part of her community and how much she is loved.

***P.S. UPDATE! This book was chosen to be given as a gift to every Syrian refugee family in Canada! Wow. It’s the perfect book for welcoming. ❤

Read about it here!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Friendship, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Community, Discussion, Wordless, Animals, Family, Quiet Moments, Father-Daughter
Book Info: Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson/Illustrated by Sydney Smith, 2015 Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press), ISBN: 9781554984312

 

Here I Am

HereIam

Image Credit: Picture Window Books (Capstone Young Readers), Patti Kim/Sonia Sánchez

Whether escaping war, oppression, famine or discrimination, the United States has long been a place for new beginnings for people all over the world. Safe in our homes, it can be hard to put ourselves in the shoes of others, in the shoes of people who are fleeing their old life to make something better. Can you imagine being plucked from your home and while trying to hold on to what you know and understand, being placed in an entirely new (and sometimes scary) environment?

Reading Here I Am reminded me of the struggles of Syrian refugees trying to make new homes in various countries around the world. In this book, a young boy and his family leave Korea to make a new home in the US. This wordless picture book is inspired by the author Patti Kim’s experience leaving Korea at four years old to travel to the US. Her story, combined with Sonia Sánchez’s expressive and energetic art, is a moving tale of immigration.

In Here I Am, a child steps off a plane with his red seed from home tucked safely inside his pocket. It’s easy to see his confusion and reluctance to adjust to his new life. The words on sign posts and restaurants are a jumbled mess and all he hears from his teacher is “Blah Blah Blah” but…his red seed is comfort. He holes away in his family’s apartment, not ready to explore UNTIL…he drops his precious seed out the window and a girl picks it up and goes off with it! As he rushes down the stairs and begins to explore his city, he realizes how fascinating his new home is. Like his seed, he blooms and grows with his new friend, the new connection he makes in his new home.

This book is excellent for discussing difference, feelings and change and I hope you will keep this story with you!

Recommended for: Kindergarten and up
Great for: Diversity, Wordless, Moving, Immigration, Family, Friendship, We Need Diverse Books, Community, Discussion, Storyboarding
Book Info: Here I Am by Patti Kim/Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez, 2014 Picture Window Books (Capstone Young Readers), ISBN: 9781623700362

Float

Image Credit: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Daniel Miyares

Image Credit: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Daniel Miyares

In Float, a boy sets out for the day, ready to explore with his freshly crafted paper boat. Though it begins to rain, he’s not worried at all and sends his boat sailing through the puddles. He splashes joyfully but before he knows it, rushing water whisks his boat away! Though he’s sad when he finds it limp and unfolded, he realizes that a fresh sheet of paper and a new day bring the possibility of new adventures!

Miyares uses a mostly gray palette that evokes cool, rainy day feelings. I love the page with lines of heavy gray-white rain. The boy is vibrantly dressed in yellow rain gear as he moves joyfully across the page. Miyares’ watercolor illustrations are manipulated digitally and I like how the sharp angles of the paper boat match the angles of the boy’s hat, coat and boots. The wordless aspect of this book is great for storytelling; it’s easy to begin a quiet discussion about how the boy feels during every stage of the story. Float is one of this year’s best wordless picture books with it’s attention to detail and simple yet endearing story of imagination.

P.S. The endpapers of the book add something special; take time to look at them and grab a piece of paper.

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Storytelling, Storyboarding, Discussion, Imagination
Book Info: Float by Daniel Miyares, 2015 Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9781481415248

Flotsam

Image Credit: Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin), David Wiesner

Image Credit: Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin), David Wiesner

I’ve mentioned earlier how much I love a bold line and simple images that “pop.” Well, I also love DETAILED illustrations. David Wiesner is a master at storytelling through skilled detail. I love his book Flotsam and it’s very easy to see why this book won the 2007 Caldecott Medal.

Image Credit: Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin), David Wiesner

Image Credit: Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin), David Wiesner

This book is wordless. The lack of words encourage imagination and the illustrations have so much packed into them that you can come up with various interpretations of what’s happening. Keep staring at the gorgeous watercolor illustrations and you will find something new each time.

In Flotsam, a curious boy enjoys a day at the beach when suddenly, a huge wave knocks him over and washes up an old underwater camera. Inside he finds a roll of film, gets it developed and what he discovers is pretty amazing; a mechanical fish, a hot-air-ballon-puffin fish and more! Has he discovered the secrets of the ocean?? Each photo is even more fantastic than the first. Perhaps the coolest discovery is a portrait of every child that’s found the camera taking a photo with the portrait photo found before. I love this aspect of the book because we see children from all over the world and throughout time, who, like the young man in the story, discovered the wonders inside the camera. If you have a child with a vivid imagination, they will enjoy this book because it encourages fantasy and creativity.

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Creative Thinking, Storytelling, Discussion, Diversity, Cultural Diversity
Book Info: Flotsam by David Wiesner, 2006 Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin), ISBN: 9780618194575

Where’s Walrus? and Penguin?

Image Credit: Scholastic, Stephen Savage

Image Credit: Scholastic, Stephen Savage

I picked this book up to review and then I looked at the author and these were my thoughts “Oh I like this one a lot, let’s review it…OMG it’s Stephen Savage. No wonder I like it!” I previously reviewed his book Supertruck which is about a garbage truck with a secret identity. His most recent book however is about adventurous zoo animals. I love the endpaper. I’ve mentioned before how much I love endpapers… 🙂

Look at the beauty

Look at the beauty

On a rainy day at the zoo, Walrus and Penguin make a break for it. Mr. Zookeeper searches for them throughout the city but they’re just too clever at blending in. This is a silly book that’ll provide lots of chuckles for you and your child. You’ll enjoy searching for Walrus and Penguin on each page. There’s room for discussion and storytelling because the story is wordless. Savage’s signature simplistic, bold digital illustrations are great. If you love this one, be sure to check out the original book, Where’s Walrus? because it’s just as awesome!

Recommended for: Toddlers and young readers
Great for: Storytelling, Colors, Animals, Humor
Book Info: Where’s Walrus? and Penguin? by Stephen Savage, 2015 Scholastic Press, ISBN: 9780545402958