Friday, May 04, 2007

Pictures and Paints

I enjoy good picture books. Unfortunately, really good ones seem often hard to find. I am a big fan of How Are You Peeling and anything with cutouts.

Into the Forest, by Anthony Browne. I liked the use of color versus black and white in the drawings for this book. What I dislike about the pictures is that some of the characters a rather cartoon-y, but others are drawn more realistically, and there seems to be no reason for this (Grandma is cartoon-y, Mom is not).
I'm rather disappointed in the story as well. The inside front cover claims this is a "deeply imaginative and atmospheric exploration of a child's anxiety, ...[which takes] the reader on an unforgettable journey into a forest full of fairy-tale allusions where, typically, nothing is as it appears." This description is little more than wishful thinking. The character does encounter a few persons of fairy tale origins, but their interactions are limited and make little sense, and the fairy tale borrows are not identified.
The book also does a terrible job of exploring the character's anxiety. Dad is gone, Mom doesn't know why, and the boy is sad. There is no discussion of the matter, and the only action taken on the part of the main character to find his missing father is silly and unhelpful. Dad is later found at Grandma's house and comes home happily, without any explanation or excuse. The anxiety and its reasons were never plumbed and they have no real resolution.

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, by Lois Ehlert. This is a Reading Rainbow book. I used to watch that show all the time.
The book does a good job of introducing plant science and gardening in an easy-to-understand manner for young readers. I especially like the mix of materials used in the pictures: some are paintings, some are photographs, and some are made of paper cut outs. They are often mixed together, two or three on a page. I also like how things in the pictures are labeled (maple tree seed, gardening gloves, roots, paper airplane).
This is a good one: it uses a good story to teach something practical. It's not just a story.

Henry and the Kite Dragon, by Bruce Edward Hall, illustrated by William Low. This story is pretty good, although a little wordy for a picture book. It's got a moral and all that.
I really love the paintings for this book. They were done on canvas or something, and you can see the texture. The lines are blurry from the thick brush strokes and the colors are extremely vivid. I'm a big fan.

Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Cherries (And Children) Across the Plains, by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. First, yeah, the title is a bit long. The drawings for this are cartoon-y, but very detailed, which I thought very good.
This is not going to be any kid's favorite book: it's not particularly funny, informative, or memorable. It's just one of the library's thousands of picture books.

Dragonfly's Tale, by Kristina Rodanas. I've seen alot of picture books based on certain cultures and, not having been raised with an ethnic identity, I find it hard to form opinions about them. I liked the paintings.

Edward and the Pirates, by David McPhail. This book was pretty crappy. I'm not sure what it's about, really. It quits just when it seems we're getting to, you know, the plot line. I liked the dark paintings, though.

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