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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

August Shorts

Picture books you’ll want to add to your repertoire!

Touch the Brightest StarTouch the Brightest Star
written and illustrated by Christie Matheson
Greenwillow Books, 2017.

A night-time book, settling down for bed, quietly looking at the pages, hearing the story. An interactive book? Yes, because the author/illustrator wisely invites the reader and listener to touch the pages, to help the magic of the evening unfold. One star? Three stars? A sky full of stars? Did the reader make that happen? I am quite certain the readers of this book will have a curiosity about the night, about interacting with the night. “Close your eyes and breathe in deeply. Nod your head if you feel sleepy.” It works! The blue tones of the night become deeper, richer as the pages turn. The creatures who inhabit the night are made with collage techniques in a friendly way: the fireflies, the owls, the deer, and the moon. Just lovely. Read this one out loud often.

written by Dori Kleber, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Candlewick Press, 2017

This happened to me! An artist came to our school to show us origami, the Japanese art of folding paper to create recognizable shapes such as cranes, paper cups, and frogs. I was entranced. I folded all the time. So it is with Joey. His teacher tells him he must practice and have patience if he is to become a master. He practices on every bit of paper he can find. Too many, it turns out. His mother tells him he has to stop. Very practically, he goes to a neighborhood friend and discovers another means to practice. And thus the author and illustrator portray another love of mine: folding napkins!  This is a charming book. G. Brian Karas’ illustrations pay attention to detail and surround the reader with images of origami. There are subtle folds in the paper behind each illustration, giving the pages depth. It’s an earnest story, but Karas captures the humor of Joey’s efforts. “Many artists are misunderstood, amigo,” said Mr. Lopez.”Especially when they are just learning.” This book offers gentle encouragement to budding artists.

Home in the RainHome in the Rain
written and illustrated by Bob Graham
Candlewick Press, 2016

When you close the covers of this book, having read the last page, you will sigh with contentment. In a cartoon style, with attentive focus on detail, the pages unfold in the rain. Words and art, you can smell the rain, hear it thrumming on the car roof. If you have ever driven in the rain, this is that familiar experience. The combination of the words, “And not looking where it was going, the countryside ran straight into the edge of the highway, bringing with it the faint smell of farmyards,” and the unfolding of a familiar-to-many story of time spent on a long drive, with a surprise as splendid as the sunrise at the end of Mom and Francie’s road trip, make this a good read-aloud for your home.

Your Alien ReturnsYour Alien Returns
written by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Goro Fujita
Sterling Children’s Books, 2016

“When you least expect it, something special will get your attention. Your alien will be back. He will invite you over for a play date. You will need to check with your parents. Luckily, you’ll find the perfect moment to ask for permission.” Imagine you’re the illustrator with a manuscript—just words—before you. You read those words and what do you draw? The manuscript doesn’t say that the perfect moment occurs when Dad is fixing the kitchen plumbing and a geyser of water is flooding the kitchen. After their first book, Your Alien, Sauer and Fujita return with another very funny, very humane book. Written in second person, the “you” voice, there’s every opportunity for the listening child to feel a part of the wild adventure. And when our boy feels very alone among the aliens, especially after doing something that wrecks their fun, how will he make it up to them? Discussing the possibilities will provide a good discussion. But the author and illustrator know the real story, one that puts us on notice for including emergency supplies in our backpacks when setting off on an interplanetary trip. Your Alien Returns is fun and poignant and absolutely believable. The illustrations are exactly right for the book, with lots of good alien details. A good read-aloud for your classroom or older storytime group.

Jabari JumpsJabari Jumps
written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall
Candlewick Press, 2017

Having just finished his swimming lessons, Jabari is ready to jump off the diving board for the first time. Or is he? Dad and little sister accompany him to the public pool where the diving board is very high up. This is a story about Jabari working up his courage to try something new, a circumstance which will feel very familiar to young readers. The perspectives on height will be dizzying to those who are just a teensy bit uncertain themselves. Will Jabari jump? There’s good tension in this story and a satisfying ending. The illustrations are pencil, watercolor, and collage in summertime-at-the-pool shades of green and blue with full-page spreads and small vignettes, reflecting the larger-than-life feelings and the small steps taken to climb that ladder. You’ll want this one of your selves.

Hattie & HudsonHattie & Hudson
written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Candlewick Press. 2017

Have you spent any time at your lake cabin? Have you given any thought to what might be living in the depths of your lake? Hattie’s having one of those summers. She loves to explore and she loves to sing. Her singing brings a prehistoric creature up out of his lair so he can join her … in singing! Other lake citizens aren’t quite so appreciative as Hattie is. They’re scared! They want to do something about the monster! Hattie senses that he’s a friendly sort so she sets out to save him. How on earth can she do that? This is a sweet story of friendship and problem-solving with illustrations as only Chris Van Dusen can create them: suffused with color, sunlight and moonlight reflecting from the lake, and the grand scale of a lake monster from the depths!

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