Another round-up! Today we’ve got a diverse array of picture books, including a celebrity picture book, a COVID-19 story, a play on Virginia Woolf and more. Have you read any of these?
My Name is a Story by Ashanti, illustrated by Monica Mikai
Another “my name is different story,” this one’s got the celebrity element and a fun, vibrant Black girl who works through her name as a sort of acrostic. After realizing her name is hard when kids make fun of her, she asks her mom about the origins of her name and finds out the stories behind it–told through letters of her name becoming examples. I loved this idea, except that on a first read, you might think it’s out of order. It’s at least unequally distributer.It goes AWESOME, and then six examples for S, two for H, two more for A, three for N, 3 for T, and 4 for I. This is really nitpicky of me, I know, but I almost didn’t remember AWESOME and had to look back to make sure the name wasn’t spelled out of order. The light, delicate backgrounds are a great juxtaposition to a beautiful protagonist.
Dragon Noodle Party by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Paula Pang
This was a mostly fine but totally forgettable book about animals bringing ingredients to a surprise party in the spirit of Chinese birthdays. The animals of the Zodiac each get their turn bringing something up the hill to contribute to the festivitie–Snake’s Birthday–but the illustrations are strange. It’s not terrible that they’re not realistic animals–very Calvin & Hobbs to me–but the proportions and sizing feels off through all of them in different ways. The prose is also very very bland, and I like the ending and the backmatter, but didn’t care for the primary bulk of the book.
Pip and Zip by Elana K Arnold, illustrated by Doug Salati
What an adorable, COVID-19 adjacent story. Set during the early pandemic, a family finds two lost duck eggs and raises them in an incubator. This is a small story, quotidian in its prose but that’s what makes it so beautiful. Also Salati’s water illustrations are GORGEOUS. Like Wow!
The Sour Grape by Jory John and Pete Oswald
This is a classic John/Oswald tale–a sour grape who holds grudges because no one came to his birthday party once. He recounts his tribulations, shows us his day, and of course discovers something that makes him rethink his outlook on life. This has a lot of text all over the place–including speech bubbles, so for a slightly more advanced reader, but I love how BOLD the core font is. More books with full-page illustrations need that.
A Room of Your Own by Beth Kephart & Julia Breckenreid
I liked the concept of this book—using Virginia Woolf’s most famous axiom as a jumping off point for talking to kids about needing their own space, and the illustrations are nice, but somehow the prose felt like just off–I can’t explain it, it just didn’t click. Poetic but not quiet a poem, a little too old but also not elevated.
Dear Wild Child: You Carry Your Home Inside You by Wallace J Nichols, Wallace Grayce Nichols, and illustrated by Drew Beckmeyer
What a gorgeous homage to nature, family, and home. This is a lushly illustrated book, unique—I believe it might be crayon or colored pencils mostly–and moving. It’s a letter to a child, yes, a wild child–about the home they built in the Redwoods, which is then lost to a forest fire. It’s a beautiful, beautiful book. The characters are the weakest part of the illustration, but also the least important.
Black Gold by Laura Obuobi, illustrated by London Ladd
This reminded me so much of I Sang You Down From the Stars–a gorgeous, hypnotic lullaby and love letter of a book. This is about a Black child being created by the universe and no detail is left undetermined by the care in the prose. The illustrations are AMAZING—subtle in some ways, full-page and full of depth, with hidden gems in them and so reminiscent of the night sky. What a stunning book!
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