blue, illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, published by Roaring Brook/Neal Porter, ISBN: 978-1626720664. To be released: September 25, 2018.
The Five O’Clock Band, illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, published by Abrams, ISBN: 978-1419728365.
Grow Up, David!, illustrated and written by David Shannon, published by Blue Sky (an imprint of Scholastic), ISBN: 978-1338250978. ARC reviewed. To be released: August 28, 2018.
Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise, illustrated and written by David Ezra Stein, published by Candlewick, ISBN: 978-0763688424. ARC reviewed. To be released: September 11, 2018.
When talking to kids about the Caldecott Award, I am tickled by how many love obsessing over the Gold and Silver medals they see on book covers. I always tell them that winning a Silver medal (meaning the book received a Caldecott Honor) is just as impressive (and difficult) as receiving the Gold. Hundreds of picture books vie for Caldecott love. To end up in that final round? Wow!
While preparing to serve on the 2017 Caldecott committee I went back to examine as many honor winners as possible. Four books I loved revisiting: Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s poetic and intricate tribute to various shades of green (2013 Honor), the vibrant picture book memoir Trombone Shorty (2016 Honor) illustrated by Bryan Collier and written by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, the hilarious and ever-popular David Shannon romp No, David! (1999 Honor), and David Ezra Stein’s deliriously funny tour de force Interrupting Chicken (2011 Honor).
Happily over the next few months sequels and/or companions to these modern classics will be released. And I’m happy to report that they impress beyond belief, broadening the worlds of their predecessors while also existing as stand alone titles. Two make the reader laugh hysterically, one continues to celebrate the music, food, and culture of a musician’s beloved city, and one breaks the reader’s heart (but in a beautiful fashion).
David Shannon has given us a number of David books over the years, and I have loved each and every one. Kids love them, too. Based on Shannon’s childhood drawings sent to him as an adult by his mother, these raucous titles show the mischievous David doing all kinds of naughty things while an unseen authority figure scolds him. The sparse words appear as child-like scrawls and David looks like a punk rock version of a demented Peanuts character. Grow Up, David! might be my favorite David book since No, David!. The character reprimanding David this time turns out to be his older brother. Throughout the book the siblings torment each other. The brother smooshes David in the face in one spread, while David ties his shoelaces together in another. What’s surprisingly moving about the book is how it captures the younger boy’s need for acceptance from his brother. Although you laugh or even cringe at the antics (big ewwww to the spit image, ha), you cannot help but but smile at the sweetness of the brother’s final compliment, and the way he calls him “Dave” with respect: little bro is growing up after all.
“Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “Interrupting Chicken.” “Interrup–“”HEY THERE’S A NEW INTERRUPTING CHICKEN BOOK AND IT RAWKS!” David Ezra Stein’s ode to storytelling/narratives conventions continues in this hilarious sequel. For the uninitiated (and if you are one of the uninitiated I command you to head to your local library or bookstore and check out Interrupting Chicken), Stein introduces us to a Papa Rooster who tries in vain to tell a young chicken a bunch of classic fairy tales. And the young clucker always interrupts with very humorous observations or thoughts. In Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise, the little one comes from school, excited that their teacher told them how every story has an “elephant of surprise.” The rooster says no no no, that it’s ELEMENT of surprise. Nope, the interrupting chicken, stands their ground and says “elephant.” Papa then tries to read three classic stories (The Ugly Duckling, Rapunzel, The Little Mermaid) only to have the chicken yell about an elephant surprisingly entering the tale. And it’s absolutely hilarious to see an elephant suddenly appear as a duckling, Rapunzel, and a mermaid. Stein’s artful illustrations show fun versatility here: the storybook scenes wonderfully spoof the kind of classy art found in fairy tale collections, and I love the child-like drawings when Interrupting Chicken creates their own book. Yes, it follows the formula of the first book, but adds just enough new elephants, I mean, elements to make everything feel fresh and alive.
WHERE Y’AT? Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews’ Trombone Shorty bubbled with that recurring phrase New Orleans musicians yell to each other on city streets. In that book, Andrews tells how he learned to play trombone (and how he received his nickname) in an exciting way that makes reading the memoir out loud a joy. Meanwhile, Bryan Collier’s experimental and vivid collages convey the excitement of a boy loving the sights, sounds, foods, and culture of Tremé. Trombone Shorty wants his music to be like tasty jumbo, with all kinds of elements in the mix. At the end of Trombone Shorty, Andrews mentions that he joined a group of young peers to form The 5 O’Clock Band. And in The 5 O’Clock Band, the author tells the true story of how he loved playing with his friends, but panics when he is late for a rehearsal. As he rushes to find his fellow musicians, he runs into several wise elders (local music legend Tuba Tremé, the great chef Queen Lola, and members of the Mardi Gras Indians) who teach him about Tradition, Love, and Dedication. Thanks to Andrews’ evocative language and Collier’s eye-catching art (with its many layers and inventiveness), the book serves as a loving tour of a neighborhood and a city that inspires this remarkable musician. New Orleans turns 300 this year. The 5 O’Clock Band offers a joyous look at what makes the place so special.
The first three books in this blog post can be call sequels. Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s blue is more of a companion to the concept book green. The books share the same look (the covers resemble each other thanks to the font, the use of lower case letters). Also, Seeger employs similar artistic techniques (acrylic paint on canvas; small peek-a-book die cuts throughout). Only two words appear on his each spread. Yet unlike green, blue tells a linear story that captures the complexity of the color blue which calls to mind things that are warm and comforting, but also sad and haunting. The emotional story at the heart of blue is of a boy and his dog. Seeger gives us snapshots of their lives as they grow up together. A page that says “baby blue” shows a puppy and baby snuggling, “ocean blue” a shot of them playing in the water, and so on. Using various shades of blue, Seeger conveys a wide variety of moods and emotions. Especially when the dog starts to age, and heartbreak becomes inevitable. blue never feels manipulative or cheap. It earns its tears honestly. And although the final moment borders on the predictable (a new puppy), the feeling that life goes on despite strong feelings of loss still packs a punch.