Today's title may be confusing, but it's not a mistake. In looking for books to give for the holidays, I thought I could share which of the dozens of new picture books I'm choosing to give as gifts this season. Chosen from the Cybils nominated titles I'm judging for Fiction Picture Books, today I have the books I selected for my adorable three year old niece.
There are Cats in This Book
by Viviane Schwartz
Bright, fun, clever and let's repeat fun, this book will surely entertain any toddler or preschooler. Using cutouts, flaps, and oddly shaped pages, the book interacts with the reader in a - can we use fun again? - fun way. The end papers even get in on the act with the first words on bright blue informing the reader that "The cats aren't on this page." They aren't on the next page either, but then move ahead to see purring and a quilt as a large flap. Lift it to find three awakened kitties, surprised and then happy to play with you. The cats address the reader the whole time, asking for pages to be turned, yarn to be tossed, and boxes to be opened. The happy cats are brightly and simply drawn, which lends even more of a surprise to finding the pages with more detail. This is a truly delightful book to share with a child and just plain - yes, I'll say it again - fun.
I Always, ALWAYS Get My Way
by Thad Krasnesky, illustrated by David Parkins
The terrible two's might bring tantrums and frustration, but the tricky three's are all about testing limits. One of the hardest things in approaching this age is figuring out when the child isn't old enough to understand something and when they do know better. This book is a wonderful, learning tribute to that concept handled in a light way. Emmy spills juice on dad, but mom intervenes in Dad's annoyance knowing that Emmy is only three. Same with a mistake with her siblings toys. But then Emmy does things Wrong, and learns that "only three" doesn't always excuse her behavior. The message is strong, but not overbearing. The rhyming text lightens the tone, and the pictures are excellent - especially in capturing the moods of three year old. Emmy's bad choices are pretty funny to see, like seeing her dress the lizard in a doll's bathing suit, but the consequences are firm and appropriate. An enjoyable book that will ring true for any preschool parent.
Jeremy Draws a Monster
by Peter McCarty
This title is one of my favorites of 2009, though it seems to have slipped under the radar in the book world. I didn't think the amazing message contained within was too subtle, but maybe it did escape many readers who looked at the surface and saw a simple, light story. It's a shame, because people missed one of the better combinations of art, story, and message that I've ever seen. In the simply written and illustrated book, Jeremy stays in his room, never goes out, and draws pictures. And one day, with his special crayon, he draws a monster. The monster is demanding and Jeremy has to keep working to satisfy it. He's relieved when it goes out for the day. But can things end that easily? No. Only when Jeremy takes an active role in getting rid of his monster does he find a chance to be happy. Young kids will enjoy the story - especially as you read in the cranky monster's voice - but can also absorb the deeper meaning within. Hopefully the adult readers will too. In my own family, after all enjoying this book, we've taken to saying, "you draw your own monster." And we now see that you can't feed it or ignore it, but you have to tackle it. An amazing message wrapped in a charming book with engaging illustrations. Not to be missed.
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