Eye-Catching Graphics Evoke the Wonders of Childhood in New Picture Books

August 26, 2010 5 min read

The bright artwork in these new books matches the witty, smart and prolific text, which includes the latest from icons Patricia Polacco and Jane Yolen.

"This is Silly" by Gary Taxali; Scholastic Press; 32 pages; $17.99.

"Warning: This book may cause uncontrollable giggling in children," reads the front dust cover of this innovatively wacky picture book. Reminiscent of midcentury comic graphics, Taxali's pleasantly retro pictures of characters — shaped like peanuts, exclamation marks, siphons and monkeys — are based on his own toy designs and look like a cross between Popeye, Betty Boop and the moustache man magnetic drawing toy.

With stream-of-consciousness type text — "Here comes Willy, really silly! Silly Billy, hop and run!" and "Bumbling Buffoonery! Loony, laughy, dizzy, daffy, tumbling tomfoolery" — the smiling, whistling, awe-struck characters romp goofily across the pages. The funny faces wink and smile, play peekaboo and generally yuk it up. The mirror on the last page asks tots, "Can you be silly, too?"

With a cool look and successful quest to get kids laughing, "This is Silly" is fun, fun, fun.

"WILD Alphabet" by Mike Haines and Julia Frohlich; Kingfisher Books; 52 pages; $19.99.

Know a child wild about animals, pop-up books and the alphabet? Then this little "A to Zoo Pop-Up Book" is a perfect gift. The pop-ups start immediately, with the first-page spread featuring an antelope and a paragraph about the animal: "I scamper across the African plains on long and slender legs. Sure, I can run fast and jump high, but I'm always on the lookout for danger." And a large, black letter "A" opens to reveal a black-and-white antelope's head. The animals featured are mostly of the wild category, which is great for kids who revere the creatures in their zoos and animal parks.

"The Junkyard Wonders" by Patricia Polacco; Philomel/Penguin Young Readers Group; 48 pages; $17.99.

Patricia Polacco, like Dr. Seuss, Margaret Wise Brown and several iconic others, is now one of the most famous children's book authors in history. Ironically, Polacco was diagnosed as dyslexic as a child and placed into "the junkyard," or class for special needs children.

Polacco's learning experiences in Mrs. Peterson's "junkyard" class pushed her to her fullest potential and changed her life. The author and artist then knew that being "regular" does not make one smarter or better. For her, the real genius was in Mrs. Peterson's class.

In "The Junkyard Wonders," Polacco introduces young Trisha and her new class filled with an oddly brilliant group of misfit kids, all lovable and genius in their own ways.

Like her "Thank You, Mr. Falker," Polacco celebrates great teachers and the potential of every child in this new book. Also, it's filled with personality-filled, colorful sketches of "the junkyard wonders."

"Elsie's Bird" by Jane Yolen and David Small; Philomel; 40 pages; $17.99.

Lyrically beautiful in every way, "Elsie's Bird" tells the dramatic but uplifting tale of a young girl who loses her mother in Boston. She must move with her father to the plains of Nebraska in the 19th century. In her sadness, Elsie also loses her quest to hear, except for the songs of her beloved canary, Timmy Tune.

Though Elsie and Timmy share the gift of song and eventually adapt to prairie life, it's only when Timmy flies away and Elsie runs to find him that she finally heeds her father's advice — Elsie hears the lovely sounds of the outdoors.

A splendidly lovely tale of a child finding her footing and voice after tragedy, Yolen's ode to the power of a pet is heartfelt. Small's sweeping watercolors portray the windswept colors of the prairie, and paint young Elsie more vivid as the tale proceeds.

To find out more about Lee Littlewood and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

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