We found a few new favorite picture books at our library recently. A couple taught us about perspective, one about making do with perhaps less than you had hoped for, and finally one teaches us to read Chinese characters. Want to find some good picture books to read this month? Then read along!
Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale, written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
This book in our current library pile is one that my daughter asked me to read every night and I didn’t mind one bit. Poor Doreen follows the story of Doreen as told by a narrator. Doreen is on her way to visit her second cousin twice removed who’s just had 157 babies, but she faces obstacle after obstacle on her path. Doreen’s happy-go-lucky attitude borderlines on being downright dimwitted, much to the dismay of the much more realistic narrator. However, in the end you’re left wondering if Doreen is really that clueless or if she’s really smarter than all of us. It’s a fun read with a lot of personality, the watercolor/gouache art is equally playful, and it says a lot about how your attitude can affect how you perceive the events that happen around you.
There’s not much to the text of No One Saw, but the book drives its point home beautifully. Each page contains a famous piece of art with the caption, “No one saw … like …” For example, “No one saw flowers like Georgia O’Keeffe.” The book includes different art styles and artists so it’s a good introduction to fine art, but even more than that, I love the cohesive theme around ordinary things being seen in a way that makes them extraordinary. We may not all be able to paint like the masters, but we all have the potential for seeing things a little differently. Let’s encourage that.
Sparky! written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans
Sparky! is the story of a girl and her new pet sloth, Sparky. The girl protagonist—the book is written in the first person and her name never gets stated—wants a pet and makes a deal with her mom that she can have any pet she wants as long as it doesn’t need to be walked, bathed, or fed. So the protagonist heads to the library to do some research, which leads her to find the perfect pet for her needs: a sloth. It sleeps more often than not, hardly ever moves, and survives on tree leaves. Perfect! Unfortunately, competition gets the best of our protagonist, who tries to show off her new pet’s tricks—though he has none—to the snotty, goody-two-shoes Mary Potts. In the end, our protagonist seems to accept who Sparky really is and their bond is restored. Chris Appelhans was one of my favorite artists at SDCC 2014, whose understated art I thought would be perfect for a picture book. Turns out he already had a book out that I didn’t even know about!
The Pet Dragon written and illustrated by Christoph Niemann
My 4-year-old has Chinese class at her preschool, so I was excited to borrow The Pet Dragon from the library. It teaches multiple Chinese characters on each page, based on the storyline. The story alone wouldn’t have been quite enough to make it a favorite, but my daughter and I both loved reading the story and learning the characters along with it. On the last page, all of the characters are included and, without prior knowledge of Chinese characters, we were both able to recognize and remember quite a few. We were very excited about that!