by Bryan Patrick Avery
Magician’s are known for asking people to “pick a card.” Well, it’s Picture Book Month so let’s a pick a book! In fact, let’s take a look at four picture books I’ve been enjoying and learning from. First up, Yuyi Morales’ tale Just a Minute.
While it might be considered a concept book, Just a Minute is so much more. Morales uses an original trickster tale to carry the story. At the beginning, Grandma Beetle is visited by a skeleton named Señor Calavera. When Señor Calavera tells Grandma Beetle to come with him, she replies, “just a minute.” As Grandma counts her way through the chores (sweep one house, boil two pots of tea, etc.) Señor Calavera gets impatient. At each step, Grandma Beetle tells him “just a minute,” and continues her preparations. The story concludes with an ending that is both inevitable and surprising. Just a Minute is a perfect example of turning a concept book into an engaging story and should be studied by anyone looking to write in this genre.
Another book I’ve been studying this month is Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back. In this book, a bear searches for his missing hat. What I love about the book is that is written entirely in dialogue. As the bear searches the woods for his hat, he asks creature after creature if they’ve seen it, but to no avail. As frustration starts to grow, the bear realizes he has seen his hat, leading the story to an unexpected conclusion. The simplicity of the dialogue, coupled with the format of the book (alternating pages of illustration and text), make the book a joy to read.
Can you read a book with no words? I think so, and Bob Staake’s Bluebird is a shining example of such a book. Told using only images, Bluebird is the story of a young boy who befriends a blue bird. We see their relationship grow (I love watching them play with the sail boat) and then watch as one friend makes a hug sacrifice for the other. Staake’s beautiful illustrations pull us into the story and create an emotion connection to the story and the characters. Whether you ever attempt to tackle writing a book with no words, there is much to be learned about storytelling from Bluebird.
I’ve always been a Dan Santat fan, so I was thrilled when my copy of After the Fall arrived. Santat’s book tells the story of what happened to Humpty Dumpty after his famous fall. Told in the first person (which I love), After the Fall is Humpty Dumpty’s first-hand account of how he managed to deal with the emotion scars of his fall. It’s an incredible story, with a triumphant ending, that has the power to inspire the reader to overcome their own fears and obstacles. Santat’s work here is nothing short of brilliant.
Well, that’s all for this month. Happy reading and writing! Have a magical month.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Maggie Brown.
And 5th Mondays will feature a surprise reprise from over nine years of archives.