#2 is boring.
#3 is multi-layered and unique and will certainly be enjoyed by little ones, but I missed having one main character.
#4 is a fun idea, but there’s no arc. It’s the type of manuscript that, in years past, would have been called “too slight.”
#5 is on the fence. It’s fun and it’s about dinosaurs, so little ones will certainly enjoy. However, the main character has no name (I really like book characters with names.) and for little ones, it’s challenging to know which of the several characters is speaking.
#6 is wobbling violently on the fence. It’s visually stunning and presents a complex issue in a simple way, but the resolution seemed too easy to me.
What I missed in all but one of these books was a strong main character. (Yes, I’m biased. Afterall, I have an e-course on character-driven picture books.)
Books that aren’t character-driven rise to the top of Amazon’s ranks and become NY Times Best Sellers, but they aren’t necessarily books I want children to fall asleep with night after night.
Which book survived my steely stare? Which is the last book standing?
Black Dog by Levi Pinfold. It’s timeless as well as original. I love the simple story-telling beginning. “One day, a black dog came to visit the Hope family.” First to see the dog is Mr. Hope, then Mrs. Hope, Adeline, Maurice, and finally Small. With each character we get a little view of who they are, but it’s Small who is our hero, as she goes outside to meet the dog who has become larger and larger with each family member’s stare. With a song and a playful obstacle course, Small entices the black dog to follow her. As he follows, he grows smaller and smaller…and becomes Small’s friend.
There’s a nice narrative arc, which I’m a fan of. The black dog, which is a metaphor for fear, gets bigger as each family member sees him; it takes Small to face fear and bring the dog down to size.
I always enjoy layers in picture books. Even if the reader doesn’t know what the layers are, they still add depth. In this case, the layers let us admire Small all the more.
I believe above all, above information, above fun, above silliness, above sweetness, touching readers’ hearts is the most important thing a picture book can do. Black Dog did that for me. It was a 2013 Boston Globe-Horn Picture Book Honor Winner and Levi was winner of the 2013 Kate Greenaway medal.
I suspect if you’d read these 7 books, many of you would have chosen a different favorite. So, I invite you to share a picture book that touches your heartstrings. Is it because of a special character?
Thanks in advance for sharing.
8/19/2013 12:34:45 am
I will definitely check this one out. It sounds really great. Thanks for the review!
8/19/2013 01:53:59 am
I've placed it on my Goodreads list, thanks, Marsha. One book that recently touched my heart is "A Sick Day for Amos McGee", by Phillip C. Stead. The illustrations, by Erin E. Stead, go perfectly with the story. I just love, love, love it!
8/19/2013 03:10:14 am
Loved your blog, Marsha. Black Dog is on my reading list and I was thrilled when my library had a copy of it. With budget cuts these days, it is more challenging to get all the new books one would like at the library.
8/19/2013 05:12:25 am
Marsha, I agree with you. I take out so many picture books each week, and only a few do I write reviews for because as a picture book author myself, I'm hesitant to to put anything less than 4 stars up on Goodreads or Amazon, though I have done just that! I haven't read Black Dog, but will order it immediately from my library. Yesterday I read Exclamation Mark! and loved it. It was so clever and had no character. But I most certainly would have shared that book every year when I taught 4th grade. For me, if a book has word play and touches lives in some way, it doesn't have to have one main character. Thank you for your thoughtful post.
8/19/2013 07:12:33 am
I always want to know why certain books appeal to people and loved reading your list of why you rejected 6 of the books you read. Will go read Black Dog now!
Great post, Marsha! Can't wait to read this one. I really liked Gordimer Byrd. It's interesting in that it has a good message for adults, yet children will love it on a different level. quirky and off-the -wall. It's one that I've been enjoying recently and my husband and I read it together and he oo'd and aah'd over it too.
8/20/2013 02:03:14 am
Appreciate your share, Marsha! Black Dog has been added to my Must Read list.
8/21/2013 01:46:17 pm
Thanks all, for your comments.
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First Fridays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer , man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
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