by Annie Cronin Romano
How will the boy get his kite out of the tree? This is the problem facing young Floyd in Olivier Jeffers’ STUCK (Philomel Books, 2011). Jeffers takes the reader on a hilarious romp as Floyd attempts to knock his kite from the branches by throwing a most outlandish array of items…from sneakers to steamships! Using witty illustrations and clever text, Jeffers turns predictability and problem solving on its head and engages readers in a comical tale of common sense gone awry.
Jeffers, who is the illustrator of the bestseller The Day the Crayons Quit (Philomel, 2013), shows off his writing talents in this delightful picture book geared for children ages 3-7. Check out STUCK if you’re looking for a book to delight your young reader (and yourself). Chances are you won’t mind getting stuck wearing out the pages of this charming story.
Jeffers’ whimsical illustrations and handwritten text caught my eye from page one. STUCK is a strong example of well laid out page turns and momentum in a picture book format.
For more information of Oliver Jeffers’ work, visit his website at www.oliverjeffers.com.
Early Chapter Book
by Kelly Carey
Friendship works best when two friends each bring something unique to the relationship and are willing to compromise. Bink brings her home at the base of a tree and a zany love of colorful socks, while Gollie brings her home atop the tree and an aversion to colorful socks. With the same uncomplicated stroll through friendship that is experienced when reading the beloved Frog and Toad, Bink & Gollie have a wonderful, frustrating and loving relationship.
In three short chapters, each its own complete story, Bink brings mayhem and Gollie brings understanding. The charming compromises involve socks and pancakes, a mountain adventure and a sandwich, and a goldfish and a pond. Through it all, Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee use heart and humor to capture the essence of friendship.
The combination of illustrations and minimal text on every page in a chapter book format makes this an excellent bridge book for the child reader ready to move beyond picture books. The illustrations have a no nonsense feel and the dialogue rich text gives this book a nod of maturity that elementary school readers will appreciate.
For writers, here is a textbook lesson on how to create memorable complete characters and tell a full story with an arc, tension and a heart-string tug in very few words. Any time you think it can’t be done, just pick up Bink & Gollie for inspiration.
Bink & Gollie will make you smile, giggle and sigh and before you know it you’ll be ringing up your own best friend to ask if they want to go roller-skating.
I love it when a picture book touches something inside me. I have learned to embrace the tears and sniffles while reading these kinds of books to my children. And to push through, even if my voice is quivering. Even if I am feeling embarrassed. Why? Because I believe it is good for my kids to see me affected by a story. Reading teaches empathy, and we can certainly do with some more of that in this world.
One such a picture book is A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz. Alan cannot talk to people, because of his severe stutter. He can however, talk to animals. He makes a promise to the jaguar in the zoo that, when he finds his voice, he will speak up for the animals. And he does just that. In this autobiographical picture book Dr.Rabinowitz tells the story of his work in jaguar conservation. He also tells the story of boy Alan and his struggles as a stutterer. It is a moving story of brokenness and healing.
Cátia Chien’s colorful illustrations seamlessly transport us from the Great Smokey Mountains to Belize, from city to jungle and face to face with a genial jaguar. Through the illustrations the book progresses from a sad, somber and lonely mood to one of hope, light, companionship and healing. The last two illustrations fill me with such peace; I just want to linger on those pages.
A Boy and a Jaguar is an endearing, uplifting picture book that illustrates truths about purpose, promises, compassion, and finding one’s own voice.
A Boy and a Jaguar is a BIG story. It includes messages about conservation, bullying, misunderstanding and isolation. Yet, it is told with such economy of words. It is written by someone who understands the value of words, and so these ones were carefully chosen. This book is a wonderful mentor text for effective and efficient word use.
"Believe it or not, as simple as this children's book was — all my other books are hundreds of pages ... it was hard to write because I didn't want to write it as an adult telling the story of my childhood. I wanted to go back inside and pull that child back out which has always been in there. But that child is a broken child, or at least a child who thought he was broken. And that was painful. I remember crying as I wrote this book. It's even painful now reading my own story because I never wished any young person to go through anything like that, that much pain." ~ Alan Rabinowitz
More on Dr. Alan Rabinowitz
To hear Dr. Alan talk about his childhood and writing this book on NPR, click here .
To watch a video of Dr. Alan talk about his work in conservation and this book, click here.
Our favorite mentor texts to guide your writing and revisions.