Picture Book Reviews: Things to Do & My World: A Book of First Words
With playful prose and vivid art, Things to Do brings to life the small moments and secret joys of a child’s day. There are wonders everywhere. In the sky and on the ground-blooming in a flower bed, dangling from a silken thread, buzzing through the summer air-waiting … waiting to be found. In this thoughtful and ingenious collection of poems, Elaine Magliaro, an elementary school teacher for more than three decades and a school librarian for three years, and illustrator Catia Chien provide a luminous glimpse of the ordinary wonders all around us.
“Things to do if you are a honeybee
Flit among flowers.
Sip nectar for hours.
Be yellow and fuzzy.
Things to Do, written by poet Elaine Magliaro and illustrated by Catia Chien (My Blue is Happy), is a lively verse-filled picture book about marvels- big and small- found in the world around us. With a young child and her canine companion as our guides, readers are taken into a world of poetry and wonder as we look at everything from the dawn to an acorn, the sky to an eraser.
Starting with waking up in the morning and considering the dawn and ending with a nighttime contemplation of the moon, child and pup traverse and explore the world around them and things various objects should do. Chien’s illustrations, rich and colourful yet soft and gauzy (and making such terrific use of perspective and angles) just perfectly compliment Magliaro’s sometimes rhyming, sometimes free, gorgeously lilting poems. Initially, I had wondered whether a consistent, repeated rhyming pattern would have made the flow of the story smoother. However, after some reflection and rereading of passages, I find that the variable nature of the poems to work very well here, as Magliaro alters tone and rhyme (as well as font size and style) to suit each object so wonderfully. As an example, the honeybee poem quoted above features shorter, to-the-point sentences that allow for a quicker reading- just as one might imagine honeybee might be! In contrast, the poetry for ‘Things to do if you are a snail’ uses ‘s’ words to great effect…drawing out sentences such as ‘slowly…slowly…’ and ‘slide along your trail of slime‘. I would argue that a more strict pattern of precise rhyming might not fit so well with the overall style and voice of the story!
In all, Things to Do is a beautiful meld of picture book and poetry. Readers who enjoy or are looking for something a little more contemplative and challenging, or those who enjoy work by authors such as Jon J. Muth, Joyce Sidman, Julie Fogliano, Helen Frost or Kate Coombs might especially adore this enchanting title.
A beautiful and entertaining visual catalog for toddlers – including things that go, cute fruits and veggies, undersea creatures, and more!
There’s no end to the fun in finding and naming each object in these chockablock spreads! Beautiful birds, adorable mommy and baby animals, colorful clothing, musical instruments, and more fill each page, with objects labeled and grouped by theme. A fun, gorgeous visual dictionary for the very youngest of readers.
If you are not yet familiar with Frann Preston-Gannon’s work in children’s lit, I recommend checking out any one of her gorgeous, vibrant books! From the board book Deep Deep Sea to the adorable picture book Pepper & Poe and many more, Preston-Gannon’s artwork and style is totally singular and recognizable.
Here in My World: A Book of First Words, the author-illustrator approaches a multitude of objects grouped by themes (e.g. Birds, Plants, Prehistoric Creatures, Fruits and Vegetables) in a spectacularly bright and lively fashion. For example, in the ‘Plants’ spread, Preston-Gannon illustrates everything from cattails and bluebells to a Venus flytrap and a stout cactus with enigmatic eyes- comparable to the all-knowing eyes found on Jon Klassen’s animals. Each and every object presented in this engaging, educational and FUN read is drawn ebulliently- children (and adults!) will undoubtedly love to pore over the illustrations large and small as well as find joy in learning new words. My World contains a tremendous variety of words for a range of ages- from words like kittens, chicken and car to very cool and tricky dinosaur names like Diplodocus and Prenocephale!
Overall, My World is a delight. Picture books and board books on ‘first words’ can indeed become repetitive or same-y, but this book from Preston-Gannon is indeed a treat. Perfect for a wider range of ages, with fresh and vivacious illustrations that will likely delight toddlers, preschoolers and adults, My World is definitely one to check out and add to your collection!
I received copies of these titles courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.