Picture Book Reviews: Professional Crocodile & Lines

Two glorious wordless picture books on the review docket! But first, a slight preamble:

I think I have previously reflected that authors and illustrators perform incredible feats in carrying out wordless picture books: plotting and mapping a story, holding interest, moving from beginning, middle, climax/reveal, to end, all without words to propel and prompt. Wordless picture books can be somewhat of a misunderstood/under-read category of picture books, and when I read treasures like Professional Crocodile and Lines, it pains me to think readers might miss out on so much! In my time so far as a children’s librarian I have heard kids being discouraged from checking out wordless picture books by adults saying they’re “too easy” or “not challenging enough”– essentially, boiling down to the argument of ‘without words to test you, what’s the point?’ Well, as someone who advocates and adores the category, I would like make the case that there is indeed marvel, challenge, curiosity and joy in sharing and experiencing wordless picture books! Let’s take a closer look now at two stellar examples:

 

Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli illus. by Mariachiara Di Giorgio
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: August 1, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

Mr. Crocodile loves his job. Every morning he gets up with an alarm. He brushes his teeth. He chooses the right tie to match his outfit, eats a quick slice of toast, and heads off to work on a crowded train. But what exactly is his job? The answer may surprise you! Readers will want to pore over this witty, wordless book again and again, finding new details and fresh stories with every reading.

Professional Crocodile is one of those picture books that I am delighted to have read and experienced. Prior to reading this wordless picture book, I had seen snippets of the book from other reviewers, thought the book looked gorgeous and added it my must-read. I was very fortunate to be surprised with a copy of it and can now quite confidently say that it is indeed a marvelous picture book.

We meet Mr. Crocodile as he wakes up to a new day in his dapper pajamas. As we join Mr. Crocodile and follow him about, readers see that by all accounts, he is a careful, elegant, well put together character. We see Mr. Crocodile do everything from taking a crowded train, to enjoying a whiff of food stuff so fragrant and delicious that it begs his purchase, to purchasing lovely flowers to surprise a young woman. But where exactly is Mr. Crocodile’s day taking him? We then get our answer as Mr. Crocodile surprises with a reveal of where he works and what his job is! A straightforward premise told in a supremely innovative and clever way here, Professional Crocodile is one of those reads that begs for multiple reads and studies. I have pored over this book now multiple times beginning to end and have found new facets and details each time that make Professional Crocodiles ending that much more marvelous.

Some of my personal favourites in children’s lit- Shaun Tan, Molly Idle, David Wiesner, Suzy Lee, to name but a few- are masters of the wordless book, and Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio’s work here is on par with that excellence. Professional Crocodile is a truly exceptional, clever, out of the ordinary story and experience for readers of all ages.

 

 

Lines by Suzy Lee
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 5, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

It starts with a line. Whether made by the tip of a pencil or the blade of a skate, the magic starts there.

And magic once again flows from the pencil and imagination of internationally acclaimed artist Suzy Lee. With the lightest of touches, this masterwork blurs the lines between real and imagined, reminding us why Lee’s books have been lauded around the world, recognized on New York Times Best Illustrated Books lists and nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international honor given to children’s book creators. This seemingly simple story about a young skater on a frozen pond will charm the youngest of readers while simultaneously astounding book enthusiasts of any age.

Since first reading (and rereading) Suzy Lee’s award-winning wordless picture books Wave, Mirror, and Shadow in succession, I have been a dedicated fan of the author-illustrator’s work. Sophisticated, experimental yet approachable for all ages of reader, Lee’s work is sublime, surprising and something to behold. In her latest wordless picture book Lines, Suzy Lee starts with the glide of a pencil tip to tell a gently- quietly- ebullient and ingenious tale.

Like a story within a story, Lines has layers and dimensions that draws the reader in and plays with perceptions about a story’s narrative, artwork, interruptions in reader experience, and how artists can turn a supposed slip back into something picture-perfect. Readers fall under the spell of an ice skater, watching as their blade cuts more and more lines of various width, shape, and weight into the ice. As the skater’s moves become more complicated, we see the ice become a patchwork of busier and busier carved lines until the ice skater leaps into a jump, spins in the air and— then– the story stops, restarts, and finishes in wonderful and surprising ways. Lee plays here so well with format and dimension, testing and nudging the reader into experiencing the story as both a journey of an artist working their way through a story and a standalone wintry narrative.

Lee’s work in Lines is terrific, thoughtful and understated brilliance, and I continue to be such a fan of her work. If you haven’t yet had a chance to explore Suzy Lee’s work, I highly recommend taking a look through the artist’s entire oeuvre up to and including this latest treat.

I received copies of Professional Crocodile and Lines courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.

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Recently Read: Great Picture Books!

Welcome to another Recently Read round up of great- and I mean tremendous- picture books! This entry features what I would more broadly categorize as children’s lit: there are picture books for the preschool and under crowd, but there are also some slightly longer and more mature illustrated children’s titles as well. In this round up are incredibly written and illustrated titles recently nominated for 2017 Canadian literary awards: the Governal General’s Literary Award nominated When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett; and the Governor General’s Literary Award nominated When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Matt James. There are also wonderful new titles by authors and illustrators including more brilliance from Kyo Maclear and Esmé Shapiro, Julie Kraulis, and much more! I hope you have the time to peruse these wide-ranging beautiful titles:

When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson, illus. Julie Flett
A Day with Yayeh by Nicola I. Campbell, illus. Julie Flett
When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illus. Matt James
Yak and Dove by Kyo Maclear, illus. Esmé Shapiro
A Pattern for Pepper by Julie Kraulis
Little Home Bird by Jo Empson
Boat of Dreams by Rogério Coelho
His Royal Highness, King Baby: A Terrible True Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illus. David Roberts

Top Ten Tuesday: Unique Books I’ve Read…

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. I have not been doing a great job with keeping up and participating, but I have been inspired this week’s topic: the most unique books we’ve read!

With the caveat that I have probably/most likely missed a number of unique titles here, I’ve picked ten titles- mostly all children’s titles- that, to me, stand out. Are unusual. Out of the ordinary. Seriously unexpected and seriously unforgettable. Perhaps even peculiar. In no particular order, here are my picks:

 

 

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
A picture book written all in imagined bug language (yes, indeed!), with gorgeous artwork…

The Liszts by Kyo Maclear, illus. Júlia Sardà
Kyo Maclear is up there as one of my favourite wordsmiths/storytellers. The Liszts is a newer title: a story about a list-making family that is beyond one’s expectations and imaginings. Sardà’s illustrations are…extraordinary…

Lost & Found by Shaun Tan
I am rather obsessed with Tan’s work. This was one of my first introductions to his work, and I haven’t stopped reading and poring over his incredible work since…

Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard
The combination of Orchard’s unusual and beautiful style of artwork with the darker fairy-tale feel- a stand-out graphic novel…

The Sleepwalkers by Viviane Schwarz
Ah, The Sleepwalkers! I read this graphic novel after falling in love with Schwarz’s picture books. A genuinely unusual, offbeat but lovely and hypnotic story about a team of heroes who rescue children from nightmares…

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston
A feat in storytelling, visuals and typography, this picture books is also a love letter to the power of books and words…

Press Here by Hervé Tullet
One of the first interactive perfect-for-storytime picture books I remember reading and arguably still one of the best…I would argue this was a game-changer and paved the way for more delightful interactive picture books to follow…I can’t imagine storytime with interactive books…

Art & Max by David Wiesner
David Wiesner, as with many authors and artists on this list, is a favourite. While most anything and everything by Wiesner is breathtaking and innovative, I must confess to a particular soft spot for Art & Max: a picture book about art, art styles, and two friends who test and bend art between the pages of this book that cemented Wiesner’s place on my roster of favourites.

Shadow by Suzy Lee
One of the first wordless picture books where I had a serious ‘aha’ moment about the beauty and signficance of the genre…Also: why isn’t everyone just as bananas about her work as I am?!?

Milk Teeth by Julie Morstad
This is a small book/collection of Morstad’s artwork. Surreal, dreamy, so strange and so beautiful…As with Shaun Tan’s work, I could forever be breathing in Morstad’s exquisite work…

Bonus mentions:

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, illus. Isabelle Arsenault

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

What titles are on your top ten this week?

Top Ten Tuesday: Recently Added to My To-Be-Read Shelf

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. I have not been doing a great job (at all!) keeping up and participating, but I have been inspired this week! Now, this week is actually a freebie week, so I thought I’d focus on titles recently added to my to-be-read shelf!

A blend of picture books, mystery and fiction…In no particular order, here they are:

1. Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin– a wordless picture book that I have been reading wonderful reviews about. Graegin’s illustrative work is lovely!

2. The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken– described as Zoom meets Beautiful Oops!, I’m looking forward to seeing this gorgeous-looking picture book in person.

3. I Don’t Draw, I Color! by Adam Lehrhaupt, illus. Felicita Sala– regular readers of my picture book posts might know I just adore Lehrhaupt’s work! As soon as I saw this latest one come up on Goodreads, it went right to my must-read.

4. I Hate Everyone, Except You by Clinton Kelly. Any other folks here who watched TLC’s What Not to Wear? I’ve read and really enjoyed Kelly’s previously published fashion/entertainment books (love his humour and snark). I Hate Everyone, Except You is a little bit different- this one is actually a memoir- a collection of personal essays- and it sounds fantastic.

5. Tales for the Perfect Child by Florence Parry Heide, with illustrations by Sergio Ruzzier– a new edition of Parry Heide’s classic. I feel as though I have read this, many years ago, but I just cannot recall! In any event, I’m looking forward to rediscovering (or discovering!) this book, and can’t wait to see Ruzzier’s illustrations!

The next four are titles I added to my TBR immediately after reading terrific reviews for in Publisher’s Weekly:

6. The Outrun by Amy Liptrot– a fascinatingly described non-fiction title

7. Find Me by J.S. Monroe– a right-up-my-alley kind of thriller…

8. The Girl from Rawblood by Catriona Ward– a gothic horror/mystery!

9. Say Nothing by Brad Parks– another taut thriller that sounds just like something I’d be interested in!

10. Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett– an unmissable cover, intriguing description and narrator? Yes, please!

What’s on your Top Ten Tuesday this week?

Picture Book Review: Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

wolfinthesnow29102937Picture Book Review: Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: January 3, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Book Description:

A girl is lost in a snowstorm. A wolf cub is lost, too. How will they find their way home?

Paintings rich with feeling tell this satisfying story of friendship and trust. Here is a book set on a wintry night that will spark imaginations and warm hearts, from Matthew Cordell, author of Trouble Gum and Another Brother.

Matthew Cordell‘s work in children’s literature is, to me, a constant source of joy and discovery. He is a picture book author/illustrator whose work I love recommending to kids and adults; there’s something slightly bonkers, usually funny and always meaningful in his story and drawing style. From his work in Another Brother (a personal favourite) to illustrations in the Justin Case series to Lost. Found., his work is truly excellent and little out of the box. Now, with Wolf in the Snow, an almost wordless picture book, his work as author and illustrator truly takes on another level of sublime.

The story begins as young girl waves bye-bye to her barking dog, waves bye-bye to her classmates and proceeds to get lost in a sudden and dangerous snowstorm. Running parallel to the young girl’s story is that of a young wolf pup who gets separated from his wolf pack in the same snowstorm. As the bundled-up girl struggles, sweats and ‘huff’ ‘huff’s her way through the snow, her path converges with that of the now-whining and scared wolf pup. Without giving away the entirety of the story here, I will say that the young girl shows tremendous tenacity, care and bravery in the face of obstacles, fear and exhaustion. At the climax, an incredible moment of kindness and recognition passes between child and wolf and wolf and human family, leading to a wonderfully stirring story. In their starred review of Wolf in the Snow, Kirkus writes that Cordell is able to, successfully, ‘capture many feelings’ through the almost wordless text by virtue of his expressive illustrations, elevating the story above and beyond another picture book about kindness. I would absolutely agree with this statement: the picture book is filled with evocative illustrations by way of facial cues- of wide, or red-rimmed, or tired eyes, of wolf gazes and stares- of physical movements including collapse, bodily exhaustion, drips of sweat, cold puffs of breath and more…Cordell tells so much, so effectively and deeply with his particular and unique illustrative style.

I hope we see Wolf in the Snow talk come around during Caldecott considerations! I for one, sometimes feel as though Cordell’s work is perhaps…well, not under-read nor under-appreciated, but I feel like it might really be his time to shine even more. Overall, I absolutely LOVE, love Wolf in the Snow– within the pages of this picture book is something luminous, aching, sweet and memorable for readers (and picture book aficionados) of all ages. Gorgeous!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Picture Book Picks: Perfect for Summer!

WHALEINMYSWIMMINGPOOL22609854Summer-themed picture books are a fun and varied bunch of reads: anything and everything from going to the beach to visiting family, discovering new creatures to taking fantastical trips with your imagination.

From classics to new titles, here- in no particular order- are some of my picture book picks for summer:

 

BARNACLEISBORED26892078Barnacle is Bored by Jonathan Fenske
Rules for Summer by Shaun Tan
The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli
The Whale in My Swimming Pool by Joyce Wan
Flotsam by David Wiesner
Wave by Suzy Lee
Fred and Pete at the Beach by Cynthia Nugent
Harry by the Sea by Gene Zion
Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) by Julie Falatko, illus. Tim Miller
Oi Frog! by Kes Gray, illus. Jim Field
The Specific Ocean by Kyo Maclear, illus. Katty Maurey
Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
POPPYPICKLE28265627Poppy Pickle by Emma Yarlett
Land Shark by Beth Ferry, illus. Beth Mantle
Out of the Blue by Alison Jay
Quackers by Liz Wong
Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat
Stella, Star of the Sea by Marie-Louise Gay
This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary, illus. Julie Morstad
Secret Tree Fort by Brianne Farley
The Night Gardener by Terry Fan and Eric Fan
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
Emily’s Balloon by Komako Sakai
Pool by JiHyeon Lee
BIGGESTTHINGINTHEOCEAN1096163I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry
I’m the Best Artist in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry
Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead
Where Are My Books? by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Mr. Gumpy’s Outing by John C. Birmingham
The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water by Gemma Merino
Pig Kahuna by Jennifer Sattler
Is Everyone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas
Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping by Melanie Watt
Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach by Melanie Watt
Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light
If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano, illus. Erin E. Stead

You can find more of my seasonal and ‘best-of’ book lists on this page!

Best Books of 2015, Part 1: Picture Books, Children’s Fiction & Graphic Novels

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Another year of reading is inching its way to an end! All around, I would say that it has been a pretty solid year of reads: from brilliant and moving picture books, to gems in young adult, children’s and adult fiction, there have been a number of winners.

In no particular order, here are my picks for best in picture books, children’s fiction, and children’s graphic novels:

Enormous Smallness: A Story of E.E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien
The Specific Ocean by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Katty Maurey
Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad
Whimsy’s Heavy Things by Julie Kraulis
Bunnies!!! by Kevan Atteberry
Mr. Squirrel & the Moon by Sebastian Meschenmoser
A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Christian Robinson
Lenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Julie Morstad
Bug in a Vacuum by Mélanie Watt
Night Animals by Gianna Marino
Emily’s Balloon by Komako Sakai
Some Things I’ve Lost by Cybele Young
The Cow Who Climbed a Tree by Gemma Merino
The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton
Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett
Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley
Tell Me What to Dream About by Giselle Potter
Pool by JiHyeon Lee
Black Dog by Levi Pinfold
The Memory Tree by Britta Teckentrup
Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley

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Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff
The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth (Book 1) by Judd Winick
We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Little Robot by Ben Hatke
The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
Something Wiki by Suzanne Sutherland
Beyond the Laughing Sky by Michelle Cuevas, pictures by Julie Morstad
The Unseen Guest (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #3) by Maryrose Wood
First Class Murder (Wells & Wong Mystery #3) by Robin Stevens
Unicorn on a Roll (Heavenly Nostrils #2) by Dana Simpson

 

*Some titles may not have been published in 2015; the books are titles I read over the last year. Some titles may have been gifted from publishers in exchange for honest reviews; this had no impact on placing in this list.

Recently Read: Great Picture Books

I must sound like a broken record when I do these picture book posts and say- each time- how amazing the quality of children’s lit is! From picture book biographies of the incredible E.E. Cummings and Henri Matisse, to Kate Beaton’s picture book debut, there is no end to the wonder and richness in children’s lit.

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Enormous Smallness by Matthew Burgess, illus. Kris Di Giacomo . As I noted on Goodreads, I found this picture book moving and stunning. Burgess and Di Giacomo have shared Cummings’s life with us readers, showcased his profound way with words and made it all sing in one incredible picture book.
The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton. Beaton, the writer/artist behind the hugely popular Hark! A Vagrant, does not disappoint with this immensely entertaining, clever picture book about a strong Princess and her roly poly tooting pony. Any mention of farting usually sets off a young storytime audience, but Beaton’s bold, bouyant illustrations and comic text are the winners here.
The Memory Tree by Britta Teckentrup. A lovely and moving picture book about the death of a beloved fox and how fond memories keep him alive in the hearts of his friends. Beautifully and softly told, with gorgeous illustrations.
Float by Daniel Miyares. Miyares’s wordless picture book is one that tells a beautiful, moving and evocative story all through expressive and dynamic illustrations. Just gorgeous. Fans of Suzy Lee, Molly Idle, Marla Frazee or David Wiesner should definitely check this one out!
The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLachlan, illus. Hadley Hooper. As with Enormous Smallness, The Iridescence of Birds is a biographical picture book. MacLachlan and Hooper have brought the upbringing, inspirations and work of Matisse to life in this wonderful picture book. The artwork here, by Hooper, is amazing and pulls the slightly indefinite narrative together.

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Recently Read: Great Picture Books

whimsysheavythings17262790 laststopmarketstreet22521973 I have had the pleasure of reading a number of terrific picture books as of late! From the much talked about to the wordless to the quieter offerings, here are some terrific picture book picks:

 

Whimsy’s Heavy Things by Julie Kraulis. This is a thoughtful, contemplative and beautiful picture book from a Canadian writer/illustrator that addresses issues of anxiety and worry in a gentle and engaging way. This is one that adults and children alike can definitely read and share together.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena, illus. Christian Robinson. I had read rave reviews of this title and so proceeded to read with caution, but guess what? It is pretty special indeed!  Last Stop on Market Street really delivers with Robinson’s amazing artwork and de la Pena’s poignant story.
Special Delivery by Philip C. Stead, illus. Matthew Cordell. I must admit to being a MAJOR fan of both Stead’s and Cordell’s work, so I was really looking forward to their collaboration. And I am happy to say it did not fail to delight in its irreverence, gentle charm and sly humour. Get ready to chant CHUGGA CHUGGA CHUGGA BEANS BEANS BEANS!
Pool by JiHiyeon Lee. A beautiful and innovative wordless picture book that takes one boy’s lonely time at the pool to a new level of wonder and discovery.
I Don’t Like Koala by Sean Ferrell, illus. Charles Santoso. If you’re looking for a slightly unnerving yet funny picture book read then I would recommend this one! A young boy tries desperately to get kid of a particularly wide-eyed koala bear toy who doesn’t want to disappear. Get ready to be slightly creeped out by a seemingly innocuous koala.

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Must Read Monday (3)- Picture Books

Welcome to the third edition of Must Read Monday! On Mondays I will spotlight some new and/or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week I am featuring recently released or soon to be released picture book titles- don’t they all look fantastic?!

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The Skunk by Mac Barnett, illus. Patrick McDonnell (Published April 14, 2015 by Roaring Brook Press)

William and the Missing Masterpiece by Helen Hancocks (Expected publication: April 28, 2015 by Templar)

It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee (Published March 17, 2015 by Dial Books)

Wish by Matthew Cordell (Published March 3, 2015 by Disney-Hyperion)

Float by Daniel Miyares (Expected publication: June 9, 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

I Don’t Want to be a Frog by Dev Petty, illus. Mike Boldt (Published February 10, 2015 by Doubleday Books for Young Readers)

If you’d like to join Must Read Monday, please do! Link up or leave a comment about what you’re looking forward to reading- I love to hear what other readers have on their radar!