Thursday, April 30, 2009

Picture Book Reading Challenge Results

The real winner of my Picture Book reading Challenge was Small Fry. This week the weather finally turned warm, with the sun sifting down through the branches of the giant oak tree in our backyard, we rocked on the hammock and worked our way through about 40 picture books. Small Fry had his favorites that he asked for every night but when I'd ask "do you want Bubble Bath Pirates again or a NEW book?", the answer was always a new book! a new book!

To see the idea behind the Picture Book Reading Challenge and the original lists I pulled books from click here. I checked out our library limit of 25, plus chose several from Small Fry's and my own library. From those 40 books I piled up 4 in my Love It pile:

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin: I was mildly amused by this book until the very last page. I thought it would just a typical "look we compromised and got along" lesson with cute illustrations .... until we see that the ducks really are not a neutral party.

Small Sister by Jessica Meserve: I just love this book (maybe because I am a little sister), I found it a couple of years ago at an SCBWI conference. The language is really spare, just one sentence on each page. Meserve's great story and images really capture what it feels like to seize power, both positively and negatively, as a little kid.

Duck on a Bike by David Shannon: The pay off of this book is the fabulous illustration at the end when all the barnyard animals get a shot at what just duck as gotten to enjoy. Just like Small Sister, I think this book perfectly taps into feeling of wishing you had someone else's toy and what you do when you finally get to play with it. There's no moral story here, just full on shenanigans.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz : This was the only classic on my Love It list and an anomaly because it doesn't have a twist at the end that was characteristic of my other faves. I love the language in this book. I really empathized with Alexander. On each page I kept hoping that his day would get better.

I also chose two runner ups. These two books I wanted to put in a pile labeled "I don't love it, but I really like it and maybe in time we can be more than friends."

Duck for President by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin
The Rain Came Down by David Shannon

In both of the these books my favorite things are the illustrations. Lewin's parody of Duck in the pose of Nixon in the "weight of the world" photograph is really something. Shannon's image of a city street just after the rain stops is equally transporting. These illustrations do the heavy lifting in conveying the emotion of the story.

As a picture book creator what I learned from the PBR Challenge is that I really love books with a twist at the end and with a story that makes me say "oh yeah, i remember feeling that way." I also discovered that my own drawings directly benefitted from reading several books right before sitting down at the drawing table. The few nights I was able to sketch for myself after putting Small Fry to bed, my sketches were more dramatic, more vibrant and the basset hounds and alligators of the book I am working on jumped faster off the end of my pencil than they usually do.

The books that did not make it into my Love It Pile were still good. One similar problem that I had with them was a less than developed ending. I can imagine this is incredibly hard to do when you only have 32 pages to work with. With my own story ideas I have kicked around, creating a developed ending that matches the story is the hardest part for me.

While its a cardinal no-no as a picture book professional to say "well my kid really loved this story, " I did find it interesting which books the Small Fry liked. His number one favorite was Bubble Bath Pirates by Jarrett Krosoczka, a story of bubbles, pirates and chocolate fudge ice cream why wouldn't a 3 year old boy love it? His other favorite was Granite Baby by Lynne Bertrand and Kevin Hawkes. I thought this was an odd choice since the book is kind of long but he was fascinated by the fact that these giant sisters could carve a stone dog. No matter where you are in the picture book world it is a great thing to see a child transfixed by a book. I think that as long as there is sun in the trees and a hammock, we will take the Picture Book Reading Challenge again and again.

To see some of the PBR Challenge readers visit these blogs:
Taking Flight
Kristi Valiant


Kristi Valiant said...

Oh Mary, I'm so glad that this PBRC helped! It really helped me too, and I've already done it one time before.
Click, Clack, Moo is super fun. Have you read Giggle, Giggle, Quack by the same author and illustrator? I love that one even more. The sly looks that the duck gives and the cleverness of both the text and illustrations are fabulous.
That's really neat that reading books before drawing helped you create faster and easier.

Dee said...

I love all of Betsy's Farm Series books. That Duck is a firecracker! I heard Betsy and Ted speak at an SCBWI conference a few years ago. They are very fun and totally match their books!

Now I have a few titles to add to my TBR list. How you managed to get down to 4, I'll never understand. :)

My eyes also picked up on the power of the illustrations in these books. I'm pushing myself creatively, that's for sure!

I also realized I do NOT want the endings to my books to fall flat as some of the list did. *shudder*