Saturday, August 26, 2017

Picture Book Roundup - Una princesa, bears with cares, and a wolf who despairs

Picture Book Roundup - Una princesa, bears with cares, and a wolf who despairs

It's been a while since I've done a picture book roundup.  Here are a few newly or soon-to-be-published favorites. 

La Princesa and the Pea
by Susan Middleton Elya
Ill. by Juana Martinez-Neal
Penguin Young Readers, 2017

The highly successful duo of Susan Middleton Elya and Juana Martinez-Neal (La Madre Goose: Nursery Rhymes for Los Niños) has teamed up again for another re-working of a classic children's story.  In La Princesa and the Pea, Martinez-Neal uses acrylics, colored pencils and graphite on handmade paper to create Peruvian-inspired illustrations that burst with expression and humor, yet have an air of gentle softness and beauty.  It's a fine mix.  The rhyming text is sprinkled with Spanish words and phrases highlighted in red text.  A group of "strong workers," (which includes a girl and two small kids! 😃) stacks veinte mattresses while the queen munches  from her box of bombones.

The queen ate her treats.  The bed was stacked high, and right when they finished, la niña came by.

"Here is your cama, a place you can sleep."
"Thanks!" said the girl. "I won't even count sheep."
 It would be a wonderful story even without the surprise ending! Great bilingual fun with many humorous illustrated details to find.

A Glossary and A Note from the Illustrator are included.  Helpfully, the Glossary appears in the front!

Full disclosure: This was my favorite fairytale as a child.

The Curious Cares of Bears
by Douglas Florian
Ill. by Sonia Sánchez
Little Bee Books, 2017

I've long been a fan of Douglas Florian.  His books are poetic and nature-inspired.  His books on the four seasons (Autumblings, Winter Eyes, Summersaults, Handsprings) are favorites of mine, as is Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars.

The Curious Cares of Bears is a fanciful look at a year in the lives of bears.  Each double-spread illustration contains a short, rhyming explanation of the season's activity.

Some, like the one above, are mostly accurate (although I'm not sure a full-sized bear would venture out on the comically thin branch!).  Other activities are pure fancy,
In autumn there's playing in leaves all day long,
then building a campfire and sharing a song.
The illustrations are mixed media that appear to be a combination of charcoal sketches, simple brushwork, and digital enhancements.  The bears and their environs are portrayed simply with a measure of whimsy, and a reverence for nature. The combination of crafted rhyming and delightfully simple illustrations is beary likeable.

When a Wolf is Hungry
by Christine Naumann-Villemin
Ill. by Kris Di Giacomo
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2017

A hungry wolf decides that he has a hankering for a rabbit,
Not just any ordinary cottontail, though. What he craved was a grain-fed, silky-haired rabbit, one with just a hint of sweetness.  A city bunny.
So with knife in paw, Edmond Bigsnout heads to the city to find his rabbit. As it turns out, the perfect rabbit lives on the 5th floor of an apartment building.  Every time that Edmond gets close to the apartment, a friendly neighbor appears and begs to borrow Edmond's instrument of death - knife, chainsaw, rope. The story is full of rich and language and dialogue,
"Delighted to meet you.  Oh, look, you have some rope! Any chance I could have it? This great big package is such a nuisance."
"I suppose so," sighed the wolf.
The skunk was so pleased that he let out a little air.

Why do the neighbors need these items and where is Max Omatose, miniature rabbit?

A humorous ending will make everyone happy—perhaps there is something wonderful about living in a big city neighborhood. The double-spread illustrations in this generously-sized book are comically suspenseful.  Edmond rides a bicycle while wearing a black suit and bow tie. A middle-aged cow in a flowered dress and pearls eyes Edmond's pot hopefully.  A beautiful neighbor wolf, Miss Eyestopper, is straight out of film noir.

When a Wolf is Hungry is a perfect book for sharing with slightly older kids. I'd take this one on a school visit any day.

My review copies of La Princesa and the Pea and The Curious Cares of Bears were provided by the publishers at my request. My copy of When a Wolf is Hungry was obtained through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.

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