Quick Reviews: The Dark, Rabbityness, Me Jane, Windblown

ImageI don’t have anything interesting to tell you about school lately, and writing about books I’ve read for fun would take a while.  (I’m in the middle of a really good, if depressing, piece of non-fiction called Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present.  And it’s a long book, lol–I’m only a little over halfway through, and I’ve been reading it for a couple weeks.)  So I thought I’d tell you about some books I’ve run into while working! Image

Picture books are superquick (the standard in the US is 32 pages, including title pages &cet.), so they’re easy for me to read before I shelve them.  And because we do two story hours a week at work, I can justify pausing and paging through them–because we always need new stories to read to the children.  Here are four I’ve enjoyed recently.

The Dark by Lemony Snicket (illustrations by Jon Klassen) is no doubt going to get a lot of attention from readers who grew up with Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events books.  And I think it deserves every bit of it.  The Dark tells the story of Laszlo, a little boy who dislikes how the dark creeps up through his house as the sun goes down.  But when his nightlight goes out, he needs the dark’s help.  The story is gently told, with gorgeous illustrations that evoke a quiet, creepy house, and the message is wonderful: Without darkness, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the light.

Rabbityness by Jo Empson is a light-hearted but heartfelt story about Rabbit, who loves being a rabbit and doing “unrabbity” things like painting.  After Rabbit disappears one day, his rabbit friends don’t know where he’s gone.  They miss him, but they discover that doing the things Rabbit loved to do, they miss him less.  ImageThe book features energetic illustrations that really capture the movement and liveliness of the rabbits.  And while the story would be an excellent way to help children coping with a death or a friend’s move, it’s told charmingly enough that it doesn’t need to be relegated to the “Books For Issue X” pile.  It would be a lovely bedtime read for anyone, whether they’ve lost a friend like Rabbit or not.

ImageMe, Jane by Patrick McDonnell (best known for the comic strip Mutts) doesn’t have a weighty lesson on mortality or the nature of good and bad under the surface, but it does include some history.  It’s a pleasant recounting of the childhood of Jane Goodall, the famous primatologist.  The story follows Jane’s adventures with her stuffed chimpanzee doll, Jubilee, as she explores her world and dreams of the jungle.  The illustrations are sweet, and McDonnell’s storytelling is far more tolerable when there are no lisping cats to put up with.  (I don’t like Mutts at all, could you guess?)  It’s a book equally at home as part of a lesson on scientists or story time just for fun.Image

Windblown by Edouard Manceau is a fun, imaginative book concerned with a collection of paper cutouts that a variety of different animals lay claim to.  Manceau uses a combination of a few simple shapes (the ones on the cover) rearranged over and over to create a bird, a fish, and more.  The story follows a pattern similar to the story of “The House that Jack Built”: Each animal claims ownership of the paper shapes while reciting the reasons the other animals think the shapes belong to them.  It’s a fun text to read aloud, and there’s a craft idea built in: Cut out some construction paper shapes of your own and see what you can create from them.


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