Every fall and spring publishers come out with new picture books. WORLD will be taking a look at some of the new ones and giving you our opinion about whether they're worth purchasing, checking out from the library and reading a few times, or skipping altogether.
Since some books appeal more to parents than to children, and some appeal to boys more than girls, we've solicited the input of moms and small kids to help us rank the books.
BK in what follows means "buy and keep," CL means "check out from the library," and DB "means don't bother." Books are listed alphabetically by author.
by Kathi Appelt | CL | This exuberant celebration of a little girl's unique charms should interest young children.
The Shape Game
by Anthony Browne | BK | The author/illustrator recalls his own introduction to art during a family trip to an art museum. One mom: "There is always something new to see with each reading. Kids especially love the art and pictures." One caution: A character says "shut up," which parents might want to skip over when reading the book aloud.
Boxes for Katje
by Candace Fleming | BK | Set in Holland after WWII, this beautifully illustrated book tells the story of friendship between a girl in the United States and her Dutch pen-pal, and the acts of compassion that flow from it.
by Shirley Glaser | DB | There's altogether too much going on in this ABC book. The letters, shown in different fonts representing different character traits, such as Bashful B, crowd into a room, all talking at once. Then the letters sort themselves and the text, echoing but twisting the Gospel of John, says, "In the beginning there was the WORD."
by Cheryl Willis Hudson | CL | Young children will like the close-up photographs of diverse kids doing many different things with their hands. Older ones may be bored.
The Sound of Day, the Sound of Night
by Mary O'Neill | CL | Old-fashioned illustrations, and simple, rhythmic poetry contrast a day's hustle and bustle with the quiet that comes at night.
Grandma Elephant's in Charge
by Martin Jenkins | CL | A nonfiction book about elephants. Lots of information accompanied by watercolor/colored pencil illustrations. Kids will like the drawing of elephant mothers and babies, but the text isn't great for read-aloud. Large type is attractive for early readers.
Crazy Hair Day
by Barney Saltzberg | CL/BK | When Stanley shows up at school with crazy hair he discovers that it's picture day-Crazy Hair Day is next week. His friends help him to fit in. One mother of four said, "I wouldn't want to have my own copy for fear that it would turn into my kids' favorite book, and I'd have to read it 3 million times." Her two sons (ages 5 and 3) want to own the book.
The Tree of Life
by Peter Sis | DB | Lovely illustrations based on Charles Darwin's detailed notes of his journeys done in the style of a naturalist's notebook. But pretty pictures can't overcome the fundamental problem with the book: Who is the audience? The text is tiny, often in a font that resembles handwriting, and most kids who still read picture books, and their parents, aren't interested in Darwin.
CDC? (See the sea)
by William Steig | BK | Mr. Steig (who died last month at the age of 90) and his classic book has been reissued in hardback with color illustrations. Young children will be stumped by the word puzzles, but older kids and adults will delight in them.
by A. U'Ren | CL | Bold illustrations and simple text tell the story of a "knocker-up," a person who woke people in the morning before the advent of the alarm clock. Kids will enjoy the humor; parents, the history.