Saturday, June 30, 2012

Picture Books We Love: “Little Bird” and “The Night Riders”

Two magnificent new picture books (one in release; the other soon to be released) tell their stories with pictures in a way that can coax the storyteller out of your child. As both books tell their stories almost entirely in visuals, they offer a perfect opportunity to encourage your child to narrate the stories.

Little Bird was written by poet Germano Zullo and illustrated by Albertine. The text is minimal and does not describe the illustrations; rather, it gently hints at the feelings evoked by the lovely story of a truck driver who opens the back door of his truck so a flock of birds can fly out. All except one. A friendship is kindled between the man and a little black bird. The man even tries to teach the bird to fly. There really is poetry here, and without giving anything away, I promise you your heart will soar.

The Night Riders was both “written” and illustrated by Matt Furie, but it doesn’t contain a single word of text. The story of a bicycle-riding frog and his rat companion is entirely told through visuals. The frog and rat go adventuring across many different environments including an underwater adventure, encountering fantastical creatures and making new friends along the way. They gradually work their gentle way toward sunrise.

Little Bird is published by Enchanted Lion Books and is sumptuously printed in vivid, joyous colors. The Night Riders is by McSweeney’s McMullens, the new children’s department at McSweeney’s. This house has always been known for its lush printing and binding and this book is no exception. It’s beautifully printed on thick paper. The dust jacket opens out into an exquisite poster, which is becoming something of a McMullen’s trademark; and I’m all for it. Both of these companies create books to treasure: wonderfully written and illustrated; and gorgeous examples of the printer’s art. They’re anti-e-books. These books are worthy to be passed down through the years from one child to the next.

Visual literacy and the ability to interpret pictures and symbols are just as crucial to a child’s learning as the ability to read text. These two books support that effort and can (and should) be used to inspire your child to create their own visual story.

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