Sunday, January 27, 2013

Picture Books We Love: “Open This Little Book,” “Flora And The Flamingo,” and “The Banana Police”

The great ideas are often the simple ones. They can make you wonder why they didn’t appear years earlier. Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier and illustrated by Suzy Lee is an adorable yet high-concept picture book that celebrates the love of reading in big (and small) ways. It's published by Chronicle Books.

When you open this book, you’ll find a smaller book; then a smaller one; and then an even smaller one. It’s a great early reader choice, as the vocabulary is accessible and the cleverness will make your child want to share this with YOU. This is a book to love. It’s a little work of art (and craft).

If you follow this site, you may already know that I think every child’s book collection should include wordless picture books. They support visual literacy and encourage your child to be a storyteller. A few recent favorites of mine—Bear Despair, Waterloo & Trafalgar, Little Bird, The Night Riders, and A Ball for Daisy—cover topics whimsical, poetic, and profound. There’s something about the engagement between parent, child, and a wordless book that transforms story time into a creative activity.

Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle is a clever and engaging wordless book. It features little girl Flora’s road to friendship with a graceful pink flamingo. The female protagonist and the predominance of the color pink in the layouts (plus the theme of ballet dancing) leans this book toward the world of little girls, but I think those barriers are weakening even as I write this. And as the wildly popular book series Pinkalicious attests, boys love the color pink, too. Flora is rebuffed by the flamingo, but through persistence, wins the bird over. Clever flaps create an interesting story progression. We see the flamingo snub Flora as she imitates the flamingo’s one-legged pose. If you lift each character’s flap, you’ll see the flamingo catch Flora in the act. Under Flora’s flap, you’ll see her try to act nonchalant. They eventually dance together like two lovely swans. Friendship blossoms under the oddest of circumstances and if we encourage it to grow, miraculous things can happen. This in another great Chronicle title.

The Banana Police by Katy Koontz and illustrated by Kelsey C. Roy explores a similar theme. In this town, people happily co-exist with elephants until the townspeople become increasingly annoyed with their lovable, lumpy neighbors. Since the elephants snore loudly, hog the best seats at the movies, and block all the aisles in the supermarket, the town’s Banana Police devise a plan to trick the elephants into leaving. The townspeople nearly disappear under their new excess of bananas and convince the elephants to return. This is a funny, eccentric tale that Koontz developed with her daughter as her bedtime story. Great things tend to happen when kids get involved in the creative process, and The Banana Police is one of those very special picture books that speak to kids in their own language. And it makes a profound point about cooperation, beyond peaceful co-existence into the magical harmonies that are possible with diversity. It's by Willow Moon Publishing.

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