Monday, June 30, 2014

Mel-Mel Moves

Hi all!

I'm moving over the next couple of weeks, which means picturebooks are in boxes. But new posts to come soon, and remember to catch up on the posts you've missed!

Have a great fourth of July to those in the States!!

Mel

Monday, June 23, 2014

Émilie Vast

I figure since I haven't done a lot of illustrator-specific posts lately so you get two in a row!

Émilie Vast is a French author/illustrator whose books I came across accidentally a few months ago (for the record, between getting the books in my hands and writing about them, almost everything takes at least 2-3 months. Insane, right??). His work is clean, colorful, and very interactive, beckoning readers to really set aside time to read and play with his books. I currently own two, and French translation aside, I still read them half a dozen times to catch all the details. You can see his site here to check out his full list of picturebooks,  but today we're chatting about Océan le noir et les couleurs (Ocean Black and Color) and Il était un arbre (There Was a Tree).


Océan le noir et les couleurs is a sort of concept book that teaches colors and days of the week, but the visuals of the book almost make you forget that you're supposed to be learning something. A seahorse moves around the ocean picking up small pearls of varying color every day of the week. The book compliments his previous children's book Neige le blanc et les couleurs (Snow White and Color), but in the essence of full disclosure I have not yet had the pleasure of reading the companion. Definitely on my to-buy list though! Take a look at these spreads:



Il était un arbre is actually the book that brought my attention to Vast. With cut outs that let people look into the lives of animals and see how they live, it becomes a fascinating exploration of animal nature. Each spread of an animal with the tree is complimented with a subsequent spread that shows the animal using what it got from the tree (ie how the deer or birds use the tree to build their homes and eat). SUCH a lovely book:





That's it for this week! Tune in next week for when we talk about...more picturebooks!

Vastly yours,
Mel

Monday, June 16, 2014

William Bee

One of the illustrators I discovered on my little hiatus from a few months ago is William Bee. I read the book Whatever, and it was like a revelation. The perfect combination of wit and intelligence in both his text and illustrations, this book was definitely a game-changer for me. The book tells the story of a boy named Billy who is apathetic about everything his father tries to get him interested in. Until he's no longer in a position to be apathetic...

As someone who tends to struggle with digital illustration and its contribution to the world of children's illustration, I found the drawings to be engaging, colorful, and witty. Take a look at Whatever:







I won't ruin the ending for you but man is it satisfying...

After finding Whatever I immediately started searching for his other picturebooks and found And the Train Goes and Beware of the Frog. Although the story of And the Train Goes is definitely geared toward a younger audience ("Here is the station all noisy and full, and the station clock goes tick-tock, tickerty-tock"), the illustrations are still up to the same quality as Whatever and even showcase his use of color a little better:






And here's a look at Beware of the Frog. Equally beautiful, the story is more along the lines of Whatever, highlighting what happens if you overstep your boundaries. The ending doesn't disappoint, teaching everyone a lesson about what happens when you try to bully someone else. Mrs. Collywobbles lives all alone, but luckily she has a frog who eats anyone who threatens to take over her house. But what happens when she gets turned into a frog herself??







The end of this book is also extremely satisfying, and as much as it pains me to not tell you how it ends, I CAN say that it's fantastic...

Thanks for checking in!

Bee-ing yours forever,
Mel

Monday, June 9, 2014

French Trees!

There are so many beautiful books that center around trees. It's almost as though the tall, skinny picturebook was INVENTED to talk about trees. Kind of makes sense, though, doesn't it?: tall and skinny means the trees can start at the very bottom of the page and extend all the way up, letting their leaves extend outward to the left and right corners of the book. Perfect formatting!

Oddly enough, all of these books are actually French, which just proves the universality of the picturebook format--everyone knows that tall and skinny means trees!

First for today is Laetitia Devernay's wordless picturebook The Conductor. A beautiful juxtaposition of nature and music, a man sits atop a tree and conducts the leaves in a visual magnum opus. Every page turn shows the leaves following the direction of the conductor, the leaves and nature surrounding him swirling together to create a visual masterpiece. The leaves take on lives as their own, appearing as almost bird-like creatures and creating a sense that the whole spread is alive with movement. Like the other two books below, this one heavily features a need for humans to continue planting trees to prevent the inevitable destruction of the world's forests.





Next on the list is by my new favorite French illustrator Émilie Vast. Il était un arbe (There Was a Tree) is almost wordless--each spread features either a word or a fragmented sentence that follows the life of a tree through the seasons as the animals around it survive off of it. Vast's use of color is impeccable, highlighting the parts of the tree that the animals use for themselves, and every other spread has a small hole, or window, if you will, that offers up a glimpse into the life of the animal and how it uses the tree for sustenance. Check it out:


Here we see deer in the "first" spread
And here we see how the deer use the tree to sustain themselves. Each "second" spread also shows readers the footprints of each animal, highlighting their lives after using the tree
Another "first" spread
Not to play favorites, but this one might be my favorite on the list. And when I say "might," I mean that it definitely is. Wake Up Sloth! by Anouck Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud is amazing, dear readers. Although it offers a really sad commentary about deforestation and the animals and people that are sadly affected, the illustrations are cheery and engaging. Each new spread shows the forest as humans slowly destroy it, taking its resources for itself. But can you find the tiny (and astoundingly, unaffected) sloth hanging in the trees? It serves as a seek-and-find pop-up, as well as a message about deforestation, and although the ending definitely wraps up a little too well, the illustrations more than make up for it. SUCH a fun book!




  
My favorite spread! And you can see the sloth hanging on the top right
An excellent topic, indeed! Anyone have any other favorite tree books??

Save the trees, write blog posts instead!!
Mel

Monday, June 2, 2014

Birds of a Feather

So I figured when I bought two books about birds it was probably a sign that I should create a bird post...

Today we start with Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth. The book is set up like a catalog from 2031 that offers handcrafted bird parts for customers to assemble. Birds are close to extinction in this time period, but Aviary Wonders Inc. offers customers a chance to purchase a completely unique bird (they can choose from bodies, beaks, legs, even crests) that they can teach to fly and sing. The book is beautifully illustrated with a fascinating array of information on current (as in 2014) birds and extinct birds, and it offers a subtle reminder about the birds that are on their way to extinction. I'm giving you some extra photos of this one just because each page is so different.


Peggy by Anna Walker is bird book number two for the week. I think it might be one of my new favorites. Gorgeously illustrated in watercolors, Peggy tells the story of a country chicken named Peggy who gets swept up in the wind and ends up in the big, bad city. The illustrations are soft and lovely, just like the story--the narrative isn't overbearing and the text and illustrations fit together seamlessly to tell one coherent story. 




See you next Monday!

Flocking together,
Mel

Monday, May 26, 2014

Chapter Picturebooks

There are a handful of picturebooks out there that serve as a go-between for picturebooks and early readers. Let's call them Chapter Picturebooks--they look and feel like picturebooks (same size, layout, etc.), but they have multiple chapters that break up the narrative like early readers. It's fun because you get more of the story, and the early reader appearance helps child readers feel more accomplished by the end of the book (a whole chapter book!).

First on today's list is Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator by the ever popular Mo Willems. The book features 6 1/2 chapters about Amanda and her stuffed animal bestie Alligator. But when Amanda brings home another stuffed animal, jealousy colors their friendship. I believe it's one of Willems' better books, with textual and visual whimsy that makes the book an excellent read aloud.





The Big Bad Wolf Goes on Vacation (sequel to The Big Bad Wolf and Me) by Delphine Perret is next. The Big Bad Wolf, Louis, and Louis' grandpa go on a car adventure to the beach, making all sorts of stops at the request of The Big Bad Wolf. The tone of the book is a little darker, more sardonic--Louis is well aware of the burden he carries with The Big Bad Wolf for a best friend--but the illustrations, as well as the hijinks the threesome get into, make the book a super fun read.




Finally, we have Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon. Theodora has always been a bit of a loner, so when a new duck moves into the abandoned house next door, Theodora takes care to steer clear. But her new neighbor Chad isn't keen to let a potential friendship slip by, and eventually Theodora realizes that she and Chad have more in common than she thought. I really enjoyed this book--I thought the pacing was pretty spot-on, and the illustrations, though not exemplary, are very active.



Super cute interior cover



See you next week!!

Yours,
Mel