Friday, April 9, 2010

Shillin' Like a Villain

Heaven help me, I signed up to be an Amazon Associate.  With my shall-we-say-modest readership, I don't expect to start sleeping on piles of cash anytime soon, but what the heck?  I pepper my posts with Amazon links anyway, so I might as well have a shot at getting paid for it.

So.  Here are some of Ben's and Andy's and my favorite picture books:

Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti
adapted and illustrated by Gerald McDermott
Caldecott Honor, 1973

The illustrations in this book will cause you physical discomfort if you have astigmatism.  Seriously.  But that shouldn't stop you, bcause it is a goofy, goofy tale told in a voice that's inordinate fun to read aloud.  Ben liked it immediately, and it's remained among his top most-requested.  It took Andy and me a longer time to warm up to it, but it's earned a firm place in the household canon. 

All the World
by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee
Caldecott Honor, 2010

I'd be lying if I said the latte-liberal fantasy element of this book didn't make me a little queasy, though I'm about as latte liberal as it gets.  The farmers' market!  The happy plump lesbians on their tandem bike!  The baby in an Ergo!  All the World indeed -- if all the world were only such a quiet and carbon-neutral resort town!  Also, there's something facile about the lists of things with no active verbs -- they make for nice rhymes, but they don't go anywhere or do anything.  Still.  I can't actually read more than three pages without choking up, and the illustrations are so beautiful and intricate, the little town with its geography and genealogy fully imagined, each page referring to all the others.  My head thinks this book is very, very silly, but my heart loves it very, very much.  Ben likes all the dogs and trucks.

Ox-Cart Man
by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
Caldecott Winner, 1980

If I had to pick a single favorite book, I think it might be this one.  The illustrations are reminiscent of Grandma-Moses-y folk art, and they suit the story perfectly.  The story follows one of my favorite themes for children's books: the work and produce of the seasons.  It also speaks to my Yankee roots with its New Hampshire setting (rolling hills, little hamlets with tidy white churches) and message of hard work and thrift.  Andy likes the woodworking, and I like the fiber craft.  In fact, I don't think there's anything about this book I don't like.  Ben likes pointing out the cheese in the shop and the lights in the window of the farm when the Ox-Cart Man returns home.

Let's Make Rabbits
by Leo Lionni

I love a little postmodern meta: so sue me.  This is a sweet little tale about rabbits.  It's also a bit of a meditation on the construction of reality.  The hardcover version we have (a gift from C. -- thanks, C.!), which I hope is the same one I've linked you to, is a tactile pleasure in itself, a small volume perfect for little hands and a novelty for adult ones.  It's also very pretty.  I'm not sure what Ben likes about this one, but he demands it regularly.

At the Top of My Voice
by Felice Holman, illustrated by Edward Gorey

This one's out of print, I'm afraid, but it's not hard to get a decent used copy from, oh, let's say Amazon.  I grew up with this book, and it's in my blood the way lines of liturgy run in the veins of someone raised to church.  On tiptoe I'm taller, and taller I'm older.  And I'm not Nan, I'm a dancer.  And City asleep, city asleep, a carnival on the garbage heap.  The poems are great, and the illustrations are great, and little kids should grow up with good poetry so they learn to love it before they can learn to fear it.  Ben likes the squirrel, the birds, and the lion.

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