Picture books can do a lot of things– introduce new concepts and ideas, invite children for a quiet, snuggly story time, or take them on a wacky and wild adventure. This round of Cybils Awards nominees takes that final path, with a variety of adventures from the realistic to the unbelievable. When a child can get lost in a book’s imaginative story, that is an experience that can’t be beat!
1. The Iciest, Diciest, Scariest Sled Ride Ever! by Rebecca Rule and illustrated by Jennifer Thermes — Growing up in New England, snow was an expected part of every winter, and sled rides played a big role in my childhood winter fun. In this snowy romp, seven kids and one dog head out on the first day of February break to find the perfect sliding hill. The problem comes when they discover how hard it is to steer a plastic saucer-style sled down one huge hill. But when Lizzie remembers the stories Grampa Bud would tell about riding the old, homemade travis sled, their day takes a turn for the better. Getting that wooden planked sled with its heavy metal runners up the hill is a significant challenge. Will the group’s efforts be rewarded? Oh, Free-Range kids and parents will adore this one’s message about a group of children’s non-adult-assisted adventure!
2. Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Boris Kulikov — Sure, kids love adventure, but they’ve got nothing on the dad in this story. An eccentric tinkerer/inventor, Papa has visions of cool things to create to make life a little bit easier, but his actual inventions usually fall just a little bit short of the mark. When Papa gets the idea to create an underwater vessel that would allow him to swim and glide like the fish in Lake Michigan, he doesn’t give up. Through several attempts, Papa shows his children the meaning of perseverance in figuring out a problem, and he gets more than a few underwater adventures on the way. Also, parents will want to point out the support system that Papa has in his family– his children’s ideas contribute to his attempts, and Mama is always right there to offer the assistance he didn’t even realize he needed.
3. Wild by Emily Hughes — First off, I think this might be my most favorite picture book cover in a long while. The opening is just as engaging: “No one remembered how she came to the woods, but all knew it was right.” The forest creatures raise this human child in the wild, each teaching her important skills to survive and thrive in their world. But one day, “new animals” come to the forest, and these people cart her off to the city where she is cared for by a doctor who tries in vain to tame her wild nature. Even little children can see how unhappy this wild girl is in this environment, and I imagine there will be many cheers from readers when she is able to return to the world she loves best. The storytelling is simple here, but the illustrations are vividly complex and intricate, with much to awe over. For kids with a little bit of “wild” in them, this will be a delightful escapist adventure!
4. Jemmy Button by Jennifer Uman and Valerio Vidali — I couldn’t help but pair up this book with the previous one, for they are similar in theme and story, though this one tells of the real life story of a young indigenous boy named Orundellico taken by an Englishman from the islands of Tierra del Fuego and brought to live among the Victorian upper-class in the early 1800s. He is renamed Jemmy Button after the fact that his family was given a mother-of-pearl button in exchange for taking him to England. Jemmy’s experience is a bit more “successful” in the eyes of the people who brought him to England than the Emily Hughes’ “Wild” child, but in the end, Jemmy also longs for his true home in the wilds of nature among his real family. This book is more suited to older elementary school aged children, as it provides a great opportunity to discuss larger concepts such as civilization and imperialism. The painted illustrations capture the Jemmy’s spirit and are absolutely stunning.
5. Moonday by Adam Rex — There’s something magical about a full moon, and when it seems to hang even lower in the sky than usual, people flock outside at night to gaze upon it. What kinds of adventures would be in store for you if you awoke and the moon had dropped so low as to hang just a few feet off the ground in your backyard? After an initial exploration, a young boy who finds himself in this very situation discovers that the moon is making everyone around him constantly sleepy, and the tide coming in his backyard isn’t a wonderful effect either. Perhaps this adventure is more than this town can handle.
Every reading experience can be an adventure of its own, so keep checking out the nominated fiction picture books with your own little ones!
All opinions offered here are mine alone, and do not represent the Cybils Awards.