Well, this is it folks, the final “Friday’s Five” of the 2013 Cybils Awards season. In less than a week, the finalists will be announced in all the categories, and I know that many eyes will be on the Fiction Picture Books list. The finalist announcements are a wonderful way to ring in the new year!
I opted to save a special theme for the last roundup of nominated titles. Many families are spending time together this week to celebrate the holidays, and in that spirit, let’s look at five books that focus on a variety of families.
1. This is Our House by Hyewon Yum — The illustration on the first page shows a framed black and white photograph of a brownstone house, the house where the young narrator’s grandparents moved in after arriving in the country “from far away.” With each page turn, another framed photograph illustration greets the reader, and another family milestone is introduced– from the narrator’s mother being born, to the arrival of her brothers, to the introduction of her mother’s boyfriend who would become the narrator’s father. Years of family history play out in this house, and the multi-generational theme recognizes the importance of extended family in a young child’s life. The warm watercolor illustrations depict this loving family with joy.
2. Maude The Not-So-Noticeable Shrimpton by Lauren Child and illsutrated by Trisha Krauss — The Shrimpton family can only be described as… one-of-a-kind. Each member of the large family has his or her own particular talents and eccentricities that they all stand out in a crowd, without even trying. Except for Maude, who tries very, very hard to not stand out. Mrs. Shrimpton’s fabulous hat creations catch everyone’s eyes, and Mr. Shrimpton’s grand mustache is incomparable. Maude’s two sisters’ and two brothers’ outstanding qualities bring them attention, too, and they eat it up. But Maude likes to be inconspicuous, trying to blend into the background whenever possible. When her wacky family decides to get a new pet, their ideas fall into the unbelievable category… and ultimately might be the worst eccentric decision they ever make. The ending of this one is open-ended and more than a little subversive, depending on how the reader imagines what happens after the final page. Surely, a picture book about characters unlike any others should end in a unique way, no?
3. One Frozen Lake by Deborah Jo Larson and illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher — One morning, a grandfather and grandson head out to the frozen lake for some ice fishing. This story is as quiet as the experience itself, but the beauty is in that quiet. These family members don’t need to talk very much when they’re fishing together. They watch the ice hole, try new tackle, and sip warm cocoa with the other fishermen in the nearby shacks. When a bite finally comes, Grandpa knows exactly what his grandson is thinking, and they soon let the fish slip back down under the ice. This is a subtle kind of counting book, with the numbers integrated into the story, identifying the materials they use and the environment in which they fish. I enjoyed this one not because I have any particular interest or experience in ice fishing, but because I enjoyed the highlight on a relationship between a grandfather and grandson.
4. Splash, Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke and Lauren Tobia — “Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa.” In a seaside setting, Anna and her family are enjoying a beautiful day together at the beach. Grandmother and Grandfather sit in the shade of a boat on the sand reading their newspapers, while her parents, aunts, and uncles socialize on blankets around the beach. Anna is lucky to have a large group of cousins at the beach that day, but no one seems to want to play with her in the waves, because they’re too busy on their phones, kicking a soccer ball around, or digging in the sand. It’s up to Anna to get the group going, and once she gets splashing, soon enough everyone is attracted to her joy. There is an authentic feel to this family– the large group is full of different personalities and a whole lot of love.
5. Never Let You Go by Patricia Storms — Okay, Canadian readers, this one’s for you. Scholastic Canada has published this cute book that isn’t what you might first expect. I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting much, especially since I’m not a huge fan of the genre of picture books that feature “helicopter” parents who seem way too attached to their children, in my humble opinion. I’ll be the first one to admit that this book is a refreshing, surprising take on the ways in which a mom expresses her love. This mom exerts her plan to never let her child go… unless something comes up that is important enough to let her little one exert some freedom, like when he wants to draw a picture, or needs some quiet time, or wants to go off to play. I think this would make a wonderful gift to a parent-to-be, emphasizing how important it is to love our children and give them their own space, too.
On New Year’s Day, be sure to check the Cybils Awards’ website for the finalist announcements! Happy reading in 2014!
All opinions offered here are mine alone, and do not represent the Cybils Awards.