As a round one judge for the Cybils Awards, I make my local library staff work hard. Thanks to the joy of my state’s library database, I can sit on my couch and put one nominated book after another on hold, and when they come in at my local branch, they’re all sitting in a big stack on the shelf with my name on them, literally. I’ve just spent a couple hours going through the titles that I’ve picked up so far, and as always, I’m amazed at how many wonderful books have been published in the last year.
Today I’d like to share five titles that are completely new to me, thanks to the Cybils. These books are quite varied in tone and style, and perhaps even in terms of who would most likely be attracted to each book, but they are all books I’m thankful to have been made aware of thanks to the Cybils.
1. Big Snow by Jonathan Bean — The anticipation of a snowstorm is always a huge thing, especially in some parts of the country where even a few inches of accumulation can spell big trouble. (Ask any of my neighbors in the DC/MD/VA area!) But while adults stock up on milk, bread, and toilet paper and worry about their morning commutes, children are only concerned with the fun aspect. In this picture book, a child anxiously awaits an expected storm, and his busy mom tries to occupy his time and thoughts with jobs around the house. The funny thing is that every job somehow ends up reminding him of the impending snow, and he runs off again and again to check on the weather. Each time he sees a little bit more action going on outside, but by early afternoon, he has helped bake cookies, clean the bathroom, and change bed linens and he’s exhausted. As he naps, he dreams of a wild snowstorm right there in his living room, but what will he find when he wakens? Grab this book in coming months and share the adventure with your own snowstorm-loving child to find out. I’m a fan of Bean’s illustrative style- kind of cartoon-like, but with a sense of realism and always a warm depiction of family life.
2. How To by Julie Morstad — The words are sparse here, but the creativity factor is so very, very high. The two word title of this book starts the small bit of text on each two-page spread, and the simple way to describe this unique picture book would be to say that it’s an illustrated “how to” guide for a wide variety of tasks and skills– how to go fast, how to see the wind, how to make new friends, for just a few examples. But that description is terribly inadequate, for while the words are simple, the illustrations and concepts they depict are incredibly complex. Artistically, the pictures are beautiful, appearing to be ink sketches with watercolor accents, in a whimsical style that evokes an old-school feeling of childhood. Though there isn’t a typical “story” to tell here, the illustrations do bring the words to life sometimes in very literal depictions and other times adding a delightful twist. I think this may be the type of picture book that is more adored by kidlit loving adults than some children, but I also think that in the right hands, this book could spark a wonderful conversation during a read-aloud or be just perfect for a thoughtful and introspective child. This is a nominated book that I feel compelled to purchase to add to my own personal collection.
3. The Museum by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds — On a visit to an art museum, a girl becomes affected by the many pieces of artwork that she sees, each making her feel something different. She might react physically, with the sudden desire to strike a ballet pose or do a twirl. She may stop to sit and think, or be overwhelmed with the need to simply let it all out. Perhaps those descriptions call to mind some very famous pieces of artwork– did you think of Degas, Van Gogh, Rodin, and Munch? Those and several other pieces of real artwork are depicted in Reynolds’ signature enthusiastic illustrative style as the girl strolls through the museum, but the heart of this book is truly revealed when the girl comes upon an empty canvas just perfect for her to imagine filling with her own creations. Colors and emotions are intricately entwined in this book, and I envision artistically-inclined children of all ages being quite attracted to it. I haven’t yet shared this book with my daughter, but I am completely confident that she will be delighted by it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she went off to draw after reading!
4. In the Tree House by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Dušan Petričić — There’s a lot going on in this picture book that might look fairly simple at first. Yes, the tree house from the title plays a significant role in the story, but it’s more about what it represents than its actual physical form. The tree house brings together father and sons in creative pursuit, and draws brothers to share interests and experiences. The tree house becomes an accomplishment and a source of entertainment, and it even can be an eye on the world around. But when time passes, and the age gap between brothers comes to a childhood – adolescence abyss, it could be that not even the tree house can make it better. But for a young boy who doesn’t give up his faith in the power of his tree house, a blackout one night changes things up, and once again brothers come together in their magical space up in the sky.
5. Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos and illustrated by Joy Ang — Seriously, just look at this cover- no way you’re not giggling. This book is pure silly fun. Baby Billy is born with a mustache, a fluffy bit of brown hair between his nose and upper lip that makes him look like a miniature Tom Selleck. His family is a bit taken aback by this odd turn of events, and the nurse in the hospital offers food for thought– will this turn out to be a “good-guy mustache” or a “bad-guy mustache”? Now, you can probably picture variations of each of these, and as some time goes by, Baby Billy does indeed go through a variety of mustache looks, from a pencil-thin, artsy look to a thick and full stache perfect for a cowboy. But that dreaded day finally comes when Billy’s mustache begins to grow and twirl, and suddenly his behavior matches his bad-guy facial hair. Lots of plays on words are happening in this book, and the humorous illustrations fit perfectly with this fun-filled story. I could imagine a kindergarten class just guffawing at this book, as it is so well suited for a rousing read-aloud.
The Cybils Awards’ public nomination period is now closed, but they are currently accepting publisher and author submissions through October 25. I’ll continue to keep my public library in business as I gather nominated titles, and I hope that I’ve helped bring some “new to me” books in the spotlight for others, too.
All opinions offered here are mine alone, and do not represent the Cybils Awards.