Shaun Tan is renowned throughout children's publishing for his ability to transport readers to unexpected and fantastical locations. His newest book,...moreShaun Tan is renowned throughout children's publishing for his ability to transport readers to unexpected and fantastical locations. His newest book, Rules of Summer does that and more.
The text begins, "This is what I learned last summer", and the experience is of what is shown through Tan's beautiful paintings is at times incredible and, at other moments, alarming, but never is there a moment when you want to turn your eyes away. The text is a series of simple rules that, when taken out of context, carry a tinge of threat, but ultimately feel like those rules parents have been saying to kids for generations. However, when paired with Tan's illustrations the text tells a whimsical story of two boys encountering menacing creatures, curious phenomenon, and the importance of looking out for one another, even when the other keeps making mistakes.
Each spread is laid out the same way, with a single line of text centered on a neutral tone background on the left-hand page paired with a beautifully painted, enticing-to-the-eye illustration taking the text in an unexpected direction. Tan's use of scale and perspective play a large role in developing the world of Rules of Summer as strange and dangerous to the unfamiliar eye, yet familiar to the two boys. Only once do we see the boys cower in fear (an incident involving a red sock), which adds an incredible contrast to the way the boys handle themselves in later situations in the story. In a way, it's as if Tan is actually helping to establish the rules of this world for the readers, as if to say, "these are not things to be afraid of, but that over there... now that is a reason to worry."
Shaun Tan's art is in top form and he once again demonstrates the wonder at work in our imaginations. My mind races to what drawings children would create for summer rules of their own, before and after reading Rules of Summer.
Steve Light has proven time and again that he knows how to engage our youngest readers. With Have You Seen My Dragon?, Steve takes us on a counting to...moreSteve Light has proven time and again that he knows how to engage our youngest readers. With Have You Seen My Dragon?, Steve takes us on a counting tour of New York City in search of a missing friend.
A boy's dragon goes missing and so he does the most logical thing to do when faced with a predicament such as this: search all of the places that remind you of your dragon. Did he take the bus downtown? Was he looking for something to read? Did he get hungry for ice cream? Or go to the playground? But no matter where he searches, the boy just can't seem to find his dragon anywhere.
There are so many wonderful things going on in this book, but greatest source of delight for me was in experiencing the book for myself. So, take a minute to explore these spreads... closely. (click on the image to enlarge)
You'll notice that the dragon is, in fact, hiding in each of the pages. But since the dragon is no longer in color, it becomes more difficult to locate (although that's the first thing your readers will do). The book is also about counting, and Light's presentation of a painted object appearing several times throughout the page creates a eye-catching effect without taking away from the earnestness of the text.
Steve Light's line art in Have You Seen My Dragon? is as much a work of art as it is a tribute to New York City. From the map of NYC and of the story's journey depicted on the endpapers to the beautiful colors that pop from the page with each page turn, Light has created a truly special book for young readers and those reading to them to enjoy over and over. BONUS: The book counts to 20! How often do you see counting books count through the teens? A welcomed and worthwhile change.
Brian Won's debut picture book celebrates the power of small acts of kindness, when received or given out, to transform your mood and perspective on s...moreBrian Won's debut picture book celebrates the power of small acts of kindness, when received or given out, to transform your mood and perspective on situations.
What starts out as a grumpy day for elephant quickly becomes reason to celebrate when an unexpected package is delivered to his front doorstep. Inside is the box is an assortment of colorful hats, all of which Elephant dons at once, one on top of the other. As Elephant cheers, "HOORAY FOR HAT!", the thought comes to mind that he should visit his friend, Zebra.
The story progresses as such, as the growing band of animals visits grumpy friends and changes each new friend's mood with the gift of a hat and the infectiousness of good company. All throughout, Won's illustrations place the characters at central focus with little to no background illustration apart from what is needed for context (a handrail here, a stump there). One detail that especially caught my eye was the look of anticipation on the faces of each of the hat-wearing friends as they approach the next grumpy friend. The expression is always one of concern and contemplation, leaving space for the reader to offer up how the animals can cure their friend's grumpiness. With a hat, of course!
The text art in each exclamation of "Hooray for hat!" is colorful, offsetting the otherwise black inked type, and appears larger and larger with each new friend encounter. Readers will pick up on this detail for sure, raising their voices louder and louder as they cheer, "HOORAY FOR HAT!".
Brian Won has created a memorable picture book that not only celebrates the importance of contagious happiness, but also reminds us to pay forward those random acts of kindness.