Notes From a Librarian: Picture Book Recommendations

Here are some summer reading picture book recommendations.

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel

At a gathering last week, my sister-in-law suggested I review Bad Kitty because it was her 6 year old son's favorite. I am not surprised. It is a very funny book. In fact, the 1st and 2nd grade age group find it hilarious. In the book, the Kitty is a good Kitty, until its master runs out of kitty food and tries to make it eat an alphabet of vegetables (e.g. Asparagus, Beets, Cauliflower...). Then it becomes a Bad Kitty. As the Bad Kitty, it does a bad thing for each of the letters of the alphabet. It "Ate my homework, Bit Grandma, and Clawed the curtains," etc. Just when the kitty is done with the Bad alphabet, the masters come home with an alphabet of delicious cat food. Then the cat goes through the alphabet again with ways of repairing the bad deeds. By the time you finish the book, you have gone through the alphabet 4 times. The illustrations and text are so silly, it is a delight. Especially funny are the pictures of the cat, first in the throws of horror at having to eat vegetables, and then in the ecstasy of delight when it gets the good food. This is a great one to share together, or for a child to read on their own. The pictures are a help with word decoding, and there is a lot of good vocabulary.

The Best Birthday Ever, by Charise Mericle Harper

Here is another picture book. It is Lana Kittie's birthday and she feels like the queen of the world. Yet Lana knows that a birthday is more fun if everyone, including the birthday girl uses their best manners. This is a great book to read a week before a child's birthday party. Lana Kittie demonstrates appropriate ( and inappropriate) ways to greet guests at the door, show appreciation for a gifts and other essential birthday behaviors. She also suggests that the birthday child practice birthday behaviors with stuffed animals and other toys before the big event. Harper illustrates the book with very fun and feminine cartoons of Lana Kittie and her toy friends. There is even glitter on the bow on the cover. This book is likely to appeal to the children who enjoy Fancy Nancy and is a great way to get a preschool-2nd grade girl ready for the big day.

Bad News for Outlaws by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

I love picture book biographies. They give just about right amount of information I want to know about a person. This one is about a Federal Marshal in the Indian Territories in the late 1800's. It is a fun book. It is written like a tall tale, with lots of superlatives and western jargon so it would be hard to read it out loud without assuming a western twang. But in reality, the facts portrayed in the book are true. Bass Reeves was an incredible marshal, using stratagem and even disguises to "get his man." He was also a religious man and always preached repentance to the criminals while he was bringing them in. He was a marshal for about 30 years, and brought about 3000 criminals to jail. In that time he only had to kill 14 of them. It is illustrated with great oils. It has more words per page than a typical picture book, so it takes maybe an hour to read, but it could be read in multiple sittings. It is a great choice for any little cow poke.

Six Crows by Leo Leonni

Leo Leonni is a veteran picture book author/illustrator and his style is very recognizable. In this story six crows keep invading the farmer's wheat field. The farmer puts up a scarecrow to keep them away, but then they build a scare-kite to frighten the farmer. The farmer makes a bigger scarecrow and the crows make a bigger kite. Soon the wheat begins to wilt because the farmer is no longer taking care of it. A wise owl suggests the crows and farmers talk out their differences, and both parties come to an amicable agreement. It is a very simple text, written like a spoken folktale, with only a few sentences per page. Though the story is simple, Lionni's message about talking over problems comes across clearly. Lionni uses cut paper of various textures to make simple but appealing illustrations. The simplicity of the illustrations match the spare text to make a nicely balanced whole.

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

When we held our Mock Caldecott this year the week before the awards were announced, this book wasn't even in our set of books that we were considering. Yet, when the winner were read the next Monday, this one won an Honor medal. It is a very cute book (though I am not sure I would call the illustrations "distinguished", they certainly are fun). It is time for bed and little chicken wants his father to read him a bedtime story. The father agrees, as long as the little chicken promises not to interrupt. As the father starts Hansel and Gretel, Little Chicken does, of course, interrupt and changes the story to have himself warn the children of the witch, so they never get caught. On it goes with Red Riding Hood and Chicken Little. Finally, in exasperation, the father suggests that Little Chicken tell a story, and as he does, Father falls fast asleep. Stein does both the text and illustrations. The colors are bold and clashing, which hints from the beginning that this is not supposed to be a restful book. He changes illustration styles to represent the illustrations of the books the father is reading. The book style is spindly and suggests the old illustration styles of the early1900's. He changes styles again for the child's story at the end. I remember once, when my husband was reading a bed time story to Joseph, looking into the room to see both father and son fast asleep on my son's bed. This book really is well done, and worth a check out.

Donna Cardon is a children's librarian at Provo City Library and a well known children's book critic. We'd like to thank her for allowing us to republish her articles for our readers. You can visit her children's book blog HERE