Archive for the ‘Picture books’ Category

Basically, a year-end roundup of our favorite books from 2012. Any of these titles would make an entertaining and enriching gift, whether it’s for the holidays or just because you are the definition of awesome and enjoy gifting books.

Picture Book 

extraWhat’s great about Extra Yarn is that while everyone has a different opinion on the story’s takeaway message, they’re all absolutely right. Also wonderful are illustrator Jon Klassen’s quirky pictures of a boring gray town bursting into variegated color as a result of Annabelle’s knitting, particularly when it’s worn by Klassen’s recurring Hat animals. Finally, this story celebrates yarn bombing. What’s not to like?

Middle Grade

mg pic

We can totally see Liar and Spy or In a Glass Grimmly winning accolades in the coming year. Other standouts include The Secret of the Fortune Wookie and The One and Only Ivan.  However, if you’re looking for that (elusive) distinguished book starring a female protagonist, look no further than Earwig and the Witch for some wonderfully ordinary magic.

YA fiction


It pleases us to proclaim what a good year 2012 has been for YA. On the top of our list is the not-very-festive but absolutely gripping Code Name Verity, which features a fantastic friendship between two very different young women. Also in the depressing but good category are The Wicked and the Just and The Drowned Cities (the prequel/companion novel to Ship Breaker.)  Alternatively, if you’re looking for something more upbeat, we recommend Team Human, which cheekily references the vampire genre yet has fully-fleshed characters (human and otherwise) and a story line that stands on its own.


montmarayFor those who enjoy book sets, the third and final installment of The Montmaray Journals was published this year. Like the previous two books chronicling the plight of the noble (literally) but penniless FitzOsbornes through WWII, The FitzOsbornes at War is a wonderful mix of frothy and serious drama.

We’ve shared our favorites. What are your recommendations for 2012? 


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So, I went to the bookstore in Taiwan and, being curious at how the translations from English to Chinese would be handled, started going through the shelves like crazy. Here are some titles that caught my eye:

Picture Books


Blackout and A Ball for Daisy are translated literally, while Grandpa Green has become “The Garden Remembers Everything.”

Verdict: It makes sense not to translate Grandpa Green directly. Something like this (阿公的公園 aka Grandpa’s Garden) would have been cute, too, if just for the repetition. (I took the liberty of using 公園, which means park, rather than 花園, which means garden.)

Middle Grade

Middle Grade

I am the Cheese, Tuck Everlasting, and King of the Wind are direct translations. However, My Louisiana Sky (which I’ve yet to read) has become “Clear Days Between People,” and When You Reach Me is poetically, “Reaching Through Time and Space to Find You.”

Verdict: All these titles sound pretty good to me in Chinese (in terms of rhythm and phrasing), except I am the Cheese, which sounds funny in any language, but especially in Chinese, because there isn’t a culture built around cheese. The translators should have re-titled that one. The Chinese version of When You Reach Me is very appropriately re-titled, and now I want to read My Louisiana Sky to see how those “clear days” factor in.



YA isn’t my forte, although this has been a year of good YA reading for me. Still, I didn’t realize Snow White and the Huntsman was a book before it became a movie, but it and Daughter of Smoke and Bone are translated literally, down to the precise order of “smoke” and “bone.” Between Shades of Gray is now “Area of Grays.” And I don’t recognized the book on the bottom left, but it’s been translated to either “Life” or “Fate.” Speaking of life, it would have been fun to see Life: An Exploded Diagram, just to see how it would be translated.

Verdict: I’m just surprised and thrilled to see Gray and Smoke and Bone there at all! I know these are hits, but they’re not blockbusters, so I didn’t expect them to get this kind of attention.

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New project: we’re turning cover art into photographic art, one book at a time. We’ll keep the Photoshop to a minimum because we don’t believe in airbrushing!

First up: Make Way for Ducklings

What we used: nine stuffed/glass/ceramic ducks and a green sleeping bag.

Original cover:

Bonus: our homage to the duckling statues in the Boston Commons (in sepia!)

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(joint post)

You missed it? Too bad.

Mo Willems believes author talks should be experienced, not documented. So during yesterday’s visit to the Cambridge Public Library, after posing for a brief photo shoot, he asked everyone in the audience to refrain from taking photos or video. Or “I will shame you.” His words, not ours.

Tom Warburton, left, and Mo Willems, right. (more…)

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Patience the lion
                        Patience, one of the stone lions guarding the NYPL,
                       where KidLitCon was held. Photo by Sondy Eklund.
Jen: a first-timer’s thoughts of kidlitcon
  • wear comfortable shoes
  • bring business cards. or knitting. Both will help you make connections with other bloggers.
  • do start your day with a large, sturdy and most importantly, empty, tote bag. It will most certainly be full to bursting with new ARCs by the end of the day
  • if you have traveled from afar, swing by the post office to mail your ARCs. Flat rate shipping is great.
  • or, hawk them to a blogger who is willing to love them more and, more importantly, will carry them home.
  • don’t feel overwhelmed by all the bloggers who are way more prolific reviewers and well-read than you. They possess a wealth of information and are incredibly witty and nice about sharing it.
  • thanks to Maureen Johnson, I’ll probably think of insecure authors every time “werewolf cages” are mentioned in conversation
  • after the panel Critical Reviewing and “Niceness,” I am itching to write a review that’s more critical and not merely nice. At the same time, I can only say what worked for me, what didn’t, and why.

Lisa: (more…)

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Gardening Vicariously

And now it's spring!

My gardening skills are pretty limited–I can barely keep a cactus alive, let alone anything that needs actual care. But I do like visiting (and sampling from) friends’ gardens. Today being the kind of perfect spring day where everyone’s outside doing garden-y stuff, here’s a list of picture books to help set the mood:

And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano, illus. by Erin Stead: is every bit as charming as A Sick Day for Amos McGee.

The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin: anyone who likes their gardens to be edible, rather than simply ornamental, should read this book.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown: there’s something WALL-E-esque about the discovery of this tiny garden in the middle of a bleak, brown city.

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith: okay, this one isn’t really about gardening, but it made me temporarily inspired to create my own topiary zoo.

Plant a Little Seed by Bonnie Christensen: will inspire kids to join or start a community garden.

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney: a classic–one that treats the world like one gigantic garden.

My Garden by Kevin Henkes: another classic, and possibly my favorite, no doubt due to the chocolate rabbits strewn over the lawn.

Other suggestions? Chime in in the comments below.

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Oink Goes the Princess

Review: The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett (author) and Poly Bernatene (illustrator), pub. Sept 2011

This tongue-in-cheek retelling of “traditional” princess tales reads like a cross between the Prince and the Pauper and your favorite changeling tale. When the queen drops her baby over the castle walls (by accident, sort of), the princess lands on a straw-filled farmer’s cart, and the baby pig that was sitting in the cart bounces up, up, up, straight into the castle. By the time the queen turns around, she’s convinced a bad fairy has transformed the princess into a piglet. Meanwhile, the farmer below the castle gates thanks the good fairies for changing the pig into a baby girl.

The girl, now named Pigmella, is raised by the farmer’s loving family, who soon forgets that she was a pig to begin with. But the queen can never forget the pig is supposed to be a princess, so the ladies-in-waiting spend their time chasing the unruly pig (dubbed Priscilla)  and stuffing her into dresses. The comedy of errors continues for years, as Pigmella grows up to be smart, and nice, and clever, and Priscilla just keeps getting…pinker.  (more…)

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