2012 Picks of the Year — Picture Books

9780763656010

Step Gently Out
By Frost, Helen
Candlewick Press (MA)
9780763656010 $15.99

Young children examine small worlds intently, sometimes frustrated by things too busy or tiny to see well. This quiet poem is illustrated with remarkable close-up photos of delicate insects on stems, leaves, flowers, and dewy twigs.  Back pages give additional information about the eleven different insects.

9781419701078

Get Dressed!
By Chwast, Seymour
ABRAMS
9781419701078 $12.95

New Yorker cartoonist Chwast provides plenty of flaps to unfold and lift. Most kids start with getting up and dressing in the morning, and end with pajamas and bed. But in between the book offers all kinds of fun prompts and attire: dragons, hiding in the jungle, cold weather, sand castles, making believe, rock star performing.

9781935954149

Happy
By Van Hout, Mies
Lemniscaat USA
9781935954149 $17.95

Once a child learns the basic nouns, verbs, “no!” and “please,” the way is cleared for expressing emotions. The more the emotions can be verbalized, the less they need to be acted out. Happy! is a series of colorful drawings, each of them of a fish that perfectly expresses a given emotion: happy, curious, nervous, brave, shy, surprised, and 14 others.

9780547610832

More
By Springman, I. C.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH)
9780547610832 $16.99

Inspired, clever, elaborate illustrations make this the perfect book for a bright child who may or may not be reading fluently.  Those sharp young eyes will detect the visual puns as a magpie collects compulsively until its excess brings down the entire overloaded nest.Luckily, the magpie has friends who help it downsize to the final pages: “Enough? Yes, enough.”

9781442450271

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses
By Falconer, Ian
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
9781442450271 $17.99

Possibly the most amusing Olivia book yet: Olivia is having an identity crisis: what will make her special if everyone is a princess! Olivia decides she’s done, done, DONE with pink. She’s seeking a “more stark, modern style.” It involves lots of black jersey, a la Martha Graham. After considering several possibilities, Olivia arrives at her latest and most definitely appropriate persona.

9780061915161

Cat Tale
By Hall, Michael
Greenwillow Books
9780061915161 $16.99

Three cats, Lillian, Tilly, and William J., start on an outing. Word play is part of the adventure: “They flee a steer.” “They steer a plane.” “They plane a board.” “They board a train.” In the middle the cats become confused for a couple of pages, but the tail/tale homonym sets them back on track to a comfy ending.

9780811876896

MOMA Color Puzzles: 4 Double-Sided Puzzles
By Komagata, Katsumi
Chronicle Books 
9780811876896 $10.99

Four reversible puzzles offer hundreds of ways to re-combine the few pieces, to explore the visual impact of shading, line, and contrast. Created for the Museum of Modern Art.

9780062104182

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
By Willems, Mo
Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
9780062104182 $17.99

Mo Willems is as irrepressible as ever. Three Dinosaurs , Papa, Mama, and “some other Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway” make a great show of setting out bowls of chocolate pudding, making their beds look comfy, and leaving the  doors open as they pretend to head out into the forest. Along comes Goldilocks, “a little girl who never listens to anyone or anything.” She ignores the many warning signs, and thing are looking ominous until she hears gloating outside the window and realizes she needs to scram.

9780316045476

The Monsters’ Monster
By McDonnell, Patrick
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
9780316045476 $16.99

Three little monsters, Grouch, Grump, and little Gloom ‘n’ Doom (he has two heads) squabble over who’s the biggest, baddest monster of all. Finally they decide to pool their efforts to make a MONSTER monster, using “tape, tacks, staples, and glue, gunk, gauze, and gobs of goo, bolts, wire, and a smelly old shoe.” When the huge creation comes to life its first booming word words are “Dank you!” because he’s thankful to be alive. The little rascals chase along behind as he crashes through the walls, marches down the mountain to the bakery, nad buys jelly doughnuts. Everyone shares them happily on a beach, completely forgetting to be monsters.

9781596435490

Mousterpiece
By Zalben, Jane Breskin
Roaring Brook Press
9781596435490 $16.99

By age 6,7,8, many children have visited an art museum. Like Janson, the mouse who lives in a museum, they may resonate to certain artists. Janson paints herself again and again in the styles of Albers, Rousseau, Warhol, Seurat, Braque, Picasso and 16 other major artists. Eventually she is discovered, and given an exhibition of her own. The book is a great way to introduce the idea of different styles, and associate names with them.

9780803737129

Duck Sock Hop
By Kohuth, Jane
Dial Books
9780803737129 $16.99

Rhythm and bounce will capture everyone’s silly sense as the catchy rhyme rolls along. This is a wake-up-and-get-moving book, not a nighty-night one. Today’s children will need a little clarification from grandparents as to the meaning of “sock hop,” and that’s likely to lead to demonstrations and imitations — in other words, a party.

9781596437111

A Home for Bird
By Stead, Philip Christian
Roaring Brook Press
9781596437111 $16.99

Vernon the frog is pleased to find Bird, whom he welcomes as friend, although bird says nothing. Vernon introduces Bird  to his friends, but Bird says nothing. Vernon is concerned that Bird might be lost, so he sets out to find Bird’s home. After an arduous journey that tests Vernon’s determination, they stumble into a little house and Bird speaks one word at last: “Cuckoo!”

9781423145622

Otto the Book Bear
By Cleminson, Katie
Hyperion Books
9781423145622 $16.99

Otto is a bear who lives inside a book, and is always happiest when children read his book. He has a secret: sometimes he leaves his book and goes exploring. One day while he’s out, the family moves, taking his book but forgetting Otto! Otto makes a plan, packs a bag, and sets off on a new adventure. The world is a little larger than he had expected, and he’s becoming discouraged when he sees full of light and hope: a library! There he not only finds another book bear, but also, best of all, children reading.

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