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I don’t tend to formally review picture books, but I’ve started adding more to my Goodreads┬átally, partly to keep track and partly because I’m having trouble reaching my reading goal for the year (well shy of my goal 200). Here are a few that I loved, sometimes just because they were my kind of quirky.

This is Not My HatThis is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

Jon Klassen animals, what expressive eyes you have! I love the overall design of this book, the straightforward but so-funny text, the ending, and the tip of the hat (oh, I crack myself up) to I Want My Hat Back.


You Are StardustYou Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey

Part picture book, part science, part poetry. I can’t decide if the words or pictures are more wonderful – they coexist perfectly. It somehow manages to incorporate the big picture and the enticing details without feeling distracted. I’d recommend this to curious young minds and anyone who enjoys mesmerizing illustrations.


Step Gently OutStep Gently Out by Helen Frost

Gorgeous photographs and a lovely poem that complement each other nicely.



Olivia and the Fairy Princesses (Olivia)Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer

Some picture book series become less inspired as they go on (I’m looking at you, Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes). Others, like Olivia, somehow manage to maintain their brilliance. Or is it just that I sympathize with Olivia a little too much? “If everyone’s a princess, then princesses aren’t special anymore! Why do they all want to be the same?” Exactly, Olivia. Exactly.

Bonus points for the inclusion of: The Little Match Girl, Martha Graham, non-sparkly princesses, matador pants, corporate malfeasance, and a warthog.


Big Little BrotherBig Little Brother by Kevin Kling

There are sweet, lovely, calming picture books…and then there are odd, quirky, bizarre ones. This one is definitely quirky, but also strangely sweet at the end. The pictures convey a lot of the humor here (speaking of quirky, it’s the same illustrator, Chris Monroe, as the Monkey with a Tool Belt books), but the text also cracked me up.

The narrator is a small but articulate kid who’s been outsized by his toddler brother. People are constantly assuming that the toddler is the older brother, but the younger guy also commits the usual crimes of touching his toys, following him, and dropping donut crumbs from his oversized fists.

The central action goes down at the Old Woman in the Shoe, “a place for kids to stay while moms shop.” Our narrator loves the play kitchen, where he can whip up a Thanksgiving dinner if he gets “straight to work.” When another kids tries to bully him out of his tasty plastic turkey, this affords our narrator opportunity to say things like “we are going to have Thanksgiving and we are going to enjoy it” while gritting his teeth. Fortunately, help is on the way and we’re off to our oddly endearing ending.

Recommended for preschoolers and up, especially if dry, quirky humor is your cup of tea.


Another BrotherAnother Brother by Matthew Cordell

If the thought of sheep in tight sweaters, suspenders, and 80s-style headbands cracks you up, or if you were ever an older sibling, this is a book for you.

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The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, #1)The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

This is the problem with series. You get hooked on the characters and then you have to wait.

This one was all about the characters and atmosphere for me – it all felt very real and tangible, despite all the fantasy elements. There’s some suspense, and the romance elements felt relatively subdued, and there’s a bit of Welsh mythology thrown in, with a pleasantly Susan Cooper-ish feel to it. Also, I love Stiefvater’s sense of humor – the descriptions of the raven, for example, regularly cracked me up. But she slips the humor in without calling too much attention to it. I gobbled it up.

The only downside – the only thing that made it frustrating – is that lack of resolution that seems to come with series openers these days.

There’s some violence and swearing, and I don’t know where the rest of the series will go, but I’d hand this to sophisticated middle school readers and up (hey, if they start now they’ll grow into it).

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January 2013

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