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Picture Book Catch-Up: Texts Concerning Imagination and Adaptation

I will be presenting on diverse books again in October for the Minnesota Library Association Conference, yay!

I had applied for two group presentations, and unfortunately I will not be talking about work at my library, Science House, as well, but I am super-psyched to be doing booktalks again.

Our book-talker for picture books last year will not be with the group, and I love picture books, so I am trying to see if I can’t get a bit caught up on what’s current in that world and incorporate picture books into my graphic novel talks as well.

That said, I’ve been very busy with work (whew!) this first year, but I am digging into books hardcore this summer and am loving it.

Many of these titles will not be making it to my particular talks, of course, but I thought I’d try to jot some first impressions for readers/parents/caregivers/librarians who might appreciate it. Also, to get into the habit of blogging every once in a while. :) Here goes! The majority of the books I have been reading recently come from the ALASC’s 2015 Notable Children’s Books list.

Picture Books with Focus on Imagination and Adaptation

The Baby Tree Cover

The Baby Tree. By Sophie Blackall. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014.

  • This book was adorable and approaches the concept of where babies come from extremely well! It was humorous and informative. The last page of the book is for caregiver reference and gives understandable and fairly thorough answers to followup questions likely to come after reading this text.


  • I definitely had two of my co-workers read this immediately after I finished it.



Beekle Cover

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. By Dan Santat. Little, Brown and Company, 2014.

  • This is a sweet and imaginative story about an imaginary friend who has not been claimed by his/her special person yet. It did not blow me away as a need to read, but the illustrations are pretty fantastic, and I liked especially that the person Beekle imagines will be his friend is not the same person he meets, and that they need to work on their friendship in order to sync up. In that way, this is a great book about expectations versus reality and the nature of friendship.


  • The use of the term “unimaginary” in the title has a double-meaning to me (ie, the limbo before being someone’s imaginary friend, but also being a real friend) which I enjoy the more I spend time with it.
  • The illustrations are amazing (hence the Caldecott win).



Hi, Koo! Cover

Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons. By Jon J. Muth. Scholastic Press, 2014.

  • Love this book. The poems are beautiful, the illustrations whimsical. They work together well, and most of the poems would not have the same impact without the accompanying pictures, which I appreciate.
  • There is an author’s note at the beginning of the book regarding the history and use of haiku in Japan and America. It makes this book a great entryway into the poetic form as something more than a rigid 5-7-5 for young writers.

Hi Koo Winter

  • There is a game built into the book to find words beginning with each letter of the alphabet as the reader moves from poem to poem. I can see this being great for some kids, particularly if they are prone to distraction during storytime.
  • I read this (and most of the books I will be commenting on) outside, and BOY am I ever glad I did.



Mix It Up! Cover

Mix It Up! By Hervé Tullet, Translated by Christopher Franceschelli. Chronicle Books, 2014.

  • This book is set up as a clear followup to the amazing book Press Here, but it lacks some of the intuitive fun of the first. Why? Mix It Up! seems to have a clear goal from author to reader, which is to teach (in a fun, interactive way) basic color mixing. Maybe it’s just because I’m an adult, but some of the surprise of Press Here will be missing for readers of this book who already have their colors down pat, but for others, this will be a fun and informative read.


  • The 2015 ALASC Notable Children’s Books list has several titles (I hopefully will write more on these later) about famous artists, and this would be a good primer to read before one of the others for a family storytime with mixed ages. I have not seen Press Here read aloud for a group and imagine it would be difficult, but Mix It Up! I think would work well for a crowd.



Work An Occupational ABC Cover

Work: An Occupational ABC. By Kellen Hatanaka. Groundwood Books, 2014.

Work_Letter V

  • Best things about this book:
    • Great vocabulary! Introduces words as complicated as horticulturist alongside the simple and familiar (ice cream vendor – and even here, “vendor” is an excellent addition!) +++ for vocab
    • Love the variety of “work” represented here. It gives a wider scope of possibilities for young readers to aspire to: be a cyclist, a jockey! A detective, not just (what we’ve all heard) a doctor.



Pom and Pim Cover

Pom and Pim. By Lena Landström, Illustrated by Olof Landström. Gecko Press, 2014.

  • Picked this book up while browsing. Not on the ALASC list.


Pom and Pim_FullBook_Gecko Press_Page_06leftPom and Pim_FullBook_Gecko Press_Page_06right

  • Written and illustrated by a Swedish couple, Pom and Pim is a story of a child and his/her stuffed friend encountering “bad luck” which often turns out to be good. I like the lesson which is being taught concerning looking on the bright side of things more than the book itself, but it is a cute read which I think may come to extremely good use for starting conversations between caregivers and children, especially with youth who get into tantrums over small things.



Hug Machine Cover

Hug Machine. By Scott Campbell. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014.

  • Not on the ALASC list for 2015.


  • Synopsis: The Hug Machine hugs everything and everyone until it is tired. Then it accepts a hug.
  • This book is the best, I hear it in my head frequently since I read it (aloud), and I turned an image from it into my Facebook cover photo. It made me laugh out loud, often.
  • Great enthusiasm.  I can see this inspiring children to act as “hug machines,” which would be a delight.
  • The illustrations in this book are hilarious, perhaps more to an adult than a child reader. The facial expressions are great to read (often the absence of a clear one). This would be a good jumping off point to talk about feelings and personal space as well, actually. The Hug Machine claims his hugs “make [people] go completely nuts!” alongside pictures of him hugging many people with blank expressions, going about their normal business.
  • Highlights:
    • The look on the Hug Machine’s face when a porcupine asks, “What about me? I am so spiky. No one ever hugs me.” This is a full page spread which uses space to articulate in a very cool way the momentary hesitation of the Hug Machine. Don’t fear though – the Hug Machine always finds a way.
    • “People often ask what the Hug Machine eats to keep the hugging energy high.” <next page> “Well, the answer is pizza. The Hug Machine likes pizza very much.”
  • Weird comment regarding interesting point in the illustration: in this book, only one party is ever hugging. There is a giver and a receiver. This might also be something to talk about with youth – why? How would that make you feel if you were the Hug Machine? How might the person being hugged feel? (See notes above). What is your favorite way to receive/give hugs/affection?



Nana in the City Cover

Nana in the City. By Lauren Castillo. Clarion, 201?.

  • A simple story about a boy visiting his Nana who lives in the city, where it is crowded, loud, and scary. Approaching these concerns after a night of rest (and with a new knit cape), it turns out that crowded can be fun, loud can be creative, and scary is not so scary.
  • I’m really impressed by Castillo’s choice of defining “scary” things in the city to this young boy as graffiti and homeless people among other things. In a gentle way, this is a great way of introducing kindness to others instead of fear of the unknown.



That’s it for now – hope to have more soon! Leave comments on these books and other picture book favorites, please! I will read them.


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