Best of Children's 2010 - Books About Family & Friends


View the Complete List of Best of Children's 2010 - Books About Family and Friends


Shark vs. Train

by Vicky Smith on November 15, 2010 | Children's

Austinite Chris Barton entered children’s books in a big way when his 2009 debut, The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors, illustrated by Tony Persiani, garnered a prestigious Sibert Honor recognition from the American Library Association. His second book, Shark vs. Train, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, imagines an increasingly goofy competition between two toys wielded by a couple of boys who stay mostly offstage. The train may win a belching contest hands down, but the shark would wipe up at the pie-eating contest. In a starred review, Kirkus summed up the battle: “It’s hard to choose; both are winners.”

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Chris Barton, Shark vs. Train

Chris Barton, author of Shark vs. Train, took some time at the Texas Book Festival to tape an interview with Kirkus about how he worked with illustrator Tom Lichtenheld, some of his favorite books to share with his children and where his career is taking him next. See it here.


Bunny Days: ‘Hapless Humor and Total Charm’

by Vicky Smith on November 15, 2010 | Children's

One of the most offbeat and winning picture books of 2010, Bunny Days chronicles the misadventures of a flock of bunnies that lives on Mr. and Mrs. Goat’s farm. They by turn get splattered with mud, are sucked up into a vacuum cleaner and find their cottony tails lopped off! Tragedy? Not at all, not when Bear is around: He always “knows just what to do.” He pops them in the washing machine and hangs them out to dry, unzips the vacuum cleaner bag and blows the dust off the bunnies (and fixes Mrs. Goat’s vacuum) and re-attaches the bunny tails—“very gentl[y]”—with an old sewing machine.

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2010 Children's Best: Mad at Mommy, by Komako Sakai

by Jenny Brown on November 15, 2010 | Children's

The creator of The Snow Day (2009), which explored a preschooler’s pining to experience the pleasures of new-fallen snow, here taps into the contradictory feelings of a young rabbit with a strong bond to Mommy even through those first assertions of independence. Once again, a slightly downturned mouth and tilt of the ears ingeniously serve as indicators of the youngster’s shifting moods. Through a series of panel illustrations and full-bleed, sometimes wordless spreads, readers gradually learn what’s at the root of the protagonist’s anger. “Komako Sakai gives voice to the desires and frustrations of a young child’s life,” says senior editor Cheryl Klein. “We loved her winning portrayal of protest and reconciliation, one that both parents and children will cheer.”

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2010 Children's Best: Big Red Lollipop, by Rukhsana Khan

by Peter Lewis on November 15, 2010 | Children's

When Rubina is invited to a birthday party, her mother is nonplussed: “What’s a birthday party? Why do they do that?” Different cultures, different traditions. Then Mother steps in it by requiring Rubina to bring her little sister, Sana, who makes a hash of the party and eats Rubina’s red lollipop party favor. “I don’t get any invitations for a really long time,” laments Rubina. Then Sana gets an invite, and the same demand is made. Rubina, though, serving as a cultural bridge, gently suggests that it’s not appropriate, and Mother relents. The payback? Sana gives Rubina her green lollipop favor. “Almost everything in this story really happened,” says Rukhsana Khan. “I told this story at a bookstore event. My older sister was in the audience. When I was done she said, ‘Wait a minute. You never gave me that big green lollipop!’ It’s too late to make it up to her with a lollipop, so I wrote her this story instead.”

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2010 Children's Best: Art & Max, by David Wiesner

by Jenny Brown on November 15, 2010 | Children's
Max, a garden-variety lizard, asks Art, a horned lizard, what he should paint. Art tells Max that he may paint him (Art), never dreaming that Max would take a brush to Art’s own scaly skin! Art busts out of Max’s paint and there, beneath, are…pastels. Are there more layers to Art? All the previous books by the three-time Caldecott Medalist were rendered in watercolor, and David Wiesner wanted to do something different. “I thought about what other media I could use—acrylics, pastel, ink line,” he says. “Suddenly, I saw a narrative involving all those media in which one character is deconstructed. It’s the story of the creative process.”

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2010 Children's Best: Ling & Ting, by Grace Lin

by Jenny Brown on November 15, 2010 | Children's

They may be delightful, identical twins, but Ling and Ting have highly individual attitudes and approaches to life. With Ting’s sneeze and a barber’s errant snip of her bangs, readers can easily differentiate between the sisters until Grace Lin’s establishment of their unique traits in the tales that follow does the rest. A quintet of stories charts their adventures, and a sixth reviews the events of the previous five tales. Lin’s framed images heighten the humor: She begins each story with a fullpage scene-setter (such as a barber pole for the first and chef ’s hats for the third, “Making Dumplings”), and each chapter’s closing image often resolves the challenge raised in the vignette.

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2010 Children's Best: A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip C. Stead

by Peter Lewis on November 15, 2010 | Children's

Amos McGee may be a geezer, but he’s a content one—serene, if a bit pensive. Amos is a zookeeper and a friend to his charges. He plays chess with the elephant, sits quietly with the shy penguin and ministers to the nasal products of the rhinoceros’ allergies. When he must stay home one day with the sniffles, his chums take the bus to his residence and do unto him, in sweet reciprocation, what he has done unto them. The story is pared down to Zen simplicity, as friendship ought to be. In counterpoint, the artwork wows. The woodblock foundations carry forward the elemental ease of the story, but Erin Stead’s exquisite, fine-line pencil work invests every character—human and animal—with wonderful personality.

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2010 Children's Best: The Extraordinary Mark Twain, by Barbara Kerley

by Rebecca Cramer on November 15, 2010 | Children's

“Mark Twain was a project I’ve considered for years,” says Barbara Kerley. “I remember being fascinated with him in college and ever since then hoping I could tell a story about him in a way that kids would find accessible.” When she discovered that Twain’s 13-year-old daughter Susy Clemens had written a biography of her father, she was intrigued; she knew from raising her own daughter that 13-year-olds “just tell it like they see it.” In this large-format picture book, Susy has a chance to “set the record straight” about her famous father. The narration is filled with quotes from Twain; miniature inserts of Susy’s biography, spelling errors intact (“He is as much a Pholosopher as any thing I think,” writes Susy), provide a glimpse of Twain as both parent and author.

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2010 Children's Best: Bink & Gollie, by Kate DiCamillo & Alison McGhee

by Jenny Brown on November 15, 2010 | Children's
One is tall, one is short. One loves peanut butter, the other favors pancakes. Bink and Gollie, two best friends, star in three funny adventures in this early chapter book. Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, pals in real life, joined forces to create it. “DiCamillo and McGhee—it had a nice ring. Famed duos of stage and film tap-danced in my head while the authors’ agent explained that the hilarious new text about treehouse-dwellers Bink and Gollie was something the two friends ‘just had to do together,’ ” says Karen Lotz, president and publisher of Candlewick Press. “Then Tony ‘The Scamp’ Fucile came on board with his inimitable comedic timing and characterization. I thought: ‘Curtain up!’ ”

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2010 Children's Best: Arroz con Leche / Rice Pudding, by Jorge Argueta

by Gregory McNamee on November 15, 2010 | Children's

This is no ordinary cookbook, not unless the latest editions of Fanny Farmer and Julia Child rhapsodize about puffy grains of rice metamorphosing into fishes and birds, or describe a runnel of milk from a bottle transformed, à la Ovid, into a splendid white waterfall. But that’s the sort of magical food-based realism in which Salvadoran émigré poet Jorge Argueta works, and that’s just the sort of thing that happens in the pages of his elegant, entertaining bilingual celebration of a favorite childhood treat. “I spent part of my life in a popular restaurant where flavors and words came together in a loving way,” says Argueta. “My mother used to make rice pudding for my brothers, sister and me. Behind the few words that compose this poem exists a universe of memories.”

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2010 Children's Best: Hamster and Cheese, by Colleen AF Venable

by Peter Lewis on November 15, 2010 | Children's
Colleen A.F. Venable’s electrically charged comic-book story features Mr. Venezi, a pet-store owner who can’t tell a llama from a finch. But he does know his sandwich goes missing every day, and he will banish the koalas if it happens again. The koalas are actually hamsters, and they recruit a guinea pig to investigate (the “G” has fallen off her nameplate, ergo “PI”—private investigator). Sasspants the PI solves the mystery but not without much zany, motor-mouthed “assistance” from the resident camels, walruses and sloths—or whatever. “While classmates created Imaginary friends, I created an imaginary hamster,” says Venable. “If anything went wrong, it wasn’t my fault—it was his. The book-version hamster is me in third grade: obsessed with mysteries, superoutgoing and over-the-top hyperactive. Mom believed my hyperness was a gift not a problem, especially if you gave me pen and paper.” The sequel, And Then There Were Gnomes, is just as funny.

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