Yesterday, I got that email every parent anticipates toward the close of summer, the one from your kid’s new teacher, letting you know your child will be in his or her class. Yep, it’s that time of year already. It’d be awfully cliché of me to say time flies, but the summer did seem to go by zippy-quick this year.
Well, I’m getting ahead of myself. There are almost three weeks left. If you’re like me and school starts very soon yet you want to get some more reading in with your children, especially those heading to school for the very first time, I’ve had my eye lately on some great preschool and Kindergarten titles that I’ll share today. Most are already out, and some will be out right around when school starts (especially for those of you in parts of the country that start later than we do in the South).
First up is a new collection of stories that will appeal to your own Inner Kid. That is, if you grew up, as I did, during the Richard Scarry era, you will be taking a trip down memory lane. In July, Random House released Richard Scarry’s Best Little Golden Books Ever! These are nine stories illustrated by Scarry himself, and the collection includes farm animals; cars and trucks; traditional stories, such as Chicken Little and The Gingerbread Man; lots of fuzzy chicks and bunnies and bears; and some manners to boot.
It’s a handsomely designed collection ; the book’s trim size is small, like Golden Books are, yet it’s a thick book. The art is beautifully reproduced in all its vivid colors (though, as for the human characters, it’s a sea of white faces—these stories, it goes without saying, were published well before things like “WeNeedDiversity” was ever a meme). It closes with a brief letter from Scarry’s son, Huck, about which of the stories were taken from real life, and it includes a snazzy black-and-white photo of Richard and his wife, Patsy Scarry, in a black MG-TC. Huck even notes that both parents wrote the stories, though it was Richard who illustrated them. (Fortunately, Scarry’s version of Chicken Little—a tale with various endings, depending on who is adapting it—eschews any heavy-handed moralism and includes Foxy Loxy’s consumption of each and every animal, ending with “So the king never knew that the sky was falling.” Abrupt. And funny.)
Hervé Tullet, O! Breaker of the Fourth Wall, will be back in September with an interactive new title for very young readers. Those of you who enjoyed the New York Times best-seller Press Here (2011) are in for a similar treat. Mix It Up! once again invites young readers to interact with the book; it’s a playful and imaginative discovery of colors and how they mix to make other colors. Children who enjoyed shaking and twisting and jumping around with Press Here will not be disappointed: There’s even an invitation to smush some pages together in this one. Art teachers of the world, take note! And “have the real paints handy,” writes the Kirkus review for this one. (And if you missed Tullet’s Help! We Need a Title! from May of this year, there’s still time to help him finish his story.)
Last year, Lizi Boyd released the exquisite Inside Outside, a book I really loved yet failed to write about here at Kirkus or at my own blog. I’ll try to make up for it now by mentioning her newest, coming in mid-August, called Flashlight. This is a wordless wonder with a primarily nighttime palette (a challenging thing to pull off in picture books). It’s the story of a young boy who explores the woods at night with a flashlight. There are all kinds of surprises waiting for him in his light’s beam—some bats, surprised owls and stealthy foxes. There is also humor (these animals aren’t afraid to make use of the flashlight themselves), and the use of die-cut pages makes this a story to pore over and explore. It’s a true delight for young children.
And then in mid-September, speaking of wordless books, don’t miss the U.S. release of Princesse Camcam’s Fox’s Garden, originally released in France last year. It’s a sweet story of generosity, and the art, made from cut paper with not a digital assist in sight (per the publisher), is simply gorgeous. There is perhaps no other word for it.
There are so many more books to discover during the lazy days of summer (or what’s left of it), but this is a good start, especially with very young children. Happy reading—and soak in some sun rays while you can!
Julie Danielson (Jules) conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.