If you work in a field that has anything to do with children’s literature and you read children’s and young adult books regularly, sometimes you read books and—let’s face it—you know that, should its characters show up again in a sequel, you won’t be first in line to read it. Let’s call these books the McRibs of children’s literature. Then there are those other books whose characters stay with you—and really resonate with the children you teach in long-lasting ways. Today, I look at an open-armed return of some of those characters in two new picture book releases.
Back in 2014, Lena and Olof Landströms’ Pom and Pim was released in the States. Originally published overseas in 2012, it showed off—as I wrote at my blog when the first American edition came out—what I think the Landströms do so well: it’s a wonderfully droll story about one of the types of daily dramas (and traumas—think: ice cream-induced tummy aches) that very young children really care about. I still remember this line from the Kirkus review of the book: “[it’s a] perfect primer for the existential philosophy required for a small one to make it through the day.”
The book tells the story of a young boy (Pom) with his favorite toy (Pim), who head out on a warm day to explore and play. Happily, they are both back in Where is Pim?, released in the U.S. last month. In this one, Pom tests his bravery (I say “his,” though Pom could just as well be a girl) when an errant dog runs by and scoops up Pim in his jaws. Pom had actually been tossing Pim into the air to fly when the dog leaps over his head to steal the toy. Another dog (who looks very similar, yet isn’t the same dog at all) shows up to comfort Pom and assist with the search for Pim.
Both this new book and its prequel include very short sentences with simple vocabulary. And both are great choices for listening ears but also serve as wonderful beginning readers, because the stories are so compelling for young children. The Landströms pull off such expressive, yet minimal, lines; the books shine with an understated humor; and they nail the emotional highs and lows of a toddler’s day. Take the moment that the dog runs off with Pom’s toy: “It took Pim!” he cries. This is a harrowing moment for a toddler, still managing to understand the world around him and still unclear as to what just happened, but it also manages to be funny, that decision to call the dog “it.” (It’s also a funny moment for readers slightly older than the target audience.)
Pom and Pim are utterly endearing, and I hope the Landströms’ create even more stories about the duo. Also: no worries. Pom and Pim are, indeed, reunited at story’s end. Could we even bear it if they weren’t?
It also brings me happiness to tell you that Anna Banana has returned. This time last year, I wrote about Sleep Tight, Anna Banana! from mother-son pair Dominique Roques and Alexis Dormal. Anna’s back in Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion! Well, she will be back in June, when the book is scheduled to reach shelves.
But if I can do my part now to convince you to take a look at the book, come June, my work here will be done. All of Anna’s friends—Zigzag, Fuzzball, Pingpong, Foxface, Whaley, and Grizzler—are also back, and they’re as funny as ever. They’re her stuffed animal friends (or are they real? Hmm…)—and Fuzzball, who steals the show, is a mischief-maker of the highest degree. When they all decide they want to make a chocolate cake, the slapstick humor takes center stage, as Fuzzball, who does everything on hyper speed, gets overenthusiastic about whisking. So much humor, as well as the story’s plotline, stems from merely his zealous whisking; it’s a testament to Dormal’s action-packed, expressive cartoon work that the laughs are the outloud kind as children take in the story. Each character has a distinctive personality, and Anna Banana, the comic foil to her friends, may be (next to Fuzzball) the most fun to watch. These are spreads to pore over.
Both Anna Banana books are sheer fun. Dormal’s back-flap bio says he “makes books with word balloons.” Whatever you call them—comics, cartoons—he is one of the most talented artists doing that kind of work in picture books today.
Fingers crossed that at this time next year we’re hearing, once again, about more books with Pom, Pim, Anna Banana, and her fuzzy friends. All will be welcome.
WHERE IS PIM? First American Edition 2015 from Gecko Press. Text and illustrations © 2013 by Lena and Olof Landström. Spread here reproduced by permission of the publisher.
ANNA BANANA AND THE CHOCOLATE EXPLOSION. First American Edition 2015. Text and illustrations © 2012 by Alexis Dormal and Dominique Roques. English translation copyright © 2015 by the publisher, First Second, New York. Spread here reproduced by permission of the publisher.
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.