Picture books for the very young

By Kristi Jemtegaard
Sunday, March 21, 2010


Based on the hymn by Cecil F. Alexander

Illustrated by Ashley Bryan

Atheneum. $16.99, ages 3-6

Reading this familiar hymn one line per page has the effect of slowing the pace and forcing attention to the meaning of each word and visual symbol. A pink, orange and red sunburst, its rays streaking out to pairs of children in a Ferris wheel-like formation, accompanies the first line. The first half of the phrase "All creatures great and small" rests on the back of a giant blue whale; the second half floats above a school of tiny fish. The flora and fauna for "All things wise and wonderful" rises from the pages of an open book. And though some may find the human figures a bit bland, the portraits of the natural world overflow with vitality, beauty and strength. Bright and beautiful, wise and wonderful, indeed.


By Jonah Winter

Illustrated by Red Nose Studio

Schwartz & Wade. $17.99, ages 5-8

This fable, based on an actual incident in 1987, has its plasticized tongue planted firmly in its polymer cheek. Red Nose Studio created each of these illustrations out of wire, cloth, clay and, to put it bluntly, trash. What better medium for a book about a barge that totes 3,168 tons of garbage from Islip, N.Y., to Belize and back again -- stopping along the way in North Carolina, New Orleans, Mexico, Texas and Florida. Did any place welcome the Break of Dawn and its stinky load? Not the police . . . the mayor . . . the coast guard . . . and especially not the Mexican Navy. Equal opportunity stereotyping abounds: Gino Stroffolino, the archetypical New York mobster, says "dis" and "dat"; the Mayor of New Orleans wears Mardi Gras beads; south of the border they pack pistols and sport handlebar mustaches; and Floridians are old and white and float around in rubber-ducky inner tubes. Cautionary? Yes. Hilarious? You betcha!


By Anna Grossnickle Hines

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