Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Picture Book A Day Keeps the Blues Away! - PART 1

We asked our publishing director, Shobha Viswanath, to make a list of her favourite children's picture books. 

Here's a guest post from her in response:

I collect picture books. There is something so compelling about a 24 or 32 page fully illustrated, sparsely written story that conveys more than tomes of written text. It is like seeing the world in a grain of sand. My children have outgrown them but I on the other hand, seek them out in libraries and bookstores and sometimes hunt them down in online and used bookstores.

I am amazed at their power, their ability within those few pages to invite even an adult to read them over and over again. While you like some because they make you laugh, or smile or sigh or cry, there are others that hypnotize you with their pictures, make you want to delve into that vast expanse of panoramic landscape, or simply reach out and wipe the tear off the little boy’s face or pluck the dying dandelion and breathe life into it so that the little gerbil may smile.

Here is a list of some of my favourite picture books:

Knots on a Counting Rope
Authors: Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
Illustrator: Ted Rand
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.

My copy of this book is so worn out that even the ink in the pages has begun to fade. It was a book offered as suggested reading by a teacher and I remember crying my eyes out while reading it. It was a long time before I could read the story to my children without weeping each time, and perhaps the ink has faded with all the copious tears that have wet the pages.

In this poignant story, the counting rope is a metaphor for the passage of time and for a boy's emerging confidence facing his greatest challenge: blindness. Recounted as a conversation between a Navaho Indian boy and his grandfather who tells him about the tale of his birth, this beautiful, sensitive story unfolds gently to weave a rich tale of intergenerational love and respect that is bittersweet and unsentimental.

Gathered near a campfire under a canopy of stars, a Navaho Indian boy hears the tale of his birth from his grandfather. Named Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses, the child later reaches out into that well of strength to deal with the fact that he is blind. Rand's atmospheric, vivid paintings evoke the tale's sensibility as they move it along. A book that resonates long after the last page is read.

I’d Really Like to Eat a Child

Author: Sylviane Donnio
Illustrator: Dorothee De Monfreid
Publisher: Random House

I am so tired of stories with morals and values, that it is little wonder that writers like Roald Dahl occupy high positions on my reading lists. Irreverence has a strangely endearing quality and demolition of goodness and good behaviour leaves me breathing a huge sigh of relief! Don’t we all know the difficulty of being good!!

First and foremost, this book no doubt wins the award for “best children’s book title ever.” How can any child, or parent, resist an adorable little crocodile named Achilles who really, REALLY wants to eat a child? This delightful story, written with wit and irreverence by Sylvianne Donnio, introduces us to a teeny-tiny croc with an appetite far bigger than his tummy size.

The Prince Child
Author: Maranke Rinck
Illustrator: Martijn Van Der Linden
Publisher: Lemniscaat

If ever there was a book whose illustrations beckoned you again and again, it is this. Realistic images, almost photographic like, yet deftly painted begs each page in the book to be framed.

When the prince child is born, all of the animals of the forest must decide what gifts they will bring to him. Heron brings a song, Snow Cat brings a crystal ball, and Gerbil brings flowers. How are they to know what the prince wants most of all?

On each spread, a short, lyrical piece about the gift and how it will be presented faces a photo-realistic image of each costumed creature. The body paints, feathers, beads, headdresses, and other adornments suggest native cultures from around the globe. Painterly brush strokes in subdued earth tones blur backgrounds, bringing each creature into sharp focus for its journey to the party.

But best of all, is the ending, sure to make you gasp and smile!

The Child Cruncher

Author: Mathilde Stein
Illustrator: Miles van Hout
Publisher: Lemniscaat

What a title! Typically, in a fairy tale, the hero does not relish being captured by a mean, ugly ogre. But Mally is terribly bored – her friends are on vacation, and her dad is very busy. So when the Child Cruncher comes along, she is very pleased to have something to do. Of course, the little girl turns out to be way too much trouble to be worth the Child Cruncher’s time, and he finds himself regretting having kidnapped her in the first place. But it’s all in a day’s adventure for our little heroine.

With a style similar to Quentin Blake, Mies Van Hout brings to life the zany and wicked illustrations that simply isn’t your grandmother’s fairytale!

The Carnival of Animals

Author: Philip de Vos
Illustrator: Piet Grobler
Publisher: Lemniscaat

Philip de Vos's carnival of animals is full of malcontents and fiercely independent types: tortoises who waltz and cancan--but only in their dreams; lions who disdain sauerkraut and brussels sprouts; and rowdy, honky-tonker pianists. Fourteen poems document this motley crew, with a generous helping of Ogden Nash-esque nonsense and de Vos's own brand of quirky humour.

Each verse is complemented wittily by Piet Grobler's unique etchings in blues, golds, and rusts that, framed, could easily grace an offbeat nursery wall.

- Written by Shobha Viswanath, Publishing Director of Karadi Tales

Watch this space for Part II of this piece!