Tag Archives: picture books

How to Give a Cat a Bath, and other dangerous advice

After decompressing from a semester of MLS studies, I’m finally getting back to Mr. Blog.  I’ve been reading a bit here and there, and have even been putting my VCR to good use.

Bad Kitty series by Nick Bruel

Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I discovered this delightful little series of picture books and illustrated children’s chapter books that center around the life of a very, very bad, bad kitty.

In the original picture book, Bad Kitty, the kitty is loathe to find out that he’s been temporarily restricted to a vegetable diet.  Fortunately, his hazardous protests throughout the house won him back his omnivorous cat food.  The book, and its sequel, Poor Puppy (in which the kitty is introduced to an over-friendly new housemate), incorporate the alphabet and counting, and are devilishly funny and random in their choice of vocabulary.

Additionally, Bruel wrote illustrated chapter books about specific aspects of the kitty’s life, including Bad Kitty Gets a Bath. In this hilarious volume, the kitty’s owner explains the dangers involved in attempting to clean a cat, including injury, death, and pants-wetting.  The book even gives a detailed illustration and explanation of the escalating levels of cat anger as expressed through different hisses.  Any cat-lover (or cat-hater, even) will recognize the high-strung attitude of kitty, something common to many of our feline friends.  I highly recommend these books, to adults and childen.  The picture books are a longer read than most, so keep that in mind when reading with those with shorter attention spans (adults and children included).

Here’s a link to Nick Bruel’s Bad Kitty series: click here.


Animals Going to School – Picture Books

For this first week back to school, here are two picture books about reluctant four-legged school-goers:

Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton
It’s Splat’s first day at school, and he’ll use any excuse not to go.  His mother finally drags him through the door, and he begins to enjoy himself.  The artwork in Splat the Cat is excellent, featuring the realistically-furry leading kitty in this humorous picture book.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
Chester Raccoon doesn’t want to leave behind his mother, his toys, his books, and his fellow forest friends and go to school.  He’d rather stay home and live like he always has.  But his mother knows a wise old secret, that he can take her love with him wherever he goes.  This picture book features tender illustrations of a teary eyed Chester and is very heartwarming.
What other animals-go-back-to-school books can you recommend? I’m sure there are tons out there.  Thanks!

The Invention of…a New Kind of Graphic Novel

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The Jacket CoverInvention of Hugo Cabret – A Novel in Words and Pictures

by Brian Selznick


Everyone I’ve talked to who has read this 2007 novel has simply raved.  It took me a few months to take their advice and give it a go, but boy, I’m glad I did!  Not only did it feature beautiful black-and-white drawings and a cool 1920’s setting, but The Invention of Hugo Cabret had a gripping storyline that kept me on the edge of my seat and took my heart for a ride.  In its mysterious European tones, “Hugo” reminds me of the dark memories in Zafon’s amazing Shadow of the Wind, but for children, and with a completely different story.

As the opening scene unfolds through a series of captivating full-page drawings, we see the iconic Parisian skyline illuminated by the morning sun.  The focus zooms to the train station where we follow a young boy down a remote, unlit hallway, through an antique metal grate, and into the veiled world of behind-the-walls mechanization.

Our hero, Hugo, is a pre-teen orphaned Parisian boy whose cunning is only matched by his desperation.  He moves like a phantom as he keeps all of the stations’ [analog! yes!] clocks to astronomical precision, and makes daily rounds to steal food to survive in his covert existence.  All he has left of his family is his clockmaker father’s notebook, filled with drawings of a so-called automaton.  As Hugo struggles to hold to this remembrance in the face of danger, he unearths a past long-buried by its owner.

Close-Up of HugoThe Invention of Hugo Cabret is historical fiction, and was inspired by the true story of a broken, neglected collection of mechanical figurines in Paris that were once used by magicians to impress 19th century audiences.  Additionally, Selznick incorporates characters based on important pioneers in the early film industry, and in doing so, adds another layer of historical intrigue.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a masterpiece not only in its unforgettable storytelling, but in its deft combination of magical text, rich illustration, and occasional original photos as well.  What makes “Hugo” special is how it uses illustrations to do more than enhance a storyline; the action of whole sections of chapters is carried forward my series of illustrations.  According to my future-librarian friend Emily, this  sets Selznick’s novel apart from other illustrated works: the pictures are an integral part of the novel, on par in importance with the text.  I’ve heard from teachers that thanks to its inventive use of interspersed illustrations, the novel captured new young readers who had been resistant to the written word.  Now that’s what I call great children’s literature!  Selznick’s form is practically poetic, and inspired in me a feeling of wonder.  My curiosity kept me turning page after page, until I reached the imaginative ending and the last glimmer of moonlight disappeared into the night.

I highly recommend this amazing work of literature and illustration, for children and adults alike.

Here are some links if you want to learn more:

Official Book Website: contains an impressive collection of information, multimedia, and links related to the history behind Hugo.

Movie Details: Martin Scorsese is directing a (live action?) version of the book, starring Ben Kingsley, that will premiere in 2011.Hugo Cabret

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Who’s That Grown-Up Reading a Picture Book?

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Picture books, fantasy novels, and Dr. Seuss all day long.  After my first week on the job as a page in the Children’s department, I’ve noticed that my daily grind affords me the opportunity to handle hundreds of Children’s books every day and grab anything that interests me.  Now that I’m planning to become a librarian, it’s important for me to become more familiar with different books and information sources.  Since I’m considering entering into the world of Children’s librarianship, every kiddie book I read is a step closer to professional excellence….or at least a chance to relive happy literary memories of my childhood.

Yesterday, I noticed the intriguing title How Pizza Came To Queens by Dayal Kaur Khalsa.  After a five minute battle with the self-service checkout computer,  I took it home and read the picture book over lunch.  The story was adorable, and made me feel like a little kid again.  I was rapt anxiety, faced with a New York where pizza did not [yet] exist.  Thanks to the curiosity and assistance of four young girls and the wisdom and generosity of Mrs. Pellegrino, pizza is now a popular lunch standby in our great borough of Queens.

Today, I found The Red Thread by Grace Lin, a touching fairy tale that explains the bond of love between adopted children and their adoptive parents.   Ms. Lin dedicated the book “to all children adopted, the parents who loved them but could not keep them, and the parents who traveled far to find them.”  She writes, “There is an ancient Chinese belief that an invisible, unbreakable red thread connects all those who are destined to be together.”  Isn’t this true?  We’re all con This story can help to show children how important they are to their parents and how very much they are loved, no matter where they came from.

So, as I continue working in the Children’s department, I’ll be on the lookout for literature that either seems new and interesting, or that played a part in my own childhood.   Recommendations will be gladly accepted!  Next on the menu: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling.

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