May 24, 2017

Picture Books 2017 #1: Too School for Cool

Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat

This is a simple little story with a refreshing stroke of creativity. In the story, a little boy on his way to his grandmother's birthday party badgers his parents with the age-old car trip question: "Are we there yet?" And as he grows increasingly bored, his mind starts to wander... and before he knows it, he and his parents are off on a crazy trip through time and space. The book itself gets in on the act, with the story flipping over entirely, so that the reader must turn his or her upside-down to go on. There's everything from cowboys and pirates to dinosaurs and flying cars--all the stuff kids in the target audience are expected to like at that age. And there's even a cute little moral (delivered via pun!) at the end.

It's not going to be the most riveting read for any adults who pick it up, but children still in the picture book range might just get a kick out of it.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

Here we have another of those picture books devoted to celebrating books themselves. In the story, the titular "child of books" comes crashing in on a wave of words (excerpts from works like Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver's Travels) and takes another child off on a journey through the world of literature and imagination. They climb mountains, search for treasure, escape monsters, and more, and it's all meant to impress upon the reader the value of imagination (and of reading to stoke one's imagination).

Honestly, this is a book that's more likely to be appreciated by adult readers than children.


Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle

This is an interactive, wordless picture book about a little girl (the titular Flora) who's trying to dance with a pair of peacocks who just aren't having it... until they realize they've hurt her feelings. According to the interior book flap, the moral is intended to be, "...that no matter the challenges, true friends will always find a way to dance together," but it could definitely be taken as a bit of a subtle anti-bullying story if that's what your looking for.

As with the previous Flora book I read, I can't say I particularly enjoyed it. I just don't think I'm the wordless picture book type, myself, and so I think this is the last Flora book I'll be picking up. They just don't have much appeal for an adult reader; the art is nice, but that's about it.


Otter Goes to School by Sam Garton

This is another in the Otter series of children's books, and unlike the last Otter book I tried, I found this one to be a very charming, adorable standalone. The reader needs no background knowledge of the author's blog (I Am Otter: The Unheard Ramblings of a Modern Day Domestic Otter) to follow the story; there's no missing context here whatsoever. All we've got is an adorable story about an otter who, upon learning about the existence of a place called "school", decides to play classroom with her toys. It's a really cute little read perfect for a child who's getting close to the age of going to school for the first time. I actually recommend it!


School's First Day of School by Adam Rex

In this story, an elementary school called Frederick Douglas Elementary (which is a real school, by the way) is anthropomorphized. It's actually a very interesting idea! Adam Rex supplies the reader with a unique twist on the concept of a "first day of school" book, as here we get to see the first day of school from the perspective of the school itself. And oddly enough, it's actually a fairly touching story; the school has to deal with the reality that most of the children hate being there (at least at first), and its emotional journey in coming to terms with that fact quite nicely parallels a young child's coming to terms with being a student.

It's really surprising, sweet, and charming, and I definitely recommend it to any children who might be struggling with the fact that they have to go to school now (or children who will soon be going to school for the first time).



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