Week of September 11—Learning from NY Times Best Sellers
Wednesday, September 14—A Zoo, a Construction Site & Ice Cream
Today we continue our journey through the New York Times best-selling picture books for September 18. Today’s titles include a Caldecott medal winner by a first-time author and a first-time illustrator, another book by a first-time author (who sold the book to the first publisher who saw it), and a title by one of the best-known picture book writers of today.
Sick Day for Amos McGee
By Philip C. Stead
Illustrated by Erin Stead
Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press/Holtzbrinck
(33rd week on the list)
The 2011 Caldecott Medal winner is A Sick Day for Amos, written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead. This is the first book by this husband-wife duo. Let that sink in for a minute. Their first book. The Caldecott medal. In terms of picture book writing and illustrating, this is the equivalent of winning the powerball lottery while being struck by lightning at the North Pole.
I have reviewed this book previously on Picture This!, but I’ll recap: This is the warmhearted story of friendship between the zookeeper, Amos McGee, and the animals at the zoo. When Mr. McGee gets the sniffles, he receives a surprise visit from the animals. They “gift” Amos with all the special things he does for them—they bring him tea, play chess with him, and more. The illustrations are lovely and award-worthy, but the text is also memorable. The story is unique, uses great language choices and wonderful text features such as parenthetical phrases and purposeful repetition.
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site
By Sherri Duskey Rinker
Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
(5th week on the list)
In a picture book world of princesses, fairies, and teddy bears, it’s so fun when dump trucks, excavators, and cement mixers are the stars of the show. In Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, first-time author Sherri Duskey Rinker (who says on her blog that she sold this book to the first publisher she sent it to) has created a bedtime book boys (and lots of girls) will love.
The rhyming picture book follows an A-A-B-B pattern. In the beginning of the book the construction site is introduced and we learn that the day is ending. Then one by one each piece of equipment shuts down for the night with each going through a bedtime ritual. The crane gets tucked in, the cement mixer takes a bath, the dump truck dims the lights and shuts the doors, the bulldozer curls into a soft bed of dirt, and the excavator stretches and snuggles. Each of the experiences is followed by a repeating phrase, such as:
Shh . . . goodnight, Cement Mixer, goodnight.
At the end of the book the reader/listener is encouraged to turn off for the day and go to sleep, too.
Shh . . .goodnight . . . goodnight.
The illustrations at first reminded me another series of books with cars and trucks with faces, but as I read on I saw the distinctive personalities of these vehicles. This book is very boy-ish, very slow-down-for-bed-ish, and very re-readable-ish. The paper chosen for the book is also unique. It has a thick, soft texture that makes the book pleasing to touch and hold—like a comfortable blanket.
Note: The book is also available in Spanish.
Should I Share My Ice Cream?
By Mo Willems
Hyperion Books for Children
(11th week on the list)
Mo Willems seems to be the king of picture book series—the Pigeon books, the Knuffle Bunny books, and the Elephant and Piggie series of which this book is a part. In the Elephant & Piggie Book Series, Gerald and Piggie are best friends, though very different. Should I Share My Ice Cream? is written and illustrated in Mo’s beloved style. The entire book is dialogue—either external or internal. To me, it seems the character is talking to me, or that I’m eavesdropping on the entire event. Gerald (the elephant) buys an ice cream cone and then wrestles with the dilemma of whether to share the ice cream with his friend, Piggie.
Poor Gerald goes on an emotional roller coaster and all the while the reader can see that his ice cream cone is melting. When he finally decides that he will share with Piggie, the ice cream has completely melted. As he despairs, Piggie arrives with an ice cream cone to share with Gerald. What a pleasant surprise ending. The book has limited word count, but the text pacts a big impact.