Picture Book Winner
by Mac Barnett; illus. by Jon Klassen
Primary Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins 40 pp.
1/12 978-0-06-195338-5 $16.99 g
When young Annabelle finds a small box containing yarn of every color, she does what any self-respecting knitter would do: she knits herself a sweater. Then she knits a sweater for her dog. Improbably, there’s yarn left over, so she knits colorful garments for everyone in her snowy, sooty, colorless town. Even Mr. Crabtree, “who never wore sweaters or even long pants, and who would stand in his shorts with the snow up to his knees,” receives a handknit gift: a hat with a pompom. Houses and buildings, too, are soon covered in natty sweaters, and fans of illustrator Klassen will smile to see critters strongly resembling the bear and rabbit from I Want My Hat Back (rev. 11/11) clad in variegated yarn cozies. When Annabelle, ever content to click-click away, refuses an archduke’s offer of millions for the box and its never-ending yarn, he steals it. Turns out the magic lies elsewhere (perhaps in the hands and heart of a little girl?), and all is made right. Klassen’s brown ink and digitally created illustrations pair nicely with the translucent, lightly inked knitwear. His pacing, especially the mostly wordless sequence when the box floats back to Annabelle on a triangle of an iceberg, is impeccable. The final spread, all light and yarn-covered tree limbs, brings Barnett’s clever, quiet yarn full circle, to a little girl and a town, now colorful and happy. (Robin Smith)
And Then It’s Spring
by Julie Fogliano; illus. by Erin E. Stead
Primary Porter/Roaring Brook 32 pp.
2/12 978-1-59643-624-4 $16.99
A small bespectacled boy and his companions, a dog, a rabbit, and a turtle, are on a search for spring. “First you have brown, / all around you have brown / then there are seeds / and a wish for rain, / and then it rains / and it is still brown, / but a hopeful, very possible sort of brown…” Fogliano’s poetic yet grounded narrative is reminiscent of Charlotte Zolotow’s picture-book texts in its understatement and straightforward, childlike observations. Her text builds the tension with an expertise of a much more experienced picture book writer, and she gets the pacing exactly right. As for the illustrations, there’s no sophomore slump for Stead: her second book is even better than her 2011 Caldecott winner, A Sick Day for Amos McGee (rev. 5/10). The graceful illustrations were created with the same medium (woodblock prints with pencil), but here she’s used a completely different palette of browns, grays, light blue, bright green, and touches of red, all set against negative space that most often suggests a cloudy sky. Observant readers will notice many humorous touches: the rabbit eagerly anticipating the first sign of carrots in the garden, the dog waiting for a bone he has planted to grow, a bird sunning itself under the garden label of a sunflower. But the humor never overshadows the mood of quiet anticipation or the thrill that comes at book’s end when, all of a sudden, “now you have green, / all around / you have / green.” (K. T. Horning)
And the Soldiers Sang
by J. Patrick Lewis, illus. by Gary Kelley
Primary Creative Editions 32 pp.
11/11 978-1-56846-220-2 $17.99
This picture book for middle-grade readers offers a fictionalized account of the 1914 Christmas Truce of World War I. A Welsh soldier relates how British and German troops facing each other in trenches of the Western Front ceased their fighting on Christmas Day to engage in songs and friendly games. Kelley’s dark, somber pastel illustrations add intensity to this moving story. (Luther B. Clegg)