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Picture Book Reviews of 2013 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award Winner and Honor Books

Picture Book Winner

 Building Our House
by Jonathan Bean; illus. by the author
Primary     Farrar     48 pp.
1/13     978-0-374-38023-6     $17.99     g
Drawing on childhood memories from his own family’s house construction (see author’s note), Bean creates an engaging story as well as a glimpse into a warm family setting. A little girl narrates, and her childlike voice provides an immediacy that removes any hint of nostalgia. She relates her contributions not as they are but as she perceives them in all their exaggerated glory; illustrations tell a different tale. For example, when she observes that “bad weather slows our work but doesn’t stop it,” readers see Mom and Dad trudging through the snow with building supplies while the little girl and her smaller brother go sledding. Similarly, once the frame is completed, the narrator indicates a flurry of activity: “We start our work inside. Our plans show us where to place walls that will make the rooms.” Here youngsters will see the girl curled up asleep beside a newly installed woodstove. Other details, such as Mother’s pregnancy and the birth of a new baby, appear only in the muted watercolors outlined in pen and ink. Detailed steps in the process are broken down into one- or two-sentence captions for half-page, unframed panels, while moments of greater import, such as setting the corners for the foundation, receive full- and double-page spreads. The circular shapes of trees, hills, and even the Airstream-like trailer the family lives in during construction clearly show that this is not just a house but a cozy home. BETTY CARTER

Honor Books

Open This Little Book
by Jesse Klausmeier; illus. by Suzy Lee
Preschool, Primary     Chronicle     40 pp.
2/13     978-0-8118-6783-2     $16.99
Lively art and text come together with clever design to make this ode to books and reading a delight to open and pore over. Each page turn reveals the cover of a smaller book of a different color with the tantalizing beginnings of a snowballing story on its flipside: “Open this…Little Red Book (page turn) and read about a Ladybug, who opens a…” As the “books” and pages get smaller, the animals we read about get larger, from ladybug to frog to rabbit to bear to giant. The giant, who is so large readers can only see her blue fingers, brings this tension of sizes to a halt. Too big to open her very tiny book, she must rely on her animal friends to help get to the story inside. From then on, each page turn closes one of the books until the end reveals a full-size single page spread of a colorful tree house bursting with books and readers coaxing us all to “open another!” Art done with pencil and watercolor and manipulated digitally uses plenty of white space and bright colors to create a clean layout, allowing the tiny details to pop from this special package. JULIE ROACH

Black Dog
by Levi Pinfold; illus. by the author
Primary    Templar/Candlewick    32 pp.
10/12    978-0-7636-6097-0    $15.99    g
A tall pink house stands in a snowy forest; outside is a big black dog. One by one the members of the Hope family see it and cower, and with every sighting the dog grows in size and fearsomeness until he is larger than the house itself. Finally it falls to the family’s youngest member, little Small, to address the problem. The little girl meets the by-now enormous black dog head-on and coaxes it to friendly, regular-sized compliance with bravery and a song. In most spreads small sepia panels illuminate the action on one page with a single bright, full color, full-page drawing opposite. The Hopes’ home is a hodgepodge of homey detail, rendered with exquisite texture and cluttered composition, where readers will enjoy searching among the dolls and decorations for repeating characters and parallel stories. The traditional feel of the cumulative telling and the art’s surreal precision and fanciful decay combine to offer a curious metaphorical consideration of what it means to be afraid and what it takes to conquer those fears. THOM BARTHELMESS

The 2013 Boston Globe—Horn Book Award winners and honors were announced on June 1, 2013. Don’t miss the Horn Book’s reviews of the fiction and nonfiction winners.

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