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Look closely

The following books encourage young children to use their powers of observation and look closely at the pages before them — and at the world around them.

isadora_i hear a pickle2Starting with a clever, attention-grabbing title — I Hear a Pickle: (and Smell, See, Touch, and Taste It, Too!) — Rachel Isadora’s book about the five senses is aimed perfectly at another sense: kids’ sense of humor. Separate sections, beginning with sound and ending with taste, visit each sense in double-page spreads that contain small vignettes of children exploring their world, both indoors and out. Brief sentences describe what each child hears, smells, sees, touches, or tastes. Frequent statements about what the child doesn’t sense add levity: “I see the turtle’s shell but I don’t see the turtle” (because its head is inside!). Delicate ink and watercolor illustrations on white backgrounds nicely evoke a young child’s point of view. (Penguin/Paulsen, 2–5 years)

smiley_twenty yawnsIn Pulitzer Prize–winning (for A Thousand Acres) author Jane Smiley’s debut picture book, Twenty Yawns, Lucy and her parents stay late at the beach, playing in the waves, rolling down dunes, building a sandcastle, etc. Everyone is happily worn out, and Mom decrees an early bedtime — then falls asleep in the middle of reading Lucy a story. With the silvery moonlight making everyday objects look mysterious, Lucy needs her stuffed bear. The process of fetching him and her other animals and tucking them into bed comforts and settles Lucy, and she soon falls asleep. Color-saturated illustrations by Lauren Castillo capture every bit of the joy of the family’s busy beach day; the shivery strangeness of being the only one awake in the house; and the love and warmth that permeate all the interactions here. And the twenty yawns (yes, you can count them) are incorporated perfectly into the story. (Two Lions, 2–5 years)

gravett_bear and hare where's bearFriends Bear and Hare play hide-and-seek in their third book, Bear & Hare: Where’s Bear? Hare counts to ten — “Where’s Bear?” Not hard to find: behind a lamp, a small pile of books, a glass fish tank. Images of big, bulky Bear in woefully inadequate hiding spots will tickle storytime audiences, as will those of Bear searching for Hare (in a teapot, under a rug, etc.). A small drama adds just enough tension: Hare crawls out from under the blanket where he’s been hiding (which now covers a big, bulky form) and can’t find Bear. Emily Gravett’s pacing of both the minimal text and amiable pencil, watercolor, and wax-crayon illustrations makes this a satisfying, humorous read-aloud find. (Simon, 2–5 years)

cole_spot the catThis wordless, oversized, and, save for the cover and endpapers, solely black-and-white picture book — Spot the Cat by Henry Cole — follows a feline who escapes out of an open apartment window and explores its compact, attractive city — all the while sought by its worried little-boy owner. Each double-page spread is a marvel of pen-and-ink crosshatched detail. Viewers will need time and patience to find boy and cat on each spread. Fortunately, the locations (streetscapes, a kite park, farmer’s market, train station, etc.) are teeming with activity and objects of interest; the rewards of each page are greater than simply locating searcher and searchee. A paean, simultaneously, to the joys of city life, small adventures, and human/pet devotion. (Little Simon, 4–7 years)

From the April 2016 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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