Picture Book Reviews of 2016 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award Winner and Honor Books

Picture Book Winner

orgill_jazz daystar2 Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph
by Roxane Orgill; 
illus. by Francis Vallejo
Intermediate    Candlewick    54 pp.
3/16    978-0-7636-6954-6    $18.99    g

On August 12, 1958, fifty-plus jazz musicians, famous and emerging, gathered together in front of a brownstone in Harlem for a group photo shoot. The resulting photograph has become iconic, a single image that captures a generation of stories. Orgill uses this photo as the springboard for a series of twenty-one poems, and Vallejo for a set of personality-rich illustrations. Some focus on individuals (Thelonious Monk, late as usual); some on the event itself (photographer Art Kane trying to herd them all into formation). Two feature musicians who didn’t make it into the picture: pianist Willie Smith, who got tired of standing, and Duke Ellington, who was out of town. The poems vary in form and mood from an alphabetical acrostic of clothing to a pantoum in the voice of the young and awestruck drummer Eddie Locke. The rhythms are contagious. Saxophonist Lester Young’s porkpie hat: “Roll the crown halfway down all around— / that’s called ‘busting it down.’ / Turn it over and poke out the pit just a bit, / ‘bringing the lid back home.’” The words take you back to the photo — reproduced here as a gatefold spread, and placed in the perfect dramatic spot — and the excellent list of sources leads you back to the music. An inspiring example of art that arises from the simple question, “What did you notice in the picture?” Appended with an extensive author’s note, biographies of the participants, source notes, and a bibliography. SARAH ELLIS

From the March/April 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Honor Books

alexie_thunder boy jr.star2 Thunder Boy Jr.
by Sherman Alexie; 
illus. by Yuyi Morales
Preschool, Primary    Little, Brown    40 pp.
5/16    978-0-316-01372-7    $17.99    g

“I HATE MY NAME!” Why, Thunder Boy Smith complains, couldn’t he have been named “Sam” like his mother (Agnes) wanted? And why does he have to share his name with his father, Thunder Boy Smith Sr., especially since their shared name causes people to call Dad Big Thunder, a nickname “like a storm filling up the sky,” and himself Little Thunder, which “makes me sound like a burp or a fart.” As the boy considers a number of new names, the pictures let us into his world and dreams. He once climbed a mountain (really his dad’s strong back), so he could be named “Touch the Clouds,” his little sister Lillian suggests. Lillian is no pushover, though; she also offers, considering Thunder Boy’s bike-riding prowess, “Gravity’s Best Friend.” It is Dad who comes up with just the right name, rather a diversion from the book’s theme of self-definition but unmistakable in its acknowledgment of the bond between father and son. Despite the dad-pleasing message, the book is too funny and real to veer into parental self-congratulation, and Morales’s illustrations (made from “the remains of an antique house” — you’ll have to read the note) give great life and specificity to Thunder Boy’s Lightning’s family. Dad truly is a mountain of a man, Mom rides a sporty scooter, Lillian is both brattish and adoring when it comes to her big brother; a pet dog dances happily amongst them all. ROGER SUTTON

From the March/April 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

One Day, The EndOne Day, the End: Short, Very Short, Shorter-than-Ever Stories
by Rebecca Kai Dotlich; illus. by Fred Koehler
Preschool, Primary    Boyds Mills    32 pp.
10/15    978-1-62091-451-9    $16.95

“For every story there is a beginning and an end, but what happens in between makes all the difference.” In this collection of stories that are both tiny and substantial, words, pictures, and book design dance with one another in a way only possible in a picture book. The “stories” are bare bones. “One day…I went to school. I came home. The end.” On one double-page spread the illustrations fill in the middle of the narrative: how our pigtailed storyteller was late for school, how her science experiment exploded, and how the day was redeemed with ice cream. Close perusal of the pictures reveals the cause of the explosion and the little girl’s mood at every point, conveyed by gesture, color, and page composition. Other stories include “One day…I hid from my brother. He found me. The end” and “One day…I took a bath. So did my dog. The end.” The text is graphically dynamic — painted on fences, constructed of tree trunks, found in footprints in the mud. The characters climb on the words and hide behind them. Recurring objects — yellow rubber boots, a broom, an orange cat, a pile of leaves — tie the stories together, and the final episode reveals the overall narrative: how Pigtail Girl discovers herself as a writer. SARAH ELLIS

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The 2016 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winners and honors were announced — via video for the first time! — on June 2nd, 2016. For reviews of the fiction and nonfiction winners and more, click on the tag bghb16.

Horn Book
Horn Book

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.