A while back, I posted some remarks from Kate Banks, an exceptional children’s author, who recalled an editor telling her that one of her books was “too quiet” for today’s market. Meanwhile, I’m reading (slowly) the intriguing book, Quiet, by Susan Cain, exploring the power of introversion in our society and how we’ve trampled quietness. I have long been an advocate for quietness for children (and the rest of us)– quiet in terms of space in their days and minds to think their own thoughts without incessant background noise, programmed activity, media. Here are five lovely books that invite children to wonder and imagine.
How To, written and illustrated by Julie Morstad published in 2013 by Simply Read Books
Julie Morstad is a Vancouver-ite, seriously one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. Her artwork is pristine, innocent, and simply lovely. Just go ahead and look up all her books!
How To contains a collection of phrases — how to feel the breeze, how to wash your face — one per page. Julie’s playful, child-centric, whimsical means of doing these things will tickle your fancy and invite you to see new possibilities. Hopefully it will also coax children to relish imaginative, joyful, simple pastimes.
Her illustrations are graphic elegance, with loads of white space, charming children, muted yet cheerful colors, and charming pattern. I fell in love with this book at first sight. Ages 2 and up.
If You Want to See a Whale, by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin P. Stead published in 2013 by Roaring Brook Press
Julie Fogliano is a lyrical, poetic writer, whose previous book with Erin Stead, And Then It’s Spring, is one of my all-time favorites.
Here she provides instructions for something quite extraordinary: how to see a whale. What ingredients are necessary to spy one of these mysterious, massive, gentle creatures?
A window, for starters. with an ocean beyond, and then…lots of time. “Time for waiting and time for looking and time for wondering.”
There are lots of helpful tips here, such as not snuggling up with a blanket that’s too-too cozy so you don’t snooze and miss it! The seamless intermingling of imagination and childish logic and tender observations of the world around us amble quaintly through these pages.
Of course, giving such a text to Erin Stead to work her magic on is quite brilliant. Her dreamy linoleum prints bathed in sea green and rainwater blue, accompanied by charmingly-light details in pencil …well, they are entrancing. Plus, this small, ginger-headed boy and his faithful dog will win your hearts in a minute. Ages 3 and up.
Wait! Wait! by Hatsue Nakawaki, illustrated by Komako Sakai, translated by Yuki Kaneko first American edition published in 2013 by Enchanted Lion Books
This exquisite book for toddlers follows one little dumpling out for a tiny stroll.
A yellow butterfly whispers across her path, inviting inspection. “Wait! Wait!” she cries. (Actually, the child could easily be a boy or a girl.) But with a teasing, fluttering, arabesque, that butterfly eludes her.
Now, at toe level, the child spies a stripey lizard with a sleek “s” for a tail. “Wait! Wait!” But with a squiggle, it skivvies between rocks.
Exploring her small world and its curiosities, then caught up on Dad’s tall shoulders for a happy ride — that’s the simple beauty, engagingly presented in this book.
Komako Sakai’s lovely illustrations in acrylics and oil pencils are gentle, charming, with a soft, shaggy texture and loads of white space. We are looking at just the small sphere which this toddler inhabits, seeing and experiencing the world from her vantage point. Perfect choice for the youngest lap-readers.
I Wish I Had…written by Giovanna Zoboli, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani, translated by Leslie Mathews published in 2010 in English by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
This stunning book is an Italian import, and its gorgeous, oversized pages will knock your socks off!
Don’t you ever wish to ride the thermals with the wings of a hawk, or cozy up in a luxurious polar bear coat on a frigid day? This book is full of wishes for the eyes or ears or stealth or contentment of the animal kingdom. These are fanciful, intriguing wishes, just enough to spark your own imagination — what might you borrow from a lion or hummingbird?…Hmm?
Simona Mulazzani’s ravishing colors and patterns and compositions flood the pages with whimsy and beauty. Intensely striking! You’ll wish you could frame them all. Even the paper it’s printed on is satisfyingly creamy. A truly delightful book for ages 3 and up.
Follow Me, written and illustrated by Tricia Tusa published in 2011 by Harcourt Children’s Books
There is something about swinging that’s so full of dreams and freedom and glorious prospects. I spent hours swinging as a child. I wonder…do children still just swing, and swing, and rise to the sky in their heads? Feel that tummy tickle as they whoosh down to earth, and the breathlessness of soaring high-high-high?
Tricia Tusa’s little girl “wander[s] through pink and get[s] lost in blue” in this sunny, highly-imaginative ode to swinging. I hope its fetching portrayal of the magical world of swinging lures children to take a fling on a swing (once this snow has melted!)
Tusa’s illustrations are airy, popsicle-colored portraits of blue skies and blossoms and happiness. A sweet read for ages 3 and up.