On the other hand, some titles grab us with just one word. Such as…
Sparky!, by Jenny Offill, illustrated by Chris Appelhans published in 2014 by Schwartz & Wade Books
Beginning with the age-old problem of A Kid Who Wants a Pet and A Mom Who Says No, the diplomatic gal in this story gets her mom to promise she can have a pet so long as “it doesn’t need to be walked or bathed or fed.“
The pet she ends up with is Sparky. He’s a sloth.
Not only does Sparky not need walking, bathing, or much of anything, he’s hard to lure into games. Or tricks. He does not easily impress the neighbors.
Is Sparky really just a big Fizzle? Or does he make a good pet?
This is such a sweet story! With understated humor, it ambles along quietly, but by the end this endearing heroine and dozy sloth have stolen your heart. It’s a lovely picture of contentment.
Naive, swashy illustrations in watercolor and pencil use a palette of meek browns, modest aquas, and soft-pedaled reds (there really is such a thing) to accentuate the self-effacing tone of the story, as does the schoolgirl, hand-lettered text.
This is a wonderful title for ages 4 and up.
Green, written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger published in 2012 by Roaring Brook Press
Look around you.
How many kinds of green can you spot?
Laura Vaccaro Seeger explores many shades of green in her Caldecott Honor book, from the shadowy green of a forest to the watery green of the sea, the puckery green of a lime to the silvery green of moths and ferns in the moonlight.
As always, Seeger is not content to only paint luscious, bold images of these and other surprisingly green things, she uses die cuts to create tantalizing, clever, added surprises to the pictures. They are ridiculously fun to spot, and to guess how they will transform the next page…and the next…and the next.
Her concept is brilliant. Kids ages 2 and up will love this. It easily inspires further observing, list-making, and artistry as well, which is just what excellent literature can do.
Petunia, written and illustrated by Roger Duvoisin published in 1950 by Alfred A. Knopf
Petunia is a classic story about a silly goose, created by the wonderful illustrator Roger Duvoisin, and hallelujah! it’s still in print after 65 years!
Petunia stumbles upon a Book in the farmyard, and having heard that these things make one wise, she adopts it. Sleeps with it. Swims with it. And believing she’s absorbed its wisdom, Petunia becomes oh so proud.
Her overweening pride leads her to dispense advice wantonly throughout the barnyard, wreaking havoc as she goes, until she makes one explosively bad decision and with a BANG! her foolishness is exposed. Poor Petunia.
There is, however, a happy outcome to all this, as Petunia discovers the real method of unlocking the wisdom in books.
Vintage colors of buttercup yellow, cyan blue, black, and tomato red give that yesteryear quality we love, and Duvoisin’s masterful line is showcased in Petunia’s long, stretching neck as well as the charming shapes of the other farm animals.
There are several other stories about Petunia you can follow up with. Great fun for ages 3 and up.
Nest, written and illustrated by Jorey Hurley published in 2014 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Not only is this book’s title just one word. Each page in the book holds just one word.
Jorey Hurely’s exquisite, clean, clear illustrations convey the bulk of the story as we watch a pair of robins build a nest, shield the blue egg, hatch and feed a baby who grows through summer, fall, and winter, and begin the process over again.
When things appear simple, that’s when you know how talented the artist is, and this is decidedly the case here. The design of these pages, the flow of the storyline, and even the texture of the paper in the book, all work together to create an incredibly lovely experience of art and nature.
An Author’s Note describes in much more detail the habits of the American robin, and this, too, is written beautifully so it can be read to young children, ages 3 or 4 and older. Share the main text with ages 18 months and up.
Hurley has another one-word-title, Fetch, new this February, which I’m waiting for at my library. Perhaps you’ll beat me to it!
Hogwash, a wordless book by Arthur Geisert published in 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Co.
Here we go with Arthur Geisert’s splendid pig community again! I adore his work! And with just one word in the title, and no words in the text…this easily wins today’s prize for Best Book to Read When You Have Laryngitis.
This time, the piggily children are heading down to the sand dunes to play. Off they march in their tidy, bright dresses and short pants, the whole lot of them.
And what a jolly time they have! Give a passel of kids sand and water, and that’s what happens.
Plus, oddly enough, there’s a shed loaded with vats of paint — unattended! — so…yes…things are a colorful hot mess in no time.
But the moms are unfazed. Because — they have a lollapalooza of a washing contraption to clean up all those piggies in a flash!Well! If only bathing and laundering could be this much fun.
Geisert’s highly imaginative storytelling, amazing detailed mechanisms, and colorful drawings make him one of the greats. Share this entertaining story with kids ages 3 and up.