We are eclectic readers at our house as demonstrated by three of our current favorites in our picture book basket. First up, Barbara McClintock’s absolutely lovely Emma and Julia Love Ballet. McClintock follows two dancers, Emma (who is small) and Julia (who is big) as they wake up, have breakfast and go to the ballet studio for class. Later Emma prepares to go and see a ballet in the city that we see Julia preparing to dance in. The drawings are charming and sweet and any girl who loves ballet will love seeing how the two dancers spend their day. It’s also a book that should become a textbook for how to “do diversity” in picture books. The principal dancer is obviously black, Julia is white. The illustrations show dancers of every color in the classes and performances. Nowhere in the text is this mentioned but kids should come away with the visual picture in their heads of dancers that look like them no matter their skin color. If you have a ballerina in your house or just a girl who likes good picture books, go out and find this beautiful book to share with her.
No ballerinas or ballet loving kids in your house? We all also greatly enjoyed and recommend Juliette MacIver’s Yak and Gnu. This is a goofy story about a Yak and Gnu who are “the best of friends, dear and true” and who set out in their kayak and canoe to row down the river. As they row they sing a song: about how unique they are to be out on the sea. Well, no one else is like them until they meet a goat in a boat. No problem, they amend their song a bit. Until they meet a snail setting sail and a calf on a raft. And so they try again, setting out singing a new song. I think you can see where this is going. It gets crazier and crazier until it ends with the realization that even if they aren’t so unique they still have each other and that’s what is important.
And just to prove our eclectic tastes I offer up Billy’s Booger: A Memoir (sorta) by William Joyce (pun sorta intended). I grabbed this one off the new books shelf solely based on the title and knowing that my kids would think the idea of a book called Billy’s Booger was hilarious. I was right about that. I wasn’t expecting to like the book myself. I was wrong about that. The story is actually the story of a young boy named Billy who is kind of bookish and unusual. He hates math and sports and loves comics and art. One day he hears about a school contest to see which kid can make the best kids’ book. He excitedly writes a book called Billy’s Booger: The memoir of a little green nose buddy. At first he is devastated that his book doesn’t win a prize but later he overhears some kids reading it and laughing and the librarian tells him that of all the books from the contest his is the one that is checked out the most.
The twist of course is that Billy is William Joyce, who grew up to write oodles of books that also made kids laugh (and won awards): Rolie Polie Olie, The Guardians of Childhood books (that became a movie), and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore among many others. Billy’s Booger is based on his own childhood and the first book he wrote in fourth grade. A copy of that original book (the booger book) is included in this book, as a sewn in mini-book form. Maybe it was just that I have a fourth grader who reminded me more than a little of Billy the younger but I found this one inspiring and hopeful. I’m hoping that my math hating fourth grader who likes to draw and has expressed that it would be fun to be an author also found it inspirational. I know he found it hilarious, at least the booger part.