• Picturebooking Prof

What We're Reading, May 2019

Reviewing new faves Mad, Mad Bear!, Waiting, and I'm Tough!

Well, our local library is closing down for renovations over the summer, so the boys and I stocked up on lots of new reads during this week’s library trip. A few of the treasures we found have quickly become favorites, so I wanted to share them here!

The three picks:

  • Mad, Mad Bear! (2018, Kimberly Gee; Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster)

  • Waiting (2015, Kevin Henkes; Greenwillow Books, Harper Collins)

  • I’m Tough! (2018, Kate & Jim McMullan; Blazer + Bray, Harper Collins)

Mad, Mad Bear! (2018)

My 4-year-old has been having some challenges recently with managing his emotions, so this gem by author-illustrator Kimberly Gee jumped out at me from the shelf. It’s about a little Bear who gets mad when things aren’t going his way—when he has to leave the park, when he falls and gets hurt, etc.—and how he learns to manage his initial reaction of anger and destruction in favor of more calm, purposeful actions that help him get his day back on track.

The illustrations are adorable, full of color, and do a great job of communicating the intense emotionality and action in a way that littles can empathize with. My little guy had no problem drawing a connection between what Bear was experiencing and what he sometimes felt when he gets upset, and it led to some great conversations about ways he could apply some of the strategies suggested in the book. As a read-aloud, the pacing is superb, and I enjoy reading it each time it is requested.

Bonus: along with the anger management theme, the book also highlights the value of a good nap, which is always a plus for parents of the preschool set!

Waiting (2015)

The multiple honor medals on the cover broadcast the quality of this book by author-illustrator Kevin Henkes. In his trademark pastel color palette and calm, simple text, Henkes tells a masterful story of a group of windowsill trinkets and the different things they are waiting for (or not waiting for). The scene is restricted to their setting on the windowsill, but the variety of their view—the rain, wind, snow, and clouds that float by—ensure the scene is never dull or static.

The child set enjoyed the expressive illustrations, and since both of my boys are obsessed with watching out the window, we talked a lot about the different things they wait for when they peek out that clear (or let’s be honest, that fingerprint-smeared) glass. The first answer was “Daddy!” (watching for dad’s car pulling into the driveway is a daily highlight), followed by “squirrels!” Regardless, this book was a great tool to help us slow down, relax, and enjoy some time reading (and waiting for squirrels while staring out the window). The end of the book folds in a bit of a friendship theme, as a new trinket family joins the group, and finishes with the friends—old and new—waiting together for whatever will come next.

I’m Tough! (2018)

This pick was the choice of my almost 2-year-old: bright red smiling truck on the cover? Yes, please! Author-illustrator team Kate and Jim McMullan share a day-in-the-life story of a red pickup truck—he may not be the biggest, but he’s TOUGH. The story is in the voice of the truck himself, narrating his day—first picking up a LONG load of lumber, then picking up a HEAVY load of gravel, then picking up a TALL load of hay.

The defining features of this story are it’s use of interjections (“ALL ABOOOAAAAARD!”) and onomatopoeia (“Rattle, rattle! Clink Clonk!”). And of course, by the end, my little guy was saying the refrain with me, combined with the toughest of toddler faces: “I’M TOUGH!”

It’s fun that the text becomes a part of the illustration, as the action/sound words are shaped, stretched, or colored to align with their meaning. This book is a fun one to read, especially if you enjoy getting into the sound effects stuff—it’s a sure-fire way to a toddler giggle! Although I haven’t read the other books in this series (I Stink! And I’m Dirty!), I think I’ll have to put them on our short-list for the next library trip.

As a writer, these three picks highlight for me the power of few words—all of them use words sparingly, and yet convey powerful and/or engaging stories. Coming from academia, where being verbose is the norm, it is refreshing, but it’s also a skill I continue to hone.

Happy reading, happy writing, and happy Friday!


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