This year I'm going to try to read the Bluebonnet nominees before they are impossible to catch on the shelves (because every child in the state of Texas is trying to read them). So here's my first installment of the picture books.
By Jessica Swaim, illustrated by Carol Ashley
Published 2010 by Wordsong
I thought this one would be right up my alley - a collection of scary poetry for kids. Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed by the whole thing. None of the poems really add anything to what's already been done before - I don't really think this book does anything that hasn't been done before. The illustrations are creepy and colorful but still, overall, not that impressive. This one was disappointing for me.
Just Being Audrey
By Margaret Cardillo, illustrated by Julia Denos
Published 2011 by HarperCollins
This is a very nice and informative picture book biography of Audrey Hepburn. Whenever I read a picture book biography, I'm always amazed by how much they teach me that I never knew before - of course, I don't know everything, but these books sometimes make me feel like I really know a minuscule amount of things. Some things I learned about Hepburn from this book: she wanted to be a ballerina; she had to hide from the Nazis; she was a UN ambassador and received the President's Medal for her humanitarian work. The illustrations are whimsical and beautiful in a lovely pastel scheme. This is a really enjoyable book and includes notes from the author and illustrator talking about Audrey's appeal even after all these years. Two little things I wonder, though: how many kids today know who Audrey Hepburn is? And - her children are mentioned but not her marriages; I think kids are going to pick up on that and find it a little strange. But overall, I really liked this.
Ruth and the Green Book
By Calvin Alexander Ramsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Published 2010 by Carolrhoda Books
This is a wonderful fictionalized picture book about a piece of history that is probably long forgotten and/or unknown. The narrative unfolds rather simply in a way that I think will be easy for kids to understand (though perhaps not the youngest ones). There is a nice historical note at the end that gives the facts about the Green Book - which did, in fact, exist. This might sound weird but the illustrations look like a memory - they are kind of misty and faded, which actually works really well for this story. This book will certainly raise some questions for young readers but I think deals with an important topic that deserves to be discussed.
Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog
By Adrienne Sylver, illustrated by Elwood Smith
Published 2010 by Dutton Juvenile
See, I told you that you could write a non-fiction picture book about anything! Well, this is more like a traditional non-fiction title for kids, just with more modern illustrations and a more unique topic. There is lots of interesting trivia to be found in this book - which is perfect for me because I love trivia. I really like the layout of this book, something I don't necessarily always notice. The main information is in the center of the two-page spread with interesting sidebars at the edges of both pages. There are some recipes in the back (I know, I know, recipes for hot dogs?) along with a small bibliography. I think this book has great appeal considering the popularity of hot dogs, but I'm not sure how many kids might stumble upon it. It's on the 2012-13 Texas Bluebonnet List, so I know that, at least, the children of Texas will discover this delightful little book.