Picture Books from the Library

I’m noticing a trend. Recently whenever I decide I really, really like a picture book we’ve found it’s a poetry book rather than a story book. Not sure why that is. But there you have it. Here are a few of my recent finds from our library adventures.

Listen to the Rain by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault, illustrated by James Endicott, is a library book I’ve checked out two different times now. Bella likes it well enough and has chosen it a few times as her nap time read. I think I like it a bit more than she does, though. I’m considering putting it on the wish list to add to our home collection.

Listen to the rain,
the whisper of the rain,
the slow soft sprinkle,
the drip-drop tinkle,
the first wet whisper of the rain.

This is poetry that fills the mouth and refreshes the soul. A tall cool drink of water for a warm sunny day, a perfect accompaniment on a rainy, indoorsy, couch-snuggly, book-reading day. The pictures are lovely as well. There’s a sort feel that I can only think of as Japanese, a simplicity of form and line and yet richness of tone.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr is the story of a father and child’s late-night trek to find a great horned owl in the snowy, moonlight woods.

I know I put this on my list because I saw it recommended somewhere; no idea any longer where that was. Bella and I have both fallen in love with this beautiful story. Both the text and the pictures are perfect. Yolen manages to pull off a first person narrative from the child’s perspective and to capture a distinct voice. There is at the same time a lyrical quality to the prose, really it’s poetry and not prose at all, that does not seem at odds with that child’s voice:

Our feet crunched
over the crisp snow
and little gray footprints
followed us.
Pa made a long shadow,
but mine was short and round.
I had to run after him
every now and then
to keep up,
and my short, round shadow
bumped after me.”

and:

“We watched silently
with heat in our mouths,
the heat of all those words
we had not spoken.”

The narrator is never named and neither the text nor the pictures ever reveal if the child is a boy or girl, so well bundled against the cold that only the eyes are visible. All you know for sure is that there are a loving father and several older brothers. And a profound communion with nature.

The pictures are as lyrical as the text, full of rich detail, soft and yet crisp. The end notes explain that both author and illustrator draw on their own experiences walking with their children in the nighttime looking for owls and the details have that touch of the well-observed, well-loved landmarks treasured by parents and children.

I’ve just ordered a copy for our library.

This is one of those books I’ve seen recommended everywhere, on all the Catholic homeschooling and mom blogs. One of the few picture books about Easter.

I must confess, it hasn’t really grabbed me. I don’t like reading it. In fact, this book makes me cranky when Bella brings it to me and asks me to read it. I’m considering hiding it until it’s time to return it to the library.

The prose doesn’t feel right in my mouth. There are some fine images but there are also phrases, sentences, entire passages I want to paraphrase because they are too long or the wording feels clunky. But I don’t like paraphrasing really, so I feel conflicted.

The story doesn’t really engage me either. It’s not quite a parable, not quite a fable not quite a retelling of the gospel from an animal’s perspective. Rather it has elements of all of these and doesn’t satisfy me as it might if it stuck to one of those forms. I wished it had chosen to either be a parable about the resurrection or be a retelling of the Easter story as seen by a rooster. The Christ child as he appears in the story doesn’t resonate with me nor did the character of Petook the rooster. Even Martha the hen turned me off a bit when she was described as smug.

I’m going to stop here because I’m getting just too negative. I’ll just say I’m glad this was a library book because I don’t want to have to read it over and over again. I know it’s a favorite with a lot of people, though, so don’t take my word for it. Probably it’s just a matter of taste and my being too picky.

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