Library Finds

It’s always nice to find picture books that your kids love. It’s nicer still if the books don’t drive you crazy.

(Go insane, who me? Never…)

I freely admit that any very annoying or very ugly book that makes it past our front door usually goes straight out the back door into the donate box before the kids can form an attachment. Life is too short to die from bad books. Here, though, are a few really good picture books we’ve enjoyed lately from the library. I’ve linked to Amazon for each item so that you can preview pictures with the “click to look inside” option.

My Grandfather’s Coat by Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Barbara McClintock

McClintock’s lively and detailed illustrations bring this retelling of a Yiddish folk song to life. A young boy immigrates to America, trains to be a tailor, and sews his own coat for his wedding. The story follows his life as he and his wife move to a farm and welcome a child, grandchild, and great grandchild. Along the way the coat wears out and the tailor cuts it down and transforms it for new life events – first into a jacket, then a vest, then a tie for a wedding, and so on. In our household kids and adults alike love the pictures and story. This is the kind of book I would have read and reread as a child, both for the warm pictures and the “something becomes something else until every last scrap is used” storyline.

Roadwork by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock

The twins, especially Annie, adore this simple board book with rhythmic text and bright interesting pictures. The story follows construction of a road from planning to completion. Every page has lots of accurate details and construction equipment like graders, bulldozers, oil trucks, and backhoes. As a parent, I think it’s a bit more interesting than the typical board book – simple enough for little ones, but with plenty of details to keep young kids engaged, searching, and picking up new information on each re-reading. Annie wasn’t particularly interested in trucks or construction before we brought this home from the library but she’s officially obsessed with this book. If nobody is free to read it to her she sits on the floor and flips through it over and over again muttering sound effects. We maxed out our library renewals with it. It also wins a prize for magically bribing our terrified-of-strangers daughter to sit on the couch with her Grandpa so they could read it over and over (and over, and over…). As a parent of black kids I also appreciate that it has a naturally diverse cast of characters without feeling forced or “requisite rainbowy” like some newer picture books. Sutton and Lovelock have also collaborated on two other books with similar layouts: Construction and Demolition. They’re all good, but we like Roadwork best of the three. Most have a couple format options – it’s worth noting that the board book version of Roadwork doesn’t come with a key at the back identifying the construction vehicles, while the full-size versions of Construction and Demolition each have one.

Following the Tractor by Susan Steggall

Following the Tractor is an ideal picture book for young children, although older kids might find it boring. Steggall’s creative and somewhat unusual collage illustrations recount a year on the farm from plowing and planting to summer growth, harvest, and winter. The simple poetic text is well done, and there’s lots of detail for children to spot and learn from on each page. Our kids beg for this book, and the Man and I enjoy the art even though collage-style books usually aren’t my cup of tea. It’s worth noting that we checked two of Steggall’s other books out of the library (Red Car, Red Bus and The Life of a Car) and both books drove my husband and I insane. The children loved the bright pictures, but we found the text too bland to tolerate and the bright primary-colored illustrations visually overwhelming. Following the Tractor has a lot of natural scenery on each page to break up the visual impact, something the other books lacked.

Happy reading!

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2 thoughts on “Library Finds

  1. YES to good picture books! I am exactly like you – any annoying or stupid books go right back out of the house. We also loved Racer Dogs from the library so much that I bought a copy (unusual for me – we rely on the library or thrift stores or friends’ castoffs). And the Barbapapas books are awesome fun – both story and pictures.

    • Oh good – more suggestions to add to our library list! I’ve never heard of Racer Dogs, but I think my husband (whose native language is French) read the Barbapapas books in French as a child? We also rely primarily on the library, library book sales, and thrift stores for books, with the occasional new book for Christmas or a birthday. However, it’s starting to be not quite such a savings as it used to be. The twins, unbeknownst to me, went on a book ripping streak this week, leaving me with four or so books that I need to shamefacedly present to the librarian and pay for on our next visit. It wouldn’t be so painful if they’d been books we really wanted to own anyhow…

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