PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: Two New Favorites!
ABOUT THE BOOK
Otis and his farm friends love to play hide-and-seek. Otis especially loves to be "It," finding his friends as they hide. Yet when the newest addition to the farm—a bounding puppy who can't sit still and has a habit of licking faces—tries to hide, he finds his attention wandering and is soon lost in the forest. Night falls and Otis, knowing his new friend is afraid of the dark, sets out to find him. There's just one problem: Otis is also afraid of the dark. His friend is alone and in need, though, so Otis takes a deep breath, counts to ten, and sets off on a different game of hide-and-seek.
I fell in love with Otis the tractor after reading the first book. And I've loved the sequels equally well. This is such a sweet story about friendship and facing one's fears for the sake of someone else. Both Otis and his friend, the puppy, are afraid of the dark, but when the puppy gets lost, Otis must face his fear or leave his friend alone in the dark all night. I also loved the idea at the end that those things we fear aren't so scary when we face them with those we love. The story is beautifully written and would be great for sharing. The large size makes it especially appropriate for sharing with larger groups. The illustrations are gorgeous. It's amazing how much expression that Long gives his characters, especially Otis and the puppy. The large beautiful illustrations clearly show the tender relationship between Otis and his friends and especially between Otis and the puppy. My favorite picture shows the puppy asleep with his head resting on Otis's front tire. Highly recommended.
THE MATCHBOX DIARY
by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoilline
Candlewick Press, 2013
Grades K and up
Reviewed from purchased copy.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Newbery Medalist Paul Fleischman and Bagram Ibatoulline tell a breathtaking immigration tale with appeal across generations.
"Pick whatever you like most. Then I’ll tell you its story."
When a little girl visits her great-grandfather at his curio-filled home, she chooses an unusual object to learn about: an old cigar box. What she finds inside surprises her: a collection of matchboxes making up her great-grandfather’s diary, harboring objects she can hold in her hand, each one evoking a memory. Together they tell of his journey from Italy to a new country, before he could read and write — the olive pit his mother gave him to suck on when there wasn’t enough food; a bottle cap he saw on his way to the boat; a ticket still retaining the thrill of his first baseball game. With a narrative entirely in dialogue, Paul Fleischman makes immediate the two characters’ foray into the past. With warmth and an uncanny eye for detail, Bagram Ibatoulline gives expressive life to their journey through time — and toward each other.
WOW! I'm not sure I know what to say about this book. I knew when I saw that it was written by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline that it would be a wonderful book. I was not disappointed. The book more than lived up to my expectations. The immigration experience is not a new story, but telling it through the lens of a diary kept by a young boy through small objects he collected and stored in old matchboxes is brilliant. A story told through the objects gathered over a lifetime. The grandfather in the story grew up in Italy and didn't learn to read until moving to America, but he wanted to have a diary so he began collecting items that represented things of importance to him. Each object has seemingly little significance, except in his memory. A tender story of the power of things around us to remind us of important events in our lives.
As for the illustrations, they are exquisite. The detail on the acrylic gouache (watercolor) paintings is amazing. The illustrations are so detailed they almost look like old photographs, which is clearly what the artist was going for. The pictures of the great-grandfather with his granddaughter are done in beautiful shades of color while the pictures representing the stories of his past that he tells are in shades of brown and white. The innocence of the children and the kindness and wisdom of the grandfather shine through very clearly. This is the kind of picture book that I love to just sit and look at because of the beauty of it. I highly recommend this story of family and change and life.