Friday, January 1, 2016

Children's Picture Books: Looking Back on 2015

I love picture books. Fortunately, I have had more exposure to them than the average childless adult because of my work at the public library. It will be different now that I have retired; I'll have to make more of an effort to seek them out in the future. (Yes! Today is the first day of the new year AND my first day of retirement.)
My very favourite picture book of 2015, one that I could return to with pleasure again and again, is The Bus Ride by Quebecois author/artist Marianne Dubuc. A modern child's solo journey on public transit, with hints of little red riding hood and other fairy tales. So much is going on in each page spread, playfully illustrated in Dubuc's distinctive, naive style. Charming X 10.

Two more that came in at a very close tie for second place are also by Canadians: Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith, and The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton. Sidewalk Flowers, like The Bus Ride, has a bit of an urban little red riding hood thing going on. It's about paying attention to the beauty that surrounds us. The Princess and the Pony is a sure bet: subversive, feminist and hilarious.

All three of my favourites have got that perfect alchemy of artwork and story. I use the word "story" rather than "text" because two out of the three are wordless. It's the narrative appeal that makes a picture book more than something beautiful to look at. If you are an adult fan of graphic novels and you haven't been reading picture books, you are missing out on great visual storytelling. Looking back on the many picture books I read in 2015, the following stand out.

Missing Nimama by Melanie Florence and Francois Thisdale - for tackling the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in a way that is appropriate for young children. (Francois Thisdale also illustrated Bird Child, reviewed here.)

Pool by JiHyeon Lee - for the wonder that builds as you turn the pages, and the wordless portrayal of a developing bond between two young introverts.

Ballad by Blexbolex - for its puzzle of a story and striking graphic design. (Published in 2013)

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora - for its whimsical take on the idea of family.

La Science du caca by Frederic Marais - for its appealing combo of humour, graphic design, and scientific facts about poop. (Published in 2013; only available in French.)

The Secret Life of Squirrels by Nancy Rose - for the cuteness factor. (Published in 2014. Longer review here.)

Shackleton's Journey by William Grill - for its inventive visual presentation of historical information. (Published in 2014.)

The Potato King by Christoph Niemann - for a fascinating story told with unusual illustrations that combine potato prints and photos.

Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins and Paul Zelinsky - because I was delighted to encounter another story about Lumphy, StingRay and Plastic (the book-loving ball), who were first introduced about ten years ago in Toys Go Out.

Float by Daniel Miyares - for masterful use of a limited colour palette, and for immersing me all the way back into the world of childhood.

Louis 1, King of the Sheep by Olivier Tallec - for pointed social commentary delivered with maximum humour. (See my review of Tallec's Waterloo & Trafalgar here.)

Bug in a Vacuum by Melanie Watt - for comedic genius in presenting the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief.

Are you a fan of picture books? What are your favourites?

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