Two books for children: Of whales and grandpas

Two books for children: Of whales and grandpas

The first picture book I'm sharing with you today is a new one, released May 7: "if you want to see a whale" (2013, Roaring Brook, written by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Caldecott Medalist, Erin Stead, ages 3-8) was created by the same author-illustrator pair who made the lovely book "and then it's spring," which I reviewed last year.

The book's text begins, "if you want to see a whale you will need a window." We see a boy seated on a tall stool in front of a simply drawn window. With one phrase per page, the story continues, "and an ocean and time for waiting and time for looking and time for wondering 'is that a whale?'"

As in the previous book, no punctuation or capital letters are used. The quiet, understated watercolor illustrations show the window enlarging until it becomes the entire page, with the boy, a dog, and a bird on their search for the whale.

We are told that a whale searcher will need "a not-so-comfy chair because sleeping eyes can't watch for whales," and that many other things will have to be ignored, such as roses, ships, and pelicans.

One verse states, "be careful not to notice something inching small and green across the leaf just nibble scoot because things that are smaller than most small things can't be as giant as a whale."

In the end, as the illustrations show boy, dog and bird watching and waiting on a small yellow rowboat in the sea, an enormous blue whale appears on the page. Curling its huge body under the boat as if embracing it, the whale sticks its nose out of the water.

Once you've turned the last page, you might feel as I did, as if you've been taken on a journey, led by this quiet, unique book on a celebration of wonder, imagination, and discovery.

Another terrific book recently brought to my attention is "How to Babysit a Grandpa" (2012, Houghton Mifflin, written by Jean Reagan, illustrated by Lee Wildish, ages 4-8).

"Babysitting a grandpa is fun — if you know how," the eager young narrator instructs readers.

Accompanied by bright, cheery watercolors, from the moment Grandpa rings the doorbell this young boy leads readers through the baby-sitting experience. This includes: fixing grandpas a snack (including olives served on fingertips); taking grandpas on walks (and sunscreening the tops of their bald heads); playing with them (and finding pirate's caves where they both fit); and saying goodbye.

Combining fun with comfort, the book includes the child patting Grandpa's hand as his mom and dad leave, saying, "Don't worry. They always come back."

This book just won a Crystal Kite Award, a member-selected award given by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators in each region of the world. The Caldecott Honor book, "Creepy Carrots," (which I recently reviewed), written by Illinois author, Aaron Reynolds, was voted the Crystal Kite winner for the Midwest region.

Alice B. McGinty (http://www.alicebmcginty.com), the award-winning author of more than 40 books for children, just celebrated the release of her 2013 picture book biography, "Gandhi: A March to the Sea" (Two Lions Press; illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez). McGinty also directs a summer writing camp, Words on Fire, for teen girls.

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