Today's column features two new terrific springtime picture books by local authors:
— "The Deep, Deep Puddle" (2013, Dial Books, written by Mary Jessie Parker, illustrated by Deborah Zemke, ages 2-6) shows what can happen when a bit too much rain falls (as if we don't know this already!). The book begins when rain begins to splash onto a busy street. That rain continues until "a puddle, a deep, deep puddle swells and stretches across the city street."
Then one shaggy dog sniffs a bit too close to the edge of the puddle. "Glub Glub Glub he sinks out of sight." He is followed by two stray cats, three thirsty squirrels, four pigeons and five children, late for school. The action builds as six tangled tourists, seven taxis, eight street vendors and nine robbers fall into the puddle. Ten police officers try to help, joined by 11 tanker trucks.
Finally, 12 workers with long hoses "Schlurp! Schlurp! Schlurp!" the puddle away. Zemke's lively watercolor illustrations show the inhabitants of the puddle interacting: tourists, robbers, police officers, animals and taxi drivers and more. Get ready for a chuckle.
The action isn't over yet. Counting down, "Twelve workers stuff long hoses in Eleven tanker trucks, and drive away as Ten police officers restore order as Nine robbers are arrested " Back it goes to one shaggy dog. We may think the story is over, but when that shaggy dog, still wet from the rain, begins to shake...
This book is not only a fun, playful read, it's a great counting book as well.
— "Busy-Busy Little Chick" (2013, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, written by Janice Harrington, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, ages 3-8) continues the fun in a beautifully written retelling of a central African fable.
"Mama Nsoso's chicks shivered in their cold, damp nest. 'Peo-peo, Mama. Peo-peo. We're chilly-cold. Our tummies are chilly-cold. Our feet are chilly-cold. We're chilly-cold all over,'" the text begins.
Mama promises her chicks that when morning comes, they will build an ilombe, a new house, with a grass roof, mud walls and a cozy nest inside to keep them warm. However, come the next day, as they search for leaves and twigs, Mama spots worms.
"Pruck! Pruck!" clucked Mama Nsoso. "We will work tomorrow. Today we will peck and gobble big fat worms."
Busy-busy Little Chick, however, does not peck worms. He gathers twigs and leaves. The next day, when Mama Nsoso puts off work again to eat cricky-cracky crickets, busy-busy Little Chick plucks long thin grass. And the following day, he scrapes gooey mud.
The next morning, Mama Nsoso wakes up to find her old, cold nest empty. Where are her chicks? In the beautiful new ilombe busy-busy Little Chick has built by himself. Mama Nsoso clucks with pride. And busy-busy Little Chick goes off to chase crickets — by himself.
The family of chicks in Brian Pinkney's signature style comes to life with bold lines and bright yellow and orange swirls. Combined with Harrington's artful use of language, this is a truly grand book.
Alice B. McGinty (http://www.alicebmcginty.com), the award-winning author of more than 40 books for children, recently 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 teens.