New picture books get adventurous

New picture books get adventurous

Summer is a time for adventure! Here are two new picture books with their own take on adventure, both the glories and the risks.

In "The Story of Fish and Snail" (2013, Viking Books, written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman, for ages 3-6), snail waits in his/her book (the gender of the characters is never specified) in a pile in the library for fish to come home each day with a story. One day, fish announces, "Ahoy, Snail! Guess what? I found a new book!"

"Fish, you know I don't want to go into other books. I like this book," snail responds.

Fish wants to show snail this new story, complete with an ocean, secret treasure and pirate ship, and says that snail's interest in princess and kitten stories is boring. The argument builds, along with the size of the characters and font, until fish jumps out of the book saying, "Fine, Snail. Good-bye. THE END."

"But—" says Snail, left alone, "that's not how this book is supposed to end." Snail peers over the edge of his page at the book below where fish has landed. Will snail jump and follow fish, or stay safe in his/her own book?

Snail jumps. "Snail, you came! You are very brave," fish says. Fish determines that snail is brave enough to be a kitty-pirate, and together the two friends set sail.

Freedman's colorful, expressive characters stand out in front of their aquamarine ocean background and the gray-toned backdrop of the library and books. The tension and emotion created by their dialogue bring depth and realism to this well-crafted story about friendship, risk, and adventure.

French author-illustrator Herve Tullet (of the best-selling picture book, "Press Here") puts a new spin on adventure and story in his new book, "Help! We Need A Title!" (2014, Candlewick, ages 3-8).

Readers open the book to find a couple of sketched characters, a pig and a princess, caught unaware. "Hey! Someone's watching us!" the princess says. Other characters join in. "And they've opened OUR BOOK!"

Breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the readers, the characters determine that the reader wants a story, they don't have a story, and their book is a mess. They add a pretty landscape and then call for a bad guy to scare people, but soon realize that they need an author. "You'll see. This author is much better at making up stories than we are."

"Hey, Author!" they call. With his photo superimposed on the sketches, the unsuspecting Tullet answers his door. "Sorry, but you can't stay here," he tells the reader. "I'm not ready. This book isn't finished yet!"

"But they want a story!" the characters argue.

So, Tullet agrees to a short story. Four spreads later, it's done. "Hmph," says the princess. But Tullet is finished. He asks readers to "Press Here" to turn off his light as they leave. After a few more spreads, during which the characters realize that the book is coming to an end, they say their goodbyes.

This 64-page picture book is full of fun and adventure, with more of Tullet's special brand of rule breaking. Get ready to enjoy the ride!

Alice B. McGinty (, is the co-Regional Adviser of the Illinois Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and the award-winning author of over 40 books for children. She directs a summer writing camp, Words on Fire, for teens, and tutors school-aged children in writing.

Topics (1):Books