Picture Book Round-Up: October 2017


One Grain of Rice by Demi

This book about the mathematical concept of exponential multiplication is also laced with themes of greed, power, and cleverness. When an initially thoughtful raja becomes fearful and selfish for his own well-being during a famine, resorting to deception and greed, he dooms his constituents to hunger and death. Convinced that he deserves a party, the raja orders generous amounts of rice to be brought to his palace. On the way one of the containers develops a tear and leaks rice to the ground. A woman gathers the dropped rice in the fold of her skirt and brings it to the raja. For her honesty he promises her anything. She asks for one grain of rice each day for thirty days but the rice is to be doubled each day. The first day she collects one grain of rice, the next day two grains of rice, the next day four grains of rice, and so on. About halfway through the month, the raja begins to see the soundness of the woman’s plan. In the end, he will be asking her for rice. A great story and lessons for all – in mathematics, in life, in greed, and in compassion. A chart at the back compiles the progression for children to see how the doubling of the values increases so quickly.

Jabari Jumps! by Gaia Cornwall

It is passed pool time in my corner of the planet, but this great story of a young boy’s first jump from a diving board – the high board no less – is brilliant. We found this one right at the same time my daughter was thinking about taking the plunge. The day after reading the book, she jumped, and it was the highlight of her summer.

Jabari is at the pool with his father and sister. His father is coaching him about jumping from the diving board. Jabari goes through many of the stages of debate and consideration in the story that children often confront. In the end, he jumps! And can’t wait to do it again!

What made this book work was the illustrations. The view from the top of the diving board down into the pool is dramatic and somewhat realistic. Young children will immediately grasp the courage necessary for the task.

While You Were Napping by Jenny Offill

Discovered this one on our September trip to New York City. We were walking down a street, passed a bookstore with an outdoor display and, of course, I had to stop. For any parents who have had to convince their children that they won’t miss anything terribly exciting if they take a nap, this one is for you. Even better though, it’s told by the older sister. When her younger brother goes down for his nap all manner of wonderfully amazing and adventurous things occur. They think about waking him, of course, but he needs his sleep. Too bad he was napping. Delightful and funny!

It’s Easy to See Why by Fred Gwynne

Only the second book that has made my husband laugh out loud (the first was Loud Lula). This book is a giant set up for the joke at the end, and it succeeds brilliantly. A girl is taking her dog to a dog show. On the way she passes several dogs and owners traveling towards the same show. Each human-canine pair looks alike and is convinced that clearly, obviously, they will win. The little girl doesn’t exactly look like her pooch and gets a bit unsettled by the competition. Nothing to worry about though. The punchline tells all. Hilarious and a great book for dog lovers, pet owners, and story lovers alike.

Balderdash! John Newberry and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books by Michelle Markel

A fantastic biography for little readers about John Newberry and his passion for children’s books. Before Newberry changed the scene, books of adventure and imagination were strictly the fare of adults. Books for children did not exist other than as school books or instruction manuals for morals. Newberry grew up on a farm but preferred reading to pitching hay so he set off to work for a printer when he was old enough. As his experience and passions developed together his ideas brought attention and immediate interest to producing books for the younger set. Hilarious illustrations, creative fonts, and just the right text for pulling together his pursuits, challenges, and successes. 

Telephone by Mac Barnett

First: play the game “telephone” with your children. I made the mistake of introducing this book to my girls before they had ever played the game. It’s not as good (but still workable) without them understanding the concept of mixed-up messages.

(If you’ve not played before, here’s a basic rundown: get a group of people together. Form a line. The person at the start of the line whispers a message into the ear of the person next to him/her. That person then turns to the person on their other side to repeat the message they heard. And so on. Receive the message from one side and pass it on to the other side. The person at the end says the message out loud and compares it to the original. In most cases, it is unrecognizable from its starting form.)

In this book, birds on a telephone wire pass a message from Mama bird to Peter bird. And the message of “Come home! It’s time for dinner!” ends up in disastrous form. Thankfully the wise old owl understands what’s going on, sets the message straight, and Peter makes it home for dinner.

The interpretations of the original message are entertaining and the illustrations are colorful and amusing. The visuals of all the birds, including a turkey and a flamingo, on a telephone wire above a neighborhood, are comical alone. A fun book.


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