MY BEST BOOKS 2019: THE PICTURE BOOKS
It's time to share my best; my very favourite childrens' books of 2019. This is never easy! There's always so many fantastic books and choosing just a few is a daunting task...so many too look at, so many things to consider.
So what makes a great book in my mind? First of all, it has to have a strong story...something that carries the reader through; something that consistently 'makes sense', whether it's a picture book, something for early readers or a novel. Then I look at the characters; are they believable; do their actions and feelings ring true with in the context of the story? If it's illustrated, do the pictures 'fit' within the text; do they accent it; do they carry the story in their own right? They can't be there simply for decoration! (Hint: it's very rare that this is the case.) What is the book really saying? Has the author really thought about their audience? Will the 'message' appeal? Will it give room for deeper thought? How is the book put together; how is it edited; what does it look like as a finished product? And yes, I look at the cover. They say we shouldn't judge a book by the cover but, let's face it, we always do. If a publishing house, with so many manuscripts presented to them over a years' time, believes in a book enough to put the time and effort it takes to give the book a striking cover that will grab attention in such a competitive market, that speaks volumes! And finally (well, probably not finally..there's a lot to consider.) do I like it? This is actually the least of my concerns, personal taste being what it is, but it is an important factor in whether or not it grabs my attention enough to talk about it.
Anyway; let's get started with the picture books. Here are my choices 2019.
(Please forgive LB Koala...he loves his picture books and seeks every photo-op to show them off.)
author: Malachy Doyle
illustrator: Andrew Whitson
Graffeg Press (ISBN 9781913134044)
A beautifully expressed father/daughter relationship, a true sense of community and a story that places you right in it's heart with genuine feeling and investment in the outcome, this picturebook is so marvelous! And those illustrations!!! The people on this little island, their way of living springs to life and gives such a feeling of truth and joy! It's utterly, utterly wonderful!!
MAYA and CAT
author/illustrator: Caroline Magerl
Walker Books (9781406383959)
An affectionate, playful, cosy picturebook to curl up with and read over and over and over. This story is adventurous, curious and wistful; at once tender and determined with a pervading sense of belonging and making sure that all is as it should be. The illustrations are done in the perfect tone to express the atmosphere of the day, with a sparkling quality, filled with touches of gold, reflected light and sky and Mayas' bright red clothes that bring shimmering and warmth to each page. The loose, joyous rendering is child-friendly, free and create a strong sense of both the action and stillness in the tale. It is just beautiful!
GASPARD THE FOX
GASPARD; BEST IN SHOW
author: Zeb Soanes
illustrator: James Mayhew
Graffeg Press (9781912055062
I absolutely love both of the Gaspard the Fox books! These lively, exciting stories tell us of a city fox, his friends and the mischief he gets up to. There's friendship, surprises and a lot of insight, not just about the life of a fox in the city, but about human nature. Wondrous illustrations, well-written and heartfelt; and so much fun!
TIBBLE AND GRANDPA
author: Wendy Meddour
illustrator: Daniel Egnéus
Oxford University Press (9780192771957)
Oh my! This beautiful, beautiful book!!! Filled with meaning and heart, it takes you on a journey of love, loss, memory and joy. The relationship between a grandson and his grandfather is wonderful and leaves something behind for us all. A simple questioning game teases conversation and a desire to relate again out of Grandpa (in that way that only children have) and allows them to enter into the adventure that surrounds them. The vivid, expressive illustrations are filled with detail, giving a desire to linger over each page, echoing the feelings that ebb and flow throughout the story. There is a quiet joy that infuses the entire book...on that everybody needs.
WHAT I LIKE MOST
author: Mary Murphy
illustrator: Zhu Cheng-Liang
Walker Books (9781406369045)
A gentle story of one young girls favourite things. The clear, easy text flows through pages brought to life by the exquisite, attentive illustrations of Zhu Cheng-Liang, taking the reader on a journey through her observations and feelings. As this child sees how even her most favourite things change over time. The seasons shift, the weather is different everyday, people move, the world changes. But the certainty of love and caring remains the same. A tender consideration of the love a child has for her mother; this is touching, moving, utterly wonderful...it's one that I like most.
THE NIGHT-TIME CAT and THE PLUMP GREY MOUSE
author: Erika McGann
illustrator: Lauren O'Neill
O'Brien Press (9781847179456)
Told through the eyes of Pangur Bán (my absolute favourite vignette from The Book of Kells), this is an exciting, funny and wonderfully written story, showing real character and warmth. Not only does this picture book give us a quick lesson in the history of Trinity College, it opens wide the doors of the imagination. A charming, action-filled story, the illustrations are pitch-perfect with great character, a fabulous night-time colour palette and are very evocative. I was pulled right in, held on every page and laughed out loud quite a bit. A perfect one to share.
So...that's the picture books. Stay tuned for the middle-grade and young adult!