The Best Picture Books of 2009

We ask a lot of a picture book. Are the illustrations excellent? Do they tell more of the story than the words? Does the art complement the mood of the text? Does the text sing when read aloud? Is the content of the book developmentally appropriate to the target audience? Can I read it aloud again, and again and not groan "Let's read something else tonight." Would I pull out my wallet and buy it for a present? The answers are an enthusiastic yes for these five.

 

The Lion and The Mouse

Jerry Pinkney

 

Caldecott Honoree Pinkney, a master of the art of watercolor, has set his version of the well-known Aesop's fable in the Serengeti, populating it with the flora and fauna of the region. Anyone can interpret and read Pinkney's almost wordless rendering of this timeless story.

 

 

 

When Stella Was Very, Very Small

Marie-Louise Gay

 

Is there a child with an outsized imagination in your life? Meet Stella. In exquisitely detailed witty, serene watercolor paintings, we meet Stella before she was "Stella Star of the Sea" and before she was Sam's big sister, when she was a tiny child just discovering the world around her.

 

 

Spells

Emily Gravett

 

A small green frog deconstructs a book of spells and finds himself being transformed into a variety of creatures. Gravett's ingenius use of split pages has a "choose-your-own adventure quality" as Frog recombines into a "snird" snake and bird, a "fabbit" frog and rabbit and a "rewt" rabbit and newt.

 

 

 

Moon Shot

Brian Floca

 

If I had to pick one moon landing book for young readers from all the anniversary contenders, this would be it. Floca's spare text captures the adventure and wonder while his ink, acrylic and watercolor paintings depict the hugeness of space and bravery of the men willing to explore uncharted territory.

 

 

 

14 Cows for America

Carmen Agra Deedy and Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, Illustrated by Thomas González

 

Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, a Masaai warrior, was studying in New York City when the terrorists attacked the Twin Towers. When he returned to his village in Kenya, he shared his experiences first with the elders and then with the entire community. The people were so moved by his story they wanted to express their empathy with the loss felt by the American people. Storyteller, Deedy, in spare language expresses the culture of Kimeli’s people- “ To the Masaai, a cow is life, they sing to them, they give them names, they shelter the young ones in their homes. Without the herd, the tribe might starve To the Maasai, the cow is life.” Deedy tells Kimeli’s story , the generous gift of cattle as portrait artist, Gonzalez presents photo-realist painting in such a way that we are drawn into the circle of the story.

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.