I wear many hats in my day-to-day life — bookseller, reviewer, giver of baths, singer of bedtime songs — but one of my favorite roles is that of storyteller. I do a weekly story time at Inklings Bookshop, as well as nightly and on-demand story times with my 2-year-old, and that role lets me unashamedly enjoy one of my favorite types of books: picture books. 2013 has been a good year for books for the younger set, and I’m excited to share a few of my newest favorites here.
“Lucky Ducklings: A True Rescue Story” by Eva Moore, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, was one of the first 2013 picture books to win my heart. This lovely, timeless book with its beautiful chalk and charcoal illustrations will appeal to older and younger generations alike. “Lucky Ducklings” tells the (true) story of five ducklings who fell down a storm drain and of the concerted effort of a whole town to save them. There is just enough narrative tension to hold the attention of somewhat older kids, but the simple, reassuring text is appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers as well.
“The Dark” by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen brings together two rock stars of children’s literature. You’ll surely recognize Lemony Snicket’s name from his well-loved “Series of Unfortunate Events,” and picture book fans might know that Jon Klassen was the illustrator of the winner of the 2013 Caldecott Medal-winning book “This is Not My Hat” and the 2013 Caldecott Honor book “Extra Yarn.” Author and illustrator are both known for somewhat dark subject matter, so what could be more appropriate than them teaming up to write a book called “The Dark”? “The Dark” is the story of a little boy named Laszlo who lives in a big, frightening house and is terrorized by the darkness that lives in the basement. One night, when the dark comes up to his room to visit him, Laszlo is forced to face his fear, and he learns that the dark is not his enemy. This book is simultaneously one of the creepiest and most reassuring picture books that I’ve ever read, and while it might be too scary or complex for very young children, kindergartners and older children will love it.
My latest favorite of 2013 is by another Caldecott-winning illustrator (and author), David Ezra Stein. His newest book, “Dinosaur Kisses,” is pure picture-book joy. With minimal text and exuberant illustrations, it tells the story of Dinah, a newly hatched dinosaur, who can stomp, chomp and whomp, but can’t seem to master a gentle kiss. When Dinah finds another newly hatched dinosaur to play with, they learn that dinosaurs just have their own ways of giving kisses. The illustrations in this book are amazing, particularly Dinah’s facial expressions. They convey so much glee and vigor, and almost allow the reader to skip the text altogether. Toddlers and preschoolers will get a huge kick out of Dinah’s rambunctious behavior.
I’ve found few greater joys in life than sharing a wonderful picture book with an enthralled child, and these titles are sure to delight. Pick one up to share with a child in your life, or just to indulge the child in your heart.
• “Lucky Ducklings: A True Rescue Story” by Eva Moore, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, was published by Orchard Books in February. It retails for $16.99.
• “The Dark” by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen, was published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in April. It retails for $16.99.
• “Dinosaur Kisses” by David Ezra Stein was published by Candlewick in August. It retails for $15.99.
• Emily Ring works for Inklings Bookshop. She and other Inklings staffers review books in this space each week.