Stack Overflow: Picture Book Report

As it turns out, it’s a lot easier to read books than to write reviews when you’re holding a small baby, so I find myself once again with a few piles of books to review. To that end, I’m resurrecting my Stack Overflow series, where I’ll give you brief reviews of several books at once. Today’s topic: picture books!

First, here’s a little slideshow of 10 of my favorite picture books from the stack, showing the covers and one interior page of each:

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1. Battle Bunny – written by Jon Scieszka & Mac Barnett, illustrated by Matthew Myers

I’ve been a huge fan of Scieszka since the Stinky Cheese Man days, and Barnett writes some of the funniest kids’ books I’ve read, so I was sold as soon as I saw this in the bookstore. Battle Bunny is ostensibly a book entitled Birthday Bunny, given to Alex by his Gran Gran for his birthday. But Alex has taken a pencil to the book, making the bunny an evil mastermind bent on taking over the forest. You can still read the original text underneath the markings, and Myers’ illustrations are spot-on, perfectly evoking Golden Books–era pablum. (Okay, not all Golden Books are bland. The Monster at the End of This Book is a classic, I tell ya.)

2. Carnivores – written by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Dan Santat

I recognized Santat’s illustration style from books like Oh No! and Sidekicks. This one is about the timber wolf, the lion, and the great white shark. Oh, sure, they’re at the top of the food chain, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings. Carnivores chronicles their funny attempts to deal with their public image.

3. The Art of Clean Up: Life Made Neat and Tidy – by Ursus Wehrli

You may have seen Wehrli’s TED Talk about on Tidying Up Art or his book of the same title. In it, he takes famous paintings and straightens them up, making things more organized. In The Art of Clean Up, Wehrli applies his organizational skills to real-life objects: clothes on a clothesline, a bowl of alphabet soup, people at the pool. To be sure, there are still some that are more like clever image editing (like tidying up a subway map) but most of them involved actually wrangling things and taking photos of them. The perfect book for the OCD kid (or adult) in your life.

4. Crabtree – by Jon & Tucker Nichols

Speaking of neat and tidy, Crabtree is another picture book about getting organized … sort of. Alfred Crabtree can’t find his false teeth, so he decides to organize everything he owns in order to look for them. It’s a bit like a Richard Scarry word book gone bonkers—he sorts out his ducks and decoys, his hats and helmets, all of his yellow things, his collection of small yapping dogs. The oversized pictures include little funny things throughout, and my kids couldn’t stop giggling. As a bonus, the dust jacket doubles as a two-sided poster.

5. The Day the Crayons Quit – written by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Jeffers is another favorite illustrator (check out The Incredible Book Eating Boy), and here he’s a perfect fit for Daywalt’s story about crayons. It seems Duncan’s crayons all have their own grievances: Beige is tired of being called “dark tan” and relegated to coloring wheat. Gray is exhausted from coloring really big animals and suggests mice and pebbles instead. Orange and Yellow bicker over which one is the real color of the sun, and Black wants to do more than just outlines. Each page of The Day the Crayons Quit includes a letter from one of the crayons and a crayon-y rendering of their complaints.

6. The Ghastly Dandies Do the Classics – by Ben Gibson

The Ghastly Dandies are a strange sort of beast that reminds me of Allie Brosh’s alot, though with antlers instead of horns. Here, they re-enact various classic books—like The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, and Moby Dick—in double-quick time. Each classic only takes a few pages, but they’re pretty funny. I can’t say that it will necessarily teach your kiddos to appreciate the source material, but The Ghastly Dandies Do the Classics is “alot” of fun.

7. Standing in for Lincoln Green – by David Mackintosh

Lincoln Green has a neat trick: he has a double who lives in his mirror, and when there’s something that he just doesn’t want to do right away, his double comes out and takes care of it for him. After all, Lincoln Green has swimming to do and radio shows to listen to; he can’t always be bothered to water the plants and mow the lawn. But, like Calvin’s duplicates, eventually the double realizes that he wants to have some fun, too. Mackintosh’s artwork has an old-timey feel to it, and fortunately Lincoln Green learns his lesson before things get too out of hand.

8. Moonday – by Adam Rex

You know when you were a kid and you thought the moon was following you as you rode along in the car? What if it actually followed you home? Moonday plays with that idea, and Rex’s images of a big glowing moon in the backyard are delightful. But, of course, having the moon in your backyard can wreak a little havoc, too.

9. Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems – written by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Carin Berger

Prelutsky is known for his silly poems about mash-up animals, and Stardines is his latest creation. From the poor, sticky Gloose to the annoying Tattlesnake to the slovenly Slobster, this collection of misfit creatures is witty and amusing. Berger’s photo montage illustrations are a fun fit as well. (I’m also a big fan of Prelutsky’s Scranimals, illustrated by Peter Sis.)

10. Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great – by Bob Shea

Goat is pretty irked. Ever since Unicorn moved into town, all of Goat’s tricks fall flat. Goat rides a bike; Unicorn flies. Goat makes marshmallow squares; Unicorn makes it rain cupcakes. Like Goat says, Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great. But, as it turns out, there are things about Goat that Unicorn envies, too. A fun little book that shows how the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence (or the rainbow).

Disclosure: GeekDad received review copies of all these titles except Battle Bunny.

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