Last summer, there were many books that crossed the editors’ desks at The TImes, and a few of them were a good fit for young readers.
Scott Magoon has a great sense of humor — straightforward enough for kids, but wry enough for adults to get a kick out of his new book, “Linus the Little Yellow Pencil.”
While you might think of your pencil and eraser as a single instrument, Magoon divides it into two characters — Linus the pencil and Ernie, his eraser. Linus is excited about entering the upcoming family art show, but we get a sense of things to come when right upfront Ernie is the naysayer. He’s so worried about being laughed at that he goes about criticizing and erasing everything that Linus draws.
Eventually, Linus loses confidence until he enters the “black cave” of the pencil sharpener. Here he meets Smudge, who instructs him, after he’s explained that Ernie erases all his lines — “rubbing him the wrong way” —to let Ernie do his thing.
What arises is a true collaboration where Linus draws and smudges and Ernie erases inside them to make white negative “lines” of his own. And their flowering of creativity leads to a happy ending at the family art show.
Magoon is a master illustrator as well, keeping the reader turning from page to page to see his vision. And since the story unfolds graphically paralleling the words, it’s not only visually appealing but easy for tots to follow.
“Look at This Tree! What Do You See?” is simpler in text and imagery, but like “Linus The Little Yellow Pencil,” the words and, in this case photographs, are also intimately entwined. Author, photographer, lifelong earth sciences advocate and educator, Maggy Bruzelius, wants this read-aloud book to bring nature to 3 to 5-year-olds in a fresh way. She uses verse to help readers “see” faces and animals in her closeup photographs of tree trunks. Bruzelius aims to make trees magical and memorable so that by being more familiar with nature, children will appreciate it and be inspired to protect the natural world later on.
Bruzelius arranges her book in two-page spreads, with one side carrying the simple text and the other a close-up tree image taken in the woods. Her first page sets us up for the rest of the book right off the bat: “Looking at trees takes a knack. Look really close. Then stand back. You might find what you least expect. You’ll be glad you looked and checked.”
We can make out a sleeping bear, giraffe, a bird, and “Look at this tree! What do you see? Do you see a dry, leafless limb? Or maybe … an alligator, out for a swim?”
After reading the book, you’ll never peer at a tree trunk the same way again.
Christy Burbidge, who has summered on the Island since childhood, gives us a quintessential read-aloud tale with “Paulie the Piping Plover’s Merry Misfits: A Martha’s Vineyard Tale,” with lovely accompanying color wash illustrations by Mary Jo Helchowski.
Paulie has a basic dilemma that rules his life — he’s afraid to fly. Made fun of by the other plovers, Paulie decides to run away … well … walk away.
Paulie meets the two “misfits” of the title, Liam the one-clawed lobster who is afraid of the ocean until his other claw grows back, and Sarah a giant sea turtle who is so large, she too is ridiculed. The three friends plod along until a severe storm hits. Afterward, they head to Paulie’s home to make sure everyone is all right only to find that some baby plovers are now stuck on the other side of a divided breachway in “skunk territory” and in danger of becoming lunch for the furry creatures.
Sarah, Liam, and Paulie must all face their fears head-on in order to carry out the ingenious plan to save the baby plovers.
The endearing illustrations of all the creatures and the shoreline makes you root for the friends from start to finish.
Helchowski shares that the three friends still sometimes find things difficult, but that while life wasn’t completely “happily ever after,” they were able to deal with it: “Liam is less nervous around the ocean. When the other sea turtles were mean to Sarah, she thought about saving the babies, and smiled. Paulie was still afraid to fly at times, and others continued to tease him…But he didn’t let it ‘ruffle his feathers.’ When Paulie felt lonely, as everyone does from time to time, he thought back to his friends and what they accomplished.”
They are three delightful bedtime books for the kids, and maybe for you too.
“Linus The Little Yellow Pencil” by Scott Magoon. Hyperion: New York. Available at Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven for $16.99 and online.
“Look at This Tree! What Do You See?” by Maggy Bruzelius. Brusos Publishing. Available at Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven for $11.95 and online.
“Paulie the Piping Plover’s Merry Misfits: A Martha’s Vineyard Tale” by Christy Burbidge. BookBaby. Available online.