One day a package arrived here containing three review copies of picturebooks from Candlewick Press. Each is fully different from the others and together they suggest the broad range of well-considered books Candlewick publishes.
There’s a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor, written by Wade Bradford and illustrated with droll artwork in acrylic and ink by Kevin Hawkes, is a humorous account of the misadventures of Mr. Snore whose hyperbolic nose precedes him into the Sharemore Hotel. He has arrived late, perhaps from a performance (since he carries a violin case), and simply wants to retire to his room. The kindly bellhop leads him to room 104. However, when Mr. Snore crawls into bed and turns off the light he hears squeaking. There is a mouse in the bed. He calls the front desk and the bellhop shows him to a room on the second floor.
However, a sleeping pig has dibs on the bed and is “hogging all the blankets”, so the bellhop shows Mr. Snore a room on the third floor. Eek, spiders. He is brought to the fourth, but other animal issues interfere, and so on until they arrive at the twelfth. That room contains no furniture because no one ever sleeps there, however Mr. Snore is undaunted and slumbers on the rug. Until heavy stomping begins upstairs, that is. The young reader has probably figured out, based on the title of the book, who is on the 13th floor. Oh no! Sure enough, when Mr. Snore opens the door to 1301, he sees a monstrous bed with a monstrous pillow and a pair of bunny slippers not unlike his own, but many times larger and…. he hops into bed and falls blissfully asleep. This time it is the dinosaur who calls the front desk. The beast then makes an altruistic choice – to sleep in the lobby.
The text is compact and the mood kindly. Mr. Snore wears pince-nez, a Groucho Marx moustache, and his bowtie even when in his jammies. The façade of the Art Deco boutique hotel includes clues to the denizens of each floor. In one final funny note, Mr. Hawkes has given the dinosaur pince-nez like our hero’s. This picturebook will surely please. Ages 4-8.
If you are looking for a non-fiction picturebook that effectively conveys a multicultural theme, look no further than Kids Cooking: Students Prepare and Eat Foods from Around the World written and photo illustrated by George Ancona. In simple, engaging text, the children wash their hands, cut vegetables with butter knives, and help prepare healthy foods from Morocco, China, Italy, and Mexico. The photographs show the children working with teachers and parents to safely prepare and enjoy these foods, so there is a layer here of cooperation and eating healthy. The ingredients and recipes may be different from what the reader is used to, so by the end of the book they will learn what chermoula is, how to press a tortilla, and the way to wrap a tamale. Each section ends with a phrase in the corresponding language along with its translation. To expand the multicultural aspect, the children depicted are from different cultural and racial backgrounds, which is a plus.
In addition to Mr. Ancona’s clear and colorful photographs, lively drawings by the children also grace the pages. Many of the schoolchildren wear uniform polo shirts in different solid colors which helps to simplify the compositions. By page thirty-two there isn’t room for recipes, however readers can go to www.candlewick.com/kidscooking to find those.
George Ancona’s book works on several levels to add to what children know about healthy eating, food preparation, and our diverse world. It is lighthearted, clear, lively, and succinct. Ages 4-6.
The third of these Candlewick Press books is a poignant look at a difficult and timely problem. Dad’s Camera by Ross Watkins and illustrated by Liz Anelli, shows the interactions between a young boy, his father, and his mother during a challenging time. When dad brings home an old film camera one day, he takes pictures of ordinary things that don’t seem important. Told from the boy’s point of view, the unfolding story shows a man whose mind is gradually slipping. Dad puts things that should be in the refrigerator in the cupboard, and things that should be in the cupboard in the fridge. Dad always says, “My study is my brain,” as he proceeds to photograph the objects in that room.
He takes pictures of his coffee cup and cereal bowl, things that he doesn’t want to forget, but not of the two people who love him. As he has rolls of film developed, he sticks the photographs on his study window. Mom and the boy want to know why Dad doesn’t take pictures of them too, but he does not answer. Mom gets angry. The boy says, “Dad just looked confused, and I reminded her about him forgetting things.
Which included us.
Which made us cry.”
Eventually they “lose” Dad. That word “lose” can mean various things. This extends its value to span families where the sufferer is bereft of memory, simply can’t be at home anymore, or has died from the disease. Those four simple letters deflect some of the ugliness while making a heart wrenching point.
In the mail is a box; in it, Dad’s camera. The boy notices that there is film in the camera, so he and Mom go to have it developed. The sole image that is on the film shows them that all along their lost one had been taking pictures of things Dad wanted them to remember. About him and the life they led together.
The artwork is sketchy and artistic, yet redolent of the details of family life. Ms. Anelli used collage, mono print, watercolor and acrylic then added color digitally to create the scenes, using different perspectives, sometimes as if seen from an upstairs window. Shadows play a role, sometimes of beauty or of foreboding. The boy’s cricket bat, a bowl of lemons, a scruffy cat, and importantly (for kids who have never seen one) rolls of film. These things have meaning beyond their intended purpose. They populate daily life, bearing witness to who we become.
The author’s note at the end explains his personal experience watching his wife’s father suffer from Alzheimer’s disease beginning when she was only twelve. Mr. Watkins has provided a window on how family members, when under duress, are buoyed by love. Ages 5-9.