PPBF: THE MIGHTY LALOUCHE

TITLE: THE MIGHTY LALOUCHE

AUTHOR: Matthew Olshan

ILLUSTRATOR: Sophie Blackall

PUBLICATION INFO: Random House’s Schwartz & Wade Books, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86225-0

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 4 to 8

GENRE: picture book biography, historical fiction

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

From the publisher:

“In Paris, France, there lived a humble postman named Lalouche. He was small, but his hands were nimble, his legs were fast, and his arms were strong. When his job was replaced by an electric car, he turned to boxing to support himself and his pet finch, Genevieve. But—’You? A boxer?’ the fighters asked. ‘I could sneeze and knock you down!’ Still, Lalouche refused to give up. And perhaps small Lalouche was just nimble . . . just fast . . . and just strong enough to beat his fierce competitors. This is a marvelous story, full of humor and heart, and illustrated by Sophie Blackall, winner of a New York Times Best Illustrated Award.

THEMES/TOPICS: boxing, history, France

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: The illustrations are the star of the ring in this book. The characters’ expressions are priceless, and the images have a 3D feel, thanks to a Japanese diorama technique Blackall used. In fact, Matthew Olshan wrote the book specifically for Sophie Blackall to illustrate. She collects old pictures of boxers. Learn about how the story came together from Sophie at her blog.

RESOURCES:

  • The book includes an author’s note about French boxing and early electric cars.
  • A brief history of French boxing can be found here.
  • Information about boxing from PBS Kids.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

PPBF: Thomas Jefferson – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything

TITLE: Thomas Jefferson – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything

AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Maira Kalman

PUBLICATION INFO: Penguin’s Nancy Paulsen Books, Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-24040-9

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 5 to 8 (publisher), but I think 7 and up is a better estimate

GENRE: picture book biography

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Thomas Jefferson had red hair and some freckles (about 20 I think), he grew to be very tall and oh yes, he was the third president of the United States.

From the publisher:

“Renowned artist Maira Kalman sheds light on the fascinating life and interests of the Renaissance man who was our third president.

Thomas Jefferson is perhaps best known for writing the Declaration of Independence—but there’s so much more to discover. This energetic man was interested in everything. He played violin, spoke seven languages and was a scientist, naturalist, botanist, mathematician and architect. He designed his magnificent home, Monticello, which is full of objects he collected from around the world. Our first foodie, he grew over fifteen kinds of peas and advocated a mostly vegetarian diet. And oh yes, as our third president, he doubled the size of the United States and sent Lewis and Clark to explore it. He also started the Library of Congress and said, “I cannot live without books.” But monumental figures can have monumental flaws, and Jefferson was no exception. Although he called slavery an “abomination,” he owned about 150 slaves.

As she did in Looking at Lincoln, Maira Kalman shares a president’s remarkable, complicated life with young readers, making history come alive with her captivating text and stunning illustrations.”

THEMES/TOPICS: U.S. history

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Many picture book biographies of Jefferson focus on Jefferson’s roles as writer of the Declaration of Independence or President of the United States. Kalman’s book is the first I’ve seen that addresses Jefferson as a complex character, a man who condemned slavery while owning 150 slaves, and a man who might have had children with his slave, Sally Hemings. This is heavy stuff for young children, and I think much of the subject would be difficult for children younger than 7 to understand. Kalman’s conversational tone and bright artwork lighten some of the weightier topics. And I do appreciate that she is forthright with young readers, showing them that nobody’s perfect, not even Thomas Jefferson.

RESOURCES:

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

PPBF: PAPA’S MECHANICAL FISH

TITLE: Papa’s Mechanical Fish

AUTHOR: Candace Fleming

ILLUSTRATOR: Boris Kulikov

PUBLICATION INFO: Farrar Straus Giroux’s Margaret Ferguson Books, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-39908-5

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 4 to 8

GENRE: picture book (historical fiction)

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“This is my papa.

And this is his backyard workshop, where he spends his days thinking … tinkering … and inventing things.”

From the publisher: “Clink! Clankety-bang! Thump-whirr!  That’s the sound of Papa at work. Although he is an inventor, he has never made anything that works perfectly, and that’s because he hasn’t yet found a truly fantastic idea. But when he takes his family fishing on Lake Michigan, his daughter Virena asks, “Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a fish?”—and Papa is off to his workshop. With a lot of persistence and a little bit of help, Papa—who is based on the real-life inventor Lodner Phillips—creates a submarine that can take his family for a trip to the bottom of Lake Michigan.”

THEMES/TOPICS: history, science, inventions

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: I like this book because “it’s almost true,” as Fleming states in her author’s note. Fleming uses her note to tell us what’s known about Lodner Phillips and his various submarines, as well as what remains unknown. The book does rely upon made-up dialog, accompanied by repetitive phrases, and plenty of onomatopoeia for lots of read-aloud fun.

RESOURCES:

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!