Picture Book Reviews
Posted on July 22, 2021 at 6:50 am by Gene Ambaum
The Middle Kid by Steven Weinberg. Chronicle Books, 2021. 9781452181806.
I love Weinberg’s books, particularly the way he’s now working with both collage and drawing and painting and whatever in his picture books and the AstroNuts series. This one seems to be the composition notebook of a middle kid, complete with tables of useful information at the front and penciled notes to KEEP OUT! from the writer. Inside it reads like a picture book diary, in comics format, of the ups and downs of being a middle kid who loves drawing (like Weinberg). His sister spills on his art. His brother locks him in a trunk to teach him to be tough. But when things are too intense, his mom takes him for a break at the library. Perfect.
Ship in a Bottle by Andrew Prahin. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2021. 9781984815811.
Mouse dreams of a better life, of a place where she can enjoy gingersnaps and sit in the sun without Cat trying to eat her. So she sets off in her ship in a bottle, with an ample supply of cookies. Things seem a little bleak — there’s a storm and some rude seagulls — but eventually, when it seems most unlikely, Mouse finds new friends and a perfect home.
I love Prahin’s gray rainy days almost as much as I love the colorful world full of new friends he draws for Mouse.
Anthony and the Gargoyle by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Maja Kastelic. Groundwood Books, 2021. 9781773063447.
In this lovely, wordless story, Anthony, discovers a friendly young creature in his closet. With the help of a book on Notre Dame, they figure out it’s probably a gargoyle, like the ones on the cathedral. When Anthony’s family visits his ailing grandmother, he introduces her to his friend, and then during a trip to Notre Dame returns it to its family (much to his parents’ surprise).
This story is told in a very simple layout of borderless comics panels with rounded corners, which make it feel a bit kinder than it would have if the panels had had sharp angles. It’s a great introduction to the power of panels, the way they allow readers to control the pace of a story and even to go back and forth between moments.