Last year, around this time, I did a series of posts talking about my picks for the Youth Media Awards (which are announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting each January). It was so much fun that I'm doing it again, and will, of course, do a follow-up post after the awards are announced.
I'll start out with picture books. I've done a Mock Caldecott at my library two years in a row now. While I'm still no expert on art, I do think that it helps me be exposed to a wide variety of picture books, more than I might come across in my haphazard perusal of the new materials shelf at my library. I do have my favorites, but I think there are a lot of strong contenders this year, so I would not be surprised if none of the ones I particularly love garner shiny stickers.
One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by David Small
This is my personal favorite picture book of the year, but when I was looking at books to include in my Mock Caldecott, I had to think long and hard about whether I loved the illustrations, or the story. In the end, I decided that the illustrations do support the story in a truly fascinating way -- there's a really funny twist at the end of the book, and when you go back and reread, the pictures give hints to the twist that make you question some of the things you thought you knew on your first read-through. Am I being cryptic enough? Go read the book and you'll see what I mean!
I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr., illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This book knocks my socks off in terms of artistic quality. Kadir Nelson does things with oil paint that are unrivaled, as far as I'm concerned. There is a luminous quality to the artwork in this book, particularly the portraits -- you can sort of get a sense of what I mean from the cover image above, but there's so much more within. Take a look when you get a chance.
Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
This book is bound to become a staple of my bears/hibernation story time theme, but the artwork takes it beyond "just another cute bear book." I love the way Stead uses color so sparingly -- there's a lot of white space, so when there are pops of color (or entire spreads full of it) they really stand out. There's also a lot of texture there; take a look at Bear's coat and you can see what I mean.
This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
Another funny book -- what can I say, I have a weakness for them. This cheeky little fish has a lot in common with the rabbit in last year's I Want My Hat Back . . . there's a lot of hat-related drama in Jon Klassen's picture book world. In this book, the fish is telling one story, while the pictures are often telling another, and the ending will delight readers who have been paying attention to both. Klassen has illustrated three books eligible for the award this year, if I am counting correctly (I've heard a lot about Extra Yarn and hardly anything about House Held Up by Trees), but this is my favorite of his in terms of making the artwork do the work of telling the story.
Oh, No! by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann
There's an air of "instant classic" about this book. It's kind of perfect for reading aloud, the kind of book that kids are going to love and demand to hear again and again. But there I go, talking about the text again! This is another case of the artwork doing a lot of the work of telling the story -- in fact, the story begins on the endpapers at the front of the book, and ends (or perhaps I should say, continues) on the endpapers at the back of the book. I did some research on the medium used by Rohmann for this book -- he created it using block prints and something called the reduction method, which I had to look up. Basically, it involves making a linoleum block print, then carving out a little bit more of the block for each layer of color that goes into making the illustration. It sounds fabulously complicated and (if I were to try it) frustrating. Does having a complicated process automatically make the artwork more distinguished? Of course not -- but I can't help being impressed by both the process and the results in this case.
Those are my top five, pretty much in order of preference. As I mentioned above, it's been a good year for picture books and I'm sure the committee has their work cut out for them! What about you, readers -- do you have any picture book favorites from 2012?
(Reviewed from copies borrowed through my library system.)