It's getting to be a yearly tradition, my January post about my favorite books of the year. Here are my top 5 picture books, ones I'd love to see honored by the Caldecott committee at the end of the month! I didn't do too badly last year, as I mentioned This Is Not My Hat and One Cool Friend in my top five. Let's see how I do this year . . .
Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner -- you know, this seems like a kind of no-brainer, considering that Mr. Wiesner has a lot of history with the Caldecott committee. While I like his earlier books, I really love this one. For one thing, it's hilarious. Mr. Wuffles, the haughty black kitty pictured on the book's cover, turns his nose up at one cat toy after another, only to fixate on one small object that is not a cat toy, but a spaceship full of aliens. This is a nearly wordless book that manages to tell a story with hair-raising adventure and laugh-out-loud humor, which will be no surprise to Wiesner's established fan base.
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown -- in a staid Edwardian society, one tiger gets fed up with good manners and proper clothing, and he goes completely wild. This is another picture book that brings the funny, and I must admit that I guffawed at the full spread of Mr. Tiger, newly nude and obviously proud of it! The color palette really works well, with the lush greens of the forest contrasting with the tans and browns of the city, and Mr. Tiger showing up as a bright pop of color in each.
Grandma and the Great Gourd by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, illustrated by Susy Pilgrim Waters -- this is my dark horse pick, as I've heard very little about it around the various blogs I frequent, which is a shame. In this traditional folktale, Grandma goes through the forest to visit her daughter. Three predatory animals consider eating her, but she convinces them to wait until she comes back through, as eating her daughter's good cooking will fatten her up. She finds a creative solution to get her back through the forest when it is time to go home, but will it trick the hungry beasts? As you can see from the cover, this book is full of vibrant, saturated colors. The backgrounds remind me of batik cloth, providing an excellent foil for Grandma in her flowing white dress.
Journey by Aaron Becker -- This one, on the other hand, seems to be a crowd favorite. A lonely little girl with a red marker draws a door and walks through it into a fantastical country where she has amazing adventures, and meets a new friend, as well. Publishers are always pitching things as "this meets that," so I'd call this Harold and the Purple Crayon meets David Macaulay -- the story is reminiscent of the former, but the artwork displays the meticulous attention to detail of the latter.
Building Our House by Jonathan Bean -- the most personal of my choices, since my parents are in the very beginning stages of building a retirement home on my grandparents' farm. This book has something for everyone: technical details, tools, and equipment for readers who love diggers and dumpers, little details of family life and changes for those more interested in the human side of the story, and even an entire wordless story about a cat and her kittens, for the cat lovers willing to take a closer look. It's not as showy a title as some of the others I've mentioned, or even some of the others I haven't mentioned, but it definitely has its quiet charms.
I could easily go on and list several honorable mention titles, but I'll stop there. Over the next few days, I'll be posting favorites from juvenile and young adult fiction, so be on the lookout!