Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore celebrates words and the joy of reading. In this tale, Morris Lessmore’s life becomes an analogy for a book. In the beginning, he is writing his own story. One day when he is feeling lost, a book lands on his shoulder like a bird and becomes his friend. Mr. Lessmore’s new friend takes him to a library where the books whisper and nest on the shelves.

Mr. Lessmore becomes a book mender in the library of whispering books. As he repairs the books, he becomes engrossed in their stories and shares them with others. He spends his life caring for books in the library and eventually is cared for by the books. One day, Mr. Lessmore finishes writing his own story and decides the time has come for him to move on. He tells the books that he will always carry them in his heart. After he leaves, the books discover that Mr. Lessmore has left behind his own story. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore ends when a little girl enters the library and is befriended by Morris Lessmore’s book.

Initially, this book caught my interest due to the beautiful, yet familiar illustrations. After learning more about William Joyce, I realized his illustrations have appeared on many New Yorker magazine covers. He has also written numerous children’s books and is the producer of popular children’s TV shows, Rolie Polie Olie and George Shrinks. This lovely picture book has become a personal favorite of mine and will touch the hearts of readers of all ages. --Jennifer

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Sally Jean the Bicycle Queen by Cari Best

Sally Jean adores Flash, her yard-sale bike. She sings to herself as she rides. Every chance she has, she learns how to fix parts of Flash. Sally Jean grows like a dandelion so when she turns eight, she needs a larger bike than Flash. With joy and furrowed brows, Sally Jean works hard to put together a replacement, finding support from her neighbor Mr. Mettle and his yardful of junk.

Even in winter, it’s always time for books that show kids putting their whole being into overcoming a roadblock. Sally Jean repairs kids’ bikes, but can’t earn enough for one for herself. So she “rolled up her sleeves and got to work” on an old junk bicycle, which became... Lightning. And she finds Flash a new life, too.

Christine Davnier’s illustrations catch the joy of persevering toward competence as a 9-year-old “tween” and having a good time at it. Independence -- having a bicycle that you fix by yourself -- is a great and delightful strength to share with kids. The library also has a guide for 9-12 year-old bike repair and 13 adult bike repair guides including a DVD. Get your hands greasy like Sally Jean.  --Jon

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Girl who Loved Wild Horses By Paul Goble

I have loved Paul Goble’s pictures books for as long as I can remember. The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses is just one of my many favorites. The story is about a young girl who loves to spend time with the horses from her village, she cares for them and understand their needs. During a storm she is taken away from her village by the horses. They lead her to a wild stallion who becomes her protector and she stays with the horses until she is found by the people from her village. She is unhappy when she goes home and so is the stallion so her family agrees to let her go and live with the wild horses again. After that she visits her village once a year and brings a colt to her family. However one year she does not return but the wild horses do and along with them is a beautiful mare that no one has ever seen before.

When I was a kid I loved reading Goble’s stories and thought that the illustrations were beautiful. The illustrations were really my favorite part because they are beautiful but also because they tell his stories so well that I did not even need to read the words in order to know what the book was about. – Cassie  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Montana's Charlie Russell: Art in the Collection of the Montana Historical Society by Jennifer Bottomly-O’looney, Kirby Lambert

This stunning coffee-table book has full-color pictures of all the Charlie Russell art - paintings, letters, drawings, sculpture - held in the collection of the Montana Historical Society in Helena.  Of 418 pages including the index, there are pictures on 385 of them - most in color.  Charlie Russell's art recorded the vanishing of an era, and the Historical Society's collection covers the full scope of his work.  In addition to full-page photos of the artwork, there are also quite a few black and white photographs of Charlie himself, with friends and family.  Each artwork has an explanation of when and where it was created, and background information on what is pictured.  These explanations blend in well with an overall narrative of Russell's life and times, matched up with the paintings and drawings.  

This is a wonderful book for anyone who likes Western art in general and, of course, Charles M. Russell in particular.  The Montana Historical Society has one of the larger collections of Russell's work, and this fine book does it justice.  -Lynne

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The Arrival by Shaun Tan

I never expected to like this picture book. In fact, I don't like many picture books. I have no problem  making up a story for the pictures; I just like it more when a story is provided. But when I opened up THE ARRIVAL, I instantly knew there was something different about this book.

This is the story of what I can only imagine is the way millions of European immigrants felt as they left their homelands and ventured forth to become part of America. With each page, I thought of my grandfather, Hiljo Ranko. He came from Holland with his sisters  in 1908. He was the only one of them that knew any English. I think he must have felt as if he had entered into a completely New World, filled with new sounds and sights. Shaun Tan illustrates these feelings amazingly through his adroit depictions of surreal creatures and shapes that take form on each page.

My brothers and I are only the second generation of boys from my father's family born here in America. I've never known what it feels like to say goodbye to a life I was once lived. I've never known what frights linger around corners in a country that has habitually scorned one set of immigrants after another. THE ARRIVAL put all this into perspective for me. For a time, as I looked at the pages, I could feel what my grandfather had felt: sadness, excitement, triumph. For a time, I became my grandfather. As schmaltzy as that sounds, that is the only way I can adequately describe what this book did to me.

Take the time to seek out this book. Look at the pages and study the images. I'm pretty sure I will not be alone in thinking how amazing our ancestor's stories are.  -Gavin

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Book of Ballads, Blueberry Girl and Instructions, illustrated by Charles Vess

 The Book of Ballads, a collection of English ballads illustrated by Charles Vess with contributions from many prominent authors, was the first graphic novel I picked up and read after I began work here at Billings Public Library.  Vess' pen and ink drawings drew me in immediately, and he has since become an artist whose style I can immediately recognize.  He has contributed to works for adults and children, to story anthologies and illustrated novels.  Much of his work deals with folk and fairy tales and has a clean, timeless quality;  his drawings and paintings are filled with imaginative touches that lend depth and whimsy to their subjects.

He has collaborated several times with Neil Gaiman, including the two works I am recommending today.  Instructions illustrates the text of Gaiman's poem, originally collected in the book Fragile Things.  In this version for children, Vess follows the travels of a puss-in-boots as he makes his way through a fairy tale setting, following Gaiman's instructions and finding his way "there and back again." Each page could be a story in itself, and I find myself pouring over them, enjoying the classic references and famous fairy tale characters on the periphery of the main tale.

Blueberry Girl holds a special place in my heart. This poem, written for a friend of Gaiman's who was about to have a child, is made of wishes and prayers for that unborn girl.  The book in its turn becomes a journey through growing up, as the natural world seems to welcome and nurture many different blueberry girls while wishing them such things as freedom from "Nightmares at three or bad husbands at thirty."  It's a beautiful sentiment and a beautiful book, one that might be considered as a perfect gift for the blueberry girl in your life.  -Barb

Blueberry girl and friends

Look for works by Charles Vess in our catalog.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Caldecott Winners

Picture books are children’s first introduction to the wonders of books and information and the pleasures of reading. Picture books attract the little readers with a melding of images with a simple story to capture their imagination and generate delight. Like books for readers of all ages, there are good ones and bad ones, and some that are extraordinary. Each year, the Caldecott Medal (named in honor of illustrator Randolph Caldecott) is awarded annually by the American Library Association to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. These are just a few of the wonderful books recognized for their merit over the years. See the whole list at: Caldecott Medal & Honor Books 1938-Present

2016: Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall.  Finding Winnie is the story of how the black bear that inspired the tales of Winnie the Pooh found her way to London, accompanying a Canadian soldier and veterinarian en route to battle in World War I. The story is framed by a mother telling her little boy the tale as a bedtime story. The book and its illustrations are charming and choked me up at the end. Accompanying historic photographs of the soldier, the bear, and young Christopher Robin Milne are wonderful additions.  Reserve Finding Winnie

2015: The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend written and illustrated by Dan Santat.What if you were an imaginary friend, waiting for a child to imagine you? In the land of such creatures, one has to wait for that to happen before joining the child’s adventures. One little fellow is tired of waiting and decides to do something about it. He heads out to find his perfect match, and to discover that he is named Beekle. Santat’s story is heartwarming, and his illustrations beautifully depict worlds both fantastic and mundane.  Reserve The Adventures of Beekle

2014: Locomotive, written and illustrated by Brian Floca.  Floca’s nonfiction book takes us back into the 19th century, where trains were the way to cross a continent, and the mighty locomotives powered those trains. His book tells little ones how the railroads were built, and imagines the journey of a family heading across the prairies to the western sea. They will see it all from the anticipation at the depot, to the people on the train, the landscapes passing by and the welcoming reception of friends at the end. Little readers will hear the sounds and practically feel the sway and vibration of the train. It’s a terrific book for reading aloud to a toddler, with all sorts of sound effects for the grown-up to make.  Reserve Locomotive