Think You're Too Old for Picture Books? Think Again!
Written with Elisa Garcia
November celebrates National Picture Book Month and will be recognized in many children’s sections of libraries across the city. We’re taking a novel approach here at the Bronx Library Center and bringing it to the Teen Zone as well. Why? Because we want to not only promote the idea that you are never too old to enjoy or learn something from a children’s picture book, but to also push our patrons to think about what constitutes a picture book. Could it be that a picture book by any other name...is a comic book, manga, or a graphic novel?
The phrase “picture book” is typically used to describe a book in which the creator(s) convey their story primarily through photographs or illustrations and the text, if there is any, is secondary to the storytelling. Traditionally the term picture book has also implied the book has been written for children. However, if we buck this traditional ideology that a picture book has be written for a children’s audience, we can begin to look at and more fully appreciate the artwork happening across different genres of literature.
This month we will be celebrating the great works of art that exists in traditional picture books, graphic novels, comic books, and manga and we hope you’ll join us. As we are celebrating picture books in all their various forms here at BLC, we want to share with you some of our favorites.
Written and Illustrated by Audrey Wood
“Silly Sally went to town, walking backwards upside down…” But how can Sally get to town walking backwards upside down, you might ask yourself. This silly story will take you on a rhyming adventure of friendship and teamwork. I was first introduced to Silly Sally when I was two years old and it remains one of my favorite books to this day. This book has the ability to make children, teens, and adults alike giggle aloud while traipsing along with Silly Sally and her friends.
Love You Forever
Written by Robert Munsch and Illustrated by Sheila McGraw
Love You Forever is one of those rare books that will gain more meaning and poignancy for readers who grow old with the story. I swear I didn’t cry at the end when my mother read this to me as a child, but whenever I have revisited the story as an adult I always finish with tears in my eyes. This is a touching story of a mother’s unwavering love for her son throughout all the phases of his life, including his terrible teens and into adulthood. The mother’s unconditional love is recognized by the son who returns the love to his elderly mother and honors it by passing the love along to his own daughter.
And Tango Makes Three
by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, Illustrated by Henry Cole
It’s hard to believe And Tango Makes Three was only published in 2005. This is one of the first picture books that I remember actively seeking out to read as an adult when it became the most banned book in the United States as it told a then controversial story about unconventional family of penguins. Richardson and Parnell found their inspiration for this story in the real life penguins, Roy and Silo, who lived in the Central Park Zoo and were given an egg to take care of by the zookeeper Rob Gramzay. This is a story of love and acceptance and has hopefully opened doors of acceptance for the LGBTQ community around the world. Although much social progress has been made since then, the story continues to stand on its own as a heartwarming story about family that will touch readers of all ages.
The Graveyard Book, Volume 1
Written by Neil Gaiman, Adapted by P. Craig Russell, and Illustrated by Kevin Nowlan, P. Crag Russell, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson, and Stephen B. Scott
I first read The Graveyard Book in it’s original novel form and fell in love with the story of Nobody Owens. Nobody just wants to be somebody and is looking to find his place in the world out the graveyard, but his path is strewn with obstacles. It just so happened that I was due for a re-read when the graphic novel version appeared, and I have to say it lives up to the original and brings a little extra flair. None of Gaiman’s original storytelling flair is lost as this is their first of two volumes. As with many of Gaimain’s stories, the seemingly nonsensical takes on a darker tone at times and pairing this story with illustrations I believe will make the story more accessible to a larger audience.
Hip Hop Dog
Written by Chris Raschka and illustrated by Vladimir Radvnsky
I first read Hip Hop Dog when I was looking for books to read during storytime and was smitten by the funny riddles and catching myself “rapping”, as I read the book. I truly enjoyed the diversity in this book and the message of self- empowerment the book relays. This sweet dog finds his identity through Hip-Hop and it's one of the sweetest funniest stories I’ve read!
Mango, Abuela, and Me
Written by Meg Medina and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
I have a soft-spot for grandparents and I knew I would love this book from the minute I saw it! This is the warm endearing story of Mia and her grandmother and how they overcome a language barrier to grow and nurture their relationship. It was great to see Mia’s character evolve, learn about her family, heritage and a new language. The illustrations in the book are fantastically done! Warm and bright pictures fill the pages and you feel easily transported into this story.
Full, Full, Full of Love
Written by Trish Cooke and illustrated by Paul Howard
This is one of the books I will definitely read to my future children! I have a super soft spot for grandparents and Sunday family dinners and this book covers it all! Imagine those loving kisses and hugs from grandma and eating delicious homemade food, what is not to love about that? The illustrations are colorful and appealing, and it's just a loving tale of food and family.
I Am Alfonso Jones
Written by Tony Medina and illustrated by Stacey Robinson and John Jennings
This book is so well done l and it brings in such an interesting perspective. The illustrations are absolutely incredibly done and it's not hard to not feel an emotional connection when reading this book. Tony Medina has done a great job in telling this new generation about past events in a refreshing perspective and has mastered the ability to connecting to modern times. This book, its message and illustrations we’ll stay with you for a long time after reading it.