September 2018

September’s Big Picture

A Parade of Elephants

by Kevin Henkes

To people unfamiliar with children’s literature, picture books, especially for very young children, seem like the easiest books to create: some cute animals, sweet colors, and a repetitive text and you’re good to go, right? As those of us in the field know, however, it’s not so easy. In A Parade of Elephants, Kevin Henkes offers a master class in the craftsmanship of the seemingly simple picture book and the way that style, attention to detail, and creativity mean a truly superb, as well as adorable, result.

“Look! Elephants!” opens this jolly chronicle of “one, two, three, four, five” elephants off for an elephantine march. They parade across the landscape and through some prepositions (“Over, under. In, out”) and wind down with some playful phraseology (“When the day is done, they are done, too”), concluding with a gentle shimmer of magic (“And they trumpet—scattering stars across the sky”). This is absolute nursery catnip for both teeny kids and their adults; there’s enough interest in the movement of the parade to keep little viewers interested, while the lulling prose is heading them squarely toward bedtime. The softly musical flow of the text belies the delicate exactitude of the wordsmithing; Henkes uses his concept terms to drive the rhythm as well as the sense, with the dimeter cadence marching like footfalls as he tickles the words in ways that open young listeners’ language skills: “Big and round/and round they are./ Big and round/and round they go.”

Masterful as the text is, it’s the visuals that make a picture book, and the book doesn’t put a single pachyderm paw wrong there. The gouache and line illustrations give the elephants, each in a different pale sugary color, the endearing charm of a nursery frieze or circus animal cookies come to life. Though they’re redolent with sweetness (especially the small pink baby elephant who brings up the rear), a dusty undertone and some subtle sepia highlighting provide balance; slightly muted too are the rose backgrounds that support the text, and the gentle ivory of the matte pages and the cozy brown (much softer than black) of the typeface. That’s building on a look that we saw in Henkes’ Egg (BCCB 1/17), and here he perfects it. The neoclassically simple yet varied compositions are also reminiscent of that title; the book neatly lays out the cumulative count to five elephants in an irresistibly countable spread and moves the smoky mauve of the text blocks from top to middle to bottom, subtly propelling the book’s movement. The elephant faces are simple, but the art turns the slightly individualized elephant poses into endearing choreography as the lines of elephants weave through the pages, and kids will definitely enjoy pointing out the baby elephant at every page turn.

Overall, it’s a book that cries out to be picked up and petted and hugged, and it rewards both adult and child sensibilities when you do. Its appeal makes it an obvious and excellent baby-shower present that’s an elephant-sized head above  the usual crowd. Additionally, in a couple of years, kids who adored this as a very young readaloud will find the simple patterning a perfect opportunity to flex their beginning reading muscles. Throughout, Henkes demonstrations how much skill is involved in making it all look so easy, and the result has high classic potential as a baby bedtime tale.

–Deborah Stevenson, editor

A Parade of Elephants @ 2018 by Kevin Henkes. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Greenwillow Books.

September Stars

Starred titles are books of special distinction. See the archives for selections from previous months.

Auxier, Jonathan    Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster. Amulet, 2018 [368p]
ISBN 978-1-4197-3140-2 $18.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 4-6

Blumenthal, Karen      Bonnie and Clyde: The Making of a Legend. Viking, 2018 [256p] illus. with photographs
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-45147-122-2 $19.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-698-16794-0 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 7-12

Caletti, Deb     A Heart in a Body in the World. Simon Pulse, 2018 [368p]
ISBN 978-1-4814-1520-0 $18.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 8-12

Crowley, Suzanne     Finding Esme. Greenwillow, 2018 [288p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-235246-0 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-235248-4 $7.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 3-5

Gibney, Shannon      Dream Country. Dutton, 2018 [368p]
ISBN 978-0-7352-3167-2 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 7-12

Heidicker, Christian      McKay Attack of the 50-Foot Wallflower. Simon, 2018 [320p]
ISBN 978-1-4814-9913-2 $18.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 7-10

Henkes, Kevin      A Parade of Elephants; written and illus. by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow/ HarperCollins, 2018 [32p]
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-06-266828-8 $19.89
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-266827-1 $18.99
Reviewed from galleys R* 6-24 mos.

Hesse, Karen Night Job; illus. by G. Brian Karas Candlewick, 2018 [32p]
ISBN 978-0-7636-6238-7 $16.99
Reviewed from galleys R* 4-7 yrs

Hesse, Monica The War Outside. Little, 2018 [336p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-316-31669-9 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-316-31670-5 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 7-10

McKay, Hilary Love to Everyone. Simon, 2018 [336p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-5344-2710-5 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-5344-2712-9 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 5-9

Murguia, Bethanie Deeney Do You Believe in Unicorns?; written and illus. by Bethanie Deeney Murguia. Candlewick, 2018 [32p]
ISBN 978-0-7636-9468-5 $14.99
Reviewed from galleys R* 3-6 yrs

Rex, Adam Are You Scared, Darth Vader?; written and illus. by Adam Rex. Disney/Lucasfilm, 2018 [42p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4847-0497-4 $17.99
E-book ISBN 978-1-368-02574-4 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys R* 6-10 yrs

Sullivan, John Kitten and the Night Watchman; illus. by Taeeun Yoo. Simon, 2018 [40p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-6191-7 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-6192-4 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R* 3-6 yrs

Wittlinger, Ellen Someone Else’s Shoes. Charlesbridge, 2018 [304p]
ISBN 978-1-58089-749-5 $16.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 4-7

Woodson, Jacqueline The Day You Begin; illus. by Rafael López. Paulsen/Penguin, 2018 [32p]
ISBN 978-0-399-24653-1 $18.99
Reviewed from galleys R* 6-9 yrs