Friday, May 05, 2006

How Do I Know A Good Picture Book When I See One?

Today A Fuse #8 Production referred to her Triumverate of Mediocrity, which included The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. I've never read Rainbow Fish, but when I was working in an elementary school last week, I sat in on story time for one of the kindergarten classes. The book they heard was Pfister's Hopper Hunts for Spring.

Personally, I prefer picture books that are a little edgy and twisted, like A Day With Wilbur Robinson. Hopper Hunts for Spring definitely does not fall into the edgy and twisted category. A rabbit named Hopper is told that spring is coming. He takes that to mean that "someone" (or some creature) is on his way there, and he takes off to meet Spring. He then meets various hibernating creatures that come out in the spring. But who are not Spring. The whole little story is built around the poor bunny's misunderstanding, but spring has arrived when it's finished.

Not a whole lot there. In fact, if you look at the Amazon listing, you'll see that School Library Journal gave it a pretty blistering review.

But the kids I was sitting with were really into it. One little girl tried to get ahead of the story and tell what she thought was going to happen. And the book could support a nature lesson about spring for really young kids.

As I sat there on the little risers with those little kids, I wondered if there was really anything wrong with that little story. Yeah, maybe it was on the sappy side for my taste. But the book wasn't for me.

I just have a really hard time with the whole picture book thing. Which is probably why I've been so unsuccessful at writing one.


fusenumber8 said...

Well, I'm not putting down all of Pfister's works. There's a distinct difference between picture books that are merely mediocre and those that warrant inclusion in the Triumverate. Triumverate books actually feel physically painful when you read them. Like someone has taken your brain and is attempting to squish it into pliable goo. Give me a good old snarky Mimi Grey or a gorgeous Jon J. Muth over a dull-as-dishwater title any day of the week.

Gail Gauthier said...

Oh, I didn't think you were. Mentioning Pfister in your triumverate made me recall my experience sitting with those kids.

Btw, your second member of the triumverate--Love Me Forever: I contend that that isn't a children's book. I can't see what is in that book for a child. The whole concept of your mother growing old and sitting on your lap must give many kids nightmares.

I think the author has said at his website that that book sells well at bookstores near retirement communities.

fusenumber8 said...

Not a children's book? I agree. In fact, I could see it made into a delightful psychological horror film. Something with a by-line like, "She'll never let him go". Then you can end with that creepy image of the man hugging his own daughter and the viscious circle repeating itself.

I'm giving myself the creeps here.