|No, I didn't make all these.|
We started out with An Artist's Alphabet by Norman Messenger, hand-picked for my reading companion who is a fan of visual puzzles. This is a traditional alphabet book with letters formed in stunning images of animals and plants. A really beautiful work. It was a hit with both of us.
A Cat/Art Book
Papillon, The Very Fluffy Kitty by A. N. Kang. This is a lovely story about a cat that is way too fluffy, so fluffy he can float. This is a real problem for him. His human, Miss Tilly, tries to come up with a solution for him, but this is a good book so our animal protagonist/child stand-in has a big hand in the resolution, in large part because he makes an improbable friend. Improbable for a cat.
There are some neat things reading companions can talk about with this book. For one thing, there's the issue of why this book is clever or maybe even funny. It's because cats don't float, people. It's that incongruity that grabs readers. Or grabbed us, anyway. Another thing to talk with your reading companion about is the art work. It's lovely, but each page tends to be a solid background color with black images drawn on them. Except for one small point of red. You can discuss why the artist wanted to put that red in. I just noticed that it appears far sooner than I noticed yesterday. We could have had fun looking for red.
You could also talk about how Miss Tilly never appears, just her dialogue bubbles. And papillon in French means butterfly, a creature that can, indeed float. Okay, it flies. But flying is like floating. Both words begin with "f."
A Sherman Alexie/Art Book
You may recall my recent concern about running into Sherman Alexie on my way home from Seattle, and he would be working intently on the plane while I wasn't, and I would be ashamed. Well, fortunately he does work harder than I do, and last year he published Thunder Boy, Jr., illustrated by Yuyi Morales. This book got a lot of buzz, and this is a case where it was well deserved.
Thunder Boy Smith, Jr., known as Little Thunder, is unhappy with his name. But it's not, readers come to realize, because his name is Thunder Boy. It's because he wants his own name, not his father's, as awesome as Dad is. What's interesting and unique about this story is that Thunder Boy, Jr. isn't looking for a Tom, Dick, and Harry type of name. He wants a name that sounds like him, that celebrates something he's done. He goes over a series of suggestions that are both funny and poetic. The name he and his father hit upon at the ending is both surprising (because, as I said, it's not Tom, Dick, or Harry) and perfect.
This is a unique story that's told without lots of extra text. The illustrations work fantastically, showing us Thunder Boy's life as a Native American child in a Native American family. The artwork definitely carries that part of the story.
You can see why I don't regret not working yesterday. The reading was great.