Caldecott Honor

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett; Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett; Illustrated by Jon Klassen

The gray of winter is dismal enough to turn even the cheeriest of smiles upside down. Extra Yarn, by Mac Barnett, is a much needed pick-me-up during these dreariest of times.

Annabelle finds a box of multicolored yarn in the snow. When she takes it home to knit a sweater, she finds that she still has more. So Annabelle makes a sweater for her dog, too. No matter how much she knits, the box always has extra yarn in it.

Faith Ringgold: Stories in Stitches

Faith Ringgold is an artist who uses different materials to tell the stories that are important to her family and her people. Whether working with quilting squares, African masks, paint and brush, or her own words, Faith gives the rich colors and textures a life of their own. There's motion in her work, a striving upward and pushing at the edges of her world.

Taro Yashima: Artist for Peace

Taro Yashima is the assumed name of children’s author and illustrator Jun Atsushi Iwamatsu. Born in the Japanese countryside to a local doctor and his wife, as a young man he found the rise in militarism prior to his country’s invasion of China and attack on America to be very much against his personal beliefs. He and his wife Tomoe, also an artist, joined peaceful protest groups called “culture clubs” that used their art to make anti-authoritarian statements about Japan’s government and the harsh conditions people lived under to support the military as it readied for war.

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds. Illustrated by Peter Brown

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds. Illustrated by Peter Brown

Everybody knows that rabbits love carrots. Jasper Rabbit, in Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds, is no exception. Jasper especially loves the carrots that grow in Crackenhopper Field. The problem is that Jasper can't get enough carrots, yanking and ripping them from the ground every chance he gets. That is, he did until the carrots started following him. Jasper is convinced that the carrots are creeping up on him.

Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell

It sounds almost too perfect to be true. Famed primate expert Jane Goodall had a stuffed toy chimpanzee as a little girl. She went everywhere with it, and together they explored the mysteries of nature. 

Me...Jane is Patrick McDonnell’s peacefully expressive interpretation of Goodall’s childhood through his art, actual photographs of Jane, and the drawings of her youth. Jane starts out a very curious young girl, studying all sort of animals around her home. That curious nature leads to many answers.

Margot Zemach

Children’s author and illustrator Margot Zemach was born into a show business family--her father was a theater director, and her mother was an actress. Growing up, she drew imaginatively costumed characters to retell her favorite fairy stories and folktales, something she continued to do as an adult that would lead her to worldwide fame.

As she wrote in her autobiography, Self-Portrait: Margot Zemach: "I can create my own theater and be in charge of everything. When there is a story I want to tell in pictures, I find my actors, build the sets, design the costumes and light the stage. . . . If I can get it all together and moving, it will come to life. The actors will work with each other, and the dancers will hear the music and dance. When the book closes, the curtain comes down."

James Marshall

“I have always thought my best stuff was in my sketchbooks.  I have hundreds and hundreds of sketchbooks.  I like to work at night, I suppose because that’s when my defenses are sort of low.  I have my most creative ideas at night.  I’m less inhibited, and I really let it rip.”

From: Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book, edited by Leonard S. Marcus. p. 96; pp. 82-106 are on James Marshall

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, James Marshall’s whimsical drawings added humor to dozens of children’s picture books.  While many were made for other writers’ works, including classics such as Mother Goose, Edward Lear, and Ogden Nash, he was also a talented writer on his own.  Indeed,  he became one of the most popular and prolific illustrators in children’s publishing.  In high school, however, he wasn’t so much about the art--though he did doodle, as he called it--as about the music which he saw as a way to get a scholarship to college far away from swampy Texas town where his family lived.

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

In Grandpa Green, Lane Smith tells the story of one man's life through his passion. Topiary gardeners shape bushes and trees into fantastic sculptures of whatever they desire. We meet Grandpa Green as a gigantic bushy baby, sprinkling tears with the words, "He was born a really long time ago," beneath.

We go on to explore Grandpa's life through the garden, with different sculptures illustrating each step in his life. He grows up on a farm, escapes into the wonder of tales like The Wizard of Oz, goes to war, and starts a family. Smith combines the lush greens of the topiary scultpures with very thin black lines for tree trunks, branches, animals in the garden, and the great-grandson who narrates the story. That choice allows the sculptures to pop off the page like a vibrant special effect.

Interrupting Chicken

By David Ezra Stein

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Little Red Chicken wants Papa to read her a bedtime story, but interrupts him almost as soon as he begins each tale.
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Leo Lionni

Leo Lionni was born into a family that appreciated art, and, from a very young age, he knew he wanted to be an artist. He loved nature and started keeping small creatures--minnows, birds, fish, and more--in his attic room in Amsterdam. He also created terrariums, and many of these natural details found their way into his later work.  Like so many successful children’s authors, Leo Lionni was able to remember and tap into the things that were important to him when he was a child.

As his interest in drawing grew, he was mentored by his Uncle Piet, who was both an architect and an artist. Leo was very lucky to live just a few blocks from two wonderful museums. Further, as a child he had a special pass so he could go there to draw whenever he wished. He learned to draw details from great works--plaster casts of famous statues, and they made such an impression on him that many decades later he could still remember them perfectly, as he could with clarity recall so much about his tiny pets and naturescapes.