Thursday, September 03, 2015

Ten Picture Books with Spare Words for the Very Young

Picture books are still exerting their magic in our household, partly because I insist on bringing home a dozen every week from the library. It's a hit-or-miss these days -- some picture books are clever and interesting enough to warrant repeat reads, some are too blasé.

Now that kids have moved on to more engaging pursuits, reading-wise or otherwise, it is fun to see which picture books still appeal to them.

These following set of books have brilliant illustrations (all except the last book that has no pictures!) with very few words that the 2 and 3 year olds can follow along easily and enjoy.

Shh! We Have A Plan 

Little Owl Lost
By Chris Haughton

The illustrations take center stage in Mr. Haughton's books, with stark, minimal text (just about 100 words) conveying everything that needs to be conveyed, and more!

Be it the deep blue and purple hues of the night in Shh! We have a Plan, or the earthy olives and fuchsias and oranges in Little Owl Lost, the pages are a treat to behold.

Little Owl Lost is incredibly cute with its catchy refrain and simple language that flows smoothly enough for the 2 and 3 year olds to enjoy. Little Owl has fallen off its nest and is looking for its mother. Big eyes, pointy ears, and a big body (bigger than Little Owl's at least) does not a Mommy Owl make.

In Shhh! We Have a Plan, four friends go to the forest to catch a bird. Of course, the littlest of the four is the smartest of them, which we gather as the story unfolds. He tries to greet the bird rather than capture it. A subtle lesson in kindness is woven in without overwhelming the young readers.

The making of A Bit Lost/Little Owl Lost and Shh! We Have a Plan are certainly enlightening. The thought and effort that went into each of these books is staggering.


by Antoinette Portis

After This is Not a Box and This is Not a Stick, it is hard to think of anything that could be better, but Ms. Portis has done it again. With spare words and delightful illustrations, the book is a wonderful read for the 2 and 3 year olds.

A little brown bird is tired of singing the same old song. We all know the familiar bird calls. Caw. Coo. Chip. Peep. And those four are the only words that the birds say. All birds, except, our little brown bird, who is tired of singing her assigned birdsong. So, she starts a trend of saying the most bizarre things. Slowly other birds follow suit. All except Crow who steadfastly sticks to his Caw. Does he get adventurous? What is Crow's new song?

Stick and Stone 

by Beth Ferry
illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

The illustrations captured the kid, even if the story was quite simplistic.

It's all about how the genial-looking roundish rock, aka Stone, and comical lonely branch, aka Stick, meet and become friends and help each other out.

Spare words and relatable situation makes it perfect for younger kids.

A Perfectly Messed-up Story
by Patrick McDonnell

Interactive books , like Press Here by HervĂ© Tullet, invite the young readers to respond to the book in a specific way. It might work, it might fail, depends on the kid willingly participating.

Much like Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite by Nick Bromley illustrated by  Nicola O'Byrne, little Louie in this book can't seem to have things just so. Perfection eludes his story. In the end, he realizes his story is just right, imperfections and all.

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend

By Dan Santat

The idea that a friend from the imaginary world awaits to be picked and paired with the imaginer (it's a word, as of now!) is interesting. The story itself was rather uneventful, not much to get the kid excited enough for a repeat read, but it was refreshing enough to enjoy the first and only read.


By Lizi Boyd

The illustrations needed no words, the book is a perfect bedtime companion.

Wordless for the most part, the book capitalizes on nocturnal goings-on in a verdant environment where curious critters go about their business until our protagonist shows up.

What's in the dark is just as interesting as what's in the beam of light. With just a few tools, the protagonist is exploring with the curiousness only a kid can muster.

The twist at the end, plus the details tucked into each page, kept the 7 year old reading the book a few times to catch it all.

I Don't Want to Be A Frog

by Dev Petty
illustrated by Mike Boldt

A little frog doesn't want to be a frog because he doesn't like the frog-like things he is supposed to like. He doesn't like being wet, so he wants to be a cat who we all know can't stand getting wet.  He wants to be a rabbit because he can hop... and so it goes.

Each time, the parent shoots the idea down by simply reasoning that, "you are a frog." And the little frog simply does not like being a wet, slimy thing.

However, as is the only way such stories can end, frog ends up being happy because he is not wolf-food as wolves don't prefer wet, slimy things.

This Is Not My Hat

By Jon Klassen

Klassen's unique brand of humor and style of illustrations are sublime, where the reader is in on the joke, and the characters have these perfect eyes that convey so much despite their deadpan expressions. However, this book was a bit of a disappointment in terms of content/story.

A little fish steals a hat from a big fish and tells us about it at the beginning, confident that he won't get caught. Of course, he gets caught in the end, but it is not transparent. Sometimes, open-ended stories allow the kids to imagine their favorite ending. But, this was too ambiguous and yet a bit too limited.

Did the big fish eat the little fish and get the hat back? Why did the little fish steal in the first place? Why couldn't he have just asked to borrow that hat if he liked it so much? Why was he sure he won't get caught? These were some things that bothered the kid...

The Book With No Pictures

By B. J. Novak

A bit gimmicky, and probably would not have worked if it wasn't B.J.Novak writing it, the book lacked charm and wit for me, but the kid was laughing his head off the first time he read it.

The book relies on mashing up odd combinations of words and forcing the adult to read them out loud. And sure enough, there are no pictures in this book.

Of course, every time the kid hears "Butt" or "Fart" type words or even made up sounds like "Blarg" or "Blurf" he breaks into convulsive giggles, so, not terribly hard to get him to keel over laughing.

[image source:]

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