2004 Picture Books

Some highlights from the picture book front lists:

A Woman For President: The Story of Victoria Woodhull by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Jane Dyer (Walker, 2004). A well-crafted and inspiring picture book biography about the first woman to own a newspaper, speak before Congress, have a seat on the stock exchange, and run for president. Highly recommended. Ages 7-up.

Note: only this past week, I was talking to an education professor about how incredibly few women (and, for that matter, minorities) are on the standards requirements for Texas elementary students. I strongly encourage educators and parents to keep in mind that just because it’s not required to introduce a particular historical figure of note by one’s state doesn’t mean that they can’t make the extra effort. This biography is an excellent step toward balancing against the many biases in the system, and it’s lovely in its own right.

Cesar Si, Se Puede!/Yes, We Can! by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, illustrated by David Diaz (Marshall Cavendish, 2004). Written in eloquent palm poems, this picture-chapter book eloquently illuminates the life of Cesar Chavez, Friend of the Farm Workers and American hero. Ages 7-up. Highly recommended.

Note: in South Austin, a mural of Cesar Chavez on the side of a building was defaced some time ago with gray paint, splashed carelessly across his face and the surrounding landscape. It always made me ache as I drove by, wondering who in the predominately Mexican-American neighborhood would do such a thing. Wondering if it was someone inside or outside of that community. Wondering if they had even known who Chavez was or what his life’s work had meant. Then one day I saw that someone had spray-painted over the gray paint in red. “Viva Cesar!” they wrote. I don’t normally have much patience for folks who get creative with paint on other people’s property. But in this case, I’m willing to make an exception.

The Train Of The States by Peter Sis (Greenwillow, 2004). Sis offers a journey from one state to another with each turn of the page, highlighting the official symbols and related facts for each. A must-buy for every elementary library. Ages 5-up.

Note: the dedication is to twenty-two years in the U.S. and at Greenwillow. The latter, in today’s volatile publishing climate, is stunning.

For those with an interest in English-Spanish bilingual books, surf over to Raven Tree Press, which among other front list titles is featuring My Pal, Victor/Mi amigo, Victor by Diane Gonzales Bertrand, illustrated by Robert L. Sweetland. I’ve already featured Diane quite extensively on my Web site. She is a fellow Texas writer though from San Antonio (not Austin, like me). We often see one another at events like the annual TLA conference. I enjoy her company and admire her stories. They are refreshingly inclusive of middle class Mexican Americans. She’s a great speaker, too.

And some picture books in my In box, which I haven’t yet had a chance to read include: An African Princess by Lyra Edmonds, illustrated by Anne Wilson (Candlewick, 2004); The Groundhog Day Book of Facts and Fun by Wendie Old, illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye (Albert Whitman, 2004); Hana In The Time Of The Tulips by Deborah Noyes, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (Candlewick Press, 2004); Going North by Janice N. Harrington, illustrated Jerome Lagarrigue (FSG, 2004); My Chair by Betsy James, illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma (Arthur A. Levine, 2004); Mary Ann by Betsy James (Dutton, 2004); I Know It’s Autumn by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Nancy Hayashi (HarperCollins, 2004).