A Dickens of a Time: Life Punches and Three Books

The best of times and the worst of times—joy and sorrow—a time of souls joining, souls going, and souls coming—life goes on.

Chuppah for Brad and Jessica's wedding. I assembled the messages written on the leaves by family and friends. It will now be made into a quilt.

Chuppah for Brad and Jessica’s wedding. I assembled the messages written on the leaves by family and friends. It will now be made into a quilt.

I miss you, Mary.

I miss you, Mary.

Books have always helped me navigate life—to find solace, direction, joy, strength, empathy. Can books really do all that?

 

Fletcher's Foot

 

 

When my son’s birthdays involved one digit numbers, he always wanted pirate parties—always. I still buy him pirate socks and pick up pirate books.

This year my son asked for a "cake" for his tortoise. I think my son wants to see if I'll take the bait.

This year my son asked for a “cake” for his tortoise.  I think my son wants to see if I’ll take the bait.

Mem Fox’s Tough Boris, illustrated by Kathryn Brown and published by Houghton Mifflin in 1994, is a textbook (without the boring) example of the picture book ballet. Deceivingly simple text and illustrations that tell half the story dance a pas de deux. (Writers and illustrators, take note.)

This is the kind of book that can convince people they can sit down and write a picture book in a couple of hours—tops. Those people probably also believe a dancer can learn to move gracefully en pointe in the same amount of time. It looks effortless, right?

Tough BorisTough Boris will delight you and your child and touch your hearts. I’ve already used more words to tell you about the book than you’ll find in the story. And I didn’t even mention what a lesson in rhythm the book is for me. (Writers, take note. Just listening to Mem Fox read Hattie and the Fox helped me go back to two of my picture book manuscripts and give them needed punch.)

Dad SaysWhen a Dad Says “I Love You” was written by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell, and published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in 2013.

Do you read Pickles on the comics page? If so, you are probably giving Earl an A for effort as he tries to say the “I love you” words to his adult daughter.

The dads in this picture book have lots of ways to say “I love you”.

Yaqui DelgadoYaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, by Meg Medina and published in 2013, is a young adult book that should make Candlewick Press proud they chose to publish it.

If I said it’s a story about bullying, that would be true. But this diverse book is so much more. For much of the book, Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui Delgado is or why she wants to kick Piddy’s ass. We, the readers, don’t know either.

I’m trying to decide how much to say—not even sure if I should tell you what the book is not. This much is probably okay: The book is not the typical story of taming or beating the bully. Piddy has to look at the way she changes as she tries to deal with the problem of Yaqui Delgado.

Meg Medina’s distinctive voice transcends her specific character to give us a universal every girl. We all have to find how we can stay the person we choose to be while confronting situations or people who beat that person down.

Rabindra Sarkar builds these and takes them down at the end of each day. Different stacks every day. We saw his work at Seaport Village when we were there for a birthday celebration.

Rabindra Sarkar builds these and takes them down at the end of each day. Different stacks every day. We saw his work at Seaport Village when we were there for a birthday celebration.

Which picture books do you know that add up to more than words and pictures of just those words?

First Rocky has to eat her greens.

First Rocky has to eat her greens.

And which books help you deal with life’s challenges? As life goes on . . .

Then she gets dessert.

Then she gets dessert.