5. Ice by Arthur Geisert [Enchanted Lion | Grades K-3]
Lots of books create worlds out of thin air, but few are as painstakingly believable as those that spring from the mind of Arthur Geisert. Which is saying something, because his characters are often of the non-human variety. In this installment of the wonderful Books Without Words series, Geisert takes readers to a remote island inhabited by a band of industrious pigs. Every element of their survival has been meticulously well-planned, from shelter to food supply. But nothing matches the creativity and thrill of how this tribe gets its water. A picture book that feels like a peek into a never-before-seen culture. No words necessary.
4. Press Here by Herve Tullet [Chronicle | Grades PreK-2]
Score one for the Luddites. The most effectively interactive book of the year doesn’t need batteries or some lame bumper guard. The genius of this book is it’s simplicity. An off-screen narrator engages the reader to press, rub, shake, tilt, and blow a variety of multicolored dots. Each action causes a reaction when the reader turns the page. Hurve Tullett is a bonafied creative genius, and this book only adds to his legend. Luddites won’t be the only ones cheering Press Here.
3. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen [Candlewick Press | Grades 1-3]
Oh, goodie! It’s time to discuss I Want My Hat Back. The thirty-two page picture book that caused folks to take sides and tweet, “Are you on #TeamBear or #TeamRabbit?” Twibbons were created, hats sewn, and very opinionated blog posts were tweeted, facebooked, and emailed. Some people decided not to join either camp and formed #TeamSquirrel and #TeamTurtle. When was the last time a picture book caused such strong reactions and side-taking?
Reading I Want My Hat Back feels like you’re playing the detective game Clue. Who took Bear’s favorite hat? Was it the friendly frog? The determined turtle? The loquacious rabbit? The confused armadillo? Can Bear trust any of the forest critters? Will he ever get his red hat back? The intense and surprising conclusion will leave some kids speechless.
2. Melvin and the Boy by Lauren Castillo [Henry Holt | Grades PreK-2]
It takes real skill to create a book as quietly successful as Lauren Castillo’s 2011 story of companionship found and given away. The text is wonderfully economic – not a word out of place. The illustrations are beautifully rendered in acetone transfer with markers and watercolor – a technique that stands out from the crowd. And the theme of letting go of the things you love, because you love them, is handled in a way that children will understand. Compassion doesn’t get more uncomplicated than this.
1. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick [Scholastic | Grades 4-7]
Brian Selznick is a visionary. I never thought he could top his innovative, brilliant Caldecott-winner The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Well, guess what, ladies and gentlemen? Wonderstruck manages that feat. Selznick works as author, illustrator, and magician as he weaves the stories of Ben and Rose into one masterful tale. The stories take place 50 years apart – one told through intricate black and white pencil illustrations, the other through text. Readers will gasp at the ending and wonder HOW Selznick pulled off this masterpiece. It seems nothing short of magic. Selznick has given us a gift – that rare reading experience you are certain cannot be duplicated. Our top children’s book of 2011.
-John Schumacher & Travis Jonker