The “Storytelling Illustrations” badge is awarded to books with illustrations that exceptionally enrich the story.
As a young girl and her classmates prepare to enter the renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, a posted sign reminds them, “No touching the art.” While the children obediently follow the museum’s rule, they discover during their visit that the artwork on display doesn’t. As her teacher instructs her classmates in front of a work by John Singer Sargent, the girl is glancing at nearby Renoir’s Two Young Girls at the Piano, when suddenly the young pianist looks out from the painting and sticks her tongue out. More interactions continue as van Gogh’s self-portrait places his straw hat on the girl, apples roll from the white table cloth in Cézanne’s still life, and even the teacher is donned with Picasso’s bicorne. In the closing words that bookend the otherwise fittingly wordless tale, the sign from the beginning now reads “The art touches you!” Lozano’s fluid illustrations create a playful, energizing atmosphere where children might otherwise experience a stuffy, dry environment. The opening page showing the girl approaching the magnificent Met conveys awe and magnificence, while Lozano’s versions of the masterpieces within, though immediately recognizable, are presented with a youthful touch, bringing an enchanting appeal sure to pique young readers’ interest in the works and their own trip to an art museum.
Heather’s biggest dream is to live among the stars—she’s a big fan of outer space and hopes that she can somehow signal to the aliens to come pick her up. She uses her flashlight to click on and off out in the forest by her home, and surprisingly succeeds in her efforts as a blast of color lights up the night and an alien ship lands on the forest ground. She makes a new alien friend, but ultimately decides to stay home as her parents worriedly call out to her. As Heather grows through adolescence and adulthood, she tries repeatedly to signal her alien friend back to earth and shares the experience of her alien friend with (at least) her son along the way, showcasing her continued passion to space amongst her family life. One dark night, her alien friend finally returns, and the two fly into the starry sky before returning to Earth to be with her family (who excitedly watch her descent from the UFO). In this intriguing blend of wordless storytelling and actual text, Litchfield impressively uses illustrated panels to move the story along and add a sophisticated comic-book feel. Dazzling illustrations beautifully showcase the expectant girl in the forest, the blossoming friendship between Heather and her alien friend, and the tender moments she shares with her son and family. Explosions of color accompany the UFO’s visits, lighting up both the pages and Heather’s excited face. Overall, the use of storytelling illustrations and fabulous illustrative style make this story shine.
This wordless picture book follows a father and child through a day spent in quality time together on a hike. From the very first page, when the child awakes—eyes open wide with excitement for the day’s planned activity—the illustrations give readers plenty to explore themselves, with the outdoorsy decorations in the child’s room hinting at the child’s passion for the adventure to come. As readers join in on the father and child’s journey out of the suburbs and into the mountains, details continue to abound: vegetation, birds, and even bear tracks (so on each subsequent read through, there will be plenty to explore and marvel at). The close relationship between father and child is evident and inspiring throughout as readers observe their interactions hiking, having a snowball fight once they reach high elevation, and overcoming the child’s fear of crossing a river over a log. Creative perspectives (such as an aerial shot and the reflection in a rear-view mirror) add additional interest to the illustrations, making it feel decidedly fresh. The conservation message shared at the book’s climax—the act of planting a tree together (which is reemphasized by end material)—is enhanced by the charming parent-child relationship on full display.
Clement C. Moore’s classic poem is given an infusion of modern warmth in this new, spectacularly-illustrated edition. Featuring four families and one miniature Santa Claus, Long cyclically transports the reader and familiar text to display each family’s Christmas Eve preparations with illustrations that are a beautiful blend of nostalgia and modernism. The diversity of the four families picture extends beyond racial diversity to also showcase religious diversity, socio-economic diversity and— most prevalently—home and location diversity in a masterstroke that provides children around the world an opportunity to see an aspect of their own holiday celebrations as they read rather than requiring them to compare their own traditions to the traditional ideal. From a country home to a city apartment to a trailer park to the tropics, there are a host of details to delight and inspire investigation—different treats (key lime pie), decorations (a drawn paper fireplace), ornaments, creches (and a dog menorah!), tree sizes, and colors, etc.
From the very beginning, Adrian Simcox is set apart from his lavendar and aubergine classmates by his bright orange hair and shirt. Actually two shirts, which careful readers will discover he alternates wearing, although his peers cycle through a far greater assortment of delightfully-detailed and unique clothing. Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse tackles the very complex themes of poverty and judgement in a tender way directed at children (but still absolutely compelling for adults) that prods at the very core of the soul, bound to elicit empathy in all and tears in some. The initially self-righteous Chloe can at first only see the situation through a very narrow lens. She picks up on the elements of poverty visible to children at school—free lunch and holes in Adrian’s shoes—and is so focused on the literal truth that Adrian Simcox cannot possibly own a horse that she misses the broader truth until aided there by a loving guide: her mother. The mother in this story is particularly laudable for the way she doesn’t lecture but provides Chloe the opportunity to see the situation for herself and develop empathy. All the while, the mother demonstrates the appropriate way to treat everyone, regardless of their economic circumstances—as equals. While Campbell’s text conjures up images all by itself with vibrant descriptions such as “even though it wasn’t trash day, it looked like it was,” it is their combination with Luyken’s striking illustrations that make this beyond compare. Luyken’s genius use of negative space and background elements, such as foliage, to create Adrian’s horse throughout the book showcases the very real power of imagination. As the horse becomes increasingly apparent as the book progresses, it suggests the importance of positive energy in feeding imagination. The seeming abruptness of the ending is slightly jarring, but adds to the force of emotion that gives this story its power for change in the hearts and minds of its readers.
The story begins with the opening endpapers as Grandpa starts to pull into the driveway with his pick-up truck, balloons filling the cab and a bow-bedecked red toolbox riding in the bed. It doesn’t end until the final endpapers, where readers can observe the physical transformation of the boy’s backyard (and the neighborhood!) mirroring the transformation of the little boy’s attitude towards the gift and his grandpa. Although the little boy, who remains nameless throughout the story, hopes for a doll-house for his birthday (a challenge of gender stereotypes), he grudgingly practices good manners (with a few eye-rolls) as he gives the reader instructions on the appropriate way to behave—“be patient,” “compliment Grandpa,” ”give him a hug,” etc. He soon discovers, however, that the toolbox sparks creativity and empowers him not only to create the world’s most magnificent dollhouse that will have both boys and girls clamoring to get a toolbox and build one of their own, but also to help his neighbors, create a community and spend quality time learning with his grandpa, whose teaching style is exemplary and evident throughout the illustrations (e.g. the host of wonky birdhouses built before the final one is complete). With a witty and playful tone, the masterful storytelling allows space for a significant portion of the story to be told through the illustrations. The illustrations themselves are beautiful, executed in bold colors and jam-packed with clever details—the little boys’ initials appear on the toolbox above the grandpa’s, Meyer and Lemon streets crossing on the front endpapers referencing an earlier book by the same creative team, and blueprints for the birdhouse, to name just a few.