Well hello again! It's nice to be back to real life after a WONDERFUL family vacation. Our lives are so busy in the everyday rush of trying to get things accomplished that Hubs and I always feel better when we're able to step back, get away and reconnect. It was a great chance to be together as a family and hopefully make some lasting memories for Sprout. But of course even the best vacations have to end, and truth be told I'm a bit relieved to pick up our normal routine (at least, it will be normal once I catch up on all that email!).
Since I was so crazy busy before we left that I hardly had time to blog, I've got a nice big batch of books I'm bursting to write about, which is perfect timing for this year's 30 Days of Picture Books. I started this feature last November to tie into Picture Book Month: a time of the year when authors, illustrators, reviewers, bloggers, teachers, librarians and aficionados all turn the spotlight on this unique and critical format. It's no secret that we adore picture books, and I can't ever imagine a time when we won't be reading and sharing them. And a big part of our mission here at Sprout's Bookshelf is telling everyone how vital picture books are in the life and development of young children. I honestly believe the saying that "children are made readers on the laps of their parents" (Emilie Buchwald), and picture books are the vehicle that makes that interaction possible. The best thing is, picture books are easily accessible for everyone, parents and kids alike - just check out your library for loads of good stuff!
(Thanks to vacation, we're getting a late start on our 30 Days of Picture Books - but no worries, because you'll still get the full 30 picks, just overlapping into December, okay?)
First up is a book that might not fit exactly into everyone's definition of a picture book. Oh, it's plenty full of illustrations all right, and gorgeous ones at that. But it's also very text-heavy, so it's the kind of picture book that often ends up lurking around in the nonfiction area of the library or bookstore, which doesn't receive near enough love, in my humble opinion. I'm describing Brian Floca's latest wonderwork Locomotive, a title that every train-obsessed child and adult absolutely must lay eyes on, post-haste. Seriously. Sprout was so blown away by this book when we first read it, that he would hardly let me close the cover, and then proceeded to pore over it for at least an hour afterward.
Floca focuses on a rail journey from Omaha to San Francisco, in the summer of 1869. He really knows how to draw readers into the story, making them feel that they are actually on the train themselves. Most of this is accomplished by his spectacular illustrations, which have a photographic feel to them but also capture the humanity of his characters. But the text is also a big part of the immersive experience Locomotive offers. It reads like poetry, in small bursts that match the power of the big engine and the splendor of the landscape depicted. And the design work is fantastic - we love the way the font and type size is varied to emphasize certain portions (the page with the "rickety, rickety, rickety" trestle bridge is a total favorite!).
Locomotive definitely tops the list of the most stunning picture books we've read this year. If you need a gift for a young history or transportation fan this holiday season, look no further than Floca's newest book -- and don't be surprised if you see it on a "best of" list or two this year!
Locomotive by Brian Floca, published by Simon and Schuster