Nothing like being wiped out by a bad head cold. I took advantage of the unexpected extra time today to plow through my to-be-read pile of picture books. Lucky me--I came across a trio of winners.
Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson, illus. by Kadir Nelson
Jackie should need no introduction, tells a story from her childhood that focuses on her father's courage--but doesn't involve baseball. Jackie Robinson has moved his young family to the Connecticut countryside. The children pass the summer playing with their neighbors and swimming in the lake on their property. When winter comes, and the children want to ice skate on the frozen lake, Jackie Robinson, now gray-haired and retired, tests the ice. The significance of the anecdote, which astute readers will have realized, is that Jackie Robinson cannot swim. He has methodically stayed out of the water throughout the summer, but now ventures onto the frozen surface ahead of the children. The bravery and self-sacrifice of this act is equated by Sharon Robinson with his initial breaking of the color barrier--tesing the social ice and leading the way for those who would follow behind him. And for the most part, the analogy works. The point is unnecessarily hammered home by a coda at the end of the story, even though the words, "All I could think was: My dad is the bravest man alive," which wraps up the narrative part of the book, would have sufficed. Illustrations by the inimitable Kadir Nelson, whose work is so richly rendered that he really could grace any project (as is evidenced by his contributions to the Spike Lee books) compliment this touching, personal story.
Big Rabbit's Bad Moon by Ramona Badescu, illus by Delphne Durand
Here Comes the Garbage Barge! by Jonah Winter, illus. by Red Nose Studio
sorry saga of the barge Mobro 4000, which set sail from Islip, NY on March 22, 1987, hauling nearly 32,000 tons of garbage, would be comical if it wasn't so disgusting. And Winter does, indeed, use a good deal of humor in the telling of the story. Curt dismissals by outraged residents at each port, regional accents, and an increasingly frazzled barge captain keep the mood of the story light and not at all heavy handed. That humor is also reflected in the hand-built 3D sets used to illustrate the book. Sets, incidentally, which were made out of recycled materials. And they made them, like this:
All in all, a rewarding way to spend a sick day.