Thursday, May 19, 2011

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Around graduation time (and believe it or not, the season is almost upon us) we stock up on Dr. Seuss's classic Oh, the Places You'll Go! It's a pretty popular graduation gift, and while the idea of a picture book as a grad gift is really charming, once you see the same book go out the door a certain number of times, you kind of wonder what alternatives everyone's missing out on. This year our graduation display, instead of being just a huge stack of OtPYG, is a wall full of great gift ideas, and I wanted to share them in case anyone wants to get started shopping early. (If you still want to get Seuss, we are totally fine with that. No snooty bookseller looks, I promise. Just take a second glance at these before you make up your mind.)

Knuffle Bunny Free
by Mo Willems
If you've been following and loving the Knuffle Bunny series, this one could make you feel a little weepy. Parents have gone pretty misty after reading this book in the store, and with good reason. Trixie's spent the last couple books getting separated and reunited with the beloved bunny. But in this one, as Trixie gets older, it may be time to let Knuffle Bunny go altogether. A note to Trixie from her dad at the very end is the real tearjerker.

All the World
by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee
This extra large picture book is a fun read-aloud for three- to five-year-olds, but works really well as a graduation gift because of its beautiful art and its simple poetry about the world around us. Seriously, it gives me goosebumps every time I sit and read it through. Maybe because I have a lot of family memories that look like the ones in the book? It opens at the beach:
Rock, stone, pebble, sand
Body, shoulder, arm, hand
A moat to dig,
a shell to keep
All the world is wide and deep
and closes on the line, "All the world is all of us." It's swoony.

by David Ezra Stein
Stein's illustrative style is the kind of simple, splotchy watercolor that keeps surprising you with its expressiveness (Raschka comes to mind as a similar talent). In Pouch!, a little joey named Joey is wanting to leave his mama kangaroo's pouch, but keeps getting scared by the new creatures he meets out in the world. Every time he sees a new animal, he cries out, "POUCH!" as he hops back to mom in full freak-out mode. Finally, he meets another joey, and before they can each run to their mothers, they realize there's nothing to be afraid of. The second-to-last page says they "hop, hop, hop, hoppity-hopped everywhere!" And if you look closely, you can see a mama kangaroo peeking out from behind a tree, looking on with both pride and a little hint of losing-your-kid-to-the-big-wide-world grief. You can see it in her eyebrows, I think. How does he do that?!

by Mélanie Watt
For people who are nervous, shy, scared, or just graduating into a frightening world, Scaredy Squirrel is here for you. He never leaves his tree. His main fears are: "green Martians, killer bees, tarantulas, poison ivy, germs, and sharks" (so we have a lot in common). He even has a first aid kit in case of emergencies. But when he falls out of the tree one day, due to panic from the sudden appearance of a bee, he finds out something fabulous about himself that he never knew.

Other titles that are fun for grads of all ages are: My Book about Me, by Dr. Seuss and Roy McKie; Forever Young, by Bob Dylan and illustrated by Paul Rogers; and President Obama's picture book Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, illustrated by Loren Long.

Non-picture book options for older grads are coming this way soon. Keep in touch.

-Anna, Kids Books

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