5 Compelling Picture Books Worthy of Reading Again and Again
Sponsored by Charlesbridge
Barry Wittenstein | The Children’s Book Review | February 5, 2019
Whatever number of golden age of children’s literature we’re in, it’s a golden supernova. Every year, books are published that feel like they’ve always been around. As if their creators tapped into some mystical, universal spirit for a moment of clarity and spark of creativity. The great ones have the wherewithal to access the universe’s secrets again and again.
Maybe that’s the thread that connects these five. And love.
And by that, I mean I LOVE these five. So much so, I’m envious. Insanely envious! In a good way, of course. Their work inspires me, shows me the possibilities. Out there in the universe.
Written by Jonah Winter
Illustrated by Terry Widener
This was published in 2008, but I just came across it. The subject is a fictional steel town from the 1930s. The sky is always dark; the factories spit out dirt, smoke and fire, and shifts of workers come and go, never stopping. You finish the book, you feel like you need to wash your face and hands.
The free verse and amazing illustrations nail it.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers | May 20, 2008 | ISBN-13: 978-1416940814
Written by Joanne Schwartz
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
Maybe I got a thing for “Towns.” But this town is in Nova Scotia, written from a young boy’s perspective, who daydreams about his father mining under the sea. The contrast between the sun dancing off the sparkling water and the darkness of the miners is stark. The story is quiet, but powerful. And one that keeps resonating long after the final page.
Ages 5-9 | Publisher: Groundwood Books | April 11, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1554988716
Written and illustrated by Raúl Colón
Normally I’m not a huge fan of wordless picture books. I mean, after all, words are my paintbrush. But Imagine! blew my mind. A young boy skateboards through New York City, ending up at the Museum of Modern Art. There, figures from famous paintings jump out of the canvases he’s viewing, joining him in a celebration of life and creativity. Autobiographical.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books | September 11, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1481462730
Written by Linda Bailey
Illustrated by Julia Sarda
This picture book tells the backstory of how Mary Shelley wrote her tale of terror. Who knew that famous poet Lord Byron suggested a contest to see who could write the best ghost story? Like Imagine!, Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein tackles the act of creativity. The story is also about a woman who achieved the unthinkable (!)—creating one of the greatest novels and most enduring monsters of all time.
Ages 5-8 | Publisher: Tundra Books | August 28, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1770495593
Written and Illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein
Written in 2003 about French aerialist Philippe Petit, who in 1974 spent an hour on a tightrope strung between the towers of the World Trade Center. Sometimes he sat, sometimes he laid down, sometimes he walked back and forth as the birds and clouds floated underneath. The book captures the spirit of fun-seeking young Petit. Gerstein won the 2004 Caldecott Medal for his illustrations.
Ages 5-8 | Publisher: Square Fish | April 17, 2007 | ISBN-13: 978-0312368784
About Barry Wittenstein
Barry Wittenstein has tended bar, driven a taxi, worked at CBS Records and CBS News back in the day, spent a decade writing music and lyrics, toiled six years as a web editor and writer for Major League Baseball, and three years as a substitute elementary school teacher. He could be Walter Mitty’s brother.
Barry loves to write narrative nonfiction picture books. He is the author of Waiting for Pumpsie and The Boo-Boos That Changed the World. In 2019, he will publish two more nonfiction picture books—Sonny’s Bridge, about the legendary jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins; and A Place to Land (with illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney) about how Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his “I Have a Dream” speech. He is currently working on a YA novel. He lives in New York City with his wife.
Written by Barry Wittenstein
Illustrated by London Ladd
Publisher’s Synopsis: In 1959 the Boston Red Sox was the last team in the Major Leagues to integrate. But when they call Elijah “Pumpsie” Green up from the minors, Bernard is overjoyed to see a black player on his beloved home team. And, when Pumpsie’s first home game is scheduled, Bernard and his family head to Fenway Park. Bernard is proud of Pumpsie and hopeful that this historic event is the start of great change in America.
This fictionalized account captures the true story of baseball player Pumpsie Green’s rise to the major leagues. The story is a snapshot of the Civil Rights Movement and a great discussion starter about the state of race relations in the United States today.
Praise for WAITING FOR PUMPSIE:
★“A grand slam.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Bernard’s conversational narration creates a warm bond with readers from the get-go, and although Wittenstein and Ladd never sugarcoat instances of racial prejudice, the story’s moments of triumph sound the loudest notes.” —Publishers Weekly
Ages 5-8 | Publisher: Charlesbridge | February 21, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1580895453
Enter for a chance to win a copy of Barry Wittenstein’s Waiting for Pumpsie!
Five (5) winners receive:
- A copy of Waiting for Pumpsie!
Giveaway begins February 5, 2019 at 12:01 A.M. MT and ends March 5, 2019 at 11:59 P.M. MT.
How To Enter
- Complete the entry form below.
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- Five (5) winners receive: A copy of Waiting for Pumpsie
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- Prize courtesy of Charlesbridge
*Header image is from the cover of Waiting for Pumpsie, illustrated by London Ladd.
Barry Wittenstein, author of Waiting for Pumpsie, curated the book list 5 Compelling Picture Books Worthy of Reading Again and Again. Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with Survival.