May 3, 2011
I pulled out a bunch of Cynthia Rylant books. Although they were published over a fairly wide number of years, they all struck me as having a similar structure, being extended poems, some free verse, some rhyming, with little plot or story. Instead they comment on some aspect of the world which Rylant has warm feelings about. I definitely found some of these books more appealing than others. They are all related to her first book, When I Was Young In the Mountains, which also fits this form.
by Cynthia Rylant
illustrated by Lauren Stinger (author/illus. of Winter Is The Warmest Season)
Harcourt, Inc. copyright 2008
Text type—Perpetua; Display type—Monica Dengo
OK. I love snow. Would I have loved this book? Nothing happens. It’s like a longer free verse poem about snow—“The best snow / is the snow that / comes softly in the night, / like a shy friend / afraid to knock, / so she thinks she’ll / just wait in the yard / until you see her….” Or—“And the snow, / while it is here, / reminds us of this: / that nothing lasts forever / except memories.”
The illustrations are beautiful acrylic paintings on 140 Arches with crystal snow flakes and wonderful colors—a controlled palette, but broad.
Cynthia Rylant seems to be able to make picture books out of poems or compose poetic pb’s. Is she a poet and not a storyteller?
Long Night Moon
by Cynthia Rylant
illustrated by Mark Siegel (illustrator of Lisa Wheeler’s Seadogs)
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, copyright 2004
Illustrations in charcoal, pencil, pastel on Arches paper and digital color
Disappointing text for C.R. 12 moons described sweetly. There are 12 ½ lunar months a year. This book perpetuates the myth of nighttime moons and moons fitting calendar months. Too simplified for my taste.
The Stars Will Still Shine
By Cynthia Rylant
Illus. by Tiphanie Beeke
Harper Collins Publishers, copyright 2005
32 pages plus 2 printed pages of end papers—or 40 pp counting end papers.
Simple rhyming poem of reassurance. Warm, colorful, multi-cultural illus. About 1 line of text per page. Could this be published now, in this tight market?
All In A Day
By Cynthia Rylant
Illus. by Nikki McClure
Abrams Books for Young Readers, New York, copyright 2009
Illustrations are cut paper with computer color
Rhyming poem turned into picture book. It is the illustrator’s first book, I believe. She may be a friend of Rylant’s. A disappointingly slight poem about living in the now. I prefer Philip Larkin’s, “Days Are Where We Live.”
From these 4 books I see a pattern in some of Cynthia Rylant’s work, of creating a single poem and stretching it over a picture book length. Of these four books, two work for me and two do not. Snow and The Stars Will Shine have more depth to them and I’m probably just not objective enough to really judge her Long Night Moon.
The OK Book
By Amy Kraus Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
Harper Collins, copyright 2007
Using the letters O & K to create a stick figure, OK, this simple text lists many things that “OK” can do, though not well. It ends, “One day, I’ll grow up to be really excellent at something. I don’t know what it is yet… but I sure am having fun figuring it out.”
Text seems a bit didactic to me. The illus. play on the stick-figure shape of OK and are quite expressive. A very limited, muted palette of black, white, pale blue, mustard yellow, and spring green is pleasing.
I am not grabbed by this book (D.T. says “The OK Book is just OK.”), but it is quite clever and I wonder if certain kids will become enamored with the game of personifying OK.
Written & illus. by James Rumford
Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1998
Illust. Are wc on Arches (with some colored pencil lines)
Beautifully written folk tale of 5 brothers who sail from the Marquesas to Hawaii, using their knowledge of the stars, the waves, the clouds, the wind, and the birds to navigate these uncharted waters.
The story is suspenseful, playful, exciting, and satisfying. The interaction is between Manu, the youngest brother and the 4 older ones, who are portrayed almost as a unit. Without contradicting anything that is known of the discovery of Hawaii, Rumford creates a legend that could be true and attributes the discovery more to adventuresome spirit than to duress—in other words, these explorers seek the unknown for the same reasons Bird and Amundson explored Antarctic.
The wc illustrations are spectacular and highly appropriate for the subject—the sea and sky come alive. I see homage to Homer and Gauguin and maybe Turner in these wonderful paintings. The format is small, but the paintings are monumental.
The text seems long for a picture book, but holds the reader’s attention with it’s strong prose.
Diagonal lines give a sense of rocking sea waves. An afterward describes what is known about these first explorers of the Pacific.
Oscar and the Mooncats
By Lynda Gene Rymond
Illust. By Nicoletta Ceccoli
Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 2007
32 pp + endpapers
text—ITC Golden Cockerel
illust.—mixed media, plasticine, acrylics, and collage and computer graphics
Oscar the cat has a wild night and runs away to the moon. The cow there warns him that he’ll forget his boy if he drinks the cream from the crater. He’ll become a mooncat. Essentially a retelling of Where The Wild Things are, this story doesn’t quite work for me. Computerized graphics are also a bit jarring to the eyes and sometimes clash with the overlaid text.