The Barnabus Project by the Fan Brothers. 2020. Graphite and colored digitally. Published by Penguin Random House.
Brief summary: Barnabus is a combo of a mouse and an elephant. He lives in a secret lab underneath the Perfect Pets store. Barnabus is one of many failed projects living in bell jars dreaming of the world above thanks to the descriptions of it by a cockroach named Pip. One day Green Rubber Suits come down poking and talking about each creature in a bell jar while putting red stamps on all of the jars…FAIL. Before, they had no idea they were failed lab projects until Pip tells them that they indeed are and that there are better versions of themselves above. The creatures are going to be recycled. Barnabus decides he wants to go up now and see that wonderful world the cockroach tells everyone. All the creatures decide to join Barnabus and their adventures begin with figuring out how to get above. What will they discover?
Comments: I love the imagination and creativity of this book. The Perfect Pets Store is hilarious. Young readers can empathize with the failed projects and the desire of the creatures wanting to escape to live freely in a new world.
The Fan Brothers never fail to share a unique and creative story.
Hum and Swish by Matt Myers; illustrated by Matt Myers. 2019. Acrylic and oil paint. Published by Neal Porter Books.
Brief summary: Jamie explores the beach randomly picking up things to make something in the sand but is unsure what that will be yet. The young girl is asked by several people what she is making but repeatedly answers, ” I don’t know”. Jamie hums as she creates. A painter with an easel sets up near her. They both create and coincide with one another throughout the day. They share their finished art projects with one another.
Comments: I like this quiet book of creating art. This would be a great book for an art teacher to share with the class before a lesson.
Little Wolf’s First Howling by Laura McGee Kvasnosky; illustrated by Kate Harvey Mcgee. 2017. “Color work in Photoshop with a digital palette and brushes.” Published by Candlewick Press.
Brief summary: Little Wolf is excited as he and his father climb up the hill. It will be his first howling when the full moon rises. His father calmly demonstrates the “proper howling form.” Little Wolf has his turn but does not quite sound like his father’s howl. Big Wolf praises but also gives some constructive criticism to his son. Little Wolf tries again adding his own special touches. His father kindly tells his son all of the things he is proud of about him but ends with that he does not have “proper howling form.” He demonstrates for his son again. Little Wolf listens and howls again knowing it was not the form but really wants to howl with his heart. His father joins now in his son’s howling form.
Comments: Big Wolf realizes that this form of howling was something that Little Wolf wanted to be creative with and make his own style. The father wolf does not yell at him or tell him he is not listening. He does not berate him. His father lets him howl in the way that is unique to his son and stops demonstrating the proper technique.
This would be a good book for the art teacher to read that would encourage students to do art with their hearts and not always with the “proper form.” It is important for children to know how to do something properly, but is also good to let them do some things their own way.
(I may get a commission for purchases made through links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program. Books reviewed were checked out of the public library and not sent to me free for review).
What To Do With a Box by Jane Yolen; illustrated by Chris Sheban. 2016. Acrylic, watercolor, and pencil.a
Brief summary: Two children and a dog use their imagination to create all of the fun things they can do and go with a cardboard box.
Comments: This book could be used to foster creativity and imagination. An art teacher could read this to the class and then have students create art projects not only with a box but everyday household items like toilet paper rolls, an empty tissue box, and a water bottle.
A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers; illustrated by Sam Winston. 2016. Watercolor, pencils, digital collage, hand lettered.
Brief summary: A young girl floats over a sea of words to the home of a boy to ask if he would like to play. They go on an adventure using their creativity and imagination with words. Several excerpts from children’s books appear throughout the book shaped in landscapes, creatures, and backgrounds to the two children in contrast to the words of the story which are done in a hand-written style.
Comments: The first line is the best, “I am a child of books. I come from a world of stories.” I had to stop and realize that I was a child of books too.