Category Archives: children’s books

The Best Children’s Books of 2016


From love to mortality to the lives of Einstein and Louise Bourgeois, by way of silence and the color of the wind. In his meditation on the three ways of writing for children and the key to authenticity in all writing, C.S. Lewis admonished against treating children, in literature or life, as “a strange species whose habits you have ‘made up’ like an anthropologist or a commercial traveller.” A generation earlier, J.R.R. Tolkien expressed the same sentiment in his timeless insistence on why there is no such thing as writing “for children.” And a generation later, Maurice Sendak, perhaps the most beloved creator of so-called “children’s” books in our own era, scoffed in his final interview: “I don’t write for children. I write — and somebody…

Source: Brain Pickings

The Best Children’s Books of 2016

We Found a Hat: Jon Klassen’s Minimalist, Maximally Wonderful Parable of Transforming Covetousness into Generosity and Justice


“We found a hat. We found it together. But there is only one hat. And there are two of us.” “If you perceive the universe as being a universe of abundance, then it will be. If you think of the universe as one of scarcity, then it will be,” legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser observed in his conversation with Debbie Millman. One might say that it is difficult, perhaps even delusional, to elect perception over the hard facts of physical reality — after all, if there is only one apple in front of you, how could you perceive your way to having two? And yet the great physicist David Bohm, a scientist grounded in the fundamental building blocks of physical reality, articulated a parallel truth in…

Source: Brain Pickings

We Found a Hat: Jon Klassen’s Minimalist, Maximally Wonderful Parable of Transforming Covetousness into Generosity and Justice

The Greatest Science Books of 2016


From the sound of spacetime to time travel to the microbiome, by way of polar bears, dogs, and trees. I have long believed that E.B. White’s abiding wisdom on children’s books — “Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down.” — is equally true of science books. The question of what makes a great book of any kind is, of course, a slippery one, but I recently endeavored to synthesize my intuitive system for assessing science books that write up to the reader in a taxonomy of explanation, elucidation, and enchantment. Gathered here are exceptional books that accomplish at least two of the three, assembled in the spirit of my annual best-of reading lists, which I…

Source: Brain Pickings

The Greatest Science Books of 2016

A Voyage in the Clouds: The Heartening Illustrated Story of the First International Flight in 1785


How a Frenchman, an Englishman, a French bulldog named Henri, and an English bulldog named Henry overcame their differences to conquer the skies. “I am finished with the Earth. From now on our place is in the sky!” So proclaimed Dr. Alexander Charles in December of 1783 as he landed from the first manned balloon flight before a stunned Benjamin Franklin. A little more than a year later, two men — Dr. John Jeffries, a Boston-born Englishman who funded balloon expeditions but lacked experience flying, and Jean-Pierre Blanchard, his seasoned French pilot — would bridge the sky and the fragmented Earth in the first international fight by crossing the English Channel in a hot air balloon. On January 7, 1785, Blanchard and Jeffries boarded their balloon…

Source: Brain Pickings

A Voyage in the Clouds: The Heartening Illustrated Story of the First International Flight in 1785

Preaching to the Chickens: How Civil Rights Legend John Lewis’s Humble Childhood Incubated His Heroic Life


The unlikely pen that furnished a revolutionary talent for words that move and mobilize mind, body, and spirit. Civil rights icon and nonviolent resistance leader John Lewis (b. February 21, 1940) is rightly celebrated as a true “healer of the heart of democracy.” He is also a testament to how the humblest beginnings can produce lives of towering heroism. Long before Congressman Lewis became a key figure in ending racial segregation in America, little John was one of nine siblings living on the family’s farm in southern Alabama. It was in that unlikely environment, heavy with labor and love, that young Lewis found his voice as a leader. Writer Jabari Asim and illustrator E.B. Lewis tell the improbable and inspiring origin story of this largehearted legend…

Source: Brain Pickings

Preaching to the Chickens: How Civil Rights Legend John Lewis’s Humble Childhood Incubated His Heroic Life

This Is Not a Picture Book: An Irreverent Illustrated Ode to Why We Read

Source:
Brain Pickings



Excerpt:
““The object we call a book is not the real book, but its potential, like a musical score or seed,” Rebecca Solnit wrote in her beautiful meditation on why we read and write. And yet while the seed may be fertilized by the reader’s imagination, the soil is tilled by the simple practical act of deciphering small marks on a page or screen and wresting from them meaning. Despite Hermann Hesse’s exquisite case for why the highest form of reading is non-reading, we can only non-read after we read — the willingness for reading is the seedbed of whatever potential the book may release in us. But today, as the “aesthetic consumerism” of visual culture is displacing the contemplative intimacy of the written word, with nuanced…”

This Is Not a Picture Book: An Irreverent Illustrated Ode to Why We Read

The Polar Bear: An Empathic Illustrated Invitation into the World of One of Our Planet’s Most Vulnerable Creatures

Source:
Brain Pickings



Excerpt:
“A largehearted celebration of the science behind the life and times of the Arctic’s furry monarch. “In wildness is the preservation of the world,” Thoreau wrote 150 years ago in his ode to the spirit of sauntering. But in a world increasingly unwild, where we are in touch with nature only occasionally and only in fragments, how are we to nurture the preservation of our Pale Blue Dot? That’s what London-based illustrator and Sendak Fellow Jenni Desmond explores in The Polar Bear (public library) — the follow-up to Desmond’s serenade to the science and life of Earth’s largest-hearted creature, The Blue Whale, which was among the best science books of 2015. The story follows a little girl who, in a delightful meta-touch, pulls this very book…”

The Polar Bear: An Empathic Illustrated Invitation into the World of One of Our Planet’s Most Vulnerable Creatures

Chirri & Chirra: A Japanese Parallel Love Letter to the Natural World and the Whimsical World

Source:
Brain Pickings



Excerpt:
“A vital and vitalizing reminder that sweetness, kindness, and goodwill are irrepressibly alive in the wilderness of the human spirit, though we might sometimes get lost in the forest before rediscovering them. “Two girls discover the secret of life on a sudden line of poetry,” Denise Levertov wrote in her stunning 1964 poem “The Secret.” Somewhere in the world, two girls are always discovering the secret of life, as are the twin protagonists in the poetic and largehearted Chirri & Chirra (public library) by Japanese children’s book virtuoso Kaya Doi. Although prolific and beloved in Japan, Doi’s work has been slow to migrate West — in no small part because her vibrant yet delicate illustrations demand a special attentiveness to color and paper quality, impossible to…”

Chirri & Chirra: A Japanese Parallel Love Letter to the Natural World and the Whimsical World

The Day I Became a Bird: A Tender Illustrated Parable of Falling in Love and Learning to Unmask Our True Selves

Source:
Brain Pickings



Excerpt:
“Imaginative assurance that we are worthy of love just as we are. In what remains the greatest definition of love, Tom Stoppard described the real thing as “knowledge of each other, not of the flesh but through the flesh, knowledge of self, the real him, the real her, in extremis, the mask slipped from the face.” And yet the grandest paradox of love — the source of its necessary frustration, the root of the inescapable lover’s sulk — is our insistence on crafting and putting on ever more elaborate masks under the mistaken belief that these idealized selves, presented to the object of our infatuation, would render us more desirable and worthier of love. We tuck our messy real selves behind polished veneers, orchestrate grand gestures,…”

The Day I Became a Bird: A Tender Illustrated Parable of Falling in Love and Learning to Unmask Our True Selves