The kid and I left the crappy Maisy book at the library the other day, but we brought home two books, one decent and one great. To choose them, I made a stack of six books we read or flipped through or knew, then I told the kid she could pick two to check out.
First, the Truck Song, written in 1987 by Dianne Siebert is, as the suspiciously upbeat Amazon commenter says, "a beautifully-written tribute to interstate-trucking". It's got four to the floor in the rhyming department, good buddy, which entertains the kid, but frankly, I got it for Byron Barton's unadorned illustrations; he paints everything as crisp, flat fields of color, and it still looks very fresh. It's more naturalistic than the line drawn style of his own books, somewhere between Alex Katz and early David Salle, but without the creepy ennui.
And since we spent Memorial Day weekend on the road, playing marathon rounds of truckspotting, the kid was primed for a good truck book.
Truck Song is available in paperback for as little as $1 on Amazon, but the in-print version originally included a cassette, which is either a must-have or must-avoid, there's no middle ground.
The real score, though, was from an unsurprising source, Leo Lionni. Lionni's the thinking man's Eric Carle [or is Carle the grumpy, curmudgeonly egotist's Lionni? It's hard to keep them straight. Just remember: Carle's the one who named the museum for the whole field of children's illustration after himself.]
Anyway, I picked up Little Blue & Little Yellow as an antidote to Maisy, and wow, unplug the TV. The kid was transfixed, she got to learn about mixing colors, but the amazing part was how effective the story was. I mean, it just doesn't seem possible that you could make someone care about ripped blobs of paper using only five words/page.
When we brought it home, and the kid showed it to my wife, we had a whole other Lionni epiphany. Turns out the French version, Petit-Bleu et Petit-Jaune, was a staple of her 3rd grade French class, and she began reciting it immediately.
The school tradition was to perform it as a play, with a lot of colorful leotards and many dancing interludes. Since I never went to girl's school, and my leotard phase was only those few weeks sophomore year [it took me until 1998 to finally round up and destroy the last photo evidence], I had no idea about this book's cultural importance. I just liked Swimmy when I was little. Which is not in the library, for some inexplicable reason.