Open Sesame: New Picture Books by Carle & Henkes

Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

A Pair of Irresistible New Picture Books
By Two Masters of the Craft

The Nonsense Show is the newest picture book from beloved author and illustrator, Eric Carle. The master of picture book art uses his iconic tissue paper collage to create delightfully absurd images, introducing kids to surrealism, the avant-garde movement of the early 20th century, which sought to unleash the wild imagination of the unconscious mind. Carle does not teach the concept of surrealism, rather he allows kids to experience it firsthand through his whimsical interplay of the expected and unexpected. From the cover image of a yellow duck emerging from a peeled banana and the title page with a deer sprouting a rack of flowers, to an irresistible invitation – “Welcome, friends!/ Don’t be slow./Step right up to/ The Nonsense Show!” – the crazy is contagious. Young readers will rush the stage to see the rabbit magician pull a small boy out of a top hat. In vivid color and rhyming text, a parade of illogical juxtapositions, such as a bird flying underwater, a fish swimming in a birdcage, a child in a kangaroo’s pouch, and a girl playing tennis with an apple, stretch the imagination and twist the mind. Kids will laugh out loud at the ridiculousness while pondering the possibility of the preposterous. Carle understands the inner world of children, their innate creative freedom, their penchant for play, and their ease with the silly, the strange, and the surreal. And he translates this through incomparable style and artistic genius. At 86 years old, he continues to be an innovator of the picture book and a ringmaster of entertainment. Nonsense lovers of all ages will want a first row seat at this show.

  • The Nonsense Show by Eric Carle. Published by Philomel Books, 2015. ISBN: 978-0-399-17687-6

Waiting is new work from multi-talented author and illustrator, Kevin Henkes. His tender and elegant picture book portrays the lives of five toys who spend their days on a windowsill, waiting. An owl with spots waiting for the moon, a pig with an umbrella waiting for rain, a bear with a kite waiting for wind, a puppy on a sled waiting for snow, and a rabbit with stars waiting, just because. The friends exude quiet wonder and amazement at the curious changes and seasonal transitions unfolding beyond the window, their range of emotions wonderfully articulated through body language and facial expression. Neither lonely nor sad, these toys are at peace, content. Their waiting is organic and full of joyful expectancy. And in all this happiness, a new toy joins them on the windowsill – a cat with patches. She, too, is waiting. Her special surprise will grow their little group of friends to ten. As they all gaze out the window together on the last page, dozens of butterflies flit around a blossoming branch, and readers of any age will realize waiting is not wasting time, but an opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of the present moment. Beautifully designed in a nice, large size, which is perfect for lap reading, this book is instantly inviting and totally irresistible. Simple, clear text works effortlessly with the pictures. And the soft, vintage color tones on cream paper with generous amounts of open space invite readers to slow down and sink into what already feels like a timeless classic.

  • Waiting by Kevin Henkes. Published by Greenwillow Books, 2015. ISBN: 978-0-06-236843-0


Cheli Mennella

Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.

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