Archive for the ‘Picturebooks for older readers’ Category


The Middle Passage: White Ships / Black Cargo, Tom Feelings. Dial, 2017, c1995.

You may know Tom Feelings’ The Middle Passage: White Ships / Black Cargo, as it was originally published in 1995. Now there is a newly published edition (released January, 2018), with introductions by Kadir Nelson and Kamili Feelings, and historical note by Dr. Sylviane A. Diouf. The introduction by Tom Feelings from the original 1995 edition remains, where he explains the inspiration and process– more than the art– of creating this wordless book that defies assigning an age level, although it is often recommended for teens. The verso of the title page states the “artwork was rendered using pen and ink and tempra on rice paper,” and “It was printed in tritone using 2 black and one gray, plus a neutral press varnish.” Feelings received the 1996 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for this stunning and powerful series of illustrations. Find a video of this book online, created by Luke Dupuis using cinematic techniques to create a sense of movement, with music (Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, performed by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein) at The Middle Passage.




My Two Blankets, by Irena Kobald, illustrated by Freya Blackwood. HMH, 2015.

Originally published in Australia, this picture storybook is for all ages. A young person is introduced as happy in her country, a place pictured in warm tones of yellows, oranges, and soft browns. But she and her Auntie move to a new country in order to be safe. This country is shown in cool tones of blues, browns, grays, and greens. Everything is different and strange in the new country, including the language. “When I was at home,” she says, “I wrapped myself in a blanket of my own words and sounds.” She creates a metaphor for her original language–her old blanket, which is warm, soft, and comfortable– and the new language, which she calls a “cold waterfall.”  Yet she meets a friend, and begins to learn to the new language, “weaving a new blanket.”  She adds new words, so the new language is comfortable, too. “And now,” she states, “no matter which blanket I use, I will always be me.”

Use this book with anyone who is learning or teaching a new language.



Little Bird, by Germano Zullo and illustrated by Albertine

Little Bird, by Germano Zullo and illustrated by Albertine

It looks like a picture book for very young children, but don’t be fooled! Little Bird speaks to all ages. Embedded here is a quiet message about the little things that make life valuable. To appreciate the book most, take your time perusing the pages. Especially if you are feeling frazzled, this is the antidote to the “must do more” sense that drives us to exhaustion. The story is presented in spare text by Germano Zullo, and expressive but minimalist art by his wife, Albertine. Treat yourself to this emotional uplift.

No, not a suntan . . . Shaun Tan. I was immediately mesmerized by Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, his wordless book published in the U.S. in 2007, and it has been announced that The Bird King and Other Sketches, featuring Tan’s art and reflections, will be published by Scholastic/Levine in spring 2013. Tan is a native of Australia, and The Bird King was originally published there, as well as in Germany and the UK, so it will be a treat to have it accessible in the United States. Tan’s father was a Chinese immigrant to Australia, and The Arrival is a wordless fantasy, recommended for grades 7 and up, which speaks to immigration and the fears and trepidations as well as joys of such a significant experience. Shaun Tan has several other books, such as postmodern picture books and short stories (which he illustrated, of course), and now to have a peek into his sketchbook with The Bird King is certainly something to anticipate. His website, which can be found here, is also fascinating.

The Arrival, by Shaun Tan

The Bird King, by Shaun Tan