Kenneth Kraegel is shooting to the top of my favorites scale. I’ve always had his King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson on my list. And now there’s the triumph of Green Pants!
What is it about Kevin’s style and sensibility that I like so much? Hmm. There’s a special, simple charm in his characters’ expressions, and I kind of love their bendy, noodle-like, exuberant movements. I just heard an interview with him where he talks about including a lot of foliage in his books—to add a sense of natural wonder—even if they’re set in an urban environment. It’s true! Many pages in Green Pants are edged with soft green-and-yellow leaves in geometric patterns, all meticulously hand drawn. I feel the work, thought, and care that went into making this book.
Both Green Pants by Kenneth Kraegel and Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall have got that “je ne se quoi” that makes me fall head over heels for a book. I happened to come across them both in my local library, on the same trip. Both books have got a LOT going for them and a lot in common…and both are going into my mentor-text file.
- Both books are deeply thoughtful and designed to help kids manage strong emotions—in one case, the jumbled desire and anxiety that comes with jumping off a diving board; in the other case, the condition of being inflexibly attached to a beloved object.
- At the same time, these stories are fun and realistic and sprinkled with gentle humor. Overall, they just have a great, even tone that takes the reader on a smooth journey.
- Both books represent children of color, and do it seamlessly, without any sense of it being forced in order to satisfy the marketplace.
- What I admire most is the way these authors incorporate watchful, caring parents into the stories, yet maintain an utterly true and respectful child’s-eye-view. Sophie’s Squash does it. And one of my all-time-favorite un-sung stories--The Queen of France—does it. There’s nothing easy about including parents in a picture book, and I really admire what Cornwall and Kraegel have achieved here.
- Finally, these books are great for boys! They help kids understand strong emotions…AND succeed at being super-appealing to male readers.
I’m glad these charming books are on the shelves. They have a lot of heart and delight to offer their young readers.