The Picky Reader: Putting Great Books in the Hands of Our Kids

Reading is… Retro?

I’ve just come across three new picture books that are love notes to reading and the physical form of the book. The art and tone of each are different, but there is a strong nostalgic current running through them, which privileges typewritten words on paper over entertainment on screens, etc. Book lovers everywhere will adore these new titles! Check them out.

Mack, Jeff. LOOK! Philomel, 2015.


A gorilla seeks to attract the attention of a little boy watching television. His attempts to juggle three books while riding a tricycle only annoy the boy, but when one of the books falls open, the story hooks the boy, and he and the gorilla snuggle together to read. Cleverly, Jeff Mack relies only on the words “Look” and “Out” for his text. His illustrations include a subtle photo-collage of book artifacts: leather spines, textures pages, ripped bindings. Delightful!


Ackerman, Peter. THE LONELY TYPEWRITER. Illustrated by Max Dalton. David R. Godine, 2014.



“What’s that?” asked Pablo.

“A typewriter,” said his mom.

“A what-writer?”

“A typewriter. It’s what we used before computers.”

“Before computers?!” gasped Pablo. “Where is the screen?”


“Where do you plug it in?”


“What kind of batteries does it use?”


“Then how does it work?”

When Pablo’s computer breaks down, he is forced to type his penguin report on his grandmother’s typewriter, which is gathering dust in the attic. We learn that the typewriter once typed pamphlets for Martin Luther King, Jr., and love notes from Pablo’s mom to his dad. Pablo transitions from skeptic to typewriter enthusiast. As Pablo and his siblings are biracial, the book also provides a chance for mixed-race children to see characters like themselves in print.


Van Biesen, Koen. ROGER IS READING A BOOK. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2015.


This may be my favorite of the three. Roger and Emily live in adjacent apartments. Roger is trying to read, while Emily engages in boisterous activities: banging a bass drum, playing basketball, juggling, etc. But when Roger hand-delivers Emily a book, the two quiet down to read… until the dog’s barking interrupts them. The quirky, movement-filled linear art in this book is divine. And there’s a cheeky surprise on the final endpapers!

 Is there a collective fear that the physical book is in danger of extinction? These picture books fight passionately for its preservation.


4thHolding books for children to the highest standard, Elaine Dimopoulos teaches writing and children’s literature at Boston University and Grub Street. She is also the author of the young adult novel, MATERIAL GIRLS. Find her at or @ElaineDimop.


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