Peculiar Picks are a selection of odd, funny, interesting, curious, moving, irreverent, and otherwise wonderfully awesome, but perhaps not well known, reads. Peculiar Picks are books for younger readers and their grown-ups, handpicked by the Library's Youth Services Manager, Joshua Carlson.
Behind Closed Doors
Today’s Peculiar Picks share a common theme, traveling upwards through a building and discovering who, or what, is behind the doors on each floor. Both books revel in the mystery of closed doors and the curiosity of all people, not just young people, about the inhabitants of those rooms.
Sometimes, for whatever reason, a book just speaks to a child. The Neighbors by Einat Tsarfati is a book that did just that for my daughter. This picture book, translated from Hebrew, is delightfully absurdist. As a young girl makes her way upstairs through her apartment building, she goes past the door of her neighbors that live on that floor and you get a peek inside their apartment. From the international thieves, to the vampire dressmaker, to the huge funky musical family, and on upward to the seventh door behind which the girl lives with her (seemingly) ordinary parents, each apartment is a double-page of visual fun. The text is sparse, but the lavish illustrations draw you in. Plus, in each apartment you have to seek and find the girl’s missing hamster. We read the book over and over because each page provides an opportunity to be actively engaged with the book. We were able to take part in some “dialogic reading,” an important and effective method of engaging a child with a book that is proven to increase language development and early literacy skills. The illustrations were a great starting point for her to create lives for the characters and craft her own stories. She especially loved the family of acrobats, “always looking for ways to improve their act.”
A great picture book to read alongside The Neighbors is There’s a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor. Hawkes’ illustrations have this classic cartoon style – Hergé-esque or as if from a cartoon in The New Yorker. The book provides a glimpse into the very posh, but strange, Sharemore Hotel and its wacky guests, as the exhausted and giant-nosed Mr. Snore ascends each floor simply trying to find a room to get a decent night’s sleep. My daughter was delighted and amused by the increasingly crazy guests and the ultimate sleeping situation resolution for poor, tired Mr. Snore, because the title is no red herring. There is, indeed, a dinosaur on the thirteenth floor.