Drawn Together (Minh Lê & Dan Santat)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Drawn Together, written by Minh Lê and illustrated by Dan Santat, a heartwarming family tale of language, culture, and love.

The story opens in largely silent comic book-style panels, as we see a boy being dropped off for a visit with his grandfather. Lacking a common language, the two have difficulty connecting, creating a quiet distance… until the boy takes out his art set and begins to draw. Finally finding a commonality, the grandfather produces a paint-and-ink set, and begins to draw as well – and just like that, the conversation can begin. The two have different art styles (the boy’s is modern, brash, and colorful; the grandfathers is more mature, intricately detailed, and traditional), but their respective heroes still find a way to come together and defeat the dragon that separates them, leaving a connection stronger than words can describe.

This was a widely loved book this years and it’s easy to see why: Lê and Santat have crafted a heartwarming, relatable, exciting, and visually stunning tale. Each detail works perfectly, from the visual indications of how different the two characters are (down to the meals they eat), the intentionally spare text until their art begins a deeper story, and the jaw-dropping way that the illustrations beautifully explore two very different styles of art, then seamlessly merge them. It’s a beautiful message about finding connection, the value of elders and cultural tradition, and a lesson in the idea that love can be expressed in many ways. The length was great, JJ loved the art, and this one is Baby Bookworm approved!

Big Machines: The Story Of Virginia Lee Burton (Sherri Duskey Rinker)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Big Machines: The Story Of Virginia Lee Burton, written by our friend Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by John Rocco, a sweet picture book biography of the classic children’s author and illustrator that explores her life, work, and inspiration.

Virginia Lee Burton was known by the residents in her town of Folly Cove as a beautiful, charming, and talented woman. She could dance, grew beautiful flowers, and was a skilled artist and designer. “Jinnee,” would draw beautiful illustrations that made the seasons change, or brought heroes and horses and dinosaurs to life. But her very favorite thing to draw was that which her sons, Ari and Michael, loved best: the big machines. For them, she drew trains, diggers, cable cars, and snow plows, bringing them to life from nothingness and giving them names and personalities that filled her sons with delight. She told inspiring stories with her big machines about kindness, friendship, and loyalty, and she shared these stories with the children of the world, creating a collection of children’s books that are still beloved today.

This was such a warm, sweet story, and I adored it. Burton was very ahead of her time, being a female mid-century author/illustrator who insisted on complete creative control, writing books about heavy machinery that included female protagonists. It was fun learning more about her process and sons; these, in fact, make the book as much a look at Burton herself as it is a celebration of the creative arts and a mother’s love for her children, and gives the story miles of heart. The art is gorgeous, bringing Burton and her work to life with soft, fanciful illustrations that draws the reader into Jinnee’s imagination. The length is good, and JJ enjoyed it, so this one is definitely Baby Bookworm approved!