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  • katymulvaney

2023 Bracket: The First Ten Days

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

This year, my plan is to document my reading here on this blog. In an attempt to make it unnecessarily weird and competitive, I decided that every time I read 16 books, I will make a tournament bracket and rank them.

First time out, this was as painful and difficult and weird as you'd expect. But I'm going to do it anyway?

So, in the first 10 days of 2023, I read 16 books. Yes, I'm incorrigible. Yes, they were mostly picturebooks. In fact, most of them were read in one evening with a lovely friend who runs BooksandQuestions here. We hunkered down in the Simmons Book Nook, where grad students can read books as they come in (sometimes before official release!) and had a joyful party reading.


5.0 (my review on Storygraph)

At first glance, it appears like this book is going to be an Issue Picture Book, but in the way of all the best parables, it could speak to a number of different issues kids face: bullying, gender play, depression, sadness, and just simple change. The message is community and care. It is also an antidote to that Rainbow Fish book where the message is to cut off pieces of yourself to make other people feel better. Yikes. In contrast, the Boy With Flowers in His Hair is loved and supported by his community, not just when his flowers are beautiful, but also when they wither with winter and he needs extra care. The illustrations are beautiful and understated, and their simplicity makes them all the more precious.

Runner Up:

4.75 (my review on Storygraph)

This picturebook does two of my favorite things that only picturebooks can do. It is wordless, with the story told entirely from the images of an owl family and a bat family trying to negotiate how to share the same tree branch. The images are sweet and just detailed enough to show the mothers' going into panic mode when one of their children takes an interest in the "other" family using the branch so differently than them. And the book encourages readers to flip it repeatedly -- to look from both the "right side up" owl perspective and the "upside down" bat perspective. It's fun and important lesson mixed together.


I can't believe these didn't win...

Yes, I know I'm the one who did the rankings. I was there. But even I can't believe these match-ups didn't belong to the eventual winner of my self-imposed torture bracket.

This was probably the hardest bracket of the entire tournament, and I'm putting these in the final yearly showdown to try again. It's just a tough draw, sometimes.

5.0 (my review on Storygraph)

The story is simple but dear in this Christmas book, but the illustrations of the fox won me entirely. Despite the simple block colors in most of the book, the small white fox feels as alive as the most realistic drawing. Perhaps more so, since the mind fill in so many details. Speaking of details, all of them in this book are perfect. A careful reader will see evidence of Santa's affection for the fox growing when they notice how many "toy foxes" Santa is making or spot the photograph of Santa and the Fox beside his chair. Seeing the little fox be so loved after being so alone is a beautiful holiday message, but I particularly like it because it is a quiet and even lonely book. So many are lonely this time of year, and this is a book about it being okay to have just one person, one home, to count on. For so many people, that is enough.

5.0 (my review on Storygraph)

I love a dark fable and a picturebook for older readers, and this delivers both. The generational weight implied by the rhythmic warning adds dimension. The illustrations are complex and intriguing and would almost tell the story without the narration at all. That said, it feels important to have the narrator's voice, and they are achingly rendered, their complex emotion and the mysterious situation told in spare but powerful text. A gorgeous piece of work.

LORDY, this one also hurt! But the two illustrators coming together and blending styles I've loved individually...just too perfect. But that fox! Cutest thing in the world!

4.75 (my review on Storygraph)

The text is sweet, but it's the blend of illustration styles of the illustrators that makes this tale of best friendship feel priceless. The two illustrators, best friends themselves, find a way for their very different (but award-worthy) styles to fit together seamlessly but remain recognizably their own. It is a tribute to friendships and the meta-story only makes it more precious.

Why Did I Do This To Myself?!

How quickly three of my favorites edged each other out!

And then The Boy With Flowers in His Hair defeats them all!

So much drama I have created for myself!


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