From the time we first enter this world, until we exit, we are, by tiny steps or great leaps, a growing part of a glorious whole. Whether we act alone, or with others, we are striving to not only find our place in society, but to help others find their place. We protect. We preserve.
If the last few years, specifically this year, have taught us nothing else, from this collection of days we know to take nothing for granted. We know deep gratitude. We know we cannot be silent, except when it is necessary to fuel our determined actions.
Within the last two months four special books with a common theme have been released. Each provides us with information, guidance, and inspiration. They, individually and together, work as a means for discussions. V Is For Voting (Henry Holt And Company, July 21, 2020) written by Kate Farrell with illustrations by Caitlin Kuhwald is an alphabet book designed to explain how each individual can make a difference. It's an invitation we cannot refuse.
A is for active participation.
B is for building a more equal nation.
The next two letters focus on citizenship and our diversity. It is followed by the need for all of us to be involved. It is important to keep informed by a free press. Our government is not only about leading the people but offering guidance. H speaks to the truth of lands lost to occupation.
Each person has a purpose, beginning in our communities. As we pass the middle of the alphabet, we are reminded that each vote is important. We cannot forget those who paved the way for a better life for future generations.
We need to have goals and stick to those goals, even if it means protesting. We need to seek answers to our questions and hold those who represent us accountable. Education by
gives us facts, and the ability to gather additional facts.
Each time we vote, we are gaining ground toward change for the good. Each time we vote, we exercise our rights. Each time we vote, our voice is heard.
The strength of each statement for each letter is like a symphony building toward a crescendo. Kate Farrell increases our participation in her narrative by rhyming the final word in each pair of letters. Sometimes, she will add another short sentence to the first to fashion the rhyme. Each sentence begins with the letter followed by is for. Here is another couplet for a single letter.
S is for suffrage---the right to vote.
This fight is ongoing, not history's footnote.
When you open the cover (I am working with an F & G. My copy has not yet arrived.), the colorful, bold images of illustrator Caitlin Kuhwald are an ideal complement to the text. Her focus on using red, white, and blue, and diverse people is a realistic nod to our country. The girl, front and center, is shown, as are some of the other people, throughout the book.
To the left, on the back, two other children are featured protesting. The boy is holding a sign which reads:
V IS FOR
To his right the girl has extended her left arm, fingers holding up the peace sign.
On the opening and closing endpapers are rows and rows of boxes. In between the black boxes are hearts, stars and peace signs in shades of red. Many of the boxes have a red x through them to indicate voting. This design is placed on a cream background.
Throughout the book, the image sizes shift from single-page pictures, edge to edge, to double-page pictures, edge to edge. For many of them two letters are used in a single illustration. We see mixed-race families, people of different religious beliefs, and single-parent families. Historical figures are used as examples with particular statements. In all the people's faces, readers will see calm, but resolve.
One of my favorite illustrations is a full-page image. It features the neck and chin, torso, and one hand of a distinctive individual. This beloved person is wearing a black robe with a white lace collar. Their hand is over their heart. It interprets these words:
J is for judges. They're meant to be fair.
To be neutral, unbiased, objective, they swear.
Every collection, personal and professional, will want to have a copy of V Is For Voting written by Kate Farrell with illustrations by Caitlin Kuhwald. Now, more than ever, all ages need to make educated decisions and exercise their right to vote. At the close of the book is a short author's note and five discussions about the people highlighted in the letters G, N, S, T and U. There is also A VOTING RIGHTS TIMELINE.
To learn more about illustrator Caitlin Kuhwald and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. Caitlin Kuhwald has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. At the publisher's website you can view a series of interior images including the final two pages.
Every day we read or hear about the achievements of a single person. We are encouraged by the power of their deeds regardless of the size of those deeds or the size or age of the person. They make us brave. The POWER of ONE: Every Act of Kindness Counts (Alfred A. Knopf, August 25, 2020) written by Trudy Ludwig with illustrations by Mike Curato is a beautiful portrait of change.
Sometimes One can feel like
a small and lonely number.
But don't let this little number fool you.
It only takes one person to reach out to another person who needs comfort or support. Beginnings start with one. With this one, change is shaped.
One person listens. One person smiles. This is the start of connected hearts.
This one being can invite other people to listen and smile, comfort and show support. Working together heals our souls, those injured and those who caused injury. Extended warmth and heartfelt ideas make bridges linking more generous hearts.
We need to acknowledge and remember the miracle of a single seed. Together these single seeds can feed physical and emotional hunger. This is
The POWER of ONE.
The words written by Trudy Ludwig in this story read like a poem. Her spare, truthful text makes profound statements and supplies examples in support of those statements. They also allow us to think between each page turn, imagining how these apply to our own lives. Her repetition of the word one, is, like the word, powerful. Here is another sentence.
One warm hug . . .
can lift our spirits up when
we're feeling down.
The front of the open dust jacket not only signifies the implications of the title, but hints at images to come in the body of the book. The flower and its seeds are important. Can you see the outline of other people in the glowing background? To the left, on the back, is a depiction of the child on the front, seated on the ground, after cruel words hurt her. The first, one, girl to comfort her is kneeling next to her. This image is beneath the words:
One is the starting point for change.
Beneath the illustration are two endorsements.
On the book case artist Mike Curato shows us a close-up picture of a lush garden, full of leaves, ferns, pods, and fronds. They are in shades of blues and greens. Rising and curling from the right side of the spine is a single stem with a red and open flower on it. Small sparkles in white come from the center.
The opening and closing endpapers are a cheery yellow. Prior to the title page a wordless image tells the tale of verbal injury with a single soul watching. Another two-page picture continues this tale for the title page.
On heavy, matte-finished paper
using pencil, colored pencil, gouache, watercolor, paper, digital color, and photo collage
Mike Curato makes a mix of colorful elements and those in tones of black and gray. This brings our attention to the main characters and his visual interpretation of the story. He alternates between more panoramic views to those close to the people. Sometimes a single item fills the page or captures our attention because it is alone in a larger context.
The single flower growing as a symbol of friendship, apology, and forgiveness is wonderful. The continued growth of the garden shows how one can multiple into many. Many readers will see themselves in the children, from diverse races, highlighted here.
One of my many, many favorite pictures is for the passage above noted. It spans two pages. On the left is an enormous garden filled with blue and green leaves of all varieties. From this garden a single stem has expanded to include three large red flowers and a smaller red one. The largest flower blooms from the stem to the right of the gutter. Inside the girl is being given a hug by the boy who hurt her, and she is hugging him back. Under and to the right of them, another girl is smelling the tiny flower.
We have a choice to hurt and to heal. The POWER of ONE: Every Act of Kindness Counts by Trudy Ludwig with illustrations by Mike Curato is a lovely example in words and artwork of the art of healing. It presents to readers loving possibilities. At the close of the book is a letter from Trudy Ludwig titled Planting Seeds of Kindness in Your Community. It is followed by Recommended Books for Young Readers and Recommended Websites. I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.
To learn more about Trudy Ludwig and Mike Curato and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their respective websites. Trudy Ludwig has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Mike Curato has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. At the publisher's website you can view interior images.
It happened the day after our forty-fifth president was inaugurated. It was January 21, 2017. At this time, it is the largest single day event, a protest, in United States history. It is called The Women's March 2017. Based upon a true story Love Is Powerful (Candlewick Press, September 8, 2020) written by Heather Dean Brewer with illustrations by LeUyen Pham follows a little girl as she and her mother get ready to show the world how strong love is.
Mari spilled her crayons onto the
table. They made a messy rainbow.
"What are we coloring, Mama?"
Mama smiled. "A message for the
Mari was concerned how the world would hear their message. It's a huge place. Her mother said
love is powerful.
Mama wrote words on one poster, too small, Mari thought for the world to see. On her sign, thinking of her family and friends, Mari wrote her message, the words of her mother.
Wearing coats to warm them in the cold, the duo left their apartment, going down on the elevator to the street below. There, they joined a crowd of people. Again, Mari was concerned people could not hear their message in all this noise.
Soon, Mama lifted Mari to her shoulders. From there Mari saw the sea of people stretching beyond her sight. They were carrying signs and cheerfully chatting and shouting. Still wondering if people could hear her message, Mari called it out.
To her surprise a single voice called it back. She called it out again. More voices called it back. This four-letter word released its full potential that day, started by the voice of a child, a child who now knew the truth.
We happily join in this story as we read or listen to the conversation between Mari and her mother at the start of the book. Author Heather Dean Brewer engages us immediately with this technique. Mari's mother's reply to each of her questions with the title words increases the connection to the event in which they are participating. Layer by layer it draws us toward the amazing conclusion. Here is a passage.
Some held signs like Mari's, all saying different things.
Everyone cheered as they walked together. Mama joined
them. Mari bobbed above the crowd like a canary fluttering
over trees. She felt as tall as one of the buildings.
You can feel the sense of purpose when you look at the front, right, of the open dust jacket. People are peaceful and happy to be able to voice their views in protest. Not only does this scene mirror the title, but it mirrors the mood of the crowd. The title text, solid red hearts, Mari and her mother are varnished. It's a wonderful design style to combine bright colors with muted colors.
To the left, on the back, we are shown, on a canvas of pinkish lavender a picture of Mari and Mama. Within a loose frame done in red crayon they are seated at the table making their posters. The string of hearts hangs in their window behind them.
On the book case, back and front, is a collage, in separate but blended squares, of people from the march. You can tell these images represent all the marches on that day from around the world. In the center on the right front, in a large square of its own, is the title.
The opening and closing endpapers are a lavender. A two-page picture of the buildings in hues of gray of Mari's neighborhood, with the occupants standing in lighted windows, is the setting for the title page. Artist LeUyen Pham rendered these pictures
in watercolor, gouache, pencil, and ink.
Their size shifts with the text, enhancing its pacing. There are large images crossing the gutter to make a column for text. There are double-page pictures with double-page smaller horizontal visuals underneath them. Sometimes there are small vignettes accompanying the text. There are full-page illustrations. There is one large double-page vertical picture requiring you to turn the book. There are three smaller vertical illustrations attached to one huge swirl of humanity on a full page.
Love abounds in every picture. So does happiness, mirrored on all the faces. We are always aware of where Mari and Mama are. Readers will pause to notice the details; the items in Mari's and Mama's home which make it theirs, the words on the protesters' signs, the diversity of the participants in the march, and all the illustrations have hearts in them.
One of my many, many favorite images is for the quote above noted. It is a close-up view of the marchers. Buildings are behind those on the right and on the far left. We see a collection of smiling faces, mouths open in cheers, and many holding signs. There are adults and children. Mari on Mama's shoulders is on the left side. She watches all this in joyful contemplation.
Love Is Powerful written by Heather Dean Brewer with illustrations by LeUyen Pham is as strong as its title. It presents an intimate portrait of happiness found when words are brought alive by actions. At the close of the book is a letter from the real Mari along with a picture of her at the march. This title has my highest recommendation for your personal and professional collections.
To learn more about Heather Dean Brewer and LeUyen Pham and their other work, visit their websites by following the link attached to their name. Heather Dean Brewer has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. LeUyen Pham has accounts on Facebook and Instagram. At Watch. Connect. Read., the site of Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, Heather Dean Brewer and LeUyen Pham talk about this book. At Penguin Random House you can view interior images.
In a beautiful continuation of their collaboration, author Susan Verde and artist Peter H. Reynolds, bring to readers another thoughtful title. This book guides readers in making a difference. No matter how small you are, you can bring change to yourself and more importantly, to others. I Am One: A Book of Action (Abrams Books for Young Readers, September 15, 2020) welcomes you to make the first move.
How do I
make a difference?
It seems like a tall order
for one so small.
The young child is told things of beauty begin with one. One seed planted in the ground, one stroke of a paintbrush, or one brick removed from a wall can lead to the greater good. Are not gardens, paintings, and friends better?
When a wall is gone, we can form bonds with those we were previously unaware. Still using the number one, each gesture increases the bond between the two individuals. A word, a hug, and a candle pave the path for the duo.
They arrive at a body of water. A drop of candlewax in the water produces a ripple, growing and growing and growing. The friends ride on the swells in a boat carrying their special cargo to new shores.
There they are greeted by others. Individuals, working together, to create a transformation. They take what was, forming a marvelous masterpiece.
From her initial and only question, author Susan Verde weaves a tapestry of story. Each of her carefully crafted thoughts add color and detail. The common thread is the word one. She begins with the first child, but with the mention of a brick and breaking down walls, another character is welcomed. It is at this point, the color and detail become more vivid and intricate, representing the realm of possibility. Here are two companion sentences.
I can use my
One soft voice
to start a friendship.
I can perform
One act of kindness
to start a connection.
The color white is superbly used throughout this title to highlight the characters and their actions. The spiral of hues of blue on the front of the dust jacket behind the first child symbolizes the ripples from the single drop of wax. To the left, on the back of the dust jacket is an interior illustration of the first child leaning over the water so the single drop of wax can fall. The second child is watching the effect. The color palette selected by Peter H. Reynolds is full of warmth and calm here and on every single page.
On the book case, on a canvas of pure crisp white, a rainbow brush stroke like a wave moves from the left to the right of the opened case. A tiny bird flies toward the gutter from the upper, left-hand corner. Riding on the crest of the wave on the right side is a bright pink boat carrying the children, their precious cargo and a rainbow tree.
The opening and closing endpapers are washed circles of turquoise. On the title page is a close-up of the boat with the first child, the contents of the boat, the dog of the second child, and the tiny bird on the dog's head. Rendered
using ink, gouache, watercolor, and tea
these pictures are portraits of endearing characters and their actions. Each intricate line, element and color uplift and extend the words.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for the words:
I can perform
One act of kindness
to start a connection.
It is a single-page picture. Behind the first child on the left are outlines of bricks in the wall. Several bricks are on the ground. This child is bending over to give a treat to the dog. The second child is seated on the ground near a fire and a candle. Tiny flowers bloom from grassy mounds.
This fifth book, I Am One: A Book of Action written by Susan Verde with illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds, in this stellar series is important. It is important to understand each one of us can contribute to making the world better for others. Each action no matter how small puts us on the right path. At the close of the book is a two-page author's note including a mindfulness meditation and a self-reflection activity. This book has my high recommendation to be included in both your personal and professional collections. The other titles in the series are I Am Yoga, I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness, I Am Human: A Book of Empathy, and I Am Love: A Book of Compassion.
To discover more about Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds and their other work, please follow the link attached to their name to access their websites. Susan Verde has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Peter H. Reynolds has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. At the publisher's website are additional resources to use with this book.
Previously I wrote a post about Sometimes People March written and illustrated by Tessa Allen. You might want to include that title with these for a unit of study, a story time, or to promote discussion.