Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin




Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sensing Scents

Over the last one to two years, I've noticed Xena's sense of smell seems to be on overdrive.  Her nose during our walks is constantly to the ground.  On breezy days she stands still shifting her stance with the wind's direction.  I have watched her detect the presence of an animal or certain person long before they come into view.  At night when we take our final walk around the yard, if she freezes nose in the air and starts barking we move speedily back toward safety.

We humans have come to trust the incredible sense of smell found in dogs.  Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, respected nonfiction author, has written Super Sniffers: Dog Detectives on the Job (Bloomsbury, September 2014) conveying the important work of canines and their noses.  Within four chapters, forty-eight pages, we are consistently informed and constantly astonished at their abilities.

Take a dog, any dog, for a walk along a sidewalk or in a park, and you won't be walking much---you'll be standing there holding a leash while the dog sniffs at every bush and every lamppost.  

For generations we humans have relied on dogs' noses to assist us in finding food, maintaining order in the herding of other animals and locating wounded soldiers and explosive devices during times of war.  Forty per cent more of a dog's brain is designated for smell than a human's brain.  Specific breed and temperament determine which jobs are best for which dogs.  Training to separate certain smells from others is intense but rewarding for our canine companions.  Once their skills are honed they go to places and in conditions out of the ordinary to complete their assignments.

Top on the list for these trained noses is searching for people and finding explosives.  In the case of an avalanche dogs can sniff out a human under thirteen feet of snow.  They can perceive the whiff of a human recently deceased or dead for hundreds of years.  A MWD (military working dog), known for their proficiency in operating off leash in difficult areas, usually is a teammate with the same handler for the duration of their service.  It's interesting to note dogs working with law enforcement officers live off duty with their human partner.

Pooch snoots have even found a place in protecting our planet, seeking out plants not native to a given area before they take over, scat of endangered species and polluted water.  People with special medical conditions have benefited from dogs' capabilities to smell when a hormone imbalance has happened or a dangerous allergen is present.  It's downright uncanny how their noses know when specific cancers have begun in a person's body.


Dorothy Hinshaw Patent begins each of the four chapters, Dogs And Their Amazing Noses, Searching And Saving, Helping Planet Earth and Medical Alert Dogs, with two page overviews before citing explicit examples.  The discussions of these jobs are also contained within two pages.  Patent converses with her readers offering details which increase reader understanding of what is needed and how these highly trained dogs fill that need.

In addition she chooses to focus on five individual dogs, a Specialized Search Dog in the military, a dog used to identify specific species, a dog who was slated to be put down and is now sniffing out sewage leaks, a dog who never leaves the side of a young boy with Type 1 diabetes and dog in training to smell peanuts as far as three feet away.  These introductions make the subject more personal for the reader.  Men, women and children working with and benefiting from these dogs all find a place within this title.

The color scheme shown on the front dust jacket, yellow, red and teal blue, is used throughout the book.  Colorful, up-to-date and relevant photographs are integrated into the layout and design enhancing the text.  If the background is red, the photographs will be edged in teal blue with the page heading appearing in a block of yellow. An arrow cuts into the image drawing the eye to an enlightening caption.


Super Sniffers: Dog Detectives On The Job written by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent is a captivating introduction into the fascinating world of dogs' smelling powers.  Not only will readers gain awareness of the topic but perhaps they might be interested enough to pursue a career as a trainer or handler.  Patent includes books and websites for Further Reading and Surfing.  Her acknowledgments identify those who helped her in the writing of this title.

For more information about Dorothy Hinshaw Patent please follow the link to her official website embedded in her name.

My review is based upon an F & G copy received from my favorite independent book store, McLean & Eakin Booksellers located in Petoskey, Michigan. My personal copy is on order there.  I hope you will purchase a copy from your local indie book store or seek one out at your local public library.


Yet again due to my participation in Alyson Beecher's 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted at her blog, Kid Lit Frenzy, my knowledge about a topic has grown.  Please follow the link to her site to read about other nonfiction titles selected by bloggers this week.


Only One Hundred

A fact of life for most of my friends and I were our parents collecting S & H Green Stamps.  Certain businesses would give the stamps to customers making purchases; the amount determined by the dollars spent.  The stamps were placed in books ready to be exchanged for merchandise at a redemption center.

In 1964 the S & H Green Stamp catalog became the largest single publication distributed in the United States. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

This practice continues today for consumers with most participating businesses assigning points rather than giving stamps.  Schools still looking for more money to support programs gather soup can labels and box tops or bottoms to exchange for cash.

Upon learning to read, one of my morning delights was to see what was new on the cereal boxes.  If you saved certain proof of purchase portions, you could turn them in for a small toy.  I wish with all my heart I would have read what the two brothers in There's A Lion in my Cornflakes (Bloomsbury UK, July 2014) written by Michelle Robinson with illustrations by Jim Field saw on the fateful day this story starts.

If you ever see this on a packet of cornflakes:
Mr. Flaky
Corn
Flakes
Free
Lion
Just Save
100
Coupons
Ignore it!

The young narrator (Eric) and his older brother Dan decide this is too good to resist.  Combining their savings, making trip after trip to the grocery store and endless hours of cutting give them their desired results.  It also gets them in a bit of trouble.  Their mom has decreed consumption of cornflakes for three daily meals until they are all gone.  As an added precaution she is withholding all pocket money until there is no longer a sign of this particular type of cereal in their home.

You know what?  They are so excited about getting a lion; they don't care about their punishments.  They have plans, big plans, for having a lion of their own; walking with it, riding it to school and even using its teeth to open tin cans.  As a single day of waiting stretches into seven days, it quickly becomes obvious they are not the only people who have collected the proper amount of coupons.  Delivery of one lion after another is made to households all around them.  Where is their lion?

On day eight they are beside themselves with excitement as the all too familiar truck pulls up in front of their house.  Oh! No!  It's not a lion.  It's taken to the wrong house.  It completely destroys the neighbor's back yard.  Apologies are made and cleanup commences.  The problem still remains.  There is no lion.  There is a grizzly bear.

When a letter arrives from the company in response to their query about their free lion's absence and the grizzly bear's presence, they discover another creature is being sent.  (Mr. Flaky is out of lions.)  This one decides to set up residence in the family bathroom.  An irate phone call from the boys' dad prompts the appearance of a third beast.

Dad explodes in frustration and anger, ordering everyone, human and otherwise, into what's left of his car.  He is going to get to the bottom of this fiasco.  On the return trip home only Dad seems to be pacified; mother and sons are decidedly not.  When the brothers begin to discover by looking at what they have instead of focusing on what they don't, pure delight replaces frustration.


By the time readers finish the first three sentences of this title, they are fully hooked.  Author Michelle Robinson has peaked their curiosity.  Page turn by page turn, Eric tells the tale as only someone his age can.  Word choices evoke a sense of drama as the comedy increases.  Here is a single sample passage.

It wasn't our fault! But Mum went bonkers.  She made us apologise to Mr. Harper AND tidy up.  It was awful.  We had a grizzly bear, a grumpy mum and absolutely NO free lion.


Looking at the vibrantly colored front of the book case, it's hard not to hear a resounding roar echoing in the room.  I don't know about you but I want to open this book to see how a lion ends up in the boy's cornflakes.  The beginning and closing endpapers are a repeated tiled pattern of the Free Lion coupon shown in clusters on the back of the cover.  Eric and Dan, wearing their school uniforms, are riding on the back of a lion pictured beneath the title.

Varying illustration size from two pages, to single pages and groups of smaller pictures surrounded by white space, Jim Field's artwork mirrors and extends the humor bubbling to the surface as the story is read.  He shifts perspective to involve us in the events as they unfold; bringing us close to Eric at the breakfast table on the first two pages, moving back to show the brothers cutting out endless coupons sitting on a mound of them nearly covering the family dog and the panoramic view of the park as all the lions already delivered play with their children.  Every time I read this title I see new details; details which guarantee laughter.

Careful readers will notice Eric wearing different colored socks as well as the changing table settings, clothing worn by the family and expressions and positions of the dog when Field depicts the boys having to continually eat cornflakes.  The grouping of three pictures of Eric, Dan and the dog waiting on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for the lion delivery is hilarious.  Each time Eric sinks lower on the page until all we see are his feet after he falls asleep.  The dog goes from holding his collar and leash for a walk, to looking woebegone and eventually sleeping with Eric's glasses on his face.  And there is the distinct yuck factor as a bored Dan picks his nose.

One of my favorite illustrations is the previously mentioned park illustration.  You could look at this for hours discovering the amusing tiny elements.  The tea party scenario is particularly funny.  Two little girls have a blue and white checked tablecloth spread on the grass.   One is pouring the tea as the other carrying a basket filled with treats stands next to the lion.  What makes you grin like crazy is the lion is sitting there prim and proper with its mane in pigtails.


As if the premise of being able to acquire a free lion after saving one hundred cereal box coupons is not silly enough, the parents being more upset with the replacement animals than the fact their sons even did this is the best kind of humor appealing to the child in all of us.  There's A Lion in my Cornflakes written by Michelle Robinson with illustrations by Jim Field is clever and highly entertaining.  I predict it will rarely be on the shelves.  The United States release is to be May 2015.
If you are interested in learning more about the work of Michelle Robinson and Jim Field please follow the links embedded in their names to access their websites.  There are supplemental activities posted in both places.  Enjoy the trailer!



There's a Lion In My Cornflakes - Book Trailer from Jim Field on Vimeo.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Play With A Passion

When something is of value to us, it finds a place of importance in our lives.  If it's a skill to be learned we observe, listen, study and practice.  We devote time; it becomes a joyful commitment.  Another component is passion.  It needs to find a place in our heart.

For some another element may be discovered sooner or later in pursuit of this special endeavor.  In the first picture book he has written and illustrated, NINJA! (Henry Holt and Company), Arree Chung introduces us to a boy with exceptional purpose.  Shh! Let's follow Maxwell on his latest mission.

A ninja needs a thick ninja stick, silent ninja footwear, sticky ninja gloves, an unbreakable ninja rope, and a bouncy ninja paddle. 

Once he has the tools of his trade, confidence needs to be declared with gusto.  Maxwell proceeds to acquaint readers with other traits of a skilled champion; the nimble actions of an Olympic gymnast.  With the goal in sight, every impediment must be overcome (including moving the family dog peacefully sleeping).

Exact care must be taken to advance effectively; a warrior needs to dig deep within himself relying on his inner fortitude.  Nothing is more important, not a single thing, than catching your subject off guard and scaring them witless. (It looks like Dad's nap on the couch is over.)  With this objective fulfilled, it's on to phase two.

Into the kitchen our fearless warrior sneaks.  His younger sister is about to have a snack of cookies and milk.  To ensure continued success he must maneuver with extreme caution avoiding his mom at all costs.

Barely breathing, with measured movement and faith in his abilities at an all-time high, Maxwell leaps, climbs and balances into action. With two cries ringing out, the scales are tipped.  The only honorable thing to do is done.  A young boy has found the final element.


Rich in language with not a single wasted word, Arree Chung gives us a window into the marvelous mind of Maxwell as he fulfills his desire for all things ninja. As each item this ninja uses is listed notice the descriptive adjectives.  In relating his movements a simple beat is created by the word choices; continuing as he tells us of a ninja's inner qualities and movements during the final stage of his mission.  This builds wonderfully and in contrast to his boyish glee at his accomplishments.   It also prepares us readers for the final two pages revealing the heart of a true ninja.

Flap edge to flap edge the dust jacket unfolds in a series of illustrations left to right, back to front, giving us glimpses into the narrative.  Beneath the book case with a wood grain background (closet doors) we see Maxwell on the front swiftly moving across the space declaring his status.  On the back is his sister happily observing her brother.  Both the dust jacket and book case feature the main character initially but focus on the importance of the younger sister if we fully extend them.  A pattern of folded paper ninja stars on a woven background (the same as the rug in the house) cover the opening and closing endpapers.

Rendered in acrylic paint on Rives BFK paper, found paper and Photoshop, the color palette is a direct reflection of the story line; shadowed for stealth, the background shifting to a royalty red (my description alone) with the luminous golden dragon when Maxwell's imagination is highlighted, lighter hues as he moves into the kitchen, total darkness when the discovery is made and back to light on the final pages. Arree Chung changes from one image size to another, two pages, a series of geometric panels across two pages or an individual page, or a single page, as the action dictates.   The expressive facial features on the characters (and body movements) enhance the text providing readers with a hearty dose of humor.

Two of my favorite series of images are when he defeats the angry beast, a series of panels on a single page, and the two pages of panels bursting with action prior to his completed mission.  The design and layout, the changing perspectives and colors make readers feel like they are participants.  Seriously though, all the illustrations in this book are evidence of this boy's love of being a ninja and the imaginative gifts he uses to live his story.

Grab a bag of ties, hand them out to your listeners and let the distinctive words and pictures spin a tale of wonder and laughter as Maxwell's escapades unfold in NINJA! written and illustrated by Arree Chung.  I am certain you will need more than one copy available to your readers.  This is sure to prompt discussions of other imagined adventures. You could fold paper ninja stars having listeners write a phrase for or draw their favorite parts on the points.

Please follow the links embedded in Arree Chung's name to access his website and blog.  His website has numerous fun-filled ideas.  Many bloggers featured posts about NINJA! on its release date or during the release week. You can learn more about the book by reading their thoughts and interviews of Arree Chung.  (These are the ones I could find.  Please list any others in the comments.) Here are their names along with their blogs:

Cynthia Alaniz, teacher librarian Librarian in Cute Shoes
Niki Barnes second grade teacher Daydream READER
Alyson Beecher, educator Kid Lit Frenzy
Carter Higgins, author, teacher librarian Design Of The Picture Book
Debbie Ridpath Ohi author illustrator inkygirl
Katherine Sololowski, fifth grade reading and language arts teacher Read, Write, Reflect
John Schumacher teacher librarian Watch. Connect. Read.



Sunday, July 27, 2014

Connection, Curation, Connection #6

It's been a busy week as educators across the country are gearing up for a new school year.  In fact #titletalk on Twitter this evening will focus on getting students excited about reading in our classrooms.  Archives of missed chats are listed as well as new book trailers.  In case you need an extra dose of cuteness authors, illustrators and members of my PLN are always eager to share pet pictures.  Xena is pretty fond of these.  New items have been added to making our classrooms inviting for our students.  Authors Julie Falatko and Ame Dyckman continue to entertain us with their observations about life.  John Schumacher, the teacher librarian dynamo, provides us with even more resources.  Be sure to check out the newest posts on writing from writers and authors.  Take time for reading.  Have a great week.
Note: I will be taking a screen free week for the next seven days so there will be no post next Sunday. 




Walter Dean Myers---These are the collected tweets and conversations beginning on July 2, 2014 as word of this wonderful man's passing was spread.


Xena's Wooferlicious Tweets---These are gathered tweets that feature dogs or cats...yes cats; many from authors, illustrators and treasured friends.


Readying Our Spaces, Creating Warmth, Inviting In Our Students---This is a collection of tweets which members of my PLN on Twitter are sharing about the spaces they are designing for their students.  It highlights the extras.


The Household Habitat of Julie---Julie Falatko is an author whose family life is uplifting and joyous.


Author Tips on Writing---This is a collection of tweets about blog posts by authors helping others with their writing.  It is my thought that this can be used in classrooms.


The Wit and Humor of Ame Dyckman II---The author of Boy+ Bot and Tea Party Rules,  Ame Dyckman, provides quirky views, one liners, laced liberally with humor each and every day on Twitter, keeping her followers in stitches and filled with positive vibes. Here is the second collection.


Cyber-Sleuth---Mr. Schu---John Schumacher, teacher librarian, 2011 Library Journal Movers & Shakers, member of the 2014 Newbery Award committee and blogger at Watch. Connect. Read. is the King of gathering resources for his followers' benefit.  This is a collection of his tweets.


Ivan-A Gorilla-A Mighty Silverback---January 2012 welcomed a new book by Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan.  A work of fiction, based upon the real Ivan living in Zoo Atlanta, impacted the reading community as only a powerful story can. On Monday August 21, 2012 Ivan passed away. This is what happened on Twitter then and now.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Doing What You Do Best (See You In September #3)

For the past several weeks subtle signs have been appearing; shelves of spiral notebooks and bins of pencils, pens, markers and crayons.  Now a more obvious shift is noticeable in the big box stores as summer furniture, lighting, garden supplies and flowers are disappearing.  Back-to-school displays rule the aisles in full force.

For returning students, teachers and educational staff the routine of beginning school is familiar and hopefully welcome.  After working with kindergarten classes for thirteen years, I am well aware of the misgivings these younger guys and gals have about starting school.  A beloved character who first appeared in Chu's Day (Harper, January 2013) is about to embark on a new adventure.  In Chu's First Day of School (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers) by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Adam Rex, the little panda guy introduces himself in a big way...a very big way.

There was a thing
that Chu could do.

Chu, like most boys and girls his age, has concerns about school.  He wants to know if his classmates and teacher will be nice.  He wants to know if they will like him.  His father and mother assure him in the affirmative on both counts.  Chu is still apprehensive.

After his parents drop him off at school on the first day, his teacher, who

had a friendly face,

gathers her students into a circle.  She requests they tell one another their name and one thing they love to do. As they say their name she will write it on the chalkboard.

Jengo the giraffe loves to reach up high and get things.  Pablo the tarmarin loves to climb.  As each boy and girl say their name stating what they love, Chu sits still not saying a single word...no not one.

As the teacher merrily writes down the names, erasing other items on the board to make room,  Chu quietly watches until he is the only one left.  When asked he says his name quite clearly. What happens next is the show part of show and tell without the tell.

Holy chalkdust!  The little panda guy has done it again!  By the response from his classmates and teacher this could be the most talked about first day of school ever in the history of first days of school.


With impeccable timing and purpose Neil Gaiman prepares readers for the inevitable with a single opening sentence.  It reminds those of us who know Chu what we can expect, building anticipation.  For those who don't know Chu's gift yet, it propels them forward wondering what it is Chu can do.  It's brilliant.

A cadence is started when he asks his parents questions, it pauses and continues in his classroom the next morning.  Gaiman enhances the beat with the classmates asking the same question after their introduction.  It is followed with the same sentence about Chu's status.  As Chu's parents walk him home and get him ready for bed that evening, the original rhythm resumes.  The same single word which closed the first book concludes this one.  It creates a calming sense of continuity.  We can rest assured that all is right in Chu's world...and in ours.


Immediately the bright rich red background catches the readers attention, as did the bright yellow on the previous book. I don't know about you but as soon as I opened up the matching dust jacket and book case I started to laugh.  There is something comical but enduring about seeing Chu wearing those goggles as he puts items in his backpack. You can almost hear him humming.  I like that Adam Rex has crayons and pictures of Chu and his school on the floor.  On the back we see...the back of Chu with the companion snail openly grinning at us.

On the title page Chu is sitting in a field of daisies in front of the school leading into the first illustration which demonstrates exactly what Chu can do.  As readers look at each of the illustrations rendered in oil and mixed media on board, they are aware of a warmth which permeates all the pages due to the color palette.  Careful readers will notice the attention to detail; the tiny anchor on Chu's father's model boat, the nod to Groucho Marx in one of the pictures of the duck, the tiny bell around the snake's neck and the feet (hands) on the bathtub.

An added touch is the white outline drawings of each animal doing what they love on the chalkboard colored background as they talk.  As each student speaks Chu's expression changes as he relaxes.  I completely burst out laughing when Chu adjusts his goggles at one point and when viewing the two two-page pictures after his sneeze.  The expressions and body positions are hilarious.

Whether readers are acquainted with Chu or not, Chu's First Day of School written by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Adam Rex is just the ticket for easing those first day jitters.  It encourages individuality and acceptance of our special qualities and gifts.  For those of us who already know Chu, this is another gem to tuck away in our treasure chest.  This is a collaboration of two outstanding talents worth sharing with the intended audience.  You won't even mind reading it ten times ten.

Please follow the links embedded in the author's and illustrator's names to their websites to learn more about their work.  At Neil Gaiman's website are six printable PDF pages for use with this title.  By following this link to the publisher's website you can view pages from the inside of the book.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Stacking 'Em Up, Letter By Letter

Our house was a house of making things.  If something needed fixing Dad would devise the perfect albeit unique solution.  No holiday or vacation was complete without lots of arts and crafts; Mom was never at a loss for ideas.

When combining Dad's inventiveness with Mom's creativity, our Halloween costumes were a sight to behold. One particular October I was the neighborhood robot; donning painted boxes decorated with knobs and gizmos galore.  For that reason, the fact children adore anything about robots and my growing collection of alphabet books, I couldn't have been happier when I was handed R Is For Robot: A Noisy Alphabet (Price Stern Sloan, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC) written and illustrated by Adam F. Watkins the last time I visited my favorite independent bookstore.

As you look at the dust jacket, book case, endpapers, title page and verso it's clear this crew of robots is gearing up for a construction project of huge proportions.  Tools are being gathered.  Blueprints are being studied.  With a page turn it sounds like they've already started.

Ahoogah
Beep Boop

This can't be good; the guys moving letter A and letter B have run into one another.  A chorus of noise is heard from a cascade of letter Cs.  The robots for letters D, E and F are leaking, shrieking and leaping.  A dog, water, a spilled dessert and an emergency device definitely figure in the placement of letters G, H, I and J.  I may have just seen a ninja and a singing giant.

Wait a minute!  Did that robot just do what I think he did?  Horsepower, tractor power and a bit more oil than necessary place three more pieces, letters N, O and P, in the structure. There goes that duck again and now one of the workers wants to make music.  Time's a wasting and some parts hardly seem to be moving.

Wait!  Here we go.  Carrying, speeding, flying, rigging, pulling and pulling some more contribute to the final artful arrangement.  It's a rainbow array of letters from A to Z, a monument to words and language.  The assembled automated artisans couldn't be more pleased.



I have yet to walk by a building site without hearing the rise and fall of a mechanical melody.  With this in mind Adam F. Watkins selects twenty-six words, each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet describing or imitating a sound.  These words are selected with the process of creating in mind as the robots go about their work.  Interest is heightened as other robots and robotic creatures interact with the business at hand.  An example of this is for the letter G; the word

GRRRR

describes the robot dog, tied to a nearby hydrant, growling at the robot carrying the letter.


Rendered in pen and ink and oil paint on board these colorful, creative illustrations grab your attention as soon as you open up the dust jacket and book case.  These marvelous machines, bits and pieces of moving metal, are distinctive in physical characteristics and expression.  The opening and closing endpapers zoom in on the blueprints first for letters A and B and then for Y and Z.  You have to wonder, looking a the verso page, if the project will proceed according to the plans when a solitary robot is scratching his head as he looks at the entire set.

All the pictures extend from edge to edge with a white background meeting the grassy meadow on which the finished framework will stand but a single letter is on the left and right side.  The robotic activities are tied together always by color but sometimes with one robot interacting with another.  Watkins has included additional elements which begin with each letter; some obvious, others needing a careful eye to locate.

One of my favorite illustrations, already mentioned above, is that for the letters G and H.  On the opposite side of the hydrant is a hose connected to a robot made of a clear watering canister.  With his one arm he is holding a hose hissing steam at the letter H.  A tiny heart is on his body.  The robot trying to avoid the grumpy dog is wearing glasses.  Watkins adds the tiniest details like the water dripping from the attachment of the hose to the hydrant.


If you are looking for quiet book R Is For Robot: A Noisy Alphabet written and illustrated by Adam F. Watkins is not for you.  It's a fun-filled title loaded with action and humor. One read aloud will not suffice.  Expect requests to read this again and again.  I think it would be a great idea to assign a sound to each student in the classroom having them repeat it after it's read adding to the sounds until the end when it will be a symphony.

I have embedded a link to Adam F. Watkins website in his name.  Enjoy the book trailer.

 

I obtained my copy of this book from my favorite indie book store, McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Michigan.  Please make a purchase with your favorite independent bookstore or visit your local public library.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When Up There

Yesterday as Xena and I left the house for our morning walk, branches swaying on the maples and pines in a stiff breeze, a raven glided over our heads.  Taking advantage of the more active than normal air currents, it quickly swooped up and away with outstretched wings.  I couldn't help but wonder about the view up there.

I'll never forget the year I won a ride on an air balloon one of the teachers owned in the school where I was the teacher librarian.  My fear of heights vanished as I slowly moved over area landscapes marveling at the herd of deer in a wooded area caught unaware.  With this experience in my memory, for a brief moment I felt a kinship with the raven.

In the early 20th century the invention of the airplane and subsequent flights fueled desire to soar over land and sea in a young boy.  This man's life as a pilot and author is brilliantly and beautifully portrayed in The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine De Saint-Exupery (Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus Giroux) written and illustrated by the award-winning Peter Sis.  Like the raven Antoine De Saint-Exupery's life sailed on air, moving up and down but always rising again.

Long ago in France, at the turn of the century, a little boy was born to be an adventurer.

The middle child of five, Antoine had golden hair; earning him the family nickname of Sun King.  Before he turned five, his father passed away unexpectedly.  By the time he was twelve he had tried to fly by adding wings to his bicycle and finally convinced a pilot at a nearby air field to give him a ride in his plane.  For Antoine this experience would drive his waking dreams for the rest of his life.

Two years of required military service began as part of the ground crew in aviation.  Antoine was not deterred taking lessons on his own time.  Several years and various jobs later, he became excited by the news of a company starting up a mail delivery service by air. To his great joy, he was part of the first members of the Latecoere.

Working his way up through the ranks, Antoine was finally given the assignment for taking mail from France to Spain.  From there he would travel throughout Europe, along the West African coast, and even plot routes to South America.  For some time he was stationed at Cape Juby in Morocco.  The solitude of air flight and living in a shack by a desert inspired this pilot to write about his adventures flying.

Despite the company's closure, upon returning to France Antoine continued his exploits in the air and in writing.  With the advent of WWII, he was again flying to serve his country but the Germany occupation changed his status in the military and he fled to the United States for several years.  It was while he was in New York City, The Little Prince was written.  His love of country, his love of family, led Antoine De Saint-Exupery to do his heart's desire for the last time on July 31, 1944.

We have all heard the phrase lost in a book but at the conclusion of reading this title, I literally felt like I was traveling back to the here and now from the past.  The methods used by Peter Sis to acquaint readers as fully as possible within the pages of a picture book with this man's life are like piecing together a puzzle, a puzzle we are anxious to complete.  Along the bottom of each page is the running narrative.  Above this, woven into the illustrations, are some of the choicest bits of information about Antoine De Saint-Exupery's life Peter Sis uncovered through his research.  We get a true sense of this man's accomplishments and pursuits.  Here is an example of an interesting character trait, a habit he developed.

Antoine liked to read and write while flying.  In South America, he worked on his next book, Night Flight.  His cockpit was filled with crumpled paper.


The dust jacket, an illustration covering the front and the back, of sky and the rounded shape of land, with Saint-Exupery and the Little Prince flying together, is only the beginning of one masterful illustration after another. The endpapers in a rich royal blue with outlines in a lesser shade picture the two hemispheres of a globe with a plane circling across the top, going down, and then looping back up.  Print coming from the back creates a path.  On the closing endpaper the direction is reversed.

The exquisite intricacy of each illustration (all two pages with three exceptions) causes readers to pause, studying all the details and the text within each.  Sis uses circles to frame many of his smaller pictures found around the larger visuals.  There is meaning in every single element.

Shades of brown, blue, green, gray, golden yellow and black are predominant on all the pictures except for the portrayal of the German invasion of France during 1940 when red, black and gray are dominant.  The three wordless illustrations are breathtaking as is the final artwork.  One of my favorite visuals is of Antoine's return to France.  A light silhouette of his body, arms outstretched holding a paper as if he is flying, is superimposed on an map of Paris.  This, done in blue, is placed on a light green background.  Around this center item are fourteen circles of varied sizes with smaller pictures inside.  Tiny explanatory text follows their edges.  The layout and design are impeccable.


No one tells or illustrates the story of another's life like Peter Sis.  The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine De Saint-Exupery is a remarkable book.  Please share it with someone as soon as you can.  Then go do it again.  There is a selected bibliography as part of the verso.

I have embedded a link to Peter Sis's website in his name.  This link takes you to the publisher's website so you can look at some of the pages from the book.  You will certainly enjoy this interview, In The Cockpit, Gazing At Stars: Saint-Exupery's Life In Pictureswith Peter Sis at NPR's All Things Considered.



Visit your public library or local independent book store to get your copy of this book.  I purchased my copy from McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey.


I am happy to participate each week in the 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy.  Be sure to check out the books highlighted there by other bloggers.