Quote of the Month

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

Friday, April 25, 2014

P B And J Lead The Way

Without a doubt the peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a classic, favorite food especially for children.  Even the pickiest of eaters will gobble up this delectable delight.  You can hardly think of one (peanut butter or jelly) without the other.  I have even discovered there is a National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day held each year on April the 2nd.

There are certain combinations, legendary duos, friendships, in the world of fiction, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Batman and Robin, Calvin and Hobbes, Frodo and Sam, Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh, which have and will continue to stand the test of time.  I think a new marvelous match has entered the children's literature community, Peanut Butter and Jellyfish (Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books) written and illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.

Peanut Butter and Jellyfish were the best of friends.

No day went by without these pals playfully exploring all the nooks and crannies of their briny habitat.  Unfortunately their blissful bonding was interrupted by the unkind comments of the local curmudgeon, Crabby.  Insult after insult floated through the ocean current as they swam past his rocky station.

Peanut Butter and Jellyfish did what positive people do; they ignored Crabby and his hurtful statements.  Did that stop him?  It did not.  He was a master of meanness.

To their surprise one day Crabby was not at his post.  Distressful cries caught their attention.  Crabby had been caught in a lobster trap.  Uh oh...things are not looking so swell for their tormentor.

A decision must be quickly made.  Will the flick of a tail work?  Will the talented tentacles do the trick?  Will fear be overcome with bravery?  There are indeed many undiscovered riches within the undersea realm.

Within this simple charming story, Jarrett J. Krosoczka defines friendship and taking the high road as well as how to voice one's fears and having the courage to admit your mistakes.  In the characters of Peanut Butter, Jellyfish and Crabby are traits commonly found in people who come and go in our everyday lives.  Readers will easily be able to identify with the circumstances of these three; similar situations are constantly present at home and school.

 A mix of narration and dialogue provides an even flow and a gentle kind of tension.  Krosoczka includes descriptive words like taunt, heckler, relentless, barnacles, invertebrate and excursion to broaden readers' vocabulary and invite discussion.  Here is a single example.

"Should we help?" asked Jellyfish.
The two friends shared a look.
"He is in serious trouble," said Peanut Butter.

Jarrett J. Krosoczka uses both the front and back of his identical dusk jacket and book case to present a cheerful illustration filled with bright, bold colors which calls out to readers inviting them to join in the adventures of Peanut Butter and Jellyfish.  His opening and closing endpapers show layers of ocean in vivid hues of blue, a fishing boat moving along the surface.  There is a noticeable difference in the two, a distinct beginning and ending to the story.  A continuation of the scene on the outside of the book provides on the inside a backdrop for the title and publication information.

A technique of using acrylic paintings manipulated into collages digitally brightens the text with two-page, one page and several half page visuals.  Using dots for eyes, a shift in eyebrows, and altered mouth shapes Krosoczka conveys a range of emotions.  Readers will cheer for the two friends and even feel empathy for their adversary.

The first sentence (shown above) with the joyful companions swimming through the colorful ocean sends an uplifting message that all is right in their world.  It is in direct contrast to another of my favorite designs.  On these two pages Crabby, in four half page illustrations, is shown in different poses shouting out not-so-nice one-liners from his rock.  The interplay of background colors and sea life is genuinely appealing.  (It's interesting that Krosoczka has chosen white for his font color.  I really like it.)

Who wouldn't want to have friends like the sea creatures found in Peanut Butter and Jellyfish written and illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka?  They are cute, lighthearted and have a zest for life; even managing to crack ole' Crabby's shell of crankiness.  They are heroes who don't know they are.  Which in my book are the very best kinds.

Please follow the link embedded in Jarrett J. Krosoczka's name to his website.  He has loads of information and fun things to see and do.  At John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read., he celebrates the release of Peanut Butter and Jellyfish with an author illustrator interview.  At the publisher's website more interior views of the book are available. The tweet below is pretty amazing too!

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