Quote of the Month

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




Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Rabbit Who Reads Succeeds

Language is a beautiful thing to speak, to write and to hear.  Some words can be more than one part of speech.  This gives them extended meanings, sometimes within the same part of speech.  The word big is one of those words.

As an adjective it can refer to size or importance.  In How to Be A Bigger Bunny (Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, January 24, 2017) written by Florence Minor with illustrations by her husband Wendell Minor it might have several more meanings.  Inside of some of the smallest beings beats a big heart.

Tickles the bunny yawned.
It was time to get out of bed.

She searched for her brothers and sisters but they had already hopped away for a day full of play.  Was Tickles discouraged Nibbles, Wiggles, Giggles and Jiggles had left her?  Not at all.  She had a new book to read.

How to Be a Bigger Bunny was brimming with its own kind of excitement.  In the first story a bunny wished to reach the top of a tall tree.  Snoozing Tickles dreamt she did reach the top of a tall tree.  You could reach great heights if you never gave up.

She found herself imagining what it must be like to be bold and brave after reading the second story, How to Be Like a Pirate.  Tickles really enjoyed talking like a pirate.  As the hours ticked by our bunny friend was learning how to get out of difficult situations.  Nibbling was involved.  Quite suddenly a loud noise jarred Tickles from her reading.

Cautiously investigating she called for her brothers and sisters.  At first there was only silence but then she heard thumping.  Her discovery prompted her to use all the best parts of the stories she had read.  As she slept later at home Tickles wondered.  The following morning a dream came true.


Remember what I said about the beauty of hearing, writing and speaking language, the wonderful combination of words?  This book written by Florence Minor is a marvelous model of this very thing.  The three stories reflect on life lessons valuable in a variety of situations but for Tickles they match wonderfully the three things she must do to save her brothers and sisters.

The simple, short sentences are ideal for younger readers (and those young at heart).  To add interest and invite participation Florence includes narrative, thoughts, conversation and sound effects.  This blend, with her expertly placed punctuation, provides perfect pacing.  Here is a passage.

Nobody answered, so Tickles hopped off to look for them.

"Hello?" Tickles called.
"Helloooo?" Is anyone there?"
Nothing.
She called out again.
There was still no answer.
She listened carefully, and guess what?
She heard thumping.


Wendell Minor's painting welcomes you to step right into whatever world he has created.  Don't you wish you could stand next to Tickles in the field of flowers seen on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case?  You can almost feel the warmth of the air as a goldfinch flutters nearby and a swallowtail hovers above the blossoms.  You're sure if you reach out a hand you could touch soft fur.  To the left, on the back, Tickles is standing on a stack of books, arms outstretched on a canvas of pale yellow.  Royal purple covers the opening and closing endpapers.

On the initial title page Tickles has moved in the field.  Alone now, she has opened the book.  On the formal title page the story begins with the family cuddled and sleeping on their bed.  The bedspread is a quilt with squares framed in green; radish and carrot bunches in the center.

Rendered in gouache watercolor on Strathmore 500 Bristol these illustrations, nearly all spanning two pages, literally glow with the signature luminosity we adore about Wendell Minor's work.  His use of light is masterful; simply stunning.  Wendell's lines and brush strokes create a truly lifelike texture.  His attention to detail is photographic at times but in some portions of these illustrations Monet came to mind.

One of my favorite of many paintings spans two pages.  It is when Tickles begins her day reading her new book.  It is a close-up of her.  On the left is a field of dandelions and daisies.  On the right Tickles is learning against the truck of a tree with her book open.  She has paused to look straight at us.  Her big bunny feet are spread apart.  I don't think any reader would be a bit surprised to hear her say Hello.  Do you want to read with me?


How To Be A Bigger Bunny written by Florence Minor with illustrations by Wendell Minor is best shared over and over again.  It will be a beloved read aloud.  Within a tale of brothers and sisters the smallest becomes big by doing what any of us are capable of doing; except for the nibbling.

Please take a few moments to visit the website of Florence and Wendell Minor by following the link attached to Wendell's name.  You will be amazed at the large body of work created by these talented individuals.  At the publisher's website you can get a glimpse of the front and back of the jacket and case.



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