Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

No To No Noise

Most living creatures make sounds; some are either too high or too low for humans to hear.  Squirrels chatter from the safety of a branch if you invade their space.  Crickets announce the approximate temperature by chirps made from rubbing their wings.  (You have to do a little math but it works.) Male birds sing in the morning with more clarity and frequency often to attract potential mates.  The bugling of a bull elk will stop you in your tracks.  It is eerie and magnificent at the same time.  Purring in cats can signify happiness, be a call for attention and promote healing.  Dogs bark for a variety of reasons.  Rest assured they will teach you what each bark means.

The point is all these beings make their sounds instinctively.  It's a part of what makes them who they are.  If they are silent when they should not be, then something is not quite right.  We humans make sounds for more reasons than we can possibly list.  What would we do if silence was demanded of us without question? The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet (Scholastic Press, January 31, 2017) written by Carmen Agra Deedy with illustrations by Eugene Yelchin explores the idea of silence, noise and the choice to be one or the other.

There once was a village where the streets rang with song from morning till night.

Inside and outside homes the sounds rang out from human voices, animals, and machines.  Of particular interest was every last soul sang in the shower.  As you might think, La Paz was anything but peaceful.

All this noise started to bother the residents of this village.  They blamed the mayor and promptly dismissed him.  In his place Don Pepe was elected on his promise of complete quiet.  How would he accomplish this feat?  He passed laws, lots of laws.

La Paz was not only peaceful; it was utterly void of any sound.  People who loved to sing left.  Others who stayed, sang in a whisper of a whisper.  Seven years passed.

One day a rooster, his ten chicks and hen strutted into town, roosting in a lovely mango tree.  As a newcomer he knew nothing of the laws, so when the sun rose in the morning he crowed.  Where do you think that mango tree was planted?  It was right underneath the mayor's window!

Not once, not twice, not three times but four times, this mayor took away what made the rooster happy to get him to stop singing but he would not.  Nearly out of his mind, the mayor issued a final threat but the rooster was ready with a reply.  It will make you want to stand up and sing.

No matter how many times a story is read if it stays wrapped around your heart and finds a permanent place in your mind, it changes you.  Perhaps the shift is slight giving strength where needed or maybe it will reverse your thinking.  This is the power of the words written by Carmen Agra Deedy in this book.

Initially as she writes we see a village completely change per their desires but you can't help but wonder if she is asking us to remember to be careful of what wishes we make.  Each time the mayor intimidates the plucky gallito with an ultimatum and action, his answers create a rhythm.  This back and forth series of sequences gradually build tension leading us to the inspirational conclusion. Here is a passage.

"Still singing?" snapped Don Pepe. "You have no tree.  Remember?"
"I have no tree," said the gallito.  "But I have my hen and chicks.  How can I keep from singing?"
"Will you sing if I throw you in a cage---alone?" threatened Don Pepe.
"I may sing a lonelier song," said the stubborn gallito.  "But I will sing."
And he did.  

On the opened matching dust jacket and book case Eugene Yelchin uses bright cheerful colors to announce the title and the character of the plucky gallito.  It's our first hint of the courage this bird reveals in the story.  The illustration seen on the front (right) extends over the spine to the back, including the hen and the rest of the chicks.  It's important to note the attention the chicks are giving their parent.  They are listening.  They are learning.  One is singing too.

One of the blue hues from the jacket and case covers the opening and closing endpapers.  The words, the song of the rooster,

Kee-kee-ree KEE! 

are placed in a pattern in varying sizes across the pages.  Beneath the text on the title page the rooster strides in confidence.  He appears again in the same pose, chicks and hen behind him, across the verso and dedication pages.

These pictures

rendered in oil pastel, colored pencil, gouache, and acrylic

are spirited and in superb synchronization with the narrative, enhancing it with Eugene Yelchin's special techniques.  He uses single page images opposite a page of text and double-page pictures surrounding words.  His color choices and lines are altered to reflect the mood of the story.  His depiction of the mayor, Don Pepe is marvelous.  He looks as dastardly as he is.  The contrast between this man and the rooster is utterly perfect.

One of my favorite illustrations of many is the first one.  Across the upper portion of the single page picture is a brilliant deep blue sky with an orange sun and pale golden clouds.  Beneath them on a hill is the village, stucco buildings and tile roofs with spires of churches rising up.  This is the upper third of the illustration.  The hill is a series of fields and roads with grazing horses, cows and goats.  A single bicycle rider is moving down the main road to the village.  The wonderful thing is Yelchin has placed large musical notes and a staff over the fields, incorporating them into the pattern of the rows.

This book, The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!, written by Carmen Agra Deedy with illustrations by Eugene Yelchin is essential to every collection, professional and personal.  This story is powerful and timeless.  I expect and would welcome a chorus of crowing after each and every reading.

To learn more about the work of Carmen Agra Deedy and Eugene Yelchin please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  They both feature interior images from this title at their sites.  Make sure to stop by Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast hosted by author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson to view some artwork and read her words about this title.  This book is included on a list of 2017 titles at Latinxs in Kid Lit.  Carmen Agra Deedy is featured at Time For Kids and KidLit 411.  Eugene Yelchin is showcased at Publishers Weekly and the International Literacy Association.   I hope you enjoy the video with Carmen Agra Deedy speaking about stories as much as I did.

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