Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Word Wonder

There are days when you long to set your mind free.  Today as the wind chill dipped into the single digits, the sun teased us by playing hide-and-seek with the clouds scurrying along the brilliant blue sky.  When it shone shadows of dog and tree branches danced on the snowy surface.  I found myself looking up wishing the clouds were kites with strings attached to my canine companion and I.  Perhaps for some minutes they could have lifted us up, giving us a much grander view of the landscape.

It's important to look beyond the obvious.  It's important to assign a more imaginative definition to the everyday things in our world.  If I had a little dream (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, February 7, 2017) written by Nina Laden with illustrations by Melissa Castrillon is filled with marvelous insights, a beautiful outlook on the ordinary, using the vision of a child.

If I had a little land,
I would name it There.
There would be my home,
be it stormy be it fair.

A calm acceptance and truth is found in this first poetic observation.  There is most definitely a place.  When out walking near your home with someone and they ask where you live, you will probably point and say there.

The house on the land named There is called Love.  When you think of love and its numerous definitions, are they not realized within the four walls of our houses?  With great wisdom the child assigns a word to garden making perfect sense when explained but not how most of us would think.

She includes a pond and a boat upon the pond.  Her bicycle makes her feel like a bird, wings lifting her to places far and wide.  Inside her home her senses, taste and touch, define a table and chair.

Furry friends fill her world with goodness and curiosity.  Siblings fill her with essences of life.  Her final three words of the fifteen, book, bed and dream embrace us in the soothing cadence of story, the peace it can supply and the value it gives each individual.

Thirty words are paired with keen awareness by author Nina Laden.  With a sure knowledge of her narrator's mind she places them in four-line rhyming poems.  Each one reads like a movement in a symphony.  The melody asks us to travel with the child as she introduces us to those things of most value to her and how they will enrich her life.  Here is another poem.

If I had a little pond,
I would name it Wonder.
Wonder would show me beauty
above the water and under.

When you open the dust jacket you will find yourself gasping at its intricate beauty.  The swirling lines of leaves and stems, extending from the front to the back, hold elements from the overall design and from specific poems.  The limited color palette provides a stunning contrast on the cream canvas.  It's a gorgeous rendition of the beauty of a dream.  On the book case the images are duplicated but their hues have been changed.  The blue from the dust jacket has become the background.  Gold foil, from the title text on the jacket, has replaced the blue leaves and stems.  Shades of blue and white outline and fill the other portions of the picture.

On the opening and closing endpapers we have moved closer to the leaves and stems.  A pale orange is the background for cream-colored details, flowers, birds, insects and the child resting in the curve of a stem.  With a page turn at the front and back this is continued to a lesser extent.  Prior to the title page, the girl is holding one of the large plants in her garden.  Twisting and turning vines wrap around the dedications, publication information and title page text. (Nina's dedication will have librarians wanting to reach out and hug her.)

Each two-page illustration rendered in pencil and colored digitally by Melissa Castrillon (all the images are created with this technique) is an exquisite blend of color framing the text.  You must stop and look at the tiny details, the creatures placed among the flora, squirrels, snails, an owl, bees, birds, mice or a rabbit.  For other poems the text is beneath an oval visual on one page with a close-up of a portion of that on the opposite page.  For a house named Love, the smoke coming out the chimney is shaped like a heart.  At other times an element from the right frames the text on the left.

One of my favorite pictures of many is for

If I had a little dog...

On the left an oval in brown surrounds the image portrayed in a hue of blue, orange, red, peach and white.  In that brown oval are stylized leaves and flowers and birds.  The dog is seen running on one side.  Two other times the girl and her dog are seated together.  Within this is the land, the house, a portion of the garden and a puddle.  The child and her pooch pal are playing.  Off to the right the dog is sitting in the water, ears and tail dripping.  A tiny snail watches.

The blend of words and art in If I had a little dream written by Nina Laden with pictures by Melissa Castrillon will weave a magical spell around each and every reader.  You are immediately welcomed into the child's world and you will find heartwarming comfort there.  This is an excellent book for asking readers to look with extraordinary eyes at what they see day after day.  I can't imagine a better bedtime book than this one.  Make sure you have a copy for both your professional and personal bookshelves.

By following the links attached to Nina Laden's name and Melissa Castrillon's name you can access their websites learning more about them and their work.  Nina has a blog here.  Melissa has entries on Tumblr.  You can view some of the marvelous interior pages and the book case at the publisher's website.  Nina Laden is highlighted by author illustrator Renata Liwska here in a post.  Pictures from Nina's home are included.  Nina is interviewed at KidLit 411 and at Andrea Skyberg's site. Melissa is interviewed at Cranberry Deer.

UPDATE:  Nina Laden writes on her blog about the spark for the idea of this book and the entire process.  It is a lovely, lovely post.  It's a must read. 

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