Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Pushing The Boundaries

For as long as there have been teachers and learners, each has challenged the other to be their best.  While the former may prompt and promote, the later sometimes responds in unexpected ways.  This in turn expands the mind of the teacher while growing confidence in the learner. This is how joy is generated in the classroom, wherever it is.

Where there is joy, learning will never end.  The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection (Little, Brown and Company, March 13, 2018) edited by Colby Sharp, ideas & stories by Sherman Alexie, Tom Angleberger, Jessixa Bagley, Tracey Baptiste, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Peter Brown, Lauren Castillo, Kate DiCamillo, Margarita Engle, Deborah Freedman, Adam Gidwitz, Chris Grabenstein, Jennifer L. Holm, Victoria Jamieson, Travis Jonker, Jess Keating, Laurie Keller, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Kirby Larson, Minh Le, Grace Lin, Kate Messner, Daniel Nayeri, Naomi Shihab Nye, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, R. J. Palacio, Linda Sue Park, Dav Pilkey, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Dan Santat, Gary D. Schmidt, John Schu, Colby Sharp, Bob Shea, Liesl Shurtliff, Lemony Snicket, Laurel Snyder, Javaka Steptoe, Mariko Tamaki, Linda Urban, Frank Viva and Kat Yeh and YOU! seeks to empower readers.  There are stories everywhere waiting to be told and there are more ways than we can count to tell them. 

The book you hold in your hands is filled with ideas and stories created by some of my favorite authors and illustrators.  Here you will find talking hats, a magic elevator, a hefty cat, and advice from beyond the grave.  Each time I read through the collection, my mind is blown.  

Editor and author Colby Sharp asked each of the participants to send two prompts.  These prompts could literally be anything.  Then two prompts were chosen and sent back to the authors and illustrators.  They needed to select one and respond.

From a three line poem by Cuban American author and Young People's Poet Laureate Margarita Engle, author and illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi fashions a five page graphic short story.  The text and panels (some are wordless) are a perfect reply.  This serves to show possibilities to those more inclined to express themselves visually.  Teacher librarian, author, blogger at 100 Scope Notes and part of The Yarn podcast team, Travis Jonker submitted a visual prompt.  It's a coat rack with four different hats hanging on the hooks titled The Meeting.  Author and illustrator Laurie Keller responds in kind with hilarity. What if inanimate objects could speak?

You will read about a request for turning a favorite author's name into a title of a book they might write.  A frustrated mouse ends up riding away on a motorcycle.  (Minh Le writes and Victoria Jamieson draws)  A former student writes a letter to a teacher who brought a book into her classroom which connected to him.  To this day this student gives away books with joy and gratitude. (Victoria Jamieson writes and John Schu writes) 

A single sentence by Linda Sue Park results in a two image reply by Sophie Blackall. Here is the sentence.

She threw it off the bridge into the river, and watched it disappear downstream.

What do you think Sophie drew?  It's a response most would not imagine.  Deborah Freedman's reply to Linda Urban's request having to do with folklore and being late will charm readers with her signature illustrative style.  My furry friend (and I) loves the visual answer given by Javaka Steptoe to author Kat Yeh's written invitation.  This is for all of you who have ever wished your dogs could talk. 

We visit spaces through a portal created from a glow in a forest. (Lauren Castillo, image and Tracey Baptiste writes)  Four words by Mariko Tamaki will change the way you look at your neighbors after reading Dan Santat's graphic short story response. Author Jess Keating describes an item with a note of warning attached.  Peter Brown's illustration as an answer is sure to produce giggles and grins.

One of my many favorite combinations is illustrative.  Jennifer L. Holm inspires Minh Le to tie vegetables to Shakespeare.  You have to see this to believe it.  Then you'll laugh yourself silly.

No matter how many times you read these prompts and responses you will be inspired anew by the ingenuity of the participants.  You have to wonder how Colby Sharp decided which prompts to send to which participants. (I believe this is answered in a chat he has with Corrina Allen at Books Between Podcast.)  At the close of the title the authors and illustrators provide further prompts for readers.  Short biographies are also included.  (This post is written using an initial ARC of the book.)  This title will enhance your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Colby Sharp and those contributors mentioned here and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites or blogs.  Colby has another site here and a Facebook page here.  At the publisher's website you can read an excerpt. Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, reveals the cover on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  Participants Debbie Ridpath Ohi and Deborah Freedman talk about this title on their websites.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Friends In Deed

The tips of tulips are poking up through the soil.  Some days there is a hint of warmth in the wind.  The next day snow covers everything before noon but vanishes within several hours.  There are new notes in the birdsong. The robins are here.

Ever since 1931 the American robin has been the state bird of Michigan.  Their presence after winter, rather than the calendar, is a sure sign spring is arriving.  This Is the NEST That ROBIN Built (with a little help from her friends) (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, March 6, 2018) written and illustrated by Denise Fleming commemorates the season and animals of the forest, field and farm in her creative take on a familiar rhythm and rhyme.

This is the SQUIRREL
who trimmed the twigs, not too big,
that anchor the nest that Robin built.

For anyone with a dog, young and ready for action, no one will be surprised to notice its presence in the next line unraveling the string in a stolen weaving.  In a more quiet moment we are taken to the horse, gladly giving straw.  Can you guess the contribution of the Pig?

Moving into the meadow, a tiny creature collects.  One with longer legs and ears selects the choicest greenery.  A shelter for welcoming new life is shaped.

Delicate ovals with a distinguishing color are nestled in their new home.  Soon open mouths and downy heads poke above the rim.  Where is their meal?  Where is their mama?

As the days of spring grow in number, the young robins increase in size.  Fluff turns into feathers.  A proud parent watches wings spread.

You can't help reading this narrative penned by Denise Fleming aloud.  As each of the six animals play a part in assisting Robin to build her nest, the items are described with words which extend the musical quality of the text.  The verbs are full of action, trimmed, anchor, brought, wraps, shared and covers.  Once Robin lays her eggs, Denise takes the story's focus to the inside of the nest.  In a wonderful original conclusion gratitude is given and a salutation is sung.  Here is a partial passage.

This is the HORSE
who shared his straw, rough and tough,
that covers the string, long and strong, . . .

Happiness fills your heart when first looking at the matching dust jacket and book case created by Denise Fleming.  It announces the beginning of new life and a shift in the seasons.  For this most recent title Denise experimented with a new illustrative style; combining print-making techniques with collage bringing to readers her signature attention to detail.  You notice the layers used by Robin in constructing her nest and the attentive ladybugs and beetle among the materials.  What will readers think of Robin's eye?

To the left, on the back, is a blend of shades of green and shapes of leaves signifying boughs on the tree.  A pale spring green covers the opening and closing endpapers.  With a page turn at the beginning (and the end) we see a layer of grass along the bottom of a brilliant blue sky dotted with clouds. With another page turn, at the front, Robin is placed in the sky on the left with the book's dedication on the right.  The title and verso pages are a rich and vibrant depiction of leaves and ladybugs.  (At the close of the book, those same two pages of grass and sky are replicated but extend the ending.)

Each image is a two-page picture brimming with texture and animation.  The six animals are not always alone on their pages.  They share the space with ladybugs, a rooster, mice, insects, and a hungry frog.  A praying mantis peeks over the edge of the nest.  (When Denise illustrates it's a tribute to Mother Nature.)

To increase interest the point of view alternates.  We are close to the squirrel and dog but for the horse we are very close as he bows to look at a mouse.  As the narrative draws toward the ending a beautiful gatefold displays the combined efforts of the animals and Robin.

One of my many favorite illustrations is of the rabbit.  Denise has captured this creature mid hop and stopping and bending to munch on some choice grass.  The animal's body extends from the left across the gutter to the right.  An array of grass and weeds fills the left side and moves to the right.  Readers will be looking for the ladybugs shown here.  The texture on the rabbit's body will surely have readers reaching to touch the pages.  You expect the nose to twitch.

As soon as the matching dust jacket and book case are shown and the title is read, readers and listeners will feel the beat growing inside them.  This Is the NEST That ROBIN Built (with a little help from her friends) written and illustrated by Denise Fleming is sure to have everyone smiling and singing by the book's end.  It's a wonderful title to use in comparison to the original cumulative tale, during a study of the seasons or an exploration of birds and other animals working together.  You could pair this with Robins! How They Grow Up (Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, February 7, 2017) written and illustrated by Eileen Christelow.  I highly recommend this book for your professional and personal collections.

To discover more about Denise Fleming and her considerable work in children's literature, please follow the link attached to her name.  For activities extending this title, you'll want to visit this link.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson, features Denise Fleming and this title on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Enjoy the book trailer and additional video.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Creative Destinations

Even thinking about it makes individuals smile.  It can be a day or a month.  It's welcome any time of the year.  It's a shift in the established routine.  It's a vacation!

Sometimes a shift in the established routine does not signal a vacation.  Sometimes grownups need to leave for a few days without their children.  Mama's Business Trip Bunny's Staycation (Scholastic Press, January 30, 2018) written and illustrated by Lori Richmond is about a little guy and his very inventive papa.

Mama is going away
on a business trip . . .
and Bunny doesn't like it one bit.

He knows daily rituals simply won't be the same without her.  Looking at her packed suitcase, Bunny has an idea.  Without the suitcase Mama can't go.  Although his six possible plans to make the suitcase disappear might work, a more brilliant thought comes to mind.  What if he goes with Mama?

With his very own suitcase packed he is ready but disappointment quickly follows. Mama can't bring Bunny.  She assures him she will return in five days.  Unable to stop crying during story time at bedtime, his papa tells him they are going to go someplace little bunnies can go.  They'll leave first thing tomorrow.

In the morning Bunny and Papa get to work.  With a large box, paper, scissors, tape, crayons, cardboard tubes, and ribbon they design a means for seeking and having one adventure after another. For the following three days the duo enjoy fun in a variety of specific spaces found around the world until on the last day, Bunny can't handle his missing mama.

Papa makes a suggestion but Bunny has another brilliant thought.  Father and son create through the rest of the day and into the night.  It's finally Friday!  Mama is happily surprised when she walks into the house.  Life really is one adventure after another.

From beginning to end readers of all ages can identify with the characters in this story.  Through Bunny's thoughts and voice (plus Mama and Papa), Lori Richmond speaks to the loss children feel when their parents have to leave and also to the mixed emotions of those parents leaving home and those parents staying behind with their children.  There is a simple truth in Bunny's words and brilliant thoughts which make us want to reach out and give him a hug.  When Lori Richmond introduces the calendar given to Bunny by his mama and when Papa hatches the plan for their trips, you know this is a loving family.  Here is a passage from the book.

That night, Bunny sniffles all the way through bedtime stories.
"Papa, I wish we could go somewhere little bunnies can go, too."

"Let's do it," said Papa.  "We'll leave in the morning."

That happy-go-lucky grin on Bunny's face on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case is sure to get reader's attention.  You have to wonder what has his attention.  Is it the jumping goldfish?  Is it the picture of Mama hanging above the tub?  Is it his handiwork using the red crayon?  The splash of red for the book title matches Bunny's clothing but also a significant element in many of the images throughout the title.

To the left, on the back, the trio, Bunny, Mama and Papa, are standing together within a lighter circle placed over the washed turquoise background.  Mama's suitcase sits next to her.  On the dust jacket certain portions of the illustrations are varnished.

The opening and closing endpapers in shades of purple are different.  In the first Bunny's drawings are taped to the canvas.  They feature all of his favorite things.  The closing endpapers are a mixture of photographs and parts of the adventures.  Both sets are sure to make readers grin.

Rendered in ink and watercolor and composited digitally Lori Richmond begins her visual interpretation of the story on the title page.  Bunny is happily making the creations featured on his bedroom wall.  The verso and first page show Papa working on his computer as Mama packs for her trip.  Bunny is looking gloomy.

The sizes of the images shift to enhance the flow of the narrative.  Two-page pictures change to single page illustrations or a series of smaller pictures are grouped on two pages.  Lori Richmond tends to make her characters bolder in the pictures, fading other items somewhat.  The most important details reach out to the reader initially.

You will find yourself pausing to look at the little extra touches in the visuals.  Bunny is always wearing a yellow cape and the homemade purple crown.  On the backs of all the electronic devices is a carrot with its leafy top.  A Bun Voyage sticker is on Mama's suitcase.  Bunny has bunny slippers on the floor in his bedroom.  Humor comes in the imaginary attempts of Bunny to make Mama's suitcase vanish or when the family goldfish is leaping into the toilet.

A favorite of many pictures spans two pages.  It's a close up of Bunny and Papa ready for their first adventure.  The cardboard car fills nearly all the right side, crosses the gutter and into the left side.  Papa is pushing the back of the car on the left. This vehicle is brimming with all types of materials needed to fashion their fantastical spaces, their staycations.  Bunny, as is Papa, is smiling.  He holds the calendar given to him by his mama.  These two are ready for action.

You will find yourself smiling as you close the cover of Mama's Business Trip Bunny's Staycation written and illustrated by Lori Richmond.  Each of these characters is genuine in their love for each other and in their willingness to make the best of a less than ideal situation.  And I guarantee after reading this book, you have to have, at the very least, materials ready for creative hands.  A box large enough to hold a passenger would be perfect.  Get ready for requests of repeat reading of this title you will want to have in your professional and personal collections.

If you desire to know more about Lori Richmond and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  At this website on the page for this book, Lori has another link you will want to follow. Lori maintains an account at Instagram.  Lori is highlighted at Your Creative PushOn Our Minds, Scholastic's blog about books and the joy of reading, has a post about this title and other ideas for parents needing to be away from home.  Enjoy the videos.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Under Its Light

By one definition a blue moon is a second full moon in a single calendar month.  February 2018 was a month without a full moon, giving us this March with a second full moon.  On March 31, 2018 a full moon, a blue moon, will light the sky.  It is the second one we've had this year.  It is the last time we will have two blue moons of this type (January and March) until the year 2037. 

With this event occurring only every nineteen years, folklore contains references to superstitions and beliefs attached to blue moons.  Regardless of scientific evidence, educators and parents of children and pets know these individuals are affected by a full moon.  When there are two in a single calendar month, the unexpected is to be expected.  The Boy And The Blue Moon (Godwin Books, Henry Holt and Company, February 13, 2018) written by Sara O'Leary with illustrations by Ashley Crowley follows two companions taking an enchanting nighttime journey.

On the night of the blue moon, a boy and his cat went for a walk.  
Inside their house the light was warm and yellow, but outside it was blue and magical. 

As they are walking the boy pauses and turns to his cat advising him of the special significance of a blue moon.  Their path through a field filled with flowers leads them ever closer to the woods.  As they enter the trees a song rings out from the branches.  What is making this music?

Although the boy explores this trail frequently, it is not the same on this night.  A lake appears in front of them.  Along this shore never seen before is a boat.  Both the boy and his cat climb into the boat. 

A reflection of the blue moon on the water beckons to the boy and his cat in the boat.  Many nights the boy has wished to visit the moon but tonight he puts his whole soul into that same wish. (The cat wishes, too.)  These two friends find themselves transported.  On a blue moon night wishes can come true.

Their exploration of this celestial body is exactly as imagined.  As they rest, the boy holding his cat sees a tiny glow from down below on Earth.  It calls to them as the blue moon on the lake did.  In the morning an assumption is reaffirmed.

From beginning to end, the sentences penned by Sara O'Leary sing like the song heard by the boy and his cat in the book.  They flow like notes strung together in a line of music.  They supply a hushed atmosphere; one where anything is possible.  As the duo gets farther into the woods, you know something is going to happen, something extraordinary.  It builds inside you like hopeful anticipation. Here is a passage.

The trees of the forest
were blue as well, and
somewhere high in the branches,
something was singing.  It might have
been birds or it might have been dragons.

If you open the dust jacket, the path along the fence stretches to the left on the back.  Above the fence on a hill sits the home of the boy and his cat.  Lights glimmer in the windows on both floors.  The starry sky provides a backdrop.  The many layers and hues of blue cast, like the light of the moon, a deep sense of calm and a spell filled with promise.  On the book case a deep, deep blue sky with a few stars spans the front and the back, trees like black lace line the bottom.  On the right the full blue moon lights the center.  From one side to the other a bridge allows the boy and his cat to continue on their journey.  They like the trees are in black.

On the opening and closing endpapers seventeen different small images with shining borders of blue light feature elements from the story like the boy and his cat, a telescope, books on the moon and a pair of boots.  They are placed on a star-studded sky.  The field of bluebells covers the lower third of the verso and title pages.  The cat is standing among them on the right.  A canvas of white above the flowers provides space for the text on both pages.

Rendered in blue inks applied using a water brush pen, gouache paint, graphite sticks, pastels, colored pencils, and Adobe Photoshop the illustrations of Ashley Crowley envelope the reader in the sensory marvel of this blue moon night.  The hues of blue contrast with the white in a stunning display.  The affection between the boy and his cat is evident in their body postures and facial expressions.  Aren't the highlighted cheeks on the boy wonderful? 

Spots of red appear in significant elements in some of the pictures.  The image sizes vary in keeping with the pacing of the story.  Ashley Crowley gives us many breathtaking panoramic views.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when the boy and his cat are paused during their travels.  It covers two pages.  They are standing in the field of bluebells.  A fence goes from the left to the edge of a row of trees spanning toward the moon which rises large and blue above the horizon on the right. Tree silhouettes cover the rolling hill on the right.  Between the trees the white path winds.  You can feel the stillness.

Perfect for anytime but especially wonderful on a full moon night, The Boy And The Blue Moon written by Sara O'Leary with illustrations by Ashley Crowley is sure to be a beloved bedtime or story time treat.  Readers and listeners will be captivated first by the walk taken by the boy and his cat but will be thrilled when their wish is fulfilled.  Get cozy and get comfortable and wander into the magic of this night.  You will want to include this title in your professional and personal collections. 

To discover more about Sara O'Leary and Ashley Crowley and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Both Sara and Ashley maintain Instagram accounts.  Sara chats on a podcast at CBC about this title.

Champions . . . Every Single One

You want to stand up and cheer.  It's as if everything you are taught to believe, everything you feel in your heart, is true.  Their accomplishments are an inspiration.  Their accomplishments changed and continue to alter conventional thought one woman at a time; bringing hope to other women then and now.

They dared to be different fueled by their knowledge and faith in themselves.  Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed The World (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, January 23, 2018) written by Susan Hood with illustrations by Selina Alko, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Hadley Hooper, Emily Winfield Martin, Oge Mora, Julie Morstad, Sara Palacios, LeUyen Pham, Erin K. Robinson, Isabel Roxas, Shadra Strickland and Melissa Sweet is a poetic and artistic tribute to young women of distinction.  As you read the final poem graced by distinguished artwork, you might, as I did, wonder about a dinner with all these women in attendance.  Can you imagine the conversations? 

Women and girls have been shaking things up for a long time, resisting those who would box them in.  Here are fourteen inspiring young rebels (one just six years old, another only thirteen) who broke down walls to pursue their interests, talents, and rights.

After the introduction a table of contents lists the women by name in chronological order with one of thirteen different female illustrators paired with them.  First a timeline features the women beginning in the early 1780s with Molly Williams and closing in 2014 with Malala Yousafzai.  Included are World War I, the 19th Amendment, World War II, the United States Supreme Court decision finding public school segregation unconstitutional, and Title IX. 

Molly Williams, a servant of a volunteer firefighter, took it upon herself to battle a blaze in New York City.  It's shocking how long it took for another female to win the right to join the fire department.  Stricken by poverty at the death of her father another young woman at the age of thirteen discovered the bones of an ichthyosaur.  This woman defied the title of a novel, even meeting the author, to set a record for traveling around the world.  

A woman was arrested for her scandalous swimwear but went on to win awards.  Another broke barriers in public libraries inviting Spanish-speaking patrons through her story times and celebrations of their customs.  Repeated physical tragedies did not deter this Mexican artist from achieving worldwide fame.

The Nearne sisters, Jacqueline and Eileen, entered by parachute and plane war-torn France occupied by the Germans to assist the resistance.  She was only twenty-seven but her book, Diet for a Small Planet, altered thinking and is as relevant today as it was in 1971.  Many readers will know about Ruby Bridges but will they know she never missed a day of school with the same teacher in a classroom for one.

How many astronauts have a medical degree?  How many of them were the first female African American astronaut?  Mae Jemison does and she was.  Her vision, made into a reality, is seen by millions of visitors each year.  At seventeen her invention won her a coveted prize.  Fighting back after an assassination attempt on her life, Malala Yousafzai, like the other thirteen women, knows one person, one woman, can alter history for the better.

There are poems with rhyming words on lines two and four.  Others form the shape of an element in the poem (concrete).  Another one is composed of alternating four and two lines, rhyming in a rhythm.  A special cadence is created with two lines rhyming, the next two rhyming and the fifth rhyming with the first two.  To showcase Pura Belpre, author Susan Hood describes her using the letters of the alphabet, top to bottom.  Carefully chosen, each poetic style is a reflection of the woman.  Susan Hood presents a small factual paragraph at the bottom of each page including the birth and death dates.  Six of the women are still alive.  Here is the first verse from the poem about Annette Kellerman, Champion Athlete and Inventor of the Modern Swimsuit.

Turning The Tide
There was once a mermaid queen,
lovely and lithesome and lean,
who swam afternoons
without pantaloons---
her swimsuit was deemed obscene!

Each illustrator brings her remarkable and notable technique to this title.  On the opened dust jacket, the art of Oge Mora depicts a small child, Ruby Bridges, bravely entering school.  To the left, on the back, on a canvas of white, a delicate portion of one of the images for Pura Belpre by Sara Palacios is placed.  A songbird is carrying a flower in its beak, one of many on and floating above the pages of a book. (Those same flowers are part of a pattern on Pura Belpre's dress she wears during an animated story time.) The book case is a beautiful pattern consisting of tiny replicas of the full page pictures for each woman by these illustrators.  The opening and closing endpapers are a light shade of turquoise.

The illustration by Oge Mora seen on the dust jacket front is extended for the verso and title pages.  Shadra Strickland boldly portrays Molly Williams working along with the other firefighters in the dead of winter, including historical details.  Mary Anning is shown digging up bones in a color palette of blues, black, white, and tan by Hadley Hooper.  Fine lines are etching out the elements.  Nellie Bly stands on the bow of a ship, valise next to her.  Lisa Brown has placed the monkey she brought home from her travels on her extended arm.  There is an air of determination in Nellie's stature and on her face.

The soft and delicate texture and brush strokes of Emily Winfield Martin give readers the right atmosphere for Annette Kellerman, swimmer extraordinaire.   Frida Kahlo appears to be looking right at the reader as she stands tall, paint brush in hand with monkeys keeping her company.  Erin K. Robinson brings Frida Kahlo to life with her bold hues and textured art.

Sophie Blackall cleverly inserts the items carried by Jacqueline Nearne in a picture showing her floating toward a patchwork landscape in France.  Her hues are tans, browns and grays.  In her signature collage Melissa Sweet features Frances Moore Lappe driving a truck.  In the bed rests the planet covered in fruits, flowers and vegetables.  The innocence of a brilliant girl with a vision is embodied in the work of Isabel Roxas.  She shows Mae Jemison standing in front of a blackboard drawing her dreams.

By showing Maya Lin standing in front of the Vietnam War Memorial, snow falling on the already snow-covered ground, we get a true feeling for the sensory experience she designed through the art of Julie Morstad.  A row of footprints line the length of the memorial to where she stands. (This is one of my many favorite illustrations.)  LeUyen Pham enhances the poem about Angela Zhang giving us a view of her youthful face, happy and holding a book.  Above her are representations of chemical structures along with a computer screen and keyboard as other elements.  For the final illustration Selina Alko uses shades of red to indicate warmth and boldness of her subject Malala Yousafzai.  Around Malala, centered on the page, are the faces of women from around the world.

For each of these fourteen women each artist includes, in addition to the main single page picture, smaller images on the facing page with the poem.  Many of them enhance the words of the poem.  Others serve to further highlight specifics about the women.

Your spirit will be lifted and your heart will be full after reading Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed The World written by Susan Hood with illustrations by 13 extraordinary women, Selina Alko, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Hadley Hooper, Emily Winfield Martin, Oge Mora, Julie Morstad, Sara Palacios, LeUyen Pham, Erin K. Robinson, Isabel Roxas, Shadra Strickland and Melissa Sweet.  This blend of poetry and stunning artwork should be a part of every professional and personal collection.  It invites all readers to explore their lives further.  At the close of the book are an author's note, sources, books, websites and more and acknowledgements.  

To learn more about Susan Hood and each of the illustrator's and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  At the publisher's website you can read an excerpt. At Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read., the book trailer is revealed.  The interview is a must read before you read this book and before you booktalk it.  Teacher librarian Matthew Winner invites Susan Hood to chat with him at All The Wonders, Episode 420.

Please take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the titles selected this week by others participating in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Power Of One

We read them.  We write them.  We sign them.  We speak them.  We hear them.  We can even touch them.  A single one of them can change the course of history.  A group of them, conveying a single thought, can be recorded and remembered for all time.  Even if you are standing in a space without them, they will come uninvited into your mind.  They are one of the most powerful forces on our planet.

They save lives around the world every single day.  In Peter H. Reynolds's newest title, The Word Collector (Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., January 30, 2018) a small boy, wise beyond his years, recognizes the value and strength of words. His greatest triumph is acting on this knowledge.

Collectors collect things . . .
Some people collect stamps.
Some people collect coins.
Others collect rocks.
Some collect art.

Jerome collected words.  He was always listening to, looking at and reading words.  If any one of them was unique to him, he wrote it down.  Each word had its own piece of paper.

The length of the word did not determine its worth.  It was the way in which they rolled off his tongue and their musicality which had appeal to him.  All those words on pieces of paper filled scrapbook after scrapbook.  Like all master collectors, Jerome had a system for categorizing those scrapbooks bursting with words.

One day the unimaginable happened.  A mishap caused Jerome's collection to scatter.  The words no longer were grouped in any sort of order.  From this mess this marvelous boy began to create magic.  He started to put the words together in a new kind of order.  With this order his collected words formed verses to write, read and sing.

Jerome was discovering the best thing about his particular collection.  Its strength increased every time he shared those words.  Did this boy stop collecting words? No.  Did this boy stop sharing words?  No.  In fact, he finally did the one thing he had not done.  On a very special day, he was the happiest he had ever been. 

If there's one thing children understand, it's the desire to collect things.  It's as if this need to know everything about one particular thing is irresistible.  Peter H. Reynolds captures this beautifully in his simple, conversational sentences.  His use of language leans toward the songs words can make when arranged.  As the story progresses we feel a gentle tension growing until the eventful day when Jerome's collection scatters.  And this in turn leads us toward the best possible conclusion.  Here is a passage.

He collected words he saw.
Certain words jumped out at him.

He collected words he read.
Certain words popped off the page.

Speaking of words, one word to describe the opened dust jacket is jubilation.  Picturing Jerome with eyes closed and arms raised gives the reader a sense of the peace and comfort he feels among his collection.  Seeing the slips of paper with his words floating around him is like giving form to air.  To Jerome his words are like air giving him life (and life to others, too).  The color choices, blue, white, yellow, and the shade of purple are particularly appealing.

On the book case, in shades of golden yellow, are layers of pieces of paper.  Each one contains one of Jerome's words.  I know readers will pour over those words, selecting those which call out to them.  On the opening endpapers the slips of paper float through a pale blue sky and wisps of clouds.  A bluebird gives witness to this.  A sky filled with the hues of a purple dusk and early starlight provides a canvas for the closing endpapers.  More yellow papers drift on the night air.  Three lines of those words form a quote from Peter Hamilton Reynolds. 

On the verso and title pages two spaces are cleared in the yellow layers of words to provide a place for the appropriate text.  (The text type and display are hand-lettered by Peter H. Reynolds.)  The remarkable style of Peter H. Reynolds's illustrations fill these pages with smaller images grouped together on white backgrounds, larger pictures on white on single pages (the white changes to other hues at times) and two-page pictures to accentuate specific moments in the story.  Each one is designed to bring readers to the story and increase our compassion for the word collector.

The facial expressions on all the children are endearing but none more so than those of Jerome.  You want to hug this child for his love of words.  Another noteworthy detail is Jerome and the other children are pictured barefoot.  There is something freeing in being able to go barefoot.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  Jerome is stringing his words together.  On the ground several two-handled large tubs hold bunches of his words.  Strips of paper are scattered on the ground around each tub.  From left to right two lines are stretched, crisscrossing to the left of the gutter.  On the right Jerome stands attaching words to the lines with clothes pins.  This image is all kinds of wonderful.  The background is white except for pale green around the tubs.

After reading The Word Collector written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds everyone will want to string lines in at least one room highlighting their favorite words.  The total joy found in the use of words flows from the pages of this story.  I can't imagine a collection, professional or personal, without a copy of this title.

To learn more about Peter H. Reynolds and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Teacher librarian extraordinaire Travis Jonker reveals the book cover on his blog, 100 Scope Notes, located at School Library Journal with an interview with Peter H. Reynolds.  There is an inspiring and helpful post at School Library Journal, The Classroom Bookshelf, by Katie Cunningham about this book and possible learning experiences. I think you'll enjoy the book trailer, too.

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Walk In A Wintry Wood

While the rest of the residents are close to ending their day or already sleeping, we take a final walk.  Our breath looks like puffs of smoke in the frigid air.  The snow-covered ground, bushes and trees help to blanket the night in silence.  Our senses soak in all this season of winter has to offer us.

As we move down the well-worn path, we pause wondering if there are others enjoying the majesty of this moment when the world is cloaked in contrasting black and white.  Bear and Wolf (Enchanted Lion Books, February 2018) written and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri brings readers into a winter's night in the woods.  Normally avoiding each other out of mutual respect and as competitors for food, two young animals meet.

It was a windless night and glowing snowflakes fell through the trees deep in the forest.

A bear is walking through the snow in this forest when something catches her attention.  At the same time a wolf strolling through the falling flakes in these woods notices something.  The young bear and the young wolf move closer, stop and stare.  Their noses inhale the scent of each other.

As they converse it becomes apparent neither is lost but they are out to take pleasure in their surroundings.  Deciding to walk together they move in silence.  They are keenly aware of all the night and the season has to reveal.  At one point they pause.  No two snowflakes are alike.

A night bird soars above the quiet companions.  She sees two shapes wandering through the snow.  Resting on a branch she sees it's a bear and a wolf . . . together.  Bear and Wolf move past Bird without a sound.

The duo comes to a large clear area, a lake frozen by the seasonal temperatures.  When Bear moves some snow aside, they can see snoozing fish drifting.  All too soon Bear says she has to return to her den to sleep with her family.  Wolf says he has to go to hunt with his pack.  This is a winter walk both will remember.  Time moves into spring with wishes uttered on a winter walk coming true.

As soon as we read the first sentence written by Daniel Salmieri we are there in the snowy forest with Bear. His word choices create a sensory scene in our minds.  The use of repetition in portions of the narrative forms a pleasing pacing and a soothing storytelling rhythm.  Here is a passage.

Bear and Wolf walked through the quietly falling snow,
using their eyes, and ears, and noses to take in the snowy woods.
They both had thick, warm fur that covered their whole bodies.
They were creatures made to be comfortable in the very cold.

One of the initial things you notice upon opening the matching dust jacket and book case is the texture of both.  The dust jacket is of sturdy stock.  When you remove the dust jacket you can see the interior is colored in black and white.  Is it a star-studded sky or snow falling in a darkened forest?  It's full of magical possibilities.  The symmetry of Bear's and Wolf's heads on the front conveys the connection of the two during this shared experience.  The book case has the feel of fabric.

To the left, on the back, is a snowy landscape with two sets of footprints side-by-side extending from the bottom toward the top.  On the opening endpapers on a charcoal gray background are large splotches of white, pale blue, and pale purple.  It's as if we've moved close to the falling snow.  Fields of grass waving in a breeze cover the closing endpapers.

The title page is black with the text in white.  A page turn takes us into the forest with three trees bare of leaves stretching upward and their trunks placed from left to right, the second in the gutter.  Between the arch of the second and third trees is the dedication.

All of the illustrations span two pages.  Each atmospheric setting brings us further into the story.  In the first image we are experiencing it from Bear's perspective.  In the next, we are one with Wolf.  In the third we are observers.  This point of view shifts throughout the story.  It brings us close to the characters or gives us a panoramic spread.  Two of the pictures are wordless but speak volumes.

The technique employed by Daniel Salmieri is textured and soft.  His lines and layers appeal to our senses.  Many of the pictures ask us to pause and enjoy the moment with the characters.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when Bear and Wolf agree to continue their walk together.  The partial trunks of two trees frame the left and right of the picture.  A third tree truck extends from the left through the gutter to the right.  More of the trunk is on the right.  In the space between those trunks are smaller trees, falling snow and a landscape shaded in blues and purples.  In the first one on the left Wolf and Bear are walking away from us into the forest.

If you seek a deep sense of calm and the wonder and surprises nature can offer, Bear and Wolf, the debut title written and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri, is a perfect book for you.  It will be a much requested read aloud whether one-on-one or with a group.  It is an excellent selection for wolf or bear themes, nature and seasonal appreciation or seeking peace and quiet.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Daniel Salmieri and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  Daniel maintains an account on Instagram. On Mackin Books In Bloom Daniel has written a guest post.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Opposite Attraction

They will draw more than the usual attention.  They are like night and day, up and down, fast and slow, and happy and sad.  They are opposite sides of the same coin.  Individuals can't help but stop and stare.

If ever there were two individuals most unsuited to be friends, it's when one is the other's favorite meal, morning, noon and night.  They Didn't Teach THIS in Worm School! (Candlewick Press, February 13, 2018) written and illustrated by Simone Lia is a book about one of those relationships.  This worm and this bird and their highly unlikely companionship will have you howling with laughter.

Chapter One
My name is Marcus.
I am a worm, and this is where I live.
My favorite color is brown.
That's because mud is brown and I really, really, really like mud.

Marcus was living a life he loved until one day digging a hole and then falling asleep changed his entire life.  The next realistic thing he remembered was falling from a can.  A bird looking more like a chicken than a bird was giving him a look which would have any other worm frozen in fear.  Marcus was not any other worm.

He smiled and proceeded to engage this bird, Laurence by name, in an engaging conversation.  Laurence it seemed was an unusual bird.  He believed himself to be a flamingo.  He wanted to locate other flamingos, specifically those residing by Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya.  Before Marcus knew what was happening his new career was that of navigator for Laurence on his flight.  His attempts to avoid this job and get back to digging only served to endear him to Laurence even more.

When Marcus lost the map within mere minutes he had to "wing it" as far as giving Laurence directions from the air.  An accident revealed the loss of the map but a quirk of fate and a skewed view of the surroundings set them back on course to Kenya.  A mole, a squirrel, a crow and a whole bunch of worms figured prominently in the next series of events. (Major eye-rolling, head shaking and laughter is guaranteed.)

Finally continuing their journey the exhausted duo found themselves waking in the morning with the nose of a zebra sniffing them.  As Marcus and Laurence explored their new surroundings they failed to connect the clues as to their geographical position until they saw a familiar beatboxing scamp.  New disclosures had this worm and this bird re-evaluating identity, travel, adventure and the meaning of friendship.

Humor is sure to be present when a story has a worm and a bird becoming best friends.  Simone Lia through the voice of Marcus and the dialogue between Laurence and Marcus and the wonderfully funny cast of characters creates madcap and moving moments.  The contrasts in personality and intelligence of Laurence and Marcus provide one hilarious episode after another.  During their adventures Simone Lia shows readers how individuals can grow and expand their very natures, becoming the best they can be.  Here are some of my marked passages.

What would you do if you were a worm and there was a bird two inches away from your face, looking at you with his beak open so wide that you could see his tonsils?
Maybe you would do what I did.  I smiled a big smile and said in my most cheerful voice,
Good morning!

"And secondly---you probably know this already---but when you cook worm, you have to add tarragon.  You know about tarragon, don't you?  It's an herb.  You do have some for the stew, don't you?"
The mole looked at the squirrel, and the squirrel looked at the crow.  The crow shook his head.
"No, we don't," said the mole.
"Oh," I said, shaking my head, too, pretending to be sad that they didn't have any tarragon.
"What?" asked the mole.
"Well, if you add worm without tarragon it's going to ruin the flavor of the whole stew.  And if it ruins the flavor of the stew, then you won't get that hug in your heart."

As we went around and around in circles, I wondered if I would be wearing a twig hat on my head while chanting if I were back at home.  I thought to myself that I would have laughed at these guys and said that they were all off their rockers.  But here in France I didn't have much choice but to try to blend in with the locals, even if they happened to be total weirdos.

In looking at the front of the case cover (I am working with an ARC.) you can view the limited color palette employed by Simone Lia for this title.  In this volume all of the interior illustrations are in black and white.  With every page turn images enhance the pacing and heighten the humor.

Simone Lia shifts the sizes, perspective and number of illustrations per page to accentuate the plot.  Sometimes she will use line drawings and at other times the visuals are filled in with shading.  Several times sounds will be added to the pictures as well as speech bubbles for exclamations.  It's amazing how she is able to convey the moods of her characters, especially Marcus, with the adept use of lines.

One of my many favorite pictures is when Marcus believes he and Laurence are in the presence of the Eiffel Tower.  When you contrast this visual with their conversation, you can't help but laugh.  The duo is perched on top of a fence post.  Stretching from the left to the right of a two-page illustration is a row of electrical towers (pylons) connected with lines.  Behind them is a row of trees and in front of them a field extends to the fence where Marcus and Laurence are looking on in awe.

If you love to laugh and enjoy the idea of an unexpected friendship, They Didn't Teach THIS in Worm School! written and illustrated by Simone Lia is a book you absolutely need on your professional and personal bookshelves.  Even repeated readings will cause you to guffaw at the situations this worm and this bird encounter and their responses.  You should consider multiple copies.

To learn more about Simone Lia and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At her website she has excerpts from the book and views of her artistic process.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  At another publisher's site you can read the first thirty-one pages.  There is a short interview with Simone Lia at The Children's Book Review.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Likely Lost, Finally Found

First think of your favorite things; those items you consider priceless.  Surely there are a variety of reasons these are cherished possessions.  They may have sentimental value in their representation of a person or an event.  They may be a reminder of a deeper feeling of security and home.  In this respect, for many children nothing is more important than their treasured stuffed toy. 

This cuddly companion is a constant source of comfort.  Without it in their possession they feel incomplete.  The Backup Bunny (North|South Books, March 6, 2018) written by Abigail Rayner with pictures by Greg Stones presents the perspective of a toy wishing to become beloved.

Over here.
The name's Fluffy.

Fluffy is currently in a mother's sock drawer.  He's being saved by a wise parent in preparation for the absence of a well-loved toy.  Her son, Max, loves his Bunny.

One day, Fluffy's hopes are fulfilled.  Bunny is missing and he is removed from the sock drawer.  He finds himself given to a crying Max.  At first all is well, Fluffy feels himself being loved.  That lasts only seconds.

Now on the floor after repeated and valiant attempts by Mom, Fluffy is resigned to spending the night with the family cat.  The next day does not go as Fluffy desires.  Finding himself hanging from the clothesline, his frustration grows.  (From that vantage point he also makes a discovery which he keeps secret.)  Fluffy takes action and lands in Max's mud pie.

Unexpectedly, Max decides to befriend Fluffy until bedtime when he simply has to have Bunny.  Fluffy has a choice to make.  The next day Max makes a choice too.  And Mom is simply full of surprises.

By the time you read the first two phrases in this book, you'll be smiling.  Your grinning and giggling grows page by page.  By telling this story from the point of view of the backup bunny, Abigail Rayner releases large amounts of comedy and charm, enveloping the reader through Fluffy's thoughts and words.  This is heightened further by including Max's exclamations.  Here is a passage.

"That's NOT Bunny!" shouted Max.
"His ears don't feel right!"
Mom put me back in his bed.
Max threw me out.

This went on for a while.

At least the cat liked me.

You can't help but notice on the matching dust jacket and book case the affection Max has for Bunny.  Pure contentment glows on his face.  The patched toy bunny appears to be permanently happy.  You get a hint of the humor found within this book from Fluffy springing forth from the front right edge, waving his paw. 

To the left, on the back, on the same background of pristine white, an interior image of Fluffy dreaming of playing with Max is placed within a loose frame.  Continuing with the white canvas on the opening and closing endpapers illustrator Greg Stones portrays Fluffy first in a series of four alternating poses.  He is less than happy especially when being used as a pillow by the purr machine.  On the closing endpapers Max makes an appearance in the pattern along with a surprise indicative of the story.

Beneath the text on the title page, an illustration of Floppy riding on a bicycle with Max shows him living his dream.  Each page turn shows readers a shifting perspective and image size.  Each showcases and enhances the text.  Greg Stones uses white space as an element in his illustrations to excellent effect.

Careful readers will notice the change in Fluffy's expressions, even though he is a toy.  This increases the impact of his narrative.  The details on the socks in Mom's drawer will have readers laughing out loud.  Max's fondness for Bunny is evident in the pattern on his jammies.

One of my many favorite illustrations is the first night Fluffy spends with Max.  He is finally left on the floor next to Max's bed.  We zoom in on the edge of the bedspread and bed frame.  Fluffy is on his side.  His body posture and facial expression depict his exact mood at being a pillow for the family cat.  The cat, curled on top of Fluffy, is sleeping and smiling.

This title, The Backup Bunny written by Abigail Rayner with pictures by Greg Stones, has huge appeal for readers of all ages.  Children never forget the importance of a precious possession.  Adults will applaud the wisdom of this mom.  Everyone will laugh repeatedly at the story spun by Fluffy.  You will want to have a copy of this title on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Abigail Rayner and Greg Stones and their work, please follow the links attached to their names.  Abigail has a Facebook page and Greg has a website.  He also maintains an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can download a four page activity guide.  At a publisher's website you can view interior images.  There is a lovely interview with Abigail Rayner and the premiere of the book trailer at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's site, Watch. Connect. Read.  On February 28, 2018 an article appeared in the Community News (Mercer County and Central Jersey) about Abigail and this book.