Quote of the Month

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




Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Restoration

For those of us living in the state of Michigan we are familiar with the power found in the things for which we have no control.  Many, if not most, of our inland lakes and the five Great Lakes were formed during the last glacial period.  Also as a part of the solar system our planet is subject to the effects of the sun and the forces of nature each and every day.

For any number of reasons changes to our landscapes happen, too, due to human interference.  Creekfinding: A True Story (University of Minnesota Press, March 7, 2017) written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin with illustrations by Claudia McGehee follows the efforts of one man to unearth a cherished treasure.  Nature is resilient if we honor our stewardship.

THE CREEKFINDING MACHINE
An excavator is a machine
that chomps dirt.
Excavators dig holes for basements,
trenches for water pipes, paths for roads.

Sometimes excavators help find lost creeks.
How do they do that?

The word lost is generally not applied to a creek.  A creek is there or it isn't but man has powerful tools at his disposal.  With them he can take away what nature has formed.  A creek is more than water running down a path.  It's an entire small world composed of a variety of flora and fauna.

The creek in question did not get up and leave, it was covered over with dirt so a farmer could plant fields of corn.  The spring which fed the creek was buried under layers and layers of soil.  Years went by and the land was sold to a man named Mike.  Mike had a dream of turning the land into a natural prairie.

To Mike's surprise when he was working on his property one day, another man came by to say he had caught a brook trout in the exact spot where they were standing.  Now Mike had a new dream.  He was going to locate that creek regardless of what others said.  One person did not feel Mike was following a task doomed to failure.  He was given an old picture; a picture of the creek.  This was all Mike needed.

Friends with big machines came.  Friends with a willingness to plant came.  A spring bubbled back to life and brought other life with it.  Brook Creek was born.


As you read through the conversational paragraphs penned by Jacqueline Briggs Martin you feel the same marvel she must have felt doing the research for the writing of this book.  In her author's note she states:

I have always been drawn to stories of finding and fixing, stories of patching what has been broken.

Jacqueline Briggs Martin begins by connecting us to the creek.  We feel the loss when it and the plants, birds, insects, and frogs disappear under the dirt from the farmer's bulldozer.  This sadness makes the knowledge of Mike's chance meeting and new dream even better.  Page by page she builds on this excitement.  As the months and years pass she uses specific examples to build our hope for the revived creek, Brook Creek.  In addition to the main narrative, we are privy to further facts about a creek, the plant life around a creek and the animal inhabitants.  This text is italicized and written in a smaller font.  Here are some passages.

Mike and his friends tucked cordgrass
and other green shoots into the creekbanks.
Three summers grasses grew.
When the creek bed needed more rocks
Mike had a problem.

Heavy trucks crossing
to the creek would press
deep ruts into the ground,
kill new prairie plants.
How could he get more
rocks to the creek?

Small rocks protect the soil under the streambed and are home to many tiny plants and creatures.


When you open the matching dust jacket and book case, you have to wonder at the intricate detail achieved using the scratchboard and watercolor artistic technique.  All the elements on the front and the back are telling their own story.  The first picture is issuing an invitation as it promotes questions.  To the left on the back, a close-up of a red-winged blackbird brings us directly to the creek.  Can you hear the birdsong?  Can you feel the soft prairie breeze against your skin or see it blow through the grass?  Can you hear the hum of insects?

The opening and closing endpapers are a gorgeous display of the creek edge; flowers, grasses, and cattails in motion.  The first is as night closes and the sky begins to lighten.  The second is filled with the orange shades of a setting sun.  On the inside of the opening and closing first pages is a diagonal pattern in gray and white of swimming trout.

With each page turn readers are treated to either a single page picture or marvelous two page vistas or a series of explanatory smaller visuals.  They flow flawlessly to supply a soothing but expectant pace.  Claudia McGehee alters her perspectives, sometimes within the same image.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  It is a full moon night in winter.  Claudia uses a pleasing blend of white, black, gray, purple, spots of brown and yellow to fashion a breathtaking expanse of the creek winding through the prairie.  The creek and the land near it are in the foreground.  Above this is a line of trees and shrubs.  A night sky with a few stars fills the top of the picture.  On the right the moon shines down.  On the left an owl glides over the snow-covered grasses.


Although published more than one year ago this title is new to me and new to my local public library.  I am very thankful to have found Creekfinding: A True Story written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin with illustrations by Claudia McGehee on their shelves.  It is a story sure to inspire readers to never lose sight of their dreams.  It is a story reminding us to care for our planet.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.  Included with the author's note is an illustrator's note and more about Mike.

To learn more about author Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrator Claudia McGehee, please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  Both Jacqueline and Claudia have blogs.  Claudia maintains an account on Instagram.  This title is the recipient of the 2018 Green Book Award, Picture Book category.  It is also one of several books honored with a John Burroughs Association 2018 Riverby AwardYou might enjoy listening to Creekfinding: A True Story About a Creek that was Lost, Found, and Restored on Iowa Public Radio.  Both the author and illustrator are interviewed.  Bookology has an interview of Jacqueline Briggs Martin about this title.  Enjoy the video showcasing the artistic process of Claudia McGehee.

Scratching a magpie from Claudia McGehee on Vimeo.


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.



Monday, May 28, 2018

Super Shenanigans

When you spend time in the company of dogs, you realize there is hardly anything they won't do.  When they lock their mind on a goal, consider it accomplished by any means necessary.  They are perfectionists whether it's digging a hole to bury or unearth treasure, chasing annoying critters, searching for unattended food or saving human lives.

Their loyalty is unparalleled.  Author Julie Falatko, who debuted with Snappsy The Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book!) with illustrations by Tim Miller and followed with the companion title, Snappsy The Alligator And His Best Friend Forever! (Probably), has written a chapter book.  Two Dogs In A Trench Coat Go to School (Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., May 29, 2018) with illustrations by Colin Jack is wildly funny.  These two dogs unconditionally love their boy.

CHAPTER ONE
Waldo was pacing the perimeter.  He was a small and scruffy dog who smelled like kibble plus something else he'd rather not discuss.

Sassy, the other pouch pal of the household and best buddy of Waldo, is currently taking a snooze.  She loves to sleep and eat.  In fact, those two things are on her mind pretty much all the time. She is quite a bit bigger than Waldo.  These canine companions are experts at keeping neighborhood squirrels as far away as possible.

Waldo and Sassy have noticed their boy, Stewart, has a problem.  His situation at school is far from being ideal.  His vibes when talking about school with his parents are not good.  To the dogs, it smells

like a weird mix of boredom and anxiety.

Their first plan of keeping him home fails at the sound of kibble in their dishes.  Their second plan of following him to school ends at the locked door to the building but Waldo reveals a learned skill.  He can talk like a human!  This leads to plan number three.

By climbing on top of Sassy and donning a trench coat, Waldo looks like a human; a very fur-covered human.  Waldo and Sassy gain entry to the building by pretending to be a new student.  Using the name of Salty Woofadogington from Liver, Ohio they became a member of Stewart's class.  Mrs. Twohey, Stewart's teacher, welcomes them reluctantly. (She thinks "Salty" is a spy.)

Salty's reaction to school is exuberant. Every educational encounter is embraced with joy.  Lunch in the cafeteria is the best part of the day but gym class, music and science experiments are equally enjoyed.  The only thing topping Frisbee football is howling as a vocal warm-up and licking the thigh on the class human skeleton.  Despite brightening up Stewart's hours with their presence, Waldo and Sassy know his growing worry is because of the Big Project and the Information Sheet.

On the night before the presentation, Sassy and Waldo assist Stewart with their expert knowledge.  And if you remember what their main job is, you know Stewart's Big Project and Information Sheet are going to be humdingers.  No one will have foreseen the riotous results.  It may involve Principal Barkenoff barging into the classroom, help from Bax the bully and an uninvited visitor from outside the classroom.  These two dogs (and Stewart) will never give up that trench coat!


You cannot read this book without knowing two things for sure.  Julie Falatko knows humor and dogs and combines them expertly.  From cover to cover, the new view of school, the process of problem solving, the focus on food (and squirrels) and the love and loyalty for Stewart by the dogs supply readers with loads of laughter.  The dialogue between Stewart, Waldo and Sassy and Salty and the members of the school scene and Stewart and his parents, who are oblivious to what is happening, is witty and comedic.  Here are some passages.

Sassy had reached the good part of her nap where the sun was so hot it was like a blanket of fire, plus she was so relaxed she couldn't move.  The only thing ruining this stellar nap was Waldo.  He kept walking by her head and clearing his throat, which sounded like a bullfrog doing a dog impersonation.

They dragged all the patio furniture together to make a ramp, hoping to "run like a gazelle" (Waldo's words) and "leap like a lion" (Waldo again) until "we soar majestically like beautiful eagles to the other side of the fence" (yep, Waldo).  Instead they "ran like hedgehogs until we crashed into the chairs and got our paws caught in the seats while they fell on our heads" (that's Sassy).
Then they napped for a bit.
Finally Sassy realized she was big enough to stand up, put her paw on the latch, and open the gate.
"Well, you would have saved us a lot of time if you'd done that two hours ago," said Waldo.

"I have no idea!" said Waldo.  Maybe we'll be tall enough to climb in through a window?"
"I'm not going to be tall enough to do anything if I don't nap first."
"Fine, fine, I have some important squirrel work to do anyway.  First thing tomorrow, we do this trench coat thing."
"After breakfast, right?"
"Are you kidding me?"  This might be the most important thing we ever do!  Of course after breakfast.  No way I'm doing this on an empty stomach."
"It's a deal."


The artwork of Colin Jack appears on nearly every page and at the very least an image is seen after every page turn.  Even the sketches (I'm reading an ARC for the second time.) are full of hilarity.  The loose lines convey one animated antic after another.

For the most part we are close to the characters and their actions.  Their facial expressions will have you laughing out loud.  The placement of all the elements contributes to the superb pacing.

One of my many favorite pictures is during gym class.  Salty is watching a thrown Frisbee.  Waldo, arms in the coat arms, is leaning into the throw.  Sassy appears ready to snatch it out of the air.  She has parted the coat opening and we can see her head.  Who will catch that Frisbee?


The sign of good humor is its lasting quality.  Even on a second read Two Dogs In A Trench Coat Go to School written by Julie Falatko with illustrations by Colin Jack will have you grinning and giggling.  This perspective of school from the two dogs is hysterical.  First in a series you'll want to have a copy (or two) on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To discover more about Julie Falatko and Colin Jack and their other work please follow the links embedded in their names to access their main sites.  Colin Jack also maintains a Tumblr account.  Julie can be found on Twitter and Facebook.  Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher chats with Julie and reveals the cover of the book on his site, Watch. Connect. Read.  Julie Falatko and author Ame Dyckman chat about humor and illustration at Scholastic.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Listen For The Hum. Listen For The Buzz.

It's still early here in northern Michigan.  A frost advisory was issued for Sunday night into Monday morning.  The hyacinths have come and gone but the daffodils and tulips are still blooming.  Many of the fruit trees are blossoming but the buds on the lilacs are still tiny and closed.  Some of the peonies have large rounded globes waiting for more water and heat before opening. 

Still missing is the steady, singular hum of honeybees moving from flower to flower.  Seeing them is becoming far more exciting than sighting the first birds.  Seeing them means much to life on our planet.  The Honeybee (Atheneum Books For Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, May 8, 2018) written by Kirsten Hall with illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault enlightens us as to the daily valuable work of these busy insects.

A field..
A tree. 
Climb it and see . . .

Fields of flowers stretch to the horizon.  In the stillness of watching, a soft sound floats on the air.  It's getting closer and louder.  It's like hearing one of the Earth's heartbeats.  It's a honeybee!

Its four wings, two in the front and two in the back, are creating a welcome song.  It searches in circles and loops.  It finally succumbs to the lure of the ultimate flower.  A flower filled with the sweetness of nectar.  First a sip, then the gathering begins.

The pollen hanging like tiny golden baskets from the bee are carried back to the hive.  A conversation and a dance take place with information exchanged.  The pollen, laden with nectar ,is chewed and chewed and chewed until it's thick and gooey.

This thick and gooey goo is stuffed into the honeycomb cells.  Four wings on multiple bees flutter like fans to cool and dry those stuffed honeycomb cells.  At last the bees have HONEY! 

Spring and summer sun pass and autumn coolness arrives.  A queen beckons to her workers.  Winter descends and residents of the hive rest.  They rest and move to protect the queen, sure in the knowledge when spring comes, their task begins anew.


The words of Kirsten Hall are as if she is holding out her hand, asking us to take a walk with her.  It's a whispered conversation inviting our participation.  Their melodious rhythm and gentle rhyming bring us with admiration into the world of the honeybee.  Here is a passage.

This is the flower the bee has chosen.
This is the flower the pollen grows in.
This is the flower, its color so bright,
its sweet blooming scent calls the fee from its flight.


Rendered using ink, gouache, pencil, and colored pencil by Isabelle Arsenault the illustrations throughout but beginning on the opened dust jacket will delight and invite.  Various hues of golden yellow are prevalent.  The shades of blue, green, red and pink create a harmonious blend.  The honeybee winging its way across the top looks as if he is asking us to follow.  To the left, on the back, the same worker in a field of soft golden yellow is pushing a huge globe of goo toward a honeycomb.  A look of accomplishment is evident in its facial features.  Spot varnish is used on both the front and the back of the jacket.  The honeybee feels fuzzy when touched.

The opened book case covered in deep orange, golden yellow shows the dotted, looping path of the honeybee from left across the spine to the right.  In the upper, right-hand corner it looks at us, smiling.  The opening and closing endpapers are done in a pattern of large black and yellow bands, like a honeybee's body.

Beneath the text on the title page the field of flowers extends from left to right in softer tones.  Isabelle shifts from images spanning two pages to single pages and then to a cluster of four smaller pictures.  She replicates and enhances the movement of the narrative with her illustrations.

We are among the flowers zooming in and out of plants.  We sit among the petals sipping nectar and collecting pollen.  Then we buzz into the darkness of the hive, completing the task and making the honey.  As the seasons shift we enjoy every change with the honeybee.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is inside the hive.  The background is a shadowed black.  It is a single page visual.  Two honeybees are speaking to "our" honeybee.   Larger than life they are asking questions and looking at us.  Every detail is delicate and delightful.  It looks as though they are wearing high white collars tied with a bow.  One of the honeybees is carrying a blue flower and the other is leaning toward the newly arrived, pollen-laden honeybee.


Marvelous to read for the lovely words and illustrations The Honeybee written by Kirsten Hall with illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault is also a loving tribute to these necessary and amazing creatures.  A final page is a letter Kirsten Hall has written to readers listing the attributes of honeybees and how we can help them.  I am already planning on using this book with fiction and nonfiction titles referencing honeybees and bees.  Some titles I will use are Bee & Me, Honey, Please Please the Bees, Bear and Bee, and The Case of the Vanishing HoneybeeI highly recommend The Honeybee for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Kirsten Hall and Isabelle Arsenault please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Isabelle has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pages.  School Library Journal includes this title with other books in a post The Buzz on Bees | The Hive, The Honey, The Hope.  Four years ago Kirsten Hall was interviewed on As The Eraser Burns

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Invitation

As a human being there is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing a child alone when a group nearby is enjoying the company of each other.  You see this more often than you would like as an educator.  With gentle suggestions on your part a connection is possible between the group and the boy or girl without a friend.

Wishing for a friend, reaching out to others, is not always easy but the results can be rewarding and last a lifetime.  Night Out (Schwartz & Wade Books, May 8, 2018) written and illustrated by Daniel Miyares takes readers on a magical journey of discovery.  Our dreams can change the course of our lives.

All alone.

A boy sits removed from the other boys at the dining room table at his boarding school.  Later, as the moon shines in his window, the light shows his wakefulness while the others are sleeping.  On a chair next to his bed, his turtle resides in its bowl. 

When the boy next looks at his turtle's bowl, his reptilian pal has vanished.  An envelope sealed with red wax is leaning against the glass of the bowl.  The words beckon to him.  His presence is needed.

Getting dressed, the boy climbs out the window next to his bed, careful to take a backpack.  Placing his helmet on his head, he rides his bike out the open gate of the school.  The path takes him to a wooden bridge crossing a ravine.  In the light of his lantern he is amazed to see his turtle but his size is increased.

Climbing on the turtle's back, they follow the light of the moon to a special cave.  Five other animals, five new friends, are overjoyed to see the child.  He is given a place of honor among them as they enjoy tea and sweet treats.  It's a celebration of friendship found.  As the next morning dawns, the boy dressed in his pajamas again is dispelling his oneness with words.


Carefully chosen phrases, eleven in number, tell an extraordinary story using the power of imagination.  If you are willing to dream, a precious reality can follow.  Daniel Miyaresspare use of text is like the invitation in the book.  It asks us to suspend reality and join in the boy's dream.  We do so willing.  Here are two phrases which follow each other.

A decision.

And a journey begins.


The first thing you want to do when you see the front of the dust jacket is to grab your snuggest, cozy blanket and curl up in your favorite chair.  You know Daniel Miyares has planned another wonderful experience for you.  It's simply perfect that it's a full moon night as shown by the use of the moon for the letter o.  As your eyes drift to the left of the opened jacket, lantern or moon light gives a glow to the opened invitation, envelope and a map.  The words

An invitation to adventure . . . 

appear above those three elements.

The book case continues with the darkened soft black background on both sides.  On the right we are given a close-up of the boy riding his bike toward us from the school, his lantern in his left hand.  The full moon is above his head.  You can feel anticipation growing. 

Daniel Miyares uses the opening and closing endpapers to begin and conclude his story.  The scene, the dining room, is the same but the seating and who is sitting where are completely different. Rendered in gouache and colored pencils on Strathmore paper each illustration is atmospheric leading us into the narrative.  With each page turn a special mood is supplied.  (All of the text is hand-lettered.)

Careful readers will see a sign of what is to come but paying close attention to the details in one of the images.  Daniel changes his perspective to draw us deeper into the boy's nighttime journey.  We are close to him as he climbs out the window but a large panoramic view shows us how far he has come from the school to the bridge.  Readers will be unable to stop from pausing at each picture.  The brush strokes, color palette, and use of light and shadow are breathtaking.

One of my many favorite pictures appears on a single page.  The walls of the sleeping room frame the large window next to the boy.  The twelve panes are placed in a pattern for large windows which open in the center like two doors.  The moon is rising huge and golden filling the entire window.  Fall leaves extended from the branches of a tree outside.  The boy is sitting on his bed looking out the window with his back to us.  The opened invitation is on the bed next to him.  Moonlight forms shadows on his bed and on the bed of the sleeping child in the bed next to him.  This picture is brimming with emotions.


I highly recommend you include this title, Night Out written and illustrated by Daniel Miyares, in your personal and professional collections.  It's beautiful in the gentle tale it tells of friendship and dreams.  For bedtime, a quiet time or a story time about nighttime adventures, this is a book you will want to read aloud.

To learn more about Daniel Miyares and his other marvelous work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Daniel has an account on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view beginning interior images.  To highlight another title, That Is My Dream!, Daniel is interviewed at The Children's Book Review.  Daniel has written an essay, A World of One's Own, at School Library Journal about the writing of this book.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

All Toes On Deck

Every culture has its own legends and lingo.  A particular group of people within a separate culture understand every nuance of their spoken words and individualistic body language.  To step into a culture without understanding the separate parts which make it a significant whole is like entering a foreign country.

Members of the surfing community know an A-frame is not a type of home, a Barney is not a purple dinosaur or Fred Flintstone's best friend or in the soup does not mean you are an ingredient in something to eat.  Author Aaron Reynolds (Nerdy Birdy A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, September 22, 2015) and Caldecott Medalist (The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend Little, Brown and Company, April 8, 2014) Dan Santat have partnered to create a rollicking, riotous masterpiece.  DUDE! (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, April 24, 2018) will have you laughing out loud as soon as you read the title.  Surfing and one word take on a whole new meaning.

DUDE!

DUDE!

Two friends, both having a love of surfing, have just greeted each other at the beach.  They can hardly wait to ride the waves.  Running across the sand with their boards firmly grasped in their hands, they yell the familiar word in unison at the top of their lungs.

As they paddle away from the shore to find a wave, they marvel at a pelican scooping up a fish for lunch.  One roars with laughter as the other shrieks with disgust when the pelican strikes again.  Then one of the dangers surfers fear glides toward them.  Beaver utters dude with an entirely different tone.

They are now swimming for their very lives on their boards.  A deep, quiet, tearful voice speaks as a shark towers over them.  Neither of them expects what happens next.

Two bright ideas on the part of the beaver and platypus bridge a frightening gap.  A gigantic wave carries friends having fun, fast and furiously toward . . . DISASTER!  A third brilliant thought solves a problem.  You'll be giggling and grinning louder and louder at the results of the final two scenes.

DUDE! 


With what can only be described as sheer genius Aaron Reynolds imagines and writes an entire narrative using a single word.  He asks his readers to use their best voices to give emphasis to the word based on the situation.  A word most definitely changes in meaning based upon the emotional charge given to it.  There is an art to this form of storytelling.  


As soon as readers look at the front of the dust jacket exclamations will be forthcoming.  The platypus and beaver are happy as can be.  They are doing what they love to do best.  The shark is also grinning. Given the tendency of sharks to be attracted to movement in the water, readers will not be expecting the narrative to unfold as it does.  The water and sky cross the spine to continue to the far edge of the back of the dust jacket.  This leads us to believe the two pals are far from shore.

The bold, bright colors and distinguishing shapes and lines of Dan Santat continue on the book case in red, cream and black.  The three characters, surfboards in hand are crossing the beach as a large sun sets on the red skied-horizon.  It's a stunning display.  Golden yellow covers the opening and closing endpapers.

Dan Santat alters between single page pictures and double-page illustrations depending on the impact needed for the scene and the word, dude!  In several of the settings an animated crab appears adding to the humor.  The color, size and shape of the letters are indicative of the emotional state of the characters.  Elevating the comedy even higher, the facial expressions on the characters and their body postures are absolutely wonderful, 

One of my many favorite illustrations is actually a series of four pictures grouped over two pages.  In the first one the beaver, platypus and shark are frozen in place wondering what to do.  Clearly the two friends can see this is no ordinary shark.  In the next picture the beaver says Dude! as a light bulb appears over his head.  In the next two visuals the platypus and shark are alone.  In the first the platypus is whistling as the shark splashes water.  In the final picture both are starting to think the beaver is not coming back.


This over-the-top funnier than funny book, DUDE! written by Aaron Reynolds with illustrations by Dan Santat, is also a sharp and skillful study in inflection and the power of pictures without words.  It is without a doubt, read aloud gold.  I highly recommend this for your personal and professional collections.  I can hear the laughter already along with requests for read it again.  

To discover more about Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Aaron maintains a Tumblr site also.  Both Aaron and Dan have accounts on Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view several interior pages.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Practice Can Make Perfection

It's not an easy lesson but it's based in truth.  It seems the younger you are, the more you struggle with the art of mistakes, the art of trying something over and over again.  It's a rarity if someone reaches their ideal after a single attempt.

When we see the end result, an accomplishment, we have no idea how much effort was given to achieve that outcome.  Newbery Medalist (The One and Only Ivan, HarperCollinsPublishers, January 17, 2012) Katherine Applegate in collaboration with illustrator Jennifer Black Reinhardt (Blue EthelMargaret Ferguson BooksFarrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC, May 30, 2017) remind us of the endeavors prior to amazing and lasting deeds.  Sometimes You Fly (Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 3, 2018) asks us to never give up.

Before the cake . . .

Unless you are in the presence of the cook, you have no idea of the commotion in the realm of the kitchen prior to any portion of a meal being served.  Some desserts are particularly difficult, especially if you are not a culinary expert or a chef.  Babies find some activities like the act of eating something undesirable or struggling to find happiness in the hugging of a beloved toy more challenging than older children . . . usually.

If you are not a duck, the act of getting into wading pool is downright terrifying but it makes enjoying the sea much better if you embrace the wonder of water with comfortable caution.  Each act, regardless of how small, can lead to greater exploits.  We grow with every attempt.

Reaching out to people, supporting them and believing in them, can form permanent partnerships.  Academic achievement is based on study.  Being a member of a team requires dedication.

Raise your hand if you remember your driver's education teacher and all those lessons and the joy of driving alone in your first car.  Each time we try something new repeatedly, each time we overcome adversity, we get better at whatever we are seeking to do.  We get better at life.


An almost melodic rhythm is established with the twelve phrases written by Katherine Applegate prior to the five final sentences.  Two words, before the, are followed by a single word in these twelve phrases.  The single words are familiar to most of us.  Many of them are laden with memories.  The words in the second and fourth phrases rhyme.

With the five final sentences Katherine Applegate ties the phrases together and brings us back to the beginning.  It is done with love for her readers and the art of storytelling.  Here is the first of the final five sentences.

Each recipe we undertake
can rise or fall,
can burn or bake.


Rendered in ink and watercolor the art of illustrator Jennifer Black Reinhardt is tender, heartwarming and inviting.  As evidenced by the front of the dust jacket her delicate details, fine lines and realistic color choices ask us to join the characters in her images. Who wouldn't want to run after a flying kite?  To the left, on the back, two children within a loose circle are bending over a newly planted seed.  You can almost feel them willing it to grow.  A trowel and seed packet is lying nearby.  The girl is holding a watering can.

Without spoiling the book case for you, rest assured the theme of the book is portrayed on the front and the back on a canvas of another sunny day outside.  A bright, sky blue covers the opening and closing endpapers.  The dog shown on the front of the dust jacket gazes at the kite lying in the grass beneath the text on the title page.

A single page is devoted to a picture with Katherine's opening phrases.  These are followed by another single page, a wordless picture depicting the merriment found in success.  Jennifer's interpretation of the text goes straight to your heart.  Liberal use of white space frames the first picture but the second visual fills the following page.  A fine black line is used as a border.

For the final triumphant effect Jennifer gives us an expansive two-page illustration with an element soaring as if it's a kite.  A blend of small images on several pages and two-page pictures bring us to the final visual which will have readers wondering what might happen next.  There is a lingering feeling of suspense.

One of my many favorite illustrations follows the phrase

before the know . . .

A girl is tucked in bed but sitting up reading a book.  The scalloped headboard and footboard of her bed are softened in shadow as is most of the illustration.  We can see a goldfish swimming in a bowl next to her bed.  Stuffed toy animals are snuggled next to her.  A family cat sits on the bed.  An overhead lamp attached to the bed creates a cone of light in those shadows lighting her up as she reads.  This is a universal moment for many.


When you finish reading Sometimes You Fly written by Katherine Applegate with illustrations by Jennifer Black Reinhardt the first time and the second time (and all the other times) you feel your spirit lighten.  This is a book reinforcing the importance of making mistakes, learning from them and persisting.  Our efforts will be rewarded.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To discover more about Katherine Applegate and Jennifer Black Reinhardt and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Katherine and Jennifer are both on Twitter and Instagram. (Katherine and Jennifer)  Sometimes You Fly has its own website.  There is quite a bit of art on Jennifer's blog.  You'll enjoy the article at Picture Book Builders about why this book was made.  Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, premiered the book trailer on his site, Watch. Connect. Read.  You'll want to read the interview of both Katherine and Jennifer there.

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Walk To Remember

Every single day people walk from one point to the other within their homes, from their homes to school and places of work.  They walk on pathways designated for walkers or make their own trails through fields, forests or along waterways.  Some walk because they lack another mode of transportation.  Others walk for the exercise.  And many walk for the sheer joy of being able to walk.

For me, walking with my dog is a peaceful time to reflect on current events in my life, my country and the world as a whole.  It's a time to let our imaginations run free.  It's a time to absorb the out-of-doors using as many of our senses as possible.  Whatever prompts you to walk, most of us don't endeavor what one woman did in 1955.  Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail (Abrams Books for Young Readers, May 8, 2018) written and illustrated by Jennifer Thermes will leave you astounded at the tenacity of this sixty-seven year old woman.

Between eleven children, the clothes to wash, the cow to milk, the garden to tend, the occasional tramp passing through to feed, and one husband, Emma Gatewood rarely got a break.  But, sometimes, she found a way to escape.

This way to escape, rambling walks, was the fuel which fed the fire burning in Emma when she decided to hike the Appalachian Trail.  This trail began in Georgia and ended in Maine.  Emma was the first woman to walk the entire trail alone.

Starting on May 3, 1955, wearing canvas sneakers, she survived with little in her bag eating and drinking what she found along the trail.  She usually slept under the stars.  As you can imagine the trail passed through all kinds of terrain.  Sometimes Emma got lost but she found her way again and again.  Most of those folks she encountered along her walk were gracious and generous.

She often found the kindliest welcome from the poorest of families.

By July 6, 1955 Grandma Gatewood had reached Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.  It was considered the "mental" halfway point.  No matter where the trail took her or the weather, nothing stopped this woman.  Soon reporters were greeting her at one point or another point.  Everyone it seemed wanted to know about this courageous and determined woman.

As the summer wore on, the weather took a turn for the worse.  A hurricane was set to batter the East Coast.  For Emma, with no contact to the outside world, it was the worst kind of weather she had faced.  That night Grandma Gatewood did something she rarely did and the next day kindness was given to her.  Regardless of who she met, she loved being alone the best.

By August 22, 1955 this remarkable woman was in New Hampshire.  She was nearing the end of her travels.  Her body was battered, one of the lenses in her glasses was cracked but she climbed to the top of the last mountain on September 25, 1955.  You won't believe what she did.


What we learn of Emma's life on the first page before she is sixty-seven is just enough to peak our interest.  Even before we are turning the page, we are wondering how someone survives all her daily tasks.  Jennifer Thermes moves us forward years later with the beginning of the memorable hike.

On the first of five mapped two-page spreads we gain further insight into the trail and Grandma Gatewood's progress.  These special pages are interludes leading us into a more detailed narrative with specific details.  As a combination they propel us forward, fascinating us again and again.  Here is a passage.

Emma wore canvas sneakers and carried a homemade sack, packed lightly.  She ate berries from the side of the trail and drank from cold mountain springs.  She rested under trees and on top of rocks warmed by a fire.

Some nights, the sky was so big and dark that Emma was afraid to sleep.  Other nights, she curled up on a soft bed of leaves, with plenty of mice to keep her company.

Emma hoped to avoid meeting a bear . . . 


There is no mistaking the signature style of Jennifer Thermes.  Her choice of color, fluid lines, attention to detail, love of maps and portraits of people draw us into whatever story she is visually telling. On the front of the dust jacket the blend of map with topographical elements is a direct invitation.  To the left, on the back, three interior images are displayed above a quote by Ben Montgomery, Pulitzer Prize Finalist and author of Grandma Gatewood's Walk.  

The book case will take your breath away.  It's a beautiful rendering of Grandma Gatewood hiking at night over rolling hills.  Beneath her path is another rolling hill with a line of evergreen trees along the bottom.  A star-studded sky lights her way.

On the opening endpapers Jennifer gives us a partial map of the United States with the focus on the Appalachian Mountains and the trail.  The closing endpapers depict a timeline of events in Emma's life and significant historical events.  All the text on these pages is easy to read and understand.

The verso and title pages feature Grandma Gatewood on a mountain top sitting on the edge of a cliff.  She is gazing at the vista spread before her. The illustrations by Jennifer were created using watercolor and colored pencil on Fabriano hot press paper.

The size of the illustrations shifts between two page pictures, single page images and groups of smaller visuals representing the passage of time.  Jennifer moves us close to a particular scene or moves us father back, altering the perspective in accordance with the text and pacing.  As we look at each illustration we get a true sense of the emotional moments felt by Grandma Gatewood.  We feel as though we are beside her, walking and walking and walking but also gaining a deeper respect for our world.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  It's a full moon night.  On the right the full moon is so close you feel as though you could pluck it from the sky.  Jennifer has swirls of blue filled with stars radiating from it.  Several gentle hills are beneath it.  On the left, Grandma Gatewood is resting on a high mounded hill.  Her head is on her bag.  A striped blanket covers her body.  She is still wearing her canvas shoes.  Her walking stick is next to her.  She is smiling at the moon, soaking up the deep calm of the night.


When I first read this book, I had to share it immediately with someone, so I did.  I conveyed the true marvel of this woman's accomplishments by reading aloud Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail written and illustrated by Jennifer Thermes.  No one can help but be astounded, especially when viewing the wonderful images.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.  Jennifer has two pages of notes at the close of the book with thumbnail sketches along the top and bottom.  She talks about Emma and the Appalachian Trail. She also includes selected sources.

To learn more about Jennifer Thermes and her other work, you can follow the links attached to her name to access her website and blog.  Jennifer maintains accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  I think you will find her Pinterest boards very interesting.  Jennifer and this book are featured on Celebrate Picture Books.


If you haven't visited Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by Alyson Beecher this week, take a few minutes to view the titles chosen by others participating in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.




Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Wide Awake World

Yesterday morning the exchange of chickadees' conversations and the buzzing of insects serenaded my furry friend and me on our morning walk.  Hours later in the evening the view during a thirty minute drive had altered considerably.  The change was stunning and unbelievable with shades of green and patches of color spread over the landscape.  It was as if a magic wand had been waved over everything.  A group of five deer scampered across the road.  Later a lone doe casually walked in front of the car and stopped to watch.

Each day the changes expand and are more startling. This morning the arrival of returning Sandhill cranes was announced with their signature bugling.  Spectacular Spring: All Kinds Of Spring Facts And Fun (Henry Holt And Company, February 27, 2018) written and partially illustrated by Bruce Goldstone acquaints readers with an array of seasonal sensations.

SPRING IS A SEASON OF SPECTACULAR BEGINNINGS.

Green plants and colorful
flowers begin to grow.

Animals shake off the cold
of winter.

People start spending more
time outdoors.

The additional length of daylight and the shorter nights are leading us day by day to the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. We get to shed our warmer clothing and exchange it for proper spring attire.  The snow squalls are replaced with thunderstorms and rain showers.  How many of you have carried an umbrella on a windy day to have it suddenly turn inside out?  (Although the results leave you rather wet, it is funny to see happen.)

If you are fortunate to be outside in the rain, with the right conditions, a rainbow will arch across your view.  As you continue to examine this new season try, with caution and knowledge, to experience the sensory perceptions.  We are asked to feel soft new grass, the warm wind and the squishy mud.

What kind of blossoms do we see?  Is that forsythia?  Gardeners' bulbs planted in the fall pop through the dirt in the form of tulips, hyacinth and daffodils, to name a few.  You will be rewarded if you take the time to smell each one.  Seeds, having traveled by a variety of methods or planted by machine or hand, move the soil aside to grown.

With spring come animal babies.  If you are lucky a bird will build a nest nearby so you can watch the evolution of new life.  Other animals wake up from their winter rest or return home.  Every living thing is stirring anew, even you.


With the first three sentences, three facts reveal noticeable truths about the season of spring.  Bruce Goldstone continues to challenge us with observable shifts from winter to spring.  He speaks about the differences in light and darkness, our clothing and the weather.  He asks us to use our senses by focusing on how things feel, what we see, how they smell, the shapes found in spring and sounds heard in spring. He contributes more than one page on seeds and baby birds.  His information is easy to understand and reads as if we are in conversation with him.  Here is a paragraph with the heading

WHAT DOES
SPRING 
SMELL LIKE?

Spring is a great time to 
close your eyes and sniff.
Smells travel more easily
in warm air than in cold
air.  As spring days get
warmer, you'll find many
fresh new smells when 
you walk outdoors.


The matching dust jacket and book case are a vibrant collage of sights seen in spring.  On the front we are given a view of spring bulbs blooming, and ladybugs creeping framed in an assortment of leaves.  It's clever to have the letters look as though cut from leaves.  To the left, on the back, amid green grass are five flower shapes.  They show other highlights of spring and the two previous seasonal titles by Bruce Goldstone, Awesome Autumn and Wonderful Winter.

A bright, bold nearly neon green covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Another seasonal scene similar to the front of the jacket and book case frames the text on the title page.  Each page turn reveals marvelous photographs, some taken by the author and others from shutterstock.com.  Many of them span two pages.  Others are placed on a crisp white background drawing attention to the individual elements.

Cutouts are used to frame photographs.  Some of them share space with individual pictures.  Each composed collage invites readers to pause as if taking a walk outside.  The design is as fresh and new as the season, illuminating, respectful and playful.

One of my many favorite pictures spans two pages.  A downpour of rain on a dark surface provides a canvas in dark colors with crystal drops.  The large text on the left and right is a single sentence divided in two.  Beneath the second section is a virtually black umbrella.  It supplies a place for the text describing why we get rain instead of snow in the spring.


This title, Spectacular Spring: All Kinds Of Spring Facts And Fun, written and partially illustrated by Bruce Goldstone is a companion title in one of my favorite series on the seasons.  It welcomes readers to the narrative, information and the changes this season brings.  At the close of the book, Bruce Goldstone includes six activities and how to do them.  You will certainly want a copy of this title for both your personal and professional book collections.

To learn more about Bruce Goldstone and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  At his website there is a place where Bruce gives you the opportunity to contact him.  He states:  I love to hear from readers.  At the publisher's website you can view eight wonderful interior pages.

Monday, May 14, 2018

To Be Perfectly Honest

In sporting events athletics, whether individually or as a member of a team, are constantly aiming for the flawless play, run, catch, swing, jump, routine, kick or shot.  They practice and practice and practice until one day the magic happens.  There are others who pursue their passions aiming for perfection; the exemplary musical melody, piece of art, compilation of words, architectural design, brick wall, perennial garden, or the most successful surgery or the most delicious fruit or vegetable ever tasted.  If you love what you are doing, you will continually aim high.

Will perfection be attained?  For some yes, for others the act of trying is a form of the ideal.  A shapely character introduced to readers in Triangle (Candlewick Press, March 14, 2017) returns in a companion title called Square (Candlewick Press, May 8, 2018) written by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Jon Klassen.  Square's friend, Circle, makes a request he is not sure he can honor.

This is Square.

Square has a secret cave with a square entrance in a large mounded rock.  Square's daily task is to take a square rock, a block, from down in the depths of his cave.  He pushes it with great effort up a hill.

At the top of the hill, he adds it to a stack of other blocks.  This is simply what he does.  As he is pushing a block up the hill one day, his friend Circle, glides up to him.  She believes him to be a great sculptor.  Square does not know what a sculptor is.

Circle is so excited by the shape of the block being identical to the shape of Square, she requests he make one of her.  He tries to tell her he is not as creative as she thinks he is but she has left.  This is a true dilemma for Square.

With hammer and chisel in his hands, Square begins his task but nothing works.  Soon he is in the middle of a disaster.  He is exhausted from his efforts, falls asleep and does not wake up until morning.  He realizes he is wet.

As Square stands wondering what he is going to do, Circle arrives.  She asks a question and Square replies.  She does not deter from her original assessment of Square.  She declares him a genius as she happily goes about her day.


Your enjoyment of this story does not diminish with repeatedly readings.  You find yourself smiling each and every time.  Mac Barnett gives us simple sentences but a subtle undercurrent of humor runs through the excellent blend of narrative and dialogue.  The contrast between what Circle assumes is true about Square and his conversations with her elevate the laughter factor.  He is honest enough in his thoughts to be worried about Circle's opinion.  Here is a portion of a passage.

He was surrounded by rubble.
"Whatever is the opposite of perfect,
that is what this is!  I must stay up
all night and figure this out!


A cream, matte-finished nine by nine inch cover displays Square on the front, wide-eyed, waiting and wondering.  There is something about his eyes which will have you, too, waiting and wondering.  Your anticipation is growing already.  To the left, on the back, Square's back is to readers.  His back is used as a place for four sentences giving us a hint of what we may encounter inside the book.

The opening and closing endpapers are a pale, mint green.  On the title page a tiny version of Square is placed between two clusters of rocks with delicate leaved-branches among them.  His eyes are looking to the right, inviting us to turn the page.  To the left on the verso page, all the text is placed within a square-shape.

The illustrations by Jon Klassen rendered digitally and with watercolor and graphite convey much with the placement of the elements.  (The use of the cream-colored space is outstanding in supplying pacing.)  Some are single page pictures, others cross the gutter and some extend over two pages.  We never see legs on Circle, she floats in and out of scenes.  We rarely see arms on Square and the only time we see an arm on Circle is when she and Square are giving a one-handed wave to us at the end on the dedication page.  The information about Mac and Jon which would normally appear on the closing flap is shown beneath the duo.  You will laugh when you read it.

One of my many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  Square has hammered and chiseled and chiseled and hammered a block until he is surrounded by bits and pieces of it.  What the text does not tell us is when he started this project, it also started to rain.  Now he is standing in a downpour.  A twig with two leaves is stuck to the top of his head.  His eyes are wide open but the dots are much smaller.  His hands, one holding a chisel and the other holding a hammer, are lifted in despair.  The bits and pieces of the block have formed a barrier which is holding water.


I can't imagine a professional or personal collection without a copy of Square written by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Jon Klassen.  This commentary on perfection and the joyful accident of reaching a goal is brilliant.  It shows us beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.

To learn more about Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen and their other work, please access their sites by following the links attached to their names.  At Penguin Random House and Candlewick Press you can view interior images.  Candlewick Press has posted a short Teacher Tip Card. Please take a few moments to read the Publishers Weekly The Shape of Things to Come from Award-Winning Picture Book Team and an interview with Mac and Jon at Art Of The Picture Book.  Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are interviewed on NPR Books about this title.  Enjoy the video.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Singing For The People

Every generation has their favorite music.  It's a reflection of a particular time and place in which people find themselves. These tunes are not necessarily focused in one specific genre but they do mirror an era.  More times often than not the music of one generation carries to the following generations. 

As a child or grandchild growing up and hearing the songs of a band or singer played repeatedly, it becomes a part of your lifelong personal musical playlist.  Strong memories are created.  There are also remarkable musicians whose music is timeless and ingrained in the history of a nation.  One of those men was Pete Seeger. The Golden Thread: A Song For Pete Seeger (Balzar & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, April 17, 2018) written by Colin Meloy with illustrations by Nikki McClure will fill your heart with lingering melodies.

I heard there was a golden thread
A shining, magic thing
That bounded up our little world

---I HEARD PETE SEEGER SING!


Many ears heard and longed to hear the words of Pete Seeger as he championed the working person or care for Mother Earth.  His words and the tunes played on his five-string banjo echoed throughout our land, weapons to right wrongs.  You could easily say music surrounded Pete from the time he was born.  His family lived and breathed music.

As he grew so did his skill with his banjo.  He seemed to know what music was needed in any given situation; bringing spirit-lifting tunes to soldiers in World War Two and supporting the need for labor unions.  About this time, 1943, Pete married Toshi-Aline Ohta.  They were married until her death on July 9, 1943.

We Shall Overcome 

became a great anthem for the civil rights movement.

As a member of the group Weavers Pete Seeger and company took the Lead Belly song, Goodnight, Irene, making it a hit in 1950 for more than six months.  Also in 1950 a senator, Joseph McCarthy, started a campaign to rid the United States of alleged communists.  Pete Seeger was one of the accused.  He spoke before a political hearing but refused to give up his right to free speech.  Even though he was blacklisted, this man's voice still rang out in song all around the world.  Eventually he joined other vocal folk singers back in these United States giving strength to much needed causes.

Pete and Toshi built a home along the Hudson River which at the time was suffering from the ravages of neglect by humans.  This was something Pete could and did not abide.  A boat and a song rallied people.  As Pete Seeger's songs wove through the history of our nation (and the world) time did not stand still.  It moved.  Pete Seeger has been gone for more than four years but his music and his accomplishments will live as he did, with boldness, purpose and heart.


Ending as it begins with Pete Seeger singing at the Lincoln Memorial, Colin Meloy gathers words forming one lyrical poem after another and portraying the life of Pete Seeger with truth and beauty.  Each of the portions reads like a verse in the song of this man's life's work.  It's a harmonizing, rhythmic tribute to a remarkable soul. Here are several passages.

OH, PETE, PETE
When next we meet
We find you on a brimming street
The crowds, they're reaching
mountain-size
And you're teaching folks to
ORGANIZE!
ORGANIZE!
Preaching workers' rights to picket lines
At factories, farms, in copper mines
And speaking of union . . .

As threads have beginnings
So must they have ends
Just like a river in its bows and its bends
As it starts in the mountains and flows to the sea
It spreads the world over when it fin'lly breaks free


The illustrations starting with the matching dust jacket and book case were made as follows:

The artist took her own photos of Pete from filmed performances and used historical photos to make the images.  Artwork was created by cutting black paper with an X-Acto knife.  Golden paper was cut for additional layers of songs and backgrounds.  Fifty-eight blades and twenty-two pieces of black paper were used.

With marvelous, masterful talent Nikki McClure depicts Pete Seeger on the front of the jacket and case with animated realism.  He's getting ready to sing for America.  To the left, on the back, she has positioned his banjo and an axe.  The opening and closing endpapers are in the golden colored paper.  On a page prior to the title page we see the lower portion of Pete's chest and an arm carrying his banjo next to his walking legs.  In the other hand he has a hammer.  On the banjo we read:

THIS MACHINE SURROUNDS HATE AND FORCES IT TO SURRENDER.

With that hammer Pete tacks up a sign holding the text for the title page.  

A two page illustration beginning on the left with a seated Peter tuning his banjo winds to the right.  A golden thread from the banjo expands to a banner on the right reading THE GOLDEN THREAD.  Above this are the dedications. 

Nikki McClure alternates between two-page pictures and single page images.  Within one of these illustrations she can and does shift her perspective.  A golden thread, like a banner, weaves through each picture.  These threads contain the words to a song Pete Seeger was known for singing.  With every page turn you will be amazed at the fine details she includes.

One of my many favorite illustrations (My eyes fill with tears whenever I look at it.) is for the second passage I have noted.  On the left Pete's head is bowed next to Toshi's face and his hand rests on her body near her chin.  Both of their eyes are closed.  Her body extends over the gutter to form a river on the right on which a boat sails.  Two tiny figures are seen near the back.  The song in the golden thread is Turn Turn Turn. 


This summer the theme selected by Collaborative Summer Library Program is Libraries Rock! Pete Seeger and this title The Golden Thread: A Song For Pete Seeger written by Colin Meloy with illustrations by Nikki McClure will most definitely be a part of our selections.  This is a strikingly lovely book in words and images certain to resonate with all ages.  I highly recommend it for your personal and professional collections. 

Be sure to access the websites of Colin Meloy and Nikki McClure to learn more about them and their other work by following the links attached to their names.  You might enjoy the NPR show The Inspiring Force of 'We Shall Overcome'. Enjoy the book trailer with Colin Meloy speaking about this book.





Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher and featuring titles selected by participants in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Like A Butterfly

When you work with younger children, sometimes you feel as though you are in the presence of those with the attention spans of fleas.  It's like it's non-existent.  Experience and those very same children will teach you, it's not about having an attention span of a particular length but about greeting the world with infinite curiosity.  They don't want to miss a single thing so they move from thought to thought and place to place like a butterfly in a flower garden.

A single word in a discussion with a child will trigger another concept seemingly different but somehow connected.  Holding this child wonder of discovery in our minds even into adulthood can make all the difference.  Living near the shores of Lake Michigan teaches you the color of the water changes daily.  Two days ago, the blue was brilliant.  Yesterday the water looked like it was dusted with a glowing white due to the air conditions and angle of the sun.  Color is constantly changing.  In her first picture book, Caldecott Honor winner Jillian Tamaki addresses how one child views the color in her world.  They Say Blue (Abrams Books for Young Readers, March 13, 2018) is a joyful journey you will want to take repeatedly.

They say blue is the
color of the sky.

A young girl sitting on the sand at a beach has to agree with this statement.  The sea is blue today, too.  It is not blue when she scoops it up in her hands.  As she plays and drifts in the water she wonders about the color of a blue whale.  It's hard to know what is true and what is not true if you've never seen something with your own eyes.

With the lightning leap a child's thought process can make she acknowledges her belief in the hue of an egg yolk and the blood coursing through her veins.  In a wondrous shift of imagination she sees golden grasses as waves upon which a lighter than light boat can float.  The gray of a storm washes away those thoughts.

A small bit of color in the rainy gloom of the day has her pausing in her walk home from school.  With this tiny announcement she's certain the seasons are changing; the colors are altering too.  Running outside she becomes a part of the natural world.

In her newly acquired shape she enjoys summer, autumn and winter.  The calm of winter with the world at rest brings her home to sleep.  She's still noticing the colors in her immediate surroundings and outside her bedroom window.  It's a new day with new opportunities to embrace.

When you read this narrative you can easily see Jillian Tamaki has retained the child wonder of discovery.  Her sentences reflect the thoughts, movements and imagination of this little girl perfectly.  The depiction of how color is perceived is remarkably accurate allowing her audience to easily connect to the child with great understanding.  Here are two sentences.

But when I hold the
water in my hands, it's
as clear as glass.

I toss it up in
the air to make
diamonds.


In a marvelous display the scene on the front of the dust jacket of the child, a young girl, moving her balance from foot to foot, stretching to reach the whirl of black crows extends with excellence over the spine to the left, on the back, and to the edge of each flap.  The texture of the swirling blue, golden yellow and hints of purple look like marble.  With little effort you can hear the crows calling to each other or inviting the girl to join them.  Her black hair is lifted like their wings.

On the book case you might gasp at the blend of black crows and white sea gulls amid shades of blue, orange, red and a tiny bit of purple.  The color frames the flight of the birds. The opening endpapers are concentric bands of yellow and orange.  At the back on the closing endpapers the center point shifts as does the color.  These colors continue on the page turn opposite the title page in the beginning and opposite the verso with a final illustration at the end.

Jillian Tamaki begins at the beach, moves masterfully to a school yard, a ride home on the bus, a rain storm and then a powerful imaginative journey before returning the child to her bedroom.  The illustrations she creates using a combination of acrylic paint on watercolor paper and Photoshop are unique to this specific girl but also universal to many of us.  There is a special quality to her technique.  Even in stillness we feel the movement of life and its inhabitants.

One of my many favorite illustrations extends over two pages as almost all of them do.  The girl at the beach, wearing a red, one piece bathing suit, steps into the water, hands together and cupped to look at the water she holds. From there she leans down and moves forward swimming before she leaps into the air. She splashes water in great arcs around her.  Her head is lifted and her mouth is open in sheer happiness.  (How many times have you done this? Or how many times have you seen children doing this?)


Like the girl in They Say Blue written and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, your spirit will soar as she comes to one realization after another.  By the time you close the cover the same happiness she feels will fill you completely.  As a story time read aloud or a one-on-one bedtime choice this book will prompt wonderful discussions about color and point of view.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Jillian Tamaki and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Jillian maintains an Instagram account.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, reveals the cover and has a chat with Jillian on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  Editor Roger Sutton talks with Jillian about this title at The Horn Book.  Author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson features this book on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast following a post at Kirkus.

Greet Those Who Need Us

The longer you live the more you acknowledge the fragility of all life.  As humans we have the power to protect and preserve but it's a conscience choice we need to make every single day.  The more we discover and learn about all living beings on this planet, the harder we will work to maintain an environment which will support all of us.

Caldecott Honor Book recipient (2017), Brendan Wenzel for They All Saw A Cat (Chronicle Books, August 30, 2016) presents a new title to readers.  In Hello Hello (Chronicle Books, March 20, 2018) he is asking us to meet an array of animals, many of their names appearing on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list as creatures in trouble.  Several are critically endangered.

Hello Hello

Black and White

Two cats, one white on the left and one black on the right of the gutter gaze at each other in greeting.  For the phrase black and white on the next two page picture, the black cat strolls toward an American black bear.  On the opposite side of the gutter a giant panda looks at a plains zebra which looks back at it.  A small three-stripe damselfish (black and white) swims toward the right lower corner.

With ease we then welcome color.  It's rather bright, too.  With the turn of each page we are introduced to a group displaying opposites or differences.  These contrasts continue by comparing lines and dots and size.  The focus shifts bringing our attention to prominent body parts like tongues and noses.

Patterns, body positions, unusual shapes and displays of physical characteristics are astounding.  Some critters are quiet.  Other critters are not quiet.  Breathtaking beauty attracts.

Friendships are formed.  Sound abounds and animals move.  There is much to see.  It starts with you and me . . . and hello.


Even as you read the words silently you begin to feel the beat supplied by Brendan Wenzel's word choices.  Without any intentional effort, you find yourself reading the phrases aloud.  The word hello is usually followed by a single word noting the emphasis on the animals portrayed.  The second and fourth endings rhyme for most of the narrative building toward a joyful conclusion which circles back to the beginning.  Here is a sample.

Hello Shape
Hello Show
Hello Wonder
Hello WHOA! 


When you open the dust jacket on this title, you realize Brendan Wenzel has extended the illustrations to the flaps.  A pristine white background accentuates the vibrant animals depicted.  The textures, colors and shapes are sure to have you smiling in appreciation of these animals.  The tail of the rhinoceros hornbill goes over the edge to create a frame for two butterflies. To the left, on the back, the cheetah's tail goes up to the top of the left-hand corner pointing to the three-stripe damselfish on the back flap.

The remarkable book case is in two tones of blue.  A pattern of the animals moves from the far left to the far right.  The animal silhouettes are a darker, varnished blue.  On the opening endpapers the animals are shown again as silhouettes, silver on a pale gray.  On the closing endpapers the design is replicated but the animals are in full color.

On the two pages for the title display the two words are shown in shades of gray.  This leads us into black and white and then color.  Rendered in a variety of media, including cut paper, colored pencil, oil pastels, marker, and the computer Brendan connects one page to the next by having the last creature on the right be the first one to appear on the left of the next image.  It's a continuous gallery of animals found around the world.

One of the several things the beings have in common is the signature large eyes. It's like they want to see everything that can be seen.  They want to know everything about the animal next to them.  While some of the critters appear to be at rest, they also give the appearance of being ready to leap into action within seconds.  The design, the placement of the animals on the pages, is outstanding.

One of my many favorite pictures is for the second two lines so noted.  A mute swan from the previous page comes in from the left edge with its neck and face showing and nods to a platypus.  This is followed with a North American beaver up close and personal starring at the next creature.  Just across the gutter and close to us, a Brazilian porcupine has its eyes on the beaver.  In the upper right-hand corner a Western long-beaked echidna is not sure what is going to happen next.  This is one of those images beckoning to readers to reach out and touch the animals.


In an author's note Brendan Wenzel explains to us his purpose for writing and illustrating this book.  With Hello Hello he wishes to increase our awareness of some of his favorite animals.  Readers will be running to research one or more of these lively and lovely beings as soon as the book is completed.  Or they will most certainly ask you to read Hello Hello again and again.  There is so much to see in our wonderful world.  Brendan also has four pages at the conclusion dedicated to identifying the animals shown to us in this title.  This book is one you need in both your professional and personal collections. 

To learn more about Brendan Wenzel and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  The cover was revealed by teacher librarian Travis Jonker on his site, 100 Scope Notes.  We are also given a sneak peek at a few interior illustrations.  Be sure to take a look at how teacher librarian Jennifer Reed's students responded to this book at Reederama.  The publisher has created a special page for this title and Brendan's Caldecott Honor book.  Enjoy the book trailer!


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Forever Together

Sometimes it's hard to believe twenty-four years have passed since I lost him.  Not a day goes by without something he said, something he did or something he taught me finding its way into my thoughts.  He was well aware of the strength a woman, regardless of her age, needs in this world.  Much of the freedom and independence I enjoy is a result of him. 

Fathers, even when they age and even with their faults, are giants in the eyes of daughters.  Debut author illustrator Soosh presents a uniquely warm and loving relationship in Dad By My Side (Little, Brown and Company, May 8, 2018).  The voice of the child tenderly tells us of the importance of her father.

With Dad by my side,
there's nothing we can't do.

This man knows how to create laughter regardless of how ridiculous he looks.  He loves enough to value the time with his daughter over all other things.  The two of them are champions at venturing into new worlds. 

This dad offers compassion in times of sadness.  This daughter understands she needs to lend support for her dad, too.  Even when they are apart, they are together.

But he doesn't miss a single lullaby,
even when he's far from home.

Each of them is teachers and learners.  When they need to rest, they snuggle.  The stories this dad tells will linger in this daughter's memory for the rest of her life.  He has an uncanny ability to use any space to share time with her.

Like any Dad he dons the persona of superhero when monsters linger in the bedroom at night.  Each of them is helpers for the other.  Together, wherever they are and whatever they are doing, they are two halves of a wonderful whole.


Each lovingly crafted sentence by Soosh speaks to the simple truth of a daughter's affection for her father.  Their relationship is a true partnership based on unconditional love, each for the other.  The everyday activities in their lives are elevated to elegance through her words.  The narrative fashioned by these sentences asks us to appreciate those things we might not otherwise note.  Here is another sentence.

Eggshells in our omelets
don't bother us at all.


Rendered in watercolor on eggshell textured paper the illustrations seen on the opened dust jacket and throughout the title (I am working with an F & G generously supplied by the publisher.) kindle a feeling of compassion certain to envelope and stay with readers long after the story is completed.  Both of the pictures, the dad reading the newspaper with the girl and her doll on his back and the girl comforting her father as they sit on a bench (Their backs are to us.) to the left on the back depict an unbreakable bond.  The size difference between the dad and daughter further demonstrates symbolically and literally how an adult can understand the true nature and heart of their child.

The opening and closing endpapers replicate the walls in their home.  On the first one the daughter has drawn a picture of them with a bird and flowers.  It reads DADDY   ME.  On the final endpapers, author illustrator Soosh speaks to readers about this book.  Beneath the text on the title page the dad is floating on his back, swimming, with his daughter seated on his generous stomach.  Both are wearing red baseball caps with their suits.  She has a pennant with a skull and crossbones on it in her hand. 

Each image, no matter the age of the reader, will reach out and find a spot to rest in their heart.  The delicate details, the soft colors, the body positions and the activities represented are familiar and familial.  There is not a single one not worthy of framing. There is not a single one which will not offer the opportunity for discussion.  By placing most of the visuals on a white background, our eyes are immediately drawn to the daughter and her dad.  Sometimes Soosh will have the text opposite the illustration or above or below it.  The font color throughout is red.

One of my many, many favorite pictures accompanies the sentence about them cooking omelets.  They are working at a long table shown with a thin top, two legs and a single shelf.  On the shelf are a pot, pitcher and a cup.  Other utensils are visible.  You can see a stool on the left side of the table stacked with books.  The daughter used it to climb on top of the table.  She sits there wearing a chef's hat like her dad and holding a wooden spoon inside a bowl.  Three eggs are near to her.  Her dad also has a wooden spoon in a bowl to the right of her.  They are looking at each other.  A broken egg is on the floor.


Without a doubt, Dad By My Side written and illustrated by Soosh is going to be a much-requested favorite.  It honors the relationship between a father and his daughter with unmeasured gratitude and abiding affection.  You can almost hear the sound of the girl's voice as she chats with us about her and her dad.  You are going to want to have this title in your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Soosh and this book, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  Once there you can visit her YouTube channel to view her videos about her work.  Then you will get lost in the wondrous images on her Instagram account.