Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Marvelous Manual

For thousands of years people have been leaving memories of accomplishments, dreams, discoveries, musings, mysteries, everyday occurrences and unusual events on cave walls, bone, clay, bark, metal, stone, papyrus, palm leaves, string, parchment, paper or anything else they deemed as lasting or appropriate in less than ideal circumstances.  To be able to communicate in the absence of face to face opportunities connects us to others, then and now.  To do so languages, an understanding of languages and the writing of languages continues to be vital.

When we combine words and pictures to express an idea, it is intensified; sometimes luminous.  How To Read A Book (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, June 18, 2019) written by Kwame Alexander with art by Melissa Sweet is a superb, original representation of an idea that does indeed radiate and resonate.  It invites, no, it captures our attention and holds us close even after the end.


The poem continues by advising us that a stoop is fine, too.  After all, this is what Langston Hughes favored.  Once we are snuggled in a perfect place, we take our book, and open it carefully.

It shines like the sun.  It smells like a brand-new day.  It softly tickles us.  Little by little, page turn by page turn, we enjoy what is offered.  Something is building inside us. 

Before we know it, we become one with the book.  We celebrate through the words with every living thing, their portrayal and their story.  We are entertained.  We are informed. 

We are told to savor every magical moment with unbridled exuberance but to do so with intention.  For in using care, we are able to let the words soak into hearts and minds.  The final nine words are a mantra to cherish.

Food is to be relished with all our senses; seeing, hearing smelling, touching and tasting.  When Kwame Alexander likens opening a book to the peeling of a clementine, he is welcoming us into a total sensation.  He continues to reference actions of reading with the consumption of a clementine until we are deeply committed.  With elegance he allows us to appreciate each portion of this encounter in this book and in all other books.  Here is another passage.


The neon pinks and oranges with the lighter greens and blues on the open and matching dust jacket and book case certainly energize readers with anticipation before they look inside.  Melissa Sweet's meticulous and signature collage implores us to proceed.  To the left, on the back, a superhero with HERO on her shirt, flies down from the upper, left-hand corner, her bold, glowing cape flowing behind her.

On the opening and closing endpapers, four shelves stacked with books stretch from left to right.  Pointing fingers and several spirals urge us to keep going.  These spirals appear throughout the book.  The endpapers are done in various shades of fluorescent pink. With a page turn we arrive at the title page.  It is here we are introduced to the first appearance of deer (an explanation follows in the illustrator's note) and an asterisk-like star shape.  A hand is reaching for an orange book.

The next two-page image is a three-dimensional collage composed of fifteen stripes.  Careful readers will see a clue regarding the presence of deer in the illustrations.  The verso page follows with the publication information in the shape and color of a clementine with a stem and leaf.

The illustrations rendered using

watercolor, gouache, mixed media, handmade and vintage papers, found objects, including old book covers, and a paint can lid

are full-page and double-page pictures.  They not only enhance the narrative but extend it in new and exciting directions.  Cut-out letters spell once upon a time.  They are popping out of an orange toaster plugged into a purple outlet.  The toaster happens to be a book. 

Readers will be pleasantly surprised with a horizontal gatefold which again takes the orange book and turns it into another object entirely.  It gives us windows into possibilities.  Following this are smaller pages within pages revealing joyful words and employing a die-cut splendidly.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for a phrase speaking of morning air and butterfly kisses.  This visual extends over two pages.  In the upper, left-hand corner a portion of a neon pink spiral is in place.  Underneath this is a vertical strip of paper of a green forest and rolling hills.  From this, left to right, are what might be parts of old books.  The text is on the left with a neon pink asterisk-shaped star following the period.  Extending from the right and crossing the gutter slightly is a young girl with eyes closed in contentment, her left hand raised.  Butterflies flutter about her and one lands on the text. 

You might want to have a bag of clementines, a bunch of neon markers, all sorts of paper pieces and glue handy after reading this treasure one-on-one or to a group. How To Read A Book, a poetic narrative penned by Kwame Alexander with artwork asking readers to pause by Melissa Sweet, is food for everyone's souls, readers and non-readers.  It's an experience to be shared, repeatedly.  There is an author's note and an illustrator's note at the end.  You'll want to have a copy in your professional and personal collections.  You might enjoy pairing this title with How To Read A Story by Kate Messner with illustrations by Mark Siegel.

To learn more about Kwame Alexander and Melissa Sweet and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Kwame Alexander has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Melissa Sweet has accounts on Facebook and InstagramAt the publisher's website you can listen to a portion of the book being read by Kwame Alexander.  The cover is revealed at Publishers Weekly with interviews of both creators.  There is an interview of Melissa Sweet by Jennifer Jacobson at Highlights Foundation.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Seeing Double

There will be times when a book is released, and to your surprise it's a companion to a title from the previous year.  At first you can't believe you missed the first book. (Where were you?  Under a rock?)  As quickly as possible you locate a copy through your public library.  Not only do you believe it's excellent, you know the intended audience will enjoy it, too.  You buy a copy for your personal collection.

Look (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, July 10, 2018) written and illustrated by Fiona Woodcock cleverly tells a story of a sister and brother spending a day at the zoo.  Her narrative includes words with the letter pair oo.  Each pair is incorporated into the accompanying illustration.

Prior to the title page


is being sung by a rooster.  He is perched on his house on the following verso page.  On the title page LOOK is placed on three rolling hills with a rising sun for the second letter "o".  The children, with their backs to us and wearing their pajamas, have raised their arms in a good morning stretch.

For each of the subsequent pages words describe their breakfast, their footwear, and how fast they drive toward their destination.  They exclaim hooray! on their arrival with their faces as the letters "o".  Three animals are seen, and they dance with the third, doing a boogie.  

More animals are present, butterflies swoop and primates present themselves to the children.  As the sister and brother wander, they carry balloons, find flowers which cause sneezing and satisfy a craving for a sweet treat which sadly meets with an unfortunate mishap.  At home they ready themselves for bed, read, and drift off to dreamland. 

Outside a night bird calls as our natural satellite shines.  A shower of falling stars ask us (for those awake) to LOOK.  We've come full circle. 

There are more than thirty words selected by Fiona Woodcock to tell this tale. There is usually one word per page (illustration), but that pattern is not strictly followed to create a pleasant pacing. Each word used is carefully chosen to provide readers with an interesting narrative with plenty of action.

The front of the dust jacket is a hint of events to come, asking readers to seek words with the double "o".  The array of colors in the balloons is used throughout the book.  To the left, on the back, a large faintly colored red circle on a white canvas frames the sister and brother.  She is behind him saying LOOK!  Her glasses are the double oo.  On his hat it says IT'S A and then BOOK! is across his face.  He is looking through binoculars which form the double "o".  Two beautiful large butterflies are placed on each side of the book case on a background of white.

To coincide with dawn and night the letters "o", spread across the opening and closing endpapers, change color.  On the first the shades are red, yellow and orange.  On the second they are red, blue and purple.

The artwork and hand-lettered text was created by hand-cut rubber stamps, stencils, BLO pens, and additional pencil line work, all composited digitally.

Fiona Woodcock alters her point of view to emphasize the narrative.  She begins by bringing us close to two single-page pictures and then gives us a wider view for a double-page image.  Her placement of the elements and the words changes to create an inviting rhythm.  Readers will be eagerly Looking for the double "o" words.  The heavier matte-finished paper is an ideal texture for her artwork.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages and includes two words.  On a light background colors like tiny confetti (or sprinkles) are patterned as a canvas.  Three flowers from the previous page are in the lower, left-hand corner.  Next to them are the brother and his sister.  Above them in cursive the large word drool stretches over the gutter.  On the right a hand is reaching up from the bottom of the page to grab an ice cream cone.  The top of the ice cream is the letter "o" for the word scoop.  An ice cream scoop utensil held by the vendor is placing that scoop on the cone.

This spring the second book, which lead me to Look, was released.  Hello (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, May 14, 2019) written and illustrated by Fiona Woodcock follows the siblings on another adventure. The letter pair ll and the formed words take us from the family campsite to an amusement park for the day and safely back to the tents.

Prior to the title page a bird's eye view shifts to a close-up perspective as our eyes move from left to right.  On the left side the sun rises with hello inside it.  Three tents are next to the mother's red car.  On the hill on the right a rabbit watches the scene below it.  The rabbit's ears supply the ll in the word yellow.

On the verso page the brother leans out from his tent with two little bunnies next to him.  His sister stands in front of the rising sun with HELLO beneath her.  The shadows of her two legs become the ll pair.

As the trio travel to the park the geography changes through using pairs of ll words.  A fabulous adjective depicts how excited they are to enter the park.  Words describe five different rides and exhibits and their reactions.

A mischievous brother causes an accident, but they still manage to have fun along the seashore later.  They peer at sea creatures and collect shells until their mother returns.  As night falls, they enjoy a snack courtesy of the crackling fire.

A soothing melody lulls the twosome to sleep. Well, almost both of them.  The younger brother has one more thing he wants to try.  He remembers how the day began with a greeting and a hippity-hoppity companion.

With every page turn readers will be fascinated by how Fiona Woodcock takes nearly forty words to fashion a fun-filled day.  It's exciting to see how their vacation is enhanced by the outing to the amusement park by the seashore.  The decision for determining each word creates a cadence of rising and falling action connecting readers to each event in the story.

On the front of the dust jacket the brother and sister with their hands raised as they float on the water informs readers of the happiness they hold in their hands.  These two are going entertain us from beginning to end.  To the left, on the back, a large yellow inner tube supplies a place for the siblings.  The brother with his hands raised is the double "l" for hello and the legs of his sister help to spell
all.  This is on a white canvas.  On the light background of the book case are two llamas; one is blue on the front and the other is a darker blue with purple on the back.  (You'll need to read this book to discover why they are there.)

On the opening and closing endpapers a series of the letter l are placed almost like zigzags.  On the first set the colors are blue, yellow and green.  Blue, red and purple hues are used on the second set of endpapers.

Readers will see with each page turn some of the images are connected to previous illustrations and following pictures, flowing flawlessly.  As the family leaves the tents behind on the left and travel toward the park, we see it in the distance on the right.  On the next page it is magnified like a bold statement across two pages.  Several of the rides seen in this expansive view appear later and much closer to readers.  (It will be interesting to see if readers can see some elements from the first book in this second title.)

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  It is for the word gallop.  Six merry-go-round horses ride from left to right, some more prevalent than others to give the impression of motion.  The letter g is to the left of the gutter.  The poles from the sister's and brother's horses provide the ll pair.  The duo is looking directly at the reader.

Both Look and Hello written and illustrated by Fiona Woodcock are imaginative and ingenious stories certain to actively engage readers.  Without a doubt readers and listeners will be eager to alter or expand these stories or write their own using words with pairs of letters.  I highly recommend both titles for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Fiona Woodcock and her other work, please follow the links attached to her name to access her website.  The second link takes you to a page for Hello.  You can view additional images there.  Some of them are different from those found at the publisher's website.  Fiona Woodcock has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Fiona Woodcock and these two books are showcased at author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast here and here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

In The Darkness Of The Desert

We spend a lot of days waiting in anticipation.  It's safe to say those events we long for alter with age but some of them remain forever.  We wait for the first day of school and the last day of school.  We thrill at the first brilliant bursts of yellow, orange and red leaves in the autumn and the first snowfall that coats everything like white frosting.  After a long, chilly, windy winter we look for the first daffodil and tulip leaves to push through the ground.  We cheer at the first sighting of birds returning from the south.  There is no symphony to equal their songs.  We give an inward sigh at the honeybees finally flying between clover blossoms.

Around the world there are other people and living beings who await change or the arrival of something special.  The Night Flower (Big Picture Press, an imprint of Candlewick Press, March 12, 2019) written and illustrated by Lara Hawthorne presents an annual event and its effect on all who dwell in the surrounding area.  It is a singular spectacle. 

Carnegiea gigantea  

The saguaro cactus is found in the Sonoran desert, which stretches approximately 100,400 square miles/260,000 square kilometers from the southwestern United States to northwestern Mexico.

One night a year the flowers on this cactus unfold.  Their perfume is like ambrosia to native pollinators.  Thousands swarm to feed on the nectar and assist in spreading the pollen and seeds.

At sunrise in the spring certain animals in the Sonoran desert wake.  The tops of the cactus provide a safe perch for birds and woodpeckers make holes in the trunks for homes.  Other colorful blossoms beckon to insects and birds that stop for a sweet sip.

Deer and squirrels use nearby trees with leaves for shade, food and recreation.  As the day gets hotter, activity slows.  Cool spots for resting are sought by the creatures.  They wait for the night flower.  Temperatures drop as the sun sets.  Those that thrive in the darkness move, mingle and seek food.

Green buds on the saguaro cactus open to reveal a stunning white bloom.  Bats swoop for a drink.  When dawn brings new light, birds and bees hurry to enjoy the treat.  The flowers will fade but they leave a fruit behind.  From this a new saguaro will grow.  (Did you know there can be as many as 2,000 seeds in a fruit?  Did you know it takes 100 years for an arm to grow on a saguaro?)

After the three sentence introductory paragraph on the title page, Lara Hawthorne leads us into the desert world of the saguaro cactus with four-sentence (phrase), rhyming poetic descriptions. Lines one and two and three and four create a soothing, rhythmic narrative informing us of the day and night activities of the creatures.  We can feel, like the living beings there, the excitement for this annual happening growing.  We rejoice with them.  Here is a passage.

As the darkness sets in, moths stir in delight,
searching for flowers in the cool desert night.
A fierce, furry hunter with sharp, pointed teeth
howls at the sky on its little pink feet.

To draw our attention to the book, Lara Hawthorne brings us close to the saguaro cactus blossom as the scent invites in eager insects.  What you cannot see are the flecks of gold foil details on every element including the title.  Only Lara Hawthorne remains in its soft white.  To the left, on the back of the open book case, we are given a larger view of the cactus at night.  Creatures move on the ground, an owl sits on an arm, eyes peer from a hole in the trunk, insects fly, and a bat crosses the full moon.  Text placed here represents what would appear on the front flap of a dust jacket.

On the opening and closing endpapers a tiny print of the saguaro cactus, other types of cactus, types of leafy trees and shrubs and some of the animals mentioned in the book spans both pages.  A similar pattern appears within the book as the sun sets.  Rendered in watercolor and colored digitally the images, on heavier, matte-finished paper, span two pages throughout the book.  A full-color palette and intricate details guide us through this spectacular landscape.

Lara Hawthorne moves us close and then takes us back, altering her perspective to further acquaint us with this desert, its flora and fauna.  In one picture our focus is on the tops of the saguaro cactus where birds rest and others peek from the hole-made homes.  Small bushes on sandy soil provide a soft background.  In another visual a hot orange sun spreads heat over red mountains as reptiles seek shelter and insects meander among the plants.

One of my favorite illustrations is a close-up of delicate desert flowers.  Moving among them and savoring the nectar are butterflies, bees, other flying insects and one graceful blue bird with a long beak.  The flowers flow up both sides, along the bottom and to the right of the gutter.  

When you read a book like The Night Flower written and illustrated by Lara Hawthorne, you can't help but be further astounded at the beauty found on our planet.  This is the kind of book necessary to build respect for caring for each habitat.  At the close of the book Lara Hawthorne has a page dedicated to the life cycle of a saguaro, a page for all the parts on a saguaro (They can store up to 240 gallons of water!), two pages supplying further information about ten animals and a single-page glossary.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Lara Hawthorne and her other work, please access her website by following the link attached to her name.  The second link is to the page dedicated to this title.  She shares additional images plus one display which will surprise and astonish you.  Lara Hawthorne has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  There are interior images at Penguin Random House and Templar.  Here's a little bit more information at the National Park Service site about the cactus.

To enjoy the titles selected this week by other participants in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge, please visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Schoolmates For A Day

First day jitters are a common state of being for anyone at any age.  If it's your first day at a new school, those jitters are amplified.  You have new subjects to learn.  You have new children to meet, and, hopefully, friendships to grow.  You have a new teacher and other educators in the building to understand.  It's tad bit daunting to say the least. 

One of the most soothing solutions to first day jitters is to share these worries with a friend.  Shared worries shrink.  In Bunny's Book Club (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, February 7, 2017) written by Annie Silvestro with illustrations by Tatjana Mai-Wyss, we met a group of friends who bonded over their love of books, reading and one library in particular.  In a companion title, Bunny's Book Club Goes To School (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, June 18, 2019), created in collaboration by Annie Silvestro and Tatjana Mai-Wyss, readers welcome back the charming creatures and their new human friend, Josie.  Josie and readers will realize friendship extends beyond four familiar walls and into new places with new people.

Bunny's Book Club met at the library every Saturday.  Bunny and his forest friends arrived even before the librarian.

They could hardly contain their excitement at getting new books.  The library was also a place of new adventures for each of the nine companions; each one did what they loved best.  One was on the computer, another was making a new paper craft and one was completing a puzzle.  Bunny was seated and reading with Josie.  Their affection for books and for each other was known by all.

When Josie told Bunny she was worried about her first day at a new school, he tried to reassure her.  That night getting ready for bed, he had a big-sized bright idea.  The next day on his way to Josie's school, Bunny bumped into Porcupine.  When Bunny said he was going to school because Josie needed a friend, Porcupine wanted to go, too.  Seven chance encounters later and nine woodland critters were headed to school.

It wasn't easy to spot Josie in the large crowd.  When they finally saw her, she vanished inside before they could reach her.  Looking into classroom after classroom, they could not find her until suddenly Squirrel thought he saw her in the gymnasium.  She was not there and after a bit of fun, they all left except for Squirrel.  Seven mistakes later, Bunny found himself alone looking for Josie.  Each of the book buddies decided to stay in the rooms suited to their pastimes.

Feeling a little bit sad, Bunny suddenly felt his soul soar.  It was the school's library.  Oh, this was pure bliss!  In short order Bunny was pointing outside to his eight pals who arrived.  Libraries have a way of providing perfect solutions and multiplying friends.

When Annie Silvestro writes we want to step into the world pictured by her words.  She fashions a rhythm with the nine forest friends by telling us what they enjoy at the library, by having them follow Bunny to Josie's school and by having them remain behind in separate classrooms to do what they love above all else (except for books).  Even though they have different passions, they love Bunny and Josie.  It's friendship that ties them together. 

Woven into her lovely descriptions of place and time in the narrative, Annie Silvestro places inviting conversations with equally expressive points of view.  We find ourselves further connected to these enchanting characters and their personalities.  Here is a passage and two other sentences.

A ball whizzed over their heads.
They couldn't resist jumping and dodging and dunking
until Bunny blew a whistle.
"We have a job to do," he said.  "Come on!"
The animals hurried out.  Except for Squirrel.
"I'm gonna hang out here just another minute," she said.

He burst into the school's library.  It smelled like home!

On the open dust jacket the full color images by Tatjana Mai-Wyss  convey total comfort and contentment by the forest friends and their new library buddy, Josie.  They are shown in their favorite place with their favorite people doing what brings them the greatest satisfaction.  The characters and title text are varnished.  To the left, on the back, on a canvas of lighter purple, Bunny is cuddled with Josie in a library chair, reading.  Off to the right side on a stack of books, Bird continues to listen to an audiobook.  (I am not sure if these images are used for the book case.  I am working with an F & G.)

The opening and closing endpapers are a fabulous portrait of the school building's brick wall and three floors of windows, six windows to a floor.  The first two sets are rectangular.  The top set are arched windows.  Each window shows a different scene in a different place in the school.  They highlight students and the animals exploring their interests.  On the title page Bunny, Porcupine and Bird are carrying books as they walk through the forest.

Readers will find themselves pausing at every picture to savor the details included by artist Tatjana Mai-Wyss.  Her fine lines (look at Porcupine's quills) and delicate brush strokes depict scenes of warmth, happiness and affectionate companionship.  Readers will appreciate Porcupine's intensity in making origami with his tongue out in concentration.  They will laugh at Bunny's bunny slippers.  They will find Mouse and Bear sticking together endearing.

The image sizes vary from double-page visuals to full-page pictures, and to several smaller illustrations on a page.  They provide stellar pacing, flowing easily from page to page.  Different perspectives contribute to the emotional state of the characters.  There is plenty of humor too.  Guess who's on the school bus at the close of the day?

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  All the animals are in the gymnasium.  Six basketballs are in motion.  Three of four children are engaged with the critters.  One watches from a ladder along the wall.  Bird is perched on the top of the backboard.  Squirrel is hanging from the net.  Bear is shooting a basket.  Raccoon is passing a ball.  Mole is spinning a ball on his nose.  Bunny is blowing a whistle.  You can feel the chaotic happiness in this illustration.  (Another important point is Tatjana Mai-Wyss includes all kinds of children in these pictures from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.)

When you read or listen to Bunny's Book Club Goes To School written by Annie Silvestro with illustrations by Tatjana Mai-Wyss the joy from the pages wraps around you like a hug.  Without a doubt this title will be a huge hit at storytime in libraries, classrooms and in homes for a bedtime book.  It's an ode to books, libraries and friendship which you will want in your professional and personal collections. 

To learn more about Annie Silvestro and Tatjana Mai-Wyss and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Annie Silvestro has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Tatjana Mai-Wyss has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view the wonderful endpapers and a few of the beginning images.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Odd Rat Out

Being true to yourself is exhilarating and sometimes lonely.  If there is something odd about you that sets you apart from everyone else, it can be tricky to find friends.  There will be times when you wonder if you should conform in order to be less alone.  Yet, giving up those things which make you wonderfully unique brings its own kind of sadness.  It's an age-old mental conflict.

Being a naked mole rat has its own challenges, but Sweety (Schwartz & Wade Books, March 26, 2019) written and illustrated by Andrea Zuill portrays a girl with additional quirks.  Some might say this youngster is hearing an entire symphony rather than only a different drummer.  She (and readers) will come to understand no one is entirely apart from everyone.

Sweety was awkward.
Even for a naked mole rat.

She was referred as a little square peg by her grandmother.  Although the exact definition of this eluded her, she knew she was sometimes an outsider.  Her description of something as simple as her doll when compared to others in her company was too bold and excessive.  No one seemed to share her unusual hobbies.  And how many students do you know who gave a book report

through interpretive dance?

Yes, Sweety was no ordinary naked mole rat.  She did wish to be like others, but she also enjoyed being herself, too.  When her Aunt Ruth, her mother's sister, came for visits, Sweety felt the best.  These two were like the proverbial peas in a pod.

During her last visit Aunt Ruth told Sweety about being a little square peg.  She encouraged her to hold tightly to those things making her a special individual.  She also spoke about finding like-minded people.  This gave Sweety a whole bunch of new thoughts to ponder.

If there were people like her out in the world, she needed to recognize them.  How would she do this?  Some of her ideas bordered on extreme, other plans were more conventional.  It's when she decided on the best course to follow that the desired but unexpected happened.

There is something delightful about naming a naked mole rat Sweety.  In doing this author Andrea Zuill has our immediate attention.  Her blend of conversational narrative with supporting dialogue makes further connections and adds considerable humor to the story.  While we are smiling and sometimes laughing, we are also understanding Sweety and her need to stay exactly the way she is.  Here is a passage.

And most people found her
hobbies a bit bizarre.

Would you like to 
come over to my house
and help me identify

No, thank you. 

I don't know about you, but seeing Sweety on the open and matching dust jacket and book case calmly seated on a bench among flowers on the front makes me grin . . . a lot.  Those glasses with the thick lens and braces on her teeth set her apart quickly, but we also see a person . . .er . . .naked mole rat with a great deal of self-confidence.  To the left, on the back, on a lighter canvas an image from the interior of the book shows Sweety loudly proclaiming through a bull horn her virtues to another naked mole rat in hopes of finding someone like her.

A deep golden brown covers the beginning endpapers and the color used in the title text covers the closing endpapers.  On the title page beneath the text Sweety is seated underneath and next to lovely blue mushrooms with yellow flecks.  She is reading a book.

Rendered in pen-and-ink, scanned and colored digitally the illustrations by Andrea Zuill are highly detailed and animated.  On the first two-page picture she has an aside in parenthesis about naked mole rats, their lack of fur and their love of clothes.  Her image sizes vary according to the story and pacing.

Her characters tend to be in bolder brighter colors set against a softer background.  (You can see this on the front of the jacket and case and throughout the title.)  Elements in visuals pay tribute to those things naked mole rats and Sweety enjoy; a chart of root vegetables in the underground classroom and a mushroom lamp in Sweety's bedroom.  Facial expressions and body positions depict emotional moments but like the text also lend themselves to comedy.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page pictures.  We are underground in Sweety's classroom.  Near the center of the picture her teacher is seated at her desk in front of a blackboard.  To her right is the tunnel used as an entrance and exit.  To the right of this is a set of bookshelves.  Sweety is to the left of her teacher clothed in a purple one-piece suit, eyes closed and dancing with a pointed toe and arms flexed a la Martha Graham.  Four classmates are seated at desks along the bottom of the two pages.  One is asking about what book Sweety has read.

This is a book for those who embrace life with a difference and for those who do not.  It helps the first group to stay the course and to not feel alone and reminds the second set of people everyone is valuable.  Sweety written and illustrated by Andrea Zuill is a title you will want to have on your professional bookshelves and in your personal collection too.  We all need reminding every now and then that different is superb.

To learn more about Andrea Zuill and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Andrea Zuill has an account on Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view the first few interior images.  On KPBS Andrea Zuill chats about this book.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson features Andrea Zuill and this title at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Precious Papas

Even after a hard day of work, he had time for a make-believe adventure.  Lying on his back, knees bent and hands next to his head with the palms up, Dad became an automobile.  Seated on his knees, with hands grasping an imaginary steering wheel, I was the driver.  Our destination and the time to get there was controlled by my feet pushing on his hands, one for the brakes and one for the accelerator.  As the driver I would honk the horn with ease and as the automobile, he made appropriate engine, wheel and road sounds.  What grand trips we took!

Making these magical moments happen is a gift fathers give to their daughters and sons.  Side by Side: A Celebration Of Dads (Phaidon Press Limited, March 11, 2019) written and illustrated by Chris Raschka showcases fathers and their children living in treasured tandem.  These generous gestures, these shared minutes or hours, live on from generation to generation.

In this title six fathers and their daughters or sons enjoy three different activities sparingly named. In the first two the pair each play a part in an inseparable pastime or as opposites in a common theme.  In the third scene their pursuit is labeled

Side by side.

A crown-wearing daughter is royalty.  Her father is assigned to make her laugh as jester.  A boy is scooped into his father's lowered arms.  One is the crane and the other is the cargo.  When rain falls this father and his son stand together beneath an umbrella.

A dad sits reading in an outdoor chair.  His daughter, magnifying glass in hand is looking at something in the grass.  They are

Base and explorer.

There is a mountain to be climbed and a game of checkers to be played. The role of teacher and learner is switched before a twosome soars on swings.  Fathers offer the comfort of a cozy place to lay our heads.  Whatever the endeavor, they are here . . . always.

Using the principal of less is more, Chris Raschka elevates it to excellence in this book.  Three words describe each scene simply.  By having the title text conclude the third feature, it supplies a rhythm and a connection between all six fathers and their daughters and sons.  We are soothed and lulled by these words.

One of the first things readers will notice about this book is the trim size.  The width (6 1/2 ") is designed to be held easily by hands of all sizes.  The height (11") is reminiscent of The Tall Book series published in the 1950s.  When the dust jacket is opened the white canvas continues on the other side of the spine to the left, on the back.  The only items pictured are the shoes of the father and daughter shown on the front.  Although the illustrations are in full color, the use of primary colors grabs our attention.

On the book case in loose squares and rectangles, Chris Raschka has created a pattern of twenty-four different elements with a heavy emphasis on oranges and yellows in the designs.  The title text is placed in one of the shapes.  The lines, drops, flowers, dots, circles, crosses and curly leaves on stems exude joy.

On the opening and closing endpapers pairs of hats for fathers and daughters and sons and pairs of shoes for fathers and daughters and sons, are shown, respectively.  There are twelve sets each.  Readers will enjoy matching the hats and shoes to the characters inside the book.

Chris Raschka's signature artwork on heavier, matte-finished paper radiates from the double-page pictures with exuberance.  His flowing, loose lines and blend of soft and darker shades portrays with perfection the affection between the fathers and their children.  This not only envelopes readers but draws them into each scene.  After the first three fathers and their children but before the second set of three, a two-page image shows each parent and child enjoying ice cream or popsicles from a vendor.  It's as if they all arrived at the park at the same time.  Each duo is framed separately along with the seller.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for one of the

Side by side 

settings.  A father and his daughter are lying on beach towels in the sun.  They are lying on their backs with their bare feet extended toward the reader.  They are wearing shorts, tops and sunglasses.  He has a red towel and a red umbrella over him.  She has a purple towel and a green umbrella over her.

Surely every reader will find an occasion captured in this book, Side by Side: A Celebration Of Dads written and illustrated by Chris Raschka, which replicates one they've had or will trigger the memory of a similar experience.  You can hold the love expressed in these pages in your hands even after you've finished the book and set it aside.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Chris Raschka and his other work, you might want to look at an earlier post on a website linked to his name.  Chris Raschka has an account on Twitter.  He regularly posts his artwork.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Please enjoy this video from September 2018 where Chris Raschka shares his process.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

You Belong

As an educator, as a teacher librarian, all the children in any given school in any given year enter your classroom, the school library.  They arrive from an assortment of families, economic conditions, ethnic and racial backgrounds with a range of personalities and potential.  They are all beautiful, important and of immeasurable value.

Depending on the community in which they live, some of them for reasons of physical characteristics, language, clothing, cultural or religious practices feel as though they don't belong.  They are asked questions they are unable to answer to the satisfaction of other children or adults.  Where Are You From? (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, June 4, 2019) written by Yamile Saied Mendez with illustrations by Jaime Kim gives readers the best and only responses of true worth.

Where are you from?
they ask.

A little girl is questioned by her classmates.  Adults want to know if her parents are from here or from there.  When her reply prompts them to continue to question her, she is confused. She decides to ask her grandfather, her Abuelo,

because he knows everything.

Walking together with his granddaughter, Abuelo stops for a moment to think. He tells her she comes from the Pampas, the gaucho and the brown river.  He further describes the meaning and value of each geographical feature and person.  He continues this journey by taking her to mountain peaks and oceans painting pictures with his words of the flora and fauna dwelling there.

She also is a part of wild unexpected weather found in this portion of the world as well as the calmer ebb and flow of sunshine and rain.  Each sentence from Abuelo to his beloved little girl speaks of the land and the people and the histories attached to both.  The child, like those who questioned her, wants more.  She needs a specific place.

His response is certain to cause gasps in all readers.  Without a doubt, his granddaughter stops for a moment as joy and warmth fill her soul.  As Abuelo takes her home and holds her close, he speaks of universal, timeless beliefs which will resonate with all of us.

There is not a child (or an adult) who reads the words written by Yamile Saied Mendez that will not feel a connection.  The desire to know who came before us in our families is strong but even more urgent when others press us for answers other than those we know.  Abuelo's descriptions are lyrical and simply lovely; almost like a lullaby.  Through his words we walk through all aspects of a land, its inhabitants and the history of its people.  Each of these portrayals, like layers, are designed to lead us back to the girl's original question.  This makes Abuelo's final words more potent.  Here is a passage.

You're from mountains so high
they tickle Senor Cielo's belly,

where the condor roosts his family
and the jaguar prowls the night.

In a word the image seen on the open and matching dust jacket and book case is bliss.  You can see the shared pleasure in each other's company on both faces.  The path through the field with birds against the afternoon sky contributes to the golden emotional glow.  The field stretches over the spine to the far-left edge.  There are color variations in the grass as if a gentle breeze is blowing.  Even more birds in the same flock are shown flying.  On the jacket the title text, the child and her grandfather are varnished.

On the opening and closing endpapers a vista of mountains and an ocean spreads edge to edge.  In the first a palette of green shades and yellow depicts the start of a day with the large sun rising between peaks and glistening on the water.  Birds are flying from both directions.  On the final endpapers hues of purple color the sky, mountains and water.  A darker golden yellow and orange paint the setting sun.  Birds are again flying from both directions.  Both scenes present serenity.

The pictures rendered in watercolor and digital techniques to create the digital illustrations by Jaime Kim are brimming with animation.  The sizes move from full-page pictures to double-page pictures when the little girl is chatting with Abuelo.  With each page turn you can sense the mood and emotions intensifying by Jaime Kim's use of color.

To enrich the warmth of the narrative Jaime Kim alters her points of view.  Sometimes the pair are viewed close-up or as part of a larger landscape.  Their attire might change depending on the sentences.  They are seen riding horses and wearing appropriate attire when gaucho is mentioned.  Sometimes the reader is given more of a bird's eye view of a scene as in the plaza with reference to Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.  Readers will finally notice the sky changing color as dusk descends on the pair.  This enhances the final sentences and the final image.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  It is night.  A few golden stars sparkle in the deep blue and purple sky.  This spreads as a canvas on the two pages.  Along the bottom of the page, outlined in those blue and purple colors, are grasses from the field enlarged as if we are peering through them lying on our stomachs.  On the right behind some of the grass the grandfather and his granddaughter sit.  Their backs are to us.  They are looking up.  One of Abuelo's arms is around the little girl; the other is pointing at the North Star.  Simply precious.

Lovingly written by Yamile Saied Mendez and lovingly illustrated by Jaime Kim, this book, Where Are You From?, tells readers all they need to know about their origins.  At the close of this title, readers will realize the human heart is a landscape large enough to include everyone.  I highly recommend this book for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Yamile Saied Mendez and Jaime Kim and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Yamile Saied Mendez has an account on Twitter.  Jaime Kim has an account on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images from the beginning of the book.  There is also a printable activity, a family tree to complete.  Here is a link to a letter written by Yamile Saied Mendez about this book.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Always An Ally

Day and night, if the sky is clear, it is there to be seen.  It is white against a brilliant blue sky in early evening or at morning's beginning.  Against the night's darkness, it glows white, golden yellow, orange and sometimes red, depending on the time of year, atmosphere or its location.  Shapes and sizes shift during its monthly cycle.

It is a constant companion to Earth and all living things on the planet.  Moon!: Earth's Best Friend (Henry Holt and Company, June 11, 2019) written by Moon (with Stacy McAnulty) and illustrated by Moon (and Stevie Lewis) is a lively, informative discussion by and about our natural satellite.  It's the third book in the Our Universe series; Earth!: My First 4.54 Billion Years (Henry Holt and Company, October 24, 2017) and Sun!: One In A Billion (Henry Holt and Company, October 23, 2018) are the first two titles.  What new fun, fantastic moon facts will we learn?

Look up.  Look up! LOOK UP!
It's me.  Moon!
I'm Earth's best friend.

Moon takes us back, back, back to the beginning.  When Earth was new, a huge rock (think planet size) crashed into us.  The debris from this collision, some 4.5 billion years ago, became Moon.    Twenty-seven point three days pass for Moon to circle Earth once and for Moon to spin around once.  Did you know we always see the same side of the moon?  Can you name the eight phases of the moon?

Moon is the only Moon but there are other moons attached to other planets.  Our moon ranks fifth in size.  Even though Earth and Moon are permanent pals, Earth is larger giving her a greater gravitational pull.  Moon averages about 238,855 miles from Earth.

Even at that distance Moon keeps Earth in balance and controls our high and low tides twice a day.  Moon has bragging rights in the entire universe about contact with humans . . . men.  Some footprints are still there, along with items left there by visitors.  Nail clippers?

During eclipses the Earth and Moon take turns hiding and shadowing.  Day and night determine the type of eclipse, solar or lunar.  One of the most important truths Moon wants us to remember is Moon is always there.  We can take comfort in this whether Moon is visible or not.

Moon's charming conversations through words with Stacy McAnulty focus on a friendship formed from nearly the beginning of Earth's existence.  As each virtue of Moon's contributions to this relationship is revealed, little asides define terminology.  Humor is evident as the narrative compares the weight of a cow on Earth to the weight of a cow on the moon and continues with a commentary about cows, nursery rhymes, jumping and the distance between the Earth and Moon.  Each cheery observation is presented with satisfaction and loyalty.  Here is a passage.

BFFs help each other out.

I keep Earth from being too wobbly.
This might be the most important thing I do,
and you probably didn't even know about it!  

When you look at the open dust jacket, one of the first things you notice is the happy disposition of Moon.  Placed in a starry sky, Moon is content and proud to be Earth's best friend.  To the left, on the back, the background continues.  Moon is waving at us from the lower, left-hand corner.  Above Moon text provides an introduction to the book.  Covers of the two previous titles with a starred review quote are also included.  Portions of the images and text are varnished.

On the open book case, the back, on the left, is identical.  On the front Moon is much closer.  A portion of her right side moves off the case.  Moon's left arm is raised toward Moon's smiling mouth.  The opening and closing endpapers are a pale dusty blue.  On the dedication page Stacy McAnulty, Stevie Lewis and Moon have statements.  Moon's appearance on the title page looks as though secrets are about to be shared.

Rendered using

colored pencils and digital tools

the illustrations by Stevie Lewis alternate between full-page and double-page pictures.  Regardless of their size, each element contributes to the sheer delight Moon conveys in telling us about the friendship with Earth.  If what we are told is less than happy news, an emotion is appropriately presented. Earth looks a little worried by all the man-made satellites zooming around her.  This is followed by Moon in three different positions around Earth chatting about facts while swirling colorful celebratory ribbons.

Readers will find that the images heighten the narrative.  In the portion about cows, nursery rhymes, jumping and distance, the humor of the words is depicted in multiple cows in space wearing helmets.  When showing how Earth would function without Moon's gravity, Earth looks like she's been on a merry-go-round too long.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  Earth is centered on either side of the gutter in a starry sky.  Around Earth are the eight phases of Moon.  The text reads:

But you probably noticed I look different every night.
Fun, right?

Check out

For each phase Stevie Lewis gives Moon a new facial expression.  The phases are labeled, and one contains a fun fact.

This new entry in an engaging, entertaining and enlightening series, Moon!: Earth's Best Friend written by Moon (with Stacy McAnulty) and illustrated by Moon (and Stevie Lewis), is fabulous.  Moon's point of view in describing attributes of this perpetual union makes this book a stellar choice for a space, planet, Earth, Moon or bedtime themes.  I can't imagine a professional or personal collection without a copy of this title.  At the close of the book is a short author's note to Fellow Moon Gazers, a Two Truths and a Myth with Moon, Moon by the Numbers, All in a Name (different kinds of moons) and Sources.

To learn more about Stacy McAnulty and Stevie Lewis, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Stacy McAnulty has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Stevie Lewis has accounts on Instagram and Tumblr.  I believe you will find this interview of Stevie Lewis on She Explores very interesting and also this one at 24 Carrot Writing.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.

You'll want to take a few moments to view the other titles selected this week by participants in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge by visiting Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator, Alyson Beecher.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Upon His Arrival

Sometimes the world doesn't change but a perception of the world does.  It may seem almost magical when this happens, but one individual can alter the viewpoints of many by simply being themselves or by a quirk of fate.  We never know when this will happen.  We will remember it.

The other very important thing to consider is we not only have this memory, but now we are seeking with anticipation different perceptions of the same thing, things we encounter every single day.  Bear Came Along (Little, Brown And Company, June 4, 2019) written by Richard T. Morris with illustrations by LeUyen Pham is another outstanding collaboration by the team that brought us Sheep 101 (Little, Brown And Company, March 13, 2018).  In this title, Bear Came Along, the actions of one alter the awareness of many.  It's safe to say life along the river is newly defined in a day.

Once there was a river
that flowed night and day,

but it didn't know
it was a river . . .

until . . .

A bear meanders out of the woods, climbs on a log overhanging the river, reaches toward the water and promptly falls.  Completely soaked he fails to realize he's on an adventure until a nearby frog stops watching and begins hopping.  She hops right on top of Bear.

Bear climbs on the log as Frog, needing a friend, joins him.  When the Turtles appear, they issue warnings instead of fun-filled possibilities.  Beaver, a born captain, climbs aboard.  So now we have an adventure with growing friendships, happiness happening and a great guide who lacks knowledge of altered courses.

Two rambunctious raccoons leap from treetops to join the group racing down the river; all are oblivious of everything except for the scenery passing by them on both sides.  Unable to stop they bump into Duck who is lovingly accepted as a passenger.  Duck (and the entire group) has no idea of what they will see on this wild excursion until they make a shocking discovery.  They are at the edge of a waterfall!

Like a chain made of friendship, they cling to each other as they drop.  SPLOSH!  One bear, one frog, two turtles, one beaver, two raccoons and a duck will remember this day.  They are not alone in their remembering.

One of the first of many elements you notice in this narrative penned by Richard T. Morris is the excellent use of pacing.  The key word, until, links each of the animals' lack of understanding and discovery together. Readers will see the pattern fashioned by this technique.  They will come to realize, like the animals, how richer the lives of the animals are in the presence of each other.  The river starts the story, keeps it flowing and brings it to a conclusion that is not an ending but a beginning.  This is a brilliant circle story.  Here is a passage.

the Raccoons dropped in.

The Raccoons were so excited
about the twists and turns ahead,
but they didn't know they had to be careful . . .
until . . .

Seeing the partial face of Bear at the bottom of the front of the dust jacket, with the river and evergreen forest behind him, leads readers to ask what could possibly happen next.  Why is he there?  What is he thinking?  There are many potential scenarios.  It's when the dust jacket is opened the story thread grows.  On the other side of the spine, the forest and river continue but careful readers will see hidden among the trees, among the reeds and river, the other animal characters in the narrative.  They are not aware of each other, but it's as if they are waiting, too.

On the book case the river acts as a canvas.  Bear remains the same with the text looking watery.  To the left of the spine, we can see portions of the other animals.  There is a marked change in their expressions.

On the opening and closing endpapers we are treated to an exquisite bird's-eye view of the river winding through the forest landscape.  On the first scene shades of black are painted on a creamy white canvas.  A portion in the center is darker than the outlying areas. The bright blue river provides a pleasing contrast.  The characters are tucked into the scene in the order in which they appear.  The second view is a colorful, beautiful reflection of the story and its results.  It's enchanting!

Rendered in

watercolor, ink, and gouache on hot-press illustration board 

the artwork by LeUyen Pham makes you feel as though you are holding something rich and rare in your hands.  She makes use of every bit of space.  On the title page a double-page picture shows Bear coming to the river.  With a page turn another double-page picture shifts the perspective giving us a larger view of the river and Bear.  Then the point-of-view changes again to bring us back close to Bear as he stretches to the river from the log.  These varying contexts pair beautifully with the narrative.

The details in each image will have readers pausing.  The illustration sizes also ask readers to savor the story.  The use of portions of animals and portions of scenes is wonderful.  Sometimes the text is placed directly on the visual; other times it is within its own small rectangle.  The word until is larger and bolder.

Two double-page wordless pictures in a row are pure perfection.  A vertical image will have readers gasping.  Each time an animal is introduced readers will find a place for them in their collective hearts.  Their personalities shine in every line LeUyen Pham makes.  And yes, there is humor throughout the artwork.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is on a single page, edge to edge.  We are very close to the animals crowded on the log.  We see portions of each of the seven.  Bear's face is looking a tad bit worried, Raccoons are thrilled with the ride on either side of Bear, Frog in front of Bear is hugging Duck, Beaver is totally jazzed with this ride to the right of Duck and the Turtles to the left of Duck are scared.  This is not a quiet snapshot, but one filled with a range of emotions.  I can't look at it without smiling.

This book, Bear Came Along written by Richard T. Morris with illustrations by LeUyen Pham, is definitely a 2019 title to include in your professional and personal collections.  It is to be read aloud.  It is to be shared often.  It is to be gifted.  It is about how we are distinct individuals but are joined by something larger than our differences.  It is important for you to read the author and illustrator notes at the end.

To learn more about LeUyen Pham, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  LeUyen Pham is a guest at teacher librarian, Matthew Winner's The Children's Book Podcast.  At the publisher's website you are treated to a video book chat with LeUyen Pham about this title (She reveals some marvelous meanings about her illustrations.) and a downloadable storytime kit.

Monday, June 10, 2019

From Your Soul

Striving to make a dream come true takes dedication, determination, desire and a great deal of practice.  Given the chance to exhibit the results of your endeavors is exciting.  When other members of your family with the same interests are a part of the event, your eagerness is magnified. 

You would think that an individual close to you (really close to you), would be supportive.  In fact, you should be able to count on them as your most ardent cheerleader.  Linus The Little Yellow Pencil (Disney Hyperion, June 4, 2019) written and illustrated by Scott Magoon follows the creative ups and downs of an artist with a pessimistic critic.  It's not easy to stay on point in those kinds of conditions.

The family art show was coming up, and only the art with the most heart would win the grand prize.

Linus, the little yellow pencil, is entering the contest for the first time.  Ernie is Linus's eraser.  He has a hard time finding anything good to say about Linus's drawing.  Ernie is first worried and then very angry.  Linus, in his opinion, has no talent.

Every dot, line and object Linus draws are erased by Ernie.  Now Linus has nothing for the contest.  He watches his family preparing for the exhibition.  Brush is happily painting as Ink, Red Paint and Orange Paint comment.  Linus is a tad bit jealous.  Pen and Crayons are passionately pursing their entries.  

Ernie's lack of confidence in Linus seeps into his psyche.  His happy-go-lucky spirit is fading.  When Ernie suggests they not go to the show, it is heart-breaking.  Both Linus and Ernie are starting to wonder if each other are right.  With nowhere left to go, Linus enters a nearby cave.

Inside the cave, Linus meets a being who has a distinct kinship with him.  During their conversation woes are expressed and advice is given.  Popping out of the cave, Linus is a changed little yellow pencil,

sharper than ever

he works with renewed vigor until an idea pops into his mind.  It's a concept with a collaborative twist.  The evening of the family art show is one everyone will remember.

Using carefully constructed simple sentences with a mix of dialogue and characters' thoughts, Scott Magoon writes a story mirroring situations and emotions in which readers will identify.  He clearly portrays the battle between loving what you do and being brave enough to keep doing it.  Readers will appreciate the wordplay within the narrative; especially the double meanings.  Here is a passage plus a little bit more.

Linus drew more, but Ernie flipped.
"You can't even make a stick figure?!"
"Oh, I don't know," said Linus.  "I like this one."
"No, trust me," said Ernie.

So Linus tried again . . .
and again.

But it was no use.

Ernie didn't like a single mark Linus made.

Rubba-dubba-rubb went Ernie.
And Linus's lines were gone.

When readers look at the smiling face of Linus on the front of the dust jacket, it is their understanding this little yellow pencil enjoys what he does.  Every portion of this illustration is lifelike, asking us to reach out and touch the page.  We can see texture, but the text is raised so we can feel it, too.  You can see faint images used as a background.  These are Linus's drawings.  

It is when the dust jacket is opened the other end of this pencil comes into view on the back, to the left.  It is cranky, doubting Ernie, enlarged just like Linus.  The line drawn by Linus is being erased.  Eraser bits fall to the left of Ernie.  The text on the back reads:


A yellow post-it-note in the lower, left-hand corner shows a zebra sketch.  The ISBN covers most of the zebra's body.  (Clever, Scott Magoon, clever)

From left to right and crossing the spine are small colored squares on the book case.  Some are in rows; others are placed on top of these loose rows.  Inside the squares are examples of artwork after Linus's idea grew in his mind.  In the lower, right-hand corner on the front the title has been written in a yellow square.

On the opening endpapers a large drawn squiggle moves from left to right, nearly top to bottom, on a yellow canvas.  In black and white on the closing endpapers a burst of artwork in rays shines from the upper, right-hand corner to the far-left side.  This is a glorious example of Linus's grand design.

Using scanned paper texture and Photoshop Scott Magoon's illustrations are a marvelous medley of characters and artistic styles.  Items found in artist's studios and on their tables are brought to life with dots and lines and ingenuity.  Drawing notebooks and a worktable provide a canvas for the papers and artwork.  The depiction of Linus in the cave is superb.  (Look at Ernie's face!)

The picture sizes are nearly all double-page visuals.  The perspective shifts in sync with the narrative.  Emotion is embedded in every single one.  These tools of the artists' trade are fully animated expressing and experiencing human qualities.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  It highlights a good portion of the text previously noted.  On a plain creamy yellow background, Linus has drawn a stick figure in the lower, left-hand corner.  There is a grassy area at the bottom with lines rising from the ground.  A stick is standing in the middle of this area.  Three branches with leaves extend from the stick.  A smiling face is in the center with an eye and eyebrow on either side and a smile curving underneath.  Ernie is erasing the grassy area on the right.  Linus is trying to draw a swirling line, but he is clearly unhappy.

Like the winner of the art show, this book, Linus The Little Yellow Pencil written and illustrated by Scott Magoon, has the most heart.  It's not only about following your heart but also about helping someone else to see the art in their heart.  It's a hopeful, lively look at staying true to your calling but to be willing and brave enough to change.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections. (The dedication is simply lovely.)

To learn more about Scott Magoon and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  He has a great deal of information and resources about this title.  Scott has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Scott Magoon is interviewed at Creative North Shore, The Write Space and Critter Lit.   

Thursday, June 6, 2019


If you've ever read a book aloud requiring audience participation, you know they are a huge hit with the storytime crowd.  When you are asked to do or say something by the characters or the narrator, it heightens the feeling of being a part of the tale.  Soon listeners will be eagerly calling out their ideas and leaning in, even closer than normal, to see the results of fulfilled requests.

If you've never read a book aloud requiring audience participation, don't hesitate any longer.  You and your listeners will enjoy the entreaties and humor found in Abner & Ian Get Right-Side Up (Little, Brown and Company, May 14, 2019) written by Dave Eggers with art by Laura Park.  The commentary by the unfortunate duo will have you laughing out loud.


The duck, Abner, quickly points out their position on their respective pages.  Instead of standing on the ground, they are sticking out from the left and right sides.  They are hanging sideways. Ian, a prairie dog, is sure his companion will have an idea. Abner does not know how to fix this.  He suggests they ask

that kid

to assist them.

Even though Ian thinks the kid smells a little funky, Abner asks him to shake the book and then turn the page.  He's confident this will work based on previous practices.  Amazingly Ian agrees.   Next a first-class dilemma ensues.  The friends converse back and forth about who will signal the reader to shake the book.  When Abner concedes, Ian keeps saying anything but the appropriate word.  He prolongs their situation longer by wondering if the child is ready to participate.  Finally, Ian yells


Much to their dismay, they are currently hanging from the top of the page.  Ian is revealing personal traits which Abner initially finds intriguing.  This does nothing to solve their problem.  Abner issues new instructions to the kid hoping to end this state of affairs.  The outcome is shocking for them and for readers.

Abner is not sure the kid can accomplish what is needed.  Ian wants him to try once more.  Just when you think it can't get stranger, it does.  The kid is asked yet again to shake the book like a wild child.  The effect is weirder.  Now Abner is sure this is being done intentionally.  Ian disagrees.

Shaking and turning and shaking and turning continue until Ian calls a halt.  Despite Abner's frustration, Ian has an idea.  If it works, it will be a miracle.  Do you believe in miracles? 

Told entirely in dialogue author Dave Eggers has designed the story like a comedy routine.  The personalities of Abner and Ian shine in their attitudes at their predicament.  One is ready for action with a let's-get-this-show-on-the-road mindset, the other is more contemplative with an optimistic and calm outlook.  This contrast elevates the hilarity.  Here is a passage.

The kid said yes.  Are you satisfied?

I am.  I think reassurances like
that are so helpful to the smooth
functioning of systems, and
greatly increase the probability of
success in an endeavor like this. 

Drawn with pencil and colored with a computer by Laura Park all the illustrations accentuate the discussions and consequences with utmost wit.  When we are introduced to the twosome on the front of the book case (I am working with an F & G.) we notice immediately something is amiss.  Abner and Ian are both wondering what is wrong.  (On the back is information you are likely to find on the front and back flaps of a dust jacket.)

A page turn reveals a stage with curtains on the sides and along the top.  A silhouette of a home and tree is seen in the background.  This scene is expanded with the first page turn.  It is in each illustration.  It does not change (usually); only Abner and Ian do.

 What raises the humor is the clothing worn by the characters, their facial expressions and body postures.  Their hands are very expressive.  Ian expresses his confidence in the kid with thumbs up.  Every time they move, Abner's scarf points toward the ground.  Abner's and Ian's colors appear to remain the same but the background shifts to a variety of solid shades to heighten interest and provide pacing.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for a shocking plight after one of the kid's shakes.  The ground stretches left to right as usual; the house and tree on the left and a small mound on the right.  Abner and Ian are not sticking out on the left and right sides.  They are not hanging from the top of the page.  We can only see a portion of their bodies.  (And that's all I'm going to say.)

You will find yourself smiling, grinning and giggling over and over again, no matter how many times you read Abner & Ian Get Right-Side Up written by Dave Eggers with art by Laura Park.  Trust me when I say you will be reading this more than once per sitting.  This is storytime gold.  You might want to have more than one copy for your professional collections and certainly a copy of your own for home.

To learn more about Dave Eggers and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Laura Park has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Preserved Grandeur

The memory of certain beauty, no matter how many decades pass, never leaves.  When you stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon gazing at the vista spread before you, you have to remind yourself to breathe.  An early morning drive through the Great Smoky Mountains feels like you've entered another place in another time, a place when magic is possible.  If you time it right, you'll be looking up more than one hundred feet as Old Faithful, a geyser, erupts in Yellowstone.  Lupines as far as the eye can see, carpet a landscape in Rocky Mountain National Park.  In the silence of a sunrise as the world awaits, the Grand Teton range stands like ancient sentinels, guardians of the world spread before them.

The designation of national parks throughout the United States protects diverse ecosystems.  They provide protected spaces in a variety of geographic locations for more than 300 million visitors each year.  You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks (Atheneum Books For Young Readers, June 4, 2019) written and illustrated by Evan Turk is a spectacular and intimate journey to twenty-three of the parks.

To the chipmunk in her burrow,
sleeping beneath the leaves to keep warm;

Traveling from the Shenandoah in Virginia, we see giants plow through snow in Yellowstone in winter.  The bison brave weather in all the seasons.  Wildflowers swaying in breezes and pronghorn grazing on grasses are seen in Colorado at the Great Sand Dunes.  All these animals and the flora around them call these places home.

Bobcats, fireflies, and elk roam these locations, their relatives residents for generations.  Whether you come from city streets or sprawling farmlands, this is home.  For people calling this home for the first time and for people calling it home before anyone else, this land is for all to enjoy.

Rock formations like alien architecture, mountaintops like stairways to the stars, trees towering like they belong in a land of giants and coral reefs creating castles for marine life, are only some of the majestic sights to be scene in our national parks.  Wherever you travel, whatever you see, hear, smell, taste or touch, all these things in these preserved regions are home to you and many others.  These national parks are constantly in motion through the activities of the wildlife, the flow of water, the erosion of rocks and soil and the changing views throughout the seasons.

Even with changes something remains the same.  It is a melody sung in every corner of every national park.  You can feel its notes playing in your soul, connecting you to that which surrounds you.  It is a single word with the warmth, serenity and comfort of an embrace.

The poetic phrases penned by Evan Turk are a soothing symphony; taking us on a journey through the best this planet has to offer us.  Each combination of words appeals to our senses as we become acquainted with the flora, fauna and scenic vistas.  Regardless of where we originate, Evan Turk ties us to these national parks, allowing us to call one or all home.  Here is a passage.

to the herds of elk
trumpeting the arrival of fall;

to the forests of twinkling aspen
turned golden by the shortening days:

you are home.

When you open the dust jacket two magnificent scenes are spread before you.  We stand with two others looking over flowers, water, hills and mountains in California before our eyes turn to the left, on the back.  (The three-word title on the front is embossed in gold.)  We are in Virginia with the rolling hills of a valley spread before us.  In the lower right-hand corner, the chipmunk from the first passage watches.  Accolades for three of Evan's other titles appear in a framed rectangle superimposed on this view.  The background for the text is like vellum.  It's partially transparent.

The book case in rich colors of red, purple, orange and green portray a view of a canyon with a river in turquoise like a ribbon winding through the steep walls.  This is more of an abstract depiction but stunning, nonetheless.  On the opening and closing endpapers, we visit first Acadia and then Olympic.  In the first a setting sun radiates golden light on water and a rugged shoreline.  In the second night fashions shadows of tall rocky spires against a star-studded sky.  

For the title page the scene on the back of the dust jacket is extended to the left on another page providing a place for the dedication and publication information.  All the illustrations are rendered in pastel on black paper and most span two pages.   Single page pictures emphasize the pacing of the narrative.  Whether Evan Turk takes you close to a sleeping chipmunk or to watch others walk through the Arches or among soaring birds in the Everglades, each image is heart-stopping gorgeous.  

The color palette, time of day and season of the year are presented with polished skill.  Each visual conveys not only a particular park but the passion of this author and illustrator for his art.  With each page turn you find yourself inwardly gasping at the Earth's elegance before you.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is in Yellowstone (the first National Park).  To the left rolling hills studded with trees are snow-covered.  The air is filled with snow.  A river winds through the landscape along the bottom.  Bison are grazing.  On the right the animals are closer to us and in the foreground, ready to move.  Behind them a darker, snow-covered view moves to the top of the page and to the right.  There is a very real sense of majesty in every element of this picture.

After you've read You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks written and illustrated by Evan Turk, you'll go back to read it repeatedly but only after you've paused in stunned silence first.  This is a showpiece, a work of art.  At the conclusion of the book, Evan Turk has two pages of notes, including a portion about the art.  It is followed by a map of the National Parks Of The United States with thumbprints of those parks featured in this title on the right. There is one final page titled:

More About The Parks And Animals In This Book.

Make sure you have a copy of this book for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Evan Turk and his other work, please follow the link attached to this name to access his website.  Evan Turk highlights interior images from this title.  He has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Evan writes a guest post on The TeachingBooks.net blog about this book.  The cover reveal is hosted by teacher librarian Matthew Winner.  Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, premieres the book trailer at Watch. Connect. Read.  Evan Turk is interviewed at The Booking Biz.  This title is highlighted by author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pictures.

This book is so important and lovely, I am happy to give away a copy to one fortunate winner.  Good luck!

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the other titles selected this week by those participating in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.