Quote of the Month

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




Monday, August 19, 2019

Learning And Laughter And Schools

Even seasoned students, teachers and parents will attest to feeling partly excited and partly anxious about the first day of school in any given year.  For those gals and guys attending for the first time, every emotion is super-charged.  They are going from the familiar to the unknown.  This might not only be their first day at school, but they might be living in a completely new community with no chance of seeing any friends.

Upon their arrival we welcome all of them equally.  We create a classroom community of mutual respect, compassion and support.  We learn to laugh together with abandon for this is the song which soothes souls.  Two recent book releases are fine, fine selections in creating an atmosphere of mutual joy and boosting creativity.  The first, The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! (Disney Hyperion, July 2, 2019) written and illustrated by Mo Willems brings back a character guaranteed to elevate the merriment of everyone.  This bird knows how to connect with every reader.

WAIT!
Don't 
read
that
title!

Pigeon frantically calls out to readers because he knows once the words of the title are spoken, he's doomed to go to school.  He simply does not understand why he has to go to school.  He's certain he can't be taught anything new.  He challenges readers to test his knowledge skills. Um . . .

He reminds anyone who will listen he is not a morning person.  He longs to be too young to go to school.  He is worried about not liking school at ALL!  He's working himself into a major panic when he wonders if the teacher will even like pigeons.

Now he's dramatically tense about learning more than he's ever had to know.  Will his brain be able to retain it all?  What will happen if he learns too much?

True to form, Pigeon finally gets to the truth of all his anxiety.  It's the newness of it all.  Every single thing bothering him comes pouring out.  He then presents a solution to these stressors.  He demands there be a place to practice before having to go to school.  As he lists the attributes of this place, one thing become abundantly clear.  He's just described school.  When his next question is answered by the appearance of a vehicle, nothing is going to stop this bird from going to school.


Without a doubt Mo Willems is a master of comic pacing; his page turns and punctuation are perfection.  He also has the inside scoop on the commonality in the hearts of his audience.  He begins with words a lot of students express; completely engaging us with Pigeon's perspective and personal conversation.

Pigeon's list of excuses is particularly hilarious because at one time or another, we've uttered them or heard them spoken.  The exaggerated theatrics and roller coaster emotional line of thinking has us hooked on the narrative until the over-the-top witty conclusion.  Here is a passage.

I wish
I was 
a little 
chick
again.

A little-itty-bitty
not-going-to-school-
baby-waybie pigeon!


Just as he did with his 2004 Caldecott Honor winning introduction to this bird, Don't Let the Pigeon Drove the Bus! and the five companion titles, Mo Willems sets the stage with the title in a speech bubble on the front of the book case and Pigeon, with his facial expression and body posture, starts the story visually.  To the left, on the back, Pigeon peeks from the left side stating:

I already know how to spel!

On the opening endpapers are nine empty school desks on a pale yellow background.  Each of the chairs for the desks are a different color.  An assortment of birds including Duckling and Pigeon fill those desks on the closing endpapers.  Pigeon appears to be raising his wing to speak.

Larger than life, a panic-stricken Pigeon is flapping his wings, in a close-up to readers, on the verso and title pages.  Throughout the narrative the background colors on full-page or double-page pictures alternate between shades of blue, green, brown, orange, pink, purple and gray.  Portions of the text are hand-lettered by Mo Willems.

To accentuate an emotion Pigeon increases and decreases in size.  He is very small on the page when we hear him say he is scared.  As the speed of his statements become faster and more vital, the images are grouped in eight panels.  There are two illustrations without words, but we have no doubt about what the Pigeon is feeling.

One of my many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  Pigeon is lamenting the fact there is a lot to learn.  On a light brown background, he is seated.  He is learning back in a dramatic pose.  His mouth is open with his tongue out and his eyes are rolled for effect.


The laughter factor is high in this new bird-tastic episode, The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! written and illustrated by Mo Willems.  As readers giggle and grin listening to Pigeon, they know they have a friend who is expressing exactly what many of them are feeling.  Make sure you include this wonderful title in your read aloud choices as well as giving it a place in your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Mo Willems and his other work, please follow the links attached to his name to access his website and blog. Mo Willems/Pigeon has an account on Twitter. The Pigeon has a website, here.  You'll love the video with children talking in response to the Pigeon about going to school. At the publisher's website is a series of activity sheets.  The cover reveal and post for this title is at Publishers Weekly.  An article about this book appears in the Wall Street Journal.




The second book is a companion title to two previous inventive publications, If I Built a Car and If I Built a House.  If I Built a School (Dial Books For Young Readers, August 13, 2019) written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen takes imagining the ideal space for learning to new heights.  Teachers, gals and guys will flock to this school 365 days a year and adults will want to start their education all over again.

Jack, on the playground, said to Miss Jane,
This school is OK, but it's pitifully plain.

If Jack were the designer everything would change.  As he and Miss Jane explore HIS school they are greeted by a passel of puppies.  Large animals found in a zoo like an elephant, camel, giraffe, zebra, panda and antelope are part of the welcoming crew.  Seated in a shuttle, a glass tube looping around and around takes them to a class with a push of a numerical button.

The classrooms are perched like flowers on stalks with ceilings that open to let in the sun.  Miss Jane is asked to go to the front of her place; writing with a stylus her words appear as if written on an invisible board.  Students are seated at hover desks, looking like carnival bumper cars.  (Is this fun or what?)

Visiting the library is an entirely new adventure with each and every book bending reality.  Opening them leads to whatever is inside popping to the outside.  Off to the gym, readers, Miss Jane and Jack go, with a skydiving wind tunnel plus other amazing opportunities to enjoy.  If you're hungry, lunch is quite a treat with a special robot chef named Pete.  Whatever delicious meal you order, he delivers.

As if everything has not been utterly splendid thus far, recess on this playground raises the bar.  Can you see the zip lines or the three-story high slide?  Or how about taking some horses for a ride?  In the afternoon art, music or science is definitely focused on the future.  Normal school buses are a thing of the past with field trips literally out of this world.  Jack's School is sensational.

As soon as Jack says:

It's nothing at all like the school I have planned,

you know author Chris Van Dusen is going to have his protagonist revealing how his brilliant brain can construct a space everyone, especially students, will adore.  For his four-to-eight-line, playful, poetic and first-person narrative, every two lines rhyme, creating expectations in readers and listeners alike.  We find ourselves in tune with the cadence as one revelation after another unfolds, until Jack brings us full circle speaking what we all know to be true about learning.  Here is a passage.

It's off to the gym, and this place is so cool!
Around it, please note my perimeter pool.
The pool's a deep oval that everyone likes---
You race underwater on submarine bikes!
Up there is my trampoline basketball court.
It's partly a bounce house and partly a sport. . . .


The bright, partly pastel and partly primary, colors shown on the matching and open dust jacket and book case, are a signature choice used by illustrator Chris Van Dusen.  His details have a retro style to them, even though they propose futuristic designs through his main character.  By the expressions and body language on Miss Jane, Jack and his pooch pal, and the visible classrooms, our anticipation grows.

To the left, on the back, the background is divided by a line reaching from the upper, left-hand corner to the lower, right-hand corner.  On the right is the light teal hue and on the left is the pale yellow.  In the center is Jack's dog sitting up on a stack of books, one paw lifted and balancing an apple on his nose.  A pencil is between his ears.

On the opening and closing endpapers readers are in for an architectural spectacle in green and white.  On the first set are twelve possible school plans including but certainly not limited to a moon school, a school that walks to you, a treehouse school or a fantastic underwater school.  Commentary is written in Jack's handwriting.  On the back is My School by Jack drawn in all its fabulous glory with loads of labels.

These illustrations rendered

with gouache on cold press illustration board

span single pages with text on the opposite page or two pages with text blended into the image.  Sometimes we are given a panoramic view of an area and other times we are close to the action.  Readers will be stopping at every page turn to note the details; one of the pooch pals only has two legs and has wheels harnessed to his back, there is a robot dog, there are trees growing inside the school, the teacher's desk has an aquarium in it and all the students' desks have lamps on them.

One of my many favorite pictures takes place in the library.  Sky with puffy clouds can be seen through the ceiling and along the sides.  Book-filled shelves are lined up on the far left and we can see more shelving on the right along a wall of windows.  Closer to us is Jack seated at a table.  On the left, his canine companion has his paws up on the table looking at what popped out of Jack's open book.  His book is Jack and the Beanstalk.  A giant stalk extends from the book on the left to the top of the right-hand side with fairytale Jack astride the beanstalk.  Miss Jane is astonished.  Another student's open book, which is this book, shows a wondrous mode of travel shooting upward.


Students, teachers and parents will be eager to attend this institution of education built by Jack in If I Built a School written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.  You can be sure readers will be ready to design their own special kind of school inspired by the words and illustrations of this author/illustrator and his one-of-a-kind character, Jack.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Chris Van Dusen and his other work, please visit his website and blog by following the links attached to his name.  Chris Van Dusen does have an account on Twitter but it appears he is more active on his Instagram account.  At the publisher's website you can view the title page.  You'll find this interview with Chris Van Dusen at Art Of The Picture Book several years ago very interesting.  Chris Van Dusen writes a post at the Nerdy Book Club to describe how this book evolved.



You might want to add Bunny's Book Club Goes To School,  TrumanThe King of Kindergarten, Butterflies On The First Day of School, Mae's First Day Of School, All Are Welcome,  The Day You BeginWe Don't Eat Our Classmates, Super Saurus Saves Kindergarten, or Second Grade Holdout and First Grade Dropout to your selections.   


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Wrapped In Memories Of Love

When we as adults look back on our childhoods, our grandparents, if we are fortunate to have them in our lives, are usually a steadfast foundation upon which our lives blossom with positivity.  Their experiences give them a unique wisdom and an immense capacity for compassion.  Days spent with them are gems to store in the treasure chests of our hearts.

Grandmothers have a special strength on the inside and on the outside.  In My Grandma and Me (Candlewick Press, August 13, 2019) author Mina Javaherbin writes of the devoted and lasting relationship between her and her grandmother.  It is a bond fashioned by a grandmother who believes in the potential of her granddaughter.  It is a bond built by a generous heart.

WHEN I WAS GROWING UP IN IRAN, my grandma lived with us.

Wherever her grandmother went and whatever her grandmother did, Mina was there at her side. Each day their lives were entwined.  If her grandma said something, Mina agreed with her.

When Mina's grandma prayed at dawn, Mina was up with her.  As her grandmother knelt, Mina rested on her back.  When the older woman rose, she did it carefully so Mina would not fall.

When her namaz was completed, the twosome waited for the delivery of bread brought daily by a boy.  Loaves were stacked like a small tower on the back of his bike.  To avoid going to the street, they lowered baskets so the bread could be placed inside.  Bread was taken to Annette, Mina's best friend, who lived next door.

As the girls played the grandmothers chatted.  They were best friends, too.  The grandmothers knitted blankets given to Mina's grandma's mosque and Annette's grandmother's church.  (In a beautiful description of the two elders' heads bent near each as they worked, Mina describes one as silver-haired and the other covered by her favorite chador.)

Mina's grandma sewed all her chadors.  Mina played beneath the fabric-draped table soaring into imaginary adventures.  When she was old enough Mina fasted with her grandma during Ramadan.  (Her recollections of one particular night will strike a chord in all hearts.)  A whispered secret shared by Mina and Annette speaks to the atmosphere of affection in which both girls were raised.


Each time you read this book (And believe me, you'll be reading it multiple times.) the cherished relationship between this girl and her grandmother, as written by Mina Javaherbin, will fill your soul with its heartwarming joy.  Each detail of their daily lives is one more layer of endearments building toward the book's final paragraph.  These remembered ordinary incidents become extraordinary because they are the very definition of love's purest form.  Here is a passage.

Or tying her chador around my neck so I could fly
from the moon to planets.  I was a super-astro-explorer!
My grandma was always waiting for me back at the
base camp with cookies.  We ate together while I told
her about my space adventures.


The open and matching dust jacket and book case full of delicate, intricate elements portrays the richness of the lives of Mina and her grandma and the country in which they lived.  The cascade of stars represents their imaginative travels and the stellar nature of their connection.  To the left, on the back, an exquisite border along the top and bottom extends to the flap edge and is also used on the front flap.  (This is the same pattern on the border of Grandma's prayer rug.)  In the space between the borders is a small drawing of two birds; one older and the other younger.  Beneath this image are the words:

When I was growing up
in Iran, my grandma
lived with us.  I followed
her everywhere.

On the opening and closing endpapers a pale gold and cream pattern in loose hexagons features points and stars. (This design appears in another illustration as a rug on the floor in the kitchen of Mina's home.)  Dainty, stylized flowers become a border along the bottom of the title page.  A tree blossoms with the same flowers.  This motif is shown in the back on the dedication and publication page in reverse.

Each picture, rendered in mixed media, spans two pages or a full page.  The muted colors allude to the deep fondness expressed by Mina and her grandma.  They also represent a sense of serenity and security.  In some of the pictures illustrator Lindsey Yankey places items in different points of view with portions of them crossing the gutter to touch the elegant framing for the text.  The fine lines employed by Lindsey Yankey are stunning.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is of Grandma praying at dawn.  In the background from left to right are two different wall colorings, a pale golden-brown shifting to white.  Mina's grandmother is bowed from the left to two-thirds of the right half.  She is wearing her favorite chador, white with tiny purple flowers.  The rug upon which she prays is a beautiful floral pattern in reds, browns, gray, blue and green.  Grandma is facing out at the moment, perhaps to make sure Mina is safe.  Mina is resting on her grandma's back.  She is wearing light blue shoes with a bunny on the top.  Her dress is patterned in shades of green on white.


Everyone will be able to identify with the love presented on the pages of My Grandma and Me written by Mina Javaherbin with illustrations by Lindsey Yankey.  Through this book we can not only appreciate the relationship between Mina and her grandma, but reflect on our relationships with our grandmothers or an beloved elder woman in our lives.  This book is lovelier than my words can say.  I highly recommend it for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Mina Javaherbin and Lindsey Yankey, please access their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Mina Javaherbin has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Lindsey Yankey has an account on Facebook.  At Candlewick Press and Penguin Random House you can view interior illustrations.  Candlewick Press has a press release with an author's note.  I know you will enjoy reading a post by Mina Javaherbin at the Nerdy Book Club.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Depart To Start

The largest one can weigh more than forty poundsIt usually does not travel farther than from top to bottom.  This is why they are endemic to the Republic of Seychelles.  Dispersed in the air like dust, the smallest is believed to be 1/35,000,000th of an ounce in weight.  Millions of them are produced from a single source.  From the first a coco de mer tree will flourish.  From the second a special specie of orchid will bloom.

Seeds seem to house miracles when they transform into any one of the vast assortment of plants.  Seeds Move! (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, March 19, 2019) written and illustrated by Robin Page presents all the actions associated with the distribution of seeds.  Nature has supplied clever modes of transportation carefully considering a range of habitats.

A tiny seed can one day become a flower, a fruit, or even a giant tree.

For a seed to perform its task, it requires water, air and the right temperature.  For many of them light is also a necessity.  Unlike the giant seeds of the coco de mer tree, the majority must leave the plant which produces them.

Sixteen action verbs describe the movements of sixteen seeds.  Some are designed to attach themselves to a moving body of an animal.  Others burst forth from their pods through touch or timing.  The large coconut drifts on water until it successfully finds new land so a palm tree can grow.

Some seeds trick insects, through taste, into taking them underground so they can germinate.  Frequently animals will gather seeds to eat but store them by hiding them in the dirt.  They can forget where all of them are placed, leaving the seed to create a new plant.  Did you know the durian fruit is a delectable treat to orangutans?  The seeds, though, are not tasty; so the orangutan spits them out.

The pods are already forming on the milkweed plants.  Soon those seeds will act like parachutes spreading where the breezes take them.  With berries on wild bushes handy for wild animals, seeds are carried inside them until they are released in their feces.  Readers are encouraged to plant their own seeds; specifically following the growth of a watermelon seed.  What was the last seed you planted in your garden?


As you read through the methods used by seeds to move, you'll find yourself thinking of other explanatory verbs to represent their actions.  This is an excellent technique by author Robin Page.  Simple sentences of only three words make an initial statement.  These are followed by information about the seed and the plant from which it comes. This, too, invites readers to explore more about the plant and where it is found.  Here is a sentence and the following details.

A seed sinks.
A lotus seed drops from its
pod and sinks to the bottom
of a pond.  There it will nestle
into the mud and sprout. 


Digitally rendered, all the illustrations, beginning with the open and matching dust jacket and book case, are realistically detailed in layers reminiscent of collage. On the front of the jacket and case six of the sixteen movements are presented through an engaging design and layout with the natural colors more noticeable on the white background.  To the left, on the back, we are brought very close to a spiny mouse who gathers and scatters seeds.  This is an interior image, too.

The opening and closing endpapers are a rich spring green. A combination of two other images are pictured on the title page.  For the introductory paragraphs, the blue used for the text on the jacket, case and title page becomes the canvas, supplying a striking contrast to the floating milkweed seeds.

Subsequent images are either double-page pictures or full-page pictures.  Once a portion of one image carries to the opposite page.  For the most part, Robin Page brings readers close to the seeds, enlarging them as they move.  Ants are as big as an adult hand.  A featured dung beetle is barely shy of the larger specie (6.7 inches) and sixty-two times as big as the smallest one. (National Geographic Kids)  Sometimes two perspectives will be showcased in a single image.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  Along the top half of the image a sandy beach stretches left to right.  Above this is a row of palm trees and other island vegetation.  White clouds are feathered on the blue sky.  In the ocean on the left a coconut drifts close to readers.  We can see a small stem and leaves have sprouted.  On the right a sea turtle is at rest under the surface, smaller in contrast to the seed.


When you think of this book, Seeds Move! written and illustrated by Robin Page, you know as a read aloud younger audiences will be asking to have it read again.  This would make for a wonderful creative drama reading with motions attached to the verbs.  You could also have children brainstorm other verbs attached to the movement of seeds.  For further research have children look up the plants and their locations, perhaps placing pins on a map to designate their homes.  I would pair this title with A seed is the start (National Geographic, February 13, 2018) written by Melissa Stewart.    You will certainly want a copy of this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Robin Page and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  At School Library Journal, The Classroom Bookshelf, there is a fabulous post featuring this book and multiple lessons and resources.  (It's author mentions motions and creative drama also.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Of Butterflies And Borders

Early this spring along the road taken by my canine companion and me on our daily walks were the shells of milkweed pods among the dried grasses and leaves.  For the most part, the seeds were still snuggled inside. For a gal with the goal of having a field of milkweed for the monarch butterflies, this discovery was pure gold.

The numbers of these marvelous, brightly colored creatures, in recent years, is decreasing due to climate change and loss of habitat.  We, as humans, are at the root of their problems, but if we do everything possible, we can reverse their possible extinction.   Planting milkweed seeds is one of several solutions.

Anyone of any age can become a champion for these butterflies. Senorita Mariposa (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, August 6, 2019) written by Ben Gundersheimer (Mister G) with illustrations by Marcos Almada Rivero, through lively text in both English and Spanish and Spanish and English and vibrant images, follows the miraculous annual migration of monarchs from Canada and the United States to Mexico.  You'll be singing and dancing and clapping and toe-tapping from beginning to end. 

Little butterfly
Pequena mariposa

You just caught my eye
Llamaste mi atencion

A girl playing in a lake notices a monarch butterfly flying above her.  Three other children, singing as one plays a guitar, see the monarch butterfly among the bees.  A chorus rings out in tribute to the beauty and power of Senorita Mariposa.  This monarch butterfly is loved.

Soon she joins other monarch butterflies leaving the north to travel south.  She will be missed as she flies at least sixty miles per day.  Wherever she goes, her presence is noted.  Wherever she goes, all are amazed at her yearly accomplishment.

This butterfly and her companions traverse over mountains and deserts until they happily reach their destination.  Once there, their arrival is welcomed.  Children greet them with praise and joy following their flight to their resting place.

Millions and millions of monarch butterflies gather to create fluttering orange boughs on a special specie of evergreen.  They will reside there during the winter months as if in celebration.  The chorus rings out again in honor and great affection.


As you read the words penned by Ben Gundersheimer you find yourself captured by the rhythm of the rhyming words in English.  When you sing the English followed by the Spanish or sing the Spanish followed by the English, the musicality of the words in both languages wraps around you.  The chorus, sung first in Spanish, rhymes for the first four lines and ends with

Te quiero a ti
I love you

Careful readers will discover facts woven into the narrative.  Here is a two-line passage.

Sixty miles or more a day
Por mas de sesenta millas al dia

We will see you on your way
Te veremos en tu camino


Against a blue sky with swirling clouds readers are introduced to Senorita Mariposa.  She is joined by other monarchs, one positioned on a letter in the title.  The primary authentic hues with orange, black, and white are a cheerful request to meet this butterfly.  The tip of her right wing continues on the other side of the spine, to the left, on the back.

There the shades of the blue sky shift a bit to include greens.  We are now in a forest setting.  A bear gazes up at monarch butterflies and bees flying over milkweed.  Senorita Mariposa is nearly nose to nose with the bear.  A grasshopper watches from a branch above them all.

On the book case leaves in varying hues of green supply a background.  On the front Senorita Mariposa has opened her wings completely, gazing at readers with a slight turn of her head.  On the back two happy monarch caterpillars crawl among the leaves.

A pale lavender covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Digitally rendered the images created by Marcos Almada Rivero are a beautiful blend of bold color and soft washes.  Readers will find themselves pausing at each page turn to enjoy all the items in each scene, animals, domestic and wild and lush flora in panoramic views or close-ups with Senorita Mariposa.

The representation of children from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds engaged together in different activities is wonderful to see.  They are blissfully happy, as they should be.  Even the expressions on the animals are thoughtful and content. Readers will also be able to speculate where and when Senorita Mariposa is in her flight by items in the pictures. 

One of my many favorite illustrations spanning two pages, as they all do, is when the monarch butterflies and Senorita Mariposa arrive in Mexico.  Two children, an older brother and his younger sister, run along with the butterflies as they travel to reach the evergreens.  The little girl is carrying a white kite with a monarch butterfly on it.  Their dog, tongue hanging from its mouth in happiness, is running with them.  The children and the butterflies are moving from left to right and upward.  On the right side branches of the fir trees frame the text as butterflies move among them.  We are watching this joyous occasion as if we are one of the monarch butterflies.


For an exuberant read aloud destined to have listeners participating through song or dance or both or as an introduction to a theme revolving around monarch butterflies, butterflies or insects, Senorita Mariposa written by Ben Gundersheimer (Mister G) with illustrations by Marcos Almada Rivero is an excellent choice.  At the conclusion of this delightful title in an author's note readers are given more information about monarch butterflies and asked to help protect them.  Readers are directed to a website.  You'll want a copy of this title for your personal and professional collections.  It's sure to be a favorite.

To learn more about Ben Gundersheimer (Mister G) and Marcos Almada Rivero and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Here is a link to the Mariposa Project page at Mister G's website.  Ben Gundersheimer maintains accounts on Facebook and Twitter.  Marcos Almada Rivero has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view the title page.  For additional research on monarch butterflies, readers might want to consult this page with multiple links provided by Michigan's Department of National Resources.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Fenway y Hattie Cover Reveal---Habla Espanol?

Regardless of the twists and turns and ups and downs and uncertainty in the human realm, there is one unwavering truth.  From their first breath to their final breath, dogs offer us steadfast, unconditional love. Embracing the world as a total sensory experience, they urge us to do the same with their actions and expressions.  If we would be more like dogs, it would, indeed, be a world worth raising our voices in howls of happiness.

For the past four plus years, I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy the friendship of another human, author Victoria J. Coe, who believes, as I do, in the value and power of observing the world from another individual’s perspective.  Her books about an over-the-top, energetic Jack Russell terrier have led me to comment on more than one occasion about her astute observations and research. It is no easy task to speak the language of our canine companions, but Victoria does it with such skill, I’ve come to believe she is part canine.

On July 16, 2015 it was a privilege to reveal the cover of the first book in the series, Fenway and Hattie.  We chatted about writing, this first book, dogs and the irresistible Jack Russell terrier, Fenway.  Upon reading Fenway and Hattie, I was paws-itively captivated from beginning to end.  And this initial opinion, expressed in my blog post, has not wavered with repeated readings.  For each of the three subsequent titles, Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang, Fenway and Hattie Up to New Tricks and Fenway and Hattie In the Wild we have been able to laugh and learn along with Fenway and his human, Hattie, as they grow to be their best selves.

Given my total admiration for this series, the selection of Fenway and Hattie as the 2017 Global Read Aloud choice and for One School, One Book, you can imagine my joy upon hearing Fenway and Hattie will soon be available in Spanish!  Fenway y Hattie, the Spanish edition, will make the story of a dog and his human and their daily lives, after moving from the city to suburbia, accesibile to an even larger audience.  I can already hear the laughter, and growing compassion, of a new group of readers, as they follow this story told entirely from Fenway’s point of view. I am happy to have Victoria here today to answer some questions before we reveal the cover of this new Spanish edition.

Victoria, congratulations! How excited are you that the Fenway and Hattie Spanish edition will soon be out in the world?

Oh my goodness, Margie, I am SO excited! Honestly, I had no idea this would happen, and when I found out I could not believe it.

I was heartily encouraged to take Spanish as a second language by my father.  After studying for nine years, in my final class in college, I could listen to lectures in Spanish, take notes in
Spanish and read Spanish, understanding it very well.  Do you speak Spanish yourself?


I do not and I’m impressed that you do! It’ll be such a funny experience when I get to flip through my own book and not understand the writing on the pages. You’ll have to read it to me. ☺

When I first read Fenway and Hattie, I remember telling you that this book was going to be huge. It was chosen for the Scholastic Book Club, then the Global Read Aloud. Now three sequels have come out, it’s a One School, One Book favorite, and soon to be coming out in Spanish! When are you going to start believing me?

You did say that, Margie, and it really is still very hard for me to get my brain around it. Two years later, I can’t believe the Global Read Aloud actually happened, and now every time I visit a One School, One Book school - which I do often - it’s overwhelming to see my little dog in the foyer, on the walls, in the classrooms, library, literally everywhere.

I’ll tell you, teachers are SO energetic and creative. I’m continually blown away by the activities and projects they do while reading the book. And of course, I can’t get enough of the kids. I’m just really thankful that this series has given me so many opportunities to connect with them. Any day I’m at an elementary school is a very good day!

What went into the decision for Penguin Young Readers to publish Fenway y Hattie, and how did that come about? Did you have any input into the translation?

I’m not 100% sure how the decision got made, but I do know there have been a lot of requests, especially from teachers, for a Spanish edition of Fenway and Hattie. There are so many areas in the country where children speak Spanish, so many bilingual classes and schools, and of course so many parents whose first language is Spanish, that teachers are always on the lookout for books in Spanish; especially books that appeal to children of all ages and families, and would make a great read-aloud.

As for how it happened, since I don’t speak Spanish, I wasn’t very involved at all. My editor, Susan Kochan, worked with a professional translator as well as a copyeditor in Spain. I do remember she asked me to clarify something in the last chapter, because as you know, Fenway’s observations can be taken more than one way. It was important to get the context right.

Since the publication of Fenway and Hattie my beloved Xena passed away and you lost Kipper, the inspiration for the first book.  I now have Mulan, an almost three-year-old chocolate labrador retriever. While she exhibits all the canine qualities we love in dogs, she has her own quirks. Would you tell us how you went about introducing the personalities of the other dogs Fenway meets after moving from the city to suburbia?  Did this entail additional research about different dog breeds? Are these dogs based upon dogs you know?

Well, I come up with personalities for the dogs in different ways. First and foremost is my deep belief that every dog is an individual, just as humans are. So while breed is a factor, it’s not the only factor. Mostly I try to remember that readers want to connect with the characters, so I want each dog to be relatable and unique.

Sometimes I like to give a dog a personality that’s totally opposite from how we think of the breed, like Goldie. She’s a golden retriever, but she’s a grump!

I know how much you miss Kipper, but do you have any dog news you would like to share with readers?

Margie, I know you asked this just so we can talk about the new cutie in our family! ☺ And yes, two months ago our son and his girlfriend brought home an adorable and very lively little pup named Teddy Graham. She stole everyone’s hearts immediately.







I’m being nudged by a persistent cold wet nose attached to a head and body constantly being wiggled by a tail.  I think someone, namely my canine companion Mulan, besides me is excited to see this new cover. Here we go!




Fenway y Hattie by Victoria J. Coe releases in paperback on December 31, 2019 from Puffin Books and is available for preorder now.

To learn more about Victoria J. Coe and the other Fenway and Hattie books, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. Victoria has accounts on Twitter and Instagram. If you are interested in the One School, One Book program access their website by following a link attached to their name. 


Victoria J. Coe grew up a fan of books, dogs, and the Boston Red Sox. Today she combines these passions as the author of the middle grade series, Fenway and Hattie, told from the perspective of a rambunctious Jack Russell terrier named Fenway. With fellow author Elly Swartz, she also co-hosts the Youtube series BooksintheKitchen. Victoria lives with her family on the outskirts of Boston.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Bridging Generations with Grandmothers and Grandfathers August 10 for 10 ##pb10for10

It's always a pleasure to gather books around a common theme.  That's one of the joys in participating in the annual Picture Book 10 for 10.  This year is a ten-year celebration by the creators, Mandy Robeck and Cathy Mere.  By following the link attached to Cathy Mere's name, you can join by posting your list according to the given directions.  All participants and those who garner ideas from the lists are grateful for the work of the originators, Mandy and Cathy.

At the beginning of the past eight years, I generated a list of alphabet books from my personal collection. In 2013 I shifted toward the best dog books.  My sweet Xena choose those titles from my collection numbering more than three hundred.  That year I used an application called Learni.st to host the choices.  This can now only be accessed by using the app rather than the website.  If you use the app Learni.st and search under Xena, the book list, August Ten for Ten Xena's Favorite Dog Books, will appear. Sharing my life now with a new canine companion, Mulan, might be a good time to update that list.  (Note to self for an upcoming year)

In the subsequent years, I made lists of books on counting and numbers, bedtime, sleep and sweet dreams, robots as main characters, friendship and bees. For my 2019 topic I've chosen books about grandmothers and grandfathers.  There is something when unsettling times present themselves to take comfort in those who've weathered many storms.  Their wisdom is a solid foundation on which to place our feet.  Rarely do I stick to the exact number ten for this list.  I usually sneak in one or two extra titles.  This year is no exception.


1.  Baking Day at Grandma's (Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), August 14, 2014) written by Anika Denise with illustrations by Christopher Denise

It's baking day!
It's baking day!
It's baking day at Grandma's!


Three bear children happily traipse through the snow to their grandmother's home.  Anticipation whispers promises in the air.  Dressed from head to toe in hats, coats, mittens, scarves and boots they pull their sled from a cottage to a cabin, past the pond and up and down hills.  Grandma Bear is ready and waiting for their arrival.  A crackling fire gets them warm on the outside as quickly as grandmother's greeting warms their hearts. 

Utensils and ingredients are gathered.  Aprons are donned.  A recipe is read. Can't reach the table?  Then stand on a chair to blend everything together.  You can even sneak a taste.

Make sure you have everything on hand to bake Grandma Rosie's Chocolate Cake.  I know readers and listeners will hardly be able to wait to cook and taste after reading this title.  This book is pure one hundred percent comfort.  What a treat it is!  The recipe is on the last page above the publication information.


2.   Nana In The City (Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, September 2, 2014) written and illustrated by Lauren Castillo

I went to stay with Nana at her new apartment in the city.

This story is about a first visit to the city for a little boy.  What's even more unbelievable to him is that his nana is living here now.  Right away the grandson makes two thoughts very clear to readers.  He loves his grandmother but not so much the city.  There is too much activity in the city.  There is too much noise in the city.  There is too much frightening stuff in the city.

After a subway ride and walking down the streets surrounded by tall buildings, the boy is certain this cannot possibly be a good home for his nana.  Regardless of her assurances, he struggles with sleep his first night there.  When he finally drifts off, Nana begins working on her special gift.

This book is, in a word, . . . marvelous.  It could be a cozy one-on-one bedtime story or as a read aloud to a group sparking conversations about grandparents and being brave.  I'm pretty sure every single reader has a special article of clothing they feel is magical.  I can already hear the stories being exchanged.  Be sure to share this as often as possible.  It's not only a classic gem but a Caldecott Honor winner.


3.  A Morning with Grandpa (Lee & Low Books Inc., May 2, 2016) written by Sylvia Liu with illustrations by Christina Forshay


Mei Mei watched Grandpa dance slowly among the flowers in the garden.  He moved like a giant bird stalking through a marsh.

This book gives readers a peek at shared experiences across the generations. Wisdom and patience celebrate with curiosity and exuberance.  Mei Mei's grandfather is practicing tai chi.  The form he is making is called White Crane Spreading Its Wings.  He goes on to explain to Mei Mei that tai chi is a style of martial arts.

When Gong Gong (grandfather) slowly moves through another form inviting Mei Mei to try, she looks more like a hopping frog than a graceful weed grazing the sand in a sea. In reply to her query asking him how she moves, he does not criticize but offers helpful hints.  Her breathing techniques resemble gusts more than gentle puffs.

You might want to have books on tai chi and yoga handy after reading title. The attempts by both to enjoy the preferred meditative exercise of the other are heartwarming; welcoming readers to reflect on them and the building of relationships from one generation to the next.  At the close of the book Sylvia Liu has descriptions of each pose and Christina Forshay includes thumbnails sketches.  On the closing page Sylvia Liu lists eight sources about tai chi and yoga.


4.  Grandmother Thorn (Ripple Grove Press, August 29, 2017), written by Katey Howes with illustrations by Rebecca Hahn

 GRANDMOTHER THORN
lived in the very first house
on the very straight road
to Shizuka Village.  

This original tale addresses a desire for flawlessness.  Day after day this woman worked in her gardens creating a visual masterpiece.  Everything had a place and Grandmother Thorn made sure it remained.  She tirelessly raked her paths in swirls, imitating the flow of water in a silent stream.

Grandmother Thorn valued peace and quiet and a supreme sense of order in her garden.  If it was disturbed, you could hear her voice rise in anger.  The only person never to receive rebuke from her was her elderly friend, Ojiisan.

This is a quiet but powerful look at how we should welcome another viewpoint of "perfection".  It also reminds us we should never stop learning, regardless of our age. This is enchanting with a timeless quality to the story and in the exquisite pictures.


5.  Drawn Together (Disney Hyperion, June 5, 2018) written by Minh Le (Let Me Finish! Disney Hyperion, June 7, 2016) with illustrations by Dan Santat (After The Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again Roaring Brook Press, October 3, 2017)


So . . . what's
new, Grandpa?

This story is a moving, truthful journey taken by a grandfather and his grandson.  Love always finds a way.  A daughter, a mother, drops her son off at his grandfather's home.  The grandfather happily greets his less-than-enthusiastic grandson. At dinner the grandfather eats a traditional meal but lovingly provides his grandson with an American meal.

After dinner the grandfather is watching one of his favorite television shows in a language the boy cannot understand.  Bored, he leaves the sofa going to his backpack.  He takes out a box of markers and begins to draw.  Leaning over his shoulder the grandfather is amazed at what he sees.

When he returns to the room, he's carrying a sketch book, a bottle of ink and a brush.  What the grandfather does next amazes the boy.  They share a passion for art; one new and colorful and the other masterful in fine, detailed lines of black on white.  They are a magician and a warrior existing in a realm of their own making.

No matter how many times you read this book, two words will continuously come to mind--timeless classic. We need books which tell us how to bridge generations.  Both have much to offer the other.  One has the wisdom of experience and the other has the zest of new discovery. The blend is a thing of beauty.


6.  Quiet (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, October 9, 2018) written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

"My, oh my," the grandfather said.
"Everything is in such a hurry.


A grandfather is strolling with his granddaughter, grandson and family dog among flowers, leafy trees, buzzing bees, other insects and creatures cautiously watching them.  A flock of birds lifts into the air.  The children notice other living things in motion.

At the suggestion of their grandfather they all walk toward a bench.  It's time to sit for a few minutes.  While they are there the grandfather points to the flock of birds, now settled in the tree branches.  The pooch has paused for a quick nap.  Residents of the pond are at rest.

Eyes closed the family is as still as everything around them.  Each member realizes quiet allows them to do certain things with ease.

If you seek calm, this book is a wise selection.  It is breathtaking in its simplicity.  After a read aloud with children or students, it would be interesting to have them speculate on the movements in nature in the other seasons of the year.  This is certain to promote conversations about the value of stillness. 


7.  Hope (Disney Hyperion, February 5, 2019) written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell

Dearest Grandchild,

You are here.

Like no one else,
now, before, or after.

You are here.


This book speaks to the importance of the connection between generations. It is a love letter from grandparents to a beloved grandchild. These lion grandparents teach of the value of individuals.  Each of us are important regardless of the size of the world and the residents populating it.  There are those who share our traits and beliefs and those who do not but always look for commonalities.

This grandchild will go where others have gone.  This grandchild has a choice wherever they go despite what others have done.  This grandchild has the ability to rise like a star.  It won't always be easy to glimmer when darkness descends but the grandparents ask their grandchild to look for hope.

First, I read Hope several times.  Then I read it after reading Wish and Dream.  Then I read it again.  It is assuredly wonderful alone conveying all the desires grandparents have for their grandchildren.  It cheers for grandchildren, all children.  With that being said Hope plus the two previous titles are a timeless trilogy.  You can't read them and not feel the overwhelming power of wishes, dreams and hopes.


8.  Stardust (Nosy Crow, an imprint of Candlewick Press, February 12, 2019) written by Jeanne Willis with illustrations by Briony May Smith

When I was little,
I wanted to be a star.


This title is a tale of a little girl who dreams of stars.  She is also searching for something everyone needs. The members of her family thought her older sister was a star.  When her sister found a precious lost item, made something and won a contest, she received top-notch praise.  The younger child could not seem to earn that kind of recognition.

In fact, after her most recent loss, she burst into tears.  That night sitting outside and watching the stars, our protagonist wished out loud to be one of them.  Her grandfather heard her.

Who has not felt less than they should in a family, classroom or community setting? This book allows readers to see we all have something special to offer this world.  We have the potential to make our dreams come true, even if we want to be a star.


9.  Sea Glass Summer (Candlewick Press, May 21, 2019) written by Michelle Houts with illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline

Some years ago, a boy named Thomas spent the summer at his grandmother's island cottage.

This book is about a memorable summer of discoveries, dreams and stories.  Early during this visit, Thomas's grandmother gifted him with a magnifying glass which had belonged to his grandfather.  Thomas loved to look at found objects through that magnifying glass.  As they walked along the shore, his grandmother found a piece of sea glass.

Thomas was intrigued by her explanation of the sea glass's possible origin.  He was even more fascinated by a saying his grandfather had about sea glass.  A story was attached to every piece.

Sea Glass Summer is a marvelous integration of the past and present through thoughtful, truthful words and exquisite artwork.  This title captures the magic of summers then and now and connects them and other events through story.  There is a soothing harmony in this book.


10. Where Are You From? (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, June 4, 2019) written by Yamile Saied Mendez with illustrations by Jaime Kim

Where are you from?

they ask.

This title gives readers the best and only responses of true worth after 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.

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.

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.


There will come a time as adults when we need to offer loving support to children who have lost their grandparents.  These books, one older and one new, are two favorites of mine.  Follow the links attached to the title and publisher to get more information about them.

The Hickory Chair (Arthur A. Levine Books, February 1, 2001) written by Lisa Rowe Fraustino with illustrations by Benny Andrews 














Grandpa's Stories: A Book of Remembering (Abrams Books for Young Readers, April 2, 2019) written by Joseph Coelho with illustrations by Allison Colpoys


Saturday, August 10, 2019

Geniune Greetings

There is an array of emotions present at arrivals and departures.  There is either great happiness, deep sadness or a combination of the two.  It's important to remember hello is not necessarily equated with joy nor is goodbye synonymous with sorrow.  Circumstances and the individuals involved dictate the emotional mood.  The people present can make a difference.

Children can see even the tiniest light in a looming darkness.  They are a gift.  Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! (Dial Books for Young Readers, July 2, 2019) written and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld takes us through the ups and downs of a little girl's day-to-day world with a large emphasis on seeking and finding the proverbial silver lining through friendship.

Bye, Mom.

Every goodbye . . .
. . . leads to a hello.

Hi, I'm Charlie!

Stella is not very happy about leaving her mother at home, but at school she immediately meets a new friend, Charlie.  She is no longer sitting alone at lunch or alone when riding the school bus.  There are playdates outside in piles of leaves and card games inside under a blanket fort on a chilly winter afternoon.

When snow creations melt under a spring sun, rainy days offer new merriment.  All the activities during a summer day last for treasured moments but they lead to new pursuits as the sky darkens.  What do you think they do outside on a summer night?

When a beloved pet passes away, Charlie is there to comfort Stella.  Together they celebrate a life which brought comfort.  Encouragement is given to try new endeavors.  When learning something new, the next attempt can yield amazing results.

These two friends are inseparable.  When one of the girls has to move, this goodbye is difficult.  Is there a hello to be found in this heartbreak?  Remember readers, there is always a hello, even if sometimes you make it yourself or decide to give it away.


The beauty in the words written by Cori Doerrfeld is they leave room for readers to reflect on their personal memories.  The toggling back and forth between goodbye words followed by the hello words supplies an engaging cadence, both uplifting and supportive.  A few speech bubbles at the beginning and ending of the story, provide a circle effect and reinforce the idea of being open to positive possibilities.  Here is a single sentence.

Goodbye to almost giving up . . .
. . . is hello to one more try.


When you look at the open and matching dust jacket and book case, the pure bliss shown by the characters envelopes you.  The looks on their faces, and their body language, on the front are ones of mutual affection.  Their colorful clothing set against the paler blue sky and field of flowers draws our eyes to them.  The text, Stella, Charlie and the butterflies are varnished.

To the left, on the back, it's nighttime.  On a slight hill are Charlie, Stella's dog and Stella.  Their backs are to us.  The girls are pointing with their outside hands to stars.  Their other hands rest on the back of Stella's dog.  This scene is brimming with contentment.

On a canvas of white on the opening endpapers in the lower, right-hand corner, is Stella, seated on the floor, putting on her red cowboy boots before leaving for school.  Her dog is licking her cheek.  With white as the background on the closing endpapers we see, in the lower, left-hand corner, Charlie removing a familiar letter from her mailbox.

The illustrations rendered using

digital ink, Dr. Pepper, and a good dose of nostalgia

by Cori Doerrfeld use very page turn to extend the narrative.  On the verso and title pages Stella's dog is running toward her and her mother as she feeds her goldfish.  Her mother is holding the dog's leash.

For most of the pictures, they span across two ages. For the sake of pacing there are full-page images and several images on a single page.  The matte-finished paper is excellent for the hues of colors used by Cori Doerrfeld.  Readers will love pausing at page turns to enjoy all the detailed elements.  Cori Doerrfeld adds items which reveal the season and her skies depict the time of day and weather.  Careful readers will notice the absence of the fishbowl after the goldfish dies, but will they notice what is on the table and wall in one of the final illustrations?  Dog lovers will adore the presence of Stella's dog in most of the activities.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is of the two girls inside and underneath their blanket fort.  In the background, left to right, is the heat radiator, the window with snow falling outside and Gill swimming in his fishbowl on the table.  The red and white plaid blanket is stretched over several chairs.  Two more blankets are placed on the living room rug.  The two girls are lying on their stomachs with their knees bent.  Each is holding playing cards; others are scattered in front of them.  Along the floor are toy cars, building blocks, crayons and paper, a plate with sliced apples and a bowl of popcorn.  Stuffed toy animals along with Stella's sleeping dog are keeping them company.


Whatever age you are, Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! written and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld will fill you with hope.  It encourages us to seek, or if circumstances ask us to make, happiness, however small.  It allows us to see even in the most sorrowful events, there will be a change for the better; especially with the help of a friend.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Cori Doerrfeld and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Cori Doerrfeld has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and TwitterCori Doerrfeld is featured at Brightly and at Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb.  At the publisher's website you can view the opening endpapers.