Quote of the Month

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




Friday, May 31, 2019

Water, Wind And Wave-Tossed Treasures

On the northwestern side of the shores of Lake Michigan, wanderers can expect a sensory experience.  If you close your eyes, you can still feel the sun, a breeze, steady drops of rain or the grit of sand on your feet.  You can hear the sound of waves on the beach, the screech of water birds, the barking of dogs or the laughter of children.  Breathe deep the odor of beach grass, flowers and wet sand.  When you reach to pick up a stone or piece of driftwood, the texture is smooth.

If you are most fortunate, an unexpected hue different from the natural tones of beach, seaweed, wood or stones will grab your attention.  It may be a faded shade of blue, green, brown, white or even red.  You have discovered beach glass.  Sea Glass Summer (Candlewick Press, May 21, 2019) written by Michelle Houts with illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline is about a memorable summer of discoveries, dreams and stories.

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

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.

During the night, Thomas dreamed about the story attached to that piece of sea glass.  It had to do with the christening of a ship in the United States Navy in 1944.  The broken green glass of the champagne bottle fell into the water.

All during the summer Thomas longed to find sea glass and dream of the stories bound to each one.  On his last day on the island, the boy searched and searched for sea glass, hoping for one more dream and one more story.  There was no sea glass.  There was no dream.  There was no story.  Life has its own way of making our wishes come true even if it takes decades and another summer of sea glass sightings, dreams and stories.


Memories made in summers are memories, many times, to be cherished.  Author Michelle Houts uses found objects to present stories within a story.  She skillfully weaves history into the not-too-distant past bringing readers to the present.  Through a blend of text and dialogue, she shows readers stories are everywhere and we are tied to each other through the marvelous manner in which stories work.  Here are portions of two connected passages.

Once Thomas found a real treasure:  a large chunk of sea glass with a few letters---SON---just barely raised on its surface.  Thomas wondered what word the letters might have been a part of and what story this piece of glass might tell.

When Thomas slipped between the cool sheets that night, he dreamed of wind and waves and a terrible storm.

The captain's shouted orders could barely he heard over the roar of the wind as men scurried to their stations. 
"Lower the sails!" . . .


When readers look at the open and matching dust jacket and book case they are given a glimpse into Thomas's summer adventure on the front through a realistic depiction of a rocky island seashore and a peek at one of his dreams on the back.  Bagram Ibatoulline's attention to detail and color palette are nearly photographic.  We get a very real sense of Thomas's excitement and purpose on his daily beach hikes.  Listen and you will hear the waves fall on the shore.

To the left, on the back, using one of the hues in the sky as a canvas, a small circular portrait is outlined in a thin red border.  A woman from the past is smashing a bottle of champagne against the side of a ship.  We can place her at a certain point in history by her clothing.  Above and below this image are the words:

They say that each piece of sea glass
has a story all its own.

Just imagine the tales the ocean might tell. 

The opening and closing endpapers are the same blue as the sea on the jacket and case.  On the initial title page, a single sea gull flies above the text.  For the formal title page we are brought close to a group of shells, sea glass and pebbles resting on the sand.  This illustration is between the text.

Each image rendered in watercolor by Bagram Ibatoulline is a stunning representation of moments not only in this story but also of the past.  Readers can tell by the architecture, clothing and vehicles in which time period the scene is placed.  Bagram Ibatoulline alters his perspective and picture sizes to heighten the emotional intensity of the narrative.

On the first double-page picture we are given a large view of Thomas's grandmother's cottage on the island beach.  She is hanging towels on the porch railing while Thomas skips a stone into the sea from the shore.  In the next single page picture, it's as if we are looking up those cottage steps as Thomas walks down.  His grandmother stands at the top looking out at the sea, a hand raised to shade her eyes.  Opposite this, text is placed on a wooden-like surface and framed in a fine blue-gray line.  The picture there is a close-up of the magnifying glass and a clamshell.

When Thomas dreams, those paintings are done in shades of gray.  The text for his dreams is framed and placed on the left or right over the double-page picture.  Several wordless illustrations tell their own powerful story.  After an initial reading, it's a given readers will go back and look at the visuals more closely, noting the beautiful use of particular elements like the color of Thomas's tennis shoes.

One of my many favorite illustrations is at the end of the summer.  It is a single-page picture.  The sun has set.  Breathtaking shades of pale orange, pink and purple color the sky and sea.  The rocky beach is close to us but stretches back and to the left giving us more than one point of view.  Thomas in his familiar clothing has added a denim jacket.  He is carrying the magnifying glass as he bends over, looking intently for one final piece of sea glass.


Sea Glass Summer written by Michelle Houts with illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline 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.  I highly recommend it for your personal and professional collections.

If you wish to discover more about Michelle Houts and Bagram Ibatoulline and their other work, please access their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Michelle Houts maintains accounts on Instagram and TwitterAt the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  They also have a special page with a note from the author.  At Penguin Random House you can see several initial pages.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Of Significance

At times a book interests you because of specific things you find fascinating.  Other titles will be chosen because of references made by readers you admire.  Regardless of the reason, on a sunny spring morning you are likely to find yourself sitting down with a book you're eager to read.

You look at the dust jacket.  You remove the jacket to look at the book case.  You find yourself smiling at the title, verso and dedication pages.  The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown (Balzar + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, May 21, 2019) written by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Sarah Jacoby is a book which fills every one of those previous qualifying remarks.  It is guaranteed to shift your thoughts on Margaret Wise Brown, and the art of making books as it increases your respect for creators Mac Barnett and Sarah Jacoby.

Margaret Wise Brown lived for 42 years.
This book is 42 pages long.
You can't fit somebody's life into 42 pages,
so I am just going to tell you some important things.

Within the same narrative we learn Margaret Wise Brown wrote more than one hundred books, we also are told other books are written by other people which makes perfect sense.  We are asked to think about writers as living, breathing people rather than characters in a book.  They share real-life experiences with us, some similar and some more peculiar than our own.

These musings are followed by a series of questions and answers, purely conversational in tone, about what might be important about Margaret Wise Brown.  Regardless of your age or level of curiosity or knowledge of this author, you will find something you probably did not know.  Did you know that Margaret Wise Brown's favorite dog, Crispin's Crispian, bit lots of people?

You will be astounded at the number of pets she had as a child, particularly rabbits, and how she paid tribute (if that is what it was) when one rabbit's life ends.  We are told it is significant to realize that this book and the books Margaret Wise Brown wrote depict life to children in all its aspects, even if they might seem odd.  We are offered ideas about Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny and Little Fur Family.  We are given examples of what some people might consider unusual about Margaret Wise Brown and what some people might find extraordinarily wonderful about her.

We are reminded of the value of every book even if the people who write them might be perceived as strange or their content is considered strange.  Following this short discussion, we become acquainted with children's librarian Anne Carroll Moore of the New York Public Library, of her constant companion, NK, and her attitude about the books penned by Margaret Wise Brown.  (Who knew this?)  We are privy to the actions of Margaret Wise Brown and her editor Ursula Nordstrom during a notable tea party at the New York Public Library.

We, without hesitation, turn the pages until we discover or remember, depending on the reader, how Margaret Wise Brown died at an early age.  What remains is a beautiful discourse on the twists and turns of our lives and the telling of stories and their importance when the strangeness of one becomes the strangeness of the other.  We come full circle with a single sentence.


The words, sentences and paragraphs written by Mac Barnett in this book are done so after meticulous research and with intention.  This is evident in his first three sentences (and with every word written thereafter). His repetition of the number 42 is powerful and the use of the word important reflects on the title of this book, Margaret Wise Brown's books and the actual definition of the word important.

In his writing of this book, he employs a technique of stating simple truths, wondering about those truths and combining this with questions and some answers.  At times we ask ourselves is the author telling this story or are we telling it as readers?  It's an astounding feeling which grows as the pages are turned.  Margaret Wise Brown's life is depicted in Mac Barnett's words as if she had written it herself.  Here is a passage.

Now it's true that Margaret Wise Brown wrote strange books.
In her books, you would turn a page
and the story would suddenly change.
Sometimes a duck would appear for no reason.
And the narrator would often stop telling the story
and ask the reader a question.
Now isn't that a strange thing to do?


Readers will find it hard not to gasp for the first of many times when they remove and open the dust jacket.  The sky and clouds, and grass extend from the left flap edge to the right flap edge.  What readers can't see are rabbits, tucked in the grass to the left of the spine and on the right flap.  Margaret Wise Brown running after Crispin's Crispian mirrors her lively spirit to perfection.

On the book case the sky and clouds indicate in shades of peach, pink and yellow, the day is coming to a close. The scene extends across the back and the front, edge to edge.  Now Margaret Wise Brown is lying on her stomach in the grass on the right.  Some of her body crosses the spine to the left.  She is facing her beloved dog who, at rest, is facing her.  A single rabbit appears between them.  Other rabbits watch them from the left.

A pale, muted green covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title, verso and dedication pages Margaret Wise Brown is chasing after Crispin's Crispian again.  A portion of her body is running off the title page.  He has stopped on the dedication page to look back at her.  The illustrations rendered in watercolor, Nupastel, and Photoshop throughout this book by Sarah Jacoby are a marvelous pictorial presentation and extension of the text.

Rabbits subtly appear, almost silently, in a floral image, a field and woodland scene or as children with their rabbit librarian during a storytime featuring this book and other important books.  The details in Sarah Jacoby's work are intricate among her softly colored artwork.  Watch the rabbit listeners during the storytime.  Pay attention to the hands on the clock in the library.

Some of Sarah Jacoby's pictures are framed with borders, others span to the pages' edges, and some are small vignettes grouped together.  Her pacing is deliberate.  Among the delicate hues, line work, picture sizes and pacing, there is a spirit of joy and of a life lived completely.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  From left to right crossing the gutter is a wagon pulled by a gray horse.  The wagon is overflowing with flowers of all shapes, sizes and colors.  You can see the surprise on the seller's face when Margaret Wise Brown asks to purchase the entire cart.  Her dog is crouched ready to run next to the cart.  I particularly love this picture because it portrays a strange and beautiful moment in her life; it's a moment to treasure.


The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown written by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Sarah Jacoby is a stunning, brilliant portrait of a remarkable woman's life.  When you get to the end of the book, you will immediately pause unable to believe the wonder you hold in your hands.  Then you will read it again and again and again.  It is a very important book!  On the verso page is a list of sources by books, articles and collections consulted.  I highly recommend this book for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Mac Barnett and Sarah Jacoby and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  You can view Sarah's blog from her website.  Mac Barnett has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Sarah Jacoby has accounts on InstagramTumblr, and Twitter.  There is an outstanding blog devoted to the development of this book, here.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  There are exceptional interviews with Mac Barnett and Sarah Jacoby at Blue Willow Book Shop here and here, and at author, blogger and teacher librarian Travis Jonker's 100 Scope Notes at School Library Journal.  Sarah Jacoby is interviewed by author, blogger and teacher librarian Carter Higgins at Design Of The Picture Book and by Dylan Teut, director of the Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival, on his blog, Mile High Reading.


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


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Imitation Is The Sincerest . . .

One of the best parts of three-day holiday weekends is the extra time for reading.  Memorial Day 2019, like those of past years, is a time to reread favorite series.  It's a traditional way to get ready for summer.  One favorite collection, leaving us with a lighter heart, is the Elephant & Piggie set written and illustrated by Mo Willems.  From 2007 to 2016 the twenty-five titles entertained readers of all ages.  In 2016 a new series entered the children's literature world, Elephant & Piggie Like Readingand it's still growing.  The work of other authors/illustrators is featured in this collection of books Elephant and Piggie enjoy reading. (I laughed and laughed yesterday reading sixteen of the Elephant & Piggie books plus four in the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! group.)

The beauty of books in a series is the growing excitement in waiting for the next title.  Harold & Hog Pretend For Real! (Hyperion Books for Children, an imprint of Disney Book Group, May 7, 2019) written and illustrated by Dan Santat is well worth the wait.  It's an imagination sensation.

Elephant
Gerald!

LOOK!

What is it, 
Piggie?

I found 
a book about 
an ELEPHANT
and a PIG!

Piggie runs to Gerald with this very book in her hands.  The two best friends can hardly wait to read a book about an elephant and a pig.  Before they start reading it, the page is turned. Hog and Harold are thrilled they see their two literary heroes.

Immediately, Harold has a bright idea.  He thinks they should pretend to be Elephant and Piggie.  Hog is not convinced this is a good idea.  In the blink of an eye, Harold produces glasses for himself and a Piggie nose for Hog.  And just like that, Harold is certain they have become Elephant and Piggie.

Hog is confused not knowing how to be Piggie.  Harold offers one suggestion after the other.  When Hog, now Piggie, points out how that sounds scary, he mentions it's a good thing Gerald, really Harold, is cautious.  Harold demonstrates how he will be mindful as he smiles, dances and flies all at the same time.  Now Hog is totally frustrated.  Gerald, the real Gerald, would not act like this.  Harold and Hog are startled to realize Hog is more like Gerald and Harold is more like Piggie.  What a dilemma!

As the duo start to speculate further about how they are not like Elephant and Piggie, their logic takes a wrong turn.  It only last moments because true friends with two hearts beating as one find the best kind of answer.  Before the story ends, more laughter and characters enter the fun. 


What makes a book written by Dan Santat sing off the pages is his keen sense of humor, sincerity and pursuit of presenting the soul of a story to his readers.  In this title, told entirely through dialogue, the sentences, page by page, emphatically reveal the true character of Harold and Hog.  The word choices and pacing leave room for reader interpretation as well as the stellar illustrations providing emphasis and contrast to the text.  Here is a passage.

You are so lucky, "Piggie."

You get to smile . . .

and dance . . .

and fly . . .

ALL AT THE SAME TIME!

STOP!
What is wrong?
I cannot
do THAT!
Why not?


One look, one long look, at the front of the book case and readers will see hilarity is forthcoming.  First, we have the "disguises" worn by Harold and Hog and their differing expressions.  The words Elephant & Piggie have been covered by Harold & Hog.  Mo Willems has been crossed out and replaced by Dan Santat.  This is going to be no ordinary story. 

On the opening and closing endpapers, as in the other Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! books, the famous duo is reading the book we hold in our hands.  Careful readers will see the renowned bird who wanted to drive a bus behind Elephant, leaning on his head and reading, on the second set of endpapers.  Three page turns into the book and readers begin to discover the real nature of this story when Hog turns the previous page.  Then Harold and Hog walk to stand in front of a screen. 

Dan Santat's facial expressions and body positions, the exaggerated hesitancy on Hog and the over exuberance of Harold, are highly effective and downright funny.  The two images with no words are perfectly placed.  You can almost hear readers' gasps and sighs and see knowing nods of understanding.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  Harold as Gerald is demonstrating to Hog as Piggie three things Piggie enjoys doing:  smiling, dancing and flying.  Seeing Harold in these three stances with his face full of joy is funny but Hog standing in front of him is guaranteed to have readers burst out laughing.  Hog is wide-eyed and has absolutely no desire to smile, dance or fly.


Harold & Hog Pretend For Real! written and illustrated by Dan Santat is a brilliant execution of a story with characters imitating other characters.  It's about discovering your essential self and celebrating this wonderful being you are.  It's a tribute to the friendship found in the Elephant & Piggie books.  It's going to be read repeatedly.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To discover more about Dan Santat and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Dan Santat has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website there is an educator's guide.  I believe you will enjoy these interviews at Creative Playdate podcast and Literati with Dan Santat.

Friday, May 24, 2019

If I Was Words, And You Were An Author . . . If I Was Paint, And You Were An Illustrator . . .I'd Call You Story Makers

Not a day goes by without making connections with the world in which we live and all living things that dwell there.  We spend hours with our attention focused on a variety of things but if we shift our perspective, even a little, it's amazing how our existence expands.  We start to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch ordinary things, always there, but previously gone unnoticed.

We start to reimagine how to relate to everything.  We inhale this newness like a breath of fresh air.  if i was the sunshine (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, May 7, 2019) written by Julie Fogliano with illustrations by Loren Long explores connections born from a deep affection.

if i was the sunshine
and you were the day
i'd call you hello!

and you'd call me stay 

Ten more four-line poems take readers gently through seasons and scenarios.  Winter and spring speak softly and with a merry melody.  When we bend to a flower, the odor tugs on our memories and gives us a name.

Back and forth we travel with a bird and a tree, an apple and a worm and a mountain and the sky.  One makes a home, another enjoys a meal and yet another is the farthest and highest.  A boat is tossed on the unpredictable waves of an ocean, but that same ocean intervenes.

When the cloud-filled sky darkens and thunder rumbles, one is gentler than the other, but they are essentially bound together.  Have you ever stood outside, hardly daring to breathe and listening intently to utter silence?  When the quiet is finally broken, either by a man-made noise or a sound from nature, what do you think? 

On summer nights, watching fireflies blink on and blink off, we see them as signals.  What does the darkness call them?  At the close of a day, night comes.  Morning will follow.  One thinks ahead.  Another tucks the moment in their heart with a wish.


In these eleven poems Julie Fogliano gives a star, a time of day, a greeting, a request, a season, a way voices are used, a scent, a body part, a flower, a bird, a tree, a residence and a state of being, to name a few, a voice.  These statements of possibility followed by statements of truth are loving calls and responses.  They ask us to look at our lives by shifting our points of view and savor each moment for its potential.  By having the words at the end of lines two and four rhyme, she invites reader participation.  We pause at the page turn rolling around a hopeful answer in our minds. Here is another poem.

if i was the silence
and you were a sound
i'd call you missing

and you'd call me found


When you look at the open dust jacket, it's as if you've stepped undiscovered into two beautiful scenes.  In the first the doe and fawn, watch geese fly as the sun first rises in the morning. (See how it touches the tops of the trees.)  To the left, on the back, within a circle on a white canvas a mother bear and cub are watching the same sunrise in another part of the forest near a body of water.  The parent looks forward and the cub looks at the parent.  Loren Long uses the same shades of green, blue and yellow in both pictures.  (This is the kind of calm you want to comfort you.) 

On the book case a stunning winter painting is spread from left to right.  Along the top leafless trees stand among snow-coated evergreens.  A close-up of geese flying moves from the low corner to the high corner.  Deer tracks make two loops on the snow below the birds.  A fawn, small in perspective, looks up at the sight spread before it.

A sky blue covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the initial title page, inside a loose small circle, is the fawn.  Opposite the text on the formal title page, the image from the back of the dust jacket is reversed.  Each two-page image rendered in acrylic paint by Loren Long is like a framed piece in a gallery.

If you were to hang them on a wall, side-by-side in the order they appear in the book, they are connected by different points of view of the same area during different times of day, in different spots and in different seasons.  With superb skill Loren Long shifts our perspective from a panoramic view of a mother and daughter heading to a barn in the early morning hours to them milking a cow under a tree together.  The tiny silhouette of a mouse and squirrel appear in both pictures.

With a page turn, it's winter but nestled in the upper, left-hand corner is the barn.  It's still there in the spring but now we can see the ocean in the distance.  Next, we move closer to some of the settings, from the viewpoint of a skunk, a pileated woodpecker and the squirrels and worm in the very tree the woodpecker calls home.  Remember the ocean?  It's featured in four visuals before we move inland again.  For the final four paintings we complete a circle, returning to the woods and the farm.  You need to pause at every illustration to notice the details, the use of light and shadow and the breathtaking color palette. 

One of my many, many favorite pictures of the double-page illustrations is the first winter scene.  Stretching from the left, across the gutter and half-way into the right page is the form of a sleeping bear.  The shape of its body forms a hill which narrows to its head resting on its paws.  Over the top of the bear are hills covered in snow.  At the top and on the left is the barn.  Evergreen trees and leafless trees dot the entire landscape.  In a "v" made by two hills is the quiet ocean, like glass as snow falls.


When two masters collaborate, readers are gifted with a book like if i was the sunshine written by Julie Fogliano with illustrations by Loren Long.  It's a beautiful tribute to relationships and our connections with those relationships.  I know you'll want a copy for your personal and professional collections.  Read it often.  Share it often.  (Can you think of another four-line poem?  What picture would make it perfect?)

To learn more about Julie Fogliano and her other work, you can visit her accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  To discover more about Loren Long and his work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Loren Long also has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and TwitterAt the publisher's website you can view interior images and download activity sheets.  Julie Fogliano and Loren Long are interviewed for their cover reveal at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher's Watch. Connect. Read.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Expectations

Friendships forged on summer vacations can last a lifetime or be as fleeting as the days of the holiday.  These relationships sometimes take on an unbelievable quality; as if we are living in a world removed from our normal day to day existence.  If we are fortunate to return to the same place every year, we long for the same people who made the experience magical to be there again.

Not only do we want to recreate our adventures with them, we are excited to see what new escapades will be enjoyed.  Waiting for Chicken Smith (Candlewick Press, May 14, 2019) written and illustrated by David Mackintosh is the story of a remarkable summer.  Memories will be made to treasure for a lifetime.

I'm waiting for Chicken Smith.

He won't be long now. 

The narrator explains that he and his family stay at the same cabin on the beach every summer.  So does Chicken Smith, his dog Jelly, and his father.  These two know this beach better than anyone else.

As he is waiting for Chicken Smith to arrive, the boy's sister calls for him to look at something important.  He does not.  He is waiting for Chicken Smith.

He tells us about all the things he remembers about Chicken Smith.  Every single thing is the same every year.  Chicken Smith has written his initials somewhere.  He has challenged the boy to find them.  The boy's sister calls again and again.  She has to wait because he is waiting for Chicken Smith.

One of the things Chicken Smith and the boy like to do is look for whales from the lighthouse.  They stay outside until dark hoping and watching.  As we learn more about Chicken Smith, we also learn more about whales and shells.  He has a shell as a gift for Chicken Smith.  It's not as exciting as a whale but you can hear the ocean inside it.

As he waits for Chicken Smith, he begins to notice differences.  Then his sister calls to him and tells him to run.  He runs after her.  Brother and sister share a first-time wonder until the sky darkens.  This summer is not the same as the other summers.  It's possibly better.


Using the boy as the narrator creates an instant and personal connection with readers.  David Mackintosh uses short conversational sentences with word repetition to supply us with a storytelling rhythm.  We, like the boy, enjoy remembering all the things that make Chicken Smith's friendship unique, but our curiosity is growing whenever the sister speaks. A gentle tension increases each time she calls to him.  This prepares us for something extraordinary.  It also leads to contemplation and an examination of companionship by the boy.  Here is a passage.

Chicken Smith's
bike is rusty,
with a 
wheel
that
rubs 
on 
the frame
and 
NO
BRAKES.
That's
OK
because
Chicken
just
uses 
his 
foot
when
he 
wants
to slow down.


On the front of the dust jacket the boy is waiting patiently for Chicken Smith on a sunny summer day.  He is placed on an enlarged version of the shell he got for Chicken Smith as a gift.  The blue on the front extends over the spine.  To the left, on the back, the blue is replaced with white.  Washes of very light blue with darker clouds in blue and gray provide a background.  Two black sea birds fly to the right.  On a black lifeguard station, just left of the center, sits the sister.  Next to her at the top is a seagull.

The front of the book case is identical to the front of the jacket except the sun is gone.  It has moved to the back of the book case and is much larger.  Three sea grasses from the bottom frame words inside the sun.  They are:

I'm waiting for
Chicken Smith.
He should be
here soon. 

On the opening and closing endpapers tiny white and blue fish swim, right to left, on a turquoise canvas.  All the illustrations rendered in pen, pencil, ink, watercolor, and kraft paper are distinctive in the use of a limited palette and line work.  There is a contrast between the very delicate lines and the bold opaque colors.  Readers will be drawn to all the details in each image.  David Mackintosh uses white space with marvelous skill.

Some of the pictures are double-page, others are full-page visuals.  Readers will be pleasantly surprised at the shifts in point of view.  Not only do the words of the narrator make us feel like we are there, but the illustrations recall with stunning clarity a vacation on the beach.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  It is a close-up of Chicken Smith's bike.  On a white background large gray areas supply a texture similar to stonework.  The front of the bike is facing left.  We see portions of the wheels and most of the frame and seat.  Property of Chicken Smith is written on the frame, black letters on white strips.  Part of the text is to the left and right of the bike.  Other portions of the text are written on the wheels.


Certain to recall summer vacation friendships and promote discussions about expectations and surprises, Waiting for Chicken Smith written and illustrated by David Mackintosh is a book with timeless appeal.  Sometimes when we are waiting for one thing, something unexpected and amazing takes our breath away.  Whether we initially realize it or not, our siblings can be our best friends.  I highly recommend this for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about David Mackintosh and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  David Mackintosh has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website and at Penguin Random House, you can view interior images.  Enjoy the book trailer.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Out Of Darkness

We are captivated by events in our communities, cities, states and country, some more than others as a result of personal connections.  We have, along with many others, felt much joy and deep sadness, laughed until we cry and wept uncontrollably and known unbearable loss. As citizens of the world, we find ourselves missing a lot of happenings but some capture not only our attention but the attention of people around the globe.  We watch and feel with a collective consciousness.

One event, lasting eighteen days, kept the world riveted to any available access to the news.  Titan and the Wild Boars: The True Cave Rescue of the Thai Soccer Team (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, May 7, 2019) written by Susan Hood and Pathana Sornhiran with illustrations by Dow Phumiruk is a moving, memorable and accurate account of those eighteen days.  Once you begin this reading the words and pictures will hold you fast until the final page. 

Like his friends in Mae Sai and many kids in Thailand, eleven-year-old Chanin grew up obsessed with soccer.  He started playing at age six and joined the Wild Boars team a couple of years later.

Nicknamed Titan by his family, Chanin is a fierce competitor despite his small size.  His commitment to the sport is obvious in his training and in his saving for his own new shoes.  On June 23, 2018 after a Saturday soccer practice, Titan's life and the lives of eleven other players and their coach change drastically.  They decide to hike inside a cave six miles from the practice field.  Monsoon season has not started, so they believe they are safe.

Unbeknownst to the thirteen, the rains start in earnest while they are exploring.  Upon turning around to go back to the entrance, they find the tunnel flooding with water.  Coach Ek leads them to a ledge farther into the cave.  The boys pray.  Their coach offers assurances.  He asks them to turn off their flashlights.  It is completely dark.

The news of the missing boys and their coach being trapped within the cave sends shock waves around the world.  Helpers and experts in diving and rescue, numbering in the thousands, come from many countries.  Pumps are put in place to try to lower the water levels. People search for other possible entrances and exits to the cave with no luck.  Inside the cave, Coach Ek teaches the boys meditation to help calm them.  They try to sleep on the rocky spot, drink water dripping from the ceiling, dig through the cave walls and try not to think of their constant hunger.  Day five comes and goes.

Divers are trying to locate the boys and their coach.  The water current is swift and dark with stirred-up silt.  The temperature is bone-chilling.  Dangers lurk in the form of mudslides, huge boulders (house size) and narrow passages.   They set up guidelines along a pathway and leave spare air tanks at selected positions.  After ten day . . . ten days . . .Titan and his teammates hear something.  It's two divers!

In each of the succeeding days, divers make the arduous journey to the boys.  Communications are exchanged between the trapped and their waiting families.  More supplies and equipment arrive to assist in the rescue but on day fourteen tragedy strikes. 

Petty Officer First Class Saman Kunan, a thirty-eight-year-old former Thai Navy SEAL diver and volunteer

dies on his way back to the entrance.

Time is running out for the boys; more rain is coming, and their air supply is diminishing.  Did you know four divers stayed with them until all the boys were rescued?  Did you know how the boys are prepared to be rescued?    Did you know only four were rescued each day?  This factual narrative reads like an action-packed thriller regardless of the facts we know about the outcome. 


Written with meticulous care by Susan Hood and Pathana Sornhiran, a journalist born and raised in Thailand who reported outside the cave last summer, readers are given a sensory and intimate perspective of the trapped boys and their coach and the efforts of all those gathered to save them.  In telling this nonfiction narrative by focusing on the youngest member, Titan, we become keenly aware of each portion of the event as it unfolds.  Through a blend of prose and poetry we feel as though we are in the cave with the boys and the divers. 

Tension builds as the days are divided into sections divulging what occurs inside and outside the cave.  What becomes abundantly clear is the courage and determination of everyone involved.  Including letters from the boys and correspondence from their families heightens our involvement.  Quotes from The Buddha are included.  (Coach Ek was a novice at a monastery for ten years.)  Here is a poetic passage in part and some narrative text.

TRAPPED!
Stone-cold water
whirling, swirling
sounds of falls
echoed off the walls
smells of mud, sweat, fear
dank humid air
closed in like the jagged rocks
above and below
hunger pains
endless rains
poured
down 
 down
  down 
   underground.

Narrow passages in the rock (one only fifteen inches high) obstructed
progress; the divers could not fit through with their air tanks.  Hours went by,
and each time the tanks ran low, the divers couldn't just surface to breathe.
They were forced to turn back.
Where could the boys be? the divers wondered.  How would they find
them?  And after so many days without food, could they still be alive?


It is with a sense of growing anticipation that we look at the matching dust jacket and book case rendered using pencil, charcoal, and ink sketches and Photoshop to create the digital illustrations by artist Dow Phumiruk.  We are led into the cave through the glow of flashlights (torches) by the boys.  We can see the excitement and curiosity reflected on their faces.  To the left, on the back, on a green canvas a large circle frames the faces of the boys lying in a circle, head to head, with a soccer ball in the center.  Colorful folded cranes sent by well-wishers flutter from left to right and bottom to top.

On the opening and closing endpapers using orange on a paler orange Dow Phumiruk has drawn a map of the cave entrance to the place where the boys are found.  It gives us a visual perspective of the distance between points, stations and pertinent notes as well as a list of the divers and their locations.  Distances are in meters.  On the title page we see the boys riding their bikes to the entrance of the cave.  Our point of view is as if we are inside looking out.  The verso and dedication pages are a vast landscape view of the area; mountains, fields, roadways and, in the scheme, the small entrance to the cave are shown.  The placement of clouds hint at the humidity.

With each illustration, whether a double-page picture, full-page image or several visuals gathered together on one or two pages, Dow Phumiruk brings us deeply into the emotional moments of this story.  We sense the urgency of the rescuers' endeavors and the stress faced by the boys and their coach.  She shifts perspective to accentuate each portion of the story.  Every element is placed in her illustrations with intention.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  Darker colors are used here as we are inside the cave.  On the right two divers each carry a single boy with them to safety.  Along the bottom, on the left and right, almost in silhouette, are a series of divers and rescue workers assisting in helping the boys.  Above this on the right sits Titan and his coach, wondering if they will be saved.  Behind them are the other three boys waiting to leave the cave.  They are the last to leave.  The only light is supplied by head lamps and a large lamp on solid ground above the water.  It's important to note that Dow Phumiruk uses the color in the boys' soccer shirts to add, in my opinion, hope.


Without hesitation I highly recommend Titan and the Wild Boars: The True Cave Rescue of the Thai Soccer Team written by Susan Hood and Pathana Sornhiran with illustrations by Dow Phumiruk for your professional and personal collections.  You will find yourself moved to tears more than once at the bravery and teamwork exhibited by these humans.  I am grateful for the collaborative efforts of Susan Hood, Pathana Sornhiran and Dow Phumiruk to bring this story to us.  At the close of the book is More About the Cave Rescue, Fascinating Facts, The Wild Boars, Stateless No More, Legend of the Tham Luang Nang Non Caves, a Timeline: June to July 2018, an Interview with British Divers Chris Jewell and Jason Mallinson, words about Saman Kunan and Sources and Interesting Websites.

To learn more about Susan Hood and Dow Phumiruk and their other work, please access their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Susan Hood has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Dow Phumiruk has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  The book trailer premiere along with interviews is found on Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher's site, Watch. Connect. Read.  At Mile High Reading the site of Dylan Teut, director of the Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival in Seward, Nebraska, there is an interview with Susan Hood and Dow Phumiruk.  Pathana Sornhiran was traveling in Asia for her work at the time.  You can read portions of the beginning of the book at the publisher's website.


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


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Finding Heart In The Heat

The next solstice is fast approaching; only thirty more days until the time between sunrise and sunset is nearly fourteen hours.  With the longer amounts of daylight, temperatures will become warmer.  With each subsequent year, we have seen record-breaking heat.  In this heat every living thing needs shade and water.

On those days with the sun relentlessly shining and no breeze to assist in any type of cooling, a stillness settles over Earth's inhabitants.  In their newest collaboration, Summer (Imprint, a part of Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC, May 7, 2019) renowned Chinese author Cao Wenxuan and Chinese illustrator Yu Rong create an original tale happening during one of those sultry afternoons.  Respite comes through observation amid controversy.

IN SUMMER,
the burning hot sun
hangs in the sky.

Creatures wild and domestic and humans, along the banks of a river, seek cover from heat.  Out on the grasslands, everything is dry from lack of rain and the sun.  The animals, stirring up dust as they move, search for shade.

Unexpectedly the jackal spots a tree and shouts about the discovery.  It's a race to see who will arrive there first.  All seven of them believe they are first, especially the smallest of them, a mouse.  Let's remember readers, it's in the middle of a hot, hot summer.  There are only a few leaves on one branch.  The animals fight. 

As the largest, the elephant makes a decision.  He stands under the tree.  He trumpets out dust to chase the mouse, lynx, jackal, leopard, brown bear, and rhino away.  Finally, one animal laughs at the sight of the elephant.  Soon they are all laughing at a huge beast trying to find shade under a few leaves.  In the middle of their laughter, two humans walk past.  The animals go silent, watching a father and his son. 

The son is completely shaded by his father's shadow.  The animals keep watching in silence until the duo have disappeared.  The lynx speaks and the mouse moves.  Without another word each animal adjusts their position.  The heat from the summer sun is still present but change is in the air.


For those who have not experienced the unbearable heat of a summer with no rain and the sun constantly shining, author Cao Wenxuan supplies vivid images through his word choices.  We become more personally involved in the story when he gives voice to the animals. We realize their desperation through their argument and fight, but even in their frustration they can find humor.  This, I believe, is an important point.  It opens them up to the transformation of their perspectives which comes.  Here is a portion of a passage.

A frog floats on a lotus leaf,
beneath the umbrella of another.
Ducks sleep with
heads tucked in wings
beneath the cool arching bridge.


Rendered in cut paper and pencil by Yu Rong all the illustrations, beginning on the open dust jacket, will astound readers.  The fine lines and intricate, tiny details work together marvelously.  The illustration seen on the front of the dust jacket hints at a long-awaited event.  Notice the green beetle climbing up the elephant.  This creature is also featured.

The design of radiating black lines from a yellow circle on a bright blue continues to the left, on the back.  Six of the animals are gathered together under the words:

In Summer 
seven animals learn
to share. 

The sun, the yellow circle, is varnished on the dust jacket.  On the book case the lines from the sun stretch over the spine and to the edge of the back on the same bright blue background.  The only thing inside the sun is the text.  The animals are absent.

On the opening and closing endpapers Yu Rong presents a vast grassland landscape with mountains in the distance.  In the first scene shades of yellow and blue are prominent.  The sun is shining over the mountains.  The landscape, although still vast, is altered in the second set of endpapers.  Hues of blue, purple and pink are present.  Something has caused a shift.

The title page image spans two pages.  The large yellow sun beats down on the animals in a row, largest to smallest, left to right, on a yellow background with mountains in the distance.  In tiny, tiny print the dedications by Cao Wenxuan and Yu Rong weave over the backs of the elephant and rhino.

Many of the pictures are double-page pictures.  The circle design continues and is present in some of the illustrations with the text on the opposite page.  Readers will appreciate the different, vibrant colors of the animals, especially on crisp white backgrounds.  They will also enjoy the pencil drawings of the animals.

One of the cleverest elements is supplied after the animals watch the father and son disappear in silence.  The next five page turns are surprisingly modified.  (I don't to say anything more.)  Each item in all the illustrations is carefully placed to convey an emotion or capture a moment. 

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is toward the end of the story.  It is a single-page picture with a white canvas.  The animals' backs are to readers.  They are standing in a row along the bottom, largest on the left and ending with the lynx on the right.  All we can see are their necks and heads.  The mouse and the beetle are seated on the elephant's head.  None of them are moving.  They are hopefully watching something. 


Summer written by Cao Wenxuan with illustrations by Yu Rong is brilliant.  Sometimes in the middle of an unsolvable situation, an answer appears.  We wonder if we had been willing to shift our point of view earlier, we might have found the solution ourselves. Cooperation and selflessness are presented with perfection.  I highly recommend this for your professional and personal book collections.

This article in Publishers Weekly about Cao Wenxuan provides information about this highly acclaimed author.  You can find information about Yu Rong at Walker Books.  You can view interior images at the publisher's website.

Monday, May 20, 2019

A Daily Dose Of Delight

One of the advantages of growing up in a small house, on a small street, in a small town is you can walk everywhere you need to go.  Our elementary, junior high and high schools were minutes from home.  We walked to the grocery store, post office, bank, drug store, the five-and-ten for trinkets and candy, flower shop, public library and doctor.  We loved hiking to the nearby Kiwanis Park and Dead Man's Hill for winter sledding.  On Saturdays gals and guys all walked to the local roller-skating rink.

With only one car Dad used to get to and from work in a nearby town, Mom ran errands pulling a red wagon loaded with odds and ends, and groceries.  Once we (my sister and I) were old enough, we started pulling the red wagon to do the grocery shopping.  VAMOS! Let's Go to the Market (Versify Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2, 2019) written and illustrated by Raul The Third, colors by Elaine Bay, follows a daily trip to el mercado made by Little Lobo and his dog, Bernabe.  In a lively, beautiful blend of Spanish and English, readers enjoy the sensory experience with the two companions.

VAMOS! LET'S GO!
Guau!
For breakfast Little Lobo
and Bernabe eat huevos
rancheros con tortillas de
maiz and wash it down 
with warm milk.

Pulling their wagon, the first stop is the warehouse to gather supplies to take to the vendors at the market.  As they quickly move toward their destination, Little Lobo greets Kooky Dooky, the rooster, and thanks him for waking them up.  Walking down the sidewalk of their community, past a shop for haircuts and a movie theater, the duo joins all sorts of people busily making their way to their jobs.

On their way to the market Little Lobo and Bernabe cross through La Placita (a small plaza).  Here people are setting up booths, selling their merchandise and all sorts of delicious foods and beverages.  An older woman is feeding pigeons at the fountain.  Mal Burro and Peeky Pequeno try to keep La Placita (and the Mercado) neat and tidy.  There is music and folk dancing.

There is also a local renowned figure headed in the same direction as Little Lobo and Bernabe.  Their paths are close but not close enough for Little Lobo to notice.  Upon their arrival at the market (Mercado Cuauhtemoc), bursting with activity, they weave through people buying, selling, looking and watching.

Little Lobo and Bernabe stop to make deliveries of shoe polish, clothes pins, wood, tissue paper, paint brushes and the Golden Laces at a variety of shops.  They pass by other stores and greetings are exchanged.  With each stop Little Lobo's wagon empties of one item but fills up with other objects he acquires.

Upon arriving at his final (and favorite) destination Little Lobo is shocked at his good fortune.  On Little Lobo's journey home his load is heavier, but his heart is light.  Heroes really do walk among us.  Good night.  Buenas noches.  Until tomorrow.  Hasta manana.


From the beginning you find yourself fascinated by the short narrative text and dialogue penned by Raul the Third.  There is energy on every page with the perfect blend of two languages.  Text is placed outside of the narrative and dialogue on buildings, near objects and above actions.  It's an explosion of linguistic goodness.  Readers can easily understand either the English or the Spanish based upon the context or placement of both words together.  Sometimes an asterisk will advise you to look for a translation.  Here are two passages.

Mal Burro and Peeky Pequeno keep
La Placita and the Mercado clean.  La
viejita de la fuente feeds the pigeons.

Ding! Ding! Ding!
Something sure smells good!
Churros con
canela y azucar! *

*Churros with cinnamon and sugar.


By their eyes, facial expressions and body postures readers know Little Lobo and his dog, Bernabe, featured on the front of the book case are eager to go to the market.  They are accompanied on this daily adventure by a bug who barely clings to a bouncing box on the back of the wagon.  This bug also lives with them.  The text and characters are varnished.

The red in the text and used as an accent color on the front, covers the back of the book case.  There information normally found on dust jacket flaps is placed.  The bug in his splendid clothes is showcased in the center.  On the opening and closing endpapers in green and white is an intricate design cleverly formed of arrows.  On the title page, Kooky Dooky shouts out the title, waking up Little Lobo and Bernabe.

The color scheme mirrors the community and region in which this story is placed.  All the animals are wearing authentic clothing.  Kooky Dooky has a black and yellow checked shirt, belt with a buckle showing a rising sun, green pants and brown shoes.  The colorist Elaine Bay's work is marvelous.  The details by Raul the Third are superb.  The illustrations are done using ink on smooth plate Bristol board with Adobe Photoshop for color.  They appear as panels like in comic books or as full-page or double-page pictures to accentuate pacing.

You can't help but pause at every page turn.  The first narrative sentence is showcased in steam coming from the kettle heating the milk.  So, we know what is on Little Lobo's list, when he stops at the warehouse, a looped arrow comes from an enlargement of that list.  It is in Spanish and English.  As we move from the desert where Little Lobo and Bernabe live to the city, every element is appropriately placed and many are labeled.  It is here we notice there are stories within this story.

A newspaper headline hints of events to come.  Look at the floating balloon.  Where did it come from?  What are the pigeons doing with the elderly woman?  We come to understand why the bug put a carrot on the wagon at the warehouse.  Readers need to watch this little guy constantly as well as the two cleaners, Mal Burro and Peeky Pequeno.  Also references to famous creators in Mexican culture are seen in multiple places.  It's simply amazing!

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when Little Lobo and Bernabe are hurrying from the warehouse to make their deliveries.  As they move through the desert with mountains behind them, Kooky Dooky runs along with them.  Bernabe grips the front of the wagon with his paws.  The bug hangs on and swings from a rope tying the boxes together.  Along the bottom of the page are rocks, lizards and a cactus.  A mountain, the desert, a rock and the boxes are labeled in red in Spanish.


Having read this book, VAMOS! Let's Go to the Market written and illustrated by Raul the Third with color by Elaine Bay, repeatedly, I can honestly say you will discover something new every time you read it.  You will be captivated by the story, the use of language and the astounding illustrations.  Spanish and English-speaking readers will completely enjoy the two languages.  They will be making lists of every word they see.  They will be noticing every single element in each illustration.  At the close of the book, Raul the Third includes a glossary of more than ninety words in Spanish with their article and the English translation.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Raul the Third and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Raul the Third has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  You'll want to peruse through both to get peeks at interior images from this book.  Raul the Third is interviewed at Let's Talk Picture Books, author Jarrett Lerner's website and author Chris Barton's website.  (You'll learn this is the first book in a series!)

UPDATE:  Raul the Third was featured on author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast on July 7, 2019.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Annual Animal Antics

In the northern hemisphere the longest day of the year marks the summer solstice.  It is the season most welcomed by many; especially those who've endured a long cold winter.  It is a time of annual celebrations, rituals and change-of-pace activities.  For some, summer isn't summer without first watching an old favorite movie.  For others it's a time to enjoy outdoor sports; hiking in the woods or going to a baseball game.  Gardeners, vegetable and flower, are working before dawn and after dusk.  Friends and families gather for reunions and much-awaited vacations.

Many memorable vacations involve camping.  Throughout the United States campgrounds abound in state and national parks with fairly modern to downright rustic conditions.  They are located in forests, mountains and along lakes, rivers and streams.  Most people are unaware of an entire population also awaiting summer and all those vacant human homes.  With huge hilarity in every respect The Great Indoors (Disney Hyperion, April 9, 2019) written by Julie Falatko with illustrations by Ruth Chan gives us the inside scoop on the highly anticipated annual antics by animals of the forest and field.

The bears always arrived first.

The four bears, a father, mother, teenager and baby, bring their suitcases inside the recently empty home of a human family who left for a week of camping.  The teenager calls dibs on the bathroom for preening.  In short order the next group arrives.  It's the beavers.

They stake a claim on the kitchen.  Based on their bags and conversations, they will be providing the meals for the entire group.  Following them are the deer who definitely have a flair for dancing, disco dancing to be precise.  No one questions the skunks desire for resting on the couch and exulting in the electricity.  The first night features the group gathered around the television served by the beavers' most excellent cuisine. 

Each subsequent day finds the bears, deer and skunks participating in their favorite activities, construction, music and social media, with complete uninterrupted abandon. They are well-fed by the zealous beavers.  They are feeling total bliss until the inevitable happens  Now they are victims of too-much-of-a good thing.

There is chaos in the kitchen.  A skunk drinks more than its share of coffee.  Someone is tasting the butter.  In fact, there is not-so-merry mayhem in every room in the house. A cacophony erupts.  It's time to head home in the outdoors.  With echoes of see you next year resonating in the now-deserted rooms, the humans return.  Surprise!


With a talent for finding the funniest side of any situation and flipping the ordinary to extraordinary, author Julie Falatko, starts building anticipation with her first sentence.  Alternating between pure narrative and priceless animal conversations, the gentle tension grows.  The animals are basking in all the modern conveniences the humans have abandoned for a week.  It's a total comedic contrast.

As the initial happiness starts to wan, the laughter factor increases.  You know with the shift in the statements made by the animals, something is going to happen.  Here are some sentences.

The skunks flopped onto the couch.
Ah, the simple life.
When you want light,
you just flip a switch.
So simple.

Just a small toaster fire!
You're not 
supposed to put
nacho cheese in
the toaster!


Upon opening the dust jacket readers get a full view of a portion of the interior of the human's home.  (The scene on the front extends over the spine to the left edge on the back.)  By the wide-eyed looks and grins on the animals' faces, we know shenanigans are in the offing.  The placement and font of the title text is akin to the beginning of an epic movie.  The objects not usually associated with animals are varnished.

To the left, on the back, along the wall are a vase in blue and white with a dragon on it, a chair and a row of four sets of slippers.  On the wall are two photographs from previous family trips.  (Perhaps the vase and picture of the Canadian Parliament building are nods to Ruth Chan's childhood.  Other items in the home refer to the Chinese culture and language which is wonderful to see.)  Spread across the book case is an entire floor mat reminiscent of Twister.  Three deer, one bear, three beavers and two skunks are showcased.  It's funnier than funny to see them stretched out as a beaver works the spinner.  It should be noted one of the skunks is using an electronic devise.

Ruth Chan incorporates the endpapers in her visual interpretation of this story.  On the opening endpapers as the sun rises the family leaves the quiet country setting of their home.  On the closing endpapers the setting has expanded.  We are now in the forest.  There are two signs of the indoors' camping trip.  Readers are sure to burst out laughing.

On the title page the family car has vanished.  Two bears, father and mother, are peering from behind a tree and a bunch of bushes.  On the verso and first page we move close to the front door as father bear walks inside the house.

Most of the illustrations rendered by Ruth Chan span two pages.  To supply pacing smaller illustrations are group together on single pages and perspectives are shifted.  At one point, it's as if the roof of the home has been removed so we can look into all the rooms at once.  Readers will be pausing on every page to look at all the details, tiny text and facial expressions mirroring emotions and the hair styles on the animals.  (Can you spot a picture of Ruth's dog and cat?)

One of my many, many favorite pictures is of the chaos in the kitchen as the week is ending.  It's a close-up of the sink, countertop and oven.  One skunk is asking if another little stinker drank all the coffee.  At the jittery aspect of said skunk, standing on the open oven door, there is no doubt it did drink the coffee.  On the left a deer is licking a stick of butter.  A beaver, on the right, trying to make something wants to know who keeps licking the butter?  A blender is shooting out a beverage (no lid) and the freezer door is wide open.  No one looks happy but readers will be giggling and grinning.


For the laughter, for a unit on summer vacations, camping or a theme of role reversal The Great Indoors written by Julie Falatko with illustrations by Ruth Chan is a rib-tickling romp showing what happens when the outdoors comes inside.  This collaboration between Falatko and Chan is filled with comedy.  You will want to have a copy in your professional and personal collections. 

To discover more about Julie Falatko and Ruth Chan and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Julie Falatko has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Ruth Chan has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  The cover reveal for this book is hosted by Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher at Watch. Connect. Read.  He chats with both Julie and Ruth.  Julie Falatko is interviewed at Critter Lit.  Ruth Chan is the featured illustrator for The New York Times Books live Facebook chat.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Looking For The Familiar

Whether we move from city to city within the same state, move to a different state in the same country or leave our country's borders, our apprehension prior to the move finds its center in the people and places we are leaving behind.  Thoughts of using technology to connect with people, and even places, does lessen the worry, but it's still not the same as real life encounters.  As soon as we arrive at our new destination, sometimes even before we begin to settle, we start to explore our surroundings.  We are looking for the familiar. 

For children, the sooner they find places, a park, a library or a restaurant serving their favorite food, in which they feel comfortable, the more apt they are to relax.  A New Home (Candlewick Press, April 9, 2019) written and illustrated by Tania de Regil explores the parallel worlds of two children making huge moves.  They don't realize it, but one is moving to the other's city.

Mom and Dad told me that we
are moving to Mexico City.

Mama and Papa told me that we
are moving to New York City.

Neither of them is excited about the move.  They are already missing important things in their lives.  Will there be a favorite musician playing music on their way to school?  Will there be a food vendor serving a delicious snack on their way home from school?

They each enjoy certain sporting and cultural events with their parents.  They can play in big city parks where they live now; like Central Park in New York City and the Bosque de Chapultepec in Mexico City.  They are both curious to know if there are museums for their new classes to visit in their new cities. 

While realizing the detriments in their respective cities, homelessness and noise, there are multiple activities to occupy them during the summer with their families.  They wonder if there will be friends like they have now in this new city.  There are many unanswered questions.  One thing is certain, the child from New York City and the child from Mexico City, hold hope in their hearts.


As an author experiencing international moves, Tania de Regil understands the emotions of children when facing this sort of change.  Her portrayal of the blend of excitement and concern through simple straightforward text, fifteen sentences total, is profound.  As the narrative progresses Tania de Regil has worked to offer readers of all ages an opportunity.  It's an opportunity, regardless of geographic location, to see similarities in people and in the places where they live.


Un Nuevo Hogar was released on the same day as A New Home. (I don't have a copy of the Spanish title yet.)  When opening the matching dust jacket and book case, readers are introduced to the boy living in New York City on the left and the girl living in Mexico City on the right.  Outside their respective windows readers can point out elements for which their cities are known.  Each child is holding a book reflective of the city which will be their new home. 

To the left, on the back, on a canvas of white are the words:

I hope my life
won't be so different
in my new city.

Along the bottom is a skyline from New York City.  Along the top is flora and birds more likely to be seen in Mexico City.  The opening and closing endpapers are the rich golden yellow shade used on the front of the jacket and case to hold the text.

On the formal title page Tania de Regil has used predominantly green for a map and a purple hue for water.  She has drawn a dotted line from Mexico City to New York City.  The boy is headed toward Mexico City and the girl is walking toward New York City.  They are each carrying their favorite toys.

Rendered in ink, colored pencil, watercolor, and gouache and assembled digitally, the illustrations vary in size from full-page pictures opposite a white page for text, two full-page images sharing the same text beneath them, two smaller visuals on a page sharing text in the middle and a two-page, half page illustration sharing text in the middle between the two pictures.  This layout and design allow readers to notice exactly what Tania de Regil wants us to understand.  For pure dramatic effect the narrative closes with a double-page image.

The perspective shifts to complement and heighten the narrative.  Readers will pause to look at all the details; a pigeon on the fire escape in New York City and on the balcony in Mexico City, grandmothers walking the children home from school, or the presence of the children's toys.  Even though both children wonder about their new homes, there is a warmth conveyed in every single picture.  It's an exploration of possibilities.

Two of my many favorite illustrations are when the children are playing in their respective parks.  For the boy the season is in winter using a soft gray in the cityscape behind leafless trees in Central Park.  In the foreground the boy is laughing, holding his red teddy bear and skating on a pond.  Behind him others are skating, and a film crew is working on a scene.  For the girl, a royal castle is in the background.  In the foreground the smiling girl is riding her bicycle on a large cobblestone pathway.  A food vendor truck is off to the left.  A man selling balloons and whirligigs is in front of her on the right.  Behind her is a pool of water with boaters rowing.  Both pictures convey the fun the children are having.  There is a sense of motion but also calm.


As her picture book debut in the United States A New Home and Un Nuevo Hogar written and illustrated by Tania de Regil is a marvelous depiction of questions children have when moving to a new city in a new country.  It also works beautifully to provide answers and relieve any worry.  There is true artistry in the text and illustrations.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.  At the close of the book Tania de Regil features thumbnails on three pages of the illustrations with further information about the two cities.

To learn more about Tania de Regil and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  Tania de Regil has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  The publisher has also provided an activity kit.  The cover reveal is at Latinxs in Kid Lit.  The book trailer premiere along with an interview is hosted by Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher at Watch. Connect. Read.  Tania de Regil is interviewed about this book at The Children's Book Council.  Process artwork is shared.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Winged Wonders

It is a welcome sound after the lengthy winter months cloaked in snow, chill and silence.  It is so loud, it penetrates the walls of the house.  It's barely warm enough to open a window, but the melodious notes implore a listener to do this very thing.  On a gentle breeze blowing through the now opened window, it's a soul-soothing concert free to all who can hear.

For the past several days in the early morning hours, a single bird sings with piercing sweetness.  Not only does this bird and its companion species provide us with songs but they are essential to Earth's ecology.  Their physical characteristics, habits and habitats are varied and fascinating.  The Big Book of Birds (Thames & Hudson, June 4, 2019) is the fourth book in an engaging series written and illustrated by Yuval Zommer.  It is as captivating as The Big Book of Bugs, The Big Book of Beasts and The Big Book of the Blue.

Can you find . . .
. . .exactly the same egg
15 times in this book?
Watch out for imposters.

With these words, readers are challenged and eager to turn the next page.  We are greeted with a phrase

WHO'S INSIDE?

asking us to look at the titles for the twenty-six, two-page chapters.  To begin birds are grouped into seven families based on their features, abilities in hunting, the strength of their senses, places of residence, and navigation techniques.  We are then acquainted with best practices in observing birds; most important is to remember we are visitors in their realms.

Five short sections advise us on facts about feathers.  Do you know birds share the same protein as humans for our hair and nails in the composition of their feathers?  Migration is addressed disclosing the number of birds who do this annually, how they know when to go, the time of day they prefer to move, how they align themselves with the Earth's magnetic field and what some birds do if they can't fly.

Throughout the title along with more general topics, focus turns to specific birds.  The first bird discussed is the Great Gray Owl.  Of its many distinctive physical capabilities it has an astonishing range of vision.  While you might know why flamingos are pink (their food), it's certain you are unaware how they keep cool.  It's not by standing in water.  Kingfishers tend to swallow their fish whole, head first.

Birds unable to fly make up for this by being fast runners, or hiding underground.  The speed at which an emu can run is unbelievable.  You won't find secretary birds working for or with anyone, but you will notice them for their crest, their height and their consumption of snakes.  Guess which bird can fly as high as nearly seven Empire State Buildings stacked top to bottom?  Although puffins are speedy flyers, their landings leave a lot to be desired.  Look out!

We learn about architectural nests, eggs and hatching, beaks and feeding, bird calls and songs, city birds and how we can make our gardens more bird friendly.  Interspersed among these chapters are facts about the albatross, hummingbirds, peacocks, robins, swans, hoopoes and red-crowned cranes.  Which one rids itself of the salt in water through a hole above its eye?  Which one has to eat seven times in an hour?  Or which one puts its nest on a platform of weeds?  With each chapter, like layers forming a beautiful whole, our respect and fascination with these winged wonders grows.


As in the three previous titles, Yuval Zommer has a masterful knack for selecting those facts sure to entertain and educate readers.  Within the more common traits of a bird, he points out those things which distinguishes it from other birds.  You will constantly and consistently find yourself surprised at what you don't know but glad you now know.  The format of presenting a question at the beginning of each chapter allows Yuval Zommer to supply appropriate and easily understood answers.  Readers will also get a feel for the sense of humor he has in the section headings.  Here are some passages.

Magnetic attraction
A bird finds its way by spotting familiar
mountains and rivers along the way.  It also looks
at where the sun and stars are in the sky.  Birds 
can even sense the magnetic fields in the Earth
to work out which way is north.

Turn that frown upside down
A parrot has a top bill that curves downwards
and a bottom bill that curves upwards.  Parrots
like the scarlet macaw look happy all the time!

Cozy commute
A city is often 9 (degrees F) warmer than the
surrounding countryside.  Millions of
starlings fly into London every night
to get a toasty night's sleep.


When you open the book case an array of birds, their feathers and their activities are depicted among the title text and framing a blurb to the left on the back.  The realistic, colorful birds and the white text on green (wonderful design choice) are varnished to further attract readers' attentions.  Most notable here and within the body of the book are the birds' eyes.  They are either looking at us; as if they are as curious about us as we are about them or both eyes are focused on a specific element in the visual.

On the opening and closing endpapers, in a swirl of light, white clouds on a pale blue sky, are circles indicative of wind patterns.  On the first scene cranes are flying from the lower, left-hand corner.  At the conclusion they are flying off the upper, right-hand corner.  This background pattern is continued on the initial title page with more birds flying.  On the formal title page, birds on the ground among plants and birds in trees provide a border for the text with the exception of the flamingo hanging from the top of the page.

The whimsical, intricately detailed artwork of Yuval Zommer is highly appealing.  The birds are showcased in an attractive manner.  As you would expect for the Bird Family Tree chapter, a large tree supplies perches for most of the birds.  This page and three others are displayed vertically.  Feathers cascade behind birds in flight for Feathers And Flying.  A variety of sea scenes highlight the chapter on Albatrosses.

With each section image are other stories.  Insects, amphibians and reptiles roam among the birds and their habitats.  Who sailed the boat into the puffin picture?  Why is all the plastic debris in one of the ocean illustrations?  Do you think a courageous cat prowling on a rooftop will get the bird?  Background colors are altered due to habitat but also to generate interest.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for the chapter Birds On The Move.  It's a night scene probably early when the sky is first darkening.  Only a few stars are showing; it's a full moon night.  The moon is placed in the upper, right-hand corner of this double-page picture. (All the illustrations are double-page pictures.)  Clouds, in shades of white and gray are on the far left; one drops rain.  Cranes soar across the top from left to right.  Beneath them, two lines of smaller birds fly.  A small cloud under them has snowflakes falling.  A final line of birds travels in an arcing line from left to right.  All of this is above a series of mountains with a river between them.  In the lower, right-hand corner a group of emus are walking the first steps of their 300-mile journey.  The perspectives on this page are wonderful.


For science-loving folk, bird watchers or anyone who likes to learn at least one, but probably more, new thing every day, The Big Book of Birds written and illustrated by Yuval Zommer is an excellent choice.  Barbara Taylor acts as a consultant for Yuval Zommer in this title.  At the close of the book thumbnails of the chapters highlighting the hidden egg are provided.  After this six words are defined for those wanting to further improve their bird knowledge.  A complete index closes out the book.

To learn more about Yuval Zommer and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access a website.  Yuval Zommer has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  You can read more about Yuval Zommer through interviews at Acorn Books and The Children's Book Review.






Please take a few moments to view the titles selected this week by participants in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by educator Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy.