Quote of the Month

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




Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Looking For The Sunshine Side

Given the current circumstances around the world, it is safe to say with whatever people are coping, it is increasing exponentially hour by hour.  Every emotion, every incident is magnified.  Life is more terrifying.  Life is more beautiful.  Even time seems skewed; a week takes on the character of a month.


Into this comes a book revealing all the nooks and crannies in which we may find ourselves as we travel through our lives.  That's Life! (Little, Brown and Company, March 31, 2020) written by Ame Dyckman with illustrations by Cori Doerrfeld is a roller coaster ride exploring a range of experiences.  You will easily see yourself in the pages of this book.

KNOCK!
KNOCK!
Who could that be?

Life has shown up, as it always does, when we are completely unprepared.  We are instructed to be careful because Life is unpredictable.  In fact, it is downright wacky at times.

There is no guidebook for Life; learning is done on the run at a fast pace.  The thing is, Life can and does take you anywhere (literally) at any time.    We must appreciate these unplanned stops and starts.  What we need to realize about Life, too, is to expect the unexpected.

If Life bumps us off track, we swerve and resume.  Life continually reminds us our day to day situations are a series of opposites.  Life gives us something unsavory and we have the ability to make it delectable.  Let's be honest, Life is painful, but it doesn't stop.  Neither should we.

Every second is to be enjoyed because Life is finite.  In those rare moments of calm, Life will share how extraordinary and breathtaking it is.  For this reason, embrace Life, the results will fill your heart.


With the same glorious moments of laughter and light found in our lives, author Ame Dyckman delivers in full measure in her newest title.  It's wonderfully inventive (and perfect) to have life become a character with a capital letter.  This allows for the shift in contrasts Life delivers to be insightful but also humorous.  Here is a passage.

Don't waste a second.
Life is short, but---

CRASH!

Life, uh . . . finds a way.


The pristine white canvas on the open dust jacket (I'm working with an F & G.  My copy has not arrived, yet) joyfully highlights exuberant Life jumping out of the delivery box.  This illustrator's interpretation of the narrative will have you experiencing happiness at every page turn.  All the craziness of life is embodied in the fuzzy, constantly-in-motion figure.

To the left, on the back, the showcased protagonist, a wide-eyed little girl, is getting a kiss from Life, like we do from our canine companions.  She is putting on her coat, getting ready for an adventure.  The text reads:

Meet Life! Fun, messy, and MORE!

Cori Doerrfeld rendered these lively, colorful illustrations

in digital paint.

On the opening endpapers across a cloud-studded pale blue sky a red-and-white striped parachute is carrying the box labeled LIFE to its destination.  Two curious eyes peer from the inside of the box.  On the closing endpapers words of invitation are placed in a similar sky as multiple boxes drift in the air over a group of curious and excited children.  Life is busy at work, paper and pencil in hand, with the initial girl.

Each space is utilized by Cori Doerrfeld in her visual narrative.  On the verso page, the parachute releases the box upon the child's doorstep.  We see her kneeling on a chair at a table, making a list, on the title page.

Each image elevates the words of the story.  White space is used with excellence drawing our attention to the child and a specific moment.  These visuals are in various sizes dependent upon the desired emphasis.  For a single word of text and one loud sound effect we are gifted with a double-page picture.  When the story mentions you never know what

Life's gonna throw at you,

Life is shown throwing a Safari hat, paddle and life jacket to the girl.  This leads beautifully into the next scene of a wild raft trip and the upbeat wording.  Readers will delight in all the expressive facial features.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a response to the phrase---

When Life gives you lemons---

The girl has opened a box given to her by Life.  She's grinning at what she finds inside but Life is larger than life in this scene.  Life is giving, a nod in disguise, to a famous comedian.  This is one of those times when an illustrator tucks something in a book which speaks directly to older readers but also opens the door to a discussion.  I love this!


You could not ask for a more important book which addresses the issue of all the ups and downs life hands to all ages day after day.  In That's Life written by Ame Dyckman with illustrations by Cori Doerrfeld challenges are presented and they are countered with marvelous solutions being offered.  I highly recommend this book for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Ame Dyckman and Cori Doerrfeld and their other work, please access their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Ame Dyckman posts all kinds of goodness on Twitter daily.  Cori Doerrfeld has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can join in the That's Life fun by participating in quiz.  Perhaps you will be amazed at the results.  Ame Dyckman and Cori Doerrfeld chat with writer and illustrator Jena Benton at her site.  Maria Marshall interviews Cori Doerrfeld on her site, July 2019.

Get to Know THAT'S LIFE! from LB School on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Guardians Of Life

For some it starts at an early age.  We are taught by our parents, grandparents or adult mentors, to nurture and care for Earth in her entirety.  For me it was my father.  We spent early morning and evening hours in summer on the lakes and rivers fishing.  He taught me to watch the weather, the time of day and how fish might think.  We walked for miles in the woods in autumn during bow hunting season.  To and from our spot, he was always whispering to me about the various trees and plants and how to look for signs left by all animals.  (On our hunting trips, an animal never lost its life in our presence.  There is a reason for this, but that's another story.)

When it came to water, my dad had rules.  You never put anything on or into the ground which might harm the water table or any animals who frequented that area. You used water sparingly, except for keeping a garden healthy or for drinking.  To this day, I'm the one homeowner digging out hundreds of certain unwanted weeds from my gardens and lawn rather than applying harmful chemicals.

Having lived near many different small lakes and rivers or one of the Great Lakes in Michigan for more than sixty-eight years, I have witnessed their splendor and their challenges due to the careless hands of humans.  We Are Water Protectors (Roaring Brook Press, March 17, 2020) written by Carole Lindstrom (Anishinaabe/Metis and tribally enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe) with illustrations by Michaela Goade (of Tlingit descent and tribally enrolled with the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska) is powerful in both words and artwork.  It speaks to the fierce dedication of Indigenous Peoples to guard our water and invites everyone to stand strong against those who wish to do it harm.

Water is the first medicine, Nokomis told me.

We come from water.

A grandmother chats with her granddaughter explaining how water sustains all life and how water connects us all.  Water is to be cherished.  Its sounds and movements are our sounds and movements.

It is foretold there is a deadly danger coming.  It is described as a black snake.  This black snake will bring destruction to Mother Earth, water and all the flora and fauna.  Unfortunately, the black snake has arrived, poisoning all it touches, poisoning the water.

This granddaughter listening to her elders, places their words in her heart.  There, those words fuel her actions.  She will protect her people.  She will protect their water.  She will lead them in fighting the black snake to preserve Mother Earth.

This young warrior knows this is difficult, but who else is to defend those who cannot defend themselves. Our planet and every living thing upon it, needs us to step forward as its caretakers.  Nokomis taught her granddaughter that water has a spirit, a spirit with memories of individuals' spirits.  For this reason, this daughter of Mother Earth and other Indigenous Peoples are strong in their resolve, battling as one against the black snake.  Join them.


With her meticulously chosen words, Carole Lindstrom, builds on generational traditions with respect to the vital role water plays in all aspects of life.  It is by listening to elders a continuous connection is created.  Each sentence contributes to the energy building within this narrative.

Woven into this story is the repetition of a poetic chorus, like a heartbeat, supplying strength and inspiration to readers.  This pulse ties the other portions together as if we are running in a race with the number of participants swelling until they stop and remain firm like a wall of resistance against a common foe.  Here is a passage.

The river's rhythm runs through my veins.
Runs through my people's veins.


Looking left to right across the matching and open dust jacket and book case, readers find themselves marveling at the beauty of the scene before them.  On the left, toward the upper, left-hand corner wide ripples of water waves in several hues of teal. These move over the spine to the right, in front and behind the granddaughter.  She stands tall, confident in the midst of the water, a beacon for her people.

As you can see, above the water is the royal blue landscape.  It is topped by people clasping hands, a line of defense.  These people extend over the spine to the left edge.  This entire setting is placed beneath a star-studded sky.  Some of the waves of water, as well as the granddaughter, are varnished.

The opening and closing endpapers are a pale yellow.  On the initial title page, the text is placed in a wash of blue.  On the verso and title pages waves span from left to right, providing a canvas for the words.

The illustrations by Michaela Goade, according to an interview were rendered in watercolor with

some colored pencil and gouache detailing with some digital edits in photoshop at the end.

These mostly double-page images are sweeping in the portrayals of water, the land, animals, trees and flowers and the people.  At times other details are super-imposed on the central illustration generating an effect of layers.  One page flows into the next page, like water.  The pages holding the repetitive chorus show an increase of people each time, representing a gathering force.

Each picture asks readers to pause and ponder the reality and the symbolism depicted.  To accentuate the words, Michaela Goade gives us varying points of view.  We are brought close to a hummingbird sipping nectar among flowers as other insects and a snail go about their day.  The colors are brilliantly natural.  We gaze in wonder at a landscape of rolling hills, a wide river (or lake) bordered by dense forests and a small cabin near the water.  A family of bear wander on one shore as a deer drinks from the water on the other shore.  Two birds watch from a distance as the sun lowers in the sky.  The colors are rich shades of golden yellow, pink, purple and blue.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  The canvas is a pale, nearly white, blue.  In the center stands the granddaughter.  She is looking forward, at the reader.  The tresses of her hair become swirls of water flowing out to the edges and bottom of the page.  On top of the water are stunning pink and peach water lilies, lily pads and fish.  Her hands, palms up, are cupped.  This is the picture for the passage quoted previously.


This book, We Are Water Protectors written by Carole Lindstrom with art by Michaela Goade, pays homage to water, the Indigenous Peoples who protect it and invites others to participate.  At the close of the book in a portion titled More On Water Protectors, the author talks about tribal traditions, prophecies and paths.  Her motivation for writing this book were the events surrounding the Standing Rock protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Here is an excerpt.

This is not just a Native American issue; this is a humanitarian issue.  It is time that we all become stewards of our planet so we can protect it for our children and our children's children.

A title is supplied for additional reading as well as a glossary of six terms.  The Illustrator's Note is very informative.  Here is an excerpt.

Standing Rock is just one powerful example of what happens when we rise up, resist, and join together in solidarity for Mother Earth regardless of where we come from.  

The final page, Earth Steward And Water Protector Pledge, has a place for a name and a date.  With certainty I can recommend this book for every personal and professional collection.  Its value is priceless.

To learn more about Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Carole Lindstrom has accounts on Facebook and Twitter.  Michaela Goade has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images. This book and its creators are featured at Publishers Weekly, and CBC-Radio-CanadaCarole Lindstrom is highlighted at KidLit 411 and Prairie Public NewsMichaela Goade is showcased at Let's Talk Picture BooksCarole Lindstrom reads their book in this video.




Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A Raptor Reality

Deep in the darkening shadows of night, a sound echoes from the trees.  Along an empty roadway, the heavy flapping of wings stirs the air around bare branches.  You hear them more than see these mostly nocturnal predators.  It's a gift to observe one in the wild.

Known as mighty hunters, they silently and swiftly strike.  Their combined physical characteristics create a deadly force.  Whoo-Ku Haiku: A Great Horned Owl Story (G. P. Putnam's Sons, March 3, 2020) written by Maria Gianferrari with illustrations by Jonathan Voss is an informative, captivating exploration of the life cycle of these majestic birds.

A great horned owl pair
Finds a squirrel's nest of oak leaves
Perched high in a pine.

This haiku poem is the first of twenty-four beautifully worded insights.  Each observation adds to our growing knowledge of great horned owls.  It's as if we are present, watching this duo day by day through the seasons.

The newly discovered nest is re-fashioned while snow still coats the ground.  The owl pair are not without enemies; crows are a constant distraction.  The male hunts while the female tends the eggs, three pale orbs.

Even the most vigilant parents can loose an egg, a feast for a nearby woodland creature.  After the remaining two eggs hatch, mother and father feed, shield and guard them.  Watch out for that hawk!  Owlets venture from the nest, testing their feathers.  Flap wings, flap!  Flee from a waiting fox!  A mother dives.

Owlets rest, now safely back in their nest, eyes glowing in the night.  Parents protect.  Owlets learn to survive as months pass.  When autumn approaches, wings lift two to begin their lives away from the only home they've known.


With each haiku, writer Maria Gianferrari brings us deeper into the sensory experience of being a great horned owl.  Her masterful use of this literary form provides facts but also supplies us with a range of emotional moments.  We become one with these raptors through alliteration, onomatopoeia and poetry. Here are two more haiku.

Mama lays an egg
In the starlight it glistens
A moon of its own.

Pip. Pip. Pip. Poking.
A hole, cracking. Cracking. Crack!
Pink owlet pecks out.


Upon opening the matching dust jacket and book case readers will have to remind themselves to breathe.  This stunning portrait of the great horned owl parents and two owlets presents them for the nobility they are.  This nocturnal setting shows them at their realistic best.  The exquisite details throughout the book begin with this initial image.  The use of light and shadow is excellent.

The trunk of the tree crosses the spine to show the male in flight, wings spread upward.  Its eyes are searching, glowing as it gazes.  This bird is poised for action.  The tip of the left wing bleeds off the top, indicating motion.

A dark forest green covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page the male and female have located an empty squirrel nest.  The one perches on a branch above the nest, as the other, wings up, prepares to land in the nest. On the final page, tree branches frame the text as a great horned owl, mouth open, flies between the dedication and publication information.

Rendered

using sepia ink and watercolor on Arches 300# hot press watercolor paper with color added digitally

by artist Jonathan Voss these illustrations elevate the words.  The depiction of the settings, seasons and time of day involves you completely as readers.  All the pictures are double-page visuals.  Sometimes the text is tucked into an image.  Other times a column is supplied on either the right or the left for the narrative.  Jonathan Voss has painted a smaller separate illustration to be placed on these columns at the bottom.  They expand the story vividly.

To place emphasis on pacing Jonathan Voss alters the point of view.  When the crows initially attack, it is at night.  We see them swooping against a somewhat cloudy sky with the full moon peeking through as the female owl, closer to us, defends the nest.  When the fox tries to consume the owlet and the mother plunges to the rescue, we are right in the action.  You can hear all the loud sounds amid the fury of wings and snapping teeth.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when the first owlet cracks through the egg.  We are very close to this wonder of new life.  The nest is shown along the bottom of the page.  The mother owl's body extends from left to right.  On the left her head is shifted to look at the newly emerged owl baby.  Her wing acts as a sheltering roof over the small bird.  The use of color and shading is radiant.


This book, Whoo-Ku Haiku: A Great Horned Owl Story written by Maria Gianferrari with illustrations by Jonathan Voss, is a remarkable nonfiction depiction.  Two pages at the end are devoted to twelve more fascinating facts and a list of resources divided into books, websites and videos.  I can't imagine a personal or professional collection without a copy of this book.

To learn more about Maria Gianferrari and Jonathan Voss and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Maria Gianferrari has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  Jonathan Voss has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view the title page.  This title is highlighted with interviews at Mrs. Knott's Book Nook, Jennifer Mary G, Wild Delight and Miss Marple's Musings.


WHOO's Maria Gianferrari?  She's a self-proclaimed bird nerd with a special fondness for raptors.  Her love affair with birds began in 7th grade science class when her teacher, Mr. Lefebvre, initiated a bird count.  While walking in her neighborhood, Maria's always on the look-out for all kinds of birds, and she loves searching winter treetops for nests in her northern Virginia neighborhood where she lives with her German-scientist husband and German speaking daughter.  This is her first book with GP Putnam's Sons.  She's also the author of another bird book, Hawk Rising






Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the other titles selected this week by participants in the 2020 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Sleep Tight Garden Residents

Several weeks ago, marked the arrival of two boxes of materials to construct raised-garden beds.  Yesterday an order for twenty bags of soil was sent.  Packets of seeds are waiting for the right combination of warmth and water for planting.  Centuries of practice dictate it will soon be time for personal, community and large-scale gardeners, farmers, to begin their work.

Gardening is a partnership between humans and Mother Nature involving hard work and respect.  Goodnight, Veggies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 10, 2020) written by Diane Murray with illustrations by Zachariah OHora is a lovely, loving lullaby to edibles and their efforts.  From beginning to end, readers will feel their appreciation for produce expanding as each word and image fashions a comforting, cheerful harmony.

Sunset in the garden.

Robins watch from a nest as a sole gardener tends to a community garden.  One by one the individual vegetables are visited and observed as evening descends.  Below the dirt turnips and potatoes get ready to rest.

Tomatoes, eyes closing in fatigue, quietly murmur a melody.  Cocooned in leaves, cauliflowers snuggle as nearby neighbors sag with weariness.  Storytime begins in the rhubarb patch as broccoli and baby plants listen.

Teeny, tiny eggplants, new to the world, dream dreams of travel.  Where will they go?  Other scrumptious roots relax.  Cabbage, celery and corn are eager to doze.  (Some need to sleep more than others.)

As moonlight shimmers and stars sparkle, the vegetables cozy in their beds slumber.  If we happen to tiptoe past, we will see why this pause has purpose.  Can you surmise?


This lilting bedtime poem written by Diana Murray is certain to soothe readers of all ages.  The use of descriptive alliteration and rhyming words at phrase endings is certain to have you humming if not singing a song softly aloud.  The array of vegetables will have you reaching for the nearest seed catalog as soon as possible.  Here is a passage.

Turnips tucked in tightly.
Potatoes closing eyes.

Tuckered-out tomatoes
humming lullabies.


When you open the dust jacket the cross-section of vegetables in repose spreads over the spine to the back edge.  Another sleeping turnip and dozing carrot are featured on the back.  The smiling, dapper worm wearing a cap and single shoe on the front is a showcased extra in the garden throughout the book.  The color palette is eye-catching and engaging.

On a white canvas a variety of veggies are highlighted on the book case.  From the back to the front thirteen are shown, smiling.  Each one is labeled.  On the front the worm stands in the lower, right-hand corner.  By him words read:

What will
you grow in 
YOUR
garden?

A bright, cross-hatched design in turquoise covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page in a charming display, the worm is reclining on a striped sun lounger underneath a trio of poles entwined in vines of peas.  Each image is rendered

with 100% vegetarian printmaking and acrylic paint.

Each double-page picture is an illustrative, interpretive joy.  Illustrator Zachariah OHora presents shifting perspectives, as well as, combining different points of view in a single visual.  In the first scene we see an adult and child sitting on steps on the street below as the sun sets.  As our eyes move to the right, solar panels on a roof capture heat as a woman waters plants in the rooftop garden.  Alongside the building is a large tree, home to a robin's nest.  In the next image we zoom closer to the tree, as our worm adventurer and guide hops from the tree to the garden.  We continually move closer and closer to the vegetables.

The vegetables are happily winding down a day of growing with smiles and drowsy eyes.  Rocks and roots are shown underground as a tiny yellow butterfly flutters above them.  Bees are busy as tiny blossoms bloom.  The final illustration of the worm in his home is priceless.  The matte-finished paper is perfect for these pictures by providing and increasing texture.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is of the cauliflowers and peas.  The bottom half of the picture is a look at the ground below the surface.  The pathway of the worm cuts through the dirt across and up as he pops out for a look at the peas on the right.  Roots of the cauliflowers on the left and peas on the right stretch down.  A larger cauliflower embraces a smaller one with a curled leaf.  Two bees fly from the cauliflowers.  The peas in their pods hang down from a tripod made of sturdy sticks.


In spreading a sense of calm to readers Goodnight, Veggies written by Diana Murray with illustrations by Zachariah OHora, we also take a delicious, delightful journey through a garden.  This book is an excellent addition to the bedtime collection of books and is certain to inspire gardening.  I highly recommend it for your personal and professional collections. 

You might want to include this title with Bedtime for Sweet Creatures, Just Because, Sleep Train, Good Day, Good Night, The Perfect Siesta, All ears, all eyes, It Is Not Time For Sleeping: (A Bedtime Story), The Moon's Almost Here, Goodnight Everyone, or Cricket Song. You might like to use books contained in Sweet Dreams Picture Book August 10 for 10.  Hoping you will all maintain a sense of peace.

To learn more about Diana Murray and Zachariah OHora, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Diana Murray has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.  Zachariah OHora has accounts on Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Finding Solace In Nature

In times of great adversity, the people on this planet tend to seek calm in our natural world.  During the current crisis of a pandemic around the world, the arrival of spring in the northern hemisphere is a welcome declaration of hope.  Despite what is happening in the human world, nature stays the course.  The sighting of a first robin, a sliver of a rainbow or the tips of tulip leaves poking through the dirt send our spirits soaring.

Like spring itself, bursting forth with new life, many March releases in children's literature embrace the wonders of our outdoor environment.  Nesting (Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, March 3, 2020 written and illustrated by Henry Cole focuses on the annual ritual of robins becoming a pair, building a nest and how the hatched eggs grow and prosper to become part of the flock.  A marvelous color palette will fully fascinate readers.

It is an early spring morning.
The ground is covered with frost.
From the branch of an apple tree, 
a robin starts to sing.

He sings a warning to other males and sings an invitation to a nearby female.  Together the new duo finds materials to fashion a nest in a discovered nook.  Completed it provides a place with purpose for the female.

She lays one, two, three, four eggs.  They are a brilliant blue against the nest.  Calmly she cares for those eggs, as the baby birds grow inside.  When they finally hatch, they rely completely on their parents.  They need to be fed and fed and fed some more.  Their parents are busy flying to and from the nest.

This nest shelters the tiny birds from a brief storm.  It harbors them when a sneaky snake wants them for food.  Like fierce warriors the male and female robins chase the intruder away.

Soon feathers form on the babies and they grow, crowding each other out of the nest.  As fledglings they learn to fly and find their own food.  When spring turns to summer and summer turns to autumn the robins prepare for winter and their long flight south.  Even as the snow falls, we know they will return in the spring to chase away males and call for a female to begin the cycle once more.


The beauty of these birds is presented in the simplicity of the language used by Henry Cole.  Each moment in this life cycle is described in careful detail to replicate the scene for readers.  Henry Cole also establishes a rhythm in the use of his words similar to the rhythm of robins in each season. We are very much a part of their lives.  Here is a passage.

The nest is finished.
It is perfect.
It is just the right size and shape.
The mother robin settles into it and sits quietly.


The most striking, visually arresting, aspect of the matching and open dust jacket and book case is between the three robin's eggs and the nest.  If you've ever seen robin's eggs in the wild, Henry Cole has depicted this in stunning reality.  The title text on the jacket is done in copper foil.

To the left, on the back, on a cream background, three baby robins, now with feathers, are struggling to find a spot in the nest.  They have outgrown their home.  On the opening and closing endpapers is a canvas of brilliant robin's egg blue.

The title page is a vast display of the bare branches of a single tree reaching out from left to right on a double-page picture.  The male robin is flying toward it from the lower, right-hand corner.  All the images by Henry Cole are rendered in

Micron pens and acrylic paints.  

For the most part they appear in black and white.  The illustration sizes range from double-page pictures to single-page visuals framed in fine lines, to groupings of smaller images on a single page, a series of vertical panels on two pages or clusters of rectangles on two pages and full-page pictures, edge to edge.  For the slightest bit of shading, the robin's egg blue is sometimes used as spot color.  The most impressive use of this blue is in the eggs.  The delicate lines used by this artist and his details are nearly photographic.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans nearly two pages.  It's as if we are looking from the bottom of a tree up to the bird's nest in the nook where is rests.  Leaves swirl in the wind as lightning cuts a jagged edge through the sky.  The nest is firmly in place with the female robin faithfully sitting on the babies to protect them.  This is in black and white.  A column is created on the left by the expanse of the image from left to right crossing the gutter.


As an introduction to spring as a season of rebirth, a study of birds or robins in particular, Nesting written and illustrated by Henry Cole is excellent.  One page at the end is devoted to five more facts about robins in an Author's Note.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Henry Cole and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Henry Cole has an account on Facebook.


There is no doubt about the value of bees as essential elements in world ecology.  Due to their drastic reduction in population, more people have entered the field as keepers of bees.  Kaia and the Bees (Candlewick Press, March 10, 2020) written by Maribeth Boelts with illustrations by Angela Dominguez explores life with a young girl whose father is a beekeeper.

I'm the brave type.
Like hottest-hot-pepper brave.
And furry-spider-in-the-basement brave.

Despite her bold claims, Kaia was not brave around bees.  Being stung once was enough to instill fear in her.  And to make matters worse, her dad, a beekeeper, had thousands of bees in hives on the roof of their building.

Her father, knowledgeable about bees, explained to her their value but she never went with him to the hives.  Did she tell her friends about her fear?  She did not.  They thought she was an expert like her dad until one day her dread was revealed.

Her friends' reaction to her fear made Kaia mad and determined to face her foe.  She donned protective gear and followed her dad, also in a suit, hood and gloves, to the roof.  As her father explained the bees and hives to Kaia her bravery increased.  Then she made the mistake of removing her glove.  Kaia was stung again!  She did not go back to the roof.

Soon it was time to get the honey from the hives.  Kaia, her mother and father worked all day in their kitchen, filling jars with honey.  A quiet conversation with her father, another insect incident and final understanding completes this story of bees and courage, and a parent and their child.


Written with the experience of being a keeper of bees, Maribeth Boelts uses a blend of first person narrative and dialogue to convey Kaia's story.  Each of the characters are realistic in their demeanor so as to connect with readers.  Maribeth Boelts' ability to weave information into the story of Kaia and her fear of bees is outstanding.  Here is a passage.

The honey flows, and I want to draw a picture.
But no crayon is that golden, and you can't draw the smell
of warm, sweet honey filling our apartment.


Kaia's face, deftly portrayed, front and center on the right of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, asks a question of readers.  We want to know why Kaia appears to fear the bees.  We want to know why Kaia is near bees.  The use of purple and golden yellow, complementary colors, is a pleasing design choice.

To the left, on the back, on a purple canvas, Kaia is standing to the left of her father as he lifts a frame of bees from the hive.  Both are wearing beekeeping apparel.  In the upper, left-hand corner is a large portion of honeycomb with two bees working on it.

The opening and closing endpapers are an enlarged honeycomb in rich golden-yellow shades with three bees hard at work.  These three are placed in the corners.  One is coming in from the bottom of the page.

These illustrations by Angela Dominguez rendered with

colored pencil on illustration board, with color added digitally

are as bright and bold as Kaia.  The full-color images on a crisp white background invite readers into the story.  A variety of perspectives and image sizes supplies readers with a captivating and pleasing visual glimpse into facing a fear.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a full-page picture, edge to edge.  On a very pale blue background we are close to Kaia.  With her gloved hands on either side of her face she is facing forward, gazing at a bee drinking water.  You can see she is becoming more relaxed around the bees.  She is excited to see the bee in its own setting.


Kaia and the Bees written by Maribeth Boelts with illustrations by Angela Dominguez is a book to be enjoyed for numerous reasons.  It's a story of bravery.  It's a story of beekeeping.  It's a story of how to care for those who can't care for themselves.  I highly recommend this book for both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Maribeth Boelts and Angela Dominguez and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Maribeth Boelts has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Angela Dominguez has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website and Penguin Random House you can view interior images.  At the publisher's website is an Author's Note you can download and print.  Maribeth Boelts is the guest blogger for March 2020 at The TeachingBooks Blog.  Illustrator Angela Dominguez talks to us about this book in a video.



As children, if we are fortunate, there will be someone young or old who will ignite a spark within us for the natural world.  They will teach us to notice and value every aspect of the landscape around us.  We will learn everything large and small, seen and unseen, has a place.  The Keeper of Wild Words (Chronicle Books, March 10, 2020) written by Brooke Smith with illustrations by Madeline Kloepper presents an affectionate relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter.  This relationship blooms into an appreciation for and preservation of words and what they represent.

At the end of a long cinder lane,
surrounded by meadows
and pine trees and sky
that wrapped around and back again,

Brook ran up to her grandmother's door,
swung it open,
and she belonged.

On this day she had a request for her grandmother.  Brook needed something for the first day of school, something special for show-and-tell.    Her grandmother had a request of her, too.  Her grandmother, Mimi, was an author.  Mimi had a list of words, words that were disappearing because they were not being used.  She asked Brook to protect these words by being The Keeper of Wild Words.

Mimi showed the list of words to Brook asking her to take a walk, from light until dark to discover the words.  As soon as they began, the first word, WREN, uttered a melody to capture their attention.  Flowers sprang from the ground, fruit grew on prickly vines and seeds from large trees were at her feet.

At a nearby pond tiny MINNOWS and a BEAVER swam.  Herbs around the pond offered a sharp, savory treat as a water bird took flight.  Bright-patterned insects and a bounty of wildflowers fluttered and blanketed her path.

A rare sight of STARLINGS flew in unison where Mimi and Brook rested.  From the meadow into the forest, they walked.  Quietly they moved to cherish the flora and fauna, not disturbing either.  A final sighting, a final word, not only brought the day full circle but gave Brook a loving look at the origin of her name.  That evening a grandmother and her granddaughter paused, remembered and celebrated wild words.


Like the world seen in this book, the words written by Brooke Smith are connected in a constant and enchanting chain.  Each one serves as a priceless piece in a larger whole.  Each time a word is disclosed, the scene is described with poetic joy.  There is a blend of narrative and dialogue making the shared day and evening personal, intimate.  Here is a passage.

POPPIES in the corner of the yard
suddenly popped open!
Paper petals reaching to the sun.


When you open the dust jacket the foreground of the flowers, close to the reader, extends over the spine to the far-left flap (and on the right).  The area on the other side of the path where Brook and Mimi walk also extends over the spine to the flap edges.  Portions of the dandelion floating in the air on the right, float on the left, too.  A tiny butterfly glides on the far left.  By the body language and facial expressions on Brook and Mimi we are aware of their close relationship.  The title text is varnished.

On the book case is a pattern of flowers, ferns, leaves, birds, feathers, animal prints, seeds, and a nest.  They are tiny.  They look as if they have been gathered by a naturalist for safekeeping.

On the opening endpapers Brook, wearing her bicycle helmet, rides past a group of flowers, ferns and shrubs to her grandmother's house.  The verso and title pages are a continuation of this floral design.  A wren is placed on the left.  On the right, the text is written on a piece of notebook paper tucked into the grass.

Each illustration created by Madeline Kloepper using

mixed media and Photoshop

spans two pages, except for two single-page pictures.  At times we are shown a larger, nearly panoramic view and then brought close to the characters in a natural setting for emphasis.  The colors and lines are soft.  The details are delicate.  Even inside Mimi's home we are a part of nature.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when the twosome is first beginning their walk.  On the left, Mimi and Brook have stopped among bunches of violets.  In a closer perspective dozens and dozens of red poppies nod from the right across the gutter to the left.  In the center of this setting a full sun, rays extended, shines.


Not only is The Keeper of Wild Words written by Brooke Smith with illustrations by Madeline Kloepper a tribute to words and our natural world, it is a daily adventure between two like souls.  At the close of the book is a two-page Author's Note.  This is followed by an envelope adhered to the binding in which to store your own wild words.  The closing endpapers feature a notebook paper on the left and items of nature on the right.  This book is a wonderful choice for your personal and professional collections.  It inspires us to write down and seek our own wild words.

To learn more about Madeline Kloepper, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Madeline Kloepper has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  At this link you can listen to a portion of the audiobook on SoundCloud.  Courtesy of this video by Let's Talk Picture Books you can view the book case.



The Keeper of Wild Words by Brooke Smith and Madeline Kloepper from Let's Talk Picture Books on Vimeo.


With millions and millions of people around the world currently confined to their homes under a quarantine or because of isolation, the appeal of the outdoor world and being a part of it has more allure than ever.  Why is it we don't fully appreciate the value of something until it's no longer readily available?  During this time some will be able to go solo in parks or designated walkways or neighborhoods, some will dream of days when nature will envelope them again, others will recall countless adventures in the outdoors, and many can travel within the pages of a book.  HIKE (Candlewick Press, March 17, 2020) conceived and illustrated by Pete Oswald is a nearly wordless trek into the best nature has to offer.

We start as the sun starts to rise on a neighborhood in the suburbs.  A dad, still clad in his pajamas and holding a cup of coffee, gently wakes his child up.  Slow to wake, the child suddenly jumps from bed remembering what this day will bring.  The child and their father, dress and pack, and drive from their home, through the city and into the country.

The road takes them higher and higher until they reach a trail head.  Putting on their backpacks, they head up the path into the forest and into the mountains.  They observe birds and wildlife as they are observed in kind.  Pictures are taken, sketches are made and each turn on the trail reveals new fun like a thrown snowball and challenges like crossing a log over a swift river.

After resting and snacking, they continue to climb.  Now wearing helmets, they scale rocks to top a ledge with a spectacular view.  Later, on more level ground, readers will be intrigued to see them pause.  An item is removed from the child's backpack.  A picture as proof is taken.

As shadows lengthen and the sun starts to dip from the sky, the duo reaches their car.  A celebration of their accomplishments is enjoyed before the drive home begins.  The car moves down the mountain, into the city, the suburbs and into their driveway.  Nighttime rituals fill this home with warmth as one final deed of the day chronicles their HIKE.


Pete Oswald has conceived a story of companionship and exploration with memorable achievements in a single day.  He offers, through this book, a means for others to partake in comparable activities.  He shows us how to treat each other and our world with respect and love.


On the matching and open dust jacket and book case, readers gaze in complete admiration at the design of the title with the father and child climbing up the letters.  Small moments in their day are depicted in each letter.  By placing these elements on white our focus is directed at the characters and the title.

To the left, on the back, is a majestic forested mountain scene.  Bald eagles float in a sky wispy with clouds.  The text here reads:

A father and child head out on a hike,
keeping a cherished family tradition alive.

On the opening and closing endpapers in shades of brown is a map of the trip from their home to a star shown in the mountains.  From the opening endpapers a page turn shows the parent and child, dressed and carrying their backpacks, standing side by side with their walking sticks in hand.  The title page, a two-page picture is a bird's eye view of their home with the cityscape and mountains in the background as the sun rises.

Pete Oswald rendered these pictures digitally with the few words, sounds, lettered by hand.  Images are single page, double page, and groups of smaller illustrations to indicate the passage of moments.  Sometimes with a minimum of details a great deal of emotion is conveyed as when we are only shown one hand reaching for another hand after a frightening deed.  Like real life, these glimpses are powerful and meaningful.  We are aware continually of the mood of the child and father through their expressive faces.  In each scene Pete Oswald has captured the rich and rare experience of being a part of nature.  His images are sensory in every aspect.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  It is a bird's eye perspective of the father and child walking on the path in the forest.  Tall trees and grass stretch from either side of the path.  Flowers, like stars, are sprinkled throughout the setting.  In the upper left-hand portion of the visual a fox slowly moves.  On the other side of the path, on the left, a female bird perches on a nest with three eggs high in a treetop.  On the right, near the gutter, the male bird brings another twig to the nest.  The duo walks toward the upper, right-hand corner of the page.  You know they walk in silence except for the sounds of the forest.


This book, HIKE conceived and illustrated by Pete Oswald, is a glorious day spent with nature.  To hike in the woods in the mountains is a unique undertaking but to do so with someone you love, it's extraordinary.  This is cleverly and creatively presented by Pete Oswald.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Pete Oswald and his other work, access his website by following the link attached to his name.  Pete Oswald has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website and at Penguin Random House you can view interior images.  This title is featured at author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast and at Mel Schuit's Let's Talk Picture Books.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Words Of Wisdom. Words For Freedom.

There are words given to us by parents, mentors and friends which serve as touchstones.  They are like mantras in our minds springing forth to reinforce or direct a decision.  Those in existence the longest do not impact us alone but have spread beyond the borders of our daily lives encompassing the world at large.

Many of these wise phrases are linked to a single man, a man believed to have lived 2,500 years ago.  The Fabled Life of Aesop (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 10, 2020) written by Ian Lendler with illustrations by Pamela Zagarenski presents in the best and most beautiful style the life of Aesop and his fables.  For those who have believed these short tales are jewels, this book is the treasure chest holding them for us to savor freely.

One day, a slave was born.

His parents named him Aesop.  Aesop was not allowed to live with his parents.  He was forced to work in a vineyard on an island.  Aesop, as did the other slaves, quickly learned to speak in a special language; one not offensive to their masters.  They did so to remain alive.

Aesop had a mind capable of conjuring the ideal solution to a problem.  One day solving the dilemma of low well water levels had his fellow slaves cheering.  When asked a question by the observant master, a frightened but resolute Aesop told the story of The Lion and The Mouse.  His master, Xanthus, so loved the story, he moved Aesop to his home to manage his business.

Soon Aesop was sold to another master after he ended a dispute between Xanthus and that man.  During his tenure with Jadon, Aesop's stories settled and smoothed difficulty after difficulty.  His tales, fables, used animals nearly exclusively and contained other lessons for listeners, slaves like himself.  This increased their longevity and value.

The stories contained in this volume, The Tortoise and the Hare, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, The North Wind and the Sun, The Fox and the Grapes, The Donkey and the Lapdog, The Goose and the Golden Egg, The Fox and the Crow, The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, The Ant and the Grasshopper, and The Lion and the Statue, are a marvelous bridge between two parts of Aesop's life.  After the last story, Jadon, so pleased with the work of Aesop, offered him an unusual compensation.  As was his practice Aesop, being careful what he said, told a story.  This story, a lifetime of stories, made Aesop's deepest desire a reality.  And this reality was like the proverbial pebble dropped in a pond.  The rings are still spreading today.


As each page is turned and words written by Ian Lendler are read, you feel something, a spark glowing and growing to a flame.  Each sentence is measured, building on the struggle of Aesop's life and how he chose to respond to that struggle.  Each description of incidents and the resulting fables indicate the gift Aesop was to himself, his masters and to the other slaves.  His final reward is a reward, passed first by word of mouth and second in the written word, for all of us.  Here is a passage from the narrative of his life.

The two masters agreed that Aesop's advice was very wise.
They settled their argument peacefully.
Jadon was so impressed that he asked to buy Aesop.  You
see, no matter how clever or kind Aesop was, he was still just
a slave and slaves were something to be bought and sold.
Xanthus agreed, and once again Aesop was taken away. 


When opening the rich, golden tapestry of elements in the image fashioned by Pamela Zagarenski on the dust jacket, readers will find themselves gasping aloud at the eloquent artistry spread before them.  The elegant scrollwork, the exquisite lines, the endearing animals, the Greek architecture and design all blend to form true splendor.  Placing Aesop with a fox and bird in the large lighter circle draws our attention to him but also to each item near him as well.  By placing animals from the fables within this initial look at the book, Pamela Zagarenski issues a warm welcome for us to learn about Aesop and to read his fables.

On the book case a much simpler and lighter (in color) scene is shown. It reflects the buildings, sea, weather and flora of the area in which Aesop lived.  Several animals along with Aesop are showcased.  One of his quotes is written along the bottom on the right side.

A deep golden color covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the initial title page, a clothed fox stands on a Grecian urn to reach a cluster of grapes set among delicate flora and fauna.  On the formal title page, on the left, Aesop sits on our planet with a lion, a fox, and a mouse.  The sun and moon lift as balloons on nearly invisible strings.  A crow is placed in the corner on the right of this left side.  On the right a rabbit leaps from some of the text.

Each turn of a page reveals images which will leave you stunned at their brilliance.  A circle holds Aesop as an infant with his parents' bodies wound around him. A weeping lion hangs from a net as the tiny mouse chews the fibers.  The depictions of the fables will have you pausing to relish every single item.  Pamela Zagarenski's illustrative interpretations are fantastic. 

The fine features on the people, their clothing and the settings in which they are placed are indicative of the time period in which Aesop lived. All the illustrations in a variety of shapes and sizes are breathtaking but the double-page pictures near the end are heart-stopping.  You simply can't help but look at them over and over.

One of my many, many favorite pictures is when Aesop's heart's desire is fulfilled.  On the matte-finished cream paper a bird is flying from left to right.  The bird fills most of the right side with the tips of tail feathers crossing the gutter.  The feathers on its right wing are spread as it is raised.  Aesop and a fox are seated on the bird's head.  Aesop is holding one of the pebbles.  The bird is holding an olive branch in its beak.  A pebble is held in the curve of one foot.  A portion of a large deep golden ball is shown in the lower, left-hand corner on the left side. Several other circular elements are meticulously placed.  Phrases and letters in diverse sizes flow from the body of the bird, swirling and looping across the left side of the image.  Letters curve from the bird's beak as if an extension of the olive branch.


This book, The Fabled Life of Aesop written by Ian Lendler with art by Pamela Zagarenski, is a magnificent ode to a man and his words.  A two-page Afterword provides further information.  There is a Bibliography also.  This book comes with my highest recommendation for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Ian Lendler and Pamela Zagarenski and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Ian Lendler has an account on Twitter.  Pamela Zagarenski has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  A wonderful interview, Ancient Wisdom for Trying Times. An Interview with the Duo Behind The Fabled Life of Aesop, of both Ian Lendler and Pamela Zagarenski is highlighted at Elizabeth Bird's A Fuse #8 ProductionI consider this a must read. 


To enjoy the titles selected this week by other participants in the 2020 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge, visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher.





Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Wondrous Water Wanderings

It begins in childhood during a summer rain, as neighborhood friends gather to release leaves with stick passengers to drift down the gutter of a small-town street.  Very early there are more adventures than can be remembered on a small aluminum boat named Rainmaker with Dad.  There are hard-to-believe fishing tales and that one episode of running the boat up on the dock.  Later there are quiet glides down meandering Michigan rivers in a canoe small enough for a small young woman to carry.  There are Atlantic sailboat excursions with a life jacket being thrown to you as a squall hits or a softball-sized lump forming on your cheek after a sidestay keeps you from falling overboard on a rocky ocean.  Finally, there is the 1957 Chris Craft Sportsman with its throaty engines and the twenty-six-foot pontoon boat for idling away sunny summer afternoons.  When you live near water, boats for many are part of their years.

Regardless of the purpose they serve, there are boats for every type of person and their wants and needs.  Boats Will Float (Sleeping Bear Press, March 15, 2020) written by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum with illustrations by Brett Curzon is a rhyming day trip and tribute to these water vehicles.  Bright full-color artwork complements these boats in an array of settings.

Boats are bobbing in the bay,
Waiting to be on their way.

The tide is the guide as the morning begins.  Fisherman and special groups celebrating sport and tradition work and practice in a shared space.  Multiple boats surge toward the sea.

Recreational boaters speed along sandy shores.  Sails billow in the wind, riding the ups and downs of the waves.  Big boats thrive because of smaller boats' tasks.

Boats protect.  Boats haul freight.  Boats provide places for people to vacation or look for whales.  Boats help those who seek science.

In boats sailors cruise beneath the surface.  Up above sailors have their own language with alphabet signal flags.  To aid them (and all who float in their boats) are beacons of light on rocky shores.  As night descends and stars and a moon light the sky, we end as we started, a home on a boat with a family snuggled inside.

You find yourself humming or singing at least in your mind, if not aloud, when reading the words written by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum. Every two or four lines rhyme at the end creating a cadence similar to the movement of the boats.  Frequent use of alliteration elevates the beat.  The title text is woven into the narrative several times to supply continuity.  Here is a passage.

Coast guard, freighter, ships that cruise,
Offer front-row ocean views,
Leaving foamy, frothy trails,
Passing pods of spouting whales.


Spirited characters (and one happy-go-lucky canine) are featured on their cheery tug racing out to sea on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case.  Three other boats, a schooner, tug and freighter, are also shown.  This is one of many wonderful details about the illustrations in this book.  On any given page showcasing a particular boat, other boats are included.  Using the lifebuoys in place of the letter "o" is an excellent design choice.

To the left, on the back, a slate blue canvas provides a background for a small rectangular picture.  In this picture a group of sailors and a dog are sitting in a small boat. Three of the four people are holding signal flags spelling out one of the words in the title.

The opening and closing endpapers in pale turquoise have rows of waves in white as a pattern.  This pattern of waves is broken by silhouettes of sails.  On the title page a fire boat is shown beneath the title text.

Rendered by Brett Curzon these illustrations, with marvelous elements, all spanning two pages, are a gallery of boats placed in an range of circumstances with a variety of people, young and old, alike.  They are realistic portraits of life with people at work and play.  All the people are enjoying their time on all these boats as evidenced by their expressions and body postures.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is at night.  A star-studded sky with a crescent moon spans the top half of the image.  On the left a white area, cloudlike in shape and size, establishes a space for text.  To the left of this and a bit lower is a lighthouse on a rocky cliff shining its light.  On the lower half is the sea awash in hues of blues.  Only swirls disturb the water.  On the left a numbered red buoy, lighted, guides boats.  A single sailboat glides under the stars and moon on the right.  An adult and child (father and son) are sailing.  The child holds a lantern.  This is a peaceful scene.  You can almost hear the swish of the water as the boat cuts through the surface.


For an introduction to boats, how they are used and enjoyed, Boats Will Float written by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum with illustrations by Brett Curzon is a stellar selection for the information, melody of the words and the joy in the visuals.  At the close of the book two pages are dedicated to giving readers more facts on sixteen types of boats along with smaller pictures of each.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum and Brett Curzon, please follow the links attached to their names to access relevant websites.  Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Brett Curzon has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view multiple interior images.  Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum and Brett Curzon are both highlighted at Kathy Temean's Writing and Illustrating website.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Duck. Duck. Listen.

It's not until you become an adult, or a parent yourself, that you realize all those sayings heard from your mom and dad are true and downright handy.  As children their repetition is enough to drive you bonkers.  You're sure "Many hands make light work" are words meant to enlist your help when you'd rather be doing something else.  You're positive "When in doubt, don't" is a phrase designed to take all the fun out of your life.

Fortunately, at any age, those words and phrases, unbidden, pop into your mind exactly when they are needed.  Follow Me, Flo! (Candlewick Press, March 10, 2020) written and illustrated by Jarvis brings readers into a ducky daughter and daddy relationship.  The cheerful words and illustrations depict a constant conflict between children and their parents with understanding.


There are certain things
that all little duckies must do every day:

Of those three things, eat, bathe and go to bed, Little Flo does not do even one.  She devours desserts.  She splashes through mud puddles.  She is noticeably absent at bedtime.

Her Auntie Jenna has a new nest so Little Flo and Daddy Duck are going to visit.  Daddy Duck insists Little Flo follow him.  Daddy Duck turns his request into a song which he sings to Little Flo.  Much to the bird's dismay, her father does not sing

VERY high 
and VERY LOUD.

Little Flo, determined to make her own music, sings an original follow me melody.  Her voice is high and loud. Intent on her personal tune, she is unaware of a new threat.  Roxy Fox is hungry.  Where is Daddy Duck?

Little Flo is on the run.  Words, singing words, come into her mind.  She follows those words.  Roxy Fox follows Little Flo.  Look at that darling duckie daughter go!  A series of surprises conclude this delightful tuneful tale.


On his first page Jarvis uses the storytelling technique of three to engage readers.  He also makes the story more intimate by including a little bit more within parentheses.  It's like he's whispering additional information to us.  He uses this again at the end of the story to create a circle.

When Daddy Duck sings his desires for Little Flo to follow him, it's an open invitation for readers to participate in the story.  In this musical interlude a rhythm is supplied in rhyming words and the use of opposites.  Little Flo also uses opposites in her melody adding to the fun as well as generating suspense.  Here are a few phrases from each of their songs.

"OK, Flo, but listen to me first.
We're off to somewhere new.
So stick to me like glue.


So Flo made up her own song.
"Follow, follow, follow me.
I'm little duckie
FLO!

"Follow, follow, follow me.
I'M SUPER-FAST,
NOT SLOW.


A first glimpse of all the joy within the pages of this book is seen on the matching dust jacket and book case.  These, as well as all the interior images, are rendered in

pencil, chalk, and paint and colored digitally.

The spring green canvas on the front is carried over on the other side of the spine, to the left.  The colors in the rocks, Little Flo, Daddy Duck and the insects all complement each other.  On the back, the left, Little Flo and Daddy Duck are gliding over the turquoise blue water of a pond.  A bee and a fly are keeping them company.  (I love that the ISBN here is showcased in a smaller version of the sign on the front of the jacket and case.)

The opening and closing endpapers are done in two tones of the palest lavender.  Rocks and grasses are placed among pond water.  Insects and a tiny bird share the scene.  On the title page (with the publication information), the dedication is carved into a heart on a tree truck behind a singing Little Flo and Daddy Duck.

The illustrations range in size from a cluster of three or two on a single page, single page, edge to edge, or double page, edge to edge.  Several times during the book, Jarvis supplies readers with a series of vertical panels to provide pacing and the passage of time.  Once triangle-shaped panels are used.

These illustrations welcome readers to reach out and touch them.  There is plenty of texture.  The details focus on the setting, the wide-eyed expressions and the extra creatures in the world of Little Flo and Daddy Duck.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  It is when Little Flo and Daddy Duck are first starting their journey.  It is an up-close perspective of the duo.  Behind them is the forest, trees, bushes and flowers, in various pastel shades.  A bright blue and red butterfly flutters nearby.  Another blue and white polka-dotted butterfly rests on a series of vertical leaves on the left.  Little Flo and Daddy Duck are swimming along in the pond.  A bee follows them.  A ladybug pauses on a rock.  Musical notes in the same color as Daddy Duck appear above him.  This visual is happy, happy, happy.


This book, Follow Me, Flo! written and illustrated by Jarvis is a merry celebration of the affection, and sometimes conflict, between a child and their parent.  The inclusion of the songs within the story and lighthearted illustrations equals a superb storytime selection.  You can expect to have requests to read this repeatedly.  I highly recommend this for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Jarvis and his other wonderful work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Jarvis has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website and at Penguin Random House, you can view interior images.  I've also created a Pinterest board with other duck books and a few crafts for storytime fun.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Expressively Worded

Poetry is layers of response to sensory experiences.  It puts into words what others may see, hear, smell, taste or touch but are unable to express verbally.  Poetry presents the here and now sometimes wrapped in the past with the ability to be revealed in the future.  It is the beating heart of a culture.  Poetry is us.

The words of any one poet tend to influence a shifting number of people.  A poet whose work is most notable above many others is that of Emily Dickinson.  In On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life Of Emily Dickinson (Chronicle Books, February 18, 2020) written by Jennifer Berne with illustrations by Becca Stadtlander, we are presented with a lovely view of this woman and her work.  It is a composition of moments in her life, her words and impressive images.

Soft moonlit snow draped the Dickinson House in white.

It reaches to the Fence---
   It wraps it, Rail by Rail,
Till it is lost in Fleeces---
   It flings a Crystal Veil

As a young girl Emily found great pleasure in all things outdoors, the flowers, insects, birds and gentle winds, but storms were not to her liking.  She held great affection for her brother and her classmates at school.  Although Emily grew as other children around her exhibiting their personalities, Emily was different.  Emily's senses were higher tuned 

Emily had a great affinity for books, all kinds of books, even those not receiving parental approval.  Her gratitude for her brother's, Austin's, help in acquiring those volumes grew.  Although these collected words brought her much joy, sorrow was a constant companion.  Loved ones succumbed to death's call.

Life and death, opposites, raised questions for Emily.  And she sought answers.  She decided to place her beliefs in those things which gave her the greatest meaning.  She walked her own path.

As Emily grew into a young adult, her thoughts formed written words.  The written words formed poems.  These poems sustained Emily in her solitude.  They gave her insight into things small and large in places throughout the world.

Emily began to stay within her room and her circle of family and friends became smaller.  She adored children and her dog, Carlo.  She started to wear white, exclusively.  Emily wrote until the day she died.  It wasn't until after her death, that the magnitude of her writing was discovered by her younger sister, Vinnie.  Since that day, the world has been able to celebrate the wonder of Emily's words.


Marvelous descriptions flow on every page representing the life of Emily Dickinson through the words of author Jennifer Berne. Poetry is depicting the life of a poet.  Repetition of words and phrases create a soothing but informative cadence.  In support of the narrative of Emily's life are her own words, at times woven into the text written by Jennifer Berne.  Here is a passage.

Every day Emily's life rippled with new joys.
And swayed with new feelings.

It was clear Emily was becoming a person---
in many ways like other people---only more so.

Her happys were happier.  Her sads were sadder.

Her thoughts were deeper.  Her desires were stronger.

And oh, there was so much that Emily loved.

My heart grows light so fast that I could
mount a grasshopper and gallop around the 
world, and not fatigue him any!


Rendered in gouache and watercolor the illustrations on the matching dust jacket and book case and on all the pages are a luminescent tribute to this woman and her body of work.  They, completed by artist Becca Stadtlander, reflect the words and life of Emily Dickinson in their delicacy, elegance and historical accuracy.  How perfect it is to have Emily placed on a butterfly traveling through the world of her words.  The softly brushed clouds and sky extend to the left of the spine in their simplicity and beauty.  The title text in a deep, nearly black blue, is varnished.

On the opening and closing endpapers are enlarged words written by Emily Dickinson in her own hand.  On the verso page is a single candle burning.  On the title page a small butterfly, nearly white, floats above the title text.

Each illustration, two-page pictures or single-page images, are simply masterful.  Each exquisite detail completes a more breathtaking whole.  They supply us with the reality of Emily's world and the fascination of her imagined realm.  Several of the double-page images will leave you gasping.

Becca Stadtlander paints scenes of Emily as a child wandering among flowers with a rabbit nearby and a butterfly sipping nectar.  Butterflies glide above a pastoral landscape as Emily rides upon her grasshopper with them.  In one illustration Emily's eyes occupy two pages with her nose positioned in the gutter.  In each of her eyes is a startling view of our natural world.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  As a canvas, moving from left to right, is a swirl of darker colors shifting to lighter hues on the lower right.  In this swirl are leaves, vines, flowers, and a dragonfly.  They frame Emily on the left as she sits at her desk reading a book by candlelight. 


Your appreciation for this woman will grow (even if you've never read one of her poems) as you read On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life Of Emily Dickinson written by Jennifer Berne with illustrations by Becca Stadtlander.  At the close of the book are features titled:

About Emily's Poetry
Discovering The World Of Poetry
    Reading
    Writing
    Sharing
    Books by and about Emily
Author's Note and
Artist's Note.

I highly recommend this title for all collections.  Not only does it offer us a window into this woman's life, but it is a book to read repeatedly.  It is the glorious calm in a storm.

To learn more about Jennifer Berne and Becca Stadtlander and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Jennifer Berne has an account on Facebook.  Becca Stadtlander has accounts on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.  There is a post about Jennifer Berne and this book at KidLit 411This book and artwork are featured at author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  There are interior pages available for you to see at the publisher's website.  


There are more nonfiction titles to explore by visiting Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher.  I wonder what books have been included this week by other participants in the 2020 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

You've Got This!

In every person's life there comes a time when your spirits dip.  You are faced with a situation in which your courage and comfort are challenged.  You need to dig deep in your mind and heart and find your inner strength.  You need to remember your talents and your achievements.  For those who are younger, this is not always easily accomplished.

Two recently published titles offer the means for boosting your beliefs in your abilities in any given circumstance.  The first, When You Need Wings (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, March 3, 2020) written and illustrated by Lita Judge helps your imagination to soar to new heights.  These heights reach out to hope.

On a day when you feel
like no one is listening,

and everyone is LOUD,

and you are afraid,

and you wish you could just disappear,

shut your eyes and listen.

You will hear something extraordinary.  It's not the rhythmic thumping of your heart.  No, it's something you might not know you have.  It's your wings, your inside wings.

No one but you know they are there, stored within your essence.  You can use those wings to leave and to seek.  They will assist you in discovering riches within yourself.

These riches help your soul to find joy.  This joy will send you a song, a song to help you dance.  You will not be alone in this joy.  There are friends here, residing in this bliss.

It's important to keep listening.  Your wings are waiting just for you.  With them, you will soar.


Many times, when faced with a position you would rather avoid, your heart rate increases.  To have Lita Judge ask readers to listen to this and describe it as

your very own wings, beating within

is sheer genius.  When she expands on this idea with a suggestion of flying away to the wonderful world of imagining, we realize she is showing us the path to finding our own personal solace and bravery.  The thoughts expressed in her ten sentences are encouraging but leave room for her glorious illustrations to expand our vision.  These ten sentences are carefully placed page turn by page turn to provide expert pacing.  Here are two portions of a single sentence.

and use them . . . to fly far away,

if you need to today, 


When you open the dust jacket you can see the white birds frame the feature on the front, right, as well as the back, left.  The little girl with closed eyes and outstretched arms is clearly deep in thought.  Her smile indicates happiness at what her mind is supplying her.  The bird in the lower left-hand corner crosses the spine to the left.  This bird and three others along with the title text are varnished.

To the left, the girl and her imaginary tiger friend are roaring with gusto and facing right.  In a lightened portion to the right of them, two of Lita Judge's previous books are highlighted.  Praises are listed for Red Sled and Flight School.  

On the book case with a canvas of the palest cream and lavender white birds in a variety of perspectives fly from left to right.  The opening and closing endpapers are a delicate hue of blue.  Five pages, three single-page pictures and one double-page picture begin the narrative without words prior to the title page, another double-page picture.  They tell the tale of a little girl leaving home and walking with her father to preschool.

In each of the subsequent illustrations, varying in size from double-page pictures to single-page images, framed or edge to edge, we are transported into a world of wonder as this little girl explores her potential and finds her fearlessness.  The depictions of the children and their animal counterparts are jubilant and endearing.  Their facial features, clothing and backpacks are pure delight.

The attention to detail in every scene by Lita Judge draws readers into the written and visual narrative.  We glide on air to particular places; we gaze in fascination and play with abandon. We feel the freedom of finding our wings.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  A flock of white birds fills the air near the girl who is also in flight.  Movement is shown in her hair, scarf, spread arms and trailing legs.  They sail above treetops over a forest.  Below, in the forest, golden light spills from the tiny windows in tiny homes.  The colors used in the sky and forest are more subdued, but the girl's clothing is bright and cheerful as shown on the front of the dust jacket.


To know, to believe, you can close your eyes and find a beating center, is empowering.  When You Need Wings written and illustrated by Lita Judge is a guide to this wondrous wealth within us.  This is a book to be read often and widely.  This is a book you will want to have on your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Lita Judge and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Lita Judge has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Please enjoy the following videos.






The second book, Be You! (Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., March 3, 2020) written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, is a motivational manual for walking through the ups and downs life delivers.  Every statement is a shout to lift you up.  Every page turn will elevate your tenacity.

You were born to
BE
so many things.

Of those many things you were born to be, the narrator's desire is for you to be exactly who you are.  You are advised to be ready to embrace whatever path is laid before you.  You are told to investigate and seek answers.

There will come a time when an opportunity presents itself to you.  Fear not and walk where you have not walked before.  You are reminded to surround yourself with people you know love you as you are.

Regardless of the adversity you face, go through it.  Don't end your endeavors.  Celebrate those things which make you uniquely you.  There is no shame in this.  Choose compassion so others can be themselves.  If there is something you fear, ask yourself why; then try.

Before you follow or join, think.  Bravely go the right way for you.  Pursue peace, the peace of pausing in being alone.  Sometimes reaching a goal takes longer than you imagine.  Sometimes reaching a goal requires assistance.  Wherever you go and whatever you do, go with the knowledge you are sustained by affection, the affection of every connection you've ever made.


From beginning to end the words of Peter H. Reynolds are like sunshine for your soul.  He begins and ends this book with the same declaration, bringing readers full circle.  He not only wants you to be you, but he tells you how to realize who you are.  Single phrases preceded by

Be

are followed with a more complete explanation of the request.  Here is a two-page passage.

Be your own thinker.

Think for yourself and
set your own unique course.
It isn't always easy
but you'll be heading
in the direction of YOU.


When you look at the open dust jacket of this book, the sky-blue canvas mirrors the endless sky, full of possibilities, above our Earth.  The child in the boat on the front, held aloft with balloons with hearts, is a symbol of a potent statement found in the book near the end.  Love does indeed lift us up.  The clouds and golden wishes streaming from the boat cross the spine to the left edge of the back.  A single balloon drifts upward.  Beneath it are the words:

Live a big life!

Many of the elements on the front and back of the dust jacket are varnished.

The book case, also in sky blue has the golden wishes spreading in a gentle wave from center left to the bow of the boat.  Now the child in the boat is higher on the right and closer to the right edge.  The opening and closing endpapers use the yellow orange color from the balloons as a background.  In a lighter shade are written words describing what you can be.  Peter H. Reynolds has placed a framed space in both sets; the first for your own writing and the second saying:

Go ahead.
Be yourself.
Be the best version of you.
Each day is
a new chance to
be more you.
---Peter Hamilton Reynolds

On the title page the frame is held in the hands of the boat occupant in front of their face as they run, eyes closed across the page.  In his signature style Peter H. Reynolds presents all kinds of children on the left beneath his declarative statement.  On the opposite side in a variety of solid colors is his guiding text.  At times the image on the left will extend to the right for emphasis.  White space creates a dramatic effect.

The clothing worn by the children, the color of their hair and skin mirrors all the amazing types of personalities and ethnic groups.  Their activities are as varied as they are.   Each page is an invitation.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for the text noted above referencing

Be 
your own thinker.

It's a double-page picture on a crisp white canvas.  On the left a group of four children and a canine companion are walking to the left.  The children are wearing identical clothing and red and white striped birthday hats.  The dog is wearing the same hat.  On the right another child in different clothing carrying a walking stick is moving to the right edge.  A happy cat is following as it looks at readers.


If there ever comes a day, or if you want to be prepared, when you doubt the direction you are taking or what makes you one-of-a-kind, Be You! written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds is the perfect book for you.  Readers of all ages will discover and rediscover their individuality.  During storytime expect listeners to change their body positions, leaning in and then sitting tall as the story concludes.  I know you'll want a copy of this title in your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Peter H. Reynolds and his other work, please access his website by following the link attached to his name.  Peter H. Reynolds has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  The publisher has developed a fabulous page with a video for you to enjoy and an audiobook sample.  I hope you enjoy this video.