Quote of the Month

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




Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Cavorting Creatures

Standing still in a sunny meadow or cool, shadowed forest offers more opportunities than calm.  It is a generous gift, a means to observe animals without them being frightened of your presence.  It may be watching a squirrel practice throwing skills as the ground is blanketed by its tossing of un-opened pinecones.  Two wild rabbits running in circles with little leaps as part of their routine is a sneak peek at a bunny ballet.

Animals are fully aware every moment of every day.  Their lives depend on this understanding.  They are wise enough to know work and play are necessary for balance.  Play Like An Animal!: Why Critters Splash, Race, Twirl, And Chase (Millbrook Press, April 7, 2020) written by Maria Gianferrari with illustrations by Mia Powell is an exploration of the lively antics of animals.

DASH!
     HIDE!
SPLASH!
     RIDE!
You love to play!
Animals do too!

They have diversions like you do, but their play is for a purpose.  It's a planned situation to hone their skills for survival. They are training for their futures.

Rolling around in the mud is more than displaying a love of dirt.  For collared peccaries and rhinos, it is a means of protecting themselves from sun, heat and pesky bugs.  Being able to leap with ease from tree to tree is not training for a trapeze act, but it builds agility in running from those who want you as a meal.

If you watch animals in the snow, what may seem like foolishness is increasing their abilities to seek solutions to problems.  We count ourselves fortunate if we witness dolphins or elephants enjoying themselves in their natural water parks.  Even watching them on videos we can see how they do this in unison.  Why is this important?

Other creatures play at fighting, wrestling, tug-of-war or tag. What is this teaching them?   Each activity, though pleasurable, is conditioning these animals like athletes or performers.  It can mean the difference between life and death for them.  It can mean having a life shared with others in harmony or living in isolation.  Did you know Keas, a parrot living in New Zealand, can make their own toys?  The next time you play, which animal are you imitating?


What readers will notice first about the writing of Maria Gianferrari in this title are her one-word action verbs.  This definitive use of language invites participatory reading.  These verbs precede a single sentence about the animals and what they are doing.  This is followed by a short explanatory paragraph placed in a separate box.  This approach supplies readers with a rhythm bringing them full circle, from the beginning to the end.  Maria Gianferrari also uses alliteration and rhyming to enhance this cadence.  Here is a passage.

JUMP, WHIRL!

BOUND, TWIRL!

Ungulates love to leap!


(Note:  I am working with a printed PDF.  My copy of this title has not arrived yet.)

When looking at the dust jacket, front and back, right and left, there is no doubt in your mind of the joy to be had by animals and humans alike when they are engaged in play.  On the front, each of the featured animals is in motion in their natural habitat.  It's a glorious blend of water, land and air.  On the back, a sunny hillside highlights the cavorting of children from various ethnic backgrounds.  They are happily leaping, running, jumping in the mud and twirling.  A single rabbit is at rest, looking ready to race away.  Two dogs are enjoying the puddle with their humans.

The opening and closing endpapers are patterned in tiny portraits of animals at play.  They showcase wolves, giraffes, rhinos, elephants, monkeys, gorillas, and ungulates.  The landscape, a green grassy canvas, is dotted with trees, shrubs and water.

Rendered

using paints, handmade textures, and digital media

the illustrations by Mia Powell are wonderful displays of play.  Her humans and animals are highly animated.  All of them express delight at their activities.

The images, double-page pictures and full-page illustrations, place the animals in the environment they relish the most.  Mia Powell, in order to show captured moments, includes a series of horizontal visuals on a single page.  At times we are close to the movements of the animals and then we step back to get a larger view.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a single-page picture of a rhino.  Most of its body is below the surface of a muddy hole or shallow body of water.  There is some vegetation behind it and on the sides.  Several leaves float near it on the surface of the mud and muddy water.  All we can see of the rhino is its head and horns.  Its wide-eyed look indicates pure bliss.


This title, Play Like An Animal!: Why Critters Splash, Race, Twirl, And Chase written by Maria Gianferrari with illustrations by Mia Powell, is loaded with fun and facts.  At the close of the book sections named:  Why Play?, Play By The Rules, Like These Animals Do!, Play Like These Animals . . ., More Fun Animal Facts, and Further Reading provide us with additional information.  This is an excellent book to include in your professional and personal collections.  It's certain to be a highly requested read aloud and supply circumstances for further research or readers' theater.

To learn more about Maria Gianferrari and Mia Powell 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.  Mia Powell has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images as well as read an excerpt.

Maria Gianferrari's childhood playground was nature: climbing trees, playing hide and seek in the cornfield and slapping cow patties for fun!  Nowadays she tries to keep the spirit of play alive in her writing.  She enjoys playing Dominion with her family sans the curse cards, and her late dog, Becca, was always ready for a game of "catch the flying biscuit."


(From the jacket flap)
Mia Powell is a mixed media illustrator based in the United Kingdom.  She draws digitally but likes to incorporate handmade textures and elements into her artwork as well.  Mia loves to play with her dog, and she has drawn him in the pages of this book.  He is black-and-white and loves to chase, especially squirrels.





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







Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Taking The Lead With Heart

There are books you hold in your hands and the story within their pages somehow reaches out to you immediately.  In this instance you are not abiding by the age-old proverb.  The cover is an open invitation and you accept it eagerly.

Is it the image on the dust jacket which holds your attention?  Does the author's name trigger a memory of another well-loved book they wrote?  Are you fond of the artwork of the illustrator?  With respect to this way, Charlie: Inspired by a real animal friendship (Abrams Books for Young Readers, April 21, 2020) written by Carol Levis with illustrations by Charles Santoso, it is a beautiful blend of all three.  This title is guaranteed to find a place, a forever place, in your reader's heart.

Jack watched the new animals scamper, hop, flap,
and trot their way into Open Bud Ranch.

Jack, a resident goat, knew some of the new arrivals would linger longer than others.  Some, like him, would spend the remainder of their lives on Open Bud Ranch.  Regardless of the outcome of any of these animals, Jack would keep his distance.  That was his way.  Charlie, a horse and a new arrival, did not keep himself separate from Jack.  This angered Jack.

Antonia, a human caretaker, on the ranch explained what Jack noticed.  Charlie was blind in one eye.  She could not heal his blindness.  Jack decided to watch Charlie.  One thing about Charlie caused him to wonder.  And one morning, Jack did an un-Jack like thing.  He said

"This way, Charlie."

One goat dweller leads another horse dweller to his favorite field, sharing the delicious goodness and the warmth of the sun.  The next day Jack led Charlie to another favorite part of the ranch.  One day changed into another day, until Jack was guiding Charlie every day.  The new friends would exchange questions and answers.  The new friends cared for each other, helping them to overcome fears, some deeply hidden in their minds and hearts.

One morning, Jack became upset with Charlie's happy-go-lucky outlook and well-used phrase.  They were both so shocked at his outburst, they didn't see an approaching storm.  Frightening danger quickly turned into a disaster.  Jack knew there was something he had to do for his Charlie.  That's what friends do.  The result of Jack's actions is nothing anyone could have predicted after his first meeting with Charlie.  It is better, much better, actually better than the best.


Several times during the reading of this narrative penned by Caron Levis, readers will pause, overwhelmed by waves of emotion. The poetic portrayals of specific moments are breathtaking.  The repetition of key phrases by Jack and Charlie not only connect them as friends but link them to readers through the rhythm of their story.  With her words, Caron Levis discovers the extraordinary in the everyday.  Here is a passage.

Jack noticed Charlie's eye had a soft glow---
                  like the moon,
which often guided Jack when he felt lost in the dark.

He wondered what Charlie used for a moon.


You know as soon as you see the open dust jacket, revealing the front and the back, this is an exceptional book.  The color palette used for the pastoral landscape and the brush strokes in the sky, trees, grass and flowers fashion a soft Monet-like texture.  On the front Jack, Charlie and the larger title text are varnished.

To the left, on the back, the scene from the front continues over the spine to the far left.  Branches from a large tree stretch from the left edge, leafy boughs bleeding off the top.  A smaller barn is placed in the upper, right portion of this back image.  As on the front sunlight casts a golden glow.

On the front of the book case a lost-looking Charlie stands in an evening without stars.  He is looking to the left.  On the left, coming from the spine, in a bit brighter light, Jack is looking back at an emerging Charlie, encouraging him forward.  Charlie is hesitant.  In a second image toward a brighter light Charlie is following Jack as they both look ahead. 

The opening and closing endpapers are a robin's egg blue.  On the title page two green leaves drift between clouds in a sunny sky.  On the verso and dedication pages readers are given a double-page picture of a truck bringing Charlie to the ranch.  It is a calm scene full of hope and promise.  The two leaves float over the entrance to the ranch.  On the verso page this sentence says much about Charles Santoso and his work for this book.

The illustrations for this book were made with digital brushes and love.

To enhance the text the size of the illustrations vary from double-page visuals, with larger perspectives and much closer points of view, to single-page pictures, clusters of smaller illustrations, loosely-framed horizontal pictures on a double-page picture, and vertical panels across two pages.  Each page turn represents Charles Santoso's skill in accentuating the magic found in certain moments.  To focus on drama in one portion of the book, circle illustrations are inserted in larger pictures.  The details in each picture are striking and captivating.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages including three different images.  On the left a smaller Jack watches a smaller Charlie as he walks around trying to navigate an area with one good eye.  He staggers a bit and circles around and around.  On either side of the gutter is a portion of Charlie's face close to us.  On the left is his face with his good eye.  On the right is his face with his blind eye.  This part of his face is placed on a night setting.  To the right, Jack is standing in a field backed by trees and shrubs.  He is looking at the full moon overhead.  This is the picture for the text already noted. 


In a word, this book, this way, Charlie: Inspired by a real animal friendship written by Caron Levis with illustrations by Charles Santoso, is love.  It's about an affection between two animals, each with something broken in them, who heal through their friendship.  In an Author's Note Caron Levis talks about the real Jack and Charlie, her research and other animal friendships and human and animal relationships she knows.  I highly recommend this title for both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Caron Levis and Charles Santoso and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  Caron Levis has additional resources for this title on her website.  Caron Levis has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Charles Santoso has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  This title and Caron Levis and Charles Santoso are featured on KidLit TV for the cover reveal and for a read aloud by Caron Levis.  There is also another video, StoryMakers, where Caron Levis talks with Rocco Staino about this book.  It is featured on the read aloud page.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Days Dedicated In Pursuing A Passion Affecting Our Planet

Wednesday marked the fiftieth anniversary of Earth DayFor those of us alive on the first Earth Day, it's one of those historical moments when you pause to ponder where you were and what you were doing on that day.  How many were attending university classes and finishing their first year of college?  Regardless of where you were or what you were doing or if you were even "a twinkle in someone's eye" yet or perhaps you're days on our planet have come and gone, there are remarkable contributions to preserving and protecting our planet being accomplished 365 days a year.

For this reason, I wish to highlight three titles which may not initially appear to share a commonality with our planet, but I believe they do.  The first book, Winged Wonders: Solving The Monarch Migration Mystery (Sleeping Bear Press, March 15, 2020) written by Meeg Pincus with illustrations by Yas Imamura is a story supplying readers with an example of the power of working together to accomplish a single goal. It was a quest to seek understanding of a natural phenomenon.   

For centuries, up and down North America,
every year brought a mystery.

Monarch butterflies swooped in for a spell, like
clockwork, from somewhere beyond---then
disappeared as curiously as they came.


People from southern Canada to central Mexico watched this and wondered.  It was not until 1976 that an answer was provided.  Who was responsible for discovering the truth behind this migration?

Fred, a scientist residing in Canada, and his wife, Norah, devoted three decades of their lives to following the butterflies.  After several trials and errors, they found a way to follow these winged wonders.  They gently tied price tags to their wings.  Citizen scientists, numbering in the thousands, heeded the call of Norah's advertisements.  Norah noted each piece of information gathered.

One of Norah's ads was seen by an American living in Mexico City.  Ken contacted Norah and agreed to follow the monarchs with his wife, riding a motorcycle through the wilderness for two years.  Villagers helped and directed them toward the mountains.  There Catalina, who lived in Mexico her entire life, led the way to a singular revelation.

Most miraculous was a tag found by Fred in the Mexican oyamel grove.  It was placed there by an American science teacher and his students in Minnesota.  All these people, named and unnamed contributed to unraveling the riddle.  Now it's up to all of us to guarantee this journey continues for generation after generation.


In her writing of this story, author Meeg Pincus, uses a technique certain to intrigue readers, her presentation of this as a mystery.  She explains the puzzle and when it's completed, but then in a series of questions, the resolutions by people are shown as flashbacks. Through her meticulous research she connects these individuals to each other and ultimately to us in present day.  Again, at the close of the story, she presents a series of questions, but readers will know the answers to all of them.  Here is another partial passage from the book making a reference to the

villagers and farmers of central Mexico.

. . . who for generations welcomed the
monarchs as soaring spirits during
autumn Dia de los Muertos celebrations  . . .


When you look at the open dust jacket, the image extends flap edge to flap edge. incorporating the variety of people who participated in solving the mystery of the Monarch butterfly migration.  The flurry of Monarch butterflies weaves up and down across the top of the entire illustration.  The green canvas allows for the people and butterflies to be showcased.

On the book case with the same background, is a multitude of Monarch butterflies in all sizes, some with their distinguishing details and others in orange alone, as on the dust jacket.  On the far side of the opening and closing endpapers is a solid burnt orange color.  The opposite side is a continuation of the book case design.  The waves of butterflies are depicted on the title page, radiating from the left, moving across the gutter, and journeying off the top on the right side.

Illustrator, Yas Imamura, has fashioned lush landscapes, scenes in small communities, woodland corners and desert destinies.  In these settings her image sizes shift as a reflection of the narrative.  She gives us varying points of view, above and within a particular setting.  Her details mirror a range of ages and ethnic backgrounds in the people.  Her research is seen in her characterizations of the key players.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the portion of passage cited.  On the left we are in a cemetery during the Dia de los Muertos.  Arches at gravesites are decorated in blossoms.  Cut-paper artwork hangs across the middle of the visual.  It's a stunning portrait of this holiday in color, the people shown, and the decorated gravesites.  A wave of Monarch butterflies extends across the entire top.  To the right a large wavy column in a solid shade is formed for the text.


This book, Winged Wonders: Solving The Monarch Migration Mystery written by Meeg Pincus with illustrations by Yas Imamura, is a wonderful exploration of a scientific secret.  It sets forth the perseverance necessary as well as the work of many to find a solution.  At the close of the book are pages titled:  More About the Monarch Migration Discovery and How to Help the Monarch  This is an excellent nonfiction picture book to use for a STEM unit, to promote an appreciation of insects or our planet, and for the inspiration it furnishes readers.  This book should be in all personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Meeg Pincus and Yas Imamura and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Yas Imamura has interior images from this book on her Tumblr account.  Meeg Pincus has accounts on Facebook and Twitter.  Yas Imamura has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can access a teacher's guide/activities and read an excerpt.  Articles about this book and its creators are found at Celebrate Picture Books,  Kathleen Temean Writing and Illustrating, and Only Picture Books.



Sometimes what our planet needs most to survive is a healing of the human heart.  Sometimes a single person more than any other can affect change for generations.  One such person was Fred McFeely Rogers.

In his newest book as author and illustrator, Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell highlights with his astute words and remarkable images the life of an unforgettable human being in HELLO, NEIGHBOR!: The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, April 6, 2020).  Every element, written and drawn, is a loving tribute.

"It's our insides that make us who we are, that allow us to dream and wonder and feel for others. That's what's essential.  That's what will always make the biggest difference in our world."
                              ---Fred Rogers 

Welcome to Mister Roger's Neighborhood.

We begin the story of this man's life on the set of his television show which aired nationally in 1968.  It was no easy feat, but it was done by a man with a purpose.  And he did it every day.

As a child in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Fred enjoyed puppets and music and learning to play the piano at age five.  Did you know his grandmother bought him a piano when he was nine years old?  Fred, during his school years, was a bit of a loner.  He was serious and pondered what he saw in the world, especially on television.  This is what prompted him to enter that field.

Fred started at NBC in New York City, working his way up and learning everything he could about television and how to appeal to children as viewers.  Later Fred returned to Pittsburgh, still working in television, children's television, but not in front of the camera.  He began to study how children think and feel.  His desire to create a show just for them, with respect for them, became more than a dream.  Mister Rogers' Neighborhood went live across the nation on February 19, 1968.

Now we go to the show as it was seen daily.  It began and ended with music and a routine of changing a coat and sweater and shoes.  Each episode supplied viewers with something of value, often expanded with field trips and special guests, as well as familiar personalities who visited frequently.  The trolley took viewers into The Neighborhood of Make-Believe with its notable cast of characters.   No issue was too large or too small to be discussed by Mister Rogers.  No aspect of the show was not touched by his hand, but he was the first to acknowledge the work of many in making this beloved television show for children, their children, and their children's children.


Each aspect of this man and his television show is written with meticulous care and research by Matthew Cordell.  His arrangement of the facts flows from one portion to the next, beginning with the show, flashing back to Fred McFeely Rogers' life until the premiere of the show and then to the elements of the show.  The information is supplied to us as if we are in conversation with Matthew Cordell and he is lovingly revealing to us what he knows or has learned.  Captions on replicated photographs give us more insight.  Quotes by Fred McFeely Rogers add to the authenticity.  Here is a passage.

Then a new idea, person, or place
would be introduced.  Just like
in life, there were good times in
The Neighborhood, like visiting the 
circus or a neighborhood school.

But there were difficult times too,
like saying goodbye to a beloved
pet.  Fred understood that children
have many feelings and interests,
and all of them are worth
mentioning and exploring.


The image shown on the front of the dust jacket takes readers into the wonderful landscape fashioned by Fred McFeely Rogers.  It's a scene we want to willingly enter.  We feel as though we are about to hear the familiar voice of a beloved television personality and marvelous human being.  All the exquisite details shown in this first illustration are continued throughout the book.  Each line is placed with intention.

To the left, on the back of the dust jacket, on a canvas of pure white is a television set from the era the show first aired.  On the screen is a real picture of Mister Rogers.  Five smiling children are seated in a semi-circle in front of the television.

On the book case is one of Matthew Cordell's signature illustrations.  Fred McFeely Rogers is walking across a background of washed blue.  He is in the near center on the right side.  He is holding a puppet in his left hand.  In his right hand is a duffel bag with a puppet peering out.  Behind Mister Rogers, in an ever-enlarging wave is a vast assortment of people and objects representing a lifetime of work.  You could look at this for hours and not notice everything.

The opening and closing endpapers are in pale yellow.  With a page turn is a small portrait of Fred Rogers, wearing his red sweater and putting on his tennis shoes.  Another page turn is a close-up of a scene on the set.  Then a double-page picture, with the quote noted above, shows Fred seated at his piano.  Coming from the piano is a similar assortment of figures and items as shown on the book case.  With the next page turn the Trolley is winding back and forth on the verso opposite the title page featuring Mister Rogers, the Trolley and some of his puppets.

Each illustration is a survey of every facet of this man's life and his television show.  Matthew Cordell rendered the pictures:

with pen and ink with watercolor.

They are double-page pictures, pictures within pictures, recreations of photographs, single-page pictures, small groupings of visuals on a single or double page.  Your eyes move easily from text to images, each complementing and elevating the other.  Historical context is excellent; like the set of encyclopedias on the shelf in the living room of the family watching the first nationally aired Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.  Each time you read this book; you will observe some new element Matthew Cordell has included.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is the first one for the first line in the narrative.  It spans two pages.  It is a close-up view of The Neighborhood.  From the upper, left-hand corner a hand is reaching in and holding a car.  It will soon be placed in The Neighborhood.  


If you've been looking for a way to hug Fred McFeely Rogers, this book, HELLO, NEIGHBOR!: The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell, is the way you can do it.  This book is definitely to be placed in the huggable category.  The words and artwork bring the man and his life's work to you, into your space.  At the close of the book two pages are dedicated to About Fred Rogers with more facts and photographs.  Matthew Cordell includes a Visual Glossary, Mister Rogers and Me, Acknowledgments, More About Fred Rogers and Where to Watch Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.  The final page has Fred Rogers carrying his duffel bag with items trailing behind as he walks away from us.  This stunning book belongs in every collection, professional and personal.

To learn more about Matthew Cordell and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  His blog is here.  Matthew Cordell has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  You can view interior images at Penguin Random House.  At the publisher's website is a printable sign.  This book is highlighted at School Library Journal, A Fuse #8 Production by author, reviewer and extraordinary librarian, Betsy Bird.  Matthew Cordell is interviewed at Reading Rockets via video.
UPDATE:  Matthew Cordell wrote a post about this book at School Library Journal (May 8, 2020).  It is a wonderful, meaningful reflection. 
UPDATE:  Matthew Cordell chats with teacher librarian Matthew C. Winner at The Children's Book Podcast #594 about this book (May 8, 2020)
UPDATE:  This title is the subject of a reflective post on NPR. (May 30, 2020)


When you think of Earth Day you might not think of a mathematician, but their influence in the scientific community is without question.  Between the years of December 22, 1887 and April 26, 1920, there lived a man, who in only thirty-two years left a lasting legacy in the field of mathematics.  His perceptions of the world are still being explored today.

For many years, he felt detached from others his age.  He saw the world with questioning eyes and his mind functioned on a rare and rich level.  The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity: A Tale of the Genius Ramanujan (Candlewick Press, April 14, 2020) written by Amy Alznauer with illustrations by Daniel Miyares is certain to be treasured by those with a love of mathematics.  For all others, it is a trip through time worth taking repeatedly.

Today the world is small.  With a single click, you can see
anywhere or speak to anyone.
But one hundred years ago, the world was big.  It took weeks to send a letter by steamer from here all the way to there.

Into this world, some one hundred years ago, was born a son.  His mother, Amma, named him Ramanujan.  She told her son of a visit by a goddess, Namagiri, who whispered words in his grandmother's ears.  Those whispered words were like a prophecy of his life's pursuit.

Ramanujan never spoke for three years.  He exhibited behavior requiring a set routine.  As soon as he did speak, he wondered about the meaning of small and big.  At five he started to go to school, but his questions went unanswered.  Ramanujan was bored.

His fascination with what is small and how smaller and smaller can expand, but also pull together to make a single whole grew.  Numbers were his window into the world.  He was compelled to work with them every single day using his slate, erasing, and starting over.  Ramanujan disliked school.  He would run away.  Many schools were tried.  After class, the boy could be found sitting on the front pial of his home, working with numbers on his slate.

Everything, in Ramanujan's mind, was connected by numbers.  He was ten when he attended Kumbakonam Town High School.  He felt a kinship with a man who sat by the river claiming to see strange figures.  By the time he was fifteen, a college math book was no match for his amazingly curious mind.

At twenty Ramanujan failed at college.  He finally landed a job at

the Port Trust in Madras.

Here his skills were valued.  At the urging of those with whom he worked; he wrote letters to famous mathematicians in England at the Cambridge University.  Finally, one, G. H. Hardy, responded.  Ramanujan was off to England.  It was 1914.  The world was about to meet a master.  They are still meeting him today.


The immense dedication Ramanujan had for mathematics and how they could be applied to the world around him is felt in every sentence written by Amy Alznauer.  A historical context is generated with her opening sentences.  We are fully captivated.

Specific examples bring us into essential moments of Ramanujan's life.  The insertion of dialogue draws us into his story.  When we are privy to his thoughts and musings, we feel an intimate connection to his exceptional mind and soul.  Here are two passages.

He loved this idea, small and big, each inside the other.
If he could crack the number 1 open and find infinity, what
secrets would he discover inside other numbers? It felt like he
was setting out on a grand chase.

Numbers were everywhere.  In the squares of light pricking
his thatched roof.  In the gods dancing on the temple tower.  In
the clouds that formed and re-formed in the sky.  Every day he
wrote numbers in the sand, on his slate, on slips of paper, his
slender fingers flying, each number a new catch. 


When you first gaze at the open and matching dust jacket and book case, your eyes are drawn to the enchanting figure seated before you.  Who is this person?  What will this book reveal about him?  The hues of blue and purple contrasting with the yellow and shades of red are lustrous, almost other-worldly.  The title text and swirl from Ramanujan with numbers in it are embossed in silver foil.

To the left, on the back, an intricate Indian design in colors of magenta act as a frame for text in white which reads:

If Ramanujan could crack
the number 1 open and
find infinity, what
secrets would he discover
inside other numbers?

In shades of teal artist Daniel Miyares composes a collage of numbers and pages from a notebook on the opening and closing endpapers.  The initial title page has a small image of objects relative to Ramanujan's life as a child.  An elegant Indian design, now fully complete appears, opposite the title page in a rich orange color.

These illustrations are done in ink.  Daniel Miyares takes us with his illustrations to another time and into the unique world of Ramanujan and his way of thinking.  Their subtle and soft texture mirrors and heightens the spirit embedded in the text.  Daniel Miyares use of light and shadow is astonishing.  Swirls of color weave another world, drawing us within striking moments.  Fine delicate lines accentuate the people and settings.  Some of the pages are embellished with splendid designs, acting as framing or borders.

The size of the illustrations varies in accordance with the text.  Larger, dramatic, two-page pictures will have you gasping.  The smaller ones will have you stopping to look closer at them.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  A pale night sky replete with stars and a crescent moon with a few wisps of clouds acts as a background.  Large thin numbers stretch from the bottom of the page to nearly the top, page edge on the left to page edge on the right.  Four figures of Ramanujan asleep, waking and hanging onto the top of a seven, leaping between a two and a nine and then sliding down the nine illustrate how even his dreams were filled with numbers.


The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity: A Tale of the Genius Ramanujan written by Amy Alznauer with illustrations by Daniel Miyares is as incomparable as the boy, and then man, whose life is depicted in its pages.  At the close of the book is a two-page Author's Note.  It is followed by a one-page bibliography.  You'll want this breathtaking book in both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Amy Alznauer and Daniel Miyares and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Amy Alznauer has a special page for this title.  Amy Alznauer has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Daniel Miyares has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  At Penguin Random House you can see other interior illustrations.  Last year Daniel Miyares was showcased at Picture Book Spotlight.  At Cynsations Amy Alznauer writes a post about collaboration.



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


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Fifty Years Of Energy and Efforts For Mother Earth

For fifty years it's been the same date every year.  On April 22, 2020 around our planet Earth Day celebrations are going digital for the first time in its history.  A host of prominent people are participating.  The organizers promise to

flood the world with messages of hope, optimism and, above all---action.

Numerous recent publications shine a light on the means for all of us to make a difference in our natural world.  We need not do anything grand.  Even the smallest endeavor can bring about change.  We must engage with our world because it depends on us, all of us.

From a true story comes The Bear's Garden (Imprint, a part of Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC, March 24, 2020) written by Marcie Colleen with illustrations by Alison Oliver.  Through the imagination of a child a dream takes shape.  Through an accident and efforts of many, this dream becomes a reality.

IN THE BIG, BUSTLING CITY, all the people were busy.

They did not see the neglected buildings, but a little girl did.  To her they offered opportunity.  To her they were an invitation to grow, play and love.  This child made here own beauty.

Planting seeds in an old tomato can, she and her stuffed toy bear nourished tiny sprouts. The can placed on her windowsill, provided sun and fresh air to the plants.  One day, a bird flew by, knocking the can to the ground beneath her apartment window.  It rolled and rolled right across the street.

In the vacant lot where the can rested, those small plants grew.  The child cared for them with water and her affectionate heart.  She talked to them, giving them encouraging words.  Those busy people soon noticed the little girl and her plants.  

When the girl had to leave, she worried about what would happen to her garden. She left her bear, loaded with hugs, to act as guardian.  The single act of a generous spirit bloomed in her absence.  Upon her return, she and her bear were surrounded by beautiful bounty.


To begin author Marcie Colleen gives us a broad overview of the city and then leads us to a single child whose outlook is in contrast to many others.  Simple sentences build toward an astonishing conclusion.  We become more invested in the story with the use of dialogue when the little girl voices her thoughts.  Her faith in her stuffed toy bear (and life in general) as presented in the narrative is endearing and enduring.  Here is a passage.

One night, the girl's imagination
spilled onto the sidewalk, 
rolled across the street,
and sprouted.


The scene on the front of the dust jacket gives a close view of the child and her bear enjoying the beauty the garden is offering to them.  Their eyes closed in contentment present a calming representation.  The sky and clouds continue over the spine to the left, the back of the jacket.  There the garden continues with buildings in the background.  The title text on the front is embossed in foil.  The little girl, her stuffed toy bear and some of the leaves and blossoms are varnished.

On the book case, the position of the girl and her stuffed toy bear are the same but everything else is different.  Their eyes are wide open in cheer.  The garden is bursting with color and blooms spreading over the spine to the left at the back.  In a word, it's joy.

On the opening endpapers is an aerial view of this New York City area with a pin placed where the garden is.  The bear's face is on the pin.  On the closing endpapers the visual is enhanced and closer.  Multiple gardens are shown.  This closer view is also shown on the verso and title pages, but no gardens are visible yet.

These illustrations rendered by Alison Oliver using 

marker, pencil, brush pen, charcoal, cut paper, and Photoshop

depict varying perspectives, a bird's eye view, multiple moments grouped in a two-page picture or in four separate wordless frames.  They span two pages and single pages.  Black as a background is used to fabulous effect.

The personality of the little girl shines on every page through her facial expression and body postures. The portrayal of the bear is vivid to the extent you expect it to come to life.  The bond between the child and the toy is as real as any human relationship.  

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  The little girl is seated near the tiny plants, the can tipped to spill them and now planted in soil.  Near her is an empty cardboard box with a black kitten inside.  On top of the box is a teapot.  In front of her toy stuffed bear, a tiny mouse, a pigeon and the plants are teacups.  The girl, smiling, is holding a teacup, ready to sip.  It's a garden party.


This book, The Bear's Garden written by Marcie Colleen with illustrations by Alison Oliver, is brimming with hope.  It's certain to inspire others to begin community gardens.  At the close of the book an Author's Note explains the garden which sparked this story.  I highly recommend this title for both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Marcie Colleen and Alison Oliver and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  At Alison Oliver's website you can view the endpapers and interior images.  Marcie Colleen has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Alison Oliver has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Marcie Colleen is featured at The Children's Book Podcast with Matthew Winner.  She and this book are also highlighted by Debbie Ridpath Ohi at her website, Inkygirl.  Please enjoy this peek at the book case courtesy of Let's Talk Picture Books.
The Bear's Garden by Marcie Colleen and Alison Oliver from Let's Talk Picture Books on Vimeo.



Although in northern Michigan at the moment snow is swirling in high winds, for months collective minds here and in other parts of the world have been turning to gardening. Seeds and soil have been gathered.  On warmer days, walks have revealed shoots from bulbs pushing through the dirt and perennials are starting to turn green as buds get larger.  In My Garden (Neal Porter BooksHoliday House, March 24, 2020) written by the late Charlotte Zolotow (1915-2013) with illustrations by Philip Stead is a journey through the seasons.  It is a shared trip through time and the offerings Nature bestows on all of us if we choose to notice.

IN THE SPRING what I love best in my garden
are the birds building nests.

As the narrator chats with us, she quickly relates other things about the garden for which she has affection; things like tulips, violets and other seasonal blooms. There is also one thing, above all others, which is enjoyed the most.  This is kite flying.  It is not the only thing done, but it is the best.

Other flowers take the center stage in the summer.  Among the most prized are roses of all colors.  Lunching under the pear tree is one of the narrator's greatest pleasures in the summer.  Birdsong, gliding butterflies and dips in a stream provide other delights.

In autumn, leaves shifting from green to an array of colors and animals collecting food for winter are observations appreciated, but the chrysanthemums are the narrator's favorite part of this season in their garden.  There is also an assortment of activities to like in the fall but raking leaves is number one on the list.  JUMP!

When the garden is covered with snow, sculpting different shapes, this is the best part of the season.  Of all the outdoor pursuits during these blustery months, ice skating upon the frozen pond is simply the best.  Gliding on this watery world offers time for reflection and appreciation.


Each time the words written by Charlotte Zolotow for this book are read, their timeless quality envelopes you.  You are wrapped in the narrator's respect for each sensory impression.  You experience on a personal level each thing done.  A repetition of certain phrases creates a calmly cadence.  With her words, Charlotte Zolotow transports you to the garden.  Here is another passage.

In the spring what I love most to do is fly kites.
     Of course there are other things I
love to do---play dolls and roller skate
and skip rope.


What readers first notice about the open and matching dust jacket and book case, are the two figures under the pear tree in the garden.  This introduces us to the visual interpretation of Charlotte Zolotow's words by Philip Stead.  The bird resting on the E in the title is a nod to the first line in the story.  The red tulips refer to the next lines of the story.  This entire scene on the right, front, is one of participants standing in a sanctuary.

To the left, on the back, poetic words are framed in a circle of flowers, leaves and colors of the four seasons.  Two more birds are featured prominently in a blend of blue, yellow and purple.  On the opening and closing endpapers a soft shade of purple has been placed.

On the initial title page, a bird rests on the letter E.  For the formal title page and verso, a cat is perched on a stone wall stretching from left to right across both pages.  Bright yellow rays shine from the upper right-hand corner as green and purple shade the area on the right.

This artwork by Philip Stead is

handmade using oil-ink monotype techniques and carbon transfer printing.

Each illustration spanning two pages is a study in perspective, design and color.  We are given larger views and then brought closer to individual settings.  We look straight at a scene or peer down from above.  We are participants and observers.  One double-page picture during spring and winter are wordless but convey the essence of the narrator's words.

One of my many, many favorite images is the one for the first sentence of this story.  On the left, along the bottom a shade of pale green shifts to spring green before it crosses the gutter.  In the first green are three birds, gathering twigs for a nest.  One red tulip stands tall on the left side of the gutter.  To the right of the gutter two other red tulips behind a birdhouse on the ground frame it.  Two birds are in front of the birdhouse and a third is on the roof.  The spring green hue changes to yellow as it moves up the page.  On the far right a tree truck extends off the page.  Another bird is leaning out from the trunk, twigs in its beak.  The birdhouse is palest green with purple and yellow.


Regardless of your age or the time of day, In My Garden written by Charlotte Zolotow with illustrations by Philip Stead will supply your soul with much needed serenity.  Philip Stead's artwork elevates the stunning rhythm of Charlotte Zolotow's poetic perceptions.  This book has my highest recommendation for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Charlotte Zolotow and Philip Stead and their other work, please access their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Philip Stead has another site with information titled The Stead Collection.  An article at Publishers Weekly addresses the reissue of Charlotte Zolotow's book with Philip Stead's artwork.  At author and teacher librarian Travis Jonker's blog, 100 Scope Notes, at School Library Journal, a video highlights how Philip Stead made the artwork for this book.  At the publisher's website there is a link to an Educator's Guide for this title.



In his newest brilliant artistic entry in children literature, author illustrator Henry Cole does not disappoint.  The conception and illustration of One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey (Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., April 7, 2020) is a wordless display of transformation.  It is a loving tribute to people, their lives and their love of each other and our Earth.

Prior to the title page, Henry Cole in a series of framed single-page pictures, horizontal and vertical panels and two large double-page pictures, takes us through the process of making paper from logged timber to large rolls of paper to the delivery of boxes of paper bags and to the use of a single bag at a small community market. We follow one particular tree through the use of spot color as it makes its way from the forest, to a logging truck, to the paper mill, the processes at the mill, and the packing of one paper bag among hundreds in a box.  The final two-page image before the title page is an amazing display of the interior of a small grocery store highly stocked with all kinds of items.  People walk on wooden floors with carts laden with their groceries.  At the counter is a boy and his father and the brown-colored paper bag.

The father, having drawn a red heart on the bag, uses it as a lunch bag for his son's school meal.  After a nightmare, the bag is used to mute a flashlight as comfort next to the child's bed.  As the boy grows up the bag is always present, used for a variety of purposes.  When he leaves for college, the bag goes with him.

His musical gift for guitar playing attracts the attention of another guitar-playing individual, a young woman.  The bag holds rolled up music. As they study together during college and enjoy outings with each other the bag is nearby.  The young woman draws another heart on the bag prior to the young man's proposal of marriage.

As the two journey through their shared lives, the bag's presence is noted.  At the birth of their son, another heart appears on the bag attached to the baby's bed.  When the new boy's grandfather visits, readers will know it is the first boy.  Years pass, memories are made by the grandfather and his grandson and another heart is added.  The bag's final use after decades is poetic, purposeful and perfect.


In his dedication Henry Cole states:

TO MY MOM
WHO INSPIRED THIS STORY,
TO ALL THOSE
WHO PACK LUNCHES EVERY DAY,
AND TO THOSE
WHO ALWAYS CARRY REUSABLE BAGS.

Each carefully visualized image, rendered using

Micron ink pens on Strathmore Bristol paper

by Henry Cole is an ode to our forests, trees, paper, paper bags and recycling.  It also addresses the abiding love of family and the nearness of the bag in some of the simplest but most memorable moments of his characters' lives.  The black and white illustrations with only spot color of brown and red are exquisitely detailed and highly emotional in their portrayals.

On the open and matching dust jacket and book case, we are presented with two points of view.  On the front, the bag is introduced to us through the boy and his father as they shop in the local market.  To the left, on the back, a doe peers from behind the trunk of a large tree among a stand of large trees, their tops not visible to us.  The forest floor is carpeted with grass and wildflowers.  A single butterfly sips at one of the flowers.

On the opening and closing endpapers the view of the woodlands is expanded.  The doe is still present on the far left.  A flock of turkeys cautiously moves through the trees on the right.  The tree which becomes the bag is the only bit of color in this black and white artwork.

Each page turn is a revelation of the tree's and bag's journey.  To accentuate pacing the picture sizes vary as does their point of view.  We move from a single-page picture to a series of four smaller pictures on the opposite page as we step back farther and farther.  Henry Cole's placement of smaller pictures on one or two pages is intentional as is the placement of the bag in each image.

The characters' facial features and body postures supply readers with a range of emotions.  The settings in which they are shown contribute to the personal involvement of readers in this story.  We are there with the characters in each situation.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when the original boy, now a grandfather, is walking with his grandson.  It is a single-page picture, page edge to page edge.  They are walking on a path in the forest.  Their backs are to us.  They are holding hands.  The grandfather on the left is using a cane to aid his walking.  The family cat follows along on the boy's right.  He holds the bag, now bearing four hearts, in his right hand.  As we look ahead of the duo, through the trees, Henry Cole has placed a glow, a lightening.


This book, One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey conceived and illustrated by Henry Cole, is as they say in the children's literature community, a heartprint book.  It will leave a mark on your heart.  This story and the characters will remain in your mind long after the book is finished.  It will cause you to pause in the future, reflecting on its intelligent message so marvelously delivered.  At the close of the book in an Author's Note, Henry Cole speaks about his personal story and the premise for writing this story.  I can't imagine any collection of books without a copy of this title.

To learn more about Henry Cole and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his personal website.  Henry Cole has accounts on Facebook and Twitter.  The cover reveal for this book is at Nerdy Book Club.  Henry Cole is interviewed about this title at The Horn Book and Publishers Weekly.



Our rewards from Nature are proportionate to the attention we give it.  The more we look, the more we see.  Every detail is a delightful discovery.

In her newest release, A New Green Day (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, April 14, 2020), Antoinette Portis asks us to think about alternate descriptions for that which is familiar.  Through her words and illustrations, magic happens.

"Morning lays me on your pillow, an invitation, square and warm.
Come out and play!"

Who is speaking in these first two sentences?  With a page turn we realize we have been welcomed to participate in a guessing game with elements found in Nature.  Sunlight is talking first.

We are asked to follow a doodle on a path and a map within a home.  What we hold in our hand, can act as a measuring tape.  A newborn in a nearby stream is a form of punctuation, a pause before adulthood.

A pebble is a sweet delicacy if a river is the taster.  Is there a mountain that can move toward you?  This answer will surprise you.  It is usually a prelude to 

"I'm a chorus 
of a million tiny voices. . . ."

and several more wondrous riddles which follow.

Other apt descriptions have you searching your mind for answers as you put the clues together.  As the summer day comes to a close, a final voice calls to sleepers.  It's a reminder of what we have seen and what we have yet to see.


Using lyrical but carefully chosen words, author Antoinette Portis, presents two-sentence puzzles for readers to ponder.  She requests of readers to contemplate beyond our initial thoughts allowing us to witness beauty we might otherwise miss. Fourteen poems following a similar premise lead us to a new appreciation of our world.  


The amazing shades of green which light up trees, shrubs and plants as spring turns to summer move from the right, front, to the left, back, of the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  The garland of leaves extends from flap edge to flap edge on the jacket.  Placing them on a crisp white background gives them a special glow.  We are introduced to the character who proceeds through the summer day on the front of the jacket and case.  The title text on the jacket is varnished.

On the opening and closing endpapers and the first and last page turn are brush strokes, looking somewhat like marble.  They are in various shades of green. Prior to the title page, on white, is a single tiny cricket.  Across the two pages given for the title are five different leaves, all in green hues.

The initial two sentences of each poem are placed in a colorful but muted square on white.  For the answer to the poem, a full-page picture is offered.  These illustrations rendered by Antoinette Portis 

using brush and sumi ink, leaf prints, vine charcoal and hand-stamped lettering with color added digitally,

supply readers with different points of view.  We stand next to a sleeping child. We are at eye level with a snail.  We see an enlarged tadpole as if we are with it in a stream.  We watch from the safety of a neighborhood of homes as lightning slices into a tree.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for the answer to the first riddle poem.  Below the words

says sunlight

the little girl, one pigtail spread across her pillow, sleeps with her face turned away from readers, to the left.  Her red top provides a contrast to the white pillow with shadows and the green of her blanket.  As sunlight comes in through the window, we see outlines of leaves on a tree outside her home on her blanket and top.  A new day is gently beginning.


Inspiring and hopeful, A New Green Day written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis is a book to read repeatedly.  It celebrates our planet and elements large and small found everywhere.  It requires us to think.  It encourages us to see the magic in the ordinary.  Perhaps we can write our own puzzle poems.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Antoinette Portis, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Antoinette Portis has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website there is a link to an Educator's Guide.



Never has it been more apparent than the beginning of 2020 how vital the outside world is to all living things.  We humans, if not previously so appreciative, are now.  We recognize the value of embracing what has been so freely present.  The urgency of preserving and protecting it is heightened.  

In their first collaboration author Deborah Underwood and illustrator Cindy Derby work to show readers the allure of what we find beyond the four walls of our homes.  Outside In (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 14, 2020) looks at the benefits of becoming one with the world around us.  It awakens memories of the past bringing it to the present.

ONCE
we were part of Outside
and Outside was part of us.

There was nothing between us.

This has changed considerably.  Now, even when we venture to the Outside, we do so enclosed in another form of Inside.  Our recollections of 

ONCE

are clouded.

The most important thing to remember is that Outside has not forgotten.  It tugs at those murky memories.  It does so with bursts of color and growth.  

The sunlight streaming through a window is a reminder.  Birdsong is a reminder.  Twigs brushing on rooftops are a reminder.  Outside is calling to us through our senses.

If we stop to think about it, Outside is responsible for our care.  It gives us food.  It gives us clothing.  It gives us shelter.  It brings itself to the Inside when we hug and cuddle our dogs and cats.

Outside is a clock.  We mark our days with light and darkness.  Sometimes Outside sneaks in through tiny creatures.  It might race through pipes only to return from where it came.  Outside implores us.  Will we respond?


A lilting rhythm in the words written by Deborah Underwood recalls a collective time in our consciousness.  A very personal connection is fashioned by having Outside become a character in the story.  The examples of Outside reminding us are always present for us to experience, but in Deborah Underwood's stellar use of language, they are enchanting.  They cast a spell and we willingly allow it to work.  Here are two sentences.

It beckons with smells:
sunbaked,
fresh,
and mysterious.

Outside cuddles us
in clothes,
once puffs of cotton.


The open dust jacket for this book is entirely varnished.  Small portions of the images on the left, back, and the right, front, bleed to the flaps.  The glorious display of Outside as presented on the front with the girl and her cat walking from Inside is uplifting and comforting.  You will find yourself pausing to look at all the details embedded in this illustration (and in all the illustrations throughout the book.)  The play of light and shadow is outstanding.  On the back the Outside opens from the bottom and slightly left like a beautiful blossom.  The blend of greens and blues is luminous.

On the book case moving from the deep blue hues on the left and over the spine to the right, we are drawn to a doorway.  Light streams in through the opening.  As we gaze through the doorway, we see, with anticipation, the Outside.

On the opening and closing endpapers in brush strokes of green on white, Outside calls to us.  Swirls of leaves, branches and tiny creatures greet our eyes.  A page turn at the beginning and end reveal green on green and a cluster of evergreens.  On the initial title page, the child, standing on a pathway, is looking back at the Outside.  On the double-page picture for the formal title page, she is now seated on a large tree branch enjoying the Outside spread before her.

Each image, rendered

with watercolor and powdered graphite on cold press paper

by artist Cindy Derbymirrors an affection for Outside and the words by Deborah Underwood. 

Some of the lines were created with dried flower stems and thread soaked in ink.

Although the colors are bright and bold, as are the pictures they disclose, there is a soft texture about each one.  All the visuals span two pages or single pages.  To accentuate the text, perspective is shifted, sometimes within a single image. 

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a two-page picture.  The little girl's body is resting on the floor, her head on the left and the rest of her body is on the left, crossing the gutter and her feet are stretching nearly to the right edge. Her eyes are closed as her body curls around the sleeping and curled form of her dog.  Lying on top of her, eyes closed, is her black cat. The cat is on the right.  The girl's top, a mix of red, blue and orange highlights her form and the forms of her dog and cat.  This picture of the Outside is not only universal but happening more often in our current world circumstances.  


This book, Outside In written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Cindy Derby, is to be read and shared often.  I expect you will receive requests of read it again.  It restores our ties to the Outside.  It is a balm, a treasure, for a craving we sometimes can't identify.  You'll want to have a copy of this title for your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Deborah Underwood and Cindy Derby and their other work, links attached to their names allow you to access their respective websites.  Deborah Underwood has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Cindy Derby has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson showcases this book and the artwork of Cindy Derby on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Enjoy the recent video below made by Cindy Derby where she demonstrates how she made some of the art for this book.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Fabulous Fare Everywhere

In college on Sunday evenings, our food commons were closed.  My roommates and I rarely had enough cash between us to get a single pizza.  We would lie in bed on those nights calling out our favorite foods and dine on an imaginary feast.

For far too long, for millions and millions of people around our planet, these same thoughts occupy the minds, on a daily basis, of those without food, incomes or the ability to leave their homes in safety to shop at markets.  Now it is an enormous global phenomenon with the numbers climbing daily due to the impact of the pandemic.  Yet, when they are able, people are posting on social media a plethora of recipes and anecdotes about creating home-cooked meals and baking from scratch.  And in the midst of this a book radiating pure bliss, brimming with color and a cast of enduring characters, is published.  VAMOS!: Let's Go Eat (Versify, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 24, 2020), companion to VAMOS!: Let's Go to the Market, written and illustrated by Raul the Third with colors by Elaine Bay is the newest adventure of Little Lobo, his dog, Bernabe, and their friend, Kooky Dooky. It's a mouth-watering exploration of their community's enticing edibles told using a melodious mix of Spanish and English language.  

Check out my new
bike, Bernabe.  Now
we can make our
deliveries faster.

Little Lobo! Un
mensaje importante 
from El Toro!

An important 
message from
El Toro!

With these opening phrases Little Lobo, Bernabe and Kooky Dooky are riding toward el Coliseo, the arena where a wresting event will unfold this evening featuring El Toro and his friends.  The trio join a procession of food trucks, also en route to el Coliseo.  When they arrive, El Toro and other wrestlers practicing for the performance reveal their hunger for an array of favorite cuisine.  Quickly jotting down their requests Little Lobo and his dos amigos get right to work.

All the food trucks are parked nearby, each one focusing on a specialty.  These mobile restaurants, for the most part, make their food fresh and hot on the spot.  The Painted Burrito is known for its signature salsa.  At Kimchi Kiosko Mexican and Korean cooking generates a pleasing flavor for their tacos.

Vendors share ingredients; unnecessary corn husks are useful to a tamale maker.  An elder with a gift for fashioning tortillas sells to makers of quesadillas and burritos.  Look at the size of that burrito!  Little Lobo gathers fresh fruits and vegetables from Pato Peeko to deliver.  She sells more to another who blends them into large fruit and vegetable drinks.

The crowning glory of Little Lobo's gathering is the desserts.  Pastries are piled into a basket.  Their wagon now loaded as high as possible with fabulous fare is held in place by Bernabe.  Kooky Dooky dozes in the side car.

Returning to el Coliseo, El Toro and his wrestling friends, Little Lobo and Kooky Dooky rush inside shouting about La Comida. It's hard to exceed the enjoyment of sharing a meal with friends, but it does get better.  El Toro rewards the efforts of the threesome as only he can.


You can feel the excitement and your cravings for each item of food and beverage growing page by page in this story.  Raul the Third masterfully tells this tale using an artful blend of dialogue and narrative. His mix of Spanish and English guides readers, regardless of their command of one language or the other, perfectly with a pleasing purpose.  In this respect the audience of readers (and listeners) is enlarged and a bridge between worlds is formed.  The short definitive sentences convey cheer throughout the book.  Careful readers will notice informative text on buildings, signs and vehicles.  Here are two passages.

Kooky Dooky leads them
to the back of el Coliseo.

Right this way!

Suddenly they feel a rumble
beneath their feet.

RUMBLE!
RETUMBO!
RETUMBO!
RUMBLE!

Que es eso?
What's that?


Every detail on the book case is significant.  Every detail says to the reader, join us.  Every detail welcomes us to learn about Little Lobo's community, their customs and food.  The bright yellow food truck supplies a sunny background for all the characters.  Bernabe is enjoying his stick.  Kooky Dooky is about to savor a buttered ear of corn.  Little Lobo will soon be tasting a taco.  Do you notice the little bug is back?  What is it holding?  The tattoo on Joe's arm educates us on the Spanish for carrot.  The characters and text are varnished.

To the left, on the back, is an introduction, words you might find on the front flap of a dust jacket.  Additional text sings the well-deserved praises of the first title and gives readers information about Raul the Third and his wife, Elaine Bay.  On the opening and closing endpapers on a sandy-colored canvas are words in Spanish and English for many of the wonderful foods found in this book.  They are colored in shades of green, yellow and red.

On the title page, Kooky Dooky is running down a sidewalk shouting out the title in a speech bubble.  The publisher text is cleverly placed on the edge of the sidewalk near the road.  Above a mailbox are the names, Raul the Third and Elaine Bay.  

The illustrations in this book were done in ink on smooth plate Bristol board with Adobe Photoshop for color.  

Hand lettering was done by Raul the Third.  The images span single and double pages.  Sometimes panels will be placed over an existing larger visual.  What readers will find captivating, and at the same time astonishing, are the multitude of marvelous details.  Every single line creating an element is done with intention.  

The facial features on all the characters, familiar and new, are spirited and highly animated.  You feel compelled to pause on every single page.  Each one is a study in imaginative brilliance.  You'll read this once and then again and then again, noticing something new each time.  

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a panel over a single-page picture.  In this scene Kooky Dooky, on the right, is holding a quesadilla in his hands (wings).  The other portion of it is in Bernabe's mouth, on the left.  The queso, cheese, is stretching from Kooky Dooky's piece around a pole to Bernabe.  Little Lobo is striding toward Kooky Dooky in amazement.  In the lower, left-hand corner is the Lobo's Delivery wagon, partially filled.  The ever-present bug is running with a burrito in its grasp.


This book, VAMOS!: Let's Go Eat written and illustrated by Raul the Third with colors by Elaine Bay, is a tour de force.  It is a visual and verbal joy from beginning to end every time you read it.  Readers will savor every page.  Listeners will ask you to read it repeatedly.  This is a title you will want on your professional and personal shelves.  On the final page is a lengthy Food Glossary, but in a note, readers are encouraged to look up the definitions of words not listed.

To learn more about Raul the Third and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  Raul the Third has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  The VAMOS! books are discussed in a Publishers Weekly article.  This title is featured at author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before BreakfastRaul the Third was recently a guest at Jarrett J. Krosoczka's Draw Every Day with JJK video art lesson.  At the publisher's website you can download an Activity Kit and watch several videos, one of which appears below.