Quote of the Month

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




Thursday, May 28, 2020

Ever-Present Pal

To be faced with something different and untried is a challenge.  Depending on the task at hand, past endeavors, and previous successes, what is before us can be easy, hard, or somewhere in the middle.  We assess the situation, prepare for possible outcomes, and then proceed with caution or sometimes complete abandon. 

As we approach this undertaking, we are usually unaware of an unseen partner at our side.  The Magical Yet (Disney Hyperion, April 14, 2020) written by Angela DiTerlizzi with art by Lorena Alvarez discloses to all the true nature of this presence.  It never wavers from its dedication to us.

There are days when your dreams haven't come true,
or you're upset by the things you can't do.

The protagonist has attempted and failed to ride her new bike.  She has wavered, wobbled, taken a tumble, and bent her front wheel.  Trudging home, she vows to never ride a bike again.  Walking is far safer.  In the midst of her despair, she meets

The Magical Yet!

She discovers this being has been with her since birth.  She realizes it has offered encouragement.  Yet shows her up when she's down.  Yet dares her to do what she has never done.  Yet promotes thinking beyond ordinary, aiming for extraordinary.

Yet points the girl toward a plan.  Yet helps to fix that which is broken.  Yet knows practice is necessary.  Yet knows there will be errors, but there will also be successes.

If you are a hopeful melodic musician, stunning sports star, wizard wordsmith, marvelous muralist, or dazzling dancer, Yet strengthens your resolve to never give up, regardless of the time it takes.  You, wonderful you, can do what you desire to do.  There is another secret about Yet; one you can hold in your heart.  First to recognize it, you must start.


There is an undercurrent of hope on every page of this narrative.  Angela DiTerlizzi uses a lilting, lyrical series of couplets to fashion a flowing narrative.  Woven into the story of the young character who does not at first succeed in riding her new bike, are examples of other young people pursuing their dreams.  Another wondrous component in this book is making Yet a character, an individual.  Each person's Yet is seen as a positive power in their lives.  Here is a passage.

Tongue twisters twisted
your tongue in a knot?
Yet says, "Keep trying and practice
---a lot!"


If you are in need of happiness, looking at the open dust jacket is certain to bring some to your soul.  On the front, the right, the bicycle rider, wide-eyed and smiling has benefited from the optimism supplied by her Yet.  The Yet, hitching a ride on her helmet, is enjoying the results of its wisdom.  This scene continues on the other side of the spine.  Two children are running over the rolling hills.  One is playing a lute.  The other is holding a high-flying kite shaped like a bird.  The kite, the title text and the Yet are decorated in glitter.  Our main character is varnished.  Yet elements on both flaps are adorned in glitter.

A fantastical image spreads across the book case on either side of the spine.  Within a series of intricate insets and abstract shapes we are introduced to four Yets.  Each one is a different brightly colored hue and performing a feat desired by their human.  This is enchanting!

Using a two-color palette on the opening and closing endpapers illustrator Lorena Alvarez portrays seven diverse young people beginning and continuing their most passionate endeavors.  They, except for the child on the bike on the sidewalk, are shown in windows of various shapes.  A series of exquisite designs are part of this wall of possibilities.  It is pleasing to see them again at the end, older and more proficient in their pursuits.

Each illustration rendered using Procreate extends over two pages, edge to edge, on a single page with a white frame, in a smaller circle, or as a small group on a single page. These choices of size contribute to the pacing and the pictorial interpretations of the narrative by Lorena Alvarez.  Readers will enjoy seeing the delicate Yets among the vibrant colors in the landscapes and settings.  (Mulan likes that the main character's pup grows up and stays with them.)  Each image is highly animated, but the wonder of the first encounter with the Yet is stunning.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  In this scene the girl with her broken bike is facing left as she watches other children at work in a room.  Each one is accompanied by their Yet.  In the lower left-hand corner, a girl is making a doghouse following a blueprint she made that is hanging on the wall.  Between her and our protagonist is a child on a ladder making geometric art designs.  There is a scholar, a musician, a knitter, and a kite flyer.  The tools of their trades are shown in separate shelves.  The kite is huge and floating across the top of the right side.  This is a place where goals are met.  This is a place where children from all cultures engage in their heart's desire.


When you hold The Magical Yet words by Angela DiTerlizzi with art by Lorena Alvarez, you hold hope in your hands.  You feel as though anything at any age is possible if you remember to value the existence of your Yet.  This title will be valuable in a range of thematic storytimes.  Be sure to read it as a bedtime story so dreamers will know, as they fall asleep, dreams do come true.  I highly recommend this title.

To learn more about Angela DiTerlizzi and Lorena Alvarez and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Angela DiTerlizzi has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  Lorena Alvarez has accounts on Instagram and TwitterScholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, showcased this title and interviewed both creators on his site, Watch. Connect. Read.  The publisher has a PDF you can print and color of the Yet.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Fabulous Florals

They embellish our world, inside and outside, with a distinctive array of color.  They represent the continuation of life, bold and subtle elegance, and silently convey meaning when spoken words are absent.  (It is said they have their own language.)  We look for one or more as harbingers of seasonal shifts.  Sometimes their presence is fleeting, and other times it lasts against all odds, returning year after year.

These living beings, flowers, burst forth in affirmation.  In the fifth book in the Big Book series, The Big Book Of Blooms (Thames & Hudson, in association with Royal Botanic Gardens KEW, May 5, 2020) written and illustrated by Yuval Zommer, readers are introduced to flower families, flower anatomy, pollinators, specific flower groups, seeds and seed travel, flowers to treat with care, professional gardeners and how we relate to and garden flowers. Reading this book is like strolling through a botanical bed of beauty.

Can you find . . .
. . .the golden bulb hidden 15 times in
this book?  Watch out for imposters . . .

Including an index and a key to the positions of the fifteen golden bulbs, this superb title covers twenty-nine topics.  Two pages are dedicated to each item with explanatory sentences, labels, and glorious images.  For the first section

FLOWER FAMILIES

a question begins the discussion.

Do flowers have families?

We are offered an explanation of what a flower family is compared to a human family.  Six of the numerous families are named, appearing on leaves of a large plant extending from the bottom to the topic of a vertical image requiring a turn of the book to view it.  For

FLOWER ANATOMY

an entire flower is shown including a cut-away of the roots underground.  Did you know sepals are the green part of a flower underneath it?  They are vital to both buds and open flowers as supporters and protectors.

The colors of flowers attract pollinators.  Lines on the flower petals act as guides for landing and paths to nectar for the pollinators.  Flowers have medicinal purposes but can also contribute to increased allergies.

Venus flytraps are only found in the United States naturally.  After capturing prey a few times, a trap falls and is replaced.  Did you know roses have been grown in outer space by astronauts?  You'll never guess how much water they need to make one flower.

One plant family existed during the time of dinosaurs.  Many of the specific flowers in this family only grow in one spot in the world.  They are called proteas.  Giant water lilies are found in the Amazon River.  They are sturdy enough to hold fifty-five pounds!  There is a cactus that waits thirty-five years for its first flower to bloom.  Sunflower heads turn to follow the path of the sun during the day.

Flowers may be named for their physical characteristics, like the bleeding heart vine.  Some flowers use smell, revolting odors, to attract their food.  Other flowers, like the bird of paradise, only allow a single pollinator near them.  Did you know cut tulips will seek out light by shifting their position in a vase?

As the book closes readers are warned about flowers with poisonous properties, informed about Kew Gardeners, how plants need our help to survive before they go extinct, and where we can grow the smallest of gardens.  Six special words related to flowers are explained prior to the index.  Informative images accompany each one.


Equally evident in this title, as in the other books, is Yuval Zommer's respect and affection for the natural world.  He endeavors and succeeds in giving us a basic knowledge about this topic.  He gathers facts, vetted by experts, guaranteed to astonish, and fascinate.  Supplying a question at the beginning of each section not only piques our curiosity but allows for more in-depth answers.  The playful nature of titles and of portions of the narrative are an indication of his keen sense of humor.  Here are several passages.

A pretty price
The world's most expensive rose
is the Juliet rose.  It took famous rose
breeder David Austin 15 years and
$3.7 million to develop this beautiful bloom.

Batty about bats
A pitcher plant in Borneo is shaped
to give bats a cosy place to snooze
during the day.

Fang-tastic!
The Dracula orchid was named after the famous
vampire because its petals are blood red and the
long, thin ends of its sepals look just like fangs.


The dark canvas on the book case allows for the resplendence of the flowers to shine.  The collection of colors and flowers from diverse families capture our attention.  Readers will notice the buggy companions among the blossoms.  The text and most of the elements are varnished here and on the back.  Text usually seen on the front flap of a dust jacket is framed by flowers on the back.  Thumbnails of the previous books are shown along the bottom.

On the opening and closing endpapers whorls of white are placed on a canvas of sandy cream.  On the first set three blossoms are placed in the lower, left-hand corner.  One has opened and the seeds are scattering across both pages among other seeds caught by the breeze.  On the second set in the upper, right-hand portion of the pages are flowers reaching upward with their roots included.

On the initial title page, the text is in black on a white background with flowers all around it.  A full sun and insects are also present.  On the formal title page, the background is black.  A cluster of all kinds of flowers spans across both pages.  Other blooms grow from the top left-hand and right-hand corners.  Other living creatures are featured.  With a page turn we see the

WHAT'S INSIDE

heading with section titles and page numbers on the left and right.  In between them is a gorgeous floral display, stretching to the left and right along the bottom.  This is growing from the pages of an open book.

Within the book, Yuval Zommer has placed three vertical, two-page pictures.  Each page turn reveals a different shade used for the background, alternating them to highlight the blooms Yuval Zommer is showcasing.  The images invite readers to study the elements, noticing the textures, flowers, and the other inhabitants of the area.  There is a multitude of details.  As you look at each illustration, it's as if it could spring to life in an instant.

One of my many, many favorite pictures is for the portion titled

FLOWER POWER.

A large hand, palm facing readers, extends from the bottom to nearly the top.  A huge bouquet of blooms spreads around it like a floral fan.  As the four separate topics are discussed other smaller images are included, medicine, a cup of herbal tea, enlarged pollen and a faucet filling a tub perfumed with lavender.  Butterflies, beetles, a snail, and a dragonfly are there, also.  This illustration is placed on a lighter golden, yellow-green background.


This book, The Big Book Of Blooms written and illustrated by Yuval Zommer, is an outstanding addition to the series.  Flower lovers will slowly pause at every page turn.  For those unfamiliar with flowers in general or these particular blooms, it is safe to say, they will be inspired to begin their own gardens.  You'll want to include this book on your personal and professional bookshelves along with the four previous titles, The Big Book Of Bugs, The Big Book Of Beasts, The Big Book Of The Blue, and The Big Book Of Birds.

You can find a bit more about Yuval Zommer by following the link attached to his name to access a website.  Yuval Zommer has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  His posts are full of his artwork.  At the publisher's websiteyou can view several interior images.  At Let's Talk Picture Books, you can view the endpapers.



Be sure to take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to read about the titles chosen this week by participants in the 2020 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.




Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Wondrous Water Wisdom

There are people who would much rather be in or on water than any other place.  Depending on the nearness of their homes to water and the seasons of the year, if there is an opportunity to enjoy water, they will take it.  When they are swimming, diving, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, fishing, or sailing, they become one with the water and its inhabitants.  Many times, these activities are done in solitude or with a partner.  There is little spoken conversation, but there is an almost inexplicable bonding between an individual and water or between individuals and each other and their shared experiences in or on water.

There was once a man, a seaman, who had such a relationship with water. He knew water was to be treated with the utmost respect for its vital function in the continuation of all life.  He, like others who chose to observe, knew water revealed life lessons in unexpected ways.  Swashby and the Sea (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 5, 2020) written by Beth Ferry with illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal is a story of interrupted solitude, intervention by a close companion and the surprising results.

CAPTAIN SWASHBY loved the sea.

She, the sea, had spent many years with Captain Swashby.  She knew him better than he knew himself.  For his retirement, Captain Swashby settled in a small home on the edge of the sea.  With the sea at his side, he lacked for nothing.  He loved the silence.

All was well until the intrusion.  To Captain Swashby's dismay, a little girl and her grandmother settled in the vacant home next door.  It was no longer quiet.  Their beach gear was scattered across the sand.  Captain Swashby did not want neighbors.  He left them a message written in the sand.  The sea went to work.  The remaining letters spelled SING.

This word was the only invitation the little girl needed.  She sang and sang and sang.  She asked Captain Swashby what he wanted her to do next.  His unfriendly reply written in the sand was again altered.  When the little girl, with her granny nearby, attempted to do as he (the sea) requested, Captain Swashby clarified how to correctly make a starfish wish.  Their invitation for tea was spurned and a third message was left on the beach.

Each time he wrote a message, the sea erased some of the letters.  When the young neighbor attempted to respond, Captain Swashby couldn't stop pointing out the correct way to complete a task.  He approached and grumpily retreated, like waves washing on the beach.

Finally, the sea intervened in a manner not to be ignored.  Without thinking, Captain Swashby acted.  For the little girl, her granny and Captain Swashby, their lives by the sea shifted and the sea was satisfied.


When Beth Ferry presents Captain Swashby to readers, she does so with the use of alliteration and repetition. (This continues throughout the narrative, also.)  It's a gentle cadence, perfectly suited to the shock this seaman is about to receive.  Comedy is introduced in the contrast between this man who prefers seclusion to the togetherness offered by his new neighbors.

Having the sea act as a bridge between the two by washing away letters from his demands is a superb technique.  It's a subtle reminder of how friends can assist us in forming new, perhaps lasting, connections.  Here is a passage.

Swashby battened down the hatches,
hid when the doorbell rang, and fed their
oatmeal cookies to the gulls.
He didn't need neighbors.
He didn't want neighbors.
Neighbors were nosy,
a nuisance,
annoying.


You can almost feel the mist of sea spray and taste the salt in the air when you look at the open dust jacket.  The scene extends flap edge to flap edge.  On the left, back, flap edge sea glass, a wide-eyed blue crab and a baby seagull are placed around the descriptive text about Beth Ferry and Juana Martinez-Neal.  The sea shown behind the little girl and Captain Swashby on the front travels over the spine and across the entire back portion.  A yellow pail floats in the water in the upper, left-hand area of the sea.  The little girl and Captain Swashby on the front are carefully appraising each other, hints of smiles on both of their faces.  On the front flap a seagull holds a starfish in its beak near another yellow pail. 

On the book case, now resting higher and surrounded by sand is Swashby's boat.  It spans from back to front, left to right.  The lower portion of the boat bleeds off the bottom edge.  A seagull is perched on the stern.  A blue crab is resting on the bow.  The title is written in the sand on the right, above the boat.  Beth Ferry's and Juana Martinez-Neal's names are on the front of the boat.

Two tight and unfolding swirls of shades of turquoise cover the opening and closing endpapers, like waves.  On the title page, with his back to us, Swashby is painting a number on his boat.  Items from the sea, a piece of driftwood, seaweed, a starfish, and a curious crab are on the sand.  A yellow pail is next to the boat.

These illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal rendered

in acrylics, colored pencils, and graphite on hand-textured paper

are double-page pictures replete with delicate details and charm.  Juana Martinez-Neal combines soft textures with bolder colors to place emphasis on those elements which enhance the narrative.  This is seen in the initial distinction between Swashby and the little girl and her granny. It's apparent in the stuffed toy cat left sitting on the edge of Swashby's boat as the little girl walks on his dock.  A conch shells is placed near the little girl as she sings.  Sailboats pattern the fabric of the chair Swashby sits in on his porch.  And Swashby's heart tattoo labeled El Ma . . . declares his true love.

The wide, circular glasses on the little girl, the bushy eyebrows and full beard on Swashby and the beaded jewelry worn by Granny are signature characteristics endearing readers to each of them.  As Juana Martinez-Neal depicts the abandon the little girl displays with everything she does, Swashby's determination at avoidance, but also his desire at perfection, and Granny's steady generosity, our knowledge of them grows.  They may not know it, but we watch through Juana Martinez-Neal's artwork as the sea becomes the center around which their lives revolve and intertwine.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when the sea washes away the letters in Captain Swashby's first message leaving SING.  Gently curving toward the sea through the sand is the wooden deck, moving from the foreground on the right, crossing the gutter and ending before the letters and water on the left.  Seaweed is scattered on the sand, as well as several seashells.  On the right, close to readers is the little girl.  Her right foot is on the deck and her left foot is kicked up in the air.  Her left arm and hand are extended up in joy.  In her right hand she carries a yellow pail.  Her eyes are closed behind her glasses.  Her mouth is open as she sings.  Her soft hair frames her face like a cloud.  In a word, this is bliss.


The longer you are out-of-doors, the more you realize it influences you; sometimes in ways you find extraordinary.  Swashby and the Sea written by Beth Ferry with illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal is a story of wise waves, and the forming of unlikely friendships.  It is a story of song, sand, seagulls, and starfish wrapped in teatime on towels.  This book is a storytime treasure, meant to be shared. Children will love the rhythm of the words and so will the adults who read them.  I highly recommend this for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Beth Ferry and Juana Martinez-Neal and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Juana Martinez-Neal has interior images from this book displayed on her website.  Beth Ferry has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Juana Martinez-Neal has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  The cover reveal for this book is hosted by Elizabeth Bird, Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system, at A Fuse #8 Production, School Library Journal.  Both Juana Martinez-Neal and Beth Ferry are interviewed about this book.  Beth Ferry is interviewed at PictureBookBuilders about this title and her work.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Up And Into

As you sift through your memory files, some of those labeled the first time are easier to recall than others.  Some are clearer because they are unforgettable.  It was a sensory experience as you looked at items not previously seen, inhaled specific smells, listened to new sounds, touched familiar and unusual things, and perhaps, tasted something unique.  It was as if you had entered a distinctively different world.

These are recollections held by many who step into an elevator for the first time.  You enter a small room in one place and in a short amount of time, you arrive at another spot.  Even when you learn about the mechanics of its operation, it still seems a bit magical.  Lift (Disney Hyperion, May 5, 2020) written by Minh Le with art by Dan Santat is the newest collaboration by the team who created the marvelous and memorable Drawn Together.  In this title the enchanting essence of our first elevator ride ascends to a wondrous level.

MONDAY
Hi, my name is Iris.

Iris is a fan of pushing elevator buttons, especially if she needs cheering.  Day after day, week after week, it is her job to push the elevator buttons from the lobby to their floor or from their floor to the lobby.  One week, though, on a Thursday, Iris's little brother reaches out and pushes the button.  WHAT?!

Her parents are deliriously happy.  Iris is not, not one little bit.  On Friday, it happens again, inside the elevator.  In a very un-Iris-like fit of anger, she pushes all the buttons.  Her little brother loves this.  Her parents do not.

When they get to the lobby, Iris is fascinated by the broken elevator button the maintenance man discards. (He is fascinated playing with her brother.) She grabs the elevator button out of the waste basket.  When Iris gets back to her room, she tapes that button to her wall, and pushes it, probably out of habit and desiring happiness.

Can you imagine her surprise when it dings?  Can you imagine her surprise when a door opens?  When Iris walks through that door, her heart races with the sheer joy of an explorer.  The doorbell to their apartment ringing distracts her, and she returns to her room, closing the door.

A babysitter arrives as her parents leave.  An evening of food and fun is in the offing.  Iris tolerates every moment until she is finally alone in her bedroom for bedtime.  She is not sleepy at all. It's safe to say after pushing the button again, this experience takes Iris to new heights, until her brother's crying brings her back to her room.  Iris knows a favorite book which will soothe his heart.  On Saturday, the next morning, you won't be able to stop smiling at the unfolding of events.  They are heartwarming.  They are unprecedented, hopeful, and inspirational.


With limited, but conversational and heartfelt text, Minh Leusing the voice of Iris, brings us into a week in which every single one of us can identify.  He does this with his keen insight into children and their feelings.  We have felt Iris's pride and her frustration.  Minh Le doesn't only know his intended audience, he understands others who will be reading this book.  He has a gift of connecting generations.  His pacing and word choices are designed to build anticipation (and to supply us with a bit of comedy).  Here are two sentences.

When we get back home, I just want to be alone.
I wish I could be anywhere but here.


Looking at the front of the open dust jacket, you know this book is going to be extraordinary.  You can see the normalcy of Iris's room behind her, but what surrounds her is astonishing.  There is also a hint of foreshadowing here.  Notice the placement of the letters of Minh Le's and Dan Santat's names.  They are elevator buttons.  Dan Santat's attention to detail, layout and design is already apparent.

To the left, on the back, of the dust jacket on a canvas of muted green is the discarded elevator button, taped to Iris's wall.  We have zoomed in close.  The button is lighted.  Beneath it is a Carl Sagan quotation reading:

"Imagination will often carry us to worlds that
never were. But without it, we go nowhere."

On the book case we are looking at the door from two different points of view.  On the front, we are standing in Iris's bedroom looking at the door.  Light glows around all the edges.  On the back, we are in an alternate world, a rainforest.  We are looking through the doorway into Iris's apartment.

On the opening endpapers Dan Santat has placed Iris standing in the light of the doorway after pushing the button.  Her wide-eyed look tells a story all its own.  On the closing endpapers Iris stands with her little brother on that Saturday morning, looking through the doorway and standing in the light.  Their expressions are of supreme joy.

After the opening endpapers, a page turn reveals the title page which is the lobby of the building.  There is a big L above an elevator button.  In front of the out of service elevator is the title in large block letters.  Iris's mom holding her little brother, Iris, and her dad carrying groceries are waiting in front of the elevator door. Their backs are to us.  Prior to the closing endpapers is a two-page image which will have you gasping like Iris and her little brother.  It is also the dedication page with publication information beneath it.

In this book the illustrations are a series of geometrical panels (wide framed in black), full-page images, combinations of vertical panels and horizontal panels, squares and rectangles and heart-stopping double-page illustrations, edge to edge with no borders.  There are series of images without words, interpreting the narrative flow.  Dan Santat shifts the perspectives to bring us close to the characters or farther away.  Each of these decisions places emphasis on emotional impact.  Sound effect text heightens moments.

The facial expressions on the characters are pure perfection. (I can't begin to tell you how many times I burst out laughing.) Dan Santat leaves no doubt in any reader's mind as to what the characters are thinking or feeling.  It's when you are looking closely at the characters that you notice other intricate elements.  Iris quickly realizes that a twig from her first elevator journey is still stuck in her hair when she greets the babysitter.  The name of the game the babysitter brings is Out Of This World.  The little brother's tiger stuffed animal is named Iris.  I wonder how many people will notice the lamp on Saturday morning in Iris's bedroom.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations (without giving anything away) is a series of three.  It is three horizontal pictures on a single page.  It is after Iris has pushed all the buttons.  Of course, the elevator stops at every floor, dings and the door opens.  As it opens, we see Iris's dad holding her brother, Iris, and her mom.  Her dad is resigned, as he holds a gleeful youngster.  Her brother cheers and flings back his hand holding his toy stuffed tiger in the second scene.  Iris is mad in all three.  Her mother's mood ranges from angry, to impatient and then to why me?  (I am laughing right this minute.)


This book is the answer to many questions.  It raises your mood and shifts your outlook.  Lift written by Minh Le with illustrations by Dan Santat is to be read often and widely.  We need this book for its universality and truths, insight and humor, and for its tribute to imagination.  I highly recommend this for your personal and professional collections.

To discover more about Minh Le and Dan Santat and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Minh Le has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Dan Santat has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  The book trailer for this title is premiered with a conversation between Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, and Minh Le and Dan Santat at Watch. Connect. Read., John's site. (The book trailer is a treat to be enjoyed repeatedly.)  At a publisher's website you can view a Q & A with the creators and a praise sheet of their two books can be downloaded.  Minh Le and Dan Santat are interviewed about this book at The Roarbots.  I believe you'll want to read it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Covered With Life

When you stand on the shore of a large body of water, gazing across its expanse, something happens deep inside you.  Being in the presence of this greatness is humbling but soothing.  It helps you to realize as small as you may be, you are a part of something greater than your eyes can see.  This water spread before you is alive.  It sustains life on our planet.

We wade and swim in it.  We walk along its sandy or stony beaches looking for treasure.  If we are fortunate one of the creatures living in this water will reveal itself to us.  That's a memory to cherish.  Ocean! Waves For All (Henry Holt and Company, May 5, 2020) written by Stacy McAnulty with illustrations by David Litchfield is the latest entry in the Our Universe series.  Ocean has a lot to tell us, so let's listen and learn.

Dude, I am OCEAN.

You know my many names:
Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic,
Indian, Southern.
It's all excellent me.

Even though we've given Ocean many names, it is one large body of saltwater covering our entire planet.  Seventy-one percent of Earth is covered by Ocean.  Ocean represents no country but welcomes everyone.  Did you know Ocean is older than the air we breathe?  Ocean was here before any land masses.

First life, so tiny a human eye cannot see it, began in Ocean.  Today the largest animal on the planet lives in Ocean.  Do you know what it is?  Ocean is home to the largest landform found anywhere in the world.   Ocean is a super liquid highway, boasting ships numbering in the tens of thousands using it every day.

Like our atmosphere has layers, so does Ocean.  There's one named the Twilight Zone.  It is 656 to 3,281 feet deep.  The pull of the moon creates tides, high and low, on Ocean.

Ocean has several messages for us.  We need to get serious about exploring all Ocean has to offer.  Comparisons are made between how we've made more discoveries about Mars than we have about Ocean.  Ocean is disturbed about all the plastic pollution and the melting of glaciers.  Ocean's closing words are a hopeful request, and a reminder.


Readers will find themselves smiling at the first word, Dude.  Throughout the narrative, author Stacy McAnulty uses words from the 1980s heightening the entertaining delivery of the information Ocean tells us.  Each placement of these words is as natural as the voice using them.  The facts shared by Ocean (Stacy McAnulty) are exactly what we need to know, but they also invite us to further educate ourselves.  We learn history, world records, basic facts, the role of the ocean in our lives, the wonders to be found and a plea for protection.  This is all done in a highly engaging conversational style.  Here is a passage.

And more humans have visited
outer space than my deepest spots.
Awesome for outer space. Bummer for me.
Ninety percent of my waters are
completely dark, cold, and yet totally rad.

Come explore my secrets.


The beautiful underwater world seen on the front of the dust jacket continues on the other side of the spine when it is opened.  There the fish, and plants are darker and more pronounced than on the front.  On the back on the surface of the ocean, a cargo ship heads toward the left edge.  When we met Ocean on the front, he seems eager to see us.  His eyes and mouth indicate he can hardly wait to speak.  His hands beckon to us.

The image on the book case is a reverse of the introductory image when the narrative begins.  It's done in hues of blue, pink, and purple.  Ocean is waving to us with one hand and pointing to himself with the other hand.  Among the ocean plants is a turtle, a shark, several jellyfish, and schools of smaller fish.  Around Ocean's face the colors are lighter, but on the edges, they are darker, richer.

On the opening and closing endpapers we are treated to two different dazzling displays of the multitude of life to be found in the ocean.  On the closing endpapers we are much deeper in the ocean.  Divers are exploring the depths and the unusual creatures.

Artist, David Litchfield,

created with pencils, ink, watercolor paints, and digital art tools

the illustrations for this book.  They are a stunning array of double-page pictures, vertical panels, a book super-imposed on Ocean, and single-page images framed in white.  In all of them we see Ocean's eyes and mouth and usually his hands.  One time he is holding a magnifying glass.  The size of his face varies according to the illustrative interpretation of the text.  Readers will find themselves pausing at every page to savor the included details. It's fun to see which residents can be identified.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when Ocean is reminding us of his importance.  He mentions his role in climate and his vital importance to all life.  In this double-page picture Ocean is spread across most of the two pages.  His face is on the left along with one of his hands.  Here icebergs are featured along the top with two whales.  On the bottom is a sandy beach with people enjoying the water.  As our eyes cross the gutter a thunderstorm rages on a portion of the top and a moon rises among stars on the far right.  Ocean's second hand seems to be holding up the thunder clouds with lightning zigzagging down and rain falling.  Along the shore here is a woodland scene with a male and female deer standing on the water's edge.


This book, Ocean! Waves For All written by Stacy McAnulty with illustrations by David Litchfield, is wonderful for the facts, the words used to inform readers and the images.  This book, like Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years, Sun! One In A Billion and Moon! Earth's Best Friend, is upbeat, captivating, and inspiring.  At the close of the book Stacy McAnulty chats with readers, offers more items of information, challenges us, and provides sources.  You will want to add this title to your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Stacy McAnulty and David Litchfield and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites. David has interior images on his website.  Stacy McAnulty has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. David Litchfield has accounts on Facebook, InstagramTumblr and TwitterThis series has its own website.  Here is a link to activity kits from the publisher.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  You will really enjoy this conversation between the two creators.



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


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Breathe The Open Air

There are bugs that bite.  There are butterflies. There are stinky-spraying skunks.  There are sun-dappled does.  There is an itchy poisonous ivy.  There are trillium, lady's slippers, violets, daisies, maidenhair ferns and water lilies.  There is the odor of smoke that clings to your hair and clothes.  There is the sweet smell of pine trees.  There is sand that is not sand, and you sink.  There are minnows, crabs, clams, and rocks to see in the shimmering water.  There is the sharp crack of twigs in the middle of the night. Bear?  There is the calming chorus of crickets.  There is the humid foggy morning.  There is the crystal-clear, star-strewn sky at night.  There are the bumps in the ground suddenly felt through your slowly flattening air mattress.  There is the snuggly warmth of your sleeping bag.  There is the tent which defies your every effort to stay erected.  There is the tent which envelops you, providing shelter from the elements.

When we venture into the outdoors, whether at a national or state park or designated forest, we are temporarily residents with the wild.  There are detriments to this adventure but the advantages, even brief moments, can last a lifetime.  The Camping Trip (Candlewick Press, April 14, 2020) written and illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann shadows Ernestine as she goes camping for the first time. It's an experience she and readers will long remember.

MY AUNT JACKIE invited me to go camping with her and my cousin Samantha this weekend, and my dad said yes!

A new sleeping bag and flashlight are only two of the many items Ernestine and her dad gather for this excursion.  Aunt Jackie wants her niece to be prepared.  It's not easy but Ernestine gets everything into her duffel bag.  She's ready and waiting.

When her Aunt Jackie and Samantha arrive, she's excited, but also worried about her dad getting lonely.  The two girls enjoy various activities, including simply staring out the window, on the long ride to Cedar Tree Campground.  The first thing Ernestine realizes when they stand on the shore of the lake is Cedar Tree Campground is huge and . . . silent.

It's hard work, hot and sweaty work, for Ernestine and Samantha to set up the tent.  Swimming is an option, but Ernestine is slightly scared about the fish she sees in the water.  Waiting on the shore is much safer.  After lunch, Ernestine's anticipation grows when they plan a hike, but she is amazed at how strenuous it is.  There is a lot to explore and discover until they come down the hill after hiking.  The best part of dinner that night is dessert.  Ernestine tastes her first s'mores.

Soon the trio are cozy and comfortable in their sleeping bags inside the tent until reading is over and the lantern is turned off.  Samantha and Aunt Jackie are snoozing in seconds.  Ernestine tosses and turns and tosses and turns.  Homesickness descends.  Wisely, Aunt Jackie makes a suggestion.  Wishing on a falling star can change everything.

The next morning, a hearty breakfast bolsters courage.  Packing up and loading the car seem harder.  The ride home is much quieter.  A welcoming hug opens the door to conversing about happy tasty recollections.


Told in first person Jennifer K. Mann allows readers to feel the thrills and the misgivings of this first-time camper.  Through a combination of thoughts, lists, instructions, observations, and conversations we become participants in this narrative.  The use of language by Jennifer K. Mann is marvelous in portraying sincerity.  Here is a passage.

First you roast your marshmallow over a campfire.

Mine is perfect.
Mine's on fire!

Then you make a sandwich.
---graham cracker
---marshmallow
---chocolate
---graham cracker

And then you eat it.  S'mores are scrumptious!


In looking at the open dust jacket, readers are given their first hint of the illustrative technique employed by Jennifer K. Mann for this book.  It's a delightful mix of picture book and graphic novel.  Many times, a group of smaller visuals will convey portions of a single event.  For the front we are given snapshots of the entire weekend.  To the left, still on a canvas of sky blue, is a larger image of Aunt Jackie, Samantha and Ernestine climbing up a steep hill.  Ernestine is looking less than happy.

For the book case a stunning, wordless interior spread is used.  It's nighttime at Cedar Tree Campground.  Done in deep midnight blue, black and white, it's a portrait of the trio, holding hands and standing on the shore of the lake.  Above them is a starry sky with a crescent moon.  The lake is so smooth, stars shine in its water, too.

On the opening and closing endpapers are black ink drawings of items needed when you go camping.  They are placed on a rusty brown background.  They are all labeled.  With a page turn we see along the bottom of two pages a cityscape on the left which blends into a wooded scene on the right.  We can see a tent among the trees.  This is the illustration for the verso and title pages.

Rendered in pencil on tracing paper, then digitally collaged and painted, these illustrations vary in size to accentuate pacing and enhance the story. We enjoy a double-page picture, a series of three square images in a vertical column opposite a gathering of items to be packed, six panels of varying sizes on two pages and then a wonderful panoramic setting with four insets.  Some of the illustrations coincide with text and dialogue.  Others tell their own story without words.  In this way Jennifer K. Mann is able to convey a range of emotions and moods. When Ernestine is flashing back, the pictures are shown in shades of blue.

Readers will enjoy the detailed, fine line work.  Characters' expressions will promote empathy and laughter.  The clothing worn by Ernestine, Samantha and Aunt Jackie provide a pleasing contrast to the great outdoors.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a two-page picture after the trio first come to the campground.  Spread before them is the lake, rolling hills on the opposite shore and clouds spanning the pale blue sky.  Jennifer K. Mann has pieced together what appears to be pages from a specific book to form the hills.  On the lake a bright red canoe is guided by two people.  On either side of Ernestine, Samantha and Aunt Jackie are tall evergreens, lowers shrubs and ferns with some water plants along the lake.  In the foreground is the grassy campsite and their loaded and parked car.  The color of the car is a hue of orange.


You can expect to hear frequent requests to go on your own outing after reading the heartwarming and splendid The Camping Trip written and illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann.  The voice of the protagonist rings with truth, touching our minds and hearts.  The images take us exactly where we need to go.  I hope everyone will place a copy of this book in both their personal and professional collections.  This is happiness you can hold in your hands.

To learn more about Jennifer K. Mann and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her personal website.  Jennifer K. Mann has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.  You can view interior images at the publisher's website and at Penguin Random House.  Jennifer K. Mann and this book are featured at author Kirby Larson's Friend Friday. If you would like to see the stunning book case, it's revealed at Let's Talk Picture Books on the Vimeo shown below.

The Camping Trip by Jennifer K Mann from Let's Talk Picture Books on Vimeo.

Friday, May 15, 2020

From Many, One

The fascinating fact about picture book biographies about the same person is each new one makes the person more whole for readers.  Each author and each illustrator approach the subject from a different perspective, even if similar information is included.  Some picture book biographies focus on the person's entire life, from birth to death, focusing on their choice of accomplishments.  Other picture book biographies feature either their childhood, or adulthood.  Particular milestones reached by the individual, even a single event, are covered by other titles.

In a new title about Benjamin Franklin, we learn of a collective variety of incidents, contributing to a lifetime of remarkable achievements.  In A Ben Of All Trades: The Most Inventive Boyhood of Benjamin Franklin (Candlewick Press, March 17, 2020) written by Michael J. Rosen with illustrations by Matt Tavares, we become acquainted with a young man who had an intense focus.  His repeated attempts to prove a point, enhanced his future more than he could have imagined.

WHAT DID Benjamin Franklin love about books?  Each one was nothing like the other.

What did Benjamin Franklin not love about making candles?

Working in his father's candle making shop, Benjamin deplored the exactness of the trade.  Everything was always the same.  What Benjamin desired was to be a sailor.  His father would not agree to this.

He needed to find a trade for his son, this son preoccupied with swimming, reading and too much thinking.  His latest book fascination was a title from his library, The Art of Swimming. Josiah, though impressed with Benjamin's latest invention, paddles for his hands to make him swim faster, knew he must find something to peak his son's interest soon.

After several days working at a joinery, Benjamin and his father, on their walk home spoke.  Benjamin longed to go to sea.  Josiah, as expected, said no.  Even when Benjamin demonstrated a new swimming technique in the river, his father did not relent.  Two different and new apprenticeships did not appeal to Benjamin.  He was good at both, as he was with whatever he did, but he was bored.  Even after another swimming presentation, Josiah stood silent and firm in his resolve to forbid Benjamin to go to sea.

One day, using the acquired skills from his job training, Benjamin made an extraordinary kite.  With his sister, Lydia, and his friend, John Collins, they went to Mill Pond.  Suddenly an idea struck Benjamin.  It worked splendidly.  Eagerly, he, Lydia and John walked to his father's shop.  Even after an explanation, his father did not approve.

Benjamin was sent to work with his brother, James, who owned a print shop.  Benjamin was there for nine years.  In those years, this youth took what he knew and what he learned and melded them with the best parts of his personality.  Benjamin Franklin died more than 230 years ago, but his talents and his deeds remain.


With his first four sentences, author Michael J. Rosen presents readers with the essence of Benjamin Franklin's personality as well as how his narrative of this time in Benjamin's days will unfold in this book.  By moving back and forth between Benjamin's perfecting of his inventions and his swimming techniques and his father's attempts at finding him a trade, we feel the tension between a young man wanting something with every fiber of his being and a parent who will not allow it.  It becomes apparent, when reading the facts and dialogue as depicted by Michael J. Rosen, that even within the restrictions of this historical period, young Benjamin Franklin's mind was allowed to flourish, regardless of not pursuing the career of his dreams.

In his Notes About Young Franklin and About Creating This Book, Michael J. Rosen addresses what he did and did not include in this book.  This reinforces what readers discover.  Although Benjamin Franklin lived centuries ago, young people today can connect to a boy who took the best of every situation and used it to strengthen his gifts.  Here is a passage.

The two walked without speaking until they
approached the river.  "Father, I've learned the
Leap of the Goat.  It's the feat that shows true
mastery of the swimming arts."
"If you must demonstrate, then you must . . . "
Benjamin raced toward the water.  Floating on
his back, chest inflated, he thrashed his arms
against the sun-bright ripples until his feet
fluttered inches above the river.
Josiah applauded.
Benjamin dressed.
The two walked home in silence. 


In a breathtaking composition, beginning on the front of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, we see young Benjamin Franklin standing on a dock post looking out at the harbor in Boston.  Behind him are buildings and people portraying the architecture, clothing, and transportation of this period.  The scene extends beautifully on the other side of the spine.  A ship flying the British flag spans from the left to the right of this portion of the painting.  The use of light and shadow here is visible throughout the book.  You can feel the salty air on the breeze and hear the cries of sea birds in the distance.  The sound of the horses and wagon and voices of the people fade because you, as Ben Franklin, are looking out toward the sea and your future.

The rich velvety black of the title text is used on the opening and closing endpapers.  On the first page is a quote from Poor Richard's Almanack, 1750.  As referenced in the quote artist Matt Tavares has placed a sundial on a short square pillar among grass and foliage.  With another page turn we are standing behind Benjamin Franklin as he looks out at the harbor.  This view of multiple ships in the water against a golden sky awash is wisps of clouds is stunning.  The yearning of this boy is our yearning.

Rendered in pencil and painted digitally, these illustrations by Matt Tavares transport us to Benjamin Franklin's world as a youth.  When the focus is on Benjamin and his father, the image spans across one page and half of another page.  This creates a wide column for text which Matt Tavares frames in period lines.  He also places a smaller visual (or visuals) beneath or within the text symbolizing an item mentioned in the narrative.

When Benjamin is trying one of his inventions, the illustration is a double-page picture, edge to edge. The one exception to this pictorial rhythm is when Josiah tells Benjamin he is to become a journeyman in his brother's print shop.  It is a dramatic moment.  Another technique of Matt Tavares creating an interpretive cadence is how he shifts a visual's viewpoint.  We are brought close to Benjamin at times and then we are given a more panoramic view.  Sometimes there is a blend of the two.  One thing which is portrayed is the affection Benjamin has for his sibling, friend, and his father and how that affection is returned.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when Benjamin is experimenting with his kite.  This double-page picture shows the bank of Mill Pond with homes beyond it and the masts of ships rising in the harbor.  Shadows of tree branches play on the roofs from the sunlight.  Lydia and John are running along the path.  This scene is the upper one-third of the image.  The other two-thirds show ripples of water, left to right, as Benjamin is being dragged on his back by the kite.  Above the water on the right side is his smiling face, eyes alight with joy.  His arms are stretched out and up as he grasps the stick with the kite rope wound on it.


This point of view, this portion of this memorable man's life, will resonate with and inspire readers.  Ben Of All Trades: The Most Inventive Boyhood of Benjamin Franklin written by Michael J. Rosen with illustrations by Matt Tavares is a marvelous title.  You could pair it with Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by Robert Byrd, Ben Franklin's Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of His First Invention by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by S. D. Schindler and Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France by Mara Rockliff with illustrations by Iacopo Bruno.  In this title in addition to the previously mentioned author notes, there is a note From the Illustrator, and a Bibliography.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional libraries.

To learn more about Michael J. Rosen and Matt Tavares and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Michael J. Rose has accounts on Facebook, and Twitter.  Matt Tavares has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  At Penguin Random House you can view other interior visuals.  Matt Tavares chats on the A Bookish Home Podcast with Laura Szaro Kopinski.


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


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A Pack Of Paw-some Dog Tales

If there was ever the slightest doubt in our minds about the goodness pets bring into our lives, this global pandemic has erased even the merest hint.  Their benefits cannot be measured.  Fortunately for humans, their personalities and habits shape the hours of our days and nights.

For the purpose of this post and to honor my chocolate Labrador retriever, Mulan, all the titles selected have a dog either as the main protagonist or as an important character. Canines as depicted (and in real life) exhibit cleverness, wisdom, and prompt outbursts of laughter.  These beloved creatures are living their best lives.

If there is one joy dogs seek every day, it's at least one long nap taken in one of their favorite places.  Up on Bob (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, February 11, 2020) written and illustrated by Geisel Honor winner (Ball), Mary Sullivan is a dog's earnest endeavor to accomplish this singular daily event.  It does not go according to his plan.

This is Bob.

Up on
the bed
Bob has work
to do.

Bob's young human has left their bedroom.  The books are stacked on the end table.  Several toys are at rest on the neatly made bed.  Another toy is nestled in a cozy pillow chair on the floor.

Bob gets busy with the task at paw.  It's not easy.  It takes several steps, removals, and rearrangements.  Bob does not mind.  Hard work is this dog's middle name.  Perfection is achieved.

You know the feeling you get sometimes, the feeling you are being watched?  Bob quickly realizes he is not alone.  The ideal is no longer in balance.  Bob is unable to sleep. He pretends he is asleep, hoping to once again be alone.

Suddenly, without warning a certain Someone begins to duplicate Bob's previous preparatory actions.  It seems Bob has a partner desiring his same superiority.  Oh, the lengths those will go who are seeking a soothing snooze.


Her use of language and choice of words is done with explicit intention.  Mary Sullivan uses short, but specific sentences.  Her repetition of words in these sentences and the repetition of the sentences later in the narrative, invite reader participation through the supplied rhythm.  This type of writing also allows for deliberate pacing, building toward tension and release with a satisfying resolution.  These three phrases are a perfect setup for an unplanned twist in Bob's routine.

There.
Everything is perfect.
Now Bob can sleep all day. 


The image on the front, right, of the open dust jacket placed on a crisp white canvas features Bob on the polka-dotted bed sheet with a rascal feline looking ready to pounce.  The heart shown on the letter U is part of the pillowcase.  The color of the dots on the sheet are replicated in the title text letters.  To the left, on the back, on the same sheet, several toys look as if they have been thrown from their original positions.

On the book case the pattern of the pillowcase spans from the left, over the spine and nearly to the right where the sheet starts.  You can see the tiny heart tag on the right in the upper portion.  A tell-tale shadow in a leaping posture is seen on the back.  On the opening and closing endpapers the polka-dotted pattern of the sheets is shown.  The title page is a repeat of the front of the dust jacket with the characters replaced by the pillowcase.

Digitally drawn and colored by Mary Sullivan the illustrations are full-page, double-page pictures or single page images with large borders of white.  Perspective is shifted to slow pacing and build drama.  The eyes of the characters convey every emotion and elevate the humor.  The heart tag on the pillowcase is purposefully placed.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is accompanied by the text Now Bob can sleep all day.  This is one of several images which convey a pronounced contrast between the text and the image.  We are close to Bob, eyes now closed in contentment, as he is curled between the sheets with his head resting on the pillow.  His body curled in supreme peace is shown on the left with the white blanket stretching to the right edge.  What Bob can't see, but readers can is the Someone, ears poking over the edge of the bed.


If you are looking for laughter in a situation readers can readily understand, Up On Bob written and illustrated by Mary Sullivan is a superb choice.  Mary Sullivan has a gift for pacing, word choices and humor.  She knows her characters to the core.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Mary Sullivan and her other work, please follow the links attached to her name to access her website and blog.  Mary Sullivan has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Mary Sullivan has an interior image from this book on her Instagram account.



There is an irresistible, irrepressible urge in most dogs to chase.  They love to go after balls of all shapes and sizes.  This has been proven again and again as evidenced by televised sporting events when play has to stop because a dog has entered the game to go after a ball.  Humans with canine companions know this to be true, too.  How many times have we thrown a ball to have our pooch pals race after it, get it, and then head for the proverbial hills?  In This Little Pup (Albert Whitman & Company, April 1, 2020) written and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant, her first book as both author and illustrator, we get to follow a thrown ball and its pursuer as they traverse through numbers and colors.

One blue ball . . .

This blue ball arches and falls and arches and falls past two cows, brown cows.  As they watch the ball zip past them, along with the pup, these cows notice a trio of amphibians. These green leapers join the ball as it soars over pigs, four in number and colored pink.

Each time the ball passes a group of creatures on the farm, their number increases as their colors change.  They also engage in an activity typical to their personalities.  As the ball moves the entire farm ends up in a noisy uproar.

In one brief pause all the animals, including the farmer, his wife, and their child, watch and wait.  The little pup takes a giant jump.  You'll have to read to discover what happens to the one blue ball.


The placement of the words written by Laura J. Bryant provides readers with a call and response effect.  We are introduced to the animals at the end of one sentence.  They are repeated at the beginning of the next sentence followed by their action and the introduction of a new critter.  This is a wonderful reinforcement of the numbers and colors we meet.  It is a welcome request to join in the farmyard fun.  It is stopped at one point for emphasis and a shift in the cadence.  This shift builds a gentle tension until we have a satisfying conclusion.  Here is a phrase, the following sentence and new phrase.

Five white sheep giggled
and six purple butterflies . . .

fluttered away.
Seven orange kittens were on the hunt . . .


The double-page image shown on the matching dust jacket and book case acquaints readers with the pup on the front and his human child on the back.  Both are full of energy and focused on the blue ball.  On the back, to the left, the child moves as quickly as possible toward the pup.  A large blossoming tree spreads from the top left corner and stops just before the spine.  Its trunk on the left is shown on the grass with delicate flowers around it.

On the opening and closing endpapers Laura J. Bryant begins and ends her visual narrative with a blend of rolling hills.  On the first the sun is rising.  The pup with one eye open is looking at the blue ball.  The sun is setting on the second set.  The pup is sound asleep with the blue ball in the grass nearby.  A two-page picture of the pup sitting in the grass beneath a sunny sky with the ball, nearly as large as it is, showcases the title text, the author's name, and publisher.

The first illustration, a two-page image, is wordless.  Careful readers will realize all the creatures we meet in the following pages are shown in this initial scene.  The child has the blue ball.  The pup patiently waits.  Each subsequent two-page picture is highly animated with lifelike representations of the creatures.  Each of the animals exhibit different personalities based upon their body positions.  All of them appear to be content based on their facial expressions and actions.  These full-color illustrations are textured and detailed.

One of my many, many favorite pictures shows the four pink pigs rolling and rolling and rolling in the mud.  They are blissfully happy.  The mud covers most of the bottom half of the two-page image.  Above it is a thin strip of green.  Following its dotted-line arches, the ball is about to bounce off the right side.  The pup, leaping into the air, is coming from the left side.  You can't look at this picture without smiling (or maybe rolling in the mud or chasing the ball).


Certain to be a much-requested title and a storytime favorite, This Little Pup written and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant is a playful romp among farmyard friends.  Familiar animals help readers identify colors and numbers as the pup tries to get the ball his human child threw.  This would be wonderful as a reader's theater.  I can't imagine a personal or professional collection without a copy of this book.

To learn more about Laura J. Bryant and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.



Another attribute of our dog friends is their determination.  In short order we humans learn to trust their instincts.  Their sensory perceptions are much higher than ours.  If they won't go where we want to go, we consider and learn to turn around in another direction.

Sometimes, though, they stop in their tracks and won't budge.  They go into full I'm-in-charge mode.  Hound Won't Go (Albert Whitman & Company, April 1, 2020) written by Lisa Rogers with illustrations by Meg Ishihara is a highly humorous event told in lively rhyming words with equally lively images, both full of charm that firmly stays in your heart.

Light flashes.
Hound dashes.

Nosy hound
sniffs ground.

This dog smells something special.  This is no ordinary smell.  This is pure heaven.  Hound decides, right in the middle of the crosswalk, he has to stay for as long as possible right here.

People on bikes move around him. He scratches an itch.  People in their cars can't move.  He is oblivious.  To make it even worse, now Hound gets ready to nap.  Nap?! In the middle of the road?!

Nothing will get this dog in motion.  His human tries every trick possible.  Horns honk, Hound snoozes.  Just when everyone around him is certain he is glued to the pavement, Hounds races into action.  He is not happy with what is happening.

He is running so fast his paws barely touch the ground.  Within what seems to be mere heartbeats, he is home and inside.  His human, thankful not to be in the middle of the street any longer, cares for her companion. The duo cuddle as she changes a single word in the title expressing her deep affection.


A familiar pulse is created by author Lisa Rogers with the last word rhyming in every two lines.  Two to four-word phrases have readers toe-tapping between bouts of laughter.  This beat subtly leads readers to a dynamic change of pace before intentionally bringing us back to a comforting cadence.  Here is another couplet.

Tug the rope?
Hound says nope.


As soon as you look at the matching and open dust jacket and book case, you know this dog has a mind of its own.  It's plopped down with no desire for motion.  The manner in which illustrator Meg Ishihara has our eyes focus on Hound is a wonderful point of view.  The bright colors in the title text and leash and the human's shoes assist in her design.  To the left, on the back, Hound is alone and has shifted his position.  He's itching in front of the car.  Three couplets from the text are placed on white to the left of Hound.

On the opening and closing endpapers Meg Ishihara has placed a series of smaller images of Hound on a pristine white background.  They are in a repeating pattern of two loose rows.  Hound, nose to the ground, is shown on the title page.

Each illustration, full-page or double-page picture, portrays hound and those people around him with realistic facial expressions and body postures.  You get a very real sense of everyone's growing frustration at Hound.  The comedy is in the contrast between their moods and Hound's lack of concern.  As the saying goes---Ignorance is bliss.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  It's a close-up of Hound in the middle of the crosswalk.  On a canvas of gray, a yellow line stretches above Hound.  He has rolled on his back, hind legs and tail stretched out.  His front paws are resting on his belly.  Only one eye, open, is visible.  His ear is flopped over the other eye.  His red leash stretches up and off the right side of the page.  This picture is priceless and speaks truth.


If you want to add merriment to any mood, Hound Won't Go written by Lisa Rogers with illustrations by Meg Ishihara is the title you must choose.  The mix of words and artwork is simply enchanting and depicts truths.  You'll definitely want to add this title to your personal and professional collections whether your focus is on dogs or humor.

To learn more about Lisa Rogers and Meg Ishihara and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Lisa Rogers has an account on Twitter.  Meg Ishihara has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior illustrations.  It was an honor to host the cover reveal here at Librarian's Quest with an informative and entertaining interview with Lisa Rogers.



For those of you not spending your life with a canine companion, trust me when I say, they have distinct skills necessary to mend any rift.  They have an uncanny ability to alter your life within seconds with a look or an antic.  They know you, the real you, better than you know yourself.

In a recent collaboration author Joanna Cotler and artist Harry Bliss combine their considerable talents to bring us a book about a canine exhibiting the best they have to offer any living being.  Sorry (Really Sorry) (Philomel Books, April 7, 2020) brings us into a day on a farm with Cow starting off on the wrong hoof.   The ripple effect is in full force.

Cow was in a nasty mood.  Usually she
was content to munch grass, rub up
against fences, and play with her farm
friends.

Her current mood was based solely on mud.  She detested it in and on her hooves.  For no reason, other than her grumpiness, Cow kicked mud on Duck.  Duck's outlook of the day changed in a flash.

When Frog, noticing Duck's dirty exterior, asked her to go for a swim, she replied with disgusting names.  She refused to sincerely apologize.  Hearing Bird singing Frog continued the meanness.  Bird was shocked at the Frog's disregard of her song and insincerely spoken sorry.

Ill-tempered words and actions continued to spread from animal to animal.  Bird hurt Goat.  Goat hurt Pig.  Pig was desolate.  Dog heard Pig's sobbing.  Inquiring as to what was the matter, Pig was downright unkind.

Dog just sat there. Dog started to point out what Pig had forgotten.  Soon their temporary distance closed.  The ripple started to shrink and reversed until a group gathered at the pond, but as in life, the story was not quite over yet.  There was always a new surprise right around the fence.


There is a pleasing harmony made by the narrative and dialogue written by Joanna Colter.  Her story flows with ease between the two, bringing us closer into the animals' disgruntled attitudes with their conversations.  Readers will effortlessly understand the precise tone of the word sorry spoken without honesty.  This is a real depiction of circumstances we've observed or experienced.

Even though the pattern of the tale from animal to animal remains the same, the words and conversations are altered to reflect their specific relationships. This builds on the intensity of each situation.  It also offers a chance for each incident to rewind with kindness reflected in their gestures.  Here is a passage.

Bird flew up into a tree.
There was Goat, perched on a branch.

"This is my'
branch," said
Bird.  "Get down!"

"But we always
share this tree,"
said Goat.

"Not anymore," said Bird, and
she beat her wings until Goat,
tumbled to the ground.


The artwork by Harry Bliss as first seen on the matching and open dust jacket and book case supplies readers on the front with two pals posed in peace.  Pig and Dog, based upon their expressions, have a deep affection for each other.  To the left, on the back, the canvas is a bird's eye view of the farm.  Placed on this view are four circular portraits of Duck, Pig, Cow and Goat.  Beneath each one is a quote by the character depicting their current moods and thoughts.  For example, Pig says:

"I'm not sorry that I love this book!"

On the opening and closing endpapers detailed etchings of the characters in black are placed on a brown background.  One of the gifts of apology is shown also.  It's a worm sandwich.  On the title page, the animals' faces frame the text.  Frog perched on Goat's head, foot on its chin, is looking up at Bird flying above the words.  Another pastoral scene from above spans across the verso and dedication pages.

Rendered in black India ink and watercolor the illustrations are exquisite in their lines and textured color.  They are a combination of realism and cartoon-like representations.  They are signature Harry Bliss images.  The sizes of the pictures alter to accentuate pacing.  At times for emphasis the character not sorry at all is placed in a circle before the narrative continues.  We are near each of the animals when their moods shift.  This makes the story very personal.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when Dog simply sits next to Pig as she sobs and snorts.  The text is placed above and below the illustration.  Pig is lying on her belly in the dirt in front of the barn.  In the foreground Dog sits with her back to us.  Her face is turned to the side to focus on her friend.  It is the ultimate dog position and look.


This book, Sorry (Really Sorry) written by Joanna Cotler with pictures by Harry Bliss explains how crankiness, unstopped, can alter more than a single individual's day.  It also presents how an act of kindness can turn all those frowns into smiles.  Kindness is truly contagious.  Saying you're sorry with sincerity is freeing.  Readers and listeners will request this book frequently.  You'll want a copy for both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Joanna Cotler and Harry Bliss and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Joanna Cotler has an account on Instagram.  Harry Bliss has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Joanna Cotler and Harry Bliss interview each other about this book and their work at Publishers Weekly.  You'll need to take the time to read it.  It's wonderful. At the publisher's website you can view the title page.



Dogs and digging go paw in paw.  They will dig anywhere and in anything.  They love to make huge holes to bury an array of items or to simply see how far they can go.  Sometimes they will dig because their super sniffers smell something underground.  (My previous dog, Xena, dug at the painted figures on her kiddie pool.  She also hauled huge rocks from underwater in Lake Michigan and buried them in holes she dug in the sand.)

Some dogs, admittedly, like to dig more than others.  It's a personality trait or perhaps a trait of a particular breed.  Roy Digs Dirt (The Blue Sky Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc., April 7, 2020) written and illustrated by David Shannon is as the title suggests a play on words about a dog who loves dirt and everything that can be done in dirt.

Roy digs dirt.

He digs dirt before breakfast, after lunch,
and before and after dinner.

Nothing makes this dog merrier than dirt.  He does everything possible, whenever possible in dirt.  This makes Roy happy most of time.

Roy happens to think dirt makes his appearance more stunning.  Roy buries everything he can find in dirt just for the sake of being in dirt.  Sometimes he digs in dirt to find other things buried.  He's like a pirate with paws.

Even though you might find it disgusting, Roy thinks anything found in dirt is to be eaten with relish.  If it's there, it's to be consumed.  Dirt is a total sensory experience for Roy.  There is one thing about dirt Roy does not like.  What could it be?

Dirt when wet makes mud.  Roy loves mud, but not the bath that follows.  Roy does not like being clean. Without dirt, Roy still finds things to dig.  (I'm not sure his humans appreciate this, though.)

In the backyard all the landscaping creates a jungle for Roy and other domestic and wild critters.  This does not make Roy happy at all. It's his jungle and his dirt.  After one nighttime encounter Roy is back in the bath.  Phew! Do you think Roy digs in his sleep?  Each day begins and ends the same for Roy in his dirt-filled version of heaven.


You would think the use of one word, repeatedly would become tedious but not when used by a master wordsmith like David Shannon.  It's the repetition that gives this book its joy.  It's the repetition that ties readers emotionally to Roy.  We not only feel his obsession but we, unbelievably, understand it.  The use of language generates a series of highs and lows, mostly highs, in this dog's day.  In essence, where there's dirt, there is supreme happiness.  David Shannon does not disappoint with his final line either, pure perfection in its double meaning.  Here is a passage.

When it rains, Roy digs mud.  Mud
might be even better than dirt.
Mud is like dirt gravy.


One look at the grinning, tongue-hanging-from-his-mouth dog, Roy, on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case and readers will hardly be able to keep from laughing out loud.  It seems that Roy has dug a huge hole and has momentarily decided to peek over the top at us.  His perky ears and gleeful demeanor rarely change, except for baths.  To the left, on the back, the title is cleverly spelled in a series of tunnels revealed in a cutaway.  A mouse or mice have dug the letters.  On top of the dirt, on the left side, Roy is looking down the hole, nose and paw extended.  He is getting ready for a digging marathon.

Across the white opening and closing endpapers is a zig-zap of muddy paw prints.  These paw prints continue over the text on the title page until with a page turn, we are presented with the verso and first page featuring a huge pile of dirt on the left with Roy digging like a champion on the right.  His dog bowl, labeled with his name is nearby.

The illustrations are a spirited perspective, front and center, of a dog's fascination with dirt.  Every movement and expression on his face reveals how much he digs dirt.  We are treated to single page close-up viewpoints, or double-page images littered with "treasure" or conveying a fear of bathtubs.  Some two-page visuals display several different actions to contribute to pacing or to elevate the narrative.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  We are looking down on Roy about to take a bath.  The tub, with the facets at the top of the page, fills the left, crosses the gutter, and fills the right side.  We can see a few partial items on the left and right sides.  Roy is stretched as far as he can, lifting himself over the water.  His front paws are braced on the left and his back paws are braced on the right.  Who knew this dog could reach so far?  In the lower right portion of the right side a rubber ducky floats.


No matter how many times you read this book, Roy Digs Dirt written and illustrated by David Shannon, you'll find yourself either grinning or giggling or laughing aloud.  Children will love this book every single time you read it.  If they happen to disappear, look in the dirt.  They, like Roy, will be rolling around in it.  Make sure to have a copy in your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about David Shannon and his other wonderful work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  David Shannon has an account on Instagram.  Please take a few moments to watch this video recorded and posted by book shop, Politics and Prose.





One of the biggest worries of most humans is losing their canine companions.  Sometimes dogs get distracted by their super sensory powers and forget to stay with their people.  Sometimes people lose their focus, forgetting about their best friends.  When this happens, once either the dog or human realizes their other half is missing, it's hard not to panic.  Where'd My Jo Go? (Sleeping Bear Press, April 15, 2020) written by Jill Esbaum with illustrations by Scott Brundage is based on a true story about a trucker who leaves a rest stop without their canine partner.  This tale will have you turning the pages faster than you thought possible.

Always together,
wherever they go.

Jo and Big Al,
Big Al and Jo.

Jo has stopped for a rest.  She asks Big Al to hop back inside the truck, telling the dog she will be right back.  Big Al is not quite ready to ride, there are too many things to do outside.

Jo comes back to the truck, starts it up and heads out from the rest stop, not noticing that Big Al is missing.  Big Al is happily engaged in a variety of situations, doing what dogs do.  Big Al's final romp in a flower bed has him running back to the parking lot.  Where is Jo?

Big Al can't believe Jo is gone.  Big Al decides to wait for Jo.  Waiting and remembering all their shared moments, keeps Big Al firmly planted in the parking lot.  As the afternoon drags on, Big Al gets worried.  At the next stop Jo is flabbergasted to find Big Al missing.  Soon it is night.  The busy parking lot is now empty.  It's cold.  It's lonely.

Suddenly a car, lights shining, pulls into the lot.  A boy sees Big Al all alone.  Big Al cannot resist the friendliness of the boy.  Where is Jo?  Wait!  There's another light shining in the lot, heart hammering Big Al hopes.  Is it Jo?


With the right amount of rhyming and timing Jill Esbaum draws readers firmly into the narrative.  We, unlike Big Al or Jo, sense the terrifying turn of events.  It's this knowledge that propels us forward.  For a moment we find the same happiness as Big Al being all dog, but then the fright he feels hits us front and center.  When Jo can't find Big Al, our sense of doom doubles.  The technique of showing the passing of time as afternoon turns into evening builds the suspense.  Here is a passage.

It's gone!
The truck's gone!
Holy cow!

Where'd my Jo go, anyhow?
Could I find her?  Should I---
                 No!
SIT. STAY. Wait for Jo. 


Our eyes are immediately drawn to the dog on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case.  Sitting alone in the parking lot of the rest area, trucks stopped, Big Al sits and stays and waits.  Head raised; he is hopeful for the return of Jo.  His body, ears, eyes and nose, his entire demeanor is excellent.  To the left, on the back, on a canvas of white is one of Big Al's memories of Jo chasing him.  He is running away with an article of her clothing as she tries to pack.  It's red.  Big Al is also shown standing on his back legs, front paws resting on the ISBN.

The opening and closing endpapers are a pristine white.  Rendered in full color by Scott Brundage the images are laden with emotion.  On the title page is a small picture of Big Al sitting on Jo's lap as she sits behind the wheel in her truck.  Scott Brundage switches his perspectives and illustration sizes to heighten the impact of the text.

Double-page pictures, single-page pictures crossing the gutter leading to a series of smaller insets on a full page or single-page visuals contribute to the flow of the story.  The personality of Big Al is revealed in his movements, his expressions and how he interacts with people and this place, this rest area. The eyes of Big Al clearly are a window to this dog's soul.  We are fully engaged in every mood and moment through the pictorial presentations.

One of my many, many favorite pictures is on a single page.  It's a close-up of Big Al.  He is looking outward, perplexed at Jo's missing truck.  Ears upright, head slightly tilted and worry creasing his brow, Big Al ponders this predicament.  His face is framed in white space.  The white space is framed with watercolor-like brush strokes.  His red collar hangs straight on his neck, his name tag resting on his chest.

Through their combined talents, Where'd My Jo Go? written by Jill Esbaum with pictures by Scott Brundage breathes life into a story inspired by fact.  Every page turn builds toward the resolution.  We understand this dog and the connection between him and his human through his thoughts and actions.  Readers and listeners will find this story heartwarming and satisfying.  On a page titled The Rest of the Story, author Jill Esbaum tells readers how this story was born.  I highly recommend this title for both your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Jill Esbaum and Scott Brundage, please access their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Jill Esbaum has accounts on Facebook and Twitter.  Scott Brundage has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. This title is showcased at PictureBookBuilders and at author Kathy Temean's site.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior pages.



One of the great mysteries of dogs and relationships is how they will react in the presence of other dogs or other pets.  At first glance it seems as if they will be best friends or bitter enemies, but this can change.  It is as if they are better at compromise than humans.  They have mastered the art of give and take . . . usually.

In a highly humorous look at this understanding of relationships, Cat Dog Dog: The story of a blended family (Schwartz & Wade Books, April 28, 2020) written by Nelly Buchet with art by Andrea Zuill uses a minimum of words with expressive artwork to take readers on a journey of discovery.  Every moment, every incident, is brimming with perceptions.  These perceptions are those of the characters and our points of view at what is being told to us.

Dog

In the beginning all we know is a single small white dog lives alone in bliss with her human man.  She has a bounty of toys, and a canopied bed.  Her dad adores her.

In another home, a woman lives with her larger playful dog and a proud cat.  Sometimes the cat tolerates the dog and other times, it does not.  The cat rules the household.

Very quickly the dog sees that its dad has packed all their belongings in boxes and loaded them into a truck.  They are taking a trip.  Soon they arrive at the home of the mom and her dog and her cat.  The two humans hug in blissful happiness.  The trio of pets are not entirely sure about this situation, although the larger dog is ready to romp.

There is unpacking, a tiny disaster, walks, dinner time and shocking adjustments at bedtime.  Then there is a much larger shared disaster by Dog, Dog, and Cat.  It is not a comfortable time for any of them.  Months and holidays pass and one winter evening in front of a crackling fire Dog, Dog, and Cat are sleeping, happily unaware of a striking new development.  Readers are given a hint.  With the final page turn, readers will howl with laughter.


This narrative is told using only three words repeatedly, dog, dog, and cat.  It's the order in which they are placed by debut children's book author Nelly Buchet that will completely captivate readers.  Occasionally for dramatic impact and added interest a single sound effect or the name of another animal will be introduced.  Each time one or more of the carefully placed words are read, readers will feel tension and humor growing.  It's sheer genius.


It's a challenge to look at the front of the matching dust jacket and book case and not burst out laughing.  The positioning of the three animals above the three words, their facial expressions and the wagging of the larger dog's tail, tell a tale.  It's as if the trio are about ready to spring from the image.  To the left, on the back, on a canvas of muted golden yellow, we see the woman and man and the three animals standing in the open doorway of their home.  It's a point filled with expectations and anticipation.

On the opening and closing endpapers, the same shade of green seen on the jacket and case is used as a canvas.  A thin black line, like a path, stretches from left to right.  Racing across the page is the small white dog on the opening endpapers.  On the closing endpapers the same dog is chasing the racing cat.  The larger dog prances in the lead, holding a blue stuffed toy bear in its mouth.

With a narrative built on only three words, the artwork of Andrea Zuill shines like an intricate, textured, distinctive beacon displaying insight, interpretation, comedy and story brilliantly.  Every page turn has readers pausing to notice each exquisite detail.  There is meaning in each placement as well as foreshadowing.  Rendered using ink, compiled digitally, and colored in Photoshop each illustration, large or small, alone or paired with others is a layer, a deliberate portion of a wonderful whole.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  It is surrounded by a large loosely framed white space.  The words, in order, are Cat Dog Dog.  It's nighttime.  The cat is curled in comfort inside the white dog's canopied bed.  The white dog is seated on the floor at the foot of the bed looking at its dad.  The dad is wide-awake, sandwiched between the woman and her large dog.  That dog is lying on its back, front legs curled, and back legs spread open, with its head at the foot of the bed.  Its rear is pointed toward the man.  The mom is calming reading a book.


If you are looking for the height of hilarity and the power of words and illustrations carefully paired, this book is an excellent choice.  Cat Dog Dog: the story of a blended family written by Nelly Buchet with art by Andrea Zuill is outstanding in every aspect.  It will be a much requested read aloud.  It needs to be shared often.  It should find a place on every personal and professional bookshelf.

To learn more about Nelly Buchet and Andrea Zuill and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links embedded in their names.  Nelly Buchet has an account on Instagram.  Andrea Zuill has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view other images.  Here is a link to Nelly Buchet's YouTube channel where she has placed a series of quick book teaser trailers.  Nelly Buchet and Andrea Zuill are interviewed about this title and their work at author Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations.