Quote of the Month

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




Monday, September 23, 2019

Food For Thought---Frank And Bean Blog Tour

Two words with similar sounds have completely different meanings.  Being alone is empowering, reminding us to seek and experience our best qualities in silence, contemplation and creativeness.  It's energizing.  In some respects, lonely is the opposite of alone.  It's a feeling of being lost, unsure and out of balance.  It's an unwelcome weight.

When people see someone alone, they might believe they are lonely but a verbal exchange, a short conversation, can reveal the truth.  Sometimes in this conversation the two individuals discover wonderful attributes about each other.  Two perfect personalities exhibiting this possibility are being introduced to the children's literature realm soon.

Frank And Bean (Candlewick Press, October 8, 2019) written by Jamie Michalak with illustrations by Bob Kolar will have readers nodding their heads in agreement between bouts of laughter.  Humans generally consume these two items of food together, finding them to complement each other.  Frank and Bean, as fictional characters in this early reader, are complete opposites.  In four concise charming chapters, we meet this duo and join them as a friendship forms.

Chapter 1
Frank
This is Frank.
This is Frank's tent.
This is Frank's pencil.
This is Frank's spork.
This is Frank's secret notebook.
Everything here is Frank's.

Being alone is exactly what Franks wants so he can write his private thoughts in his notebook.  He moves from the croaking frog and the hooting owl and even startles himself when he wanders into a pond.  Seeking solitude and quiet is not as easy as he thought.  None of the night creatures respond to his wishes for a good night, so lying in his tent he tells himself good night.

The next morning quietly eating his breakfast Frank is surprised by a loud honking.  It's a bus, Bean's bus.  It's loaded with all sorts of things to generate noises, loud noises.  Bean has a trumpet, a drum, a triangle, a motorbike and a gong.  He plays more than one of those instruments.  He rides his motorbike.  Frank is frustrated and keeps trying to get Bean to stop.  Bean is so loud he misunderstands Frank's requests, substituting words.  Before Frank's knows what's happening, Bean is at his tent expecting pie.  (Frank said goodbye.)

As the two chat Bean discloses the nature of his quest to Frank.  Frank, in turn, explains to Bean, the shortest and easiest way to complete his search.  Of course, Bean being Bean, interrupts repeatedly with noise, antics and his own request of Frank.  Frank must eat a jelly doughnut hole.

SQUIRT!
SPLAT!

As the final chapter begins Frank is snuggled in his tent attempting to sleep when Ben's trumpet echoes through the campsite.  Frank, going to Bean's bus, implores him to be quiet.  After a second endeavor for silence, Bean shows up at Frank's tent.  Remember the word lonely.  This is Bean on this night.  A frank discussion takes the best of both these beings and supplies readers with a perfect complementary resolution.


As you read through the narrative and the dialogue, you can't help but wonder how much fun Jamie Michalak had writing this book.  She gives us very clear descriptions of the personalities of both Frank and Bean through examples.  The contrast in their traits is a source of comedy.  Repetition of sentence structure provides a cadence for readers.  It is in the fourth chapter, Jamie Michalak gets to more profound statements, statements ringing true for readers of all ages.  Here is a passage.

"I am Frank," says Frank.  "What are you doing here?"
"YOU WANT ME TO CHEER?" yells Bean.  "OK. HOORAY FOR FRANK!"
"I did not say cheer," says Frank.
"Turn off your bike so I can talk with you."
"MOO?" Bean shouts.  "DO I HEAR A COW?"


I don't know about you, but when I look at Frank and Bean on the matching and open dust jacket and book case, I can't help but grin. Their facial expressions here (and throughout the book) reflect their true natures.  Frank looks quiet and studious.  Bean looks boisterous and ready to romp.

The sky filled with a few clouds, the evergreens and forest trees continue on the other side of the spine.  The frog mentioned in the story is sitting on a rock in the lower left-hand corner of the back.  The text framed by the clouds reads:

Some friendships are
just meant to be.

The opening and closing endpapers are striped in two hues of golden yellow.  The stripes are similar in size to the stripes on Frank's tent.  On the title page Frank's secret notebook and Bean's hat are featured between the text.  Under the Contents text Frank is pulling a tiny wagon loaded with his goodies.  It is labeled Frank Furter.  This is one of the many humorous details illustrator Bob Kolar includes in his images for this title.

Frank's tent is a mini version of a circus tent with an initial "F" on the roof with a red circle, knob, on the tip of the top.  Bean's bus has large windows on all its sides.  The lettering reads Bean The Musical Fruit.  There is a "B" on the front of it.

The illustration sizes vary according to the text, pacing and emphasis on the activities of the characters.  They alternate between full-page pictures, insets on crisp white backgrounds, and double-page pictures.  It's guaranteed readers will be giggling and guffawing.

One of my many, many favorite pictures is a double-page picture.  It's Frank's first night in the forest.  A few clouds remain in the darker sky, but stars frame the top and curve down the sides.  There are several evergreen trees, one large tree for the owl and a pink tree in full bloom.  The frog is sitting on his rock.  A few crickets surround the area.  Frank's hat with the head lamp, his secret notebook, pencil and spork are laying on the ground right outside the tent.  Frank, due to his height, is mostly outside the tent.  He is wearing a striped nightcap and his glasses.


Excellent for the intended audience but certain to be enjoyed by readers of all ages, Frank And Bean written by Jamie Michalak with illustrations by Bob Kolar is a topnotch early reader.  The use of language and the lively, joyous images work a special kind of spell.  You'll want a copy of this for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Jamie Michalak and Bob Kolar and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  Jamie Michalak has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  The link to her blog is here.  Bob Kolar has an account on Instagram.  At Candlewick Press and at Penguin Random House you can view interior images.  I was honored to host the cover reveal for Frank And Bean.  Both Jamie Michalak and Bob Kolar discuss their work and this book.

Here are two interior images provided by author Jamie Michalak done with skill and hilarity by Bob Kolar.



Jamie Michalak has a guest post on author Jarrett Lerner's site as part of this blog tour.



Thursday, September 19, 2019

Ravenous

Even the most easygoing individual cannot maintain such a demeanor consistently and constantly.  For there resides in each being a wildness.  Although it usually waits to be called, sometimes it bursts forth unbidden.  It has a craving; a craving needing to be satisfied.

At the appearance of this ferocity, there are usually two choices.  You can either succumb or decide to fight back the urge.  Hungry Jim (Chronicle Books, September 3, 2019) written by Laurel Snyder with illustrations by Chuck Groenink portrays a young boy whose morning begins not exactly as planned.

When Jim woke up on Tuesday,
his tail had fallen asleep.

What Jim finds strange about this circumstance is he has no recollection of having a tail.  When his mother announces pancakes for breakfast from the kitchen, Jim's stomach responds with a distinct grumble.  It's not for the promised pancakes, but for his mother.

In their conversational exchange from upstairs to the kitchen, Jim declares he is not yearning for pancakes.  Looking in the mirror, Jim sees a beast, a king of beasts.  As he approaches the kitchen, Jim is decidedly conflicted.  He does not want to consume his mother, but that's all he intensely covets.  So, he swallows her, all of her.

This does not leave him feeling quite right, but his appetite is far from satisfied. Leaving his home and running down the street, he munches and swallows a variety of bystanders and shop owners.  He feels remorse but the wild hunger inside him will not calm.  His frustration at his behavior and his stomach's desire for whatever it wants grows. 

He races from his community and roams in a nearby forest until he comes to the edge of a cliff overlooking a stormy sea.  As Jim is thinking about this dilemma, he hears another growl.  This time it is not his stomach but something as big, beastly and hungry as he is.  It appears that the consumer is about to be consumed.  Given the activities of Jim's morning, several events follow.  Perhaps you believe you know what will happen, but with this author's and this illustrator's combined skills, it's doubtful.  Be prepared to be delightfully dazzled.


After reading the first three sentences written by Laurel Snyder, readers know this is a book full of surprises.  They also quickly realize a truth is being presented.  Through the narrative, Jim's thoughts, and conversations with his stomach, as well as other characters, all liberally seasoned with humor, we find ourselves completely captivated by Jim's predicament.  This is masterful storytelling because there is never a moment when we are not present in this tale, invited by every word.  Here is a passage.

"I don't feel much like a pancake today," called Jim.

"Well, what do you feel like?" asked his mother.

Jim stared into the mirror.

He felt beastly.


Little do readers know when looking at the front of the dust jacket, the Jim referred to in the title is not a lion but a little boy.  By the look in his eyes, he's about ready to spring into action.  The title text is raised and varnished.  To the left, on the back, readers are given a view of the dark, forbidding forest where Jim makes several decisions. 

When removing the jacket, the book case is an extension of the back scene on the jacket.  More gnarled trees fill the right side and stretch off the top of the case.  In two trunk hollows, one on the left and one on the right, tiny glowing eyes watch readers.  (This image is shown on Chuck Groenink's website.)

On the opening and closing endpapers the canvas presents as lion's fur.  With a page turn, we are standing outside Jim's bedroom door in the hallway.  The title is posted as a sign on his door.

Chuck Groenink rendered these remarkable illustrations, on heavier, matte-finished paper, throughout the book

in pencil and Photoshop.

He complements and elevates the story with every picture.  The text never mentions the word lion.  It does not mention the details seen in every scene; pictures on walls, the kitchen appliances, shelving and contents, the architecture of the buildings in the town, or the names of the businesses.  (Humans with canine companions will understand the elements in one particular picture.) It does not mention exactly what happens after Jim makes decisions in the forest.  The pictures tell us more.

These illustrations vary in size to accentuate the pacing.  Several are wordless but nonetheless very powerful.  Sometimes we are given a larger view, or we may be closer to Jim.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  On the far left is the stairway with Jim as a lion ready to pounce as he peers around the edge.  Completely unaware is his mother standing in the kitchen at the stove, making pancakes.  The kitchen area covers a full page on the right, crosses the gutter and continues to a fourth of the left page.  The colors in the kitchen are subdued in creams, a shade of green and hues of blue and rust.  The table is set for two.  A cat is curled on a chair seat, sleeping.  The kitchen window is wide open.  This image is loaded with anticipation.


This book, Hungry Jim written by Laurel Snyder with illustrations by Chuck Groenink, is sumptuous when read silently but as a read aloud, with an individual or with a group, it is an exquisite feast for readers' minds and hearts.  At the close of the book, opposite the publication information, is the dedication.  If readers have not already seen this title as a tribute to the one and only Maurice Sendak, Laurel Snyder and Chuck Groenink make this clear with their words. I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Laurel Snyder and Chuck Groenink, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Laurel Snyder has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Chuck Groenink has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson highlights this title on her site, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, with loads of artwork.  Laurel Snyder is interviewed about her work at Publishers Weekly on August 15, 2019.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Sound The Horns! Drum Roll, Please! It's A Cover Reveal!

Just when you think nothing can top your reading of Pie in the Sky written and illustrated by Remy Lai, an invitation appears in your email.  You have been asked and are thrilled to except a request to participate in a blogger blitz for the cover reveal of her new book.  Fly On The Wall is set to be released this coming spring, 2020.  For more information, please follow this link.

ARE YOU READY?



ARE YOU REALLY, REALLY READY?



ARE YOU REALLY, REALLY, REALLY READY TO SEE THIS MARVELOUS COVER?

HERE IT IS!







Be sure to send some book love for this cover to Remy Lai on her accounts at Instagram and Twitter.

In Their Thundering Footsteps Our Future Lies

There will be times when the title of a book alone brings you to tears.  The thought of the words becoming a reality is too painful to envision.  As a child you believed you might never see certain animals because they lived on continents or habitats far removed from yours.  As a much older adult you know you might never see them because they have gone extinct . . . because of humans, their greatest threat.

This coming Friday, September 20, 2019 and next Friday, September 27, 2019 mark the Global Climate Strike where young people are inviting everyone to participate.  Our planet and all its inhabitants are in trouble.  In the third book in her series (If Sharks Disappeared Roaring Brook Press, May 23, 2017 and If Polar Bears Disappeared Roaring Brook Press, August 28, 2018) author illustrator Lily Williams shifts her focus to one of the largest land mammals. If Elephants Disappeared (Roaring Brook Press, August 17, 2019) addresses in a frank, easy-to-understand narrative how vital these creatures are to one essential environment, the tropical rain forest.

THIS IS THE CONGO BASIN FOREST.  It's a
complex ecosystem filled with many different
types of landscapes, plants, and animals.

A variety of animals live here but one of the smallest of the largest land animals is the African forest elephant.  As the smallest it still can rise to ten feet tall and weigh a staggering 11,000 pounds.  They are known as a keystone species.  Every single thing they do affects their habitat.  If they're gone, the tropical rain forests in Africa would be altered into something entirely different.

Did you know these elephants eat hundreds of pounds of food every day?  Did you know they can walk thousands of miles each year to find food and water?  Their poop, dung, holds a multitude of seeds which repopulates the flora of tropical rain forests in Africa increasing the biodiversity as they move from place to place.

It's shocking to note that from 2001 to 2018 sixty-two percent (62%) of their population has diminished mainly due to poaching. 

In a carefully explained chain of events, we read if they disappeared, their dung which fertilizes the seeds it carries would disappear.  Without the array of plants certain animals wouldn't have food to eat or homes.  Without these over 40 species of plants, big trees would rule the landscape, changing the entire habitat.  Now the tropical rain forest is truly in jeopardy.  With no plant diversity or animals, what do you think happens next?

When one ecosystem fails, it spreads to others.  Our entire planet would feel the absence.  In closing we are reminded elephants are still found in the African tropical rain forests, but we need to raise our voices to protect and preserve them.  We are all connected.


The technique used by Lily Williams to provide facts is meticulously clear.  She begins with an overview of elephants, even briefly describing their evolution, and then proceeds with their place as a keystone specie, how they eat and the value of their dung.  After speaking about their shrinking population, she starts a series of paragraphs paced as page turns and ending with the words if _____ disappeared.  This adds an engaging rhythm while informing readers, leading us to the startling but truthful premise based on scientific evidence.  Her concluding pages supply readers with hope and encouragement.  Here is a passage.

If plant biodiversity disappeared . . .  (page turn)

the large trees would take over the forest.  Though large trees reduce harmful greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by capturing carbon in the air and storing it, they also depend on fast-growing smaller plants to create biodiversity in the forest.  Larger trees would dominate the forest, crowding out space for themselves and other species.  The change in plant life would affect the forest soil, causing erosion, flooding, and even differences in the amount of rainfall the area gets.


Upon opening the matching dust jacket and book case the rain forest location moves first to the right flap edge and then over the spine and to the left flap edge.  This expanse draws us into the experience with the featured children, not only here but on other pages within the book.  Lily Williams has etched an outline around the elephant to indicate its possible disappearance.  Here shades of green in the variety of plants and trees and brightly hued small insects create a credible atmosphere.

To the left, on the back two smaller elephants, also outlined in white, follow the adult.  A snake hangs from a tree branch.  On the left end flap a group of elephants walks in the distance.

On the opening and closing endpapers a spectacular view is shown.  Everything is in black except for the water and sky.  Shades of pink, orange, yellow and a bit of white color those spaces.  Edging the water are hills and the rain forest.  On the left a tree and plants provide framing.  In the water the adult elephant leads the two smaller ones, trunks to tails, connected in security.

Each page turn reveals a two-page picture with shifts in perspective.  We are dazzled by a birds-eye view of elephants making their way through the forest and a close-up of an elephant's head.  Readers will find themselves looking at additional details and smaller elements in the images.  They will enjoy the tiny bit of humor, too.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the text quoted previously.  In a series of panels of the same area, which looks like a continuous picture, the changes by the lack of plant biodiversity are obvious.  As your eyes move from left to right, animals and plants except for the large trees vanish.  Little if any light gets through the treetops.  You can almost hear the lack of life, a stifling silence.


Essential for all personal and professional collections, If Elephants Disappeared written and illustrated by Lily Williams will linger in all readers' minds long after the book is read.  Lily Williams includes a Glossary, All Elephants Are In Trouble, Tropical Forests, How You Can Help Save Elephants, Author's Note, Acknowledgements, Bibliography and Additional Sources on four final pages.  They are wonderfully conversational.  You could pair this title with How To Be An Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild (David Macaulay Studio, Roaring Brook Press, September 19, 2017) written and illustrated by Katherine Roy or The Elephant (Enchanted Lion Books, September 25, 2018) written and illustrated by Jenni Desmond.

To learn more about Lily Williams and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Lily Williams has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  At her site and the publisher's website you can view interior images.  You might like this article in Publishers Weekly titled Lily Williams Continues Her Environmental Mission.


For more nonfiction titles, be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to see what other participants in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge have chosen this week.


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Bending A Purpose

They stand alone day in and day out for months and even years.  They never utter a single word.  Creatures of the field and forest give them a wide berth.  They are made to spread fear, especially in birds.  Birds that would eat a farmer's freshly seeded fields or crops waiting to be harvested are not welcome.

Perhaps this is why these creations are given the name scarecrow.  This is a lonely, dismal task even for a being with seemingly no feelings.  The Scarecrow (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, September 3, 2019) written by Beth Ferry with illustrations by The Fan Brothers (Eric Fan and Terry Fan) focuses on one scarecrow.  This scarecrow decides to alter its purpose.

Autumn sunshine.
Haystacks rolled.
Scarecrow guards the fields of gold.

As expected, the fox, deer, mice and crows stay a safe distance from this man of straw standing near a tree in the field.   The fall season passes, and winter settles her cloak of snow on the surrounding fields.  The scarecrow does not have a single soul to keep him company.  He longs for spring.

Upon its arrival spring brings a surprise to the scarecrow.  A small crow drops at his feet.  Then Scarecrow, like spring, does something surprising.  He breaks his pole, bends down and scoops up the fallen baby.  He fashions a cozy nest from his hay and clothing.  He croons sweet songs to the feathered child.  Wounds heal and two hearts become one in friendship.

When the tiny bird learns to fly, Scarecrow understands the bird will leave and he cannot follow, but he nevertheless encourages the fledgling.  Summer and autumn come and go.  Winter brings cold and snow.  Scarecrow is alone, now leaning forward on his broken pole.  Sadness settles like a weight in the straw man's heart.

Moving through an early spring rain something, a bigger something, drops near the scarecrow.  Unbidden Scarecrow opens his weary arms.  Wounds are healed and two hearts rekindle a lasting friendship which as seasons and time dictate multiplies one heart at a time.


Like a melody you want to hum all day long, the words penned by Beth Ferry in this narrative implore you to read them over and over, savoring every beautifully written thought and emotion.  Her rhyming flows flawlessly.  The placement of her words from page to page supplies us with pacing that is perfection.  She alternates between short two-word punctuated phrases and longer sentences.  Repetition of key words ties portions together neater than a bow.  Here is a passage.

He tucks him near his heart of hay.
He lets him sleep.
He lets him stay.
He doesn't stop to wonder why.
He sings the sweetest lullaby.


When you run your fingers over the open dust jacket, the texture feels like the cloth on the scarecrow's shirt or denim overalls.  The scene drawn by artists Eric Fan and Terry Fan, The Fan Brothers, evokes the feel of fabric, hay, burlap and the sounds of rustling grasses in an open field.  We are left wondering why the scarecrow is smiling at the tiny black crow.

This initial picture on the front of the dust jacket continues over the spine and to the back, on the left.  Scarecrow's hand points to another field and a line of trees.  In the near distance is a barn and windmill.  Clouds softly billow in this sky, too.  The crow in different sizes is shown on the front and back flaps.  The details here, on the dust jacket, and throughout the book are marvelous.

The same surface feel on the dust jacket is used on the book case.  This is a portion of the overalls, all denim on the front and back with two exceptions.  On the left is a green plaid patch.  On the right is a rusty red-orange plaid patch.  These match the patches on Scarecrow's legs.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a canvas of olive green.  On the initial title page, a full-grown crow is perched on a post with barbed wire stretched on either side.  On the formal title page, a luminous landscape greets readers.  Sun-kissed clouds, some pinkish-purple and other golden brown, span above a field across a double-page picture.  The sun low to the horizon radiates from the gutter on either side.  On the right, Scarecrow stands tall near the single tree.

Rendered in

pencil, ballpoint, and Photoshop

these illustrations, double-page pictures and full-page pictures (five), are in a word, breathtaking.  With authenticity they portray the seasons and emotional moments experienced by the scarecrow and the crow.  They give us vast pastoral panoramas, move in closer as in the fireflies fluttering around the field on a full moon night as the crow sits on Scarecrow's arm or zoom in on Scarecrow's face after the crow leaves.

One of my many, many favorite pictures is for the words quoted earlier.  The canvas is white on matte-finished, heavier paper, edge to edge on two pages.  Seeds spin and parachute from the left and right of Scarecrow on the left side, cross the gutter and sail along the right above the text.  Scarecrow has his head bowed, a contented smile on his face and his arms are crossed in front of his heart.  Nestled in hay and tucked in the bib of his overalls is the tiny black crow.


This book, The Scarecrow written by Beth Ferry with illustrations by The Fan Brothers, is one to read when discussing friendship and the lengths a friend will go for another, talking about seasons, or addressing how sometimes it's necessary to break away from what is expected to follow what is right and in our hearts.  I know this will be a book cherished by readers and listeners alike; a true storytime favorite.  I highly recommend this for your personal and professional collections.  You might want to pair this with Otis and the Scarecrow written and illustrated by Loren Long.

To discover more about Beth Ferry and The Fan Brothers, please access their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  The Fan Brothers have interior images from this book at their website.  Beth Ferry has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Eric Fan has an account on Twitter.  Terry Fan has an account on Instagram. At the publisher's website are printable activities.  Beth Ferry writes a guest post at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read., to reveal the cover.  Enjoy the book trailer.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Seeking Calm And Connections

Sunday morning, standing outside on the hill, clouds were at the beck and call of the wind.  Wispy smoky clouds, barely above the horizon, were moving to the west and larger fuller clouds, higher and above them, were moving to the east.  Birds were enjoying the benefits of a heavy earlier rainfall.  After an overcast day, as dusk settled crickets chirped their evening chorus.  Large wild rabbits, fur darkening, froze like statues, nearly blending in the tall weeds dying as autumn approaches.

Two recently released books ask readers to enjoy each and every moment pausing to consider our place in an infinite whole.  Here and Now (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 3, 2019) written by Julia Denos with illustrations by E. B. Goodale (Windows Candlewick Press, October 10, 2017) explores finding the marvelous in minutes.  It asks us to think of what others are doing in those same minutes.

Right here,
right now,
you are reading this book.

Where exactly is this book you are reading?  You might be holding it.  Another person might be holding it.  You might be sitting, standing or snuggled into a cozy spot.  If you are seated, what is under you or what is above you?  Go all the way down and go all the way up.

You and everyone on this Earth are moving through the stars and among other planets, and orbiting the sun in a vast universe.  As you are reading this book, what else can you see?  (I see fog blanketing grass, leaves, tree branches and rolling hills.)

Somewhere, a telephone is ringing.

Extend your vision.  Extend your thinking.  There is more to be seen.  There is a future to be dreamed and lived.  There are creatures, wild and domestic, everywhere.  All kinds of things are growing and mending.  Can you name things growing?  (I have a big bruise and a bump that doesn't hurt as much.)  There is much we cannot see, but that doesn't mean it isn't expanding, improving and evolving to be its best.  Extraordinary.


There are many things we fail to think about, important things, but author Julia Denos reminds us of those items, circumstances and possibilities and invites us through her words to participate.  Beginning with this very book, she asks us to center ourselves and then reach out to other surroundings and people.  This is how she connects us to each other.  In her sentences, this is how we find the marvelous in the everyday items, circumstances and possibilities.  Here is a sentence.

A friend you haven't met yet is sitting down to dinner.


Rendered in

ink, watercolor, monoprinting, and digital collage

the artwork by E. B. Goodale begins on the open dust jacket stretching from left to right, back to front.  The golden grass and flowers start in the upper left-hand corner extending over the spine to make a gentle curve on the front.  The sky on the back is darker and scattered with stars unlike the front.  Beneath the grass on the back is a cross-section of what is underground.  We see a chipmunk's home, bones, rocks and a box marked secret.  This ground stops at the spine to become the pond on the front.  The use of white on the front of the jacket is brilliant.  The child seeing her reflection is also noticing how ripples spread like we do when we walk through life.  Everyone has an impact.

Lifting the dust jacket to the book case, we are shown a hand on the far left and a hand on the far right, holding the book.  The canvas is in hues of blue, brushed in parallel and even strokes like floorboards.  On the opening and closing endpapers the fabric from a quilt on an interior image is used to cover them both.  Characters from the illustrations are shown gathered beneath the text on the title page.  One of them is holding this book.  Ants and an airplane figure in the picture.

Each illustration, spanning two pages or a single page with text on an opposite page or woven into the picture, is a poetic presentation of the text.  Children from different racial backgrounds explore and appreciate what is offered to them.  Readers will see themselves in their activities and the expressions shown on their faces.  A sense of calm permeates with every page turn.  Easter eggs are there to be found by careful readers.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  A walkers' bridge crosses over a small river from left to right.  A cityscape can be seen shadowed in the distance behind it.  A flock of birds flies over the bridge on the right.  The four characters featured are shown on the left; two are standing on the bridge.  The oldest is seated on the ground with the youngest near a tree.  A butterfly is landing on their dog's nose.  Another two people are relaxing on a blanket near the riverbank, their dog curled up and sleeping.  This element begins on the left, moves over the gutter and completes on the right.  Ducks, Canadian geese, squirrels, pigeons, rabbits, more butterflies, a bee, a mouse, ants and a spider web are depicted among the humans.


Peace, mindfulness and respect for each other and those things around us are guaranteed when reading Here and Now written by Julia Denos with illustrations by E. B. Goodall.  Julia Denos includes an author's note at the end.  One of her sentences reads:

Meditation is just another way of noticing, and noticing is a little bit like magic.

I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Julia Denos and E. B. Goodale and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Julia Denos has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  E. B. Goodale has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Author, reviewer, and blogger, Julie Danielson hosts several illustrators including E. B. Goodale on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  You will enjoy the showcased illustrations.  In this video Julia Denos and E. B. Goodale speak about the process for creating this book.





Author Holly M. McGhee and illustrator Pascal Lemaitre who earlier collaborated in Come with me (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, September 5, 2017) work together again.  Listen (Roaring Brook Press, September 3, 2019) welcomes us into the art of finding connections.  Each one of us is a vital link in the chain of life.




Listen

to the sound of your feet---
the sound of
all of us
and the sound of me.

We should next pause and take a peek at the sun which shines all around the world on all of us.  When the sun sets, stars sparkle all around the world above all of us.  Inhale the air which is necessary for all of us.  Savor your food.  When was the last time, you put your hands into the dirt, feeling its richness and how it gives life to many?

As we use our senses for these experiences, we are asked to do so through the filter of our hearts . . . our wonderful hearts.  Our hearts are powerful, performing feats for us.  They are our guardians and our storytellers.  They allow us to see what is alike between everything rather than focusing on the differences. They take us back to the beginning.


Repetition throughout the narrative by author Holly M. McGhee supplies a beckoning cadence.  We find ourselves immediately engaged in the sensory suggestions.  Each time we are prompted to focus on others and on all of us.  In a wonderful technique, we close the narrative with the same words but with an altered rhythm.  Here is a passage.

Dig

in the earth.
Your roots are mine,
my roots are yours,
the roots of all of us
are the same.

Yet you are you and I am me and we are we.
Us . . .


On the open and matching dust jacket and book case a small child quietly observes a tiny red bird among the flowers and overhanging branches. (This tiny red bird is shown throughout the book.)  The rising sun shines on them both.  To the left, on the back, on a canvas of white, the same child is leaning their head against the trunk of a tree, arms to either side of the smooth bark.  Their eyes are closed.  A washed, loose, blue circle frames most of this picture with the sun low in the sky.  Each scene is as if a collective breath is being held.

A washed spring green covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Loose, fine lines by artist Pascal Lemaitre present pastoral scenes during daylight and nighttime.  Changing background colors reflect these varitions.  We feel the gentle breeze blowing leaves as a deer leaps away.  We feel the warmth of the sun.  We see stars reflected in the water as we float on a pond.

Each image requests readers to stop.  We need to notice the tiny details.  Can you see the ants, snail and rabbit?  Do you see all the bees buzzing over the sunflowers?  (Are the sunflowers there because of the Van Gogh quote at the book's beginning?)  What word is fashioned from the tree roots underground?

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages. (They are all double-page pictures.)  It is night and purple shades are used to color everything starting with a lighter color at the top and darkening near the horizon and into the water.  Stars shine in the sky and in the water as reflections.  The landscape, flowers, grass and trees, the dock and boat are etched in black.  A lily pad and shadows of fish are shown.  The child is leaning over the edge of the boat looking in the water.  The tiny red bird is singing, perched on the tip of the bow of the boat.  The child and bird have a glow about them as does one of the stars.


Peace and admiration for yourself and all others envelops you when reading Listen written by Holly M. McGhee with illustrations by Pascal Lemaitre.  Each page turn is like walking into open arms and being embraced by all that is good.  Wonderful as a read aloud or read silently to yourself, this book is highly recommended for your personal and professional collections.

To discover more about Holly M. McGhee and Pascal Lemaitre and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Holly M. McGhee has accounts on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.  Pascal Lemaitre has accounts on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.  The publishers have created a special site for Listen which includes an activity kit and interior images.  John Schumacher, Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, hosts the book trailer premiere on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  It includes a chat with both the author and the illustrator.  At Kathy Temean's site, Writing and Illustrating, Holly M. McGhee talks about this book, her career and her friendship with Pascal Lemaitre.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Something Is Brewing

We have had stormy weather headed our way for the past several evenings.  Even before the sky sent us gray-cloud messages, the signs were there.  Parents, educators and humans with canine companions are keenly aware of the advance notice children and dogs give us. Their behavior is downright squirrely.  When you combine this with the full moon tonight, any semblance of normal is blown away. 

Trying to navigate through tempestuous personalities indoors and rain, thunder, lightning and gusts of wind outdoors is like walking through a briar patch.  What makes this situation bearable are children's books elevating the mood.  None do this better than Mother Goose BruceHotel BruceBruce's Big MoveSanta Claus Bruce and now Bruce's Big Storm (Disney Hyperion, September 3, 2019) written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins.  Trust me when I say, you'll be chuckling as soon as you see the dust jacket.



Bruce was a bear who did not like neighbors.

This bear's personality could not handle noise, being bothered a little bit or a lot or having his neighborhood populated.  Usually Bruce's neighbors did not hang around more than he could tolerate . . . barely.  This all changed on one eventful day.  A humdinger of a storm was approaching.  The first neighbors to arrive and ask for shelter were the deer.

Bruce wanted to be alone, but his mice housemates were more than happy to have company.  When the storm struck in earnest, animals of all kinds (stinky skunks and prickly porcupines) blew inside his home.  Before long, all the residents of Soggy Hollow were sequestered in Bruce's house.  He sat grumpily reading in his favorite chair.

Stop!  Someone was still outside in the wind and rain. Nibbs, one of the mice, headed toward the open door with an umbrella to save the tiny white rabbit.  Unfortunately, the wind opened the umbrella and he parachuted up, up and up until the umbrella landed point down in front of the rabbit.  Within moments one mouse and one tiny white rabbit were soaring upward.

Fortunately, Bruce hurried outside.  Nibbs thinks Bruce was saving them.  Bruce just wanted his best umbrella back but unfortunately (again), the wind was stronger than one mouse, one tiny white rabbit and one big cranky bear.  Will this trio be rescued?  Will the storm drop one final blow on the gathered group?  Will Bruce ever have peace and quiet?  Stay tuned readers and be ready for the last laugh.


Only someone with an inherently great sense of humor can write with meticulous pacing, precise word choices and the delivery of dialogue which further exaggerates the hilarity.  Ryan T. Higgins is one of those people.  With the turn of each page we find one comical moment after the other.  The contrast in attitude and outlook between Bruce and every other resident in Soggy Hollow is like morning and night.  Ryan T. Higgins portrays Bruce with precise authenticity which in turn invites us into the pure mirth of Bruce and company.  Here is a passage.

Finally, the whole 
neighborhood was there.

"Wait!" said Rupert.
"Someone is still outside!"

Everyone went to
the window to look.

A speech bubble over Bruce's head, as he sits in his chair and tries to read, is filled with grumble lines.

Well, almost everyone.


When you look at the front of the dust jacket, one of several things draws your attention.  The look on Bruce's face is one of shock, as is Rupert's expression but the tiny white rabbit is looking calmer and more determined.  You are also aware of the strength of the storm from the bending trees and mailbox post, swirl of leaves and slanting rain.  It's mighty.  The title text and Ryan T. Higgins' name are varnished.

To the left, on the back, you're likely to have one of many outbursts of laughter.  In a loose white oval is the plaid sofa in Bruce's house.  All the neighbors are curled up around each other on the sofa, along the bottom of the sofa, and on top of the sofa.  Bruce, squeezed into the right corner, facing us, is grumpier than ever.  He is the only one not sound asleep.  This image is varnished.

There is a treat for readers on the book case.  Opening it up reveals a map of Soggy Hollow.  Residents' abodes on land, near and on ponds and in trees are carefully drawn and labeled.  Some of the names are charming alliterations.

On the opening and closing endpapers, more hilarity ensues.  It is a display of the Soggy Hollow Community Board.  An assortment of announcement and advertisements cover the board from end to end.  While most of the postings like the 5K Turtle Run and Leech Pond Swim Lessons remain the same on both sets of endpapers, careful readers will notice a change on the second set.

These 

illustrations were created using scans of treated clayboard for textures, graphite, ink, and 
Photoshop.

Ryan T. Higgins begins the pictorial extension of his text with cheerful neighbors on the verso and first page greeting a scowling Bruce as he walks toward his home carrying a newspaper and a cup of coffee.  Each full color picture within this book are grouped as small vignettes, featured as a full-page image, edge to edge, placed on a white background leaving space for text, or spanned across two pages for dramatic effect.  The faces and body postures are expertly depicted.  

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a smaller one with two others in the group.  The storm is blowing neighbors into Bruce's house.  Along the bottom of the page with a white canvas on matte-finished paper, Bruce's door has blown open.  Leaves are blowing inside the open door.  Another being blew in also--a porcupine which is sticking to Bruce's fur.  Next to them is a skunk, fumes rising in the air and startled by the newest neighbor's appearance.


There are books like Bruce's Big Storm written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins which create shared experiences based on laughter.  These are the moments we need in our lives; these moments of fun and funniness which strengthen our endearment for beloved characters and for each other.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Ryan T. Higgins and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Ryan T. Higgins has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can download activity sheets.