Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Shenanigans And Slumber

Regardless of the continent, country or community, it is a routine repeated daily.  When parents are ready to rest, their children are not sleepy.  You would think after a day of nearly non-stop action the children would be tired, but the opposite is true.  The words, it's time for bed, are akin to a super surge of energy for little gals and guys.

They will say and do anything to avoid going to bed. Bedtime for Sweet Creatures (Sourcebooks, Jabberwocky, January 14, 2020) written by Nikki Grimes with pictures by Elizabeth Zunon is a story of patient parental persuasions.  It is a story of the enchantment of love renewed each evening.

 NO! NO! NO!

A child shouts as soon as their mother calls them to bed.  Employing a new tactic, mimicking the call of an owl, the child wants to know who has to go to bed.  In reply the mother carries the child's teddy bear to their bed believing the child will follow.  The child runs, climbs on the bed and sounds not unlike a bear.

Now beneath the covers the child cowers and speaks in a whisper, fearful.  Like a triumphant declaration, the mother calls out her assurances.  Further putting off the inevitable, the child implores like a king of beasts for Mother to look under the bed.

Now is the time for stories.  The child, motionless like an animal waiting, listens and then settles in for the wonder of once upon a time.  Even though the child is nestled deep under the blankets, they are restless and nervous as an animal who sleeps in nests among the trees.  Leaping up, they hug their mother one more time, clinging like a koala. 

Each time the mother utters a sentence the child acknowledges her words by portraying, in the mother's mind, a well-known animal. Two final ploys and the child runs to bed.  Or do they? Wishing for sleep, the mother and father, now in their bed, hear a final but familiar sentence softly said.  Who is with them now?

No matter how many times you read this book, these wonderful words, written by Nikki Grimes, you'll find yourself hugging it at the end.  You'll want to put it under your pillow.  Having the story told by the mother is perfection.  Her combination of narrative and spoken words is as if she is telling her child this story the next day or as far in the future as when the child is now an adult.  Most important is the strong undercurrent of deep affection found in the words used by Nikki Grimes.  Here is a passage.

You yawn
and grind
your teeth like a

ready to nibble the night.

not sleepy."
you tell me.

I smile and
tuck you in tight

The image shown on the open and matching dust jacket and book case spans from the back, the left edge, over the spine to the front, the right edge.  It is a majestic depiction of a tiger, bear, lion, fawn, koala, owl and a portion of a wolf.  The brilliant array of eye-catching colors and blend of realism with the culturally patterned animals is absolutely stunning.  The stars on the rich deep blue, with the crescent moon, mirror those found in our night skies, some forming constellations.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a repeating pattern of five vertical stripes of paper.  They are in shades of blue with some green, gray and gold.  They represent the many moods of the story and of the night. (They appear again as the fabric for the parent's quilt.)  On the title page, the animal featured is the back portion of the tiger.  It's a continuation of the tiger from the back of the jacket and case.  The varnished title text, moon and some stars shown on the jacket is repeated here.


using oil and acrylic paint with cut paper collage, marker, and gel pen 

the pictures by Elizabeth Zunon shown as full-page illustrations at the beginning and end and double-page visuals throughout the book present realistic characters and settings.  The inclusion of the animals, life-size, is a striking contrast.  Elizabeth Zunon's color choices are complementary.  Each illustration elevates the text, sending the lyrical words out to wrap around readers in warmth.

One of my many, many favorite images is when the mother is carrying the child's teddy bear in her hand and walking down the hallway toward the child's bedroom.  As a background for most of the double-page picture, except for the wood floors along the bottom, an elegant wallpaper is shown in hues of dark blue.  The mother is striding along, wearing a lighter blue top, pink bottoms and blue slippers with white pom-poms.  She is on the left side.  On the right side is the toddler in their red pajamas running with an arm outstretched.  Between the background and the mother and child is the bear.  It's enormous; spanning from two-thirds on the left to a little more than half on the right.  It, like all the animals, is contented and walking.  It is colored in shades of blue, turquoise and a spring green.  The pattern on its body looks ancient.

This book, Bedtime for Sweet Creatures, written by Nikki Grimes with pictures by Elizabeth Zunon is a work of art.  It presents a timeless story through a fresh perspective.  I highly recommend it for your personal and professional libraries.  (On a more personal note, when I visit my hair stylist, I always talk about books with her, even bringing titles to show her.  Yesterday, she was telling me about a book her daughter picked out at the public library.  They have read it multiple times and loved it.  It is this book.)

To learn more about Nikki Grimes and Elizabeth Zunon and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  Nikki Grimes has accounts on Facebook and Twitter.  Elizabeth Zunon maintains accounts on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

All Abuzz

They are rarely an inch long but can fly fifteen miles per hour.  Their wings are known to beat more than 200 times per second.  This is why we can hear them buzzing as they move from place to place.

We don't see them in the winter months as snow covers the ground, icy winds blow, and temperatures are chilly.  In fact, as soon as the temperatures fall below fifty degrees, bees return to the hive surrounding the queen.  With the movement of their wings they can heat their home and keep the queen warm.  They get their energy from the honey they've stored.  In her newest release, Beehive (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, January 7, 2020), Jorey Hurley speaks to readers in the simplest of terms, single words, about the formation of a honeybee home and how its inhabitants flourish.


A single bee moves among flowers.  It is joined by several others to form a swarm and to swarm.  They are seeking a place for a new home.  A hollow in a tree looks promising.  Slowly like pieces in a puzzle they form a honeycomb.

The queen places an egg in each cell.  As the new life grows in those cells, it is feed.  When the cells open, a new bee flies to take its place in the life of the hive.

From flower to flower bees collect nectar and pollen.  Some of the pollen remains on their bodies and encourages new flowers to grow as they fly from blossom to blossom.  Other bees stay at the hive.  They protect it from honey-hungry animals.  Still more make honey, lots of honey.  They need it when snow covers the ground, icy winds blow, and temperatures are chilly.

With fifteen meticulously chosen words, author Jorey Hurley brings readers into the realm of honeybees.  Each of the first fourteen words focuses on an action; all leading to the final noun.  These words invite us to supply more narrative.  It becomes a mental question and answer working together with the images.  It's a brilliant technique.

Rendered digitally in Photoshop the graphic design throughout the book, seen first on the open and matching dust jacket and book case, is superb.  While the elements are large and bold, notice the pollen collecting on the legs of the bees as they work on the flowers.  The white space becomes an element framing and illuminating the other colors.  The title text, flowers and bees are varnished on the front of the dust jacket.

To the left, on the back, portions of leaves emerge from the bottom.  The stems hold up purple flowers with broad petals and golden centers.  A single bee flies over the right flower.  These items are placed against the white background.

On white on the opening and closing endpapers are sixteen bees, nine on the left and seven on the right, in various positions of flight.  The image from the back of the jacket and case is shown again on the left of the double-page picture with additional flowers on the right for the title page.  Each double-page picture in this book takes us immediately into the scene which is a reflection of the shown single word.

White space accents a field with flower and a single bee.  In the next illustration we move closer to see more bees gathering. Jorey Hurley shifts her perspectives to keep readers actively engaged.  For the word find, we are given a panoramic view of several scenes as the swarm flies toward the hollow in a large tree.  In the subsequent visuals we are close and inside that hollow captivated by the tasks of the bees.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the word explore.  In this picture we wander among a sea of hues of green, white and purple.  The bees hum and drift among clusters of bushy white blooms created by a multitude of white, layered dots and tall spiky stems of deep lavender with long green leaves.  There is no sky, only this expanse of flora.

Beehive written and illustrated by Jorey Hurley is an adventure into the lives of creatures essential to life on our precious planet.  In an author's note on the final page an expanded narrative is fashioned from all the words used in the book, explaining what is happening in each image.  There is mention of the challenges facing wild and domestic bee populations and conservation efforts.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.  (If you have not read her other books, Nest, Ribbit, Every Color Soup, Hop, Skyscraper and Fetch, I encourage you to do so.)

To learn more about Jorey Hurley and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Jorey Hurley has accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior imagesincluding one of my favorite ones.  In the video below Jorey Hurley talks about her first book and a little bit about her process.

Please take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to learn about the titles selected this week by those participating in the 2020 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.  This week Alyson showcases nonfiction releases for the months of January and February.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Clever Cardboard Creativity

Given the opportunity children, in their infinite wisdom, inventiveness and openness, will amaze you.  It's a joy to see how they can create something marvelous from nearly nothing.  Fortunately for the world, they think outside the box.  Not only do they think outside the box, but give them a box, any size of box, and what they do with it is extraordinary.

Their first thought is not to cut up and flatten a box for recycling.  Their first thought is what can I make with this box.  To them the possibilities are limitless.  In her first book as both author and illustrator, Boxitects (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 14, 2020), Kim Smith introduces readers to Meg, a genius at using boxes to build anything her heart desires.

MEG was a boxitect.  She loved to make things out of boxes.

The size of her handiwork ranged from small to large and from low to the ground to the top of the ceiling.  Her results filled her with pride.  Her mother believed, like Meg, there wasn't anything she couldn't construct from a box.  Meg's mother decided to enroll her in Maker School.

At Maker School children crafted creations from all kinds of materials, blankets, pasta, tin and even egg cartons, but Meg was the only boxitect.  Here Meg refined her skills.  She ensured her constructions were practical, stable and lovely to look at.  It was wonderful until the new student, Simone, arrived.  Simone was a boxitect.

She was as gifted as Meg.  She believed it was her duty to point out the possible flaws in Meg's work.  In response, Meg pointed out the possible flaws in Simone's work.  Tension filled the air between these two designers and builders.

As a finale to the last day of Maker School, the Maker Match was held.  You had to work in teams.  This was an easy rule for the other students to follow.  Meg and Simone refused to work together. They divided an enormous box in half and got busy.  Boxes in the school disappeared as the two objects, separate but bound together, grew. When disaster flies in, Meg and Simone must decide what is most important to them.

To begin, Kim Smith honors the tradition of making things from cardboard boxes with the term boxitect.  (People are or will be wondering why they didn't think of that.)  In her word choices she uses alliterative descriptors,

tiny houses
tall towers and
twisty tunnels.

A cadence,

brilliant and creative,

is repeated to tie sections of the story together.  As Kim Smith builds on Meg's successes and happiness, we can feel a tension growing.  Simone's entrance increases this unease until, in a moment of humor, the tiniest of things can provide a shift in attitudes and in the results.  Here is a passage.

The blanketeers built with blankets and pillows.

The spaghetti-tects built with pasta and glue.

The bake-ologists built with cake and frosting.

But the boxitects were not building at all.

A bright, colorful palette signals a happy resolution on the front of the dust jacket featuring Meg on her cardboard castle creation with Simone "flying" her box rocket.  Both girls are pleased with their inventive structures.  Meg's pooch pal adds a charming touch to the scene.  Many elements are varnished on the front.  This image extends over the spine to the left on the back. 

There, beneath the hanging clouds, are more cardboard buildings of all shapes and sizes.  There are the backs of trees, tall towers, a barn with a chicken weathervane, a windmill and scattered construction supplies.  It is a collage of inventiveness, one layer on top of another layer.

On the book case readers are treated to a box builder's delight.  A cardboard box is the background.  Scraps of paper and labels are pasted on it along with universal symbols.  On the front, between the title and the author illustrator's name, is a hand-drawn picture.  It looks as if it was done in crayon.  It's Meg standing in front of her home with a lawn, tree, a single cloud and a sun in the upper, right-hand corner.

On the opening and closing endpapers Kim Smith has placed, in shades of brown and white, all shapes and sizes of boxes and other items made from cardboard.  On the initial title page, Meg is carrying an armload of cardboard boxes over her head.  On the formal title page, surrounded by boxes and other supplies, she is happily at work drawing plans for her next project.

Rendered digitally in Photoshop the illustrations are double-page pictures, small vignettes grouped together on a single page and full-page pictures.  Each image size serves to heighten the current mood of the narrative.  Kim Smith shifts her point of view to draw us further into her pictorial story.  Readers will enjoy the large expressive eyes, and facial features on the diverse characters.  This is a school they will want to attend.

One of my many favorite pictures is on a full-page.  Meg's mother has walked into their living room.  She is staring at Meg's latest building, open-mouthed.  It's a massive castle, nearly to the ceiling, with multiple rooms and towers and cut-outs in the walls.  A tiny heart is placed on the top of one of the turrets and a star is on another turret.  Meg is leaning over a rampart wearing a helmet and waving a sword made from cardboard.  Her canine companion is positioned slightly below her and wearing a crown.

It is guaranteed that anyone, regardless of their age, will be searching for the nearest cardboard box after reading Boxitects written and illustrated by Kim Smith.  The ingenuity of Meg and the other characters is wonderful to see honored here as well as the support of the adults.  At the close of the book four pages are dedicated to Why is cardboard so extraordinary?, Be a Boxitect! Build a Boxitect Tunnel and Build a Boxitect Castle. Necessary supplies are listed with numbered instructions and colorful explanatory visuals.  For each of the projects a Boxitect Challenge is added.  You'll want to add this title to your personal and professional collections.  This book would pair well with What To Do With A Box by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Chris Sheban.

To learn more about Kim Smith and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At her website the page for this title contains numerous interior images.  Kim Smith has accounts on Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter.  At the publisher's website is a link to some activity pages.  This taped television interview will give you more insights into Boxitects and Kim Smith.

Monday, January 13, 2020

A Reflection On Blogging, Books, And Reading

I started this blog in 2008.  I had one single post.  It was two sentences long.  I skipped 2009 completely.  The following year there were ninety-one posts.  I began in August, working my way through a web 2.0 tutorial called School Library Learning.  My posts were a collection of book recommendations, web site how-to instructions and evaluations and even thank-you videos to those wonderful volunteers who made every single one of my book fairs a success.  My two most popular posts that year referenced virtual post-it boards PinDax (not sure if it's still active) and Wallwisher (Wall Wisher) which has become Padlet and a post on eBooks.

In 2011 my most popular post featured three websites providing information about a holiday, Halloween Happenings---Now or Next Year.  The first link no longer appears to be working but Larry Ferlazzo and Richard Byrne are still active in the field of education and technology.  Also, that year I began a weekly feature, Twitterville Talk, where links to the best Twitter had to offer in a given week, in my humble opinion, were provided.  (How did I ever keep up with this?)  My final Twitterville Talk #144 was posted on March 22, 2014.

For 2012 the three posts read the most were Perfect Picture Book Pleasure, a highlighting of Andy Runton's Owly & Wormy: Friends All Aflutter! and a post showcasing Pikochart and eduClipper (now participate).  In 2013 the top post for a book was Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin.  The most read post about a website and technology was about Kahoot! A post celebrating the birthday of Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, was the most popular post other than a book recommendation or a discussion about a website in 2014.  Neil Gaiman's interpretation, Hansel & Gretel, was the top book post and the post about Flipgrid was the most popular website and technology post.

The most popular posts in 2015 were about books, probably for the reason my focus shifted entirely toward children's literature.  The most hits were for Sweet Dreams Picture Book August 10 for 10 #pb10for10  Tuesday Takes Me There: The Healing Journey of a Veteran and his Service Dog was by far the most popular post in 2016.

The posts with the most hits in 2017 were varied.  A tribute to Amy Krouse Rosenthal was highly visited.  The Chupacabra Ate The Candelabra written by Marc Tyler Nobleman with illustrations by Ana Aranda was the book which garnered the most responses.  Two author chats with Thyra Heder and Stacy McAnulty were well-read.  The most popular post in 2017 was Mock Caldecott 2018.

The fiction picture book blog posts with the most views in 2018 were This Is The Nest That Robin Built written and illustrate by Denise Fleming and The Rough Patch written and illustrated by Brian Lies. The book trailer premiere with an interview by the author with the most hits was Cute As An Axolotl: Discovering the World's Most Adorable Animals written by Jess Keating with illustrations by David DeGrand. The most popular cover reveal was for Mission Defrostable (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast) written by Josh Funk with illustrations by Brendan Kearney.  This contains an interview with the author.  A post featuring girl power in graphic novels was well-received.  A year-end post about middle grade novels (thirty-eight) attracted a lot of attention.

This past year, 2019, based on the numbers became a year of serious reflection.  The top two posts on fiction picture books were if i was the sunshine written by Julie Fogliano with illustrations by Loren Long and Babymoon written by Hayley Barrett with illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal.  Titan and the Wild Boars: The True Cave Rescue of the Thai Soccer Team written by Susan Hood and Pathana Sornhiran with illustrations by Dow Phumiruk was a nonfiction title which soared above the others in number of views.  The cover reveal for a new early reader title, Frank and Bean written by Jamie Michalak with illustrations by Bob Kolar, with interviews of the author and illustrator was enjoyed by many.

For multiple reasons, I am sure, the number of visits to this blog have diminished the past several years.  When this blog was started it was to inform visitors whether they were students, educators, parents or people who enjoy children's literature and educational websites.  It evolved into a place centered solely on children's literature, specifically book recommendations, cover reveals, blog tours and book trailer premieres.  In taking responsibility for the decreased visits, lack of consistency would be one reason. Considering that, I will be posting as consistently as possible on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday each week.  I am giving myself permission to pursue other endeavors on the other days of the week.

I don't believe I will ever tire of talking about children's literature and honoring the work of authors and illustrators in my posts.  We are truly fortunate to experience the fruits of their labors; many of them years in the making.  They are dedicated creators . . . every single one.  I hope you will continue to benefit from what I write for you here.  I will always be grateful for your support.   

Friday, January 10, 2020

What's Your Favorite . . .

Waiting for the next book in a series is like waiting for a special event or annual celebration.  If it's a fictional account with characters we adore (or villains we loathe) in a time and place we want to enter again, we can't wait to see how things have either remained the same or what new challenges will be presented.  Often authors and illustrators will insert a cliffhanger at the end of one book to heighten the anticipation for the next title.  In nonfiction series, there is usually a format we prefer.  The continuing structure of the narrative, the layout and design provide a sense of assurance.  Discovering new information within a known framework is like entering a familiar laboratory or workplace ready to begin a different experience.  Sometimes a series is a blend of both approaches, or perhaps, something entirely unknown.

Nearly six years ago, beloved and renowned author illustrator Eric Carle initiated a series titled, Eric Carle and Friends.  In the first volume, What's Your Favorite Animal? (Henry Holt and Company, January 21, 2014) thirteen author illustrators, Nick Bruel, Lucy Cousins, Susan Jeffers, Steven Kellogg, Jon Klassen, Tom Lichtenheld, Peter McCarty, Chris Raschka, Peter Sis, Lane Smith, Erin Stead, Rosemary Wells and Mo Willems, were invited to talk about their favorite animal and supply readers with a visual portrayal.  Each author illustrator is given two pages.  Eric Carle begins this book and each subsequent title.  Some of the author illustrators told a story about a favorite animal, wrote a poem, an ode, or a comedy.  At the close of the book, pictures of the author illustrators as children with short biographical information are supplied. Here is the open book case.

One of my many, many favorite depictions is that of Nick Bruel.  He titles his pages, Behold The Octopus.  On the left, in a series of panels, he talks about a variety of octopuses and their unique characteristics.  In the fourth and fifth of five panels, Bad Kitty enters from the bottom and side looking disgusted.  A discussion between Nick Bruel and Bad Kitty ensues on the right within eleven small images concluding with hilarity.

On May 2, 2017 the second book, What's Your Favorite Color? (Godwin BooksHenry Holt and Company) (Eric Carle and Friends) was released.  In this book the contributors are: Lauren Castillo, Bryan Collier, Mike Curato, Etienne Delessert, Anna Dewdney, Rafael Lopez, William Low, Marc Martin, Jill McElmurry, Yuyi Morales, Frann Preston-Gannon, Uri Shulevitz, Philip C. Stead and Melissa Sweet.  As in the previous book, each illustrator is asked to name their favorite, why it is their favorite and give readers a visual presentation.  The narratives of these author illustrators are indeed explanatory but also heartfelt reflections, nearly lyrical.  Two author illustrators picked the same color, gray, but Rafael Lopez and Melissa Sweet approached it in their signature styles.  You'll enjoy how similar their reasons truly are. We are treated, at the end, to childhood pictures and short biographies.  Here is the book case.

One of my many, many favorite pictures and essay is that of Yuyi Morales.  On the left, with a small portion crossing the gutter, is a picture of her as a child.  It is of her face and shoulders.  She is looking at the reader.  It is textured as if done in ink, black with flecks of deep dark pink.  One of her hands is raised to hold a brilliant pink, Mexican Pink, bougainvillea blossom.  In her narrative she speaks of cutting them on her way to visit her grandmother.  Her text is hand-written.

Readers only had to wait a year for the next title, What's Your Favorite Bug? (Godwin Books, Henry Holt and Company, July 31, 2018) (Eric Carle and Friends)  In this book, the author illustrators number fourteen (not including Eric Carle).  They are:  Joey Chou, Eric Fan, Denise Fleming, Ekua Holmes, Tim Hopgood, Molly Idle, Beth Krommes, Scott Magoon, Kenard Pak, Maggie Rudy, Britta Teckentrup, Brendan Wenzel, Teagan White and Eugene Yelchin.  As in the two previous books all royalties go to The Eric Carle Museum Of Picture Book Art founded by Eric Carle and his wife Barbara Carle.  In this book author illustrators feature the praying mantis, moths, the dragonfly, the katydid, the daddy longlegs, bees, ants, a ladybug, the firefly, peacock spiders, millipedes, the worker bee, the walking stick and the Rhino beetle.  You'll have fun looking at all the childhood pictures and reading the short biographies at the end.  Here is the book case.

One of my many, many favorite bugs showcased is the Praying Mantis by Denise Fleming.  The shades of green in this close-up of the bug are mesmerizing.  There are two splashes of purple in some blossoms.  She has the head of the praying mantis looking at readers because this is a special characteristic she notes in her essay.

For 2019's release, as soon as I read or think the last word, a tune from the musical Oliver! starts to play in my mind.  Before I know it, I'm singing it out loud.  What's Your Favorite Food? (Goodwin Books, Henry Holt and Company, July 23, 2019) (Eric Carle and Friends) highlights the talents of author illustrators, Aki, Isabelle Arsenault, Brigette Barrager, Matthew Cordell, Benji Davies, Karen Katz, Laurie Keller, Juliet Menendez, Greg Pizzoli, Misa Saburi, Felicita Sala, Dan Santat and Shannon Wright
You'll be heading to the grocery store and then the kitchen as soon as the first entry by Eric Carle is read.  By the time you finish, you'll be ready for a fourteen-course meal.  Here is the book case.

As with the three earlier titles, it is nearly impossible to select a favorite illustration but because I've recently discovered a new simple recipe I love, I am selecting Ramen by Dan Santat.  This illustration brings readers close to the table.  On the left are two possible sauces for the ramen along with a beverage.  Dan Santat explains ramen and how it is usually served.  On the right is a large bowl of ramen.  Yum! Yum!

This collection of books, What's Your Favorite Animals?, What's Your Favorite Color?, What's Your Favorite Bug? and What's Your Favorite Food?, all part of the Eric Carle and Friends series, present readers with an array of talented author illustrators and their reasons for selecting their favorites.  Their images and narratives are a distinct reflection of their work. You could use any one of these books to introduce units on animals, color, bugs or food.  They would work well to inspire drawing and writing by children on any of those topics.  They will also promote further research about those subjects chosen by the author illustrators or new ones the children pick as their favorite.  I highly recommend all four titles in the series.  I love them!

Attached to each of the titles is a link to the publisher's website where interior images are shown.  There are links attached to each of the author illustrator names so their websites can be accessed.  For those without websites, I attached links to sites with pertinent information about them. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Happy New Year 2020 One Little Word Nonfiction

Here we are in the middle of the first full week of 2020.  It's also the first entry in the 2020 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by educator Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy.  Each week participants link their recommendations to her blog.  It's an opportunity to learn about nonfiction picture books, some a little bit longer than others, which the contributors have enjoyed.

As in posts on January 2, 2020 and January 3, 2020 showcasing 2019 fiction picture books, I am featuring multiple 2019 nonfiction titles not previously discussed here.  For each book there will be a link to the publisher's, author's, and illustrator's websites as well as any other pertinent and helpful posts.  A short summary and a quote from the text are included.  I have given each book a single word.  The titles are listed in order of release date.


Moth: An Evolution Story (Bloomsbury Children's Books, June 25, 2019) written by Isabel Thomas with illustrations by Daniel Egneus
The Classroom Bookshelf, School Library Journal
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast 

In a fascinating discussion we learn about the peppered moth. Throughout generations the colorations on this moth's wings have adapted to environmental changes and challenges.  The wings switch from a lighter, mottled hue to a charcoal shade depending on the area where it needs to hide and survive from predators.  Clear, simple sentences give a very real sense of time and place.  At the close of the book is a two-page note about its evolution, natural selection, and adaptation.  In a word---resilient.

When the sun rose, the peppered moths
dozed on lichen-covered branches.

Silent, still, they hid.

Someone else was looking for food.
Who was the best hidden?
Who would survive?


Earth By The Numbers: A Book Of Infographics (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July 16, 2019) written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins

This title is packed with data visually presented on the topics of:

the earth's surface, the changing globe, what's inside?, the deepest places, volcanoes, earthquakes, mountains, rivers and lakes, ice and snow, oceans, tornadoes, hurricanes, danger from the sky, danger from the sea, earth extremes, a warming planet, and the earth: a timeline.

Within each of these sections, there are general definitions and further divisions of high interest carefully selected by Steve Jenkins.  For example under rivers and lakes we are informed about the areas with the most fresh water, the length of the four greatest rivers in the world and their locations, the four largest lakes in the world and their places on a map, the four deepest lakes and a comparison of their surface areas.  One or two pages are dedicated to each subject.  At the conclusion are a glossary and bibliography.  In a word---incredible.

Danger from the sky 
Lightning strikes occur during a thunderstorm.  They can be awesome, but they are also very dangerous.  

A lightning flash can heat the air around it to five times hotter than the surface of the sun.


Under Threat: An Album Of Endangered Animals (Candlewick Studio, an imprint of Candlewick Press, August 19, 2019) written by Martin Jenkins with illustrations by Tom Frost
Penguin Random House---multiple interior images

The layout and design of this book is to place one of the thirty showcased animals on the right in a full-page depiction on a stamp.  On the left the name, a several-sentence introduction, and a history of the animal's population, its habits and habitat and survival are stated.  In a separate box is the scientific name, the class and family, the status of the animal, its population, where it breeds and its distribution.  In a word---preserve.

Grevy's zebras are elegant long-legged animals, the largest and rarest of the three living species of zebra.  They live in drylands in northern and central Kenya and Ethiopia, where they feed on grasses and other low-growing plants.

MOST ADULT MALES LIVE in territories of a few square miles/kilometers that they defend against other males, but females and young males wander over huge areas in search of good grazing, sometimes covering up to 50 miles/80 kilometers in a day.


Monument Maker: Daniel Chester French and the Lincoln Memorial (Tilbury House Publishers, in association with the Concord Museum, September 3, 2019) written by Linda Booth Sweeney with illustrations by Shawn Fields

The life of Daniel Chester French is chronicled in informative and interesting text from his boyhood until the age of sixty-five.  At that time, he was asked by his friend and architect, Henry Bacon, to sculpt the statue of Abraham Lincoln which would be placed in the memorial.  There is an extensive representation of his and others work on the formation of the memorial, the statue and of its significance.  This is followed by a timeline of Daniel Chester French's life until his passing in 1931.  There is a page titled Author's Note and Dan the Maker, and several for The Lincoln Memorial.  We can read about The Creations of Daniel Chester French, and extensive Selected Resources.  In a word---impressive.

Three years later, on April 19, 1875, thousands of people crowded onto the Old North Bridge for the unveiling of Dan's statue.  A biting north wind failed to chill the festive occasion.  Judge French and his family led the procession.  President Ulysses S. Grant came with the Marine Band from Washington, DC.  May Alcott and her family were there.  So were Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Ralph Waldo Emerson.  But one person was missing---Dan.  He had already sailed by steamship to Florence, Italy, to study and work in the studio of Boston-born sculptor Thomas Bell.


What Miss Mitchell Saw (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, September 3, 2019) written by Hayley Barrett with illustrations by Diana Sudyka
Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb---Hayley Barrett

From her birth to the receipt of the medal from the King of Denmark for her outstanding discovery, we are privy to the life of Maria Mitchell.  She was a studious child from a very young age, paying attention to details, learning and remembering the names of people, and objects.  She began to assist her father studying the night sky through a telescope.  She worked during the day and watched the sky at night.  That's when she saw the comet!  In a word---perseverance.

By her father's side, Maria learned to rate the chronometers.  Using a sextant and careful calculation, she determined their accuracy so that sailors at sea might establish their position and, when their arduous work was at an end, set a course toward family and Nantucket Town.

Maria knew the whalers by name.


Soldier For Equality: Jose de la Luz Saenz and the Great War (Abrams Books for Young Readers, September 3, 2019) written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
Duncan Tonatiuh Talks with Roger, The Horn Book
KidLitTV: Storymakers
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast  

The life of Jose de la Luz Saenz (Luz) is presented to us from his childhood to the formation of the League of United Latin American Citizens.  As a young Mexican American Luz suffered prejudice in his hometown of Alice, Texas.  He lived by words told to him by his father:

"Luz, I don't want you to fight," said his father, "but don't let anyone make you feel ashamed.  You should always be proud of who you are, mijo."

Luz became a teacher, married and had a family.  When the United States entered World War I Luz volunteered wanting to serve his country.  He believed if Mexican Americans served, they would be treated more fairly when they returned home.  There is an author's note, Luz's Words, a Select Timeline Of The United States' and Luz's Involvement During World War I, a Select Timeline Of The League Of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and a Select Bibliography.  In a word---remarkable.

The trip across the Atlantic Ocean was not easy.  The soldiers were tightly packed belowdecks.  They slept in hammocks next to one another.  Luz often felt seasick.  At night he thought of Maria Petra and their children at home and wrote in his diary:  I hope they are proud of me and that my efforts help them and others like us.  Espero que esten orgullosos.


Thurgood (Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, September 3, 2019) written by Jonah Winter with illustrations by Bryan Collier

Using the technique of a single word, FACT, we learn example by example of the discrimination faced by Thurgood Marshall and other African Americans.  We see how the influence of supportive parents contributed to his drive to eliminate this discrimination law by law.  Readers will feel a fire growing within them case by case as Thurgood Marshall accomplishes one feat after the other, not without danger, until he becomes the first African American Supreme Court Justice.  In a word---powerful.

Back at home, over dinner, his dad would engage him in arguments about these trials, about the news, about anything.  He would raise his voice, demand that Thurgood back up his points with evidence.  And Thurgood would put it right back to him, word for word, point for point---with glee, with fire.


Prairie Boy: Frank Lloyd Wright Turns The Heartland Into A Home (Calkins Creek, an imprint of Highlights, September 10, 2019) written by Barb Rosenstock with art by Christopher Silas Neal
Penguin Random House
at the author's website there is a video, and links to a Pinterest board, text set and educator's guide
at the illustrator's website there are several interior images

Layer by layer, each portion of Frank Wright's life is placed before readers.  He took great joy in his life on the prairie as a child and it continued into this adult life.  When the family had to leave, as a gift, his mother gave him a variety of wooden shapes.  He used these to fashion all sorts of things.  Everywhere he looked this boy saw shapes.  This was transferred into his work as an architect.  His signature work is a combination of his two loves, the prairie and shapes.  At the conclusion there is an author's note, a list of selected sources and source notes.

Thousands of shapes kept Frank company until his family returned to Wisconsin.  Twelve-year-old Frank nailed fences and milked cows on his uncle's farm.

He flew kites and sang around the piano with school friends.

He collected dried weed pods and painted prairie landscapes in his attic bedroom.


Survival (Running Press Kids, September 17, 2019) text by Anna Claybourne, art by Louise McNaught

This is a collection of twenty animals found around the world facing extinction.  They are stunningly and realistically portrayed by the artist on brilliant backgrounds with sometimes only their faces showing.  It is a very intimate experience for readers.  Opposite the portrait on the right is a map of their habitat, their Latin name, status, population, size, habitat, and location.  Beneath this is information about their history and status.  In a word---breathtaking.

This iconic black-and-white bear once lived across much of eastern and southern China and parts of Myanmar and Vietnam.  Today, it survives in a handful of remote mountainous forest in central China.  A panda's diet is almost entirely bamboo, and bears will feed for up to fourteen hours a day, eating twenty-two pounds or more of shoots.


Red Rover: Curiosity On Mars (Roaring Brook Press, October 29, 2019) written by Richard Ho with illustrations by Katherine Roy
at the illustrator's site there is an additional post as well as a video when she and the author were unboxing their first printed copies of the book
KidLit411---interview with the author

Told from the point of view of the planet Mars, we are informed about Curiosity the rover which landed there in 2012 in order to explore the planet, gather and transmit data to us (NASA).  We learn about its routines and those rovers which arrived before it.  We are privy to the type of information it collects about the planet.  Marvelous illustrations accompany the factual but nearly lyrical text.  There are a four-page foldout and a two-page diagram, labeled, of Curiosity.  There are additional pages about Curiosity, Mariner 9, Viking 1, Pathfinder and Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity and the Mars 2020 Rover.  There is a Mars At A Glance box, a bibliography and websites.

The little rover likes to roam.
It leaves long, straight tracks as it goes.

The tracks play hide-and-seek . . .
. . .waiting for the rover to find them again.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

An About Face

Throughout our lives, regardless of our age, it's perfectly normal to set, accomplish and shift goals.  We greet each day working to fulfill these ambitions.  And we dream dreams outside of what we see as possible, elaborate ponderings dependent on miracles.  These keep us hopeful.

During these mental, and sometimes vocal deliberations, our closest companions endeavor to help us.  They elevate our hope into the realm of maybe-this-could-be-real.  Cowie (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, January 7, 2020) written and illustrated by Elizabeth Rose Stanton is another charming, heartfelt title by a wise and talented woman who has given us Henny, Peddles and Bub.

This is Cowie.

Everyone called him Cowie
because Cowie loved everything about cows.

Their physical attributes and mental view of life were revered by this donkey.  More than anything else, their position in the grass, 

the green, green grass
on their side of the fence,

was cherished by Cowie.  By grazing in the grass, they avoided carrying humans and other goods on their backs.  And they definitely didn't pull any wagons.  

Cowie made up mind.  If he wanted to be a cow, he had to do cow-like things.  He tried several activities, but he still felt more like a donkey than a cow.  Then he tried to say MOO.  Yikes!  It came out backward.  No matter how many times he tried, the sound was reversed.  How does something like this happen?

His two friends, Duckie and Mousie, sensed their friend's sadness.  Their first approach was to speak their sounds in reverse, but this did not make Cowie happier.  They thought maybe something was physically wrong with Cowie.  Everything was checked from bottom to top.  He was A-okay except when he tried to moo again it came out 


After a couple of ideas and more attempts, Cowie's two pals knew exactly what to do.  And they did it . . . with considerable effort.  And you, readers, will laugh and laugh and laugh.

When Elizabeth Rose Stanton brings another of her gentle, lovable creatures into our lives, we welcome them willingly.  In the persona of Cowie, we connect with the dilemma of wanting something which seems improbable.  As the reasons for his love of cows are told to us, we understand his desires.  Who among us has not wanted to emulate another, so as to be like them?  As the story progresses with a blend of narrative and conversation, we are utterly surprised and completely delighted with his two friends' resolution.  In fact, it's guaranteed you'll laugh out loud.  Here is a passage.

Out came:

Everyone stopped chewing
and swishing and mooing
and looked at Cowie.

I am making too much of a donkey of myself, he thought.
I will never be a cow. 

The use of white space as an element in this book is outstanding.  As you can see on the front of the dust jacket, even though the colors of the animals are soft, the white space lifts them up, as it does with the varnished title text. (All the animals are varnished on the front, also.)  To the left, on the back, an interior image from the book has been placed.  It is the scene which accompanies the text previously noted.  All the cows are looking at Cowie with astonishment.  Cowie's back is to readers, as he faces the group of cows.  

The opening and closing endpapers are the same hue of blue as the title text on the front of the dust jacket.  (I am awaiting my hardcopy, so I am working with an F & G.)  Before the verso and title pages, Elizabeth Rose Stanton has placed a cowbell, looped with a pale blue ribbon, in the lower, right-hand corner.  This is a foreshadowing.  The image from the front of the dust jacket appears on the title page.

Rendered in pencil and watercolor, the illustrations are endearing and expressive.  Elizabeth Rose Stanton also adds labels to two of the pictures to place emphasis on Cowie's reasons for loving cows.  Her delicate lines, shading with the colors and facial expressions reveal her skill in using this medium.  Careful readers will notice the inclusion of two previous characters in one of her pictures.

The care given to details is marvelous.  When Cowie is sad, Mousie offers up a daisy and a tiny chick offers him a worm.  When Duckie and Mousie are examining Cowie for any physical problems, Elizabeth Rose Stanton's refreshing sense of humor is seen in this series of images.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is on a single page with a crisp, white background.  Cowie is seated with his red halter hanging to the ground and his red-ribboned tail trailing behind him.  Duckie is seated in front of him with a wing raised in question.  The tiny chick is standing on his tail.  Mousie is on top of Cowie's head with arms raised in triumph with a glowing lightbulb above Mousie's head.  Cowie has his eyes raised up toward Mousie. 

For readers who want a book to hug because they love the characters, one they'll want to read over and over, and one which will make them giggle, Cowie written and illustrated by Elizabeth Rose Stanton is a superb choice.  While we'll not always be who we want to be, good friends can lend a paw or wing to make even our most unlikely dreams a reality.  They'll have to add a healthy dose of silliness to the mix, too.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Elizabeth Rose Stanton and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Elizabeth Rose Stanton has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.  Enjoy this video interview.