Quote of the Month

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

Monday, July 16, 2018

On The Menu

For some individuals it's an art form perfected over every second of their lives. They are literally a catalogue of seemingly infinite ideas. These beings are schemers and dreamers, daring to imagine and do.  They never stop thinking outside the box.

If you are a cow with this marvelous mindset and your best buddy is a duck, it's a guarantee the results will not be as expected.  Meeting Moo Moo and Mr. Quackers in Moo Moo & Mr. Quackers present Moo Moo in a Tutu (Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, April 25, 2017) was a reading adventure down a path filled with laughter.  The companions have returned in Moo Moo & Mr. Quackers present What's Cooking, Moo Moo? (Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, April 3, 2018).  Author illustrator Tim Miller serves readers a memorable meal with heaping helpings of humor and equal measures of friendship.

Great news, 
Mr. Quackers---I just thought
of my best idea ever!

What is it this time,
Moo Moo?

Assuring her friend this latest pursuit will mean more quality time for them together, Moo Moo grabs Mr. Quackers and heads out the door.  In a blink of an eye, the duo is standing in front of a diner with a large sign reading


To say Mr. Quackers is stunned would be an understatement.

He's even more flabbergasted when Moo Moo reveals the source of funding for this new endeavor.  Moo Moo encourages him with promises of fun times ten.  A crowd gathers outside the door as Moo Moo cuts the ribbon at the grand opening.  It's a stampede to get inside. 

As a waiter Mr. Quackers' techniques are slightly lacking.  Filling a water glass with a hose is not the usual practice.  Having a single item, the Moo Moo Special, on the menu puts a lot of pressure on Chef Moo Moo.  When the contents of this gourmet delight are disclosed, expect to burst out laughing.  When it's served to the customers you won't be able to stop your giggles and grins.

Ever the friend, Mr. Quackers steps forward to offer assistance by cooking his

top secret recipe.

When the patrons discover the signature ingredient, they can't leave the restaurant fast enough.  It's a stampede in the other direction.  With their enterprise in food services at a close, the pals pause to reflect.  In this instant Moo Moo gets another brainstorm.  How are your yodeling skills?

With the first words out of her mouth, Moo Moo sets the stage for multiple hilarious scenarios.  Told entirely in dialogue, this story penned by Tim Miller is a series of back and forth bantering between two characters with opposite expectations.  Therein lies the comedy.  Hopefully the name of Mr. Quackers'

important ingredient

will not be overlooked by readers.  (The innuendo is superb, Mr. Miller.)  Here is a portion of dialogue.

You know how you wish
we could spend more
quality time together?

Did I really say that?

Well, I figured out
the perfect way to make
your dream come true!

You mean we're 
going on a vacation? 

Using a palette similar to the first title, inside and outside their shared apartment, and infused with splashes of full color, we enter the world of this particular cow and her friend, a duck.  Cool colors, in blues and purple are complemented with shades of yellow and Moo Moo's pink.  We know by looking at the front of the dust jacket, Moo Moo is blissful about her cooking but Mr. Quackers is decidedly apprehensive.  The soft star in the background gives this story the feel of a production we are about to experience. 

To the left, on the back of the dust jacket, in a framed image hanging on the wall, Moo Moo is looking at Mr. Quackers seated on a stool in front of an easel.  Paintbrush in hand Mr. Quackers is recreating Moo Moo in her favorite pose.  The book case will elicit gasps from readers.  It is a copy of The Daily Quack.  It features, on the right, an article with quotes, about the restaurant opening.  The four entries in the Classifieds on the left are huge hints of what is to come and one makes reference to the first book.  I dare you not to laugh reading this.  

The opening and closing endpapers on the left and right are framed portraits of Mr. Quackers and Moo Moo done in two hues of blue.  Both are wearing aprons and chef hats.  Beneath the text on the title page Moo Moo at the stove flips food into the air.  It lands on Mr. Quackers' head.  The verso and dedication pages have funny illustrations of merry Moo Moo and hesitant Mr. Quackers.

Rendered using brush and ink and digital hocus-pocus the illustrations span two pages, single pages and several are grouped on a single page. These variances provide perfect comedic pacing.  Most of them are framed in a heavy black line and white space.

What Tim Miller is able to accomplish with two dots for eyes and the mouths on all the characters is fabulous.  As you turn the pages your focus first falls on Mr. Quackers and Moo Moo.  You then find yourself noticing all the little details included; the sign on the taxi cab, the items in apartment windows, the guy reading while walking his dog, the decor and table settings inside the diner, ingredient labels, and the type of business located next to the diner.

One of my many favorite images is the lower illustration on a page with two horizontal visuals.  Moo Moo and Mr. Quackers, wearing their restaurant attire, are lying flat on their backs.  Mr. Quackers' body and feet are extended into the air.  Ever the optimist Moo Moo utters

I told you this was
going to be fun.

And Mr. Quackers replies

Is that what you call it?

This comedic image is a result of the stampede to get inside the restaurant.  It clearly delineates the two personalities and their enduring relationship.

Readers sincerely enjoy seeing the return of characters we love in a companion title with a continuation of their escapades.  Moo Moo & Mr. Quackers present What's Cooking, Moo Moo? written and illustrated by Tim Miller brings much shared joy to all of us. Readers will want to read this title repeatedly plus I am willing to bet the first book will be added to the mix.  There is no better concoction than comedy and Tim Miller stirs up the best.  You'll be more than ready to include this title in your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Tim Miller and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Tim maintains a blog here.  At the publisher's website you can get a peek inside the book.  There is also a link to an activity guide.  The cover for this book is revealed on Watch. Connect. Read. the blog of Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher.  I believe you will enjoy their conversation.  Tim is featured on KidLit TV's Ready, Set, Draw!  On May 9, 2017 Tim visits Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast to chat with author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson.  There is loads of artwork to see.  He also stops by Let's Talk Picture Books on September 19, 2017.  Tim is one of The New York Times featured artists who make live art videos.  He was showcased on January 3, 2018.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Love Sees With New Eyes

The first things we see when we step outside each morning are a multitude of elements composing one unique scene next to or layered on another scene.  These visuals are full of shifting colors, lights and darks and blends of various hues.  If we are able to dim our other senses momentarily we can see harmony in these presentations, regardless of the season or setting. 

There is unity between the colors as they work together complementing each other.  MIXED: A Colorful Story (Henry Holt and Company, July 3, 2018) written and illustrated by Arree Chung celebrates this cooperation and respect.  It's a call for us to step beyond the realm of color and recognize differences, similarities and the beautiful found in each individual.

In the beginning, there were three colors.

There were Yellows, Reds and Blues, each with their prevalent characteristics.  They worked and played together in a single city.  One day, a grumpy Red declared

REDS are the BEST!

The Yellows were not happy about this, challenging this announcement with one of their own.  The Blues felt this entire discussion was beneath them and remained quiet.  Before too long, the three groups decided it was best to live in three cities instead of one.

Later a Yellow was out and about one day and spotted a Blue seated on a bench.  The attraction was instant and mutual.  Of course, other Yellows, Reds and Blues were not happy about this relationship but that did not bother this Yellow and that Blue.  They felt nothing but love and married.

Their new baby was named Green.  She had the best parts of Blue and Yellow in her but also was her own singular self.  This little miracle got the attention of other Yellows, Blues and Reds (even the grumpy one).  Her existence gave others permission to see new choices and make changes.  She was hope.

Using a mix of narrative and dialogue Arree Chung tells an important and timely tale.  His short declarative sentences give readers a clear sense of reality in the world of the three original colors focusing on their strengths.  It is one of those unique abilities found in the one Yellow which bridges the resulting divide.  In the conversational asides Arree supplies common arguments which readers realize have no value when stacked against love and acceptance.  Here is a passage.

But then, one day, a Yellow noticed a Blue

And something happened.

I feel so
when I'm 
near you!

And I feel so
calm when
I'm with you!

Placing the beginning central characters, a Red, a Yellow and a Blue on the crisp white background brings our attention to the individual facial features, body postures and added details in black highlighted here.  We know by these three individuals something big is going to happen inside this book especially when we look to the title and see the result of combining red and yellow and yellow and blue. To the left, on the back, four other titles by Arree Chung are showcased beneath a group of colorful characters.  The main title text and the three characters are varnished and raised.

On the book case smiling circular faces in all sizes look at readers.  They are a blend of the primary colors in all the resulting hues.  The opening and closing endpapers are rows of smiling faces, the first in the primary colors and the second a replication of the book case.

Using liberal amounts of white space Arree Chung is able to create a focus on his characters.  All the details on each of them, their hats, scarves, sunglasses and glasses, and additional elements like a microphone and a car are done in black and white.  This minimalist approach is highly effective.

The black lines are bold creating realistic cityscapes. They become thicker in times of crisis or during strong moods and moments such as the closing image.  When the emotional content is lighter, the lines are finer.  The use of visuals in varying sizes provides a wonderful pacing from small pictures surrounded by white to full, two-page pictures powerful in their depictions.

One of my many favorite pictures is after the birth of Green.  She is shown in three separate images on a single page.  In the first she is doing a happy dance because she is

bright like Yellow.

In the second she is leaning against a pillow reading a book because she is

calm like Blue.

In the final scene she is framed by flowers (in black and white) as she stands in a garden.  She is holding a tiny shovel and wearing an over-sized straw hat.  A basket is placed next to her.  A teeny ladybug crawls along the ground.  She is joyfully waving at us.

If asked to give a single word to the result of reading MIXED: A Colorful Story written and illustrated by Arree Chung, it would be uplifting. It is indeed a book about colors but it is much more.  It's about us and the ability to see beyond color.  We are shown how individual qualities can build bridges and break down walls.  It's about honoring singularities and generating one city for all.

To learn more about Arree Chung and his other work please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  I believe you will enjoy reading past posts on his blog.  Arree maintains Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest accounts.  At the publisher's website you can view interior illustrations.  There is also an activity guide.  On June 12, 2018 Arree visited the Children's Book Podcast #443 to chat about this title.  Arree is featured on BookPage in an Icebreaker article.  Here is a link to Arree's YouTube channel where you can view two videos (trailers) for this book.

Seasonal Views And Hues

This year in the northern hemisphere on September 22 summer will come to a close.  The daylight hours are already shortening but during those minutes the world around us is bursting with color in every hue imaginable.  The blend of shadow and the height of the sun give us breathtaking beauty.

We wake to filtered sunrise rays peeking through trees, bushes and flowers giving them a golden glow.  Cloud cover alters every instance.  Wind works a special wonder.  Summer Color! (Little, Brown And Company, May 15, 2018) written by Diana Murray with illustrations by Zoe Persico takes us on a tour of a summer day shared by siblings and their family.

The hot summer sun lights the sky like a torch
as folks fan themselves on the shady back porch.

With this opening sentence we see the first hue of the day---yellow.  It shines on the sunflowers.  As parents and cousins join the duo ice cold sweet treats on a stick are shared.  Their vibrancy shines with a primary color.

Brother and sister run fast past familiar places until they realize the day has darkened.  Clouds swell turning a stormy gray.  All the animals in the field hurry toward the safety of the green woods.  As the rain falls everything starts to shimmer.  Brights are brighter.

The companions traverse farther into the forest, seeking a cool sheet of white water tumbling to a pond.  Making their way home past the lake with people seeking shelter beneath blankets of purple and past meadow mice tucked in their cozy abode, they run to their door.

Soaked through and through, they cuddle under the warmth of orange towels noticing the color of the fence and shed in their backyard.  As suddenly as it arrived, the disturbance disappears.  The leftover droplets cast a silvery sheen.  The children run outside looking at the clear blue of the sky only to find an arching surprise.

Listening and reading children alike will find themselves caught in the cadence of the words written by Diana Murray.  Twelve vivid hues are spotlighted in rhyming couplets (and other poetic techniques such as alliteration), each focusing on an action; everything and everyone is in motion.  Diana Murray's descriptions of place and time entice us to recall similar experiences or to create new adventures in the near future.  Here are two couplets.

Splashing and splattering, streak after streak,
the rain soaks the earth and sweeps over the creek,
where frogs start to croak and the water snakes slink,
and wildflowers glisten with petals so pink.

Using an F & G (looking forward to having my own copy of the book), the dust jacket unfolds to display a green hill topped with the children's home, a field of flowers spreads from flap edge to flap edge.  The blue summer sky holds places for fluffy white clouds, the warm yellow sun and a cardinal gliding on the breeze in the far left upper corner.  On the opening and closing endpapers a fun-filled meadow scene is shown. (In the back these endpapers also display the dedication and publication information.)

A fox calmly watches eleven white mice and nine blue-green frogs frolic on and off the pages.  Eight snails slide across the right corner.  A variety of flowers and mushrooms grow in clusters.  Two of those snails move across a meadow with brown farm fencing on the two-page picture for the title page.  In each corner we are given a close-up view of flowers.

Rendered by Zoe Persico using traditional-art-inspired digital brushes and media the illustrations radiate from every page, blissfully conveying the magic of a summer day.  Each two-page picture feels as though it's in motion, frozen only for a moment until we can jump in and join the characters.  The facial features on the humans are those of contentment and happiness.  Even in the animals there is a sense of harmony.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a close-up of the children running from stone to stone across the creek as the rain begins in earnest.  They are moving from left to right on the left side.  All we can see are their sneakers, legs, a pair of shorts, a skirt and the bottom portion of their shirts.  The girl's hands and arms move in motion with her legs.  Pink land and water flowers dot the image.  A snake glides toward the left side of the page.  A brilliant green frog watches from a rock on the right.  We can see the rain drops streaking downward.

You'll want to use this title, Summer Color! written by Diana Murray with illustrations by Zoe Persico, for your seasonal story times as a charming introduction to all that can be seen in a single summer day. It can also be used with a unit on weather and for any theme involving the concept of color.  Children (and children at heart) will be attracted to the gentle but energetic beat of the words and the spirited illustrations.  It would be wonderful to have this title on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Diana Murray and Zoe Persico and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Both Diana and Zoe are on Twitter. Diana has an account on Pinterest.  Zoe has Tumblr pages and an Instagram account.  Both of them are interviewed by writer and illustrator Jena Benton about this book on her blog.  Enjoy the trailer.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Gifts Freely Given

There are gifts given to us every single day.  Sometimes they are more spectacular than others but they are free if we only reach out to take them.  They are the sudden appearance of a gigantic rainbow arching from one compass point to another, the happy, musical chirping of birds feasting on wild berries, baby bunnies nibbling on grass, two spotted fawns moving through your woods with adult deer and sunset-light shows seen through clouds and tree branches.  Mother Nature's generosity is humbling.

People have and continue to walk among us who honor those gifts with their life's work.  One of those people spent her entire life in the state of Michigan. Nature's Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story (Sleeping Bear Press, July 15, 2018) written by Lindsey McDivitt with illustrations by Eileen Ryan Ewen pays tribute to a remarkable woman.

Gwen followed her brothers and sisters everywhere, like a small fawn follows its herd.  They roamed the woods and fields near Croswell---their tiny town tucked into the thumb of Michigan.

For Gwen this was not easy to do.  She was disabled from a sickness at a very early age.  Her hands were not strong.  It was difficult for her to talk, slurring her words.  Her one foot dragged as she walked.  But . . .

Her mother inspired her to do whatever she wanted to do.  She stood behind Gwen sending her to school with the other children.  Gwen learned quickly but remember her hands were not strong.  Her teachers thought she would never write.  Her mother gave her all the supplies she needed to practice using her hands to make words and pictures.  It worked.

When you are a child with disabilities, making friends is hard but nature did not judge Gwen.  She found solace there.  After a move to the outskirts of Detroit, Gwen, now in high school, sought new avenues of skill.  She worked on painting, mechanical drawing and learned to use a band saw.  This was brave of Gwen considering the time period.

During art school she mastered the art of carving linoleum and making prints.  Striving to earn a living she began to work in metals even garnering the notice of Henry Ford's wife, Clara.  World War II ended her career in metal but that did not stop Gwen.  She went to work at the Ford Motor Company helping to build bomber planes on the assembly line.

After a day at the factory, Gwen went home to pursue her passion for linoleum print making. She also longed to be close to nature again.  Gwen and her beloved dog Teddy finally settled in northern Michigan, first in Frankfort and then on a large tract of land along the Betsie River near Benzonia.  Her business, Presscraft Papers, the note cards, calendars and books she wrote, allowed others to view nature as Gwen did.  Her respect and love for the out-of-doors continues through her art.

Whether you grew up in Michigan hearing about Gwen Frostic or have met her for the first time in this book, author Lindsey McDivitt through her skillful blend of information and lyrical writing style breathes life into the spirit of this inspiring woman.  It's not only a careful chronicle of her accomplishments but Lindsey builds on those milestones allowing us to see why Gwen was who she was.  Throughout the book are quotes by Gwen, a high school classmate, and a lyric from the "Rosie The Riveter" song.  Here are two passages.

Gwen loved learning, but trying to make friends could leave
her feeling as prickly as a porcupine.  Nature felt like a friend,
pulling her out to play.  With so much to discover, Gwen
didn't have time to feel lonely.

Swaying grasses whispered in fields thick with Queen
Anne's lace.
Tiny ferns unfurled at her feet.
Frogs lapped up bugs with long, quick tongues.
Gwen breathed it all in.  She listened to their messages. 

A feeling of peace settles over readers when they look at the matching dust jacket and book case of this title.  For those fortunate enough to live close to nature, the depiction of Gwen sitting cross-legged in the woods sketching with her dog is one we can easily understand.  It draws the attention of those living outside of nature how much can be gained by being in its presence.  The design and layout of this first scene is pure serenity, simply beautiful.

To the left, on the back, extending the purple seen on the front and using it as a canvas, a smaller image of an older Gwen and her dog is featured. They are standing on the edge of a stream near a meadow.  The sky and clouds are golden with a sunrise or sunset.  Pristine white covers the opening and closing endpapers.  A little girl Gwen, picking flowers and seated, is beneath the text on the title page.

The illustrations rendered by Eileen Ryan Ewen span a single page and a page plus when crossing the gutter.  These larger images supply a column for text.  Many times opposite the pictures a small visual will portray something notable from the text; a bird building a nest, a small mouse in a forgotten shoe as Gwen sits soaking up nature, mechanical drawing tools or Gwen's dog, Teddy.

Eileen Ryan Ewen's color choices, fine lines, attention to details and historical accuracy ask us to pause.  Her illustrations further acquaint us with this woman, who like the nature she loved, left her mark on Michigan and throughout the world.  Each scene reminds us of the work and research illustrators do for each image.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a reflection of the perspective shifts Eileen makes in this title.  It spans a single page.  Spread out and layered are works of Gwen's art carved on linoleum and printed on paper.  We see some of the most popular works created by Gwen Frostic.  On top of these in the middle is a piece of linoleum.  Gwen's left hand holds the left side as her right hand carves a woodland scene.  There is something very moving about this picture.

Having visited the business, studio and printing presses of Gwen Frostic for many years during our family summer and fall vacations on Crystal Lake and later on Little Platte Lake and Platte River, this book, Nature's Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story written by Lindsey McDivitt with illustrations by Eileen Ryan Ewen, is a marvelous representation.  It serves as a testament to following your heart's desire regardless of difficulties. I highly recommend it for your professional and personal collections, especially for my Michigan friends and colleagues.  Lindsey McDivitt includes an author's note at the end with an activity.  You might want to pair this title with In Mary's Garden (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 17, 2015) written and illustrated by Tina and Carson Kugler

To learn more about Lindsey McDivitt and Eileen Ryan Ewen and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Lindsey McDivitt maintains a blog and account on Twitter.  Eileen Ryan Ewen has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website there are a couple of activity pages to download.

The website for Gwen Frostic is here. Here is the page dedicated to Gwen after her induction into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.  Here is a PBS Destination Michigan episode devoted to Gwen Frostic. This is the 2018 9 & 10 News article about Gwen Frostic Day celebrated each year.  Gwen Frostic gave a sizeable donation to Western Michigan University.  Their art school is now named in her honor.  The Michigan Reading Association has an annual award, Gwen Frostic Award, showcasing those Michigan authors and illustrators who have greatly influenced literacy in Michigan.

Remember to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the titles selected this week by other participants in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Friday, July 13, 2018

RUN! SWIM! For Your Lives!

Having survived more years than we can imagine, they have our deepest respect and for some of us, our fear.  They are serious apex predators of the sea.  To utter their name at an ocean beach full of swimmers is certain to have people scurrying in total panic.  In reality we harm more of them in any given year than they harm us. 

Sharks have inspired blockbuster movies, week-long television series and bestselling books.  One of the newest titles with these fascinating fish as a central character is Misunderstood Shark (Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., April 24, 2018) written by Ame Dyckman with illustrations by Scott Magoon.  By the time you finish reading this book your respect for sharks will be strengthened as you roar with laughter.

Here we go,
Underwater World with Bob
broadcasting live
in 3 . . . 2 . . . 
. . . 1 . . .
Hey! Who did this?!

Bob barely has his first few sentences finished when a grinning shark bursts into view.  Needless to say several of the crew, two squid, are ready to run.  Bob, a jellyfish, reminds Shark not to eat a fish, a tiny orange one in his grasp, in front of the people watching.

When Shark realizes people can see him, his sweet reply is contrary to what they and everyone on the watery set believe to be true.

You misunderstood!

He says he was only showing the fish his new tooth.  Trying to recapture the audience's attention Bob entertains us with a 

Fun Fact 

about sharks and their teeth.  Continuing to speak Bob thinks he is chatting with Shark but the wily predator is after something, a baby seal, swimming on the surface. 

A similar scenario ensues with readers learning another informative item about sharks and their appetites.  Just when Bob (and dare I say readers) is beginning to trust Shark, he takes off in hot pursuit of an enticing scent.  As Shark speeds toward 


Bob decides to give us another interesting detail about sharks and their sense of smell.

Shark is closing in on the source of the blood.  People are scattering across the sand, leaving their belongings behind.  Shark is despondent at this treatment.  He was only trying to help.  Bob and the two squid are offering comfort (and comedy) at this current situation.  Will an act of compassion change the dynamics of Underwater World with Bob?  Stay tuned.

When it comes to writing humor Ame Dyckman is masterful.  By telling the tale through dialogue, it's as if we are viewing this entire show in real life.  Even before the narrative starts, the comments of the television crew are sure to have readers smiling.  They continue to offer tidbits of opinions heightening the humor.

By using repeating phrases in each situation Ame invites audience participation.  As we join in Bob's and Shark's refrains, we have no idea what Shark will say next, but when he does answer it's so ridiculous we can't help but laugh.  This rhythm sets us up grandly for the surprising conclusion.  Here is a passage.  

"Fine, Shark.  Maybe you weren't going to eat that fish . . ."
"Where's Shark?"
"Oh, no." 

As soon as you open the dust jacket you know you are in for a delightful treat.  The image stretches from flap edge to flap edge.  On the back flap, Ame and Scott wearing appropriate swimming gear for above and below the water look as though they are characters in the book.  A group of green and blue fish swims below.  On the front flap Bob and the two squid offer comments intermingled with the blurb.  

Looking at the front we already know things might not go as Bob plans.  His look and the expression on Shark's face are not quite the same.  The design cleverly places Shark's fin in place for the letter "a".  To the left, on the back, the octopus, the cameraman, the two squid, the tiny orange fish and the baby seal are watching.  The ISBN is placed on the clapperboard.  The sea creatures, Ame and Scott are varnished on metallic blue hues.  On the book case all of the text has been removed except for the clapperboard.  The ISBN is replaced with the title of the show. 

The opening and closing endpapers are part of the story.  The squid, Bob and Shark offer conversation on both sets.  One features the sea in daylight and the other as darkness comes.  On the title and verso pages, the dedications and publication information are placed inside air bubbles.  One of the squid is holding the clapperboard with the title text (slightly alerted) on it.

All of the illustrations are bold and bright spanning single or double pages.  Sometimes Scott Magoon places a series of illustrations on a single page to indicate the passage of time and to accentuate pacing.  There is even a dramatic vertical, double-page picture.  To give us an indication of the importance of a particular point in the story the point-of-view will be switched; when Shark first sniffs the blood.

The layout of the elements is excellent; when Shark first appears during the show, when Bob is following Shark as he swims toward the baby seal, or when Shark starts to cry at the beach.  Readers will be looking for all the extra details like the tattoo on Shark's fin.  And the facial expressions on all the characters are outstanding.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a two-page image.  It's a scene with Shark sobbing at the people running away from him.  A first aid box with three bandages falling out of it is in the water next to Shark.  Beneath him Bob is talking to listeners (readers) about how likely it is to be bitten by a shark as opposed to being bitten by a person.  A crab, clam and starfish are watching.  On the right the two squid, one holding the clapperboard and the other the microphone boom pole offer opinions.  The first is wearing sunglasses on its forehead.  The other is wearing earphones.  These characters are all placed in an underwater seascape.

For a story time featuring humor or sharks, Misunderstood Shark written by Ame Dyckman with illustrations by Scott Magoon is a surefire winner.  This duo's combination of words and artwork will have readers laughing like loons.  For an interesting and funny shark theme I would pair it with Swimming With Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark written by Heather Lang and illustrated by Jordi Solano, Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist written by Jess Keating with illustrations by Marta Alvarez Miguens and DUDE! written by Aaron Reynolds with illustrations by Dan Santat.  You will want this title on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about both Ame Dyckman and Scott Magoon and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Scott has loads of extras about this book on his site.  Both Ame and Scott have Twitter accounts.  You can find Scott on Pinterest and Instagram.  The cover for this title was revealed by Scholastic Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  He chats with both Ame and Scott.  Next you'll want to head over to the publisher's website to see what they offer regarding this title for readers.  Enjoy the videos.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


As you think, look or travel from one point to another point, do you ever consider all those items contained in this space?  Depending on the distance from one point to the other, you could have a single element or a multitude.  Between my laptop and dining room table there is a layer of stain.  No, wait!  There are plastic, metal, and computer innards; all types of boards.  Oh, no!  There's more.  There's a serial number, a model number and a battery.  There's also a CD and DVD player.  There's a camera and video recorder.  Yikes! There are speakers and all kinds of slots for additional components.  And there's a mouse.

Your perspective changes everything.  Your ability to search for details enhances your experience.  In-Between Things (Candlewick Press, May 22, 2018) written and illustrated by debut picture book author Priscilla Tey is a wondrous exploration of being our most observant selves.  Once you start thinking about the possibilities, you won't be able to stop.

An in-between thing is a thing in the middle.

A confident cat, a wary, tolerant and disgusted dog and sometimes one, two or three merry mice visually assist readers as we traverse the concept of

a thing in the middle.

We start with the obvious, one or a few things between two other things.  Next we leave the floor, the surface of the room, venturing to the area between the floor and the ground. We could be naming all the things found here for days.

We are challenged to look to the left and then to the right.  What do we see?  We are asked to expand our musings by considering the in-between as a protection such as the glass on a fish bowl saving the fish from the cat.  Going abstract, imagine what light can do for you.

Doors, windows and walls have a spot in-between.  Have you ever thought of roads, creeks or pathways as in-between places?  When you mix one thing with another thing, you get a middle thing, a new thing like when blue and yellow are blended.  Voila!  It's green.

When you think about it (and believe me you will), you can design all kinds of in-between.  You can combine clothing, utensils, dances, sounds and words. There are times in any given twenty-four hour period when it's simply not a specific time of day.  It's in-between.

The allure of stories in rhyme is during the read aloud.  If the rhymes are well-written, it's like singing a song.  Priscilla Tey has selected words with care reflecting a variety of concepts for

a thing in the middle

and we happily "sing" along.

She begins slowly, gradually asking us to expand our minds beyond where our eyes can see.  We travel from our homes to places far away and return.  When Priscilla finishes with the book, we realize in-between is everywhere.  Here is a passage.

You can walk down the in-between coal-colored street
that's in between this house and the house that has feet.

And if you meet an in-between
stream or a creek,

cross an in-between bridge
for dry paws and dry feet.

The illustrations rendered in mixed media first seen on the matching dust jacket and book case are a joyful blend of elements, an animated collage.  Our eyes go from one detail to the next noting the antics of the mice, the cat and the dog.  You expect movement at any moment.  To the left, on the back, a stairway, painted green fills most of the canvas.  Bright yellow steps and a blue handrail, grab our attention.  The cat scampers off on the top step.  Readers will giggle to see a mouse lifting the corner of the ISBN.  What's it going to do next?

The matching opening and closing endpapers are patterned with geometric shapes, colorful rugs.  The cat and dog are positioned to come and go behind these as if they are doors.  Clearly the dog is trying to avoid the cat.

With every page turn we are presented with a colorful array of possible in-between things.  You have to stop and look carefully at every image. You need to look at the items in each scene.  You have to notice the expressions on the animals' faces and their body postures.  They are hilarious.

Priscilla combines multiple happenings brilliantly in a single illustration.  She shifts the perspective to supply pacing in keeping with her rhythmic narrative.  By the time you get to the end of the book you know this house, everything in it and everyone in it are loved.

One of my many favorite illustrations is showing a train track winding through the house.  On the left, it is close to us, ready to go under the green table.  The dog is on top of the table crouched and looking underneath it.  A blue book has been placed under an orange chair to act as a tunnel.  Crossing the gutter, from left to right, is a window to the outside.  The cat is strolling up a path.  The dog is watching this approach carefully.  The train in this scene on the right has three passengers sitting on top of the brightly-colored cars.  They are the white mice.  A painting of a bridge hangs on the wall.

No matter how many times you gaze at these illustrations and read the words aloud, the appeal of In-Between Things written and illustrated by Priscilla Tey will continually increase.  The playful animals amid the vivid artwork will have readers requesting repeat readings.  You will want to have this imaginative title on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Priscilla Tey and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Priscilla maintains an account on Twitter and Instagram.  At Candlewick Press and Penguin Random House you can view interior illustrations.  Candlewick Press has a special four pages devoted to this title and Priscilla.  Enjoy the video.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Piece of Time

For anyone living or visiting northern Michigan the beaches along the Great Lakes are a treasure trove of all forms, shapes and sizes of rocks.  It is indeed the only place on earth to find the coveted Petoskey stone.  In fact, you don't have to go very deep on any piece of property to find sand, gravel and rocks.  Nearly daily I am unearthing rocks from walnut-sized to as large as a fist, mine and the Hulk's mighty clenched hand.

You find yourself wondering about the path taken by any single rock.  From where did it originate?  Is it part of a larger whole?  How long has it been here?  Was it present at a significant historic event?  A Stone for Sascha (Candlewick Press, May 8, 2018) conceived and illustrated by Aaron Becker, without words, takes readers on a passage through time and discovery of self.

A beloved canine companion is dead.  A girl morns the loss as the family lays the animal to rest near their home.  Shortly thereafter they leave for their camping vacation; one member is absent this year.

Taking a bucket to the beach to the girl searches along the sand and notices another girl with another dog.  As dusk blankets the area that night, a cosmic crack gives us a vision into the past.  In the time of dinosaurs a meteor strikes the planet; later large portions of it are found by early people.  It is taken from place to place and eventually appears as a carved monolith. Kingdoms and wars cause it to be broken and transported in pieces to other locations.

As a keystone it survives decades of time to be formed later into a precious and intricate work of art.  It is a gift.  It is plunder.  It is lost.  When finally found time has smoothed its edges and size to fill a hole in a saddened heart.  It becomes . . .

The beauty of this book, beside the glorious illustrations and profound story, is it will resonate differently with each reader.  It, like the stone, will heal and connect us to something larger than ourselves.  We will, thanks to the imagination and perception of Aaron Becker, take with us in the visual reading of this narrative a greater understanding of the passage of time, life and death.  We are all in this together.

When you open the dust jacket you see the girl gazing at the lake from the beach at her camp site.  Standing next to the bucket of rocks, she holds her golden treasure.  The flow of the complimentary colors is soothing to the soul, allowing us to feel a similar peace she now perceives.  To the left, on the back, on a canvas of light royal blue, is the ornate carved golden chest from ancient times.

The book case covered in a darker textured blue is bare except for the center of the front.  A golden dog tag, heart-shaped, inscribed with the word


holds this spot.  The text on the spine is also embossed in gold.  The opening and closing endpapers are two different maps, chronicling the journey of the stone.  Aaron Becker includes dates and place names.

On the title page a framed photograph of the girl and Sascha seated together is centered between the text.  The girl is hugging the dog as the dog leans into her.  The dedication and verso are placed on a two-page breathtaking illustration (all the illustrations are painted digitally) of the girl picking flowers to put on the dog's grave.  Her family watches in the distance.

A blend of small images on white, single-page visuals framed in white or placed edge to edge, and grand two-page illustrations fill our eyes with wonder.  To delineate the passage of time a series of vertical or horizontal panels are designed to cover one page.  Aaron's realistic colors are muted, softened, to take us back in time and to supply a specific emotion.  To accentuate meaning, his point of view shifts, bringing us very close to the moment.

One of my many favorite pictures is of the girl on the beach on their arrival at the camp site.  The curve of the water meeting the sand is a partial oval in front of her.  Behind her the bucket is overflowing with stones as she reaches into the water for another one.  To her left in the back is another group of campers.  Although she is reaching into the water, she head is lifted up and to the right.  A girl runs along the beach carrying a disc as her dog runs along with her.  A beach volleyball game is in the background.  Amid all this activity her thoughts are drawn to Sascha.  (One key technique to note is Aaron places yellow in every picture tying places and time together.)

There is hardly a reader who has not experienced the loss of a beloved family member, friend or cherished animal companion.  This book, A Stone for Sascha conceived and illustrated by Aaron Becker, gives solace.  Through his perspectives we are able to find our own.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Aaron Becker and his other work please follow the links attached to his name to access his website and Tumblr pages. Aaron visits super school librarian Travis Jonker's website, 100 Scope Notes at School Library Journal, to chat about this book.  I believe you will appreciate the video.  The cover for this book is premiered at All The Wonders.  At publishers' websites, Penguin Random House and Candlewick Press you can view interior images.  Candlewick Press also has a Q and A with Aaron.  Enjoy the other videos.

A Stone for Sascha - official trailer from Aaron Becker on Vimeo.