Quote of the Month

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




Monday, January 21, 2019

Notable Poultry Notes

To speculate on what our world would be like if all living beings could communicate with each other is always fuel for discussion, research, marvelous fiction and potential questions.  Would they be furious with our lack of care for the environment?  Would they be horrified at rate of species going extinct?  Would they demand we stop clear-cutting forests?  Would they applaud our recycling efforts or our endeavors to rescue wild and domesticated animals?  Would they be happy to see more people are planting honey bee and butterfly-friendly gardens?

Closer to home, what would our pets have to ask or tell us?  There might be a certain chocolate Labrador retriever who would demand more treats, more chew toys, and a lot more running around outside.  Chicken Talk (Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, January 15, 2018) written by Patricia MacLachlan with pictures by Jarrett J. Krosoczka follows a brood of hens and one confident rooster who act with comical consequences.

Farmer Otis and his wife, Abby, loved their chickens.  Their children, Willie and Belle, loved them, too.

This shared love extended to their poultry, eleven hens, Beatrix, Bitsy, Grace, Boo, seven named Joyce and a rooster named Pedro, was constant.  Abby was sure to fix lettuce and arugula meals for the fowl family and collect their eggs every day.  The eggs were labeled with the hens' names by the siblings.

The hens enjoyed a life of leisure, resting in chairs on the porch, pecking for tidbits of food in the dirt, listening to the stories Willie and Belle told and watching them read books.  Imagine the surprise greeting the humans one morning when the words

No more ARUGULA

were found written in a pathway.  Otis and Abby came to the only conclusion they could, Trixie (Beatrix) wrote the message. 

It was as if the first message opened a door to bottled-up opinions held by the chickens.  Each day another note was discovered.  The nature of the statements revealed their author.  Although the family believed if they told anyone they would be thought a tad bit crazy, the chickens took matters into their own . . . um . . . feet. 

An accused mailman decided to seek the truth on his own.  A shocking discovery had the news spreading.  Curious people made for good egg business.  Even after all the Joyces had their say, there was still one chicken that was silent.  When she finally left her two thoughts scrawled across the ground, they were the best of them all.


In the masterful hands of Patricia MacLachlan, the impossible not only become possible but it is done so with the utmost charm and good-natured humor.  It's funny when the sentences written by the chickens are the honest truth.  It's even funnier when the family members readily accept their chickens can write and can identify the creator.  The flawless flow of narrative and dialogue elevates the laughter factor.  Here is a passage.

Otis and Abby drove into the driveway and walked up
the hill with shopping bags.
Willie pointed to the words scratched in the dirt.
Trixie strutted over and looked at Otis and Abby with
her bright beady eyes.
"Trixie wrote that sentence," whispered Otis.
"Yes", said Abby.
"Don't tell anyone," said Otis.  "They'll think we're nutty."
Abby nodded.  "I thought Trixie liked arugula."


The canvas of barnyard dirt on the matching and open dust jacket and book case extends over the spine, front to back.  The eight showcased chickens are either looking directly at readers, at the text or ISBN.  The red circles around their eyes increase the animation seen on their facial features while at the same time coordinating with the darker red in the title text and bar at the top of the ISBN. 

The opening and closing endpapers are covered in a rusty red. The title page begins the pictorial interpretation of the playfulness and wit found throughout the book.  Along the top are three sets of chicken legs with the lower portion of their bodies.  The text is written "chicken" style as if scribbled in the dirt on the path.

The illustrations by Jarrett J. Krosoczka with their loose lines and colorful washes delineating light and shadow appear to be done in watercolor.  Many of the images are double-page pictures with full-page visuals usually framed in a white border.  Sometimes it's as if we are standing with the characters in the scene and other times it's as if our point of view shifts to looking down on the action.  Readers will find the eyes of the chickens greatly enhance the hilarity especially when coupled with their body positions. 

One of my many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  We can see the farmhouse porch and a bit of the siding and one window.  This is in hues of gray.  The curtains on the window are a light rusty red.  Three wooden porch chairs are placed in a row.  Right in the center of each are three plump white chickens; two apparently in conversation. (I laugh every time I see this.)


You can be sure requests for this book, Chicken Talk written by Patricia MacLachlan with pictures by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, will be frequent.  Who doesn't love to laugh and wonder what animals would say if they could write?  For a story time showcasing chickens you could use Blue ChickenWhat Floats in a Moat?, Bawk & RollHenny, Chickens in Space, My Dog's a Chicken, Snappsy The Alligator And His Best Friend Forever (Probably) and Interrupting Chicken And The Elephant Of SurpriseYou'll want to add this title to your professional and personal collections.

For more information on Jarrett J. Krosoczka and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Jarrett J. Krosoczka maintains a blog, an account on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. (You might want to check out Jarrett's tweets about this book.)  Jarrett J. Krosoczka also has two TED talks you might find interesting.  Here is a link to a short biography on the beloved Patricia MacLachlan at the publisher's website. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Go Out Doors To Out Of Doors

Winter is in full force with a series of less-than-desirable weather scenarios playing out across the country for this evening and weekend.  Extreme temperatures, snow and rainfall, and high winds figure in the mix.  This is, whether you embrace this season or not, an ideal time to dream of a balmy setting.

If we could spend a single day, now, in pure sunny summer perfection, what would we do?  Run Wild (Viking, Penguin Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, June 5, 2018) written and illustrated by David Covell gives us one such day.  It's a joyous exploration of making the most of every minute. 

Hey, You.
Sky's blue!
(forget your shoes)
OPEN
that door
and . . .

This introduction is an invitation to drop everything inside and leave to enjoy the outside.  A girl runs past her friend's window and his split-second decision has him sprinting to join her.  Running in bare feet, they feel the field's grasses and wildflowers on their soles and in their souls.

A rabbit runs away from them.  Mud puddles are wet trampolines.  Creepy crawlies are new best friends.  A path through the woods leads to blazing sand and crystal cool sea water.

A plunge into the shoreline depths is a welcome respite.  Floating on one's back allows for speculation and imagination to thrive.  In mere minutes the blue changes to black, mirroring life.  Running from a storm is challenging, but the hand of a friend says get up and go.

As a golden globe dips below the horizon, two pals pursue the last of the day's offering.  Now a full moon guides them home.  We are one with the wild.


Your pulse quickens as you read the phrases penned by David Covell.  With each new narrative shout, declaration and question, you are a willing member of the playful party.  Each single word description sizzles with life in our natural world.  Repetition of run and wild create a singular beat with the other rhyming words.  Here are some phrases.

Run. Run.
Wild. Wild.
All day long,
the sun's gonna
smile.

Take a deep breath.
1-2-3!
Be a fish in
the salty sea.


Looking at the matching open dust jacket and book case, readers are shown two different perspectives.  On the front the bare feet among flowers, grass and ferns, is a pointed pause.  This design with the bird in flight and the ladybug perched on two toes is wonderful.  The brush-stroke lettering promises wonder within the pages of this title.

To the left on the back, the canvas continues.  In-between the text, the girl, a rabbit and the boy run.  The words read:

Chase the wind.
Can you grab it?
Go ahead . . .

Race a
rabbit!

On the opening and closing endpapers readers are given views of the forest, first in the morning and at last during the evening.  In the gaps of the trees are leaves and leafy tops and a girl and a boy running . . . wild.

On the verso and title pages to the left the girl runs toward her friend's house on the right.  A page turn shows the inside of the home in grays and black with the boy holding a hand-held device.  His pal races past.  The remainder of the pages are a colorful tribute in loose lines, fluid paint washes and varying points of view to the supreme happiness to be found in a field, forest and sea.  We see feet, legs and a lower body in motion as the girl partner races ahead.  Close to us a rabbit scampers off to avoid the dashing duo.

There is a mix of double-page pictures and full-page images to pair with the pacing.  White space is used with excellence to frame visuals of varying sizes.  It also accentuates emotion.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  A swirly wash of water covers about a fourth of the bottom.  On the left and the right one foot lifts from the sea.  Blue outlines of clouds float above and past the feet on a light, creamy sky.  A brightly-hued butterfly is nearly alight on the right foot.  This is a scene in which many can identify; floating on one's back in the water as the gentle waves lap around you.


If you missed this 2018 treasure, then don't waste another second without reading it.  Run Wild written and illustrated with a combination of intention and abandon by David Covell is one of The 2018 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children's Books.  It is an exuberant ode to a season and our natural world.  It will enhance your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about David Covell and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  David also has another site drawing attention to his books.  David maintains accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  David's work is featured at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, the site of author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson.  You will want to go there to see the progression and final art for this book.  At the publisher's website you can also view interior images.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Reaping Everlasting Riches

More times than readers can count, they find answers in books to questions they haven't yet asked.  Several years ago, in attendance at a storytelling class, it was suggested to begin and close a storytelling event with a candle or lamp.  When the lamp is lit, the magic of storytelling starts.  After the final tale is told, the flame is extinguished.

Listeners are asked to make three wishes; one for someone anywhere in the world who needs it, one for someone they love (including pets) and the final wish for themselves.  They are, after all, very important people.  As the flame is blown out, the wishes travel out in the world.  Decades ago a wonderful parent gave me my storytelling lamp with a wick to light as it coils in oil in the body.

It wasn't until reading a new release yesterday, the possible origin of lighting a storytelling flame was presented to me.  Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, January 15, 2018) written by Anika Aldamuy Denise with illustrations by Paola Escobar depicts a marvelous portrait of a woman whose star will remain shining.  Story was her gift.  It still grows.

It is 1921.
Pura Teresa Belpre leaves her home in San Juan
for a visit to Nueva York.
Words travel with her:
stories her abuela taught her.

Her first sight of Manhattan stirs those stories she carries.  This is a place where dreams can come true.  A temporary stay for her sister's wedding is extended.

Working in a garment shop is not a place for her tales to flourish but a job in the public library as a bilingual assistant is a splendid garden.  Seeing no books with Puerto Rican stories on the shelves, Pura's story hours sing with her stories from home.  Martina, a Spanish cockroach and Perez, her beau and a mouse, capture her listeners' attentions.  Soon, using her sewing skills, Pura fashions puppets to enhance the folktales.

Still, feeling the need to do more, Pura Belpre records the tale with pen and paper, mailing it to a publisher.  It's published!  Martina and Perez have their own book!  Pura spreads her stories from library to library, school to school and everywhere people will listen.  She wants people new to Nueva York to be able to recall the beauty of Puerto Rico through story.  One day, something unexpected happens.  His name is Clarence Cameron White.

Pura Belpre leaves the library to travel with Clarence as he makes music and she shares her folktales from home.  After his death, almost twenty years later, she returns.  Her beginnings have made new beginnings and they, in turn, have done the same.  It does not and will not end.


When you think of stories, they are a living thing passed from one generation to the next by a variety of means.  To use the analogy of seeds, planting, taking root and growing with respect to Pura Belpre and her stories is brilliance by author Anika Aldamuy Denise.  Those key words and phrases are referenced more than once, tying one portion of Pura's life to the next.

The technique of stating a date prior to two significant events gives readers an idea of the length of this woman's impact on the reading lives of many, many children and adults.  Especially pleasing is the mix of Spanish and English words in the narrative.  It makes the sentences ring with authenticity.  Readers will be able to establish meanings from the surrounding text.  Here are two passages.

Now Pura has a wish, too:
to plant her story seeds throughout the land.
Pura learns to make puppets.
She snips and sews their clothes . . .
paints their delicate faces.

Families come
to hear folktales en ingles y espanol, 
to watch Pura's puppets
dance across
   the stage
     of her stories.


The darker, deeper colors used in this book and introduced to us on the open dust jacket reach out to readers with their natural warmth.  Overlaying the blossoms on both the front and back (and within the body of the book) beautifully displays the theme of this woman's life; the planting and flourishing of her country's folktales.  The scene on the front is continued on the back.  Another woman and her child leave the library from another entrance and exit.  Careful readers will notice the puppets of Martina and Perez on the hands of two children.

A creamy blush becomes a canvas for the book case.  Flowers extends from left to right upward on the back and from right to left downward on the front.  A highly detailed pattern covers the opening and closing endpapers beginning with a background of a light, muted and natural green. Tiny blossoms on stems with leaves extend from tiny puppets of Martina and Perez, a valise, a book and a flaming candle.  Mixed with these white flowers are single blooms in other hues.

Across the verso and title pages is an illustration of Pura Belpre seated beneath a tamarind tree, a book resting in her lap.  Flowers with flowing stems extend from its pages.  Two birds fly between the title text.

The images rendered digitally in Adobe Photoshop by Paola Escobar appear across two pages, single pages or within loose shapes on a single page.  To indicate the passage of time smaller illustrations will be grouped together, flowing from one scene to the next scene.  Sometimes we look as if from a bird's point of view and other times it's as if we are standing next to Pura Belpre.

It is evident Paola Escobar researched the place and time in which this book takes place.  Readers will enjoy noticing all the details.  They will also feel a kinship with this woman, who devoted her life to her community through her librarianship, storytelling and writing, by observing the expressions on her face. (Her wardrobe is wonderful.)

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  On the left Pura is seated in her library in front of a set of book shelves.  To her left is a small table on which is placed a vase with flowers and a burning candle.  Seated in front of her on a circular rug is a group of children.  From her open mouth a large white cloud forms, moves across the gutter and covers the right page.  It is a scene from the story of Martina and Perez.  He is approaching her carrying a flower.  She watches from a second-floor balcony of her home.


In a two-page author's note Anika Aldamuy Denise says:

Her life and work as a librarian, storyteller, author, and advocate for 
the Latinx community is a testament to the power of our own stories to
build bridges---not just to literacy, but to social change. 

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre written by Anika Aldamuy Denise with illustrations by Paola Escobar illuminates a visionary with excellence in words and pictures.  You will most definitely want to find a place for this title on your personal and professional bookshelves.  Following the author's note is a selected bibliography, archival collections, articles and films, further reading, and stories by Pura Belpre mentioned in this book.  (This title is also published in Spanish.  I look forward to the arrival of my copy.)

To learn more about Anika Aldamuy Denise and Paola Escobar and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Anika Aldamuy Denise has an account on Instagram and Twitter.  Paola Escobar has an account also on Instagram and Twitter.  A five-question publisher's preview of this book with this duo appears at The Horn Book.  Be sure to read it.




Take a few minutes to stop by Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to read about the titles selected this week by other participants in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Stay The Course

We count down the days, weeks, and months.  Our anticipation continues to grow.  Others have worked far longer to ensure a promise filled with possibilities becomes something we can hold in our hands.

When the expected date arrives, we can hardly contain our excitement.  We read it first, consuming it with care, savoring the words and pausing at the illustrations.  We read it a second time to experience the joy it brings, again.  This is how readers feel when characters we enjoy, those who have captured our hearts, return in a companion book.  The positive, can-do attitude of Penguin in Flight School (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, April 15, 2014) is an inspiration to all.  Today he's back in Penguin Flies Home: a Flight School story (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, January 15, 2018) written and illustrated by his talented creator Lita Judge.

Penguin loved to fly.

It was true he needed a little help with
the technical parts---but that's why he
worked hard as a student at flight school.

Penguin had the most important characteristic needed to fly; he had heart.  There was nothing Penguin did not like about flying except at the end of the day.  It was then he thought about his home and the penguins there.  He wanted his friends to feel the same exhilaration he felt when flying.

His teacher and Flamingo knew Penguin needed to go home.  This next morning a normal take off turned into a field trip . . . a long, long field trip.  Penguin was happy to be home with his penguin friends.  He presented Teacher, Flamingo and Egret with pride.  Next on his agenda was to teach all those penguins to fly.  Fly?

It's safe to say his exuberance was not reciprocated.  He tried his best to demonstrate the basics, flapping, jumping, going up and landing, but one by one his penguin pals dove into the water for a swim.  His usually energetic manner was crushed.  Alone, he wandered to a snowy peak watching darkness descend and the aurora begin.

Penguin thought and thought and knew he had to hold fast to his dreams.  In the morning he wanted to tell his friends he was going back to Flight School with Teacher, Flamingo and Egret.  Penguin had no idea of the surprise awaiting him.  It was a victory for love.


Within the first two pages, even without reading the first Penguin book, readers will know of this bird's passion for flying.  Through the writing of Lita Judge he continues to acquaint us with all the explicit sensations he has when high above the landscape beneath him.  Our appreciation for his mentors grows with their acute observations.

With intention and care Lita Judge inserts little bits of humor in the side comments of Penguin's pals at home.  In his desire to pass on his love of flying to them, he does not hear what they are saying which makes his heartbreak more profound.  It also contributes to the elation Penguin (and readers) have at the end.  Here is a passage.

I don't think so!

I think we heard wrong.

Penguins don't fly.

"Follow me birdies!"
Penguin said.
"It's time for class to begin."


On the front of the dust jacket you simply can't resist smiling when seeing the happy grin on Penguin's face as he glides away from his gathered penguin pals.  His colorful red goggles, spread wings and fluttering feather embellishments are sure to lift readers' spirits and send them soaring, too.  If you are questioning the lines around his body disappearing off the top of the page, an answer will be revealed.  Certain elements in this image are varnished and raised.

To the left, on the back, within a circular picture, we see Teacher, Flamingo, Penguin and Egret flying over the water to Penguin's home.  This illustration is framed by a white canvas.  On the opening endpapers with a pale blue background we are presented with the Flight School Yearbook.  It is a collection of ten framed drawings of notable characters and two of Penguin's memorable moments.  It is first here we note Penguin has become the Flight School Mascot.  Labels and captions provide further explanations.  In contrast on the closing endpapers with a rich black canvas, we have Penguin's Scrapbook. This collection of ten images captures fun-filled activities during the visit home.  As in the first endpapers, comments in the scrapbook increase readers' connection to the characters.

A light wash of blue and yellow begin the pictorial story on the verso and title pages.  A pelican wearing a mailbag (starting on the far left) flies over Penguin (on the right) perched on a wooden piling.  The pelican drops him a postcard from the South Pole wishing Penguin well at Flight School. 

The illustrations rendered in watercolor by Lita Judge are double-page pictures, full page visuals, loosely framed circles on single pages or a series of small images on two pages.  Their size is dictated by the narrative.  The shift in perspectives will have readers gasping in admiration.  Readers will delight in the details in the characters' facial expressions and body postures.  Whether we are at Flight School, the South Pole, on land, in the air or beneath the water, these illustrations are alive with emotion.  They glow with a special essence straight from this artist's soul.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  Across most of the background is a night sky at the South Pole.  It pulses with the aurora Australis; a few stars shining against the darker sky.  Along the bottom a still ocean rests.  To the far right are two icebergs.  Taking up most of the bottom half on the left is a curved high jut of ice.  Penguin prints move to the top.  There stands Penguin with his back to us; feathers and line streaming behind him.  His red goggles make for a striking comparison.


Penguin Flies Home: a Flight School story written and illustrated by Lita Judge is a book you will be asked to read again as soon as it is finished.  Readers welcome the warmth radiating from the characters.  In Penguin with his round body, soul of an eagle and cheerful mind-set, there is a hero they can embrace.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional bookshelves.

To discover more about Lita Judge and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  They are also found at Lita Judge's website, but she includes numerous concept sketches, too.  The book trailer with an interview is premiered at Watch. Connect. Read., the blog of Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher.  Lita Judge maintains accounts on Instagram and Twitter.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Marking Of Twenty-Six

One of the most enjoyed units in our library each year was exploring the Japanese form of poetry called haiku.  For students hesitate to write poems, our choice to use a line of five syllables followed by a seven-syllable line and concluding with a five-syllable line was a structure many of them appreciated.  Did all of them adhere to the perimeters?  Not always, but the results, whether they selected the pattern or not, were wonderful.  You could feel the joy in the room as they discovered simple and ordinary things in our world are worthy of transformation and validation.

In 1968 the Haiku Society of America was founded.  One of its charter members was New York City public school teacher and writer Sydell (Syd) Rosenberg.  This woman, who passed away suddenly in 1996, had a dream.  Her children, specifically her daughter Amy Losak, vowed to make her vision a reality.  H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z (Penny Candy Books, April 10, 2018) written by Sydell Rosenberg with illustrations by Sawsan Chalabi is a collection of twenty-six poems written for children (but to be enjoyed by all ages). In an introduction Amy Losak writes a letter to readers before her mother poetically defines haiku.

These twenty-six haiku poems take a different approach to exploring our alphabet.  Instead of solely focusing on a person, place or thing represented by a letter, each poem begins with the appropriate letter. It's a different path to take, allowing for more possibilities.

Adventures over
the cat sits
     in the fur ring
of his tail, and dreams 

Everyday sights in her city capture Rosenberg's attention.  A boy seated on a mailbox, a berry-carrying blue jay and the act of getting a first library card are a few of the first to be noted.  Items seen on the back seat of a car are prime elements in her imaginative mind.

On a rainy day, a cluster of children holding umbrellas become fungi.  A large seed carelessly tossed is a toy for a fun-loving feline.  A broom is formed by a tail twitching in the rays of sunshine.

The simple act of riding a bike on an autumn day reads like a short symphony.  You will wonder which is louder; a thunderstorm or the cacophony of recorders.  A perception on a full-moon night tricks a looker's eyes.

Laundry hanging on a clothesline reveals memories.  Puddles take pride in their purpose.  Each letter takes readers on a journey of discovery.  During this trip we are invited to breathe deeply, stop, focus and use every one of our senses. 


With her writing of haiku in this book, Sydell Rosenberg guides children into the world of not only poetry but in the art of observation.  As she talks in her definition, haiku is a captured heartbeat.

Before the hoof comes down---that's haiku.

Sydell Rosenberg takes what might be an insignificant instance and with intention delivers something connecting us to each other.  Here is another of her poems from this book.

Neon wings
     of moth
exploding into headlight,
on a country road


At her website artist Sawsan Chalabi states most of her work is digital but she also uses

traditional line work and textures.

On the front of the dust jacket she gives us the impression of the H as being a part of the landscape with the clouds on the front extending over the spine to the left and back of the jacket.  This is precisely what author Sydell Rosenberg wants readers to see in her poems and in their day to day lives.  The featured girls are relaxed, comfortable.  I particularly like them being barefoot.

A colorful, tiny "v" patterns the opening endpapers (I'm working with a digital copy.)  On the title page a turtle mentioned in one of the poems is basking on a rock.  He is one of the first examples of a keen sense of humor Sawsan Chalabi displays in this book.  His nose is rather long. (He reminds me of Jimmy Durante.)

The full-color illustrations shift from full-page pictures to double-page images.  Some of the visuals only contain two colors, limited colors or an array of hues.  The fonts are bold, like many of the lines.  Readers will be delighted and surprised at the change of perspective; landscape view to close-up, depending on the poem.  Sometimes the illustrations are distinctively alone but other times one joins another; separate but parts of a larger whole.

One of my favorite pictures is of the children walking in the rain.  All four children from the bottom of the page to near the top are carrying red umbrellas with large white polka-dots.  The colors in their clothing, yellow, teal and orange, and the umbrellas are reflected in the colors of the letters in the poem.  The green from the iguana on the previous page is the color of the first letter, "H".


Sure to inspire and challenge readers to pen their own poems, H Is For Haiku written by Sydell Rosenberg with illustrations by Sawsan Chalabi is like a welcome sign.  Readers will start to look around a room in which they are sitting or standing, they will watch people whether they are in a grocery store or a movie theater and they will seek out animals domesticated and wild.  All have the potential to become part of a haiku poem.  Poetry collections will benefit from having this title.

To learn more about illustrator Sawsan Chalabi please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At the publisher's website you can view interior illustrationsAmy Losak and Sawsan Chalabi are interviewed at author and illustrator, Jen Benton's website.  Amy is interviewed at Matt Forrest Esenwine's site, Vivian Kirkfield's site, at Cynthia Leitich Smith's site, at KidLit411 and Celebrate Picture Books.  Amy Losak wrote a guest post at Laura Sassi Tales.  At Teachers & Writers Magazine, a lesson around Sydell Rosenberg and this title is showcased.  Amy maintains an account on Twitter


Friday, January 11, 2019

Constantly Changing

For most beings it beats out a cadence of life.  It comes in all shapes and sizes. If broken, it may be mended.  It's capacity for collecting (or not) is far greater than its physical size would indicate.

We store many things in our hearts, some tiny and some enormous.  An attached significance determines its prominence.  My Heart (Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Young Readers Group, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, January 8, 2019) written and illustrated by Corinna Luyken (The Book of Mistakes) explores the assorted aspects of listening to, following and tending our hearts. 

My heart is a window,
my heart is a slide.
My heart can be closed
or opened up wide.

At times our hearts are vast and other times, they appear as a much smaller version of the first.  They even get heavy and shrink as small as the smallest seed.  When this happens, we need to remember what happens to the smallest of the small seeds.  They can blossom into something spectacular.

Our hearts may separate us far from others.  Sometimes the sound of our hearts is a mere breath of the tiniest breeze.; only those closest to us can hear.  If our hearts should shatter, we should pick up the pieces and make it whole.

Our hearts follow us but also lead us.  They do not leave us.  We are inseparable.


Ten sentences, ten simple but profound sentences, portray and reveal how our hearts reflect us.  Corinna Luyken uses rhyming words at sentence ends to welcome us into her book and to invite us to think about our own hearts. With her use of language, she asks us to listen, learn and accept.  Take a few minutes to reread her first two sentences.  Can you think how these apply to you? 


We are introduced to the limited color palette selected by Corinna Luyken when viewing the open dust jacket.  Yellow, white, and shades of gray and black elevate the impact of the carefully chosen words in the narrative.  The grassy scene peppered with tiny yellow heart-shaped flowers extends to each flap edge.  On the flaps there is a profusion of blooms.

On the book case large brush strokes of yellow on white move over the spine, left to right, only to disburse, to the right and top, like a flock of heart-shaped birds.  Strong charcoal gray, almost black, makes a large border on the bottom of the opening and closing endpapers.  A wide expanse of white and pale gray spreads above it.

On the first endpapers, a bespectacled boy squats in front of a hole, holding a heart-shaped plant.  An empty pot is next to the hole.  Two other flowers are planted.  A fourth waits.  On the closing endpapers four flowers flourish, their tiny-tendril roots visible and flowing beneath the surface.

A gorgeous double-page picture focuses on a third child, a girl, standing on steps, holding a watering can.  Spread before her on the title and verso pages is a garden cloaked in yellow.  These illustrations by Corinna Luyken rendered with

a print-making process called monotype, using water-based ink and pencil

each span two pages.  The hues of the colors blend, moving from light to dark and dark to light, accentuating the textual descriptions.  Readers will be examining each image for hearts.  Some are substantial, and others are minute.  All will be happy to see a diverse cast of characters featured.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for the words

my heart is a slide.

A slide arches upward, the ladder forming one side of the top of a heart.  It drops to the ground, forming the point.  The shadow, on the grass, completes the shape.  Two children are near the ladder; another is poised to slide at the top.  A faint yellow surrounds him/her.  The point of the slide/heart goes into a yellow glow.  Genius.


If you want a book offering hope, championing the right to choose and ringing out all the characteristics of our hearts, My Heart written and illustrated by Corinna Luyken is that book. It envelopes you in wisdom and calm.  You could pair it with Love and Love, Z for a thematic story time or bedtime.  I know readers will want to share examples of the workings of their hearts.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Corinna Luyken and her other work, please follow the links attached to her names to access her website and blog.  Corinna Luyken maintains accounts on Twitter and Instagram.  Corinna chats with Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  Corinna is also interviewed at Brightly and Mile High Reading, a site maintained by Dylan Teut, director for the Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival in Seward, Nebraska. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

From Flora

As winds howl sending snow swirling into drifts, reading transports us to other places in other times.  While most of nature is at rest, within the pages of books, we look to the seasons which follow.  That which is asleep will awaken.  Where there is no life, new creations will emerge and flourish, coming back full circle to winter.

The beauty displayed by the flora during most seasons in our world can and is preserved for study and art. Drawn from Nature (Big Picture Press, an imprint of Candlewick Press, March 13, 2018) written and illustrated by Helen Ahpornsiri is an informative and breathtaking display of animals and plants in spring, summer, autumn and winter.  For each season our attention is focused on six to eight special elements, all meticulously formed from petals and leaves.

Introduction
Life in the wild doesn't stay still for long.
Year after year, plants bloom in spring and fade
in autumn in a cycle as old as time.  Animals follow the pattern of the seasons, too---searching for food and rearing their young---sometimes roaming many miles between one chapter of their lives and the next. 

In the spring birdsong announcing the coming of dawn is a call for a mate; the louder the song, the greater the attraction.  Female hares, larger than rabbits, stand on their hind legs to push back undesirable males.  It's called "boxing".  There is a reason new ducks follow their mothers closely.  They need the oil from her feathers to protect their own, helping them to stay on top of the water, swimming.

There are creatures of the field, in the summer, who can hang from stalks of grasses and wheat.  Harvest mice have prehensile tails.  Did you know dragonfly larvae can stay in the water for up to two years?  The leaves on the variety of trees are green for a reason . . . breathe in, breathe out.  At night owls are skillful hunters using the shape of their faces to capture sounds.

When autumn falls the noise of rutting deer is heard a mile away.  Dropped colorful leaves carpet forest floors protecting wildlife and seeds.  Nuts buried by busy squirrels, if forgotten, grow into new trees.  Rains bring out vivid displays of mushrooms; lovely to look at but many times deadly to consume.

Winter arrives.  Snoozing hedgehogs slow their heartbeats 

from 130 beats per minute to 20.

Birds not leaving for warmer residences fluff and puff to block the cold and preserve heat.  On days when moist air lingers, and temperatures drop, the morning reveals an ice-coated world.


As delicate as her pictures, the words written by Helen Ahpornsiri resonate with a respect and passion for our natural world. Facts are embedded in lyrical descriptions.  She points out details and transitions from season to season she wants us to remember.  It's as if she is taking us on our own personal walk through the meadows and woodlands, and past nearby ponds.  Here is a passage.

Butterflies & Blossoms
A spring breeze blows, carrying with it a flurry of pink-white
petals.  They land, like snow, beneath the trees, where butterflies
flit between banks of bright flowers.
The warm days of late spring tempt more and more butterflies to appear.  
Some have made long journeys on their migrations while others are
just coming out of hibernation.  The spring flowers provide
a rich source of nectar for the butterflies---just what
they need after the winter.  You'll see them most on 
calm sunny days, when neither wind nor rain can
threaten their delicate wings.


The open and matching dust jacket and book case are a first stunning glimpse at the splendor to be found within the pages of this book.  The graceful lines and intricate parts achieved with the collage artistry of Helen Ahpornsiri are masterful.  Numerous points on the heron, featured on the front of the jacket, contain gold foil.

To the left, on the back, on a continuation of the white canvas are a row of exquisite flowers arching upward on the right.  Across the top a branch of pale purple blossoms reaches from the left.  Four butterflies move among the blooms.

On the opening and closing endpapers an array dense with ferns fashion scroll work.  In pockets of white bees, butterflies, moths and a dragonfly rest and glide.  This design is carried forward to the first page and the last page.  Tiny bits of nature dot the title and verso pages, the contents and introduction.  

For each season Helen Ahpornsiri places a full-page picture on the left showcasing items from that season.  Some of those are used in the animal she places above the heading.  For most of the sections in a season the background is white, but three times she uses black.  (You will gasp at the beauty.)  Some of the illustrations cross the gutter to extend a theme.  These may be full-page images or striking double-page visions.

One of my many, many favorite pictures is of the hare.  The grass is placed along the bottom of two pages, extending to nearly the center.  On the right she is frozen with her head turned toward the reader; her one dark eye unblinking.  The position of every leaf defines her fur and muscles.  It is eloquent. 


Readers will be captivated by Drawn from Nature written and illustrated by Helen Ahpornsiri.  They will pause to study each image.  They will relish the information and be excited to learn more and take their own walk among nature.  There is a short glossary at the end.  You might want to have a flower press handy to show your readers.  I am including a video at the end on how to make your own.

To learn more about Helen Ahpornsiri and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  You can view an interior image at the publisher's website.  There are more illustrations at Penguin Random House. Helen Ahpornsiri has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  She is featured by author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Please take a few moments to enjoy these videos.









Remember to stop at Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the titles selected this week by others participating in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.