Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, April 8, 2021

A Kindred Spirit Encounter

In can happen in mere seconds.  In those moments knowing you have found a kindred spirit; the ordinary is elevated to the unbelievable.  It is thrilling to fathom you have discovered a being so close to singing the same song as your own soul.  It changes everything.

Your viewpoint of the world is brighter regardless of how each day unfolds.  The light in me sees the light in you (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, March 16, 2021) written and illustrated by Lori Nichols follows two individuals and their discovery of each other.  It is a heartwarming appreciation for those rare and most cherished bonds.

It happened one day.
First I heard you.

When you hear something new, something enchanting, you seek it until it is found.  A little girl met a tiny red bird for the first time on this day.  She knew they were a quintessential match.

From that day forward, they were inseparable.  To them, the wind was a symphony.  To them, clouds were possibilities.  To them, a favorite tree was an aromatic delight and a delicious delicacy.

Rain days were play days.  Sharing food and flying was good for one and not yet enjoyed by the other.   Together in silence was a bit like pure bliss.

And then, without warning, the tiny red bird was not heard or seen.  Poppy was gone.  Again, everything changed.  Robin was lost without her true friend.  One night, something extraordinary happened as Robin slept.  Upon awakening, she carried a new realization with her.  Some lights are never extinguished.

The simple but profound (and sometimes humorous) sentences written in this narrative by Lori Nichols are a poetic window into something unseen but stronger than a diamond and more valuable.  Through the voice of Robin, we are privy to her found treasure, her emptiness, and ultimate wisdom.  A form of repetition of phrases supplies a welcoming cadence and brings us full circle in the best possible manner.  Here is a partial sentence.

and smelling the branches
of our favorite tree.
(Well, I like smelling them---
you usually just pecked for bugs.) 

Happiness glows on and out from the matching dust jacket and book case.  The colors here and throughout the book are light and airy.  Can you see the white outline around Robin and her tiny red bird friend, Poppy?  The pastel points of light are an excellent and delightful selection to signify their special connection.  I really like the choice to have the text color match that of Robin's overalls.  

To the left of the spine, on the back, amid points of light is a single red feather.  This is just beneath text reading:

The moment Robin and Poppy meet, they know
they will always be connected.

Below these are praises for two previous books of Lori Nichols, Maple and Maple & Willow Together.

On the opening and closing endpapers is an exquisite pattern.  The background color is a hue of the t-shirt color Robin is wearing.  White and the red of Robin's hair form sprigs of flora, a single feather, and paper airplanes.  This is in reference to the pair's shared adventures and Robin's final awareness.  On the title page, a tiny blue line spirals through the points of light.  It depicts the flight of the shown tiny red bird, Poppy.

The images 

were rendered in watercolor, colored pencil, collage, and digital techniques.

White space is used masterfully on the heavy, matte-finished paper.  The pictures are full-page, double-page and a grouping of smaller visuals.  The fine lines, delicate details, and soft greens and blues fashion a calm and encompassing joy.  Readers will watch to see if a certain squirrel and little green frog appear in each new scene.  Their playful expressions are as charming as those on Robin and Poppy.  (I love how the squirrel in one picture is peeking at the paint cans and in the next picture its footprints are one of those colors.)

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  It is a rainy-day setting.  On the left a large tree extends off the page and over the gutter.  Foliage springs up around it in shades of blue and green.  The same kind of foliage and some of the tree leaves appear in the upper and lower corners on the right side.  Blue lines and white drops fall heavily on the left, but on the right where Robin and Poppy are, there is a lightness around them.  Wearing a yellow raincoat and boats, Robin happily splashes in puddles.  Poppy, head held high, is leading the way through those very puddles.

Not for the first time, I wish there were a huggable classification for picture books.  This book, The light in me sees the light in you written and illustrated by Lori Nichols, is one of those books.  There are several sentences in here to be read often.  Two might bring you to tears, they are that truthful. We all will or have known unparalleled joy with another and experienced the loss of them.  In this title, we are given hope, and yes, light.  I highly recommend this book for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Lori Nichols and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Lori Nichols has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.  At the publisher's website you can view the title page.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

An Intersection Of History

To this day, I can't believe my parents allowed it.  To this day, I can't believe I did it.  What were they thinking?!  What was I thinking?!

One fine day when I was still in high school, my friend and I left our tiny community and arrived at another tiny neighboring community.  After appropriate procedures and some hefty propeller spinning, the two of us lifted into the air in a two-seater plane built by her father and another man.  My friend, at sixteen, had her pilot's license.  To see our town and our homes from the air was amazing.  All those moments are firmly embedded in my mind and heart as a perfect day.

Nearly sixty years earlier, someone else had what must have been a perfect day.  Wilbur Wright Meets Lady Liberty (Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt And Company, March 9, 2021) written by Robert Burleigh with illustrations by Wendell Minor is an exciting recounting of a historical ride lasting less than ten minutes. For every one of those minutes, you, like the spectators and Wilbur Wright, are enchanted and enveloped in euphoria.

It won't work!  This guy Wilbur Wright must be out of his mind!

I'll believe it only when I see it!

What will people dream up next?  Flying to the moon? 

Those were only a few of the thoughts voiced by the crowd gathered on September 29, 1909.  They wanted an answer to the question of the Wright Flyer really being able to perform.  Wilbur Wright was ready and prepared.  He had a canoe attached to the bottom of the plane, just in case something unexpected happened.

On the water, a congregation of boats and ships, including the Lusitania, were waiting for the flight.  Newspaper reporters stood by in hopes of headlines.  Wilbur Wright took his seat.  The combination of the spinning propeller and the runway lifted the Wright Flyer into the air.  Soon Wilbur Wright was moving at one hundred feet above land and water.

Below him was a city and its people in miniature.  Ahead of him was the Statue of Liberty.  Can you imagine being this man?  He had to get close but not too close.  Even though his focus was firmly on his task, Wilbur Wright could not help but hear the shifting tones of the people below and around him.  Gripping the levers, his feet resting on the bar, Wilbur Wright skillfully maneuvered the plane around this immense symbol of all that is supposed to be held true in these United States of America.

The chorus of celebration was a roar (and so was the foghorn from the great luxury liner).  When Wilbur placed the plane back on Governors' Island, he was swarmed by news people.  Maybe dreams do come true.

For the time you are reading this book, the world around you fades away.  Robert Burleigh skillfully takes his research and forms a realistic, historical narrative.  He brings the sensory experience of that day felt by Wilbur Wright and the spectators to readers with each sentence he writes.  To make it more inviting and inspiring to all ages, he takes the presence of ten-year-old Juan Trippe at this flight and brings his voice into the discussion four times.  (Juan Trippe learned to fly and founded Pan American Airways.)  Here is a passage.

Careful! Is the Flyer too close?  Wilbur hears the
roar of alarmed voices---a roller coaster of cries.  He
understands so well:  If even one tip of the Flyer's wing
touches the statue, he will spin crazily out of control
and plunge to his death.

Looking at the color palette used in this book, first seen on the matching and open dust jacket and book case, you are reminded of air and water.  It's as if artist Wendell Minor has captured those elements and placed them within his paintings.  On the right, front, he uses the red canoe placed on the Wright Flyer by Wilbur to add a bit of color to the text, too.  On the dust jacket, the text, Wright Flyer and Statue of Liberty are varnished.

On the left, back, is a scene as Wilbur flies over the water.  A tug moves from left to right, smoke steaming from its stack.  In the background, on the right, is an important historical building known to those who immigrated to the United States.  Above this, Wilbur slides through the sky in the Wright Flyer.

On the opening endpapers is a recreation of a newspaper headline from this notable date.  It is done in sepia tones.  On the closing endpapers, Wendell Minor has created a map of Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Hudson River, the East River, Governors' Island, and the Statue of Liberty.  It is carefully labeled and there are two explanatory sentences.  It shows the route Wilbur flew.

Across the verso and title pages is a panoramic view of the spectators, thousands gathered along the water.  Several trees show signs of autumn beginnings.  Most of the page is sky, hazy with blue and clouds.  Flying high on the left is Wilbur in the Wright Flyer.

These illustrations rendered using 

gouache watercolor on Strathmore 500 Bristol paper,

like the text, take you back in time.  Some of them are single-page pictures.  Others are vast views spanning two pages.  The details are highly intricate.  Both the Wright Flyer and the Statue of Liberty are breathtakingly portrayed.  One wordless two-page image is stunning.  (Juan Trippe is always in sepia tones.)

One of my many favorite illustrations is a full-page picture.  It is a closeup of Wilbur Wright seated in the Wright Flyer.  Dressed in a suit, tie, white shirt, and cap, he looks nothing like a pilot except for the firm, determined set of his jaw and look of concentration in his eyes.  Each hand is grasping a lever.  His legs are stretched in front of him, and his feet are placed on the bar.  Some of the mechanics are visible on the left.  Behind him are pieces of sky.

Each time I read Wilbur Wright Meets Lady Liberty written by Robert Burleigh with illustrations by Wendel Minor, I am astonished at the accomplishment achieved on this day.  Through the words and images, you can feel the intensity in each of those minutes.  At the close of the book is an AUTHOR'S NOTE divided with these headings, Into the Air---Maybe!, September 29, 1909: Look Up, America!, and Some Interesting Facts About the Wright Brothers and the New York Flights.  There is also an ILLUSTRATOR'S NOTE.  Included is a bibliography for both older and younger readers and a quote source.

To learn more about Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Robert Burleigh has an account on Facebook.  Wendell Minor has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  On Pinterest Florence Minor, an author and Wendell's wife, has a board highlighting some of their books.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Comedy Times Two #3

On one thing most scientists can agree, the strength of laughter to elevate our well-being.  Laughter pushes everything else aside for those moments you are laughing.  If you are not alone in your laughter, it lasts a lot longer.  If you have the giggles, a simple look, sound, or body movement can ignite another bout of guffaws shared by those gathered.

As soon as you read certain books (in between bursts of laughter), you know you are holding hilarity gold in your hands.  Today, two book releases fit this description.  Both have imbedded facts, making them fun and funnier.  On February 26, 2019 readers were able to enjoy a generous serving of humor reading The Very Impatient Caterpillar (Scholastic Press) written and illustrated by Ross Burach.  The outspoken, exuberant caterpillar is back after having the patience to make it through metamorphosis. In The Little Butterfly That Could (Scholastic Press, April 6, 2021), our butterfly friend finds the thought of migration a tad bit terrifying. 

HEY! Have you seen
a group of migrating

They went that way.

Excited the group is close, the butterfly is shocked to discover they are 200 miles away.  When asking the whale how to travel 200 miles, the whale says flight is the only solution.  In a fit of drama, the butterfly believes this is impossible.

In the ensuing interlude, the butterfly recounts how much simpler life was as a caterpillar, and then as a chrysalis who patiently (HA!) waited to become a flower-seeking butterfly.  It seems a fog descended, and the butterfly lost his migrating flutter friends.  With calm, the whale counters every possible thing the butterfly believes will hinder its success.  It is okay to be afraid.

When the whale says he gets butterflies in his stomach, in reference to possible obstacles, the butterfly wants to hide there.  Certainly, inside a whale's stomach is preferable to flying 200 miles!  Finally, the butterfly starts flying.  It is more of a struggle than true flying.  He moves two feet!  For this butterfly there is no light at the end of the tunnel, but the whale keeps offering encouragement.  You must believe.

Voicing mantras of inspiration, the butterfly, fortified with confidence, begins at last.  First, he makes 25 miles.  Then he makes 50 miles.  At every point closer to the 200 miles, the butterfly pushes forward with words and an affirmative mindset.  Does the spunky insect reach its pals only to discover there is yet another challenge in the offing?  Read on, readers.  Don't give up.

Told entirely in dialogue, this book is a study in humor, contrast, and education.  Ross Burach manages to make us laugh as the butterfly's frantic fear is countered by the whale's calm composure.  The over-the-top outbursts by the butterfly engage us in every moment.  We all understand this feeling.  This is why we laugh.  It is pure genius how facts about butterfly migration become a part of the butterfly's explosions of speech.  Here is a passage.

Can't I just live in your
stomach FOREVER?


How about
a one-year lease?


You have
to keep

(My copy is on its way, so this post is being completed using an F & G.)

On the front of the dust jacket, in bright bold colors, matching a bright bold personality, the wide-eyed, little butterfly is jittery with worry.  Here over an ocean, what's a butterfly to do?  On the back, the butterfly is offering no-nonsense words to readers about the value in reading the first book, The Very Impatient Caterpillar.  It needs to be read NOW!

(I am looking forward to seeing the endpapers on the finished copy.  The opening endpapers on the first book feature a row of white caterpillars along the bottom of an orange background.  On the closing endpapers in white is the little butterfly with a couple of flutter friends.  They are hovering over some flowers on a purple canvas.)

Ross Burach's art was created with pencil, crayon, acrylic paint, and digital coloring.

Each visual is loaded with exaggerated animation.  Ross Burach alternates between two-page pictures, single-page pictures, and groups of smaller illustrations.  His shifts in perspective keep the pace moving quickly.  One minute you are looking at the vast display of the ocean across two pages with the whale and the little butterfly small in comparison.  The next minute you are inside the whale's stomach as the butterfly moves through three scenarios of setting up possible residence there.

As if there is not enough comedy to be found in the little butterfly, the whale, and other butterflies' bodies and expressions, readers need to notice the details.  When the little butterfly is sobbing, out of nowhere in the middle of an ocean, the whale is holding a box of tissues.  When the butterfly is worrying about getting lost, an upside down map is in its hands.  It is holding a pair of binoculars up to its eyes.  When the butterfly is looking inside a refrigerator inside the whale's stomach, the only thing stored inside is krill.

One of my many favorite illustrations is one of three on a single page.  It is the center visual.  The little butterfly is at mile 150.  Its wings are down in their flapping, or perhaps it is gliding.  The little butterfly is wearing a runner's head band.  It's squirting water from a bottle into its mouth.

Nothing is better than laughter except when laughter and learning are combined.  We understand the importance of a can-do attitude and butterfly migration after reading The Little Butterfly That Could written and illustrated by Ross Burach.  I know you'll want this title in both your personal and professional collections. 

To learn more about Ross Burach and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  You'll find loads of extras there.  Ross Burach has an account on Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view some interior images.  Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher reveals the cover for The Very Impatient Caterpillar and chats about The Little Butterfly That Could with the author illustrator on his site, Watch. Connect. Read.  Here is a link to the recent Book Joy Live event with Ross Burach and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen.

When spring rolls around after more than a year of enduring a global pandemic, everyone is ready for a seasonal change at the very least.  The sound of spring peppers encourages you to join them in song.  Leaves of tulips and daffodils are pushing their way through dirt.  Soon their stems will extend, and blossoms will form.  We want to join them by shedding our winter wear for t-shirts and shorts.  Teeny, tiny buds on sprouting from shrub and tree branches.  We want to stretch out our arms and embrace this newness.  Down on the farm, most of the animals are ready for spring, too.  In Not Now, Cow (Abrams Appleseed, April 6, 2021) written by Tammi Sauer with illustrations by Troy Cummings, everyone is welcoming the season, except for one.  Cow is confused. 


Duck is ready.
Helps things grow.

Sheep is ready.
Skips below.

Goat is ready, too.  Cow is not.  Cow is standing under a tree wearing mittens, a scarf, and a snow cap.  Rooster states this is not the time for winter wear.

When summer comes Chick, Goat, and Pig all dive into appropriate activities.  Cow stands ready to race down a snow-covered hill on a sled.  Rooster is exasperated.

Horse, Chick, and Sheep enjoy the out-of-door fun fall brings.  There is leaf-raking, apple-eating and pumpkin carving.  And Cow, well Cow, is not getting the autumn vibe at all.

Finally, winter arrives.  (I'll bet Cow can hardly wait.)  Pig, Horse, and Duck are frolicking in the snow and on the ice.  To Rooster's utter amazement, Cow's seasonal clock has tick-tocked into another hemisphere.  The final sentence (the whole book, truthfully) will invite loads of laughter.

Is this book perfect for a read aloud? Yes.  Is this book perfect for reader's theater?  Yes.  Is this book perfect for a puppet show?  Yes.  Tammi Sauer writes for readers to experience this book completely.  She establishes a cadence for each season with three animals participating in an activity followed by Cow's lack of understanding and Rooster's frustration.  She repeats phrases.  The final words in sentences rhyme.  It's pure playful perfection.  Here is a passage.

Pig is ready.
Leaves a trail.

Cow is . . .

Oh, Cow.
Not now.

How can you look at the front of the book case and not laugh out loud?  Look at Cow wearing beach gear and ready for some fun in the sun in the middle of winter!  Cow's grin and Rooster's incredulous look tell a story themselves.  On the back amid the continued snow scene is information about Tammi Sauer and Troy Cummings similar to that found on the back end flap of a dust jacket.  Beneath the text are Goat, Chick, and Sheep appropriately attired for winter.  They are looking slightly mystified at a green and yellow polka dot beach inner tube laying in the snow.

Not wasting any space, Troy Cummings uses the opening and closing endpapers to start and conclude the story.  Rooster is shouting out the news of spring's appearance prior to the verso and title pages.  There a double-page picture shows Cow ambling in from the left as Rooster races off the right side.  They are placed amid a pastoral scene on the farm.  At the end, the entire barnyard crew is staring at Cow.

These digitally created images have a rhythm to them as does the text.  Each season is given a full-page picture.  This is followed by two animals sharing one page and another one on a single page.  For the 

Cow is . . .

phrase, this stands alone in a loosely framed image.  A two-page visual closes out the season.  It depicts Cow's clueless demeanor contrasting with hilarity to Rooster's look of disbelief.  Readers will enjoy looking at all the extra elements in the clothing, facial expressions, and actions of the other animals.  Chick nibbling on and carrying an apple bigger than it is while wearing oversized work boots is a real rib-tickler.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  The countryside is all aglow with colors of fall.  Standing on a pile of leaves is Cow.  Cow is wearing a purple puffer coat, bright mittens and earmuffs and ski goggles.  In one hand is a ski pole.  In the other hand is a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows.  Ski boots and skis finish the ensemble.  Rooster perched on the fence is gritting its teeth.  Its eyes are rolled, and one wing is to its forehead. 

Expect a chorus of read it again from story time listeners after reading Not Now, Cow written by Tammi Sauer with illustrations by Troy Cummings.  Between all the grins and giggles, each season is explored.  Be sure to place a copy of this title in your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Tammi Sauer and Troy Cummings and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the link attached to their names.  Tammi Sauer has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Troy Cummings has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Tammi Sauer penned a post at Picture Book Builders about this title.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Hearts, Minds, And Hands

Prior to employment in what would be his last position, he worked in construction.  After that, every working hour for forty-one years, this man labored in the same factory.  He was a welder, a pipefitter, and a machinist.  If something did not work as efficiently as it should, he would build a better one.  He, like so many, was a thinker and a doer.

In a wonderfully poetic and slice-of-life artwork portrait, this man and countless other women and men are honored.  Written by Lisa Wheeler with illustrations by Loren Long, Someone Builds The Dream (Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, March 23, 2021) is a journey through the creative process.  It shows how doers elevate the ideas of thinkers.  The skills of many form finished beauty.

All across this great big world
jobs are getting done

by many hands in many lands.
It takes much more than one.

On a board with pencil, T-square, three-sided ruler, compass, and tracing paper or with a digital program, architects design and draw places for others to reside, roam, or pursue their own futures.  From board or computer, others take trees, shaping them into lumber. and securing them into the architect's dream.  A common purpose units this crew.

Bridges spanning from one point to another point are developed through academic adeptness by engineers.  Sturdy steel holds them steady.  This steel is made by the hands of those who dig, heat, melt, pour, and fuse.  From the imagination of a sculptor comes forms.  Those forms are fashioned from miniature to majestic into a fountain.  Excavators, concrete specialists, plumbers, and welders are the company of achievers.  

From the studies of scientists serving our planet comes the three-armed wind turbines.  They are erected by those puzzle finishers who fasten pieces together to generate clean energy.  The next time you visit an area of thrill rides and fascinating sights, remember the efforts of someone who dared to visualize and devise.  Remember those who took those visualizations and plans and made them a reality.

Now, pause for a few minutes.  What do you hold in your hands? It comes from the minds of creators, one working with words and the other working with paints and pencils.  From there it travels to a group who take the text and art and place it on paper.

Each building, each bridge, each sculpture, each giant wind gatherer, each park and each book you see, enter and use comes from thinkers and doers.  Each thing made by hearts, minds, and hands is a sign of hope.  Hope in humans who gather and work together.

You are caught in the rhythm of words written by Lisa Wheeler as soon as you read the first two sentences.  The rhyming cadence is enhanced with each featured dreamer's description followed by the word . . . But.  It continues with the same sentence ending the actions taken by those who make the dream a reality.  This repetition of specific words is a welcome refrain.  It is captivating, bringing readers into this song for all workers.  Here is a passage.

Someone works to dig the trench,
lay the drains, solder seams.

Someone needs to plumb the pipes.
Someone has to build the dream. 

Strength is what you see on the front, right, of the open dust jacket.  It shines in the steel of the bridge and in the stance of the worker.  The angles and lines on both are similar.  Each one is fortified for endurance in order to accomplish their goals.  We are presented here, and throughout the book, with a full-color palette rooted in realism.  The light in the clouds indicates both a beginning and an ending.  The text is varnished.

On the left, back, is a panoramic view of the placement and construction of wind turbines.  We are up and away from the work.  The transporter trucks and heavy-duty machinery are tiny, as are the people.

On the book case is an image spanning from the far left, over the spine, and ending on the far right.  It's a closeup of the bridge being built.  We see a crane operator, a foreman, a welder, and three other construction people directing the placement of a beam.  The clouds, sky and mountainous landscape in the background are breathtaking.  Loren Long shifts the perspective from left to right.  As our eyes move, he brings us closer and closer to the activity centered on the right. 

The opening and closing endpapers are a steel blue.  Readers are greeted with a row of construction vehicles, from left to right, extending from the center left to the far right, on the verso and title pages.  Each image in this book was rendered

by hand on illustration board using acrylics, colored pencils, and whatever dust and dog hair happened to be floating around the studio.

The alternating double-page pictures, full-page pictures, and pictures crossing the gutter pair perfectly with the narrative.  Each one appearing more powerful than the next.  The details are incredible, as is the animation in certain scenes.  Careful readers will see how a pictorial story begins and concludes with the first and final illustrations.

What is fabulous is the blend of people shown in each visual.  Women and men working alongside each other are inspirational.  Readers will be happy to see the inclusion of people from all walks of life.  They will also love seeing cat and dog companions in many of the images.  

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  In the background numerous workers stand in buckets lifted by cranes to complete wiring and lighting.  Construction vehicles chug from position to position.  Metal workers attach sheets to a frame. (A dinosaur-themed amusement park is being constructed.)  A man in the foreground on the right pulls cable from a large spool resting on a metal scaffold.  As if we are standing in front of them, a worker nearly fills the frame on the left.  Dressed in a t-shirt, hooded sweatshirt and a yellow safety vest, a crew member holds, with both hands, a coil of cord over their right shoulder.  A bandana is visible under their silver hardhat.  The look on their face is one of quiet determination and dedication.  The upper portion of their face is in shadow from the brim of the hat.

For every dreamer and builder, for every thinker and doer, this title is for you.  Someone Builds The Dream written by Lisa Wheeler with illustrations by Loren Long is a magnificent depiction of how things rise from ideas to become visible to all.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.  Gift it to a builder you know.

To learn more about Lisa Wheeler and Loren Long and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Lisa Wheeler has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Loren Long has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view the verso and title pages.  I know you will enjoy this conversation between Lisa Wheeler and Loren Long about this book highlighted in Publishers Weekly.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Hunting For Solutions

By now, most of us know more than we ever imagined knowing about viruses.  We have tracked one particular virus as it continues to spread around the world, in our own country, and in our local community.  Nations have locked down, and people have sheltered in place, stayed six feet apart, worn masks, and washed their hands raw.  The number of cases and the loss of life is staggering.  And it is not over.

It is astounding to know something invisible to our naked eyes has turned life around the world upside down.  With gratitude, there are virologists who have dedicated their lives to solving the mysteries associated with viruses.  One of them is revealed to readers in June Almeida, Virus Detective!: The Woman Who Discovered the First Human Coronavirus (Sleeping Bear Press, March 15, 2021) written by Suzanne Slade with illustrations by Elisa Paganelli.  We are better for this woman's persistence in pursuing the activities she loved most.

After the family breakfast, Dad headed out to work.  Then June,
Mum, and baby Harry set off down the streets of Glasgow, Scotland.

June fascinated her family, even young Harry, with her newest knowledge in her beloved subject of science.  When she was ten, the family suffered a tragedy.  Harry became sick and died.  

As the years passed, June's expertise in science earned her a prize in school.  She increased her skills as a photographer, framing pictures to heighten details.  At the age of sixteen, June quit school to help support the family.  It was too expensive to attend the university, pursuing science.  

June took her expertise and her skills and applied for a job at a hospital.  They placed her in their lab.  She learned to use a microscope, helping to identify cells causing sicknesses.  When she was twenty-two, her family moved to London, England.  There she met her husband.

The newlyweds moved to Canada.  June was hired by a research lab, using an electron microscope to isolate cells and viruses.  There was a problem.  It was difficult to distinguish cells from viruses.  Using antibodies, June solved the dilemma.

Making a name for herself, June was asked to return to London to work in a lab at a hospital.  The family moved.  A new illness had infected a child in a nearby community.  June was requested to identify the virus. Step by careful step, June applied techniques she had perfected.  She recognized the virus.  In fact, she had seen it before, and her research had been rejected!  Due to its shape, June and a group of specialists named it coronavirus!  June was thirty-four years old.

June's work continued with additional milestones in the field of virology until she was fifty-four years old.  Did June stop learning?  She did not.  What do you think she pursued?  

From the time she was a child, June's curiosity was best satisfied through science and photography.  Suzanne Slade, using meticulous research, presents each fascinating layer of this outstanding woman's life, weaving personal details, professional accomplishments, and scientific facts and procedures together expertly. She depicts a life in pursuit of learning, one of solving puzzles, and of familial affection.  With each paragraph read, your admiration for June Almeida grows as does your respect for Suzanne Slade's use of language.  Here is a passage.

June pondered this perplexing problem.

She knew that when a virus made someone sick, their body created antibodies.
Those antibodies would surround a virus, like tiny soldiers, to fight it.  After
destroying a virus, the antibodies remained to protect against future attacks.

June decided to see if antibodies would show her which blobs were viruses.

Those with a mind for science and creativity will appreciate the use of the faint white graph paper lines on a muted royal blue background on the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  To the left of the spine are virus photographic image recreations, an electron microscope, viruses, antibodies, and molecules.  The coronavirus, enlarged on the front, right, crosses the spine.  One of the photographs on the left is enlarged and placed behind June Almeida as she works in a lab on the front of the jacket and case.  Inquisitiveness always lightens her face when she focuses on science, photography, and learning.

On the opening and closing endpapers, on a wash of paler blue is a pattern of cells and viruses.  There are also carefully placed geometric dotted lines.  On the title page, June Almeida is seated at a station with a microscope at her first lab position.

These illustrations by Elisa Paganelli span two pages, single pages, and some are within large circles.  Sometimes elements break the circle.  Collage is used to great effect.  Backgrounds vary according to the point in the narrative.  Perspectives are altered to place emphasis on extraordinary moments.

In one single-page picture, readers are treated to a collage of photographs, a camera, pen, and nature journal.  In another, a happy scene portrays June and Henry, her husband, happily strolling through London, England with iconic items in the background.  In the foreground, beneath them, are buildings in Canada.  In a double-page visual, we are brought close to June on the left and across the gutter looking into a microscope.  To the right of her, several other male scientists are amazed at her discoveries shown on the photographs. 

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  The background is similar to the endpapers.  A huge photograph extends in a growing ribbon, left to right.  Within that ribbon on the right is a cluster of crowned viruses.  Beneath this is the upper portion of June's face.  She is stunned.  To the left, it shows her previously seated at the electron microscope and finding the new virus.

This picture book biography, June Almeida, Virus Detective!: The Woman Who Discovered the First Human Coronavirus written by Suzanne Slade with illustrations by Elisa Paganelli, is exciting, inspirational and timely.  Readers will be interested to note June Almeida's daughter is noted in the short paragraph of initial acknowledgements.  At the close of the book is a More About June, and June and the Electron Microscope sections.  This is followed by two pages containing a timeline and a selected bibliography.

To learn more about Suzanne Slade and Elisa Paganelli and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Suzanne Slade has accounts on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.  Elisa Paganelli has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  The cover reveal is at the Nerdy Book Club with an informative guest post by Suzanne Slade.  At Picture Book Builders is an article by Suzanne Slade with more discussion about the book, a fabulous book trailer and extra resource links.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Rooted In Strength

Inside every individual runs a current of confidence.   This current can meander slowly with barely a ripple.  It can rage like rapids running through mountains.  Whether it is small and silent or large and loud, it is always there.  

Perhaps, the source of this current is the same for all individuals.  It is feed from multiple sources, some are tiny, others are beyond our senses.  The Tree In Me (Dial Books for Young Readers, March 16, 2021) written and illustrated by Corinna Luyken is a luminescent, melodic observation of that sustaining and binding force inside all of us.

The tree in me

is part apple,

It is not just part apple, but it is parts of other fruits and nuts.  It also tastes delicious.  The tree provides a place of cool and calm.  The tree provides a space of warmth and energy.  

This tree can be many things.  It is beginnings in seeds.  It is endings (and continuations) in stumps.  In between starting and stopping, it is a source of endless explorations and imaginations.  Many call it home.

From the tree comes gifts around it, under it and above it.  Close your eyes and reach out with your mind.  What do you see, feel, hear, taste or smell near the tree?  

This tree is solid, but able to bow when necessary.  It draws its strength from deep roots and a full crown.  It reaches to other trees, to their roots and crowns.  This is true.  You!

Every time the words penned by Corinna Luyken are read, it is as if you are being rocked in the serenity and security of a bed shaped of tree boughs.  The rhythm fashioned by the comparisons is a lasting lullaby.  In these seven beautifully formed sentences, a world within us is revealed. It is a shared world.  Here are some more words in the first sentence.

The tree in me

is part apple,

part orange-pear-almond-plum

(part yummm),  

When you open the dust jacket, the loveliness of the unfolding scene leaves you breathless before you softly gasp in awe and appreciation.  The portion of the crown shown on the right, front, with the child reaching for the fruit, extends over the spine and to the far-left side on the back. From the bottom of the left, slightly off center, is a thick sturdy tree trunk stretching over the spine.  From that trunk, two smaller branches grow, each covered in a gorgeous array of foliage.  The lush color palette of vivid pink, blue hues, golden yellows, and brown here is used throughout the book.  

On the book case the child has moved to nestle within a fork in a tree, other sturdy branches stretching to the top and left.  The crown covers the setting like an umbrella, across the top and down the left side.  In the fork on the right, above the child, a huge sun shines.  It's like a gigantic piece of fruit.  (You could look at this image all day.)

The same shades of color appear on the opening and closing endpapers.  The leaves are much closer to us.  It is like we are looking up at them, watching as light radiates down through the growth.

On the title page, the tree stands tall slightly right of the gutter, branches and crown spreading left and right over two pages.  The child stands in the field of flowers to the left of the tree, looking up at the fruit.

Each breathtaking illustration

was created using gouache, pencil, and ink.

These two-page pictures by Corinna Luyken bring us close to the child, inviting us into each experience.  Sometimes, the focus steps back broadening our vision.  We see more of the tree and its partners.  We see more children.  As their shared joy grows, so does our joy.  The blend of tiny details and larger brush strokes builds each enchanting moment, moments of discovery, growth, understanding, and connection.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations has the crown of the tree across the top.  Along the bottom is a presentation of grasses and flowers.  Both are in the same arresting hues.  The trunk and its roots begin in the lower, left corner moving toward the gutter.  On the right, hanging from staunch ropes is a large tire swing.  It is horizontal providing seating for three children.  They gleefully spin, heads back in happiness and contentment.

Uplifting, thoughtful, and inspiring through words, artwork, and impeccable pacing, The Tree In Me written and illustrated by Corinna Luyken is a book to read repeatedly.  I know it will promote rich musings you will want to share with others.  You need this title in your personal and professional collections.  Share it widely.  Gift it.

To learn more about Corinna Luyken and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  Corinna Luyken has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  This book is showcased with an interview by Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, on his site, Watch. Connect. Read.

Monday, March 29, 2021

You Had No Say

Unless you are an only child, you've experienced the roller coaster ride of sharing your world with a younger or older, sister or brother.  If you are the oldest child in the family, it seems as though you are expected to be the example of propriety.  When something goes wrong, you are blamed in part, even if you are totally innocent.  On the other hand, you are given privileges and opportunities your younger siblings are not.  If you are the youngest child, many times you are your parents' little sweetie pie, unable to do anything wrong. Unfortunately, you hear too many times, wait until you are older.

To be the middle child is an entirely separate experience.  It usually does not offer you any privileges or any protections.  The Middle Kid (Chronicle Books, March 23, 2021) written and illustrated by Steven Weinberg presents a day in the life of a middle child.  In between bursts of laughter, you will reach a new appreciation for all middle children or if you, like Steven Weinberg, are a middle child, you'll find validation.

6:59 AM

Sniffle, sniffle-waaaaaaa . . .

So begins a decidedly noisy day.  The quietest one in the group, and still oblivious to the surrounding sounds, is the family dog.  Not wanting to stay silent any longer, the middle kid yells out a greeting.

The breakfast table is a hullabaloo centered in demands.  The results are not good for the artwork of the middle kid.  By chapter three of nine, he is told by his older brother to be tough.  What the older brother fails to tell him is how dark and confining this lesson is.

The next scenario demonstrates how a teacher's adventures on a trip to New Zealand can find their way into a creative escapade with stuffed toy animals, yarn, and a bannister.  Needless to say, what is initially a joint project between the middle kid and his younger sister, ends poorly.  Shortly after midday and chapter four and one half, life improves.

A compassionate mom has a plan.  It is a breather trip to the middle kid's favorite place.  And then, off he and his siblings go to do one of his favorite things.  He is perfect to explore their recent discovery.  Now, he has a secret that is all his.  A popsicle incident does not add up, but this does not deter our intrepid artist and architect.  His finest hour is designed to draw attention, the right kind of attention.  And it does.  Good night.  Sleep tight.

With affectionate truth, author Steven Weinberg, spins a sixty-two-page tale of navigating sibling dynamics.  To create and maintain pacing and gentle tension, each chapter heading includes a specific time of day.  These short chapters are full of blended realistic dialogue and casual narrative. Here is a passage.


This morning, my big brother tells me, "You gotta
be tough."

 "I AM!" I yell.

"No," he says.  "You are loud.  Loud is not tough."
I turn around.  I have things to draw.

He grabs my shoulder and says, "I will teach you
how to be tough.  Because I am tough.  And I have
your back."

That might be the nicest thing he has ever told me.

Then he stops looking so nice.

The front of the dust jacket speaks volumes about the fate of being a middle kid in this happy-go-lucky family.  You can't help but laugh at the fact even the dog gets a slice of pizza!  The clever design of using the pizza box as a placeholder for the text adds to the fun.  Numerous elements are varnished.

To the left, on the back, is a portion of a double-page interior picture.  The middle kid is enjoying some alone time in the basement, papers, books, crayons, scissors, and shoes spread across the floor.  He has drawn a masterpiece mix of reality and imagination.  It is the ultimate sanctuary.

Beneath the dust jacket, the book case is a recreation of a traditional black-and-white-speckled composition notebook.  In the larger framed square is the book's title.  For name it reads Steven Weinberg.  For school, it is Lafayette Elementary, and the grade is First.  Each is written in different colored crayon.

On the matching opening and closing endpapers are two original pages from the composition notebook.  In pencil are words of warning, scribbles and a large x.  With a page turn at the front the middle kid is carrying an armload of supplies with the faithful dog trailing behind and looking hopeful at a discarded shoe.  The dedication:

To My Big Brother and little Sister 

is written in crayon.  On the title page there is a lot happening as the three siblings and the pooch pal gather around a rug on the floor, paper written in crayon spelling out the text. The table of contents and introduction are written on composition pages.

The illustrations

were rendered in watercolor, pencil, art from a few centuries ago, digital media, and a whole lot more.

They are bold, highly animated, emotionally expressive and displayed in a variety of perspectives.  The facial features, especially the eyes, allow us to gage every moment.  Steven has placed his signature watercolor backgrounds in many of the images along with his fish and fishing artwork.  Bengal, the tiger, looks a bit different because he is.  

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single-page picture.  The middle kid, his little sister, and the dog are on the floor behind the upstairs bannister.  The little sister is crying in dismay.  The dog has its paws over its eyes.  The middle kid in the center is gleefully throwing Bubba, Bo, and Fred over the railing.  Bengal is about to join them.  Bubba, Bo, and Fred are large at the bottom of the page.  They are so close; portions of their bodies are off the page.  One of Steven's beautiful fish paintings is hanging on the wall on the main floor.

You will be grinning from ear to ear the entire time you are reading The Middle Kid written and illustrated by Steven Weinberg.  It's a warm and funny family portrait, with a heartfelt nod to all those middle children.  I highly recommend it for your collections, personal and professional.

To learn more about Steven Weinberg and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Steven Weinberg has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Steven Weinberg penned a guest post about this book at the Nerdy Book Club.