Quote of the Month

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




Thursday, January 21, 2021

Collecting Culture--It's Who We Are

The first listed definition in Merriam-Webster names it as an account of incidents or events.  Newbery author and former National Ambassador of Children's Literature, Kate DiCamillo believes it connects us.  In an interview with Anderson Cooper of CNN, the National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, who wrote and recited the Inaugural poem, The Hill We Climb, on January 20, 2021, says:

I'm a poet.  So often I don't work in images.  I work in words and text. . . .

To me words matter.

More than one hundred years before Amanda, another Black girl was born.  She believed words mattered.  She believed in the power of story to connect us as does Kate.  Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston (A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book, Atheneum Books For Young Readers, January 12, 2021) written by Alicia D. Williams with illustrations by Jacqueline Alcantara is a wondrous, joyful celebration of this remarkable author and this searcher and gatherer of folklore.  Let us take a leap as she did again and again.  Let us be inspired by her courage and conviction.

IN A TOWN CALLED EATONVILLE---
a place where magnolias smelled even prettier
than they looked, oranges were as sweet as they
were plump, and the people just plain ol'
got along---lived a girl who was attracted
to tales like mosquitoes to skin.

Zora was her name.

This girl listened to the stories told at the local general store, she made her own character dolls out of whatever she could find placing them in stories, and she even joined travelers as their cars slowly moved down the nearby road telling them tales.  She had to be careful, though.  Her papa was a preacher, and he figured her stories were lies.  Her grandmother agreed with him, but her mama did not.

Her mother embraced Zora's storytelling.  She knew it was a path Zora needed to follow to change the direction of her life.  Unfortunately, Zora's mother passed when Zora was barely a teen.  She was sent to a boarding school by her father until he remarried.  Her stepmother refused to pay for her education.  By the time she was fourteen, Zora left home.

For too many years Zora could not stick with a job or any more education.  What did stick with her was her gift for gathering and telling tales.  At twenty-six-years old she lied about her age and went to school as a sixteen-year-old girl. After graduating from high school, she started college only to be pulled by her deep desire to write.  New York City called to her.  She flourished with others during The Harlem Renaissance.

Hearing her mother's words of encouragement in her ears and carrying them in her heart, she entered a writing contest.  The praises from the judges brought her writing to the attention of Barnard College.  This time a scholarship and friends financially supported Zora.  For her final semester project in anthropology, Zora did what she loved best,  

Storycatching.

She continued with this love for the rest of her life.  She wrote down those stories and penned her own.  Today they are alive for all who read them because 

words matter and

stories connect us.


Each time this book is read, you know Alicia D. Williams has a passion for Zora Neale Hurston and her work.  It shines in every sentence she writes.  It's as if we are reading a folktale woven with truth.  Portions of Hurston's collected tales appear as captions in speech balloons within images.  Quotations and conversations appear are part of the narrative.  The references to Zora's mother telling her to 

"jump at de sun"

sprinkled with intention in this biography bind decisive moments in Zora Neale Hurston's life together beautifully.  Here are three paragraphs on two pages.

Zora was miserable---
except for when she spooned
out Eatonville trickster tales to
whoever'd sop 'em up.  And, sakes
alive, folks were hungry!

The sun, however, was getting antsy
waiting on Zora, so he called down, saying,

"Ain't you s'posed to be meeting 
me up here?" Reckon Zora was getting
antsy too.

How was Zora to jump all the way
to Ole Big Yellow?  By doing what made
her happiest.  And Zora was happiest
at school and hearing those stories.


Looking at the open dust jacket. you want to join this effervescent girl in jumping at the sun.  The radiating sun's rays are urging her to go higher and higher.  Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox, shown here, follow her throughout the book, acting as observers and guides.  (They are sometimes joined by other animals from folklore.)  The grass and trees seen on the front, right, of the jacket move over the spine to become a part of another image.  The four-word main title text is varnished in red.

To the left, on the back, an older Zora wearing signature clothing is seated outside her home, typewriter on a small table, typing tales.  These tales are pictorially represented on pieces of paper floating from the typewriter to arch upward toward the spine.  In this visual the sky has deepened with more orange wash than yellow.

On the book case the deeper sky color provides a canvas, back to front, including the spine.  From back to front, animals follow a jumping Zora shown on the lower portion of the front. The animals, in order, left to right are a snail, a frog, a raccoon, a bluebird, the fox, the rabbit and a turtle leads in front of Zora.  Mirroring the book case the opening and closing endpapers use the same color as a background.  On the opening endpapers a flow of hats, represents moments in Zora's chosen (and not chosen) paths.  On the closing endpapers those hats are arranged to frame an author's note, additional reading, sources, and publication information.

Rendered in 

markers, gouache, and Photoshop,

these illustrations by Jacqueline Alcantara heighten the text, infusing it with place, time, symbols of folklore, and emotion.  Every visual feels like movement frozen for a mere second, ready to animate.  On the title page the pictorial interpretation begins with Zora walking down the road in Eatonville surrounded by native flora, Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox.  The dedications are displayed in speech bubbles on the left.  (These dedications are among my favorites.)

Most of the pictures are double-page images.  Sometimes Jacqueline Alcantara will include two different moments in the same setting.  This fashions impeccable pacing.  Her color choices are stunning, especially the blend of complementary colors.  Her people are portrayed realistically, ready to jump off the page and into our lives.  

It's nearly impossible to select one, but one of my favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  It's inside at night in a club during The Harlem Renaissance.  Zora is dancing with Langston Hughes.  Other couples are swinging and swaying and leaping around them.  Still more people are standing as waiters move among them.  Toward the back, in the upper portion of the visual, the band is playing.  The colors used in this illustration are striking.  There is a red wash over realistic hues with splashes of purple, black, and white.  Wow!  


This outstanding picture book biography, Jump at the Sun: The True Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston written by Alicia D. Williams with art by Jacqueline Alcantara, is one to read repeatedly and to share widely.  The words and art partner to make a perfect representation of who Alicia D. Williams calls a national treasure.  She is indeed that.  If you have not read any of Zora Neale Hurston's books previously, you most certainly will after reading this book.  You need this in your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about author Alicia D. Williams and artist Jacqueline Alcantara and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Alicia D. Williams has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Jacqueline Alcantara has accounts on Behance, Instagram, Tumblr, and TwitterAt the publisher's website you can view interior images, the dust jacket, book case, and opening endpapers.  At Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher's site, Watch. Connect. Read., John interviews Alicia and Jacqueline about this book.  I know you will enjoy reading their insights about their book.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Seeing Soul

One of many differences between being a teacher librarian in a middle school setting for the first twenty-one years of your career and then switching to an elementary school is the unrestrained honesty of the younger children.  It is not that the middle school gals and guys are not honest, but usually you must through careful conversation based on trust find answers.  The elementary students will, without being asked, offer their opinions.

They notice every single detail about you.  No part of your physical appearance goes undetected.  Your words are remembered.  This is why they observe the same things in others and themselves.  Eyes that Kiss in the Corners (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, January 5, 2021) written by Joanna Ho with illustrations by Dung Ho is an exquisite portrayal of a young girl realizing and accepting her wondrous self.

Some people have
eyes like sapphire lagoons
with lashes like lace trim on ballgowns,
sweeping their cheeks as they twirl.
Big eyes, long lashes.

Not me.

The girl goes on to say her eyes

kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.

Her mother's eyes, like her eyes, show one more characteristic when she arrives home from work.  Embracing, the two find themselves on the floor laughing.  Before she goes to sleep, her mother's eyes reflect other truths to her.

In the morning she tells us her mother's eyes are like Amah's eyes.  Amah is her grandmother.  Her grandmother's eyes see physically less than when she was younger, but they have other abilities.  They see into the child's soul.  Her eyes are brimming with stories she shares with her granddaughter.

Mei-Mei, her younger sister, has eyes like her mother, her grandmother, and her.  In Mei-Mei's eyes a whole new kind of look follows the girl.  It sends her spirit soaring.  This sense of soaring is something the girl wants to share with her little sister for the rest of their lives. 

Through the eyes of the women in her family, the girl sees a power passed from generation to generation.  There are sparks ready to ignite possibilities and promote change.  These eyes, her eyes,

that kiss in the corners

are lovely in every respect.


Each sentence penned by Joanna Ho is a marvelous study on the souls, shining through the eyes .of the women in this child's life.  Her choice of words is breathtakingly beautiful.  It's an intimate reflection told in the girl's voice.   Readers will understand, like the girl, there is beauty in eyes like her eyes.  It's been there for generations.  It will always be there.  Here is a passage when the girl is speaking about her grandmother.

Her eyes are filled with so many stories.
I can fall inside them
and swim until time stops.


When you open the matching dust jacket and book case, you cannot help but smile at the delightful image which extends flap edge to flap edge.  The girl's hair billows from her face as a breeze blows it to the far left-hand corner.  Two other Monarch butterflies flutter toward the spine on the back, left, as the peony petals drift past them and the child's hair.  Warmth radiates through the use of light and shadow, not only on this jacket and case, but throughout the book.

Hues of golden yellow, some white, and chocolate browns color the opening endpapers in a glorious display of peonies, chrysanthemums, and what look like white buttercups.  On the closing endpapers we move closer to the flowers, now in full bloom.  Monarch butterflies appear and move among them.  (I've always seen the butterfly as a symbol of change.  I wonder if their placement in these images is for that reason.)  

On the two pages dedicated to the title a garland of flowers begins in the upper, left-hand corner and drapes down to the right.  The girl stands among the flowers, holding a single blossom up to her right eye.  A butterfly moves toward her, right to left.

Rendered digitally by Dung Ho, each illustration, most of them double-page pictures, depict familial scenes of great affection and joy.  The details in each visual contribute to these overall truths and emotional impacts.  When the girl and her mother are creating a mural on a wall, she is wearing a newspaper sailor hat as they both paint and smile.  When her mom comes home from work, her purse is dropped on the floor as is a bag of groceries so she can hug her child.  In the pictures mirroring stories and legends, the artwork is a swirl of historically strong women, fierce dragons, birds, and fish.  The artwork throughout embraces the text AND the reader.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spreads across two pages.  The sky is a faint blue washed in delicate white clouds.  On the right side a field of flowers fashion a colorful palette.  On the left in this field of flowers are the girl and her little sister, Mei-Mei.  Mei-Mei is on the girl's back.  They are pretending to be bunnies.  The youngest has paper bunny ears they've made on her head with a fluffy tail attached to her clothing on her back.  Dressed in a long pink shirt, belted with a darker-colored scarf, over a flowing white skirt, the girl has flowers in her hair with two large blue-ribbon ears on her head.  The girl is smiling as her younger sister laughs.  You can tell how much they love each other.


You cannot read this book, Eyes that Kiss in the Corners written by Joanna Ho with illustrations by Dung Ho, and not be happier.  The celebration of self reaches out to all readers.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.  [Note:  One year at my elementary school a new student, an Asian American girl, unable to speak English arrived.  At every opportunity I tried to help her.  This book is for her, to all the Susans who need to see themselves portrayed beautifully.)

To learn more about Joanna Ho and Dung Ho and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Joanna Ho has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Dung Ho has an account of Instagram.  At the author's website you can view interior images.  Joanna Ho is interviewed at Nerd Daily.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Happy New Year 2021---One Little Word Part Two

Nearly two weeks into this new year, 2021, and we have witnessed unprecedented events in human history.  In looking back at both the One Little Word posts for 2020 (here and here) and the Happy New Year 2021---One Little Word, it has become more evident than ever how quickly days, weeks, and months can develop in unexpected ways, ways we can never have imagined.  This makes each moment we are here a challenge and a joy, both to be embraced.

This is my third and final post featuring 2020 books before shifting to 2021 releases.  It is with gratitude for the work of dedicated authors and illustrators these books are presented.  My choice of One Little Word is assigned to each title.  Links to the author's, illustrator's, and publisher's websites (or social media accounts) are supplied.  Other pertinent resources are provided.  The books are displayed in order of release date.  Happy reading to you.  May this year, 2021, be a year of change, change for the good, one book, one person, at a time, coming together.


CONFIDENCE

A Whale Of A Mistake (Page Street Kids, March 17, 2020) written and illustrated by Ioana Hobai

At the publisher's website there is an activity guide linked here.  Ioana Hobai and this title are showcased in a post at KidLit411.

"Oh!"

You made a mistake.

Your concern of making this mistake follows you, growing and growing.  It becomes large, as big as a whale, engulfing you.   It will not leave.  Instead, it carries you away on a journey.  It is a trip fraught with trouble, until you stop.

 Gathering your bravery, you open your eyes.  An umbrella of stars hangs over you.  Perfection.  But is it?  There is a world of mistakes, making you a part of the universe.  This fuels your self-confidence.  Somehow, the whale diminishes, until it rides away on waves, growing smaller and smaller.  Artwork rendered in ink, watercolor, and acrylic invites readers into the realistic and reassuring words.




COMMUNITY

Our Little Kitchen (Abrams Books for Young Readers, September 22, 2020) written and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

There are additional images at House of Anansi.

Hi?

Hello!

Every Wednesday 
we come together
in this little kitchen.

A group of neighbors gather one day a week to prepare a meal.  For ingredients they use what is at hand mixed with a whole lot of heart.  They have a garden they have planted.  They have some items in their refrigerator.  They have donations.  All the tasks, cutting, pealing, pouring, chopping, stirring, frying, baking, and simmering work toward their fabulous goal.

Others gather around a table, grateful neighbors from their community.  A soup, a salad, and apple crumble fill stomachs and souls.  Conversation, narrative, sound words, and two recipes, one on each of the endpapers fashion an uplifting and inspiring story.  The illustrations made with a nib and ink and colored with a computer are glorious, flowing flawlessly from page to page and brimming with animation.




HEAL

The Boy and the Gorilla (Candlewick Press, October 13, 2020) written by Jackie Azua Kramer with illustrations by Cindy Derby  

There are other interior images at Penguin Random HouseKidLitTV hosted a launch party.  Author Tara Lazar shines a light on this book on her blog Writing for Kids (While Raising Them).

Your mother's garden is beautiful.
May I help?

Okay.

The presence of a gentle giant appears when a little boy is grieving the loss of his mother.  He begins a conversation with the gorilla about death.  He asks questions and the gorilla replies with honesty.

Will we all die?
Yes. We all do. But you have many more kites to fly.

Through the days, in a variety of moments, the child and the gorilla work through the sadness, moving toward healing.  Ultimately, the boy reaches out to his father.  Grief shared is easier to bear.  Astute writing guides readers as atmospheric, tender art rendered in watercolor, gouache, India ink, and digital collage brings us into the heart of the story.

 



GRATITUDE

The Blue Table (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, October 20, 2020) written and illustrated by Chris Raschka

Author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson features this book with artwork on her site, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

A child,
a parent,
and another parent . . .

This trio has plans.  They bring together items from a garden, a store and a farm.  Some of those things are used to make a dessert.  Flowers are placed on the blue table.

There are never more than four words on a page in large print.  The pacing is slow, deliberate and enhanced with excellence by the images rendered in watercolor and cut-paper collage.  At times there are pages with wordless illustrations. The blue table is part of every page until another family joins in the delectable dining.



INGENUITY

Seven Golden Rings: A Tale of Music and Math (Lee & Low Books Inc., October 27, 2020) written by Rajani LaRocca with illustrations by Archana Sreenivasan

There are multiple interior illustrations at the publisher's website.  There is an activity guide.  This book and one or both of the creators are featured at Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez's site, the publisher's blog, Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb, Writers' Rumpus, Critter Lit, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them), Vivian Kirkfield's site, Soaring '20s High Flying Picture Book Debuts, and Jena Denton's site. The cover reveal and interview is at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's Watch. Connect. Read.

Look ago there lived a kind rajah who ruled over vast lands.
He loved music, and gathered the finest players and singers to perform in his court.

Unfortunately, kindness and a love of music are not the only qualities necessary for a rajah to rule well.  Mismanagement of resources made life for the people in his land very hard.  A son, Bhagat, and his mother were barely surviving.  One day Bhagat saw a proclamation from the rajah asking for new musicians for his troupe.  He left to seek a position in this troupe with a single rupee and a chain with seven golden rings.  These seven golden rings were all his mother had left from her wedding necklace.

Arriving in the city, Bhagat found his gift as a thinker would serve him better than his gift of singing.  His cleverness with mathematics is portrayed with adeptness in a narrative reading like a folktale.  Colorful, lively digital pictures depict the marvelous setting and characters.  You feel as if you are there with them.




WISH

Star-Crossed (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 27, 2020) written and illustrated by Julia Denos

Here is a link to a Facebook Live presentation by Porter Square Books.

It was a time when there were still students of the stars.
Eridani was one of them.
And Acamar---well . . .
He was more of a constellation than a boy.

Separated by more miles than either of them could know, the human girl and the boy made of stars were the best of friends.  Their favorite time of day was when the sky darkened.  Walking home from school, a skilled student of the constellations, Eridani talked with Acamar who was curious about her life on terra firma.

The more they talked, the more Eridani wanted to be up in the stars and Acamar wanted to be on Earth.  Eridani wanted to fly.  Acamar wanted to see a sunset.  One evening they wished at the same time on each other.  It is said you should be careful what you wish for.  Sometimes you get exactly what you want.  Through the conversations of the two characters and the narrative and stunning artwork of Julia Denos, readers are witness to a miraculous wonder.  There is a joyous, informative author's note at the conclusion of the book.




AWARE

The Couch Potato (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, November 3, 2020) written by Jory John with illustrations by Pete Oswald

There is a book trailer at the publisher's website.

I am a potato.
Not a small potato
like my brother.
Not a sweet potato
like my mother.
Not a mashed potato
like my uncle Stu.

This potato is, as you might suspect from the title, a couch potato.  He is no ordinary couch potato.  Oh, no.  He is a high tech, greatest gizmo and gadget couch potato.  He never has to leave his couch for anything.  One day, though, the power zaps off and the couch potato is plunged into darkness.

Shocked at the sunlight streaming in his now-open window, he decides to take his dog Tater for a walk outside.  Wow!  Nothing is as expected.  It's better.  This first-person story is penned with perception and heightened by detailed, humorous pictures created with scanned watercolor textures and digital paint




HUMOR

The Runaway No-Wheeler (Viking, November 17, 2020)  written by Peter Stein with illustrations by Bob Staake

TONY was a rugged truck who had a lot to haul.
He'd load his rig and hit the road
without a hitch or stall.

One day Tony's good luck disappeared. This eighteen-wheeler lost a wheel.  He was down to seventeen and heading down and around curves and bumps.  Before Tony knew what was happening, two more wheels flew off his chassis.  

Every time Tony encountered a glitch, his number of wheels diminished.  With a romping,
rhyming cadence and hilarious illustrations, this is read aloud gold.  Where else can you find baby ducks, thieves, aliens. slim and gooey globs of green in the same book?



GIFT

The Bear and the Moon (Chronicle Books, December 1, 2020) words by Matthew Burgess with pictures by Catia Chien 

There are several interior illustrations at the publisher's website. There is another illustration at the illustrator's website.  The BookMark hosted an event.  The link is here.  Catia Chien is highlighted at This Picture Book Life.

Opening his eyes after a long snooze,
the bear saw a red dot in the blue sky.

The closer it floated,

the bigger
and rounder
and redder

the dot became . . .

Readers will see what the bear cannot know.  The red dot is a balloon which offers the bear a day of play.  The next day the cub takes his new friend on a tour of his favorite places.  He is so excited with this miracle of a thing which floated into his life, he squeezes it.  

Nothing can repair the damage.  The bear drifts into a deep sadness until the moon rises.  In what can be said as a special connection, the moon speaks to the bear.  Through enchanting, luminous artwork and lyrical words, readers, like the bear, come to understand a life truth.

 




JOY


The Snow Dancer (Two Lions, December 1, 2020) written by Addie Boswell with illustrations by Merce Lopez


Sofia was asleep when the snowflakes came.
 
All through the night they fell---
frosting the rooftops, fluffing the sidewalks,
laying fuzzy hats on the fire hydrants.

After looking out the window, Sofia's reaction in three sentences builds in readers all the excitement we feel discovering it's a snow day. After Sofia covers herself in winter clothing and goes outside, her joy at the white and silence is contagious. Descriptive verbs and onomatopoeia portray her trip to the park and her merry dance.

It's beautiful until the rest of the children arrive and race around with abandon, destroying her graceful paths.  One child and Sofia move among the others doing their own dance.  A surprise leaves everyone exhausted.  The full-color artwork is as spirited as Sofia and the other children enjoying the delights of a winter wonderland.



STORY 

Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, December 15, 2020) written by Kat Zhang with illustrations by Charlene Chua

During story time, Ms. Mary
reads Amy's class a book
about dragons.

Dragons that hoard treasure.

Dragons that blow fire.

Dragons that fight knights
in gleaming armor.

After their story time their teacher asks them to make dragons, dragons that are special.  Dragons that are their kind of dragons.  No dragon Amy Wu makes feels right to her.  She and a couple of friends go to her home after school.

After explaining her dilemma, Amy's grandmother tells her a story, a story of dragons.  With the tale finished, Amy runs to their attic finding the perfect dragon.  That evening with the help of her grandmother and her parents, they fashion from fabric, Amy's dragon. Charming, cheerful pictures rendered digitally are as uplifting as the narrative.  At the close of the book is a dragon activity to be completed on an Eastern dragon or a Western dragon. 



AUTHENTIC

My Very Favorite Book In The Whole Wide World (Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., December 29, 2020) written by Malcolm Mitchell with illustrations by Michael Robertson

You'll enjoy the post at We Need Diverse Books written by Malcolm Mitchell titled How I Fell in Love With Reading.  Malcolm Mitchell and Pam Allyn (LitWorld) were guests of John Schumacher, Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries on Book Joy Live on January 14, 2021.

Hi! I'm Henley.
And this is a story about finding my very
favorite book in the whole wide world.

Reading can be hard, you know?

Once upon a time, everyone thought I hated to read,
but that's just not true.

Henley explains his struggles with reading through examples everyone can easily understand.  

I tried to read books about dinosaurs,
they made my brain hurt.  So I gave the books
back to the dinosaurs.

When Henley thought his troubles could not be any worse, his teacher, Mrs. Joy gave the class a horrible assignment.  They had to bring in their favorite book in the whole wide world.

Henley went to the usual sources for books, the public library and Mrs. Rackley's Bookshop. With the help of the librarian and shop owner, he looked at stacks of books.  Henley had no luck.  At home, Henley's mama gave him an idea.  Creativity and bravery helped Henley vanquish his homework assignment.  The words of this story ring true and honest.  The wide-eyed expressions on the characters in settings we wish we could enter elevate the text.


Thursday, January 14, 2021

An Elisha Cooper Celebration

For persons, readers, dedicated to children's literature, it is known the quality of writing and illustrating is superior in many respects.  Creators of words and art for children, in its many formats, exhibit a singular passion for their profession.  It is evident in their ability to take us easily into new realms or our own worlds.  They endear us to characters.  They readily make us laugh or cry. They help us to see with fresh eyes.

One such author illustrator is Elisha Cooper.  I have been a fan of his work for many years.  Elisha Cooper has the skill to get to the heart, the soul, of any subject.  One of the finest books on the place canines have in our lives is his book, Homer.  You'll find yourself wanting to shift or renew your preferred mode of travel after reading his Train or begin a new adventure after the words and art of River flow over you. His approach to our twenty-six letters, 8: An Animal Alphabet, is decidedly unique.  In his Caldecott Honor award title, BIG CAT, little cat, Elisha Cooper helped us to understand life and death, sadness and healing.  

Today I have the honor to celebrate the cover reveal of a new Elisha Cooper book, Yes & No (Roaring Brook Press, April 13, 2021).  In this book, as in his others, Elisha Cooper elevates the ordinary to extraordinary.  Here is the link to the publisher's website where you can view interior pages.  To discover more about Elisha Cooper and his other work, please take a few moments to visit his website and his account on Instagram.

COVER REVEAL





Not one to wish my life away, but truly all I can think of now is---Is it April 13, 2021 yet?

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Happy New Year 2021 One Little Word Nonfiction

Never has it been more apparent than revealed during the events of January 6, 2021 in the capital city of the United States of America how important nonfiction books are to our readers. In my experience students crave information.  They want to know facts which inform, challenge, and perhaps, shift their thinking.  Three notable nonfiction authors, Cynthia Levinson, Melissa Stewart, and Jennifer Swanson, talk about the appeal of nonfiction with readers in a Publishers Weekly article titled Soapbox: "Hey, Grownups! Kids Really Do Like Nonfiction" , January 7, 2021.


As in a first post on January 5, 2021 and a soon-to-be-published follow-up post highlighting 2020 fiction picture books, there are numerous 2020 nonfiction books not previously considered here.  For each title selected for this post, there will be a link to the publisher's, author's, and illustrator's websites (or social media accounts).  Other pertinent and helpful resources may be included.  There will be a short summary and an initial passage from the narrative.  As in prior posts, one little word will be given for each title.  They are listed in order of release date.

SERVICE

Hard Work, But It's Worth It: The Life of Jimmy Carter (Balzar + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, January 28, 2020) written by Bethany Hegedus with illustrations by Kyung Eun Han

During the Great Depression, times were tough.  But farm life has always been tough.  There was work from sunup to sunset, no matter the time of year.  From the very start, James Earl Carter, Jr.---Jimmy---and hard work were fast friends.

At five years old Jimmy Carter was selling boiled peanuts from the farm on the streets of Plains, Georgia.  He learned the value of working hard, but he also learned hard work benefited some more than others.  People of color were not afforded the same benefits as he was. 

Jimmy Carter, living in the South, was no stranger to having African Americans in his life.  His best friend, Alonzo Davis was a Black child.  By the time the boys were fourteen, laws at the time, severed the relationship.  Jimmy Carter knew he had to make changes.  His upbringing and his Good Mental Habits guided him in all his future endeavors.  They still do.

You will learn more than you thought you knew about this man.  Each portion of his life supplied to readers builds as a tribute to the man we see today.  The highly detailed digital illustrations created in Corel Painter enhance our understanding of the narrative.  There is an author's note, a three-page timeline, a bibliography of books and online resources including websites and videos.



TOGETHER

Packs: Strength In Numbers (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 28, 2020) written and illustrated by Hannah Salyer 

Packs,

herds,

huddles,

and pods.

In a beautifully illustrated presentation, readers learn how living beings function better together.  We are given the names of their groups through the voice of one of their numbers.  Information is supplied as to how the animals perform an array of tasks together benefiting their existence.  The word together connects the different creatures while their variety gives our planet its needed diversity.  

There are words from the author illustrator at the close of the book.  The animals are further identified by their common name at the conclusion.  Further reading is listed.



TENACITY

The True Story of Zippy Chippy: The Little Horse That Couldn't (North|South, February 25, 2020) written by Artie Bennett with illustrations by Dave Szalay 

There is an additional interior image to be seen at Simon & Schuster.  There are author interviews at Maria Marshall's site and Good Reads With Ronna.  There is a teacher's guide generated by Marcie Colleen. 

ZIPPY CHIPPY was a racehorse, descended from legends that ran like the wind.
He was destined for glory---and would follow in their
hoofbeats.
The only problem was, when Zippy ran . . .

Running was not exactly at what Zippy excelled.  He was known to not leave the starting gate.  He was known to stop in the middle of the race.  He was known to enjoy walking rather than running. 

Sentence by conversational sentence with an undercurrent of humor (heightened by the artwork), we learn about the horse who liked racing, but never won a race.  In fact, there is only one horse in the history of horse racing who topped his record.  Despite his losses, Zippy Chippy became a fan favorite.  You won't believe what he did before his last race.  At the close of the book is a two-page author's note and a bibliography.






BALANCE

Bringing Back The Wolves: How A Predator Restored An Ecosystem (Kids Can Press, March 3, 2020) written by Jude Isabella with illustrations by Kim Smith

There are multiple interior images at the illustrator's website.  A teacher's guide can be downloaded at the publisher's website under the tab---Resources.

AN UNINTENTIONAL EXPERIMENT
A city park, a beach, a forest, or a desert. What do they have in common?
They are full of living things that interact with one another and their environment.
Take, for instance, a city park. It may be full of soil, trees, grasses, shrubs, flowers, insects, gray squirrels, birds and people.  And each has a relationship with the other.  They are part of 
an ecosystem, a web of connections between the living and non-living.

In a fascinating narrative of seventeen sections after the introduction, readers find themselves educated, intricate layer by intricate layer.  The absence of wolves contributed to an imbalance in multiple populations of animals and plants.  Sometimes entire species disappeared.

Within each of the sections, there are extra explanatory paragraphs, labeled diagrams and captioned illustrations.  Without being overwhelmed with the extent of the information, you find yourself intrigued as if you are a partner in piecing clues together to solve a mystery.  The digital illustrations fashioned in Photoshop transport you to Yellowstone National Park.  There is a glossary, resources, websites and books, and an index.  Please take a moment to read the Acknowledgments.



BOLD

The Voice that Won the Vote: How One Woman's Words Made History (Sleeping Bear Press, March 15, 2020) written by Elisa Boxer with illustrations by Vivien Mildenberger

In addition to the interviews and articles listed at Elisa Boxer's website, there are articles at Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations, Kathy Temean's Writing and Illustrating and Laura Renauld's site.  Julie Danielson interviews Vivien Mildenberger for Chapter 16.org

A vote is a voice:
This is what I believe in.
This is what I stand for.
This is what matters to me.
This is who I am.
This is who I choose to lead
my town, my state, my country.

The year is 1920.  Women don't have the right to vote.  Before women can legally gain the right to vote thirty-six states need to vote yes.  Thirty-five have already voted yes.  Tennessee can become the thirty-sixth state if Harry Burn votes yes.  In the first round he voted no.  Those wishing to deny women the right to vote know they can count on Harry Burn.

What they do not know is Febb Burn, Harry's mother, a college-educated woman, a teacher, has written him a letter.  Her thoughts expressed in the letter make all the difference.  An engaging narrative with compelling and animated illustrations informs, building suspense until Harry Burn votes.  It continues with the election to determine if he will serve as a legislator in Tennessee again.  At the conclusion of the book on two pages is further information and a timeline.  You'll want to read the dedication page.




UNIQUE

All the Birds in the World (Peter Pauper Press, April 1, 2020) written and illustrated by David Opie

There are five double-page interior pictures at the publisher's website.  Here is a link to a storytime with David Opie reading his book aloud.  David Opie is interviewed by Elizabeth Dulemba. David Opie has written a post at the Nerdy Book Club about this book.

All birds have feathers.
All birds have wings.
All birds have beaks.

But birds come in many colors.
There are gray birds, brown ones,
black, gold, and white.
Some birds have red wings,
or a blazing orange body,
or a ruby red throat.
They seem to be painted
with more colors
than you can see.

"But what about me?"
asked Kiwi.

In a series of newsy, illuminating, two-page spreads readers are introduced to and reminded of the vast array of birds on our planet.  Their shapes and sizes, the length of their legs, their nests, their eggs, feet, and beaks are displayed and compared.  We learn about those that fly, swim and dive, and are most active at night.  The sounds birds make are disclosed.

During these explorations and revelations, Kiwi keeps asking questions until the narrative addresses them specifically.  Even with all the kiwi's differences, it is still a bird.  The full-color marvelous illustrations in fluctuating perspectives strength the text.  There is an author's note at the close of the book.  Many of the illustrations are recreated at the conclusion with the birds identified.  There is a final further explanation about kiwis.

 



INGENIOUS

Obsessive About Octopuses (Flying Eye Books, April 7, 2021) written and illustrated by Owen Davey

There are additional illustrations to see at Penguin Random House.

WHAT ARE OCTOPUSES?
Octopuses belong to the "cephalopod" family, which includes squid, cuttlefish and nautiluses.  Cephalopods are closely related to molluscs such as slugs and snails. They have soft bodies with little to no skeletons, large heads and muscular limbs, known as either arms or tentacles.

Fifteen chapters outline from generalities to distinctive, a collection of astonishing facts.  We are engaged in a world under the sea through carefully chosen information and stunning signature images.  Physical characteristic, basic body parts, how they travel, their colors and camouflage, defense tactics, and how they hunt and eat are supplied to readers. Examples are given about their cleverness and intelligence.

We are shown the largest and smallest in comparison to a human as well as sixteen octopuses to scale. Readers will be amazed at their reproduction and hatchlings.  Several pages are dedicated to those who stand out above the others.  Mythology and conservation are covered.  There is a table of contents and an index. 

Obsessive About Octopuses Flying Eye Books from Persistent Peril on Vimeo.


STEADFAST

Truth And Honor: The President Ford Story (Sleeping Bear Press, July 15, 2020) written by Lindsey McDivitt with illustrations by Matt Faulkner

There are multiple resources at Lindsey McDivitt's website including three author videos and five illustrator videos about this book.  At Kathleen Temean's Writing and Illustrating you can learn more about the process of writing this title.

President Gerald R. Ford sat down at his new desk in the Oval Office and rolled up his sleeves, ready for work.  He'd never planned to be president, but Ford was just the leader America needed.  He would help mend what was broken---the trust between the people and their government.

The book begins with a 16-day-old Gerald escaping with his mother from a violent husband and father.  With his mother and grandparents, he moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Before he was too old to remember his mother remarried. Gerald Ford was the only father he ever knew.

Year by year we are told how those around him from his family to his community influenced and built the values which guided his life.  Events and incidents are chronicled, then the values learned by Ford are reinforced through separate statements.  There is the inclusion of references to landmarks in Michigan

(But the Fords found joy all around them.  Joy as deep and vast as the Great Lakes ringing their state.)

and quotations by President Ford.  Realistic, animated and historically authentic gorgeous illustrations complement and elevate the text.



PRIDE

Lions & Cheetahs & Rhinos Oh My!: Animal Artwork by Children in Sub-Saharan Africa (Sleeping Bear Press, August 1, 2020) by John Platt and Moira Rose Donohue

Here is a link to the How to Draw a Lion website.  This book is featured with author commentary at Kathleen Temean's Writing and Illustrating. This title is highlighted in an event on Facebook with the two authors. (It was fun to see other authors in the Zoom call.)

Do you like
wild animals?

Would you like to paint one?

How about a lion?

You should start by drawing one.  Look closely.  But don't get too close!
The lion is a ferocious hunter.  At night, it can see eight times better than you can.  Oh my! Perhaps you should start with a gentler African animal, like a . . .

Through the stunning artwork of students participating in the How to Draw a Lion program started by John Platt, we meet ten marvelous creatures that reside in Africa.  The text joins one image to the next with the words

like a . . .

Interesting information, individual items, are cleverly woven into the narrative.  Zebra stripes are as specific as fingerprints.  Hippos leave the water at night to snack on grass.  Giraffes sleep in five-minute increments while standing.  At the close of the book is a page dedicated to showing you how to draw a lion.  On the back of the dust jacket and book case, the young artists are shown holding their artwork.



WONDER

Over and Under the Rainforest (Chronicle Books, August 11, 2020) written by Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal

There are multiple interior images to view at the publisher's website.

Into the rainforest we hike, through slivers of sunlight and dripping-wet leaves.

With a single sentence we find ourselves transported to the rainforest.  A child is hiking with Tito through the expanse of flora and fauna.  Beautiful imagery in words acquaint us with the animals seen by the duo. Breathtaking illustrations in shifting perspectives created with mixed media draw us further into the narrative.

As the day turns to dusk and then dark, we are keenly aware of the changes in the sensory experience.  At the close of the book is an author's note and paragraphs about each of the animals on four plus pages.  There is a list of books and websites for further reading.  A list of sources is the final entry.



 



 PERSISTENCE

A Thousand Glass Flowers: Marietta Barovier and the Invention of the Rosetta Bead (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, August 18, 2020) written and illustrated by Evan Turk

There are numerous interior illustrations at the publisher's website.  Evan Turk is a guest for Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb.  Author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson features this title at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Marietta loved to watch the sun.  It was like a glowing 
ball of glass that rose each morning to give light and
color to the world.
She lived with her family on the island of Murano, as all
the glassmakers did, cut off from the main city of Venice.

Even as a little girl Marietta knew women were not welcome in the art of glassblowing, but her father realized her interest and allowed her to venture into the glass workshop with the furnace.  He assisted her in learning to make beads.  Still, she was not asked to go with her father to Venice to work with a patron, until one day . . .

This visit enlarged Marietta's vision of what she could do with glass.  Over the years her skills increased, even though she still received criticism from those who felt this was not a trade for women.  One day, all her growth as a glassblower and the art she remembered from her past, fused to form a Rosetta bead. A highly informative and interesting two pages at the end of the book contain an author's note and a portion about the art. 



HISTORY

Sharuko El Arqueologo Peruano/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello (Children's Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books Inc., August 18, 2020) written by Monica Brown with illustrations by Elisa Chavarri

There are several interior illustrations, a teacher's guide, and the book trailer at the publisher's website.

Esta es la historia de Julio C. Tello, uno de los arqueologos mas importantes de todas las Americas.  Nacio en el Peru el 11 de abril de 1880, bajo la sombra de los Andes, en la escarpada zona montanosa a las afueras de su capital, Lima.

This is the story of Julio C. Tello, one of the most important archaeologists in all the Americas.  He was born in Peru on April 11, 1880, in the rugged highlands just outside the capital city of Lima, in the shadow of the Andes mountains.

During his youth Julio was always searching and discovering fragments of Indigenous life in ancient Peru.  He loved to unearth the past.  Woven into his life story is the history of Indigenous Peruvians.  He believed the world should know the truth about his country's past people.

Told in both Spanish and English, this narrative depicts a man determined to excel at any endeavor, working hard to honor the past as he preserves it for the future for all people to see.  On the final two pages in both languages are an afterword, illustrator's note and author's sources.



ENCHANTING

Hans Christian Andersen: The Journey Of His Life (North|South, September 1, 2020) written by Heinz Janisch with illustrations by Maja Kastelic

There are more interior illustrations at Simon & SchusterElizabeth Dulemba has a lengthy post with artist Maja Kastelic with extensive artwork.  At School Library Journal A Fuse #8 Production by Elizabeth Bird, you'll enjoy Thoughts (and Videos) of Hans Christian Andersen: The Journey of His Life

"Are you old?"
"Darling, you mustn't ask the gentleman such a question!"
"You must forgive my daughter.  She's only a child."
"I like children who ask questions," said the man with a friendly smile.
"I'm always pleased to meet inquisitive children."
He turned toward the girl, who was wearing a crisp blue dress.

"You wanted to know if I'm old.  Well, yes.
I'm as young as the boy that I once was
and can still feel inside me.  And I'm as old
as the man who is sitting opposite you."

As magical as his fairy tales, this portrayal told during a carriage ride reveals the specifics of Hans Christian Andersen's life through the stories he tells the little girl and her mother.  We are able to see how Hans used threads from his childhood and other life events to stitch them together into the tapestry of his tales.  Every page turn is another fabulous disclosure.

The eloquent writing and luminous illustrations are exquisitely presented.  Readers find themselves through the voice of Hans Christian Andersen completely mesmerized.  There is a two-page author's note.



PROTECT

LAST: The Story of a White Rhino (Tiny Owl, September 1, 2020) written and illustrated by Nicola Davies

This title is highlighted at Let's Talk Picture Books.  Nicola Davies speaks about the book and her artistic process.

I am the last.

I've looked and looked,
but I've never found
another like me.

Told in the voice of the rhino, this is a deeply moving narrative.  The rhino begins in the zoo where he currently resides.  He takes us back to the death of his mother and being removed from the only home he has ever known.  He relates the sensory perceptions of his home versus the zoo.  

He tells us he is not the only one that is the last.  The story takes a positive turn when the rhino is in a box again. He is home.  There is another rhino.  During his narrative, the artwork of Nicola Davies tells another story, the story of how this rhino finds himself back in the 

old place

The final page of the book relates the true story on which this book is based.  





EXEMPLIFY

The Teachers March!: How Selma's Teachers Changed History (Calkins Creek, an imprint of Boyd Mills & Kane, September 29, 2020) written by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace with illustrations by Charly Palmer

There is an interior illustration, an educator's guide, and the book trailer at the publisher's website.  At Penguin Random House there are other images.  The Classroom Bookshelf, School Library Journal features this book. There is a Q & A with Rich and Sandra Neil Wallace, Authors of The Teachers March at School Library Journal.  This book is discussed at Picture Book Builders and at Vivian Kirkfield's website.

Reverend F. D. Reese taught science at R. B. Hudson High School, but his favorite subject was freedom.  He believed that everyone was a first-class citizen, just like the Constitution stated.  To be treated as less than equal, that just wasn't right.

Page turn by page turn as Reverend Reese works for equal right, voting rights, for African Americans in Selma, Alabama, you can feel the tension increasing.  The stakes for the African Americans were high.  Unfair laws, ridiculous testing, and dangerous law enforcement employees made it impossible for them to vote. 

Reverend Reese believed if teachers marched, they could generate change.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to them.  With a plan in place those teachers did march.  Their march inspired other marches.  This book written with meticulous care enhanced with poignant artwork is riveting and informative from beginning to end.  I can't imagine teaching United States history at multiple levels without using this title.  There is an author's note, an illustrator's note, an extensive timeline, selected bibliography of interviews, books, film and audio, magazine, newspapers, and journal articles, in-person visits' list, additional book resources, and picture credits.



EXTRAORDINARY

SWISH!: The slam-dunking, alley-ooping, high-flying Harlem Globetrotters (Little, Brown And Company, November 10, 2020) written by Suzanne Slade with illustrations by Don Tate

At the Nerdy Book Club, both Suzanne Slade and Don Tate talk about this book before the book trailer reveal. 


IT ALL STARTED WITH THOSE BOYS
thump-thumping basketballs
up and down Chicago's South Side
in alleys, driveways, and parking lots.
Raw talent and determination in worn-out sneakers
practicing nonstop layups,
all-net free throws,
and sky-high jump shots.

If you've ever seen the Harlem Globetrotters play, you never forget the feeling of watching sheer artistry displayed.  You remember the admiration building inside you as those athletes thought and moved masterfully.  With words recreating the rhythm of moments on and off a court, heightened by action-packed, emotionally and realistically expressive illustrations, readers follow the growth of this team.

The opening and closing endpapers supply on one side photographs and a timeline, on the opposite side, beginning in 1922 and concluding in 2016.  The photographs, different on each set of endpapers, are numbered and identified. There is a page at the end titled More About The Trotters.  There is an Artist's Note and Selected Sources And Credits



ORIGINAL

Building Zaha: The Story of Architect Zaha Hadid (Orchard Books Scholastic Inc., December 1, 2020) written and illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov (Instagram)

Zaha Hadid was a 
thinker and an observer and never
remained still.  As a young girl, 
she loved to explore the mosques
and palaces around Baghdad,
where sunlight streamed
through windows, forming
shadows that shifted
and rippled like water.

Particular events experienced by and choices made by Zaha Hadid are depicted, forming a complete and exciting picture of this extraordinary woman. She was fascinated with the blend of nature and human construction.  She defied what was normal and defined what was possible. 

Within the narrative, quotes about Zaha Hadid and by her make the representation here more intimate and authentic.  Lively, lovely illustrations mirror the person and her accomplishments.  This striking debut as both author and illustrator by Victoria Tentler-Krylov concludes with an author's note, a selected timeline and selected bibliography.