Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Where Are They?

I am a dyed-in-the-wool neatnik.  It's possibly the consequence of having a Dad who had all his tools organized by type and size, even engraving his initials on every single one.  My lifetime love, being a school librarian, could weigh heavily in favor of this particular personality trait.  The influence, over decades, of good ole' Melvil Dewey and alphabetical order is hard to shake.

Despite this, there are times when the most used, the most loved, item will turn up missing.  For whatever reason, my mind has one of its Swiss cheese moments. It's good to discover I share this, the forgetfulness not the neatness, in common with a particularly charming little green duck.  Have You See My New Blue Socks? (Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) written by Eve Bunting with illustrations by Sergio Ruzzier takes readers on a comic lost-and-found stroll.

I have lost my new blue socks.

Looking in a box proves futile.  Duck knows, at least he thinks he knows, he put them close.  It's a complete mystery where they could be.

He decides to ask his pal Fox if he has seen his new blue socks.  Fox, knowing Duck well, asks if he has looked in his box.  He also suggests he question Ox about those missing socks.

This is becoming quite the puzzle because Ox has no clue except for inside Duck's box, asking Fox or....wait maybe down by the rocks.  There are plenty there but none are blue.  And blue is exactly how Duck is trying not to feel.

Knowing how the peacocks like to preen and parade Duck thinks they might have passed his lost attire. The three offer a question, sympathy and a solution.  The youngest of the three (and a careful reader) spots the tiniest of clues. Hip! Hip! Hooray!  Duck knew he put them close.

Rhyming couplets and repetition of phrases masterfully conceived by Eve Bunting provide an irresistible beat.  It invites active participation in the reading and the narrative journey. Each turn of page offers new possibilities, building toward a mirthful resolution.

From the matching jacket and cover readers clearly feel the frustration of  Duck having lost his new blue socks.  We also get a sense Duck might not be the best housekeeper either.  The title page featuring a single peacock feather hints at the ending.  A two page illustration, a landscape showing a forlorn duck leaning out the window of his home, follows for the verso and dedication page.

Sergio Ruzzier's adept composition of pen and ink and watercolor pictures done in a palette of delicate blues, greens, yellows, rusts (terra cotta), purple and creams elevates and extends the text.  Fine lines convey personality traits and mood on each of the characters.  Ruzzier's extra touches, those added details, add joy to the story; Duck's unkempt household (items scattered on the floor, hanging from the open window frame and upon the sill), Duck's friend Fox reading a book (Aesop's Fables?) with a plate of grapes from the arbor next to him, Mr. Ox sitting on a bench painting a fruit tree but not quite getting the colors right, the shape of the peacocks bodies, their head and tail feathers and the shoes Duck wears.  Each reading offers new discoveries.

Author Eve Bunting and illustrator Sergio Ruzzier have penned and pictured a precious tale in Have You See My New Blue Socks?  While the story reaching out to readers, the illustrations will pull them in, surrounding them with affection and warmth.  This is one of those books that is best shared, preferably out loud.  It would be fun to extend this with reader's theater or creative drama.

The link embedded in Eve Bunting's name will take you to a series of video interviews at Reading Rockets.  Sergio Ruzzier's official website can be accessed by following the link attached to his name.  Links to several interviews about Ruzzier's illustrative process can be found in a previous review linked here.

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