Quote of the Month

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

Monday, September 2, 2013

To Face Your Fears

Having spent more than half my life terrified of storms, it's fairly easy for me to identify with Xena's look of panic when thunders starts to rumble.  Yesterday, after the sun played hide and seek for most of the afternoon, a front quickly passed through our area.  We were both surprised when out of the quiet, a large boom shook the walls of the house.  Xena froze and I checked the radar.

We have sat together on the floor, covered ourselves with a blanket like a tent and one night Xena came up on the bed, lay next to me and I hugged her until the lightning and thunder were finished.  Boom!: Big, Big Thunder & One Small Dog (Disney Hyperion) written by Mary Lyn Ray (Stars) with pictures by Steven Salerno introduces readers to Rosie, a fearless pooch except for one thing.  It's like I always tell my students, everyone has one thing (or more) they wish to avoid at all costs.  It's up to us to provide comfort and understanding.

Although Rosie was a small dog,
she was usually very brave---
just like the boy she knew best.

Nothing fazed this dynamic bundle of energy.  No stuffed tiger toy, no household cats or orangutans pictured in books kept Rosie from being her happy, on-the-go self.  Neighborhood helpers like postal workers, firefighters and law enforcement people (even the sirens) did not fill her with fear, only curiosity.

Some canines go crazy in the car wash with the water shooting in all directions but not this spunky pal.  Some dogs hear the word bath or if you turn on the shower or tub faucet, they will vanish but not this loyal friend.  Rosie was invincible...well almost invincible.

Thunder was not Rosie's friend.  Her boy tried giving her doggy treats, singing and even offering explanations for all those loud...loud...loud sounds but nothing worked.  She knew in her heart of hearts the sky was growling at her.  And the sky was huge.

Every attempt to hide would not keep the sky from seeing her.  Even when Rosie could not see the sky by closing her eyes, she knew it was watching.  Caring for Rosie as he did, the boy knew what to do.  In the coziness of his bedroom in the center, they made a shape with no beginning and no end, a shape formed by love, as the thunder fiercely continued.  Two friends, facing fear...together is better.

It came as no surprise to discover that author Mary Lyn Ray shares her life with a dog.  Her keen observations of canine behavior shine through in her word choices.  Her description of the boy's attempts to ease Rosie's fear, three of which involve food, speak to the soul...er...stomach of most dog's I've known.

He told her it was hot clouds popping like popcorn.

Each portion of the narrative reads like a verse in a poem; vivid, alive and with a subtle beat.

All you have to do is look at the matching jacket and cover to discover the attention to detail noticeable in the work of illustrator, Steven Salerno (Brothers At Bat: The True Story Of An Amazing All-Brothers Baseball Team).  Much like the Boom! in the title, the illustrations are vibrant and full of motion; calling attention to Rosie, her personality and her fear of thunder.  The ISBN bar code on the back has been designed to look like rain falling from a darkened cloud.

The opening and closing endpapers are a pattern of blue sky, black, gray, and white clouds, a shining sun and bolts of lightning.  One of the internal pictures becomes a frame for the title page.  A special touch on the final right-hand side page is a single color visual in response to the Rosie's bark. Brilliant.

Throughout the book, the color palette focuses on primary colors with emphasis on blues.  Salerno's skill in combining gouache, crayon and layering in Photoshop makes his double page, single page and vignettes irresistible.  Readers will completely enjoy the shift in perspective; the opening two pages of Rosie running along with the boy riding his bicycle (all we see is the lower half of the bicycle), the more wide-angle view of all the community people about their work looking at a cat stuck in a tree, Rosie getting a bath zooming in on the tub and her expression, Rosie covering her closed eyes with her paws as the booms surround her and she and her boy in his bedroom.  I have too many favorites in this book to select only one.

Boom!: Big, Big Thunder & One Small Dog written by Mary Lyn Ray with pictures by Steven Salerno is one of those picture books where readers can easily identify with the main character.  With each reading your affection for Rosie grows.  This is a perfect read aloud for addressing fear and how the kindness, friendship and love of another can give you courage.  I can predict multiple requests for reading this again and again.

Embedded in the author and illustrator names above are links to their websites providing additional information about each of them.  Here is a link to illustrator Steven Salerno's blog.  He has written a detailed post on the process of creating the pictures for this title.  It's loaded with artwork.

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