Quote of the Month

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

Monday, May 26, 2014

To Follow Your Heart

Some decisions require lengthy deliberations, vocal or mental, accompanied by a list of pros and cons.  Other decisions need to be made in a split second.  There are also those choices despite the reasoning in your mind; you go with the convictions in your heart.

As a young bird, any bird, your first thoughts after food might turn toward the art of flying.  After all, it provides you with a means of transportation, safety and gaining a view of the world few ever see.  Whether they are fiction or nonfiction there is an uplifting joyfulness to the work of author illustrator Lita Judge.  Her newest release, Flight School (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, April 15, 2014)) will send the hearts of readers soaring.

"I was hatched to fly," said Penguin.
"When do classes start?"

Penguin has zipped by outboard motor and rowboat from his home in the South Pole to the nearest flight school.  It's here that birds are given lessons allowing them to take to the air.  When Teacher gently reminds him he is a penguin he responds---

"Undeniable," said Penguin, "but I have the soul of an eagle."

Reluctantly the instructors allow Penguin to participate in the lessons.  First there is much flapping to gain heights.  This is followed by running starts.  Weeks pass with Penguin as eager as the next bird.

The big day arrives when the pupils are given permission to make their first flight.  When others lift and glide on the air currents, Penguin plunges into the depths of the water.  Dreams crushed, Penguin realizes the only thing to do is head home.

He really believed with the soul of an eagle he could rise into the wild blue yonder.  A shout brings Penguin back to the shore.  A cheerful heart is contagious encouraging the most glorious ideas.  Happy with the outcome, Penguin, a little later, comes back with a big surprise.

With the first conversational exchange between Penguin and Teacher Lita Judge introduces three elements into her story, hope, compassion and gentle humor.  Regardless of his body's characteristics Penguin chooses to pursue his dream.  Teacher and Flamingo even knowing Penguin's chances of flight are impossible allow him to be a part of their class.  We readers know without even turning a page the outcome.

Lita Judge, in this story, has created characters we view with affection.  They mirror those best parts in all of us.  Like a warm hug, the optimism in this narrative envelopes readers.

In this title, rendered in Judge's masterful watercolor and pencil illustrations, we initially feel drawn to the penguin on the matching dust jacket and book case wrapped in fishing line and feathers, sporting a pair of red goggles. The edge-to-edge illustration on the verso and title page begin the story as Penguin speeds away in his boat, riding in the bow toward flight school. Most of the remaining pictures cover both pages similarly but to accentuate a portion of the story she uses single pages or frames a visual in a loose line.

A pale glowing golden background adds to the joyous spirit in this tale.  Warm shades of brown, cream, orange, and yellow with a splash of red continue the sense of charming comfort.  Even her blues and greens shine.  Altered perspective draws the reader into each scene; flight practice, Penguin plunging into the water, and Flamingo's reaction to his return.

My favorite illustration is Penguin running down the beach decked out in the fishing line, feathers and his red goggles.  The jubilation on his face and in his body posture is endearing.  The legs of Flamingo, Teacher and the small friend in pursuit say a great deal about the tenderhearted bond which has grown between him and them.

If you are looking for a title about dreaming the impossible dream look no further than Flight School written and illustrated by Lita Judge.  It presents readers with a cast of lovable characters who look on the bright side of life.  Sometimes we truly need the help of our friends to keep our heart full; we gladly extend this goodness to others.

For more about his book and Lita Judge please follow the link embedded in her name to her official website.  She is asking educators to help her with ideas for using this book in the classroom.  Here is a link to an earlier interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast hosted by Julie Danielson.

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