Quote of the Month

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

Friday, July 4, 2014

To Go, To Arrive

A single word can be laden with meaning.  It can be interpreted differently depending on the situation and the tone of voice in which it is spoken.  In several languages bidding someone farewell is akin to a blessing.  Adios is a contraction of an earlier phrase meaning I commend you to God; some feeling it is more formal than Hasta luego or Hasta manana (See you later or See you tomorrow). In its original form goodbye meant God be with you.

No matter the meaning or how it is said, goodbye is edged initially with sadness; either you or someone else is leaving.  When the choice to go is not yours it's even harder; in some cases an act of bravery.  Bad Bye, Good Bye (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 1, 2014) written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Jonathan Bean is about going from the familiar into the unknown; frightening or exciting or a little bit of both.

Bad day
Bad box
Bad mop
Bad blocks

Moving day has arrived.  A little boy and his younger sister are angry and sobbing.  They will do anything to hinder the loading of the truck.  The ride following the van and the movers is not starting off well.  Rain pouring from a dark cloudy sky does nothing to help the situation.

Views during travel change; city to country, country to city.  Mom and Dad trade places driving; everyone napping when they can.  Maps, rest stops, a motel and games mingle with the journey. Two days distance the foursome from the past transporting them into a new future.

Sunset comes and shadows grow as the headlights from the family's car shine down a new street.  Men unload the furniture and boxes.  The boy explores.  Four-legged friends greet, two boys meet, fireflies and a night sky signal a shift.

A wizard with words, Deborah Underwood, conveys volumes with her simple rhyming text.  With each reading the mood conveyed with her narrative never changes; we travel from one community to the next as the boy's spirits alter from despondent to hopeful.  I've read this at least five times.  Each time I can sense a feeling of lightness growing as the family gets closer to their destination; peaking with the compilation of pages on their arrival.  The technique Underwood uses is the repetition of the word new in contrast to the word bad at the beginning.  It works wonderfully with her in-between choices.

Extending from flap edge to flap edge, the dust jacket expressively displays, in seven images of the family car, the literal and emotional transition.  Using ink and Prismacolor tone throughout Jonathan Bean creates truly memorable artwork.  As you look at each image the characters' facial expressions change, the weather changes and so does the color palette.  The opening endpapers are done in a solid steel blue-gray.  A sunny golden yellow covers the closing endpapers.

Bean begins his pictorial story, interpretation, on the title page with the boy and his ever-present pooch pal scowling at the man picking up his box of toys.  As a background for many of the visuals Bean has drawn in black and white, looking like shaded sketches in pencil or ink, additional elements.  It's an incredible layered effect.  (Please go to his featured post at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast to see his process along with artwork.) Two words which beautifully sum up his two-page illustrations for this title are movement and mood.

The placement of details within each scene adds to the range and depth of emotion conveyed.  The boy's dog pulling on his shirt as he pulls on the pants and legs of the movers, the smeared red ink on the SOLD sign in the rain, the partial name of a town on a water tower, a grain elevator among the golden wheat phrase, the Dog Walk sign at the rest area, a female truck driver and moths about an outside light all contribute to a realistic enhancement of the text.  Another important factor is perspective with Bean choosing to bring readers into a moment by zooming in or providing a more panoramic view to convey the extent of the change.

One of my favorite images is of the two boys sitting together in the tree with the night wrapped around them like a comforting blanket, fireflies blinking everywhere.  Our boy is holding a jar filled with lightning bugs; the two having shared their first tiny adventure together.  The new boy's Mom is standing outside their home looking off the page perhaps chatting with her new neighbors.  It illuminates the words:

Good tree
Good sky

To help children who are moving, for others to understand how moving felt for their new friends and for adults to realize the emotional significance of a move, Bad Bye, Good Bye written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Jonathan Bean is absolutely brilliant.  You, as the young boy is, will be emotionally transformed.  I will be placing this title on my Mock Caldecott 2015 list.

Please follow the links embedded in the author's and illustrator's names to access their websites.  Elizabeth Bird, New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collection Specialist and blogger at A Fuse #8 Production alerted me to an interview post by Deborah Underwood linked here. The people at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have made a Bad Bye, Good Bye Tips for a Good Move with Kids page.  I'm pretty sure my love of books written by Deborah Underwood was enhanced by an earlier interview at Watch. Connect. Read. hosted by teacher librarian John Schumacher.

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