Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Nighty, Night...Sleep Tight...Or Not

There is one thing which will get a child through thick and thin.  It will get them through a week of school with homework every single night.  It will get them through parental requests and requirements, cleaning their rooms, making their beds and brushing their teeth, every single day.  When they see this on the horizon, their whole world is a glass half full.

Spending the night with a friend is one of those events when the realization exceeds the anticipation.  Those treasured hours chatting, laughing, telling stories, watching television or movies or playing games are sacred childhood memories.  In Sleepover with Beatrice & Bear (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, August 7, 2014) written and illustrated by Monica Carnesi a solution is sought by one kind and clever friend.

Beatrice and Bear met on a clear spring day.

Like some first time meetings, an innocent blunder brought them together.  The erring party quickly made amends.  They did what bosom buddies do in the awakening world after winter.

Rain or shine they continued to enjoy activities with one another through summer and into autumn.  One day Beatrice looked and looked for Bear.  He was nowhere to be found.  Squirrel informed the baffled bunny Bear was off to hibernate.

At first sweet Beatrice thought hibernate was a place to visit.  Squirrel again set her straight.  You can't imagine her joy at discovering hibernate is a long nap in winter.  Guess who's packing her suitcase lickety-split?

However her happiness is short-lived.  A disappointed Beatrice simply couldn't share this seasonal snooze with her friend no matter how hard she tried.  She thought and thought.  She questioned and questioned.  Then this friend had a plan.  There was more than one way to enjoy the snow and ice with her pal Bear.

Very simple narrative sentences, conversational exchanges and voiced thoughts written by Monica Carnesi tell this charming tale of Beatrice and Bear.  These quickly reveal to readers the kindness of each character; their willingness to invest one hundred per cent in this growing friendship.  The optimism of the spirited Beatrice is contagious.  You can feel your love for her and her friend Bear grow page by page.

As soon as you open the matching dust jacket and book case, the personalities of Beatrice and Bear are evident; Bear is more easygoing of the two.  Beatrice, like her natural counterparts in the wild, is happily hopping and ready to go.  Dusty blue opening and closing endpapers are covered in etched carrot pairs and hives with buzzing bees.  No space is wasted by Monica Carnesi; her story begins on the title page introducing us to Beatrice standing among her gardening tools.  A page turn has her looking dumbfounded beneath the verso as Bear (on the first page) sits crushing carrot tops in her garden gazing at a bee hive in the nearby tree.

Rendered in brush and Windsor & Newton black India ink with Sennelier and Windsor & Newton artist watercolors and Prismacolor pencils on Fabriano Artistico extra white 140 pound hot pressed paper, these illustrations increase the meaning of the text.  Fine expressive lines, soft background colors and brush strokes and delicate details on facial expressions not only depict the affection these two have for each other but heighten our attachment to them.  Carnesi shifts between double page spreads, single pages, loosely lined smaller visuals and framed panels with elements overlapping those lines to create an impeccable pace.

More than once she makes use of speech bubbles for emphasis.  Tiny items raise our interest; the bird they watched in the spring becomes a drawing in the cave during the beginning of their sleepover, the water wings on Beatrice when they go swimming, Beatrice's map to Bear, the carrot fabric on Beatrice's blanket and her small toy bunny.  My favorite illustrations are the sequence of Beatrice and Bear sleeping in the cave.  Well...Bear is sleeping and Beatrice is trying.  You can't help smiling at these two moving around; one sound asleep and the other wide awake.

I can't imagine a collection of friendship books without this title.  Sleepover with Beatrice & Bear written and illustrated by Monica Carnesi is one of those huggable books.  Beside friendship it could be used to discuss hibernation, the seasons, perseverance and ingenuity.  Get out your bear, rabbit and squirrel puppets for a story hour filled with joy and warmth.

You will be glad if you follow the links embedded in Monica Carnesi's names to access her website and blog.  She includes fun stuff and a teacher's guide at her website.  On her blog is a series of posts about the process for making Sleepover with Beatrice & Bear.

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