Quote of the Month

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

Monday, October 6, 2014

Memorable Mail

The tactile experience of reading a paper book can't be denied; holding the entire volume in your hands while turning the pages plus there's the smell when those very pages are fanned or when the book is first opened.  To read a paper book you need to visit a library or a book shop.  Even if you place an order online, there is an element of waiting, a sense of anticipation.  Reading a paper book is not a click away like reading on a device.  It requires a little bit more.  An article posted April 11, 2013 in Scientific American, The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens, explores issues which will continue to be debated for many years to come.

Similarly communication can be quickly achieved via email, text messages, direct messages on Twitter, messaging on Facebook, pictures on Instagram or through a host of other social networking services.  Correspondence with these, while usually instant, does not have the same feeling of expectancy.  There is no waiting for the postman, checking your mailbox or postal box, or wondering when opening an envelope.  There is still nothing like the joy of discovering an unexpected letter or package.  In a title to be released on November 4, 2014, A Letter For Leo (Clarion Books), author illustrator Sergio Ruzzier gives readers a peek at the life of an amiable, hopeful postman.

Leo is the mailman of a little old town.

No matter what is delivered or to whom, Leo is a welcome visitor each day.  If he sees friends engaged in a friendly game he may pause to play.  He thinks nothing of stopping to chat with neighbors.  Leo has a good life.

There is one thing he wishes he could change.  Leo has never gotten a letter.  Each evening he thinks maybe, just maybe, a letter will come for him tomorrow.

Bright and early one day as he is taking mail from the large postal box, he gets a surprise.  It's not a letter for him but a little bird is trapped inside.  For every question Leo asks, he receives Cheep as a reply.  Not quite sure what to do with this new acquaintance, he decides to take him home.

Leo and Cheep are constant companions, sharing the mail route, meals, getting tucked in at night and the snowy winter.  With spring's appearance sadness settles over Leo.  He knows Cheep is bigger and better able to find his flock.  Good-byes are exchanged.  Leo's good life continues but...Cheep?

Sweet sincerity is found in each simple sentence Sergio Ruzzier has penned for this story.  We have an unseen narrator, Leo's voiced comments and thoughts plus the charming single word of Cheep.  Ruzzier has a way with words making them welcome and warm.

The truly unique style and color palette of Sergio Ruzzier is revealed on the single illustration spanning the front and back of the matching dust jacket and book case.  His blend of muted yellow, purple, and green rolling hills with a turquoise and red hill in the distance provide the perfect backdrop for his whimsical, endearing characters and unusual flora.  We aren't quite sure about the storyline yet but the gentle smiles on Leo and Cheep promise good things.

Ruzzier alternates between double-page and single page, edge to edge, illustrations and numerous loosely-shaped circles and ovals to enhance the impeccable pacing and emotion in this tale.  His lines, using pen and ink, are delicate but deliberate.  The combination of all his talents results in several pictures conveying much to the reader without the use of text.

One of my favorite illustrations of many is when Leo decides to take Cheep home with him.  It's a small circular picture focusing on Leo's upper body with softer shades of the landscape behind him.  Cheep is perched, sitting, on his hat.  Kindness, trust and the happiness of both characters is highly visible.

One of the things about books written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier is they find a way to fill up your heart.  A Letter For Leo reminds us to keep hoping.  Wishes do come true and a longed-for letter will show up when we need it the most.  Ultimately uplifting, this book would be a wonderful opening to a discussion about the value of correspondence and friendships formed from true acts of good will.

To learn more about Sergio Ruzzier please follow the link, taking you to his website, embedded in his name.  More links can be found at a previous review here.  Follow this link to a wonderful interview at Miss Marple's Musings.  Sergio Ruzzier has an article, For the Fear of Failure, in the March/April 2014 The Horn Book Magazine dedicated to illustration.  Below is video filmed for the site Wild Things!: Acts Of Mischief In Children's Literature.  The website corresponds to a book of the same name written by Julie Danielson, Elizabeth Bird and Peter D. Sieruta. And yes, Sergio, I did find the tribute illustrative detail you have hidden in A Letter For Leo.
Updated January 1, 2015: Sergio has created a board on Pinterest for this title. 

Update:  Sergio Ruzzier appeared at Julie Danielson's blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast on November 5, 2014.

Update:  Sergio Ruzzier was interviewed on KidLit TV.

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