Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Imagining Yourself

Children rarely have to dig as long or as far as do adults.  It's much closer to the surface.  For them within seconds, they are transformed and transported to roles and worlds of their own choosing.  Their minds are free of life's accumulated clutter.  They dream big all day long.

We had several vacant lots on our street when we were growing up.  The one, wooded and tall with weeds, was a paradise for all of us.  As soon as we crossed the boundary, we were no longer within the confines of our neighborhood.  In This Is Sadie (Tundra Books, May 12, 2015) written by Sara O'Leary with illustrations by Julie Morstad a little girl reminds us of the potential of creative imagining.

This is Sadie.
No, not that.  That's a box.
Sadie is inside the box.

To Sadie it's not a box.  To Sadie it's a boat; a big boat traveling across a sea so vast there's nothing but water as far as the eye can see.  There might be land nearby but Sadie is content to ride the waves.

Even before a single soul in her home, other than herself, is awake, Sadie has traveled a distance.  She's quiet until she selects her favorite dress to wear for the day.  Her playmates are not all real.  Some of them are characters from stories.

Sadie selects where she goes and who she becomes, diving, howling, sipping and riding.  She has conversations with those others cannot understand.  She soars gliding on wind currents.

No minute in Sadie's day is wasted.  They are brimming with bits and pieces from her collected thoughts.  They are inspired by the inventiveness of others.

In this story Sara O'Leary has given readers a character to cherish.  Through Sara's words we see a girl who looks at her world, making it larger with her making, doing and being.  The best thing is readers are invited to join Sadie in her adventure with the first three words.

The unseen narrator speaks warmly using informal sentences.  When Sadie talks we are intimately aware of the wonder she finds wherever she goes.  Here is another sample passage.

And then she chooses a dress.
"Don't tell the others," she whispers,
"but you are my favorite."

When you open the dust jacket, the first thing you notice is the delicate flowers filling the field across both sides.  Sadie is featured in her fox mask on the front with her stuffed toy fox companion sitting in the grass in the lower right-hand corner of the back, to the left.  Tiny details like the flower dotting the "i" in Sadie are found throughout this title.  When you flip the dust jacket to the inside one of the gorgeous nighttime scenes from the interior becomes a poster with a quotation from the story.  The book case is identical to the jacket with one exception.  The opening and closing endpapers are a deeper forest green with a triangular three dot pattern in white.

The light, lyrical feel of the words is continued with the title page illustration.  The text letters are hanging from a string across the top.  Beneath this the beloved toy is sleeping in cheery bedding.

Rendered in gouache, watercolor and pencil crayon Julie Morstad's fine lines supply exquisite elements in all the illustrations.  Most of the images extend over two pages but for those smaller pictures or larger ones with a white background, the white gives a new dimension to the colors used.  Morstad depicts playfulness in her visuals in contrast to the narrative.  We read

When it is time to start the day,
Sadie tidies her room.

We see Sadie standing among a pile of clothes on the left.  To the right is her bed nicely made but underneath we see her interpretation of tidy.

One of my many favorite illustrations is of a small hill sprinkled with little flowers.  Slightly off center to the right is a large tree with a rounded top.  Bluebirds have gathered among the branches.  We see Sadie's bare legs dangling through the leaves.  Her red bicycle is leaning against the trunk with her fox sitting in the wire basket. You wish you were one of those bluebirds


with her.

This Is Sadie written by Sara O'Leary with illustrations by Julie Morstad is one of those books where the word delightful immediately springs to mind.  We all need a bit of Sadie in us.  Some of us need more than others.  Read this to a group at story time, one on one or to your neighborhood fox family.  (A baby fox was spotted last week.)  I guarantee your listeners will be checking for wings.

To discover more about Sara O'Leary and Julie Morstad please follow the links attached to their names to access their online presence.  Julie gives us views of two interior images.  Sara has created another space dedicated to this book at Tumblr.  Teacher librarian extraordinaire, John Schumacher, hosted Sara O'Leary on his blog at Watch. Connect. Read.  A link to an activity kit is provided along with the book trailer and a series of questions and answers. Enjoy.  

These two tweets offer more for you about This Is Sadie.  

UPDATE:  Sara  O'Leary is a guest on the podcast, Let's Get Busy, Episode #230 hosted by teacher-librarian Matthew C. Winner

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