Quote of the Month

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

Friday, May 29, 2015

Storing Up Stories

Readers are keenly aware of the books they keep in their personal space.  Whether they have one set of shelves or several bookcases, each title read or unread is like a treasured friend.  Regardless of whatever organizational system is used, if one should become misplaced, the reader knows.

Like all good friendships, it's important to stay connected.  Where Are My Books? (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, May 12, 2015), a debut title both written and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi is full of questions.  It's a mystery waiting to be solved.

Spencer loved books.
His favorite bedtime book was Night-Night, Narwhal.  

He could even read it aloud.  It had a special place on his bookshelf.  He knew it would always be there.

It was quite a shock when he woke up one morning to discover it was missing.  It was nowhere to be found.  Bedtime simply wasn't the same without Night-Night, Narwhal.  Tenacious Todd could not take the place of his beloved book.

Spencer was doubly surprised the next day to find Tenacious Todd was absent from its spot.  One by one his books were disappearing until there was only one left.  His father and mother were no help.  They were as puzzled as Spencer was.

It had to be his little sister.  She must be taking his books.  Her startled cries at his accusation dispelled that theory.

Determined to solve the missing title trouble, Spencer devised a plan.  He attached his best toy buddy to his last paged pal.  In the morning he took off running after the book bandit with his stuffed narwhal trailing behind the rascal.  What Spencer saw filled him with astonishment.  Like a true lover of books and reading, he knew exactly what to do.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi quickly engages readers in her story with the first five sentences.  We know Spencer loves books, especially one specific book.  With the next three words,

Until one morning...

we know there is going to be a definite escalation in the action.  With each subsequent theft, we are right beside Spencer trying to figure out what is happening to his books.  By naming each title, it's as personal for us as it is for Spencer.  Ohi uses words like tenacious, vanished and vowed asking readers to explore meanings.  This all leads to an ending which is sure to elicit a sigh and a smile.  Here is a sample passage.

That evening, he chose Tenacious Todd.  
It was okay.
But Todd was a toad, and toads were amphibians, and amphibian
books were supposed to be for right-after-lunch story time.

The bright, bold colors seen on the identical dust jacket and book case are just a hint of the joy reflected throughout the book.  Careful readers will see a familiar character on the front beneath Spencer's bed.  The look on his face tells us precisely what he is feeling, surprise and dismay.  There is a tiny head with the same expression on the book spine.  On the back, to the left, in a loosely framed oval Spencer is kneeling, reading his favorite book as his smiling sister tugs on his pajamas patterned with narwhals.

On the pale yellow endpapers, complementary to the hues on the jacket and case, we see a small Spencer, looking distressed, dressed in his day clothes hugging his narwhal in the lower, right-hand corner and in the lower, left-hand corner at the end, he, dressed in his pajamas, is happily embracing his book.  His new friends are dancing and laughing around him.  An utterly upset Spencer has his hand to his forehead as he looks at the text on the title page.

Digitally rendered the illustrations vary in size and perspective to extend and enhance the narrative.  Bold, black lines encase cheerful shades.  To create texture Ohi fades the background elements drawing our attention to a portion of the image first.  Then we carefully look at all the wonderful details.

Her pictures tell a story in addition to the text.  We don't read about the items left in place of each missing book, but they are clues.  When Spencer is chatting with his parents outside, his father is gardening as his mother, donning a tool belt, is building a bird house.  She's also looking inside an empty jar.

One of my favorite illustrations is for the words,

It was time for a new plan.

It covers two pages.  It's a close up of Spencer, feeling remorseful, and his now happy sister sitting on a blanket having a tea party.  Readers will again notice the inclusion of well-known book friends.  Spencer's mom is looking down on them with a slight frown.  The three characters are featured in vibrant colors.  The yard, flowers, bushes, trees, leaves and fence are slightly lighter.  The blanket and tea party guests are the lightest.  I really enjoy this layering effect.

Hand Where Are My Books? written and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi to lovers of books and reading, mysteries, surprises and laughter.  As well as being a fantastic read aloud, I think this would be a great title to use in a reader's theater or a puppet show.  Congratulations Debbie Ridpath Ohi on your first book.  It's a gem.

To discover more about Debbie Ridpath Ohi please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  She has another website, Inkygirl.com, dedicated to the art of writing and illustrating in the field of children's literature.  More interior images from the book can be viewed at the publisher's website.  Debbie has been a guest and answered questions recently at Picture Book Builders, Andrea Skyberg|Author & Artist, November Picture Book Month A Celebration!, and The Little Crooked Cottage. Enjoy the book trailer!

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