Quote of the Month

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

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Gentle Giant In Hiding

They might be found under a bed, in the closet or only in your head.  Mostly big and tall, they're not very scary at all.  If one should flee (they do like to explore), don't worry.  They're fairly easy to see.

Some are red. Some are blue.  Some are yellow.  Some are a mix and match of one or more hues.  In a companion title to the popular, Have You Seen My Dragon (Candlewick Press, April 8, 2014) author and illustrator Steve Light invites us on an amusing adventure.  His young character is in search of her purple pal in Have You Seen My Monster? (Candlewick Press, April 7, 2015).  With the introduction of each possible place, we come to learn about this monster's likes, county fairs and shapes.

Have you seen my monster?
No?  Maybe he's already at the fair. 

As the little girl stands outside the entrance, her monster is hitching a ride on a vendor's cart, passing under a blue sign.  Will she spot him spinning among statuesque steads?  He might be in the food tent given his appetite for sweet treats.

Is that him wandering among the giggling gals and guys in a house with mirrors, whirling wheels and ladders?  Maybe he's looking for someone as hairy as he is.  He'll need to walk gently among the unhatched newborns and through the farm animal pens.  Let's twirl up high, to see if he can be seen.

Tractors and trucks might be an attraction but so can sliding with speed.  Is that him racing and weaving among the bumper cars?  Let's go round and round to the tip top, hoping to spy the merry monster.

He's very clever.  Perhaps he took first prize in a competition.  Is he marching to music?  Is he waiting for a big ding? It may be he is nestled with some stuffed animal friends.  There is now a sliver of moon in the sky.  A monster is needed to walk hand in hand with a friend.

Summer heralds the arrival of traveling carnivals and county exhibitions but with the words of Steve Light, we can enjoy the experience any time of the year.  Most children in the company of their parents value the addition of their own personal monster elevating the fun of the fair.  For those unfamiliar with the sights and sounds to be found, Light takes us on a tour through a series of simple queries and observations by the little girl.

In this hunt fashioned with words by Light we are looking for a cherished companion and forms.  For each of the visited spots, a shape is highlighted with text and color. Here is another sample passage.

Maybe he went to see 
the livestock.  I hope he
doesn't scare the animals.


You'll want to step right into the pages of this book once you've seen the illustration spanning the front and back of the dust jacket.  With no stretch of your imagination you'll hear the call of the merchants and ticket sellers along with the music of the carousel mingled with the laughter and screams of the riders.  The Ferris wheel crosses the spine joining other tents, a merry-go-round, a gigantic roller coaster and the flying chair ride.  On the book case the purple of the monster provides a background for the black outline drawings of the little girl and her buddy at a tea party and playing dress-up.  On the opening and closing endpapers, Steve Light has drawn a map in black on white with red arrows tracing the path the monster and girl take through the fair.  At each place a different color indicates the shape showcased.  A compass rose is in the upper left-hand corner.  In the lower right-hand corner framed in carnival decor are the girl and her monster, hands raised in joy.

With a page turn the little girl is playing beauty parlor placing ribbons in the monster's hair on the verso page.  Opposite, in full color, she rides piggy-back on his shoulders next to and under the title.  Rendered in 

ink using a Mont Blanc 149 with a B nib that *flips* to a fine line...then colored using Platinum Mix Free inks

the twenty illustrations are spread over two pages each, edge to edge.

Done entirely in black and white the details are elaborate and intricate.  The perspective is altered depending on the vantage point of the girl.  Readers will need to turn the book to view a vertical picture as the girl uses all her muscles.  Positioning of the girl and the monster is astutely done, so they are never too far from one another.  Spot color is used to identify the shapes within the illustrations.  In the upper right-hand corner of each image Light has placed the form in white on a black rectangle naming it.  

One of my favorite illustrations is beneath the tent riding the dodgem cars.  You are well aware of the activities on the outside but your eyes are drawn to the motion on the floor, the bumping and racing.  The faces on the children show disappointment, happiness and determination.  Our monster is running away from one particular driver with a glint in his eyes.

Have You Seen My Monster? written and illustrated by Steve Light welcomes reader participation.  It's a day at the fair.  It's a search for a missing but not so missing monster.  It's a shift in point of view looking for small shapes in larger places.  With much to relish on these pages, this title will have the loved look quickly.  As a read aloud it will make for a lively story time.

To appreciate more about Steve Light and his work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  This link will take you to the Penguin Random House website to view interior images.  A completely different picture is available at the Candlewick Press site.  They have also created an activity kit.
UPDATE:  Steve Light was a guest at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast hosted by author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson.

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