Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Build It Or Bust

Yesterday was the last official day of school for students.  It's a welcome shift for households everywhere.  It's a time to focus more on doing what you enjoy rather than doing what is required, even if you like those required activities.  Friends and family will gather to make the most of every single minute.

It's not unusual to see visible results of imaginations set free in the form of forts or tree houses around neighborhoods in yards or vacant lots.  What About Moose? (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, June 9, 2015) written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez with illustrations by Keika Yamaguchi is about a do-it-yourself project with a know-it-all taking control.  When you think you have the inside edge on your pals, you might find yourself suddenly alone.

Fox met her friends, with her toolbox in hand.  "Time to start building!  Now, here's what I've planned."  

Fox's job assignments for her friends are promptly ignored by Moose racing to the site full of too much energy and too much advice.  Moose has no intention of being a member of this construction team.  He wants to take charge of the work done by Bear, Toad, Skunk, Porcupine and Fox.

Megaphone in hand Moose shouts out orders to each of the animals.  Each time one of the companions asks

"But what about you, Moose?"

he puffs himself up full of importance and continues to criticize the efforts of those working together.  He knows what to do but does nothing except strut and shout.

A bit of frustration and disgust is creeping into the animals' attitudes. Who can blame them?  Moose proclaims their workmanship poor and prods them to a faster finish.

Moose is too focused on the tree house's completion.  You might say he has lost sight of the whole picture.  When the final large piece is plunked into place, Moose finds himself in a peculiar position.  Ingenuity wins the day.

Stories with a distinctive rhythm create words readers remember, the beat reinforcing the narrative.  The collaboration of Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez has fashioned an afternoon of teamwork gone hilariously wrong.  Two line combinations ending in rhyming words supply a pace depending on the page placement.  When the tale reaches a peak, an extra sentence provides an added punch to Moose's problem.  Readers will pause in shock much like Moose.  Here is a sample passage.

"Bear, crank the handle 
to tighten that brace."

"Toad, keep on sanding,
but pick up the pace."

"But what about you, Moose?"
Toad asked with concern. (page turn)

"I'm overseeing," said
Moose, looking stern.

Opening the dust jacket (working with a F & G) readers are treated to a double page illustration with smaller characters, a yellow bird, a mouse and a tiny white rabbit, near Moose's Caution painted box on the left.  To the right we can see Moose in all his bossy glory bellowing through the megaphone as his friends look on with varying degrees of concern and disgust.  The opening and closing endpapers are done in two hues of brown, the lighter outlining an assortment of items used in the construction of the tree house, a hard hat, goggles, a toolbox and a blueprint.   On the title page a startled rabbit jumps in the air after Moose races past.  A mouse watches from a pile of wood, a ladder, a pail and Fox's toolbox.  A hard hat is hanging on the M for Moose.

Rendered digitally the illustrations by Keika Yamaguchi, varying in size from double page images, to groups of smaller pictures on one or two pages and single page visuals, are lively, colorful and filled with emotion.  Humor is depicted in the facial expressions in response to Moose's outrageous demands.  Yamaguchi shifts her perspective, zooming in and out, to match and enhance the cadence of the text.

One of my favorite illustrations covers two pages.  The group, Fox, Skunk, Toad, Porcupine, Bear and Moose have moved the action to the floor of the tree house.  The clothing worn by the animals is enough to make you grin but Toad wearing a hard hat and goggles and operating the drill will have you laughing out loud.  When Bear concentrates it appears he chews on his tongue.

For loads of giggles and grins, a gentle lesson in teamwork and the value of true-blue friends What About Moose? written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez with illustrations by Keika Yamaguchi is a fun-tastic choice for story time.  It introduces steps in simple construction, new vocabulary, and forest animals.  You might want to try it as a reader's theater.

To learn more about Corey Rosen Schwartz, Rebecca J. Gomez and Keika Yamaguchi please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  This page at Corey Rosen Schwartz's site explains the reason she wanted to write this book.  Here is a link to several pages of activities which can be printed.  At the publisher's website you can view several illustrations.  Enjoy the book trailer.

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