Quote of the Month

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

Monday, July 27, 2015

Attitude Adaptation

Some days are harder than others; they are out-and-out challenging.  You are so down; it's hard to see up.  It's been purposed repeatedly developing an attitude of gratitude makes all the difference even if the silver lining you find is the tiniest of slivers.

Anticipation and expectations can also figure into our perceptions of any given moment.  It's tough when you go into a situation believing it will be one way and everything is seemingly contrary to your assumptions.  Birthday parties are supposed to be fun for everyone.  A kitty in Bernice Gets Carried Away (Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, July 14, 2015) written and illustrated by Hannah E. Harrison (Extraordinary Jane, February 6, 2014) is struggling with her current state of affairs.

It was a horrible, dreary day, and it suited Bernice's mood just fine.

Bernice and a group of friends are attending a birthday party.  Adorned in party hats the animals are chatting and waiting for the pieces of cake to be passed to them.  Bernice is the only one to get a piece without a frosted decoration. Humph!

The other six partygoers manage to snag a frosty drink but not Bernice.  She gets an odd flavor and it's definitely not cold.  When pinata time rolls around our increasingly frustrated cat is on the outside looking at the all the goodies gained by the others.  Double humph!

In a determined move, Bernice races toward as a bunch of balloons on strings being carried toward the celebrating creatures.  In a shocking turn of events, after she grabs them all, she is lifted higher, higher and higher.  Before she even has time to think, the balloons are stuck on the grumpy cloud threatening to rain.

As she looks down at everyone looking up and then looks up, her point of view, now a bird's eye view, transforms her thinking and heart.  Slowly but surely Bernice makes one choice after another choice.  Her actions cause a reaction in the bear, rabbit, fox, pig, goose and turtle.  Enlightening!

Using the storytelling technique of three, Hannah E. Harrison creates a rhythm in her narrative.  Bernice dislikes three incidents during the party before she takes action.  She completes three acts of kindness before another major turn toward the conclusion.  As readers we know something is coming but we're not quite sure what will happen.

Readers can see themselves on their worst days in the character of Bernice.  Each disappointment deepens her grouchy mood.  I find it interesting that rather than continuing to pout or stomping off in a snit, Bernice makes a daring decision.

Although Bernice, paws on hips and scowling, is looking rather cranky on the matching dust jacket and book case, readers might feel compelled to smile or laugh because they are well aware of feeling the same way.  Her expression coupled with the title also raises at least one question.  What is Bernice going to do?  The choice of words opens up more than one possibility.  To the left, on the back, we are given a sneak peek at the resolution with a new illustration. The opening and closing endpapers are in the same shade as the title text on the front.

On the title page Hannah E. Harrison begins her story with a row of animals carrying gifts to the party.  Bernice, happy at the moment, brings up the rear.  Their bright colorful clothing and cheerfully wrapped packages herald a joyful beginning.  Everything changes with a page turn.

The verso and first page showcase a gloomy day.  Bernice, arms crossed, is pouting beneath a tree.  The others are chatting near the table.  Careful readers will see the hint as to the reason for the bluebird's sadness.  All the illustrations, rendered in acrylic paint on Bristol board, are rich in detail; the cranky squirrel living in the tree, the signs around his hole, his artificial turf and lawn ornament, are sure to supply laughter.

The facial looks on all the animals' faces along with their body movements but especially those of Bernice convey every mood.  The background scenes also mirror the emotional temperament of the cat.  They are glorious.  Harrison alters her image sizes from two pages, to single pages edge to edge or framed in white and singular illustrations on a background of pure white.

One of my favorite pictures is a single page image, edge to edge.  All of the guests and the birthday bear are seated around the table.  Everyone has received a piece of cake with an icing rose.  Bernice's eyes are alight with anticipation.  Each rose is a different color coordinating with the hues on the party hats and clothing worn by the animals.   You can almost hear the eager chatter.  It's a sharp contrast to the weather and the next picture.

Written and illustrated by Hannah E. Harrison Bernice Gets Carried Away will have readers laughing at the disparity between her experiences and those of the other birthday party participants.  Through words and pictures we come to understand how lessening one's load can bring joy to others.  Unexpected glee is highly contagious.

To discover more about Hannah E. Harrison and her other work please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  At the publisher's website they share the title page illustration.  Hannah E. Harrison is interviewed at Picture Book Builders by children's book author, Tammi Sauer. Update:  Penguin posted this brand new video on Twitter today (July 30, 2015).  Enjoy.

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