Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Triumphant Twenty-Six

You can see it on their faces; the joy felt in the mastery of the alphabet song.  When you say the first letter attached to the well-known first note, children begin singing immediately.  Once learned it's a tune available in our memory banks for instant recall.

These twenty-six symbols represent more than we can imagine.  They are the keys to locks on doors not yet made. Author illustrator Tad Hills (How Rocket Learned to Read, Schwartz & Wade, July 27, 2010 and Rocket Writes a Story, Schwartz & Wade, July 24, 2012) has recently released another delightful treat in R is for Rocket: an ABC book (Schwartz & Wade, July 7, 2015).  Rocket, his pals and a character from other Tad Hills' books don't want to miss telling readers about the astonishing alphabet.

Rocket and his friends have fun learning the alphabet.

Rocket finds acorns.

Owl draws an angry alligator.

Readers will see Bella with a familiar ball.  Owl knows how crows crave collectibles.  Emma enthusiastically digs and discovers an egg-cellent object.  Why is Fred in the field at night?

Gathered in conversation, the group fails to notice someone in the grass.  What does attire for heads and green items have in common?  You'll have to ask Bella and Rocket.  Owl is jazzed about kindly winds.

Rocket enjoys reading a lovely note as an insect leans near to hear.  Fred meets a friend.  Owl needs seaside encouragement and Bella gears up for the occasion.  It only makes sense to have Rocket and Owl partnering to be productive.

Shhh... our nighttime frequent flier is not quitting but recovering in the silence of the day.  Two terrapins travel toward a talented bird.  Someone needs the ultimate weather protection.

As the end nears the duo, Rocket and Bella, take action and ask a question.  Notes from a musical instrument ring out in the woods as Yellow Bird offers an opinion.  Readers agree, from a to z, these animals are as busy as the proverbial bee; you'll see.

Using one, two or three statements, a question or a conversational observation Tad Hills introduces the letters of the alphabet and reinforces their use.  His use of alliteration makes the sentences fun to read aloud.  I enjoy new words for younger readers like frolics, prefers, zest or zeal.  In conjunction with the other words, their meaning will be easy to decipher.  Here are two more sentences.

Rocket finds a hat on a hill and puts it on his head.
It makes him happy. 

When readers look at the matching dust jacket and book case, they will find comfort in the return of beloved characters.  A willingness to work together is unmistakable in their presentation of the title.  On the back, to the left, Rocket sits alone on a hill with a hat on his head. When unfolding the jacket, readers are in for a surprise, a Rocket-style surprise.  The color used for the Rocket text on the jacket and case is the background hue for the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page, the tiny but tremendous teacher, chalk in hand, gazes at a chalkboard filled with upper and lower case letters of the alphabet placed on an easel in the meadow.

In all kinds of weather, day or night, the setting is the familiar woods and fields frequented by Rocket and his companions.  Rendered in oil paint, acrylic, and colored pencil Tad Hills continues to create characters you wish you could meet in your very own woods and fields.  Their expressive, wide eyes convey a range of feelings.  A tilt of head, outstretched arms or a hand, and legs lifted or running invite us to join them.  Most of the images cover two pages but Hills pauses the pace with smaller oval pictures framed in white.  He does offer another surprise with a page turn.  Tilt the book to see.  When a specific letter is being addressed it will appear in bold.

Xena's favorite illustration is of Emma digging.  Only her head and a little bit of her shoulders are visible above the hole.  Mounds of dirt are placed around her.  Opposite this, a patch of daisies covers the right page.  One of my favorite pictures is of Bella, the squirrel, ready to play in the ocean.  She is wearing a stripped inner tube, red water wings, and a blue snorkel and mask.  It's not something you would expect to see on a squirrel.  Tad Hills does know how to make us smile and endear his characters to his readers.

R is for Rocket written and illustrated by Tad Hills is an adorable addition to the Rocket books.  It walks us through Rocket's world, engaging us in an assortment of activities and events as well as the feelings of his friends.  I'm adding it to my collection.  I know you will want to do the same.

To learn more about Tad Hills and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name taking you to his website.  At the publisher's website they give you a peek at several interior pages.   There are different images on their Flickr pages.  A video with Tad Hills is showcased below.

Update October 7, 2015 Enjoy this video with Rocco Staino interviewing Rocket and Tad Hills on KidLit TV.

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