Quote of the Month

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

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Bit Of Wonder In Winter

It happens every single year without fail.  In three of the libraries in which I have served one entire wall is a bank of windows.  When the first flakes of snow fall, whether the students are five or fifteen, chairs are pushed back, reading is suspended, computers are abandoned and a collective hush falls over the room as all gather at the windows to watch.  No matter how many times it's seen there is no denying the magic of winter beginning.

Author Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinsky have collaborated in the past to entertain readers with the chapter books, Toys Go Out: Being the Adventures of a Knowledgeable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2006), Toy Dance Party: Being the Further Adventures of a Bossy-Boots Stingray, a Courageous Buffalo, and a Hopeful Round Someone Called Plastic (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2008) and Toys Come Home: Being the Early Experiences of an Intelligent Stingray, a Brave Buffalo, and a Brand-New Someone Called Plastic (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2011).  On September 22, 2015 a picture book, Toys Meet Snow: Being The Wintertime Adventures Of A Curious Stuffed Buffalo, A Sensitive Plush Stingray, and a Book-Loving Rubber Ball (Schwartz & Wade Books) featuring these beloved characters was released.  This trio celebrates the joy of welcoming a new season.

Lumphy is a stuffed buffalo.  StingRay is a plush stingray.  Plastic is a rubber ball.  She can't help it that her name doesn't match her body.

The Little Girl, who is on winter vacation, is the toys' caretaker.  On the window sill the three gaze outside upon a wintry landscape.  Lumphy asks why it snows.  StingRay believes it's an emotional response.  Plastic, the reader of the group, states with certainty that it's a combination of rain and below zero temperatures.

They, with three individual reasons, can hardly wait to get outside.  After donning appropriate attire there is the dilemma of getting the door open.  Hooray!  They're in the snow!

Lumphy thinks the snow has transformed a familiar tree into an entirely new one.  StingRay is sure it's now a sweet treat tree.  The voice of truth, Plastic, confirms it as the original one.  As they continue exploring, Lumphy's curiosity provides more questions.  Replies are beautifully poetic and thoroughly bookish.

With effort and teamwork a snowman takes shapes.  Guess who ends up as the head?  Discoveries by the friends lead to more fun.  As the sun sinks toward the horizon another query prompts a descriptive and tasty comment and one happy surprise.  Cuddled together inside again Lumphy, StingRay and Plastic, now warm and cozy, all agree this day is one to be cherished.

After reading this title, you will want to read the chapter book series whether you have read them before or not.  Emily Jenkins uses language to draw us into this story endearing us to her three characters.  The narrative, told almost solely in conversation, showcases their distinctive personalities which complement their friendship.  Simple sentences, many times in groups of three, supply pacing, reading like a musical score.  Here is one of StingRay's responses.

"A snowflake is a tiny ballerina," says StingRay.  "If you look closely, you can see it dance."

Tiny fingers (and mine too) will enjoy caressing the front dust jacket rendered by Caldecott medalist Paul O. Zelinsky.  The snow on and around the companions is raised and glittery even on the F & G, which I have.  The initial title page takes the outlining color from the text on the front for the font color.  Enlarged snowflakes, no two alike, surround the words.

On the gorgeous two-page image for the title page, the yard is nearly covered in snow.  A fallen leaf and a holly plant are placed in the foreground. The house sets back on the left.  A car, tail lights glowing, is leaving.  Like the master he is, Zelinsky knows how to set the scene for storytelling to start.

Layout, design and illustration sizes are impeccable enriching the written words.  Two-page spreads edge to edge will have readers pausing in sheer delight.  When panels are used across both pages, it's as if they are one single picture flowing flawlessly.  You will want to wrap yourself in the color palette as if it's a blanket.  It captures the essence of winter inside and outside.

One of my favorite illustrations of many is for the words

It is the first snowfall of the year.

The text, in white, is divided with the beginning on the left at the bottom along the window sill and the words, of the year, on the right.  It's a close-up of Plastic, StingRay and Lumphy, in that order from left to right, looking out the kitchen window above the sink.  You can see part of the faucet and a scrubber on the far left side.  StingRay's tail is around Plastic as if in a hug.  The snow is softly coming down, coating the trees like frosting.

The collaboration of Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinsky in Toys Meet Snow has fashioned a cheerful, charming winter tale.  I can't imagine a collection, personal or professional, without this title on the shelves.  I am certain you will want to have a brown buffalo, a turquoise stingray and a red rubber ball on hand when this story is shared over and over again, as children will each want to hold their favorite characters with each reading.  I will most certainly be adding this book to my Mock Caldecott list.

Please follow the links attached to Emily Jenkins' and Paul O. Zelinsky's names to access their websites.  It's a great way to learn more about them and their work.  Additional images can be viewed at the publisher's website.  This creative duo was interviewed at The Compulsive Reader about this title.  Julie Danielson featured Paul O. Zelinsky's artistic process for this book at her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

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