Quote of the Month

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

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving Treasures-Tradition #5

For the Thanksgiving post this year, I decided to enlarge my tradition by including books newly published in 2015.  My previous four posts focused on books published as long ago as 1994 and as recently as 2013.  Those four posts, Thanksgiving Treasures--Tradition, Thanksgiving Treasures-Tradition #2, Thanksgiving Treasures-Tradition #3, and Thanksgiving Treasures-Tradition #4, feature artists interpretations of people gathering at meals, a Shaker hymn depicted by a Caldecott award winning talent, a mother and daughter question and answer conversation about the most thankful thing, an overabundance of guests in a too-small room, a poem turned song celebrated by a notable artist, a Newbery award winning author addressing her ideas on joy, gratitude and prayer, a wish by a beloved relative and a collection of Native American poems.

The bitter cold temperatures, despite the clear blue sky and sunshine, coupled with the recent snowfall are the superb excuse for remaining inside cozy and content, chatting with family and friends, watching an old favorite movie, or reading a new book.  This national holiday, Thanksgiving Day, is a time to give our attention to those we value most.  It's a reminder of those good things, small and large, which fill our days all year.

Author Eileen Spinelli has paired with first time children's book illustrator Archie Preston to give readers Thankful (ZonderKidz, September 1, 2015).  It's a joyful expression of life's everyday moments.  Playfully presented by children we come to understand the value of an attitude of gratitude.

The waitress is thankful for comfortable shoes.
The local reporter, for interesting news.

A sister and brother are donning clothing either from a dress-up filled armoire or their parent's closet.  Admiration of footwear and a dozing cat create headlines for a grateful reporter.  Seeds poking through dirt in rows, a handy hose, words and the cadence of language and a book make for a happy gardener, fireman, poet and the two siblings.

A painter, a clown, and a doctor appreciate those things most necessary for their success.  After a day of journeying from one point to another, a hotel is a welcome destination.  A dancer and a drummer have more in common than you might imagine.

A preparer of meals, a maker of clothes, a royal ruler and a honey helper salute simple but sometimes necessary pleasures.  Votes, boats, birds and words are showcased by those who cherish them the most. Glitter and glue lead me straight to you.

We follow those hard-working people in service to others, those creative people who express themselves through the arts, those who provide life's necessities, those who govern and rule and those who follow their hearts through hobbies.  Eileen Spinelli places a rhyming word at the end of phrases one and two and starts all over again with the next thoughts.  She lifts us up with her observations.  Here is another sample.

The artist is thankful
for color and light.
The clown, for her costume
silly and bright.

The childlike wonder displayed on the matching dust jacket and book case as a boy and a girl enjoy an autumn day is an introduction to the same positive outlook seen in every illustration throughout this title.  On the back, to the left, an interior image is supplied within a loose circle on the same glowing pale yellow background.  The rich golden orange from the title font on the front is found on the opening and closing endpapers.  A page turn gives us the dedication page with a yawning cat, a personality seen in many of the illustrations. The verso and title pages begin the story of the siblings.

Their portrayal of each of the named twenty people is a splendid interpretation by Archie Preston. His visuals extend the text with charm and humor.  Many elements found in one set of pictures appear later to complete his part in the storytelling.

Loose lines, pastel hues, shading and light and use of white space help his single page, page and one-half and double-page pictures to envelope the reader in sheer delight.  One of my favorite picture sequences is for the words featured above.  The brother, wearing an artist's beret, is painting his sister posed in her ballerina costume on the arm of the sofa in the living room.  Watercolor paints are scattered on the rug and in a box.  A large container of water nearby holds a brush.  He is also holding a brush and artist's palette.  This is a single page, edge to edge, illustration.  On the following page on a background of white, the sister is looking at the finished painting.  He is looking at her with pride.  The painting is what you would expect of someone his age.  It is adorable.

Stepping back in time Sharing The Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story (Schwartz & Wade Books, September 22, 2015) written by Pat Zietlow Miller with illustrations by Jill McElmurry gives readers a look at a family preparing a holiday meal.  Like integral parts on a well-balanced machine fused together with love, they work together.  We begin with Mama.

Mama, fetch the cooking pot.
Fetch our turkey-cooking pot.
Big and old and black and squat.
Mama, fetch the pot.

The pot can't do its job without a fire that's hot.  Papa brings in the wood for the stove.  Dough rises for the bread, gets punched and rises once more for loaves formed by Sister.

The eldest brother works on the cooking turkey making sure it stays moist.  Grandpa and Grandpa lend a hand with traditional treats and sweets. Mashing potatoes and pouring the cider are tasks well-suited to Auntie and Uncle.  Let's not leave out the baby who needs to stay sleeping until the feast is ready to be served.

Place mats are cut and pasted and set on the table.  Once done the younger brother gives a holler to one and all.  It's time to gather, sit and count the blessings.  It's time to reap the rewards of everyone's efforts.  It's time to share the bread.

Whether read silently or aloud the words penned by Pat Zietlow Miller roll sweetly from the printed page into your mind.  Four rhyming lines describe each activity with cheerful satisfaction.  Miller alternates her technique; three like words to one different and two like words to two different.  At the end of three tasks she binds them with another two line rhyme.  Here is another passage.

Mash. Top. Pour. (And rest.)
Food and loved ones. We are blessed.

Unfolding the dust jacket and opening the matching book case, you will feel a slow smile spread over your face as your eyes move from left to right.  The family members numbering nine (the baby is resting) stand in a row holding portions of the Thanksgiving feast ready to bring it to the table.  Rosy, ruddy cheeks and quiet smiles say more than words in this peaceful portrait of a shared accomplishment.  The colors used in the framing for the title cover the opening and closing endpapers.  Rustic red for the first and steel blue for the second; perhaps suggestive of the passage of time, a day spent in working as one.  On the title page three items of food sit upon a mirror image of the title text from the front.  The family dog is looking longingly at all of them.

Rendered in gouache on watercolor paper Jill McElmurry through painstaking research recreates vivid scenes of rooms, clothing and household items from the nineteenth century.  There is an underlying glow in all her images filling single pages, double pages or groups of three smaller illustrations.  Some extend edge to edge.  Others are loosely framed in white.

Readers will stop to seek out the inviting details within each picture; the dog and cat sharing a water dish, resting together or waiting for a bite of food, the shared looks of affection between the mother and father, the flour in the hair of the younger brother helping to make the bread, the grandfather holding the littlest brother so he can stir the berries, and the carved candle holders and high chair for the baby.  Each visual is filled with warmth and affection.  Perspectives shift to further make us feel like participants in this celebration.

One of my favorite illustrations is in the kitchen.  Several members are gathered around the stove as the turkey is being basted.  The dog's tail is thumping in pleasure; eyes closed as the odor is sniffed.  Grandmother and Mama hold pies.  The cat is resting on a top shelf.  Papa is washing dishes but manages to make eye contact with Mama.  Kitchen implements line the walls and shelves.  Soft swirls indicate the smells of home-baked bread, cooking berries, and a turkey nearly ready to eat.

It's a pleasure to recommend both of these titles, Thankful written by Eileen Spinelli with illustrations by Archie Preston and Sharing The Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story written by Pat Zietlow Miller with illustrations by Jill McElmurry, for this holiday season or any time we need to remember to be grateful.  Both are most memorable in text and illustrations and inspiring in their stories.  They are meant to be shared.

To learn more about Eileen Spinelli, Pat Zietlow Miller or Jill McElmurry and their other work please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites. Here is a link to the publisher's website for Sharing The Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story where additional pictures can be viewed.  A Read Aloud & Food Drive Activity Kit has been created for this title.  Pat Zietlow Miller is interviewed at Publishers Weekly.  Jill McElmurry is interviewed at Picture Book Builders.  During PiBoIdMo Pat Zietlow Miller was a guest poster on author Tara Lazar's blog, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them).  This title is highlighted at Jama Rattigan's wonderful blog, Jama's Alphabet Soup.

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