Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Middle

On the first day when you begin working with a new group of students in a storytelling class, panic is heavy in the air.  Most of them, if not all, believe they have to learn a story word for word. Relief floods the room when they are informed this is not the case.  First there is reading, lots of reading to find a tale which speaks to them personally.  Stories choose you.

Then each selected piece is taken down to the bare bones.  You look for the skeleton, the beginning, the middle and the end. What you add makes it your telling of the story.  With this process comes the realization of the difference between memorization and learning by heart.  One Day The End: Short, Very Short, Shorter-than-Ever Stories (Boyds Mills Press, an imprint of Highlights, October 6, 2015) written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich with illustrations by Fred Koehler explores the creation of story.  Everyone has tales to tell.

For every STORY there is a BEGINNING and an END, but what happens IN BETWEEN makes ALL the DIFFERENCE.

Our young protagonist has nine beginnings and nine endings.  Each is marvelously realistic and ordinary.  To get from the identical One day to the final The End are a series of events filled with the delightful details of a day well-spent.

To school, at school and home again are made better with a delish treat.  A squirrel's teasing leads to a disaster averted by keen detective work.  Hours of hide-and-seek, a craft-fest mess and an adventure equal welcome rest, heartfelt hugs and a new feathered friend.

A mission impossible becomes possible.  Trampling away troubles triumphs.  Rub-dub-a-dub a duo in the tub makes for total merriment.  This little girl has a dream and it comes true story by story.

Leaving home and returning, losing and finding, making and giving, and wanting and doing, leave openings for a myriad of opportunities.  Rebecca Kai Dotlich with her simple sentences and carefully chosen words gives us a glimpse into the beauty of telling our stories.  She shows us how we need to tap into our experiences like her character does.

Upon opening the dust jacket and matching book case readers are greeted by a bold golden yellow background filled with the large block letters ONE DAY on the front and THE END to the left on the back.  The other portions of the title are written in smaller script.  The little girl uses the letters as if they are parts of a jungle gym.  On the front she and her dog are raised and glossy.  Her happiness is contagious.  The beginning endpapers are in a soft orange and the closing endpapers are covered in a light brown.

The illustrations, rendered digitally by Fred Koehler, start to extend and enhance the narrative on the title page.  The young girl, nibbling on a cookie, is looking at the reader from the open doorway of her home.  As she takes a variety of detours on her way to school, chasing after her cat with her dog chasing after a squirrel, her escapades begin in earnest.

The ingenuity of Koehler's technique incorporating the text within the images is brilliant.  Tiny items, individual elements and smaller images form a larger whole depicting this child, her brother, cat and dog in constant motion.  The color palette on a matte-finished paper adds to the spirit of the story line.  Everything...yes everything...flows perfectly.

One of my favorite two illustrations is for the text

One day...
I found HIM! 
The end 

On the first two pages the little girl is sitting in a swing reading a book as her dog, nearby, is eyeing a squirrel.  A blue ball with yellow stars forms the "O" in One day.  Then the dog plays with the ball and swims in a kiddie pool.  The squirrel leads him on a race right out of the yard.  The pooch does have to dig a hole to continue pursuit.  With a page turn the girl follows the pawprints which form found.  Guess who's curled up and sound asleep inside the circle of the "d" in found?

One Day The End: Short, Very Short, Shorter-than-Ever Stories written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich with illustrations by Fred Koehler is a fantastic tribute to creativity.  It demonstrates how highlighting the little (and not so little) everyday things in our lives can be great fun for others.  There is something for every age in this book.  One day I read this book.  I read it over and over.  You should too. The End.

To find further information about Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Fred Koehler please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Rebecca Kai Dotlich was interviewed on The Picturebooking Podcast, Episode 028.   Fred Koehler was featured in an article in The Ledger.  John Schumacher, Scholastic's Ambassador for School Libraries, included this title as one of his best books of 2015 as early as May at Watch. Connect. Read.

UPDATE:  February 22, 2016 Rebecca Kai Dotlich is interviewed by author Dianne White at ReaderKidz.