Quote of the Month

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

Monday, February 29, 2016


Upon finishing a book impacting you profoundly, more times than not, you feel an urgent need to talk with someone else who has read the book.  At the very least you have to express your feelings as soon as possible.  Seventeen days ago I finished the new novel Pax (Balzar + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, February 2, 2016) written by Sara Pennypacker with cover and interior illustrations by Caldecott Medalist, Jon Klassen.  Overcome with the effects of this book, I sent out this tweet.

Thoughts, questions and emotions swirled around in my head.  I reached out to an author friend, Victoria J. Coe ( Fenway and Hattie G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House, February 9, 2016) in the form of email conversations.  She gave me invaluable insights from an author's perspective.

It became abundantly clear a reread of the book was absolutely necessary.  Yesterday I read Pax again, marking specific portions of text and taking written notes for each chapter.  Without hesitation it can be said this book will remain in your mind and heart always for reasons each reader brings with them before they read a single word.

The fox felt the car slow before the boy did, as he felt everything first.  Through the pads of his paws, along his spine, in the sensitive whiskers at his wrists.  

These are the first two sentences of many filling the two hundred seventy-six pages following a singular journey taken by the fox, Pax, and his boy, Peter. Beginning with Pax and concluding with Peter we mark the days through their voices in alternating chapters.  When the car finally stops, their lives, as they both understand them, will change.  So will they.

Five years ago shortly after his mother died in an automobile accident Peter found the fox kit, orphaned and alone; barely alive among his deceased siblings.  Now at twelve years old Peter has been ordered by his father to abandon the fox in the wild.  Peter has to go live with his grandfather.  War is coming to their portion of the country and his father has enlisted.

Peter gets Pax to leave them by playing a game of fetch with a toy soldier.  In this game, Pax gets the soldier and waits for Peter to come to him.  This time Pax waits and Peter does not come.  Pax hears the doors slam shut and the car speed away.

Realizing deep in his being the mistake he made in leaving Pax, Peter does not spend the first night sleeping at his grandfather's home.  He is determined to cross the three hundred miles back to the place where Pax was left.  After filling his backpack with essential items he leaves that night.

Amidst the preparations for war, evacuations and the growing number of troops in encampments, Peter travels toward Pax as the fox waits for his return.  Neither of them is prepared for the events they will endure and the people and the animals they will encounter.  They will each do what needs to be done to survive, knowing they must be together.

Readers are introduced to Vola, a war veteran with a prosthetic leg, living alone in the country.  Through an accident she and Peter establish a bond which heals and helps them both physically and emotionally.  A young vixen, Bristle, her younger brother, Runt and an older fox, Gray, develop a relationship which initially seems unlikely given their histories.

The sense of urgency felt in the first chapter never leaves as the pace continues to quicken and the suspense grows chapter by chapter.  Days of separation between the fox and his boy turn into one week and then two.  Exquisitely woven into their stories are themes of generational parental anger, grief, the definition of family, the art of comprise, forgiveness, what is done for the sake of love and the effects of war (before, during and after) on everyone and everything.  The conclusion will stun you.  You will continue to have questions.  You will come to understand you have read perfection.

For anyone, at any age, who has felt the unbreakable tie with an animal, the first chapter written by Sara Pennypacker will, I believe, cause them to pause.  It will grip you and hold fast.  Then you will take huge gulps of the story at a time compelled by defining episodes from the past blended into the present narrative.

Pennypacker's writing is explicit and elegant.  Our minds are held to the exact place, time, emotions and movements of the characters.  Portrayals of Pax's days are true to life, supported by research and the counsel of a biologist and wildlife tracker specializing in the red fox.  The conversations between Peter and his grandfather, father and Vola are realistically heartrending and heartwarming.  Personally after reading the thoughts of Pax and Peter I found myself cheering for them, wanting to embrace them for their courage and loyalty.  Here are some sample passages.

When his paws were cleaned, he curled them up under his chest to wait.  The morning air pulsed with the noises of spring.  The long night before, they had alarmed Pax.  The blackness had quivered with the rustle of night prowlers, and even the sounds of the trees themselves---leaves unfurling, sap coursing up new wood, the tiny cracklings of expanding bark---had startled him over and over as he waited for Peter to return.

Pax had been born with the same instinct as well, but distrust is no match for kindness administered consistently and unmeasured, especially in creatures new to the world.

"I have more than everything I need." Vola sat. "I have peace here.
"Because it's so quiet?"
"No.  Because I am exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing.  That is peace.  Eat."

At that, Peter felt suddenly exhausted, as if he'd been holding himself rigid for years.  He had been on his own for so long.
Vola studied him.  "Oneness is always growing in the world, boy.  Two but not two.  It's always there, connecting its roots, humming.  I can't be a part of it---that's the price I pay for taking myself away.  But you can be.  You can vibrate with its heartbeat.  You may be on your own.  But you won't be alone.

The richness of the limited color palette selected by artist Jon Klassen for the dust jacket is earthy and warm like the smell of fur kissed by the sun. (I am seriously thinking of buying another copy just so I can frame the entire image revealed when opening the jacket.)  Underneath the book case is a deep forest green with embossed grasses, flowers, Peter and Pax.  The boy is running from the back, left, to the fox on the front that is leaping to him.  Only Pax and the text are filled with copper-colored foil.  

Within the body of the book Klassen has meticulously placed eloquent black and white images; some single pages, others smaller insets and two spanning double pages.  These illustrations illuminate particular and integral portions of the story.  Each of the chapter numbers is placed inside either a small black picture of the head of Pax or Peter.  One of my favorite illustrations is of Pax and Runt curled together in sleep.  There is another I love but...

Pax written by Sara Pennypacker with illustrations by Jon Klassen is one of those novels you read that will leave a mark on your memory.  Years later you will not forget how you felt when you finished it, even if you don't recall all the details.  You will remember that this book made you think, ask questions and deeply care for the characters.  And...you will read it more than once.

If you desire to learn more about Sara Pennypacker and Jon Klassen please follow the links attached to their names to access their website (Tumblr) pages.  At the publisher's website you can read an excerpt from the book.  A website dedicated to the book has been created.  Here is a link to a discussion guide perfect for group readings or individuals who wish to expand their thinking.  There have been numerous interviews with Sara Pennypacker about Pax; Publishers Weekly Cover Reveal: Pax, Publishers Weekly Pennypacker Supports New Novel at Fall Regionals,  NPR All Things Considered  Left To Fend For Himself, 'Pax' The Fox Must Find His Human Friend, and School Library Journal War Through a Child's---and a Fox's---Eyes:  Sara Pennypacker on Her New Novel, Pax|Under the Covers.  

UPDATE:  Jon Klassen stopped at Brightly: Portraying Pax in Pencil: A Q & A with Illustrator Jon Klassento talk about creating the artwork for Pax.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Far From Ordinary

More than thirty years ago a tale was told which found a place in my repertoire of spooky stories.  It's about an ordinary town, much like our (your) town, where an ordinary family lives.  The parents are ordinary as are their children.  They live in an ordinary house on an ordinary street lined with other ordinary houses.  BUT...

The extraordinary thing about this family and their home is it's right next door to the local cemetery.  At this point listeners lean in a little closer, making a tighter circle.  This is exactly what we do when we're hooked on a good book.   We lean into the story by wrapping ourselves literally in a cozy blanket and figuratively let the characters, setting and narrative envelope us.

Today time stood still as I entered the anything-but-ordinary world found within the pages of The Key to Extraordinary (Scholastic Press, February 23, 2016).  As in her debut book, A Snicker of Magic, two years ago, this story takes us on a remarkable journey.  Along the paths in which Natalie Lloyd leads us we feel our hearts grow stronger and larger as her words feed familiar and hidden needs.

It is a known fact that the most extraordinary moments in a person's life come disguised as ordinary days.
It is a known fact for me, at least. 
Because that morning started out mostly the same as all mornings before: I woke up to an ache in my chest, the smell of chocolate and the sound of the ghost making a racket in the kitchen.

There is no ghost in the kitchen when twelve-year-old Emma Pearl Casey gets to the bottom of the stairs.  It's gone but her college age brother Topher is stirring up a batch of the famous family beverage, Boneyard Brew, in the Cocoa Cauldron.  She and her brother live with their Granny Blue in the rooms above their bakery, Boneyard Cafe, in a town called Blackbird Hollow.  The ache in her chest, the Big Empty, has been there since her mother died.  They are joined within minutes by Bearclaw, Bear, her small rescue dog.

Emma steps outside on the back porch to begin her day giving tours through the Blackbird Hollow Cemetery which happens to be spread before her.  (Yes, readers, the graveyard and her backyard are one and the same.)  As people pass through the gates we are introduced to the townspeople and those extra special to Emma, her Uncle Periwinkle and Aunt Greta.  A stranger appears, Waverly Valentine, who asks about the most famous ghost in Blackbird Hollow, The Conductor.  According to local legend, The Conductor appears and sings if summoned by someone pure in heart.  In the dead of night words in the melody tell of a treasure hidden hundreds of years ago.  Scores of people have hunted for this wealth; some to never return.

There are some more things you need to know about Emma and the rare wonderful people living in Blackbird Hollow.  Emma is next in a long line of remarkable women, The Wildflowers, who each have had a Destiny Dream; a field of blue flowers appears holding an item signifying their life's path.  They record their dream and how events unfold in the Book of Days.  Tall spirited Cody Belle Chitwood is Emma's very best friend, through thick and thin.  A third person returns to town, Earl Chase, who has not talked since a horrific experience with a tornado.

Throughout the days in Blackbird Hollow complete with the dancing and singing jamboree nights at the cafe, a dark cloud comes to rest over Emma, Topher and Granny Blue.  There is one who would take away everything important to them, a villain of the worst sort.  The arrival of her Destiny Dream gives Emma an answer but it's not clear what she needs to do.  With the help of her friends, a ghost, the promise she made to her mother, a Gypsy rose summer and a frightening storm, true treasures are discovered and a dreamed destiny takes shape.

When Natalie Lloyd writes you have to remind yourself to breathe.  Her small town characters live their lives generously, even the one who rarely smiles.  The conversations between the adults and the adults and the children are as real as rain. They accept the possibility of ghosts in their graveyard, feeling The Touch and the blooming of flowers in every season of the year.  They find joy whenever they can despite the hardships they may face.  Where else but Blackbird Hollow will you find a grandmother with tattoos who used to be a boxer and still rides a motorcycle.

The descriptions of the locations in and around the town are so vivid; you'll find yourself planning your next vacation as a trip to Tennessee.  The graveyard with the names on the headstones, the forbidden portion of the cemetery, the Thicket, the Wailing Woods, the mountains and fields, are steeped in history and mystery.  The weather, wind, rain, thunder and lightning, add to the atmosphere.

One of the other things which will have you either grabbing a highlighter or using an entire package of sticky notes is how Natalie Lloyd chooses her words.  They are somewhat alliterative; Blackbird Hollow, Boneyard Cafe, Granny Blue, Wailing Woods and Destiny Dreams.  If you were to read this book aloud you will be inclined to sing at times.  Here are some sample passages.

I made my way through the kitchen door and onto the back porch.  The screen door slapped shut behind me, and I stared out over the dreamy-morning world.  The dark night had already faded to a pretty pale blue at the horizon.  A cool wind prickled my skin and rustled the branches of the big oak in the center of the field.  The leaves made a sound that reminded me of breath, which was kind of strange considering all that lay before me.  As far as I could see, the headstones and statues of Blackbird Hollow Cemetery peeked up from the mist.

The book spine crackled underneath my fingertips when I opened it.  It sounded like my spine when I first wake up and stretch in the morning, and I wondered if it was possible for a book to come alive that same way.  To tell you things.  To change the course of your days.

The sadness was heavy in Blue's voice when she answered. "Don't know if we can hold out that long."
"Do you remember what Mama said about fear?" I asked.  "She said fear is just a flashlight that helps you find your courage."
Blue rested her hand on my shoulder.  "Well, she knew a thing or two about courage.  That's for sure.  She was a brave lady."
"We are all brave ladies," I said.  "We're Wildflowers."

My book after I finished reading it today.  
My copy of The Key to Extraordinary written by Natalie Lloyd is brimming with sticky notes.  You will find yourself reading portions of it again and again.  You will find yourself reciting phrases aloud to listen to the music they create.  We can never have too many true friends, love or hope.  It's all here, springing forth and spreading outward like the flowers in Blackbird Hollow.

You will want to learn more about Natalie Lloyd.  You can do this by following the link attached to her name taking you to her website.  She has a blog linked here. At TeachingBooks.net she talks about both her books reading excerpts from each of them.  She also talks about the pronunciation of her name.  The artist who designed the cover for this book, Gilbert Ford, has an interesting post about the process here.  Enjoy the trailer created by Scholastic Book Fairs.  

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Celebrate National Tell A Fairy Tale Day 2016

For more than a month author Corey Rosen Schwartz has been sending out tweets recommending books, lesson links and activities to get everyone excited about fairy tales.  If you visit her Twitter feed or follow the hashtag #tellafairytaleday you will discover wonderful resources.  As a huge fan of fairy tales myself (My personal bookshelves are filled with fairy tales and their variants), I decided to dedicate this post to all the fairy tale titles I've highlighted here since the beginning of Librarian's Quest. Most of them are picture books but some are middle grade titles.

Cloaked (Harper Teen, February 8, 2011) written by Alex Flinn

Alex Flinn has done it again.  In fact I did a brief booktalk about Cloaked (Harper Teen, February 8, 2011) to a class of eighth grade students prior to completing my review.  Later when I went to grab it to continue writing it had already been checked out.

As she did in Beastly she brings her original contemporary twist to the fairy tale genre.  But this time rather than focusing on one tale she incorporates bits and pieces from The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Frog Prince, The Six Swans, The Golden Bird, The Valiant Tailor, The Salad and The Fisherman and his Wife.  At times she will use quotes from these stories to begin a chapter.

The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School (G. P. Putman's Sons Books for Young Readers, July 7, 2011) written by Laura Murray with illustrations by Mike Lowery

Laura Murray, teacher turned author, has cooked up a completely clever confection for teachers and students alike, The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School (G. P. Putman's Sons Books for Young Readers, July 7, 2011, as her first children's title. Taken from her experiences in the classroom Murray mixes her fanciful flavors giving readers a new twisty treat on the traditional tale.

Using jaunty, rhyming phrases with a beat,

I began in a bowl.
I was not yet myself-
just a list of ingredients pulled from a shelf.
chosen by children who measured and mixed

my smooth, spicy batter while sneaking quick licks...

a classroom of students form their gingerbread man and bake him up just right. Left on a pan to cool, recess time next is the rule, but the animated sweet wants to be with the students too.

Laura Murray built on the success of the first title with companion titles, The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck and The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas.

Wolf Won't Bite! (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, March 20, 2012) written and illustrated by Emily Gravett

As far as I can tell the three little pigs and the wolf have been entwined together since 1849 when they were printed on the pages of Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales by James Orchard Halliwell.  He is later given credit by Joseph Jacobs when his version appears in the English Fairy Tales of 1898.  It is this variant with which most readers are familiar.

Each author/illustrator brings their own particular slant to the tale choosing to either remain faithful to the original plot or by creating an entirely different scenario for readers.  Author/illustrator Emily Gravett in Wolf Won't Bite! (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, March 20, 2012) stages a production unlike any other.  Her troupe of trotters has managed to soothe the savage beast, a listless lupine.

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (Walden Pond Press, May 1, 2012) written by Christopher Healy

Fairy tales have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  After several summers of attending storytelling workshops and classes as part of the National Storytelling Association (now the National Storytelling Network) in Jonesborough, Tennessee, I became fascinated with the variants connected to the cultures from which they came.  And I am not alone.  If I had a dime for every request for a princess story I've had over the duration of my career, I could completely restock the shelves in the library media center.

But even after collecting numerous variations on some of my favorites, nothing could have prepared me for Christopher Healy's The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (Walden Pond Press, May 1, 2012).  His take on the princes from Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, none of whom are actually named Prince Charming, is offbeat and downright hilarious.  Princes's personalities, fully disclosed, stray considerably from what readers know to be true from the original stories.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (Balzar + Bray, September 4, 2012) written and illustrated by Mo Willems

As a collector of stories and the books that house them, over the years it has been interesting to see how one author may interpret a fairy tale or an illustrator may give readers visuals to go with the classic, well-known words.  Of course, different cultures will bring their own individual slant to a story, immersing the reader in a particular language, style of dressing, housing, food and occupations.  Then too, there are those authors and illustrators who fracture the familiar and that's where the fun really begins.

To name a few there are The True Story of The 3 Little Pigs! by A. Wolf as told to Jon Scieszka with illustrations by Lane Smith, The Three Pigs written and illustrated by David Wiesner, Little Red Riding Hood--A Newfangled Prairie Tale written and illustrated by Lisa Campbell Ernst, Snoring Beauty by Bruce Hale with illustrations by Howard Fine and Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson with illustrations by Kevin O'Malley.  Author/illustrator Mo Willems takes readers down a twisted road with his retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (Balzer + Bray, September 4, 2012).  It would appear these three particular dinosaurs have read the original version.

The Three Ninja Pigs (G. P. Putnam's Sons, September 27, 2012) written by Corey Rosen Schwartz with illustrations by Dan Santat

Yes, I'm talking about the wolf.  Oh, he's shifted shape from time to time; a coyotea shark, a big-bottomed boar, a wrecking ball, an eagle, a tyrannosaurus and in a real switcheroo, a pig.  To be sure, he's struck terror in many a critter's (truck's) heart.

This time, though, from the get-go, he's met his match.  He's huffed and puffed one too many times.  The Three Ninja Pigs (G. P. Putnam's Sons, September 27, 2012) written by Corey Rosen Schwartz with illustrations by Dan Santat gives this fairy tale a fun, feisty flip.

Goldilocks and Just One Bear (Noisy Crow, an imprint of Candlewick Press, August 14, 2012) written and illustrated by Leigh Hodgkinson

Some of the most beloved stories, those most remembered into adult years, begin with, Once upon a time... and close with happily ever after.  In fact, in my experience, those seven words have an almost universal effect on listeners; people know something out of the ordinary is going to happen in-between.  When Once upon a time is read or said, anticipation grows, listeners lean in or move closer.  At the sound of happily ever after, there is always a collective silent or audible sigh.

Have you ever wondered, though, what happens after happily ever after.  Do The Three Pigs start a construction company specializing in earthship homes?  Does Little Red Riding Hood become an activist for the protection of wolves?  Do Hansel and Gretel open a health food store? Or as in Goldilocks and Just One Bear (Nosy Crow, an imprint of Candlewick Press, August 14, 2012) written and illustrated by Leigh Hodgkinson does what you least expect happen?

Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems (Dial Books for Young Readers, February 7, 2013) written by Marilyn Singer with illustrations by Josee Masse

In the land of fairy tales expect the unexpected.  In the world of poetry anticipate the unanticipated.  When fairy tales and poetry meet anticipate the unexpected; relish the shifts in perspective, giving voice to those previously silent.

In 2010 author Marilyn Singer introduced a new poetic form, the reverso.  In her title Mirror, Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse (Dutton Children's Books) for the first time we read two poems side by side (the reverso); same words in each but on the left we read from top to bottom, on the right using the same order from bottom to top.  The only alterations were in punctuation and capitalization.  She put a whole refreshing spin on fairy tales we thought we knew.

Last month a companion title, Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems (Dial Books for Young Readers, February 7, 2013), illustrated again by Josee Masse was released.  Twelve folktales accompanied by an introduction and conclusion are altered with Marilyn Singer's special brand of vision.  She leads and we follow...follow.

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin (Alfred A. Knopf, April 9, 2013) written by Liesl Shurtliff

Stepping into the land of fairy is like closing your eyes and taking a leap of faith.  Traditional, original, tales have a mixture of grimness and happily ever after.  Those stories altered or fractured tend to lean toward the humorous.  Whatever turn they take, in my experience, it's been a journey worth taking.

It's when readers are given a more detailed and elaborate view of characters, a shift in focus, the magic found in those stories heightens.  Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin (Alfred A. Knopf, April 9, 2013) imaginatively written by debut author, Liesl Shurtliff, gives readers in the character of Rump, a person to admire, a story to hold in our hearts long after the final page is turned. The Brothers Grimm should have searched harder; finding this story, a story to be remembered.

Grumbles from the Forest: Fairy-Tale Voices with a Twist (WordSong, an imprint of Highlights, March 1, 2013) written by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich with artwork by Matt Mahurin

What compels people to read fairy tales?  What brings us back to them again and again?  What makes us search out new variations?

 In response to a question Albert Einstein stated If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.  If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.  C. S. Lewis thought sometimes fairy stories say best what needs to be said. One of my favorite phrases, attributed to G. K. Chesterton, though is Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.

No matter the age of the reader or listener, fairy tales fulfill a need deep within for the connection provided by storytelling with beginnings in the oral tradition.  They provide potent possibilities for digging deeper into the personalities of the characters, changing point of view, and expanding or altering the narrative itself.  Authors Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich explore these ideas in Grumbles from the Forest: Fairy-Tale Voices with a Twist (WordSong, an imprint of Highlights, March 1, 2013) with artwork by Matt Mahurin.

The Three Triceratops Tuff (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, April 2, 2013) written and illustrated by Stephen Shaskan

Have you ever noticed how some grazing animals will stick their heads through a fence to eat on the other side, believing it to be better even though the food is exactly the same?  While the phrase "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" may not hold true in most instances, out of necessity animals and people have throughout time moved to better their circumstances or as a means of survival.  The struggle associated with this endeavor has found its way into folklore.

Out of the storytelling tradition in Norway comes a fairy tale of three goats, hoping to eat grass on the other side of a bridge.  The problem is the ugly troll beneath the bridge, who would like nothing better than to have them for dinner.  With a twist and a trip to the past author/illustrator Stephen Shaskan offers readers, The Three Triceratops Tuff (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, April 2, 2013).

The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf (Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., April 30, 2013) written and illustrated by Mark Teague

When it comes to folktales, wolves have generally been portrayed as the bad guys.  It seems they have a huge hunger for little girls in red capes, grandmothers, baby goats and pigs.  They've made appearances in fables and fairy tales throughout time and in cultural variants from countries around the world.

Even when the tales are fractured, the premise is pretty cut and dried.  In The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf (Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., April 30, 2013) written and illustrated by Mark Teague, readers are given a fresh view of the pigs and...the wolf.  Let's head on over to the barnyard.

Little Red Writing (Chronicle Books, September 24, 2013) written by Joan Holub with illustrations by Melissa Sweet

Before I could read, as soon as I could read and to this day, fairy tales are favorites.  Traditional, variants and fractured, I enjoy them all.  My bookshelves are a testament to this preference.

It's such fun to see the spin authors and illustrators put on traditional tales.  Their inventiveness has never seen an entire cast of pencils though.  Little Red Writing (Chronicle Books, September 24, 2013) written by Joan Holub with illustrations by Melissa Sweet leads readers down the perilous path of authorship fraught with danger where bravery and a noun might save the day.

Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., November 5, 2013) written and illustrated by Jan Brett

To see the downtrodden lifted up, for a moment or for happily ever after, is food for the soul.  We cheer for their good fortune.  To see hope realized is a necessity.

A perennial favorite fairy tale, in all its variations, is of the orphan bullied by spoiled sisters and their haughty mother.  Who better to retell the tale than Jan Brett in Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., November 5, 2013)  Let's open the cover stepping into a wintry Russia of the eighteenth century.

Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., February 6, 2014) written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton with illustrations by Nate Wragg

Eventually the prize was delegated to the oldie-but-goodie-not-working-worth-a-hoot pile but the recollection of the contest never fails to bring on a smile.  We had been practicing.  We could hardly wait for the night to arrive.  When the familiar tune started, the dance floor was soon packed with competitive couples.  We added extra steps, moving and grooving to the beat.  Before long we were one of a few couples left twistin' the night away.  When we were announced as the winners, we looked at one another and burst out laughing.

Music has a magic to it; a way of lifting your spirits or aligning with your moods, conveying what words sometimes are unable to say.  When you combine it with the spell cast by folklore, you will find yourself reading Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., February 6, 2014) written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton with illustrations by Nate Wragg.  Get out your dancing shoes as the fractured fun unfolds.

Ninja Red Riding Hood (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), July 10, 2014) written by Corey Rosen Schwartz with illustrations by Dan Santat

Some villains simply can't take a hint.  Faced with defeat they retreat only to come back for more.  They cave to their cravings; especially if it involves meat.  One could say they never really learn; or do they?

Such is the case with the wily wolf that faced the proficient porkers in The Three Ninja Pigs (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., September 27, 2012).  Giving credit where credit is due, he is crafty enough to realize he needs to sharpen his combative skills along with his teeth.  Author Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrator Dan Santat have returned in a collaboration of fractured fairy tale frenzy titled Ninja Red Riding Hood (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), July 10, 2014).  Hold on to your gi.  This Red of the Riding Hood will have you shouting whoopee!

Catch That Cookie! (Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, August 14, 2014) written by Hallie Durand with pictures by David Small

When learning a story yourself or teaching storytelling to others, the key is not in recalling it word for word but finding the essence of the narrative.  To me this is what knowing it by heart means.  If the bare bones of the tale are timeless, if it has appeal across cultures to people regardless of their age, it will remain as long as there is memory.

When reading any of the earlier versions of The Gingerbread Man (which as far as I can tell is strictly an American adaptation on the runaway food motif from folklore)  he was made by a little old woman and a little old man who had no children of their own.  Since that time authors and illustrators have delighted readers with their individual interpretations and enhancements on the original.  Catch That Cookie! (Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, August 14, 2014) written by Hallie Durand with pictures by David Small is an extraordinarily tasty tale mixing all the necessary ingredients for a recipe readers will remember.

Jack (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), September 16, 2014) written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

One character's name appears over and over in world literature.  Most readers and listeners of nursery rhymes, folktales and fairy tales can name him.  He can jump over a flaming candle stick, pull out a plumb with his thumb, eat no fat, build a house, fetch a pail of water, grow a stalk that reaches into the clouds from a magic bean, paint frost or triumph over giants.

In the eastern mountain regions of the United States his stories are so numerous they warranted their own collection.

Jack, of the Jack Tales, embodies some of the common characteristics of culture hero.  He is the third son---the magic number.  He is the honest, straightforward, guileless one who never suspects the tricks and deceptions of others.  He is the western European hero who lacks all sophistication but is exceptionally clever. 
                                   (Storytelling:  Folklore Sourcebook Norma J. Livo
                                     & Sandra A. Rietz, 1991, page 25)

Leaving home to search for wealth, success or a home of his own is a common theme in the Jack tales.  Master storyteller Tomie dePaola in his most recent title, Jack (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), September 16, 2014) spins his own singular version for our youngest readers.

Hansel & Gretel (A TOON GRAPHIC, October 28, 2014) written by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Lorenzo Mattotti

I am a collector of words; not necessarily individual words but words put together in ways meaningful to me.  Collections of quotations hold space on my bookshelves.  In my dining room hangs a chalk board with a favorite saying welcoming guests into my home.

Either spoken or written my most cherished collections of words are stories, especially folklore. These tales were the first I heard and learned to read.  I haunt the 398.2 sections in libraries seeking out new narratives or derivatives on old ones.  One of the most enjoyed units working with students is the presentation and comparison of folktale and fairy tale variants.  It's fascinating to listen to the discussions of their viewpoints and to see them realize how each story is a reflection of the culture from which it comes.

When I learned Neil Gaiman was writing Hansel & Gretel (A TOON GRAPHIC, October 28, 2014) with illustrations by Lorenzo Mattotti, I knew I not only had to read it but needed to own a copy.  First I read it quickly; then again more slowly marking specific sentences which wrapped me in the atmosphere of his telling.  I sought out other versions; locating my copies of Best-loved Folktales Of The World (Doubleday & Company, 1982) selected by Joanna Cole, Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm (Puffin, 2012) introduction by Cornelia Funke and Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm: A New English Version (Viking, 2012) by Philip Pullman.  For the third time I read Hansel & Gretel told by Neil Gaiman knowing I was reading pure magic.

Interstellar Cinderella (Chronicle Books, May 5, 2015) written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Meg Hunt 

When you take away the magic, fairy tales can mirror the real world.  A parent can disappear from our lives through death or divorce.  They are often replaced with another less than savory person who may or may not have children of their own.  Each day brings tasks to be met as a new normal is being shaped.

Cultural adaptations supply variances but at the heart of every story is a clever protagonist.  Interstellar Cinderella (Chronicle Books, May 5, 2015) written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Meg Hunt draws our attention to a girl, despite her current circumstances, who maintains her focus.  Her determination and choices provide readers with courage and hope.

Little Red And The Very Hungry Lion (Scholastic) written and illustrated by Alex T. Smith

In my way of thinking you can never have too many fairy tales on your personal or professional book shelves.  At the very least a perusal of your library statistics should indicate you as a frequent visitor and borrower of titles from the folklore section.  On most days you can see me exhibiting my firm support of this particular train of thought in a pendant I wear.

Interpretations, variations and fractured fun on the classics broaden our views on the intent of the original stories and the cultures from which they and others come.  Eleven versions of Little Red Riding Hood appear on my personal shelves; some are more light-hearted than those which adhere to the conclusion of the earliest tales.  On May 7, 2015 Little Red And The Very Hungry Lion (Scholastic) written and illustrated by Alex T. Smith celebrated a book birthday.  To begin the story we journey to the continent of Africa.

Little Red Gliding Hood (Random House, October 27, 2015) written by Tara Lazar with pictures by Troy Cummings

There are still forty-one days until the December solstice but a chill is in the air, trees are nearly bare of leaves and needles, and snow is staying on the mountain tops.  It's a time to gather wood for cozy fires, check furnaces and gas fireplaces, take wool blankets and flannel sheets out of storage, and locate mittens, hats and scarves.  Poles, snow shoes, sleds, snowboards, skis and ice skates move from the back corners of sheds and garages to the front.

We all watch and wait for the snow to fall deeper and deeper.  We all watch and wait for those chilly temperatures to turn our water wonderlands into frozen stages for our skating dances and games.  In the realm of fairy tales and nursery rhymes the residents are as eager as we to shift into another season.  Little Red Gliding Hood (Random House, October 27, 2015) written by Tara Lazar with pictures by Troy Cummings follows a familiar girl among a cast of well-loved characters as she searches for a way to win.

For more fairy tale fun follow this link to a small collection of Little Pig Variants on Popplet.  

Wishing you all a very happy National Tell A Fairy Tale Day!

Beneath The Waters Of Our Oceans

Why do we choose to read certain books over other titles?  Hopefully it is a matter of choice usually based upon factors which fluctuate from book to book.  Each Wednesday I am excited to participate in the 2016 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by educator Alyson Beecher on her blog, Kid Lit Frenzy.  Why am I excited?  This weekly invitation to participate has given me the opportunity to grow in learning about people, places, things, our natural world and global issues in the past, present and future.  My respect for each of these has increased in ways I never imagined.

This week's title was selected for three reasons.  National Women's History Month is celebrated annually during the month of March.  The subject of this biography is a woman.  She was born in my home state of Michigan in the same year as my mother was.  Their cities of birth are only seventy-six miles apart.  My curiosity was piqued.  Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, January 5, 2016) written by Robert Burleigh with illustrations by Raul Colon  introduces you to a remarkable woman who met the challenges of her time with determination and considerable skill.

Maps.  I love them!  
I love the flow of colors and lines.  I love the way I can trace a path with my finger across mountains or valleys until my finger has traveled thousands of miles---from here to there---on just one page.

Marie Tharp's enthusiasm for maps was linked to her childhood.  She and her family followed the career paths of her father as he made maps throughout the United States.  As a soil surveyor he plotted soil locations and their best uses for the agricultural populace.

Marie's fascination with maps continued to grow during college.  She was particularly interested in the large expanses of water between the continents.  No one really knew much about the ocean floors.  With several degrees to her credit she tried to get jobs she enjoyed but women were not readily accepted in the scientific field at this time.  When working at Columbia University in the study of oceanography, she was not allowed to travel on the research ships because she was a woman.

A colleague, Bruce Heezen, had the same questions as Marie about the oceans' bottoms.  They wanted to map it. Using soundings made by scientists on seaworthy vessels, Marie started to draw the physical features of the land beneath the waters beginning with the Atlantic Ocean.  A huge mountain range, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, extending from north to south took shape.  So did one of the most daring theories.

Marie had an idea based upon her maps.  Bruce Heezen did not agree with her concept.  Did he finally acknowledge the veracity of her hypothesis and its impact on the scientific community?  The answer lies in this book.

Relying on authoritative sources Robert Burleigh intrigues us with the factual events which shaped this woman's life; her father's occupation, the words of a college professor, the resistance of a male-dominated field in allowing a woman to work with them, a like-minded and supportive colleague, the use of soundings in map making, the significance of specific depth numbers and the value of a drawing based upon solid evidence.  Burleigh elects to convey Marie Tharp's life through her first person voice.  This aligns us to her struggles, victories and the strength of her character and commitment.  Here is another sample passage from this title.

I began by drawing the coastlines---first of the Americas, then of Africa.  Between these coasts lay my target:  the wide Atlantic Ocean.  Next I slowly collected all the soundings available and placed their numbers carefully where they belonged on my map.

On the front of the matching dust jacket and book case we observe Marie Tharp standing at the rail of a ship at sea.  We can't see her face to understand what she might be feeling at this point.  This asks us to look inside the book.  We won't know until we read further that initially Marie was not allowed to sail with her research colleagues.  To the left on the back, Marie is shown (in a smaller image) at her work table sketching out the oceans' bottoms.  This is placed within a picture of a ship taking soundings of the varied levels beneath the water's surface.

The opening and closing endpapers are done in two shades of blue-green featuring sunlight beaming into the ocean as fish swim along the bottom.   The illustration on the title page is a physical map of the Atlantic Ocean framed by the surrounding continents.  A finger on Marie's hand is pointing to the center, specifically at the word Under in the title.

The illustrations rendered in watercolors, Prismacolor pencils, and lithograph pencils on Arches paper by Raul Colon reflect his signature style with their luminescent glow.  (See a previous blog post about his book, Draw!, which includes three videos about his work and process.)  His color palette in this title leans toward earth tones.  He shifts his perspective bringing us close to Marie (and others) and then taking us farther back to get a bigger picture of an important event.

At times he will use double-page images or decide to use only a single page picture.  Each serves to enhance the text.  One stunning visual covers two pages edge to edge with no text.  It makes you realize the vastness of the ocean and the monumental task accomplished by Marie Tharp.

One of my favorite pictures is of a pastoral scene set early in Marie's life.  On the left is a patchwork of plowed fields with mountains in the distance, pale blue sky, clouds and birds flying above them.  To the right is a row of trees, a wooden rail fence in front of them.  On the left foreground Marie is standing between a surveyor's tripod and her father holding a map.  Her head is bent reading a book.  To the right a truck from that time period is parked.

Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor written by Robert Burleigh with illustrations by Raul Colon pays tribute to a woman scientist who dedicated her entire life to following her passion for maps and map making.  Her contributions are invaluable.  At the back Burleigh includes more factual information about Marie including recognition for her work.  It was less than a decade before her death in 2006.  There is a list of Some Words And Phrases To Know.  In his bibliography he includes eight resources about Marie and oceanography.  One in particular is written for adults and seems to be very extensive.  Five websites are also named.  Burleigh asks questions of readers and welcomes them to explore further on the final page, Things To Wonder About And Do.

To learn more about Robert Burleigh and Raul Colon please follow the links attached to their names to access informative websites.  More information about Raul Colon and his work can be found at this link.  Raul Colon is interviewed at Illustration Friday.  Robert Burleigh explains the pronunciation of his name at TeachingBooks.net.  The publisher shares eight interior images at their website.

Last week at Kid Lit Frenzy a pertinent discussion about what makes a book nonfiction generated quite a bit of commentary.  With this in mind I did some research about this title.  You might want to check at Encyclopedia.com, Your Dictionary-Biography, The New York Times obituary for Marie Tharp and an article about her work with the Library of Congress.  I hope we continue to keep this dialogue open and relevant.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

In Their Mind's Eye

We dream.  We dream during sleep.  We dream when we're awake.  Our dreams allow us to explore possibilities.  We humans are not alone in the act of dreaming.

Scientific evidence through testing confirms dogs dream in a similar fashion to us.  They happen to dream of their dog days and activities.  Author illustrator Kim Krans wonders artistically, without words, in her newest title, ABC Dream (Random House, January 19, 2016) on what images might be found in our twenty-six letters' thoughts as they drift into deep sleep.

Some of the elements finding their way into the minds of the letters are recognized as having been represented in other alphabet volumes but their presentation here is highly original and exceptionally imaginative.  An apple is poised on the top of an A patterned in argyle.  It has been pierced by two arrows.  An apple core is at its base being eaten by ants.  These insects are crawling along the single letter and the arrows.

There is movement in many of the letters' dreams.  A braid swings.  A chicken pecks at cupcake crumbs. Dandelion seeds drift.

As in our own restful inspirations we readers look and suspend belief as flights of fancy form.  An egg balances in the starry universe.  Fish float by fireflies. A happy hedgehog is wearing a party hat patterned in hearts.

Jellyfish journey.  Lambs lay on lace.  A nest is nestled in a nook.  A panda ponders amid puzzle pieces.  A queen's crown adorns a bird's crest.  A rope curtains off a change in the weather.  We are challenged by the ideas the letters give, asking us to think beyond the concrete.

The letter U takes the front image twisting it in speculation.  Zinnias scatter across the plain occupied by the African horse with the distinctive stripes and upright mane.  Though the last letter has revealed its musings we begin again wanting to join in the ABC Dreams once more.

Other than the twenty-six individual letters featured in each single or double-page illustrations, there is no text.  With that being said, these pictures speak volumes.  They are alive with questions and answers.  How did those two arrows get so close to one another in the apple?  Who ate the apple?  Did they leave it knowing it would be a feast for the local ant community?  Kim Krans is asking us in silence to participate.

When you open the matching dust jacket and book case the resplendent unicorn's neck and upper portion of its body continues across the spine to the ISBN framed by leaves.  Leaves are placed in the upper left hand corner, over the spine, and off the front lower-right edge.  Elements from the interior pages are placed throughout this illustration; fireflies, a fish, a dragonfly, a celebratory hedgehog and the dandelion seeds. There is spot burnished gold along the unicorn's horn on the jacket.

The endpapers are filled with rows of repeating alphabet letters in outline.  Spots of color outline some of them.  Kim Krans continues to place small items from other images on the verso and title pages.  The heavier, matte-finished paper is an excellent choice for her pictures rendered in pen and ink and watercolor washes.

With the exception of letters E, N, O, and W the canvas for the illustrations is white.  Most of the visuals extend over two pages.  Any highlighted animals are participating in the dreams; the dog looks upward at the dragonfly, a fox watches the fish and fireflies, a kitten plays with the tendrils of the jellyfish and wasps feast on forgotten fruit.

Thicker lines border the letters but the intricate details in other elements welcome readers to stop and look at each image trying to guess what each dream discloses.  Krans uses color sparingly for emphasis.  Design items will have readers gasping in delight as in the manner in which the H and I pages are joined.

One of my favorite letter dreams is for the T.  At first glance you see tigers next to a tree trunk taking up a large portion of the left side of a single page.  Not only does this represent tiger, tree, and trunk but two and tired.

Not only is ABC Dream conceived and illustrated by Kim Krans an object of beauty but it will promote endless conversations about design, layout, the use of color and the elements in each image.  Each letter's dream has a story to tell.  This is a must have for collectors of alphabet books.  It is a wonderful addition to personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Kim Krans and her other work visit her personal website and The Wild Unknown by following the links attached to her name.  For a few interior illustrations please visit the publisher's website.  Kim Krans is interviewed about this title at The Children's Book Review.  Enjoy the video peek at the book below.  Stand-on-a-desk-shouting-I-love-reading educator Colby Sharp interviews Kim Krans at sharpread.  You will love these questions and Krans' answers.

ABC Dream from the wild unknown on Vimeo.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Wily Wind

It can be as gentle as puppy's breath or as fierce as a lion's roar.  It scatters seeds planting them where they fall. It creates currents in the sky for gliding birds. It moves boats of all shapes and sizes through waters, large and small.

It sends visual, vocal and written messages a few feet or across an unknown amount of miles.  The wind can unwittingly (or maybe by plan) lend a helping hand in the forming of friendships.  The Red Hat (Disney Hyperion, December 8, 2015) written by David Teague with illustrations by Antoinette Portis traces paths taken amid great gusts.

Billy Hightower lived atop the world's tallest building.
Even the clouds didn't reach so high.

When you live higher than the clouds, you miss out on some of nature's more welcome moments.  The one thing you always have is wind.  Some days are breezier than others.  On those days, the wind is a complete trickster.

Rather than wide open sky, Billy Hightower finds himself, after a series of changes, one morning looking at another building higher than the clouds.  On the roof of this towering structure is a girl; a girl wearing a red hat.  He shouts out his name.  The wind blows it up and over those two super skyscrapers.

A paper airplane is creased and folded.  Written on the surface is a message for the girl from Billy Hightower.  The wind swirls it out of reach.  A kite with words on the tail suffers a similar fate at the whims of the wind.

With determination and more than a little courage Billy Hightower appears on his roof again with a large blanket.  Oh, my Billy!  First it billows out and then ascending like a balloon the wind carries the boy toward the girl in the red hat.  A relentless burst of boisterous breezes foils his plans and steals her hat.

Back on terra firma despite the howling blasts Billy Hightower strides toward his goal, as resolute as ever.  Something catches his eye.  His heart swells with happiness.  His now knows he can reach new heights.

As surely as a warm spring breeze swirls dandelion puffs skyward, the words written by David Teague will lift your spirits.  Simple sentences and phrases full of wonderful verbs supply a blustery atmosphere as well as describing a boy with wishes he is willing to make come true.  Teague uses repetition to reinforce Billy's intentions.

Then he folded it, and folded it, and folded it...

Through this story we are beside Billy each time he tries to connect with the girl, adding more thoughts to each message.  In this boy we are able to see how a hindrance becomes the means to an end when a creative mind is at work.  Here are two more sentences.

The wind howled.
It yowled down alleyways,
almost stopping him cold.

When I opened up the dust jacket the use of four colors with spot glossy whirls of a light teal made me whisper in appreciation.  The sky, swirls and clouds continue to the left over the spine to the back.  The flaps are in red with white text.  It's a stunning combination. The stolen hat shaped like a heart sends us a hint of the warmth found in this story.

The book case is white, front and back.  Shiny light teal whorls come from the lower left-hand corner on the back meeting another whorl coming from the lower right-hand side of the front.  Tucked in their center is the girl's red hat.  The opening and closing endpapers are the same blue as on the dust jacket with clouds along the bottom.  Black and white buildings peek through the tops of the clouds.  The wind currents are shown swooping across the entire image.  This is carried over to the verso and title pages.

Antoinette Portis begins by alternating between double-page images and single page pictures framed in white.  The single pages are tied together over the gutter through creative design.  From the moment Billy brings the blanket to the roof, the remainder of the illustrations spans both pages as the narrative intensifies.  Another color, gray, becomes more visible when Billy lands on the ground walking through the city.

The heavy black lines, the color palette and shifts in perspective completely captivate readers.  We don't know what a page turn will bring but we can hardly wait to find out.  Portis tucks in little details to make the story more endearing; the shape of a balloon caught in tree branches and the name of the girl's building.

One of my favorite illustrations is of Billy drifting through the sky.  He's still among the clouds, arms stretched high as the wind holds the blanket aloft. (All we can see are the grasped corners of the blanket.)  As you would expect his mouth and eyes are wide open in surprise and anticipation as to what might happen.  Along the bottom of the visual are a row of city buildings in black.  The swirls of air are wrapped around him, carrying him down.

When the Children's Choice Book Award nominees were announced last week John Schumacher, Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, posted the press release on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  The Red Hat written by David Teague with illustrations by Antoinette Portis was selected as one of the Children's Choice Illustrator hopefuls.  The blend of text and art in this story is a brilliant example of less is more.  Whether it means to or not the wind fuels a growing warmth on every page.  This book offers readers a chance to discuss and ponder many things.

To learn more about David Teague and Antoinette Portis please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  I really enjoyed this post by Betsy Bird, Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system, at Fuse #8 Production, School Library Journal.  In the final publication the text she speaks about in her second to last paragraph is wonderfully visible.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Event-A Flurry of Feathers

When you spend a lot of time outdoors your entire life, you tend to become more observant and appreciative of everything living outside the human realm.  You learn to see the subtle and not so subtle changes which come in seconds or with the seasons.  One of the most important things is to be present in the moment with stillness.

If we can learn to look to the other inhabitants of our planet, flora and fauna, they have essential messages to share.  I find myself watching in wonder more and more the actions, habits and calls of birds.  Parenting is portrayed in a majestic eagle pair guarding a nest along a quiet river, adaptability and trust is seen in the robins building a nest in a hanging basket on your front porch, and teamwork is depicted in the swoop of a starling murmuration.  One of the most remarkable examples was when I was cutting a bouquet of zinnias one sunny summer day.  As I stood next to the garden thinking, a hummingbird zoomed up and flitted from blossom drinking the nectar.  I held my breath hardly believing this gift I was receiving.

Today I am happy to participate in the 2016 Nonfiction 10 for 10 Event hosted by Cathy Mere, Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning CommunityMandy Robeck, Enjoy and Embrace Learning,  and Julie Balen, Connecting to Learn.  You can view all the contributions at the Picture Book 10 for 10 Community Google+ site.  In 2014 I highlighted my top ten dinosaur books.  Last year I featured books on individuals whose contributions in human history made a difference.  This year it's a pleasure to showcase books I believe can change or increase your admiration for birds.

Mama Built A Little Nest (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, March 18, 2014) written by Jennifer Ward with illustrations by Steve Jenkins

My full summary and recommendation for this title is linked here.

This is an outstanding introduction to this topic sure to encourage readers to take notice of the world around them.  The combination of rhythmic poetry, fascinating information and stunning illustrations makes this a must-have title in any collection.

Feathers Not Just For Flying (Charlesbridge, February 25, 2014) written by Melissa Stewart with illustrations by Sarah S. Brannen

My full summary and recommendation for this title is linked here.

This title presents to readers the amazing capabilities of feathers on a variety of birds.  The mix of narrative and visuals is as pleasing as watching a feather floating on a current of air; light, airy and down-to-earth.  In addition to the author's note two pages are devoted to classifying feathers; six categories are described.

 Birds Of A Feather (Chronicle Books, September 26, 2012) by Bernadette Gervais and Francesco Pittau

My full summary and recommendation for this title is linked here.

Within twelve, yes only twelve, pages a vast array of interesting, intriguing information is presented through a series of flaps, fold-outs, using stunning artwork.

Woodpecker Wham! (Henry Holt and Company, May 12, 2015) written by April Pulley Sayre with illustrations by Steve Jenkins

My full summary and recommendation for this title is linked here.

In a staccato style reminiscent of the birds' rhythmic beak beats, chanting words pair with fascinating art as we explore the world of woodpeckers.  Authenticity is apparent in the words and artwork throughout the seasons of the year.  A page at the end is dedicated to further reading, websites, and acknowledgments.

Parrots Over Puerto Rico (Lee & Low Books, Inc., September 15, 2013) by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore with collages by Susan L. Roth

My full summary and recommendation for this title is linked here.

This title tells the tale of these magnificent birds who nearly faded from existence.  The thorough and meticulous research of Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore is unmistakable from the first page.  Their technique of presenting information, a paragraph about the parrots followed by a paragraph about the island and its human inhabitants, creates a type of comparative tension.  In this way readers are able to clearly see how the later affected the former.  Choosing to provide this material in chronological order further enhances the emotional involvement of the reader.  Six pages at the book's end contain more factual and pictorial items of interest as well as a bibliographic list of sources.

The Sky Painter:  Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist (Two Lions, April 28, 2015) written by Margarita Engle with illustrations by Aliona Bereghici

My full summary and recommendation for this title is linked here.

I realize with this book may not qualify as nonfiction.  In checking the State of Michigan library it was classified between twelve libraries holding it in their collections as either poetry or biography.  There is an ongoing discussion about nonfiction, historical fiction and informational fiction at Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher.

I decided to include it here because of the impact this artist had on the world of birds.  Author Margarita Engle elected to present the information through a series of poems.  She is indeed a master.  At the end she includes a historical note and three images.

Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard (Candlewick Press, March 12, 2013) written and illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate

My full summary and recommendation for this title is linked here.

In this book, Annette LeBlanc Cate offers to younger or beginner bird-watchers hints on how to enjoy it best.  She reminds readers to take the time to notice what's right in front of our eyes. Two words pop into my mind when I think of this book, information and humor.  Factual presentation in the body of the book and in the extra captions is worded specifically for a novice to bird-watching.  It is countered with the spot-on statements liberally loaded with fun made by the gathered birds.

A Nest Is Noisy (Chronicle Books, April 14, 2015) written and illustrated by the collaborative team of Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long

My full summary and recommendation for this title is linked here.

Not all of the nests featured belong to birds but many of them are those of birds.  Each statement of a nest is presents readers with supporting information in detail.  Aston, through research, is able to provide those captivating details which enlarge our respect for those beings inhabiting our planet.

Thunder Birds: Nature's Flying Predators (Sterling, April 5, 2011) written and illustrated by Jim Arnosky

From the dust jacket text:  What's that flying overhead?
A bald eagle?
A vulture?
A pelican?
You'll know once you've seen the magnificent birds in this book with their tremendous wingspans, razor sharp claws, and powerful beaks.  Open the giant fold-out pages to see detailed illustrations of more than sixty-life size winged predators---from hawks to herons, from ospreys to owls.  Acclaimed naturalist Jim Arnosky will bring out your inner explorer as he explains why there are no feathers on a vulture's head, which bird is the deep diving champ, what makes an owl's wings perfectly silent in flight, and much more.  Bring wilderness right into your room---or use this book as a guide for our expedition!

This title is a must own for all libraries and classrooms.  An author's note, more about birds and a metric equivalents chart close out this volume.

Bird Talk: What Birds are Saying and Why (Roaring Brook Press, March 13, 2012) written and illustrated by Lita Judge

From the dust jacket text:  Chirp, warble, quack, coo, rattle, screech!
Birds have lots of ways of staying in touch:  they sing and talk, dance and drum, cuddle and fight.  But what does all of the bird talk mean?
Filled with gorgeous illustrations this fascinating book takes a look at the secret life of birds as they hunt, nest, and get to know each other.  Whether you already love to bird-watch or are just curious about the wildlife in your backyard, you'll never look at your feathered friends in quite the same way again!

At the conclusion of this book Lita Judge includes four pages of additional information about twenty-eight birds, a glossary, references, a website and an author's note.  You simply can't go wrong with a book written and illustrated by Judge.

I am trying very hard to stick with the ten title limit but I've always been fascinated with the hawks that nested in New York City.  Three titles to check out are Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City (Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, March 11, 2008) written by Janet Schulman with illustrations by Meilo So,  The Tale of Pale Male: A True Story (Harcourt, Inc., March 1, 2007) written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter and City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male (Paula Wiseman Books, Simon & Schuster, September 11, 2007) written and illustrated by Meghan McCarthy.