Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sweet Beats In A Musical Treat

Get out your instruments!  Make some music!  No instruments?! Hands and feet can keep a beat!  As soon as you mention music to children, get ready for some moving and grooving.  Their huge hearts hunger for the cadence found in sounds and the rhythm of words.

When you add in a couple of stinky mammal pals to the mix, laughter is sure to follow.  Punk Skunks (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, February 9, 2016) written by author Trisha Speed Shaskan with illustrations by her author illustrator husband Stephen Shaskan is a tuneful tale on the art of friendship.  Two happy halves make the best kind of melodious whole.

Kit and Buzz were BSFs---
best skunks forever.  Each day, Kit
banged on Buzz's door.

These two could be heard skateboarding and biking through the Burrow day in and day out.  At the park rabbit friends watched warily as Buzz sprayed and painted a game.  Then everyone laughed as Kit jumped her way to a winning hopscotch victory.

Best of all, back home at Kit's place, were the inventive intonations the duo made with Kit on her drums and Buzz on his guitar.  It was a lively mix of scales and notes.  They dug it and rocked on as only two friends could.

During one of their jam sessions, Kit suggested they try a new song.  Buzz did not agree with the subject choice.  He insisted painting would be better than skating.  An argument of epic proportions ensued.  The two uttered at the same time one of the worst things you could say to a skunk.

The next day there was no door knocking, skating, biking, park playing and definitely no strumming and drumming together.  Kit played her drums without Buzz.  Buzz played his guitar without Kit. What had been harmonious was now totally dissonant.

Glumly and individually the two reached a conclusion.  To their surprise they met at the same place at the same time.  Two questions are asked and answered.  Do you hear what I hear?

Trisha Speed Shaskan's experiences working with children and her background as a percussionist are evident in every line.  Her short simple sentences are the perfect introduction to her words supplying onomatopoeia, alliteration and rhyme.  The repetition of their two favorite phrases ties each piece of the narrative together in a pleasing, playful song.  Here is another sample passage.

Kit skateboarded.

Buzz biked.

The bright, energetic colors of pink, green, red, black and charcoal with a splash of purple seen on the dust jacket are continued throughout the book with variations in hues and the addition of brown and blue.  The exuberance portrayed on the front of Kit and Buzz making music is consistently portrayed, even when they are angry and sad.  To the left, on the back, on a background of green Kit is flying high on her skateboard as Buzz rides merrily along on his bike over a pink roadway with playground and rabbit friend silhouettes in the background.

The opening and closing endpapers tell a story of their own.  While the street and subway running through the town along with the buildings remain the same, there are subtle changes.  The cars and the train are in different positions.  Careful readers will note the differences in what is shown in the building windows, along the sidewalk and in the park.  On the verso and title pages Kit and Buzz are cheerfully standing in front of their instruments as a star radiates out from them across the gutter.

Illustrations rendered digitally in Photoshop by Stephen Shaskan boldly spread across two pages, a single page or are framed in liberal amounts of white space.  His heavier lines emphasize the firm friendship of Kit and Buzz and the fondness the two have for their particular kind of music.  Deciding to have Buzz's spray act as paint is a stroke of fantastic fun.  (Anyone with skunk experience knows the odor remains long after an application.)  The details on Kit's shirt and the posters on the walls are a nod to other punk rock groups.  The expressions on Kit, Buzz, the three rabbits and the mole who owns the music shop leave no doubt as to current moods and emotions.

One of my favorite images of several is when Kit and Buzz arrive at the park.  The sky is purple.  The other background color is the luminescent green with the playground equipment in silhouette.  Kit is jumping for joy in her black T-shirt, plaid skirt and distinctive black and green sneakers.  The three rabbits, standing in a close cluster, are looking rather frightened at Buzz's activity.  With a


Buzz is creatively painting a hopscotch board on the ground with his spray.  He is wearing his red high tops, a black jacket, purple pants and a huge grin.

Punk Skunks written by Trisha Speed Shaskan with illustrations by Stephen Shaskan is a rhythmic rock-on romp.  It's read-aloud fun sure to have listeners toe-tapping and hand clapping.  No clothes pins for your nose are necessary, just openness for enjoying catchy words and a charming friendship.

To learn more about Trisha Speed Shaskan and Stephen Shaskan and their other works please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  By visiting their publisher's website you can listen to two songs, Punk Skunks: We're Buzz and Kit and Punk Skunks: BSF (Best Skunks Forever) which are sure to have you dancing.  Trisha Speed Shaskan was a guest on November Picture Book Month! A Celebration this year writing why picture books are important.  She is a guest at the Nerdy Book Club today in an article titled My Mixed Tape: The Making of Punk Skunks.  Enjoy the book trailer.

Update:  This dynamic duo, Kit and Buzz are interviewed at The Little Crooked Cottage, February 17, 2016.

Update:  Trisha Speed Shaskan stops by author illustrator Debbie Ohi Ridpath's website, Inkygirl.com for an interview.  February 23, 2106.

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