Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sun, Sand, Surf, And Slumber

Do you ever have those days when it's absolutely necessary to stay awake to get a whole list of things done or one huge project finished, but it's as if some time bandit has stolen whole chunks of hours and given you some kind of sleeping sickness?  No matter how hard you try, you can't stay awake.  Besides, how did it get to be after midnight?  On the flip side there are days when you've worked as hard as possible to get every single thing done, so you could relax and drift off to much-needed rest, only to discover when everything is finished you are as wide awake as an owl.  In fact lots of activity and exercise are supposed to ensure a good night's sleep.

Certainly a day at the beach should equal an early bedtime.  For Lucy and her parents in Twenty Yawns (Two Lions, April 1, 2016) written by Jane Smiley with illustrations by Lauren Castillo a day of fun in the sun does have them eager for slumber.  A silent orb has other plans.

The beach umbrella was flapping in the breeze.

As the wind pushes waves against the beach, Lucy digs a hole in the sand.  She works for so long and hard the hole is big enough for her dad to be buried.  After his sandy release the two enjoy watery fun.

Mom, Dad and Lucy decide to explore the beach walking along the shore, stopping, starting and staring at all there is to see.  There are dunes to climb up and roll down.  The trio is enjoying themselves so much; they hardly notice the sun sinking closer to the horizon.  They are all yawning in earnest now.

At home as dusk darkens the colorful sky Lucy, Mom and Dad get comfy and ready for bed.  Mom barely begins a bedtime story before Lucy drifts into a doze.  When she wakes up Mom is gone but the big round moon is lighting up her room.  Thoughts of sleep leave Lucy as she looks around; every face in every picture seems to be as alert as she is.  There is only one thing to do.

She needs Molasses, her teddy bear.  A quiet quest is in order.  A cupboard is reached, a cascade of critters creates an extended adventure and a ritual is repeated.  Then...one leads to another and another and another.

It's as if all the little bits and pieces of a day at the beach are masterfully entwined into the sentences written by Jane Smiley.  These experiences are as universal as the emotions they generate.  And what child has not suddenly been wide awake when their parents are sleeping?  Smiley's descriptions of Lucy's observations in her home now awash in moonlight are wonderful.  When she seeks a single companion but gathers more, the love she has received is passed on to others with the pure charm of childhood perfectly portrayed.  Here is a sample passage.

The moon shone through the window,
a silver veil that fell across the floor.
Everything looked mysterious, even
Lucy's own hands on the bedspread.
Suddenly, Lucy was wide awake.

Don't you just want to hug Lucy and her toys seen on the matching dust jacket and book case?  Lauren Castillo has taken an interior image altering it slightly for the front illustration.  On the back, to the left, is a visual from within the book shown in a closer perspective; three childlike drawings.  A shade used in the color of the water at the beach covers the opening and closing endpapers.

Rendered digitally with painted textures the pictures placed on thicker matte-finished paper, though detailed, supply a softness enhanced by Castillo's signature heavier loose lines.  All the joy when spending a day at the beach beams from her pages in golden portraits of parents reading in chairs under an umbrella, a child digging in the sand while her beloved teddy bear watches, a father twirling a daughter over the waves, chasing seagulls, kite flying and sand castle building.  When night descends so does a hush in the play of light and shadows.  Single page circular pictures are larger and there are more double-page spreads.  Even though it's night the use of a deeper chocolate brown gentles the darkness.  There is warmth and comfort in every single illustration.

Castillo's eyes and mouths on the characters and the toys are very expressive. The angle of a line and the size of an eye show mood; joy, tiredness, longing, love and pure contentment.  One other thing which I truly admire is the blending of time in a single image.  In a two page spread of the family at the beach Castillo has Lucy's parents walking hand in hand as she runs ahead dropping Molasses, then they pause flying a kite with Molasses now safely carried in the mother's bag and finally the three are walking down the beach linked together, hand in hand.  Lucy is being swung between her parents.  Her mom is swinging Molasses on the left.  I also like the tiny attention given to having a single lamp on in the rooms in Lucy's home during the night.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when all the toys are out of the cupboard.  Lucy is carrying Molasses to her bedroom for company.  As she turns to look back, Juno the horse, Frank the kangaroo and his baby Leonard, Mathilda the alligator and Horner the giraffe are looking at her as if to say, "Aren't you going to take us, too?"  They are placed on a lighter floor which elevates their body positions and presence.

Written by Jane Smiley with illustrations by Lauren Castillo Twenty Yawns is a bedtime story guaranteed to bring multiple bouts of yawning to readers and listeners alike.  It blends two delightful adventures into one glorious story.  I can only imagine that readers will be carrying this book about like one of their beloved toy animals.  It's simply that charming and cuddly.

To learn more about Lauren Castillo and her other books please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Jane Smiley and Lauren Castillo are interviewed at Kirkus about this title.  At the Washington Post Jane Smiley explains her first picture book, 'Twenty Yawns'.  Scholastic's Ambassador for School Libraries John Schumacher reveals the book cover at Watch. Connect. Read. with a guest post by Lauren Castillo as well as the first post in the blog tour with an interview of Jane Smiley.  For a complete list of all the stops on the blog tour be sure to stop at Alyson Beecher's Kid Lit Frenzy.  Enjoy the book trailer and a collection of Vines Lauren has posted for this book.

UPDATE:  Lauren Castillo is a guest at author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast today---April 12, 2016.

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