Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Balloons Have It!

Certainly time is not passing more quickly but lately stopping the clock every so often is becoming more appealing.  Each year the amount of truly wonderful children's books being published is astounding.  Stacks of books in my home reveal titles from previous years yet to be read.

Two publications from 2015 speak directly to children.  The first, The Wonderful Things You Will Be (Random House, August 25, 2015) written and illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin is the joyful voice of a parent wondering about their child.  It's Tough To Lose Your Balloon (Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, September 8, 2015), the second title, written and illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka asks readers to look for the silver lining in possible situations.  If you are asking yourself why these two books are paired together here, the answer is simple.  They both have balloons on the cover and within the book.  Like balloons these books will lift you up and up, higher and higher.

When I look at you
And you look at me,
I wonder what wonderful
Things you will be.  

From birth a parent reassures a child of their worth.  Even at this early age this parent is sure this little being is going to be someone special to know.  No one else in the world is the same as this unique individual.

A beginning, especially a new life, offers many possibilities.  Will this child be strong to right a wrong?  Will this child sing a new song?  There might be new tales told.  There might be seeds planted to make a garden grow.

Perhaps new heights will be reached to get a better perspective.  Maybe tiny creatures will flourish under this child's tender care.  Without a doubt certain characteristics will help this child to be the best they can be.

Even in the face of adversity this child, this splendid child, will prevail.  This child, whatever they decide to become, will be loved.  And this child will know it.

Of the four lines written the second and fourth end with rhyming words flowing from verse to verse like a melody.  Emily Winfield Martin's gentle poetic narrative is soothing and supportive.  It looks forward hopefully.  Here is another sample passage.

For all of your tininess
Couldn't disguise
A heart so enormous...
And wild...
and wise. 

The theme of a child gently rising with a handful of balloons is carried through to the back, on the left, of the dust jacket.  Some of the text from the interior is placed there between two children each holding a balloon as they float among the clouds.  A canvas of white affords a cheerful display of colorful balloons drifting upward on the book case.  A single squirrel clothed in orange trousers is holding a red balloon rising with the rest.  On the opening and closing endpapers Emily Winfield Martin, on a background of white, in three rows with a repeating pattern, features eleven different toddlers with varying ethnicity.

Most of the illustrations span two pages.  The others are a delightful blend of single page images or smaller pictures grouped together.  Martin varies her background shades but favors white to draw our attention to the children.

Tiny details are sure to give readers pause; Humpty Dumpty sitting at the table for a tea party, mice are playing their own instruments beneath the car as a child band warms up in a garage, and a boy is reading Emily Winfield Martin's first book, Dream Animals, to some children.  Near the end a stunning four-page fold-out acts first as a curtain on a stage.  Opened it reveals a line of fifteen children all in costume playing out their signature roles.

One of my favorite illustrations is three children working together having created a community garden in the city.  Raised beds are home to fruits, vegetable and flowers.  Squirrels and pigeons are keeping them company.  Two boys are on the left planting seeds as a girl walks toward them from the right carrying a watering can and an arm full of flowers.  In this picture, in all the pictures, the clothing the children are wearing is realistic but adorable in patterns of strips or polka-dots or soft plain hues.  One is wearing a bear costume.

It's tough to 
lose your balloon...
...but it'll make
Grandma smile
from the sky.

Imagine yourself spending a day at the beach.  After romping in the sand, water and sun you have worked up a powerful hunger.  Then, to your dismay, you drop your sandwich...in the sand.  How can you turn this around to make it positive?

Things can get broken.  An accidental tromp in a puddle will leave you with wet shoes.  What if you don't eat your ice cream cone fast enough on a hot summer's day?  There are inventive, easy-as-pie answers for each one of these mishaps.

Personal experience teaches adults that the slightest boo-boo calls for the best bandage in one of many boxes on hand.  New people can be frightening but turn out to be truly fun, if given a chance.  All we need to remember is without the rain there can be no rainbows.

Each incident proposed by Jarrett J. Krosoczka is as normal as sunrise and sunset.  Children all around the world have these things happen to them.  That's what makes his single sentences broken apart by a page turn, endearing in their ordinariness.  Those moments between disaster and joy give us a chance to choose.  Here's one more passage.

It's the worst to
have wet shoes...
...but it's the best
to go barefoot.  

From the front of the matching dust jacket and book case, it's plain to see this little guy is dismayed.  One minute he is happy.  In the next minute the item giving him this joy is gone.  To the left on the back, Jarrett J. Krosoczka has taken the red from the balloon using it as a background for words of wisdom in white.

When life
gets you down,



The opening and closing endpapers provide the beginning and conclusion of the story.  On the first, outside a park entrance, a boy is receiving a balloon from a vendor as his father watches.  For the verso and title page we zoom in on his smiling face, walking proudly and carrying his balloon, which holds the title text and the author/illustrator name.  

Strong black lines drawn freely outline the elements in all the illustrations.  Bright colors on the left are the background for the beginning of the sentence and the single page image on the right depicts the oops-why-did-this-happen event.  These are partially colored.  Two pages follow filled with bright hues.  

Krosoczka's children are fully animated especially when they discover the goodness which can follow the right outlook.  Our concentration turns to the smiling faces due to his layout and design.  Careful readers will detect other examples of small kindnesses within his illustrations.

One of my favorite pictures is of the girl going barefoot.  It recalls the pure bliss of walking on grass, shoes and socks scattered.  She is laughing out loud and grinning away with a front tooth missing as she swings as high as she can on the swing set.  Our perspective is of the feet coming toward us.  

Both The Wonderful Things You Can Be written and illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin and It's Tough To Lose Your Balloon written and illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka are titles asking to be shared...repeatedly.  As you read each one you can feel a lightness filling you up.  You might even start to reach for a balloon to act as your guide.  They will both prompt discussions on the choices we make at any age.  At the close of his title, Krosoczka speaks about the spark leading to his book.  

To learn more about these talented authors/illustrators please follow the links attached to their names to access either their websites or in the case of Emily her blog.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pictures from It's Tough To Lose Your Balloon.  Scholastic's Ambassador for School Libraries, John Schumacher, premiered the book trailer on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  Jarrett J. Krosoczka wrote a message for readers there.  Enjoy the book trailer.

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