Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, June 25, 2016

No Place To Hide

There is not a reader among readers who has not done this.  It can happen almost any time of the day.  You move with the stealth of a ninja seeking a place of solitude; a secret of all secret nooks.   You have to start this one important book getting lots of buzz or you have to finish the final two chapters of an edge-of-your-seat title.  You have no control over this desire.  This is simply the way it is.

Since the beginning of the printed word, book nerds and readers, this challenge has been and continues to be an arduous task.  Let Me Finish! (Disney Hyperion, June 7, 2016) written by debut picture book author Minh Le with illustrations by Isabel Roxas follows an avid reader on a quest for quiet.  We all know how troublesome this can be.

Ahhhh...nothing like a quiet spot and a new book.

As our bespectacled hero settles in for a great story, three avian voices loudly share their comments, completely spoiling the moment for him.  All he wants to do is finish a book without any interruptions.  Trudging back home, he chooses another book sneaking away undetected...hopefully.

This time he selects solace in a darkened cave, flashlight in hand. YIKES!  Not only have the birds followed him but a bear joins the chorus.  With sagging spirits he goes back home to find a package on his doorstep.  It's a title he has been yearning to read for a very long time.

Nonchalantly moving past the birds and the bear, he locates the perfect place among the trees.  He opens the book and... WHAT?!  A giraffe appears speaking about the very same book.  This cannot be happening!  The boy, in a loud, frustrated voice asks


Being chased by an assortment of animals up high and down low, our intrepid reader is on the run, book in hand.  Sprinting, swimming and climbing through a variety of landscapes, he finally reaches a peak of perfection.  He is alone at last.  Or is he?  Superb twists close this tale.

With his use of language Minh Le speaks with a true reader's heart.  He understands the absolute need for a reader to discover individually the story a book will tell them.  Even if a story is heard with a group, each individual will bring their personal interpretation to the telling.

When the boy is speaking, we can easily identify with his anticipation and eagerness to read a certain book.  His frustration is acutely felt with the inclusion of specific sentences.  The remarks by the birds, the bear and the collection of animals are all things voiced by those who are not mindful of spoilers.  Without us knowing it, Le is guiding us to a huge surprise which will have readers turning back pages to look for clues.  Here is a sample of his narrative.

Now to find a peaceful spot
where I won't be disturbed.

Have you gotten to the part
where the puppy runs away?
That was so sad.

But then they
saved the poor
thing from the well!

What a surprise ending!

Grandma to the rescue!

OH No!

When you remove the dust jacket and open it up, a stunning, energetic image meets your eyes from flap edge to flap edge.  Isabel Roxas uses bright, though realistic hues, on her animals who are uttering partial statements, short sentences and questions while chasing the boy; leading us to the beginning of the narrative.  To the left, on the back, the bear is carrying the ISBN.  Two shades of burnt orange cover the book case and spine.  One element on the front and another on the back give hints as to the unexpected twist in this story.  The matching opening and closing endpapers are a splash of color spreading out like fireworks filled with spirals, stars, lightning and discordant musical notes.  This is the noise in the home from which the boy seeks peace.

Thicker, matte-finished paper with a white or cream background acts to highlight the other elements in the interior pictures.  Roxas' illustrations are a joyous collage of the boy, the out-of-doors and the intruding animals.  Every single page turn is fully animated.  The size of the visuals dictates impeccable pacing.  Eleven of the illustrations are wonderfully wordless.

A multitude of emotions are expressed in the facial looks on the characters, especially the eyes.  The over-sized orange glasses on the boy are charming.  This little guy is totally lovable.

One of my favorite pictures is wordless.  The boy is seated on the floor of the cave.  His backpack is sitting next to him.  His newly found book is open across his legs.  The cave is dark except for the upturned flashlight shining on his face.  He is grimacing but we aren't quite sure why yet.

With every reading Let Me Finish! written by Minh Le with illustrations by Isabel Roxas becomes more marvelous.  It conveys the love of books and reading with excellence delivering the ultimate surprise.  It makes for a great read aloud.  I urge you to share it repeatedly.

To learn more about Minh Le and Isabel Roxas please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Isabel Roxas also maintains Tumblr pages.  The cover for this title was revealed on 100 Scope Notes by teacher librarian, 2014 Caldecott committee member and blogger, Travis Jonker.  Minh Le was recently highlighted at KidLit411 and Jama's Alphabet Soup.

UPDATE:  Minh Le and Isabel Roxas are guests on All The Wonders, Episode 268 June 28, 2016.
UPDATE:  Artistic process of Isabel Roxas is featured at author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. July 13, 2016

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