Quote of the Month

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

Monday, August 22, 2016

Delectable Detective

Dating back thousands of years, most tellers use riddles to welcome listeners into their stories.  These specifically-worded queries get our brains in gear, focus our concentration and inspire creativity.  Riddles allow us to participate in a treasure hunt without taking a step.  All we need to do is use our imaginations, expanding our thinking from the obvious to the obscure.  The sense of accomplishment in deciphering these puzzles is a rich reward too.

Readers are guaranteed another adventure full of fun and one smart cookie on the run in The Gingerbread Man Loose at the Zoo (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC, August 23, 2016) written by Laura Murray with illustrations by Mike Lowery.  There is sleuthing and solving.  May they do themselves proud.  It's game on for the Gingerbread Man and the elementary school crowd.

I woke to the sound of a rumbling

The children called out names as the teacher made noises and everyone's excitement grew.  Boarding the bus the hunt was revealed.  The animal clues were no longer concealed.  It was a point-to-point guide around the zoo.

Unraveling riddle number one was done with ease.  In fact Gingerbread Man was soon in a tight squeeze; barely escaping snack status thanks to a sneeze. When he chanced a look, his class was gone.

Knowing his friends needed to be found; the Gingerbread Man unriddled the remaining riddles, animal by animal, in habitats high, low, wet, square and round.  Some beasts were big, other critters were small.  He found them, almost all.  Figuring out the final puzzle, the Gingerbread Man ran as only he can.

Single-minded he moved until...a baby kangaroo came into view.  Now two were lost but the Gingerbread Man was brilliant and bold.  He knew what they were seeking was more valuable than gold.  Hoping and hopping they followed the way.  Happy hero and baby buddy, together, saved the day.

When Laura Murray sends the Gingerbread Man on a trip, we are in for a treat.  As we wind through the zoo, we are learning animal names too.  Her riddles blend into the rhyming rhythm of the narrative asking readers to participate in piecing the clues together.  Within the puzzles we learn about the animals' characteristics, baby names, and food.  Here are two more sample passages depicting Murray's skillful word play.

"HAVE A WILD DAY!" said the man at the front
as we pulled out our riddles to start on the hunt.

I jumped 
on the railing
to get a 
good look
and out popped her tongue
like a curvy blue hook.

The energy in the illustrations rendered

with pencil, traditional screen printing, and digital color

by Mike Lowery will have you ready to go to the zoo.  There's no doubt when looking at the front of the dust jacket (I'm working with an F & G) the Gingerbread Man is ready to romp.  The animals at the zoo look equally willing to share in his pleasant pursuits.  On the back, to the left, readers are given a hint of further play and a problem in three separate visuals.  On the title page the Gingerbread Man is swinging on a vine from the top through the title text, dangling above a bright, light blue and white map of the zoo.  A friendly rhino grins at the reader.

Lowery portrays his interpretation of the story in a series of bordered panels of varying sizes.  He sometimes uses one or two pages, edge to edge to focus on a particular point.  The narrative is usually shown in separate boxes, black on white, at the top or bottom of a panel.  Dialogue is, for the most part, in speech bubbles.

With a dot, circle, or curve of a line, Lowery is able to convey an array of emotion.  These girls, boys, animals and the Gingerbread Man are upbeat and fully animated.  Readers will find themselves smiling repeatedly.

One of my favorite of several illustrations is at the beginning of the story.  The Gingerbread Man wakes up to discover his teacher is the cause of the commotion.  She's looking fierce pretending to be a large cat.  Looking out his window, the Gingerbread Man is smiling at the discovery.  We can see all his details, his frosted brow, his pink and white hat, bow tie, red buttons and brown shorts.  He's one cute cookie!

This entry in the series is a surefire winner.  Everyone is going to love following their favorite smart cookie in The Gingerbread Man Loose at the Zoo written by Laura Murray with illustrations by Mike Lowery.  I know you will hear requests of read it again and most likely pleas for treats, riddles and a trip to the zoo.  

To learn more about Laura Murray and Mike Lowery and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  At Laura Murray's site she has mentor text lesson plans, a reader's theater, a design a Gingerbread Man story template, a story sequencing page, zoo animal matching and a color the cover page.  Please take a moment to visit Scholastic's Ambassador for School Libraries, John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read.for the book trailer premiere and a wonderful interview.  You will want to visit the Nerdy Book Club to read Laura Murray's recent guest post focusing on gifts and inspiration.  Laura Murray is a guest on Matthew Winner's podcast All The Wonders, Episode 278.  For my views about The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School, The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck, and The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas follow the links.