Quote of the Month

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

Monday, August 15, 2016

Putting On The Glitz

More than two hundred years ago the kindness of a daughter and parents who recognized her generous heart saved a life.  This life and one particular day were the inspiration for a popular and well-known nursery rhyme which has stood the test of time.  As sometimes happens, there is still some debate as to the author of Mary Had A Little Lamb. (For those of you intrigued here are two articles which make for interesting reading and good discussion points. Nursery Rhyme Investigation: Mary Had a Little Lamb, Elizabeth Bird, A Fuse #8 Production, School Library Journal and Mary Had a Little Lamb-Yes, There was a Mary and She Did Have a Little Lamb, New England Historical Society)

Since the words were first heard, read and sung, this poetic ode to a little girl and her woolly companion have been the object of many illustrative interpretations and written adaptations.  They have especially been fuel for the wonderful and creative minds found in children's literature.  Mary Had a Little Glam (Sterling Children's Books, August 2, 2016) written by Tammi Sauer with illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton is a lively look at spreading joy through fashion.

Mary had a little glam
that grew into a LOT.

And everywhere that Mary went,
she wasn't hard to spot.  

This gal had an eye for blending textures and colorful patterns.  She had a knack for knowing what extras would complement her clothing choices.  This charming creature of cheer was not aware of the shock awaiting her on her first day at school.

Her classmates' attire had not one little pinch of pizzazz.  As a matter of fact, the entire school needed a makeover.  Like a magician waving a wand, Mary's sense of style began to transform everyone and everything.  Everywhere that Mary went fashion was sure to follow.

Story time looked as if her classmates were about to attend a royal function, bling was a fad in art and a trip to the library was done with dramatic decorum.  As the minutes passed in merriment the teacher soon proclaimed

"It's recess time!"

A picturesque procession left the building, ready to hop, skip and jump.

When the playground came into view, the students, and Mary too, suddenly did not know what to do.  Surely their decked-out designs were not fit for all this dirt.  In a twinkle Mary moved and moved some more.  Her classmates did not tarry but followed Mary.  Frolic.

With every word penned by Tammi Sauer in this rhyming rendition of an enduring verse, happiness, like a drum, beats and bounces off the pages.  Her sentences are a tribute to individuality and the contagious nature of being free to be yourself.  Never forced but full of fun, phrases portray this spirited soul as she and her classmates enjoy their morning until with no more than the merest hesitation the cadence continues.  Mary has not only a flair for fashion but can be practical for a purpose.  Here is a sample passage.

When Mary took a look around
her heart was filled with woe.
The other kids in class with her
were glam-less head to toe.

How can you not smile when opening the matching dust jacket and book case?  Using

Corel Painter, Adobe Photoshop CS5.1 and collaged vintage paper and fabrics

Vanessa Brantley-Newton renders the illustrations in vivid, bright hues to pair perfectly with the personality of Mary.  Her facial features, body position and attire say Hello world!  What are we going to do today?  To the left, on the back, Mary, shopping bags in hand, is featured with the first four sentences.  The opening and closing endpapers showcase a before and after array of her classmates clothing on a white canvas.

The picture sizes shift as the text dictates from two pages, to single pages and smaller images on a single page.  Brantley-Newton continues using the crisp white background to accentuate her palette and designs.  Each illustration flows into the next flawlessly.

Her details invite readers to pause on each page.  A man reading a newspaper is holding actual newsprint, Mary's constant companion is a small stuffed toy lamb purse, the name of the school is Mother Goose Elementary and the classroom jobs board is another nod to nursery rhymes.  Careful readers will love noticing the changes in Mary's newest accessory, an occupied bird's nest.

One of my favorite pictures is of Mary walking to school.  Her bubbly personality and glamorous garb has caught the attention of several dogs.  Their walkers, one in front of Mary and the other behind her, are trying to keep everyone straight but entanglements ensue.  A baker and dressmaker watch, smiling, through their windows and displays.  The pennants and quilted shade at the bakery are a charming touch.

Mary Had a Little Glam written by Tammi Sauer with illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton is like holding happiness in your hand.  This delightful depiction will have readers wanting to spruce up their own personal styles.  There will be requests for read it again and perhaps a boa, crown and beads.

To discover more about Tammi Sauer and Vanessa Brantley-Newton and their work please follow the links attached to their names to access their website and blog respectively.  More can be seen about Vanessa Brantley-Newton at Painted Words.  She and her studio are showcased at Andrea Skyberg's site.  Tammi Sauer is a guest author and featured author at PictureBookBuilders, KidLit 411, Unleashing Readers and Reading, Writing and Reaching for Chocolate.


  1. I have this on request as well--it looks adorable! Very clever title & approach!

    1. I really like the idea of thinking outside the box; no animal but a characteristic/attitude.