Quote of the Month

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

Monday, February 6, 2017

Through The Book Return

To be sure most of my best memories of libraries under my care are those days when they were filled with children wandering the shelves, small groups gathered together quietly laughing over a book, a single child silently reading in a cozy corner or others seeking answers by connecting virtually with factual research.  When we gathered for story times, collectively experiencing an array of emotions and discussing all manner of topics, bonds with books were formed.  As wonderful as all those remembrances are, the evenings, weekends and vacations when I walked through those doors into complete silence, shelves filled with books lining the walls, are an entirely different experience.

For me there is no other way to explain it other than a combination of joy and reverence.  This place which holds thousands of stories, from information and from imaginations, collected over generations and housed in a single location, to this day, still amazes me.  Bunny's Book Club (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, February 7, 2017) written by Annie Silvestro with illustrations by Tatjana Mai-Wyss is a story which replicates that joy and reverence every single time you hold the book in your hands and read the words.

Bunny loved books.

This love grew from listening to stories being read to children from books at the library.  During warmer weather the woman with the red glasses held story time outside but now it was colder.  There were no animals inside the library.  Bunny had to have books.  Bunny had to read.  Bunny needed a plan.

Late one night he left his snug home with a flashlight.  Every possible opening on the outside of the library was locked up tight.  Then Bunny noticed the book return.

For a rabbit wanting to read, a book return was no challenge at all.  He was so hoppy when he got inside.  Soon he had a stack ready to borrow and take to his burrow.  Bunny became a nighttime patron of the pages.

His absence was noted and a curious friend came knocking.  Bunny did what any lover of books would do.  He shared his secret.  It was passed from one animal to the next until one night a woman in red glasses changed everything.

Debut picture book author Annie Silvestro reaches out to readers with her first sentence sending an alliterative melody by using bunny and books.  She continues by telling us how this affection is formed, the problem Bunny encounters and his solution through the voice of a narrator.  When first one and then more animal characters appear, conversations are included, welcoming readers more personally into the story.

Her descriptive words draw readers into the thoughts and actions of Bunny and company.  The transformation of getting caught up in a story, the sense of victory when a hurdle is cleared and the deep sense of satisfaction in spreading good fortune among companions are portrayed by Silvestro wonderfully.  We can't help but become attached to these forest friends and their shared fondness for books and reading. Here is a sample passage.

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" said Porcupine.
"Calm your quills," said Bunny.
"I'm too prickly---I'll never fit!"

Bunny pushed and shoved until...
POP went Porcupine.
Bunny slipped in and flipped on his flashlight. 

One word immediately comes to mind when looking at the front of the dust jacket, adorable.  Look at all those woodland creatures actively reading together!  The delicate details, the tiny daisies, the little mushroom and the decorative pennants add to the charm as does the title placed on a banner tied to the tree.  (I am using an F & G.)  To the left on the back on a canvas of light spring green Bunny is heading home after a trip to the library, his flashlight creating a beam of light as he balances books on his head.  Above this circular image are the words

When you open 
a book,
you discover
a world...

The opening and closing endpapers in shades of light brown are a pattern of circular-like shapes formed by decorative scrolls.  On the outside of these are acorns, oak leaves and mushrooms.  On the inside are the characters in a variety of poses reading books.  On the first set of endpapers something extra has been added which is utterly delightful.  For many it's a reminder of falling in love with books and libraries.  For others it will prompt lovely discussions.

Each illustration, regardless of the size, asks readers to pause, looking at every single element.  The quality of the technique employed by Tatjana Mai-Wyss makes you want to reach out and touch the page.  It's a mixture of fine and firm lines and soft colors and more prominent shades.

To show Bunny's thoughts she inserts smaller pictures within a large illustration or includes them above a visual.  His movements are truly like those of a rabbit in the wild; a cluster of images, up and down, left and right, on two pages.  His home is as comfortable as a cottage with over-stuffed furniture, old-fashioned lamps and hanging light bulbs, checked curtains and a stone fireplace.

One of my many favorite illustrations spreads over two pages.  It's a large overview of the front of the library at night.  Trees and bushes frame the back, left and right.  Bunny is carrying his small red flashlight.  To show how he checks for any possible opening seven circles, tied together with a trail of dots, show him looking in every nook and cranny.

Bunny's Book Club written by Annie Silvestro with illustrations by Tatjana Mai-Wyss certainly belongs in the huggable category.  It honors the wonder of reading, books and libraries through the endearing tale of Bunny and his friends.  It conveys how the determination of one can spread enormous and lasting happiness to others.  You must have this on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To discover more about Annie Silvestro and Tatjana Mai-Wyss and their other work, visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Annie and Tatjana are on Twitter @anniesilvestro and @mai_wyss  They are also on Instagram @anniesilvestro and @tatjanamaiwyss  Tatjana is on Facebook.  You can view interior portions of the book at the publisher's website.  Annie is interviewed at Picture Books Help Kids Soar and at Karlin Gray's website.  Annie stops by Author Darlene Beck-Jacobson's website to chat about libraries.

Update:  Annie Silvestro is a guest at Laura Sassi Tales on February 20, 2018 and at Picture Book Builders on February 24, 2018.

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