Quote of the Month

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

Monday, February 27, 2017

You Are...

In the capacity as a teacher librarian you are in the unique position to be acquainted with every single student in your building.  Depending on the level of the building you will usually spend between three to five years learning and teaching each one.  You are fortunate to be present as they grow into remarkable individuals.  Their honesty is heartwarming, heartbreaking and hopeful.

You have the opportunity in your space to offer all of them an atmosphere where information and imagination are limitless.  They will come to understand the meaning and value of respect and acceptance.  All are equally welcome.  Not Quite NARWHAL (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, February 14, 2017) debut book written and illustrated by Jessie Sima is about discovery in many forms.

Kelp was born deep in the ocean.

From the beginning Kelp understood he was not quite like the other narwhals.  His physical features, what he liked to eat and his swimming abilities were far from similar to his friends' traits, tastes and dives, but they liked him regardless of these differences.  It was easier to love yourself when others loved you.

One day a current stronger than any other Kelp had encountered carried him away from his home.  He ended up so close to land he saw a being on a cliff.  To his surprise it was like looking in a mirror.

Kelp could hardly wait to see this creature so he swam toward the land...slowly.  Walking for the first time on sand was no easy task.  From the beach, he reached the forest.  From the forest he entered a clearing filled with rainbows and ...unicorns.  Kelp wasn't a narwhal.  He was a unicorn!

Time spent with the other unicorns was glorious but he missed the sea and his other companions.  Upon returning home, Kelp was astonished by the narwhals' actions and words.  He believed he had to make a decision.  It seemed impossible but friendship can create potential for new opportunities.

Each reader can identify immediately with Kelp as his differences are pointed out to us by author Jessie Sima.  Who hasn't felt like an outsider?  At the same time she quickly reveals how he is made to feel a part of the narwhal community.  This will ask readers to think how they are made to feel in similar situations or how they make others welcome (or not).  All this is told to us in an easy to understand narrative, simply stated but genuinely sincere.

As the story continues she allows us to become more connected to Kelp sharing his inner thoughts and by adding in dialogue.  Sima's repetition of three nearly identical phrases in a single sentence ties his experiences on land and his life under the sea together splendidly.  Here are a couple of sample sentences.

When he finally reached the shore,
Kelp felt a little bit anxious---he had never left the ocean.

He was nervous about walking for the first time,
but the land creatures made it look so easy!

Readers will enjoy running their hands over the sparkly raised title text and the stars and dots in the faint rainbow beams of light on the front of the dust jacket.  The tiny red, orange and green fish are a delicate and cheerful contrast to a smiling Kelp.  To the left, on the back, those same contrasting colors are used in butterflies, flowers and grass as Kelp runs over land with rainbow glows spotlighting his fun.  On the book case rows of solid color Kelp images in vivid lavender, blue, green, orange, red and pink create a pattern with Kelp finding a spot once on the front and on the back.

On the opening endpapers Kelp, kicking up his hooves in happiness, is framed in a seaweed oval among fish, butterflies, flowers and seaweed using several hues of teal.  On the closing endpapers shades of green are used with the same elements but one change is added within the oval frame.  It's a final act of hilarity in this story.

Rendered in Adobe Photoshop Jessie Sima brings her own special style to all the illustrations; some spanning two pages, single pages or several images on one page.  Her depictions of Kelp, the other narwhals and the unicorns are adorable.  Their facial features and characteristics will have readers smiling right along with them.  What's not to love about Kelp wearing the clear helmet?  Careful viewers will note the swimmies worn by Kelp, the unicorn playing a guitar, the crab waving goodbye and all the wonderful details in the final two page image.

One of my favorite illustrations is a night scene.  Kelp's head is out of the water when he realizes his nearness to land.  A full moon is supplying a path on the water's surface.  A tall, tall cliff rises above the sandy beach and forest.  Standing on top, silhouetted against the moon, is a unicorn.  Sparkles surround him.

This book, Not Quite NARWHAL, written and illustrated by Jessie Sima allows readers to identify with the main character but also to place themselves in the position of the narwhals and unicorns.  It's a marvelous portrait of finding yourself and being welcomed wherever you go.  I can't imagine a professional or personal bookshelf without at least one copy (or more). This will be popular with many readers.

To learn more about Jessie Sima please follow the links attached to her name to access her website and Tumblr account.  To see some interior images please visit the publisher's website.  There is an entire website dedicated to this title.  The cover premiere and an interview as well as an All The Wonders, Episode 326 podcast with teacher librarian Matthew C. Winner are found at All The Wonders. Jessie Sima has a Not Quiet NARWHAL Pinterest board.  Jessie Sima is a guest author at the Nerdy Book Club.  Jessie Sima and Kelp have Twitter accounts. @JessieSima @notquitenarwhal

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