Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Field Trip Friendship

Wouldn't it be great to imagine every day as if it is a field trip? You wake up knowing something new and exciting is going to happen.  To explore a place you've never visited offers endless opportunities.  Experiencing this adventure with friends or even alone creates unforgettable moments.  Learning something unusual about our world increases our respect and admiration for those very things.

As a cherished class pet, the days during the school year are likely brimming with routine but also shrouded in an air of expectancy.  In the first book in her new early reader series, Fergus And Zeke (Candlewick Press, June 13, 2017) author Kate Messner acquaints us with a personable, lovable character (maybe two).  This mouse, Fergus, is no ordinary class pet.  His escapades are illustrated by artist Heather Ross.

FERGUS LOVED being the class pet in Miss Maxwell's room.  He loved everything about school, and he was good at following the class rules.

Whether it was storytime, a lesson in following directions or solving math problems, Fergus was a model student.  During music, the best part of the day as far as Fergus was concerned, he was so happy he danced his jazzy dance.  When Miss Maxwell told the students they would be going to the Museum of Natural History, he could hardly wait.  He wanted to see everything the students wanted to see.  The day was finally here.

To Fergus's disappointment he could not go to the museum.  Not to be deterred Fergus found a way to go on the field trip.  Emma's backpack was the ideal method of transportation.  The next problem our fearless mouse faced was he needed a buddy.  The one he discovered in Emma's backpack was not very mobile.  Suddenly a voice spoke in the cloakroom.

A friendly mouse named Zeke lived in the museum.  He would be Fergus's buddy and tour guide.  Pitted space rocks, the fluttering butterflies in their house, the massive blue whale and frightening reptile room were on the duo's agenda.  The exhibit filled with ferocious lions and large elephants was better than any other playground but the best part was the towering Tyrannosaurus rex.  From the height of its mouth Fergus could see everywhere and everyone.  Gasp!  Miss Maxwell's class was leaving...without him!

To say Fergus panicked was an understatement.  The twosome raced past all the visited rooms but a shortcut revealed the most spectacular sight of all.  There were questions. There were answers.  The biggest surprise of all was back at the classroom at the close of the day.  It was time for a jazzy dance.

Kate Messner is one of the most versatile writers in the world of children's literature.  Regardless of her intended audience, from picture books to middle grade novels, her dedication to meticulous research and reaching the hearts of her readers is obvious.  She speaks the language of relevance.

In this title her succinct sentences are a blend of narrative, thoughts and dialogue.  A technique of multiple perspectives draws us into the story.  Here is a sample passage.

Everyone was excited.  "I want to see the dinosaurs," said Emma.
"I want to see the butterfly garden," said Jake.
"I want to see the planetarium," said Lucy.  "I want to wish on a shooting star!"
Fergus wanted to see all those things, too.  What fun it would be to wish on a shooting star!  He couldn't wait for the big trip. 

Watching the two mice scamper across the matching dust jacket and book case front, wide-eyed and smiling, is sure to have readers doing the same thing.  Who wouldn't be happy walking among dinosaur bones?  To the left, on the back, the pals are seated looking in contentment at each other.  Their pink ears and purple and gray fur seems soft enough to touch.

On the opening and closing endpapers Heather Ross has placed a spring green background.  Upon this is a pattern of loose circles.  Within them are things to be seen at this museum.  Throughout the title Heather alternates between full page pictures, two page visuals, smaller pictures grouped together or images crossing the gutter beneath text.  To enhance the narrative she has added insets in different perspectives.  Under each of the chapter headings a single item represents events within those pages.

We get to see this visit through the eyes of the mice rather than the humans.  Adding to the sense of adventure are their expressions and body movements. The fun and the growing friendship are evident.

One of my favorite of several illustrations is of Fergus in the butterfly house.  A pale background mirroring a moist tropical atmosphere colors the canvas.  Bright green leaves reach in from the top and bottom framing Fergus.  Butterflies in beautiful hues fly above him.  His eyes are closed in pure bliss hoping one of them will land on him.  The entire scene is as if we are looking down on Fergus.

As soon as readers finish reading Fergus And Zeke written by Kate Messner with illustrations by Heather Ross, they will do one of two things.  They will immediately read it again and then they are sure to say, "When is the second book going to be available?"  The second book in the series, Fergus And Zeke At The Science Fair is being released sometime next year....I think.  Make sure you have multiple copies of this title available at home and at school.

To discover more about Kate Messner and Heather Ross and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  You will enjoy reading the story behind the story at Kate's website.  You can get a sneak peek at interior images and text at the publishers' websites here and here.

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