Quote of the Month

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

Once A Year

It's one day out of three hundred sixty-five days when you (and family and friends, if you are fortunate) celebrate your presence on our planet.  Every year on the day you were born, depending on the customs of your country and traditions within your family or among your friends, it's a time usually filled with gifts, fabulous food and the merry-making of memories.  On this day, for children, their essence seems to glow.

For many gals and guys, they start the countdown to their next birthday on the morning after the previous birthday.  They leave hints about presents they would love to receive.  They repeatedly mention their favorite foods.  And they secretly begin a list of wishes if they know they will have a cake with birthday candles.  When's My Birthday? (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, September 5, 2017) written by Julie Fogliano with illustrations by Christian Robinson is a lively look at a child who can hardly wait for their birthday to arrive.

when's my birthday?
where's my birthday?
how many days until
my birthday?

The questions keep coming from the eager individual.  They want to know the day of the week for their birthday.  They want to know the season of the year when this event is honored.  They want to know exactly what everyone will be doing.

Three children ask for three different kinds of presents.  Another one declares the size, the flavor of frosting and the number of candles on his perfect birthday cake.  A fourth fancies special foods.

With anticipation building invitations are issued.  It seems as though anyone and everyone is coming to the party.  Any attire you choose to wear is welcome.

Sleep is the last thing you desire on your birthday eve but it succeeds in enveloping you.  It's time.  It's morning.  Today is the day.  It's always worth the wait.

Like the word wizard she is Julie Fogliano casts a spell over readers, bringing us into the joy associated with children awaiting their birthdays.  Each phrase builds toward the special day touching on all aspects which contribute to the best birthday ever; the one we all remember.  By repeating the first three questions within the lyrical narrative two more times a cheery rhythm is supplied.  Here is a sample passage.

will my birthday have some singing?
will we sing so happy happy?
will we dance around and round?
will we jump and jump and jump? 

Certain to create a smile in all who view it, the front of the opened dust jacket promises fun within the pages of the book.  The smile on the child's face represents barely concealed bliss.  To the left, on the back, four hands from four children of various ethnic backgrounds reach upward to grab sweet treats thrown in the air.  When you touch the jacket you can feel the raised white text.  Some of the dots and candy on the front and the back are varnished.

Upon removing the jacket, readers will see a book case covered in green paper.  Embossed on the front is a party hat over a bowl.  A fish in copper foil swims in the bowl.  On the opening and closing endpapers a single row of large birthday candles, flames flickering, are presented in an array of colors and patterns.

On the verso a giraffe and a dog, both wearing party hats frame the information.  On the title page the party hat and fish bowl appear again in color.  Rendered using acrylic paint and collage techniques each image spans two pages.

A superb use of white space is evident in many of the pictures drawing our attention to the animated elements. Christian Robinson uses pieces of print, colored and patterned papers, string, realistic pictures of food, and a paper doily with his paints to fashion marvelous illustrations; each providing a unique perspective.  In reference to winter a child, laughing and holding their arms open wide, wearing appropriate clothing and ice skates, is skating on top of a large birthday cake.  In another scene with a black background a little girl is reaching for the end of a string.  It is wrapped around and tied in a bow on a large gift with white paper and golden stars.

One of my many favorite visuals is when the child wonders if their birthday is in spring.  Three stems fan from the gutter; the middle one in the exact center.  On either side are two large jagged leaves.  Two of the blossoms are dandelions ready to fluff.  The third on the right is a fan of yellow, brush-stroked lines.  A butterfly, a grasshopper and a snail, all wearing party hats and smiles, balance out the design and heighten the happiness.

When you read When's My Birthday? written by Julie Fogliano with illustrations by Christian Robinson you'll wish your birthday is not days or weeks or months away.  You will want it to be tomorrow.  There is total elation emanating from these pages.  I highly recommend you have a copy on both your professional and personal bookshelves.  Make sure you have party hats handy when you read it aloud.

To learn more about Julie Fogliano and her other work please visit her Facebook page.  Christian Robinson's website can be accessed by following the link attached to his name.  To view interior images please stop by the publisher's website.  The publishers have also designed a website dedicated to this book.  It includes information and activities.  Both Julie Fogliano and Christian Robinson chat during a podcast at Publishers Weekly about this title.  Christian Robinson is interviewed at Art Of The Picture Book, PBS News Hour, and Brightly.  Author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson highlights this title on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

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