Quote of the Month

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Can-Do Attitude

Where there's a will, there's a way

This old English proverb has been uttered for centuries usually by parents, mentors or best friends.  It's a small bit of encouragement which rings true.  When will and way coincide great things are achieved; dreams come true.

There will be times when your desires, your passion for a particular outcome, will appear downright silly to anyone but you.  Hamsters DON'T Fight Fires! (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, September 12, 2017) debut book by author Andrew Root with illustrations by Jessica Olien tells the tale of a hamster with a big idea.  When you consider the size of an average hamster is about six inches long, this little guy's ambitions are off the charts.

Hugo was a hamster.

As a hamster Hugo had certain stellar attributes; some being generosity, quality cuisine creator, careful eater and a dancer ranking up there with Fred Astaire.  Hugo was wise enough to know there were certain things at which he did not excel.  In addition to being short and not exactly strong, he was not what you would consider a good candidate for a career as a firefighter.

He could not shake his deep desire to be a firefighter because there were some aspects of the job, he knew he could do.  Hugo's willingness to help others plus his love of the fire engines and the attire of the firefighters were certainly assets.  His best friend Scarlett, a snake, shared her unlikely dream, encouraging him to persevere.

(Let's pause here for a second, reader.  If a hamster and a snake can be friends, perhaps Hugo has a chance at being a firefighter.)

With hope in his heart, Hugo had a chat with the chief at the fire station.  Unfortunately there was one problem after the other with the suits being too large the least of his obstacles.  Hugo was suddenly jolted out of his dejected thinking when the fire station received a call for help.  A fire was raging in Great Woods.

Before he knew what was happening he was given a too-big suit and was riding on the back of the fire truck.  At the site of the fire Hugo felt more frustrated than ever at his inability to help but a frightened 


sent him into creative action.  The fate of the baby bird and Hugo's career is left for you to discover.  Let's just say there's a new 

four-alarm firehouse chili

being cooked down at the station.

When Andrew Root begins this narrative with a simple declarative sentence we can immediately conjure a vision of the physical characteristics for Hugo. When Andrew continues with a list of his personality traits and those things at which he struggles, this gives readers a bit of comedy.  It's not all hamsters who can win running races or should avoid bowling.  You have to admit, too, the words hamster and firefighting are rarely seen in the same sentence together.

This is when the soul of the story is presented through the remarks of Scarlett, bolstering Hugo and helping him to maintain hope.  Andrew allows us to see Hugo's passion become tangible in his actions.  Here is a sample passage.

Hugo was still nervous, but he decided that Scarlett was right.
Even though he was small, perhaps he should try to become a firefighter.
He gathered his courage, walked down to the station house, and convinced
the chief to give him a chance.

When readers get a first look at the opened matching dust jacket and book case, they will be amazed to see a hamster holding a fire hose.  It's a fabulous design technique to have the spray of water make a circular frame around Hugo.  The use of primary and secondary colors for most of the book along with the heavier black outlines has huge appeal for the intended audience.  

To the left, on the back, set within a red canvas is one of the interior images.  Within the oval, Hugo is having a hard time sliding down the fire pole. It is a tad bit too high.  Bright orange covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Another interior image is featured beneath the text on the title page.

Using Photoshop the illustrations were created digitally by Jessica OlienTo enhance pacing their size varies from double-page spans to groups of small vignettes and to single-page pictures.  The thoughts of Hugo and Scarlett, their dreams, are shown in large loose circles like balloons.  Jessica adds her own bits of humor and reinforces the notion of working with perseverance toward your goal by, for example, showing Scarlett with her tail through the handle on a cup of coffee labeled NASA. (You have to read the book.)  Her use of color and the facial expressions on the characters heighten the emotion in each given situation. 

One of my favorite of many pictures is when Hugo is first riding on the back of the fire truck.  This spreads across two pages.  In the far right corner is a section of grass along the roadway.  From there to the left page edge is the road.  A blue car is driving away at the top of the right side.  Most of the pages are filled with the back of the fire truck.  We can see the ladder on the top.  Hanging on to the back is the chief, a raccoon.  Next to him on the left is Hugo, gripping the edge for dear life.  His mouth is wide open.  (I wonder what he is saying.)

Younger readers will easily identify with Hugo in Hamsters DON'T Fight Fires! written by Andrew Root with illustrations by Jessica Olien.  They will comprehend size should not hamper your dreams while enjoying Hugo's journey.  I can't wait to share this title with readers.  You should share it with your readers too. They will find Hugo absolutely adorable.

To learn more about Andrew Root and Jessica Olien and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  The book trailer was premiered at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's website, Watch. Connect. Read.  I believe you are not only going to enjoy the fresh, snappy trailer but the manner in which Andrew completes John's sentences.

No comments:

Post a Comment