Quote of the Month

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

Monday, December 31, 2018

Countdown To 2019 #1 Friends

Distance and decades do not weaken the bond between them.  Unexpected circumstances do not deter these individuals.  Strength, courage and good fortune are offered in the face of weakness, fear and adversity.  They tend to place others first and themselves second.

Friends appear when they are least expected and most needed.  They know us better than we know ourselves.  In the following three volumes published in 2018, friends come in all shapes and sizes.

Friends Stick Together (Dial Books for Young Readers, April 10, 2018) written and illustrated by Hannah E. Harrison (Extraordinary Jane and Bernice Gets Carried Away) is a classic case of the attraction of opposites.  What's one to do when another wishes you would disappear?  You don't give up.

I'm Rupert.

I like reading 
listening to
classical overtures,
and eating cucumber
sandwiches with no crust.

The next character we meet is Levi.  He is not a rhinoceros, but he is a tickbird.  Corny jokes, armpit farts and popping wheelies are a few of his favorite things.

One minute he isn't in Rupert's classroom and the next minute he is on Rupert's nose.  Levi is one obnoxious bird and he won't leave Rupert alone.  Rupert doesn't really have many friends but Levi chases everyone away.

Rupert starts a campaign to get rid of Levi.  Rupert tries once, twice and three times to vanquish this pest.  Finally, the truth works and Levi leaves.

Levi does not appear at school the following day; not in music, or gym class and not during lunch.  Guess what?  Rupert is miserable without Levi.  There is a path to take.  Will Rupert follow it?

Author Hannah E. Harrison begins slowly and with intention acquainting us with the two main characters.  They are total opposites which brings in the humor.  It intensifies in a combination of narrative and conversations.  When each character reaches their point of no return, we are hopeful and totally engaged in the story.  One clever bit of writing by Hannah E. Harrison is the inclusion of two different definitions of symbiosis at the beginning and at the end of the story.  This ties every portion of the story together.  Here is a passage.

During lunch, he makes a big to-do
about eating my ticks, and grosses
everyone out.

Tastes like chicken!"

"Just kidding,
tastes like tick!" 

What people remember the most about the artwork of Hannah E. Harrison in her books is her portraits of her animal characters.  Their animated body positions and facial expression endear them to us.  When we look at the front of the matching dust jacket and book case, we can already see the distinction between Rupert and Levi; the one is straight-laced, and the other is happy-go-lucky.  We are already curious about events to come.

To the left, on the back, Levi is standing with his arms spread wide and says:

"A friend is a
friend through
TICK and thin!" 

The opening and closing endpapers are different.  The first is a blue and white check.  The second is shades of golden yellow-orange in an argyle pattern.  Rendered with acrylic paint on Bristol board the illustrations shift in size to place emphasis on portions of the story and assist with pacing.

There are collections of small images, full-page pictures, and illustrations in circular shapes with elements extended beyond their borders.  Sound effects inserted in the visuals add to the emotional engagement of readers.  Although all the items in the illustrations are valuable Hannah E. Harrison makes sure our attention is drawn to the animals.

Her animals look and act as if they could walk off the page at any minute.  Their physical traits are realistic, but how many rhinoceros do you know that own headsets for listening to Beethoven?  You can hardly contain your laughter at Levi making arm farts when he's on the back of Rupert.

One of my many favorite pictures is a bird's eye view of Rupert on the spinning roundabout.  He is hanging on tight as can be with most of his body off and above the ground as it circles.  He is hoping Levi will fly off. This takes up most of the full-page picture on a grassy background.

While enjoying the antics of Levi and the annoyance of Rupert, readers also see the value in having a friend, even if at first we are not sure of their intentions.  Friends Stick Together written and illustrated by Hannah E. Harrison is an excellent selection for an introduction to symbiosis and friendship.  By following the link attached to Hannah E. Harrison's name, you can access her website.  At the publisher's website you can view interior illustrations.  Hannah E. Harrison is interviewed at Brightly.

Being a new student in a new town is rarely easy for any gal or guy.  If you happen to be a child genius, it's even harder to acquire friends.  Albie Newton (Sterling Children's Books, May 1, 2018) written by Josh Funk with illustrations by Ester Garay is an exploration of the dynamics of friendship.

Little Albie Newton
was a thinker from the start.
He built a mega-stroller
after taking his apart.

Before attending school, this brilliant boy counted to infinity and learned multiple languages with ease.  A cheerful song was sung by his classmates on Albie Newton's first day in the classroom and that gave him an idea.  He would build a gift hoping to make new friends.

It wasn't long before everyone realized Albie was super smart.  They would do one activity and he would do another.  They were painting shapes on paper during art and Albie created a masterpiece like those seen in museums.  Soon he was working alone, gathering discarded items and sneaking away with materials others were using.

During reading time the noise from Albie's newly established science lab rang out over the entire school.  Albie just kept working.  His classmates were at the proverbial end of their collective ropes.  They were mad.  Shirley stopped them in their tracks.  Wait a minute!

She asked them to look at Albie's creation.  It was a spectacular sensation.  (I couldn't resist the urge to rhyme.) In a heartbeat they knew this wasn't going to be a normal year.  Albie was going to take them into their wildest imaginations.

Readers are quickly invited into the story of Albie with the cadence Josh Funk builds through his use of language.  Every two sentences or phrases has a rhyming word at the end.  What is striking about Albie is he does not flaunt his intelligence but uses it instead to form friendships.  Readers will also appreciate the wisdom Josh gives to Shirley; the ability to see deeper into Albie's persona.  Here are two passages.

Kai and Jane played dress-up
till they heard a giant 


Albie dumped the garbage bin
and sifted through the trash.

Arjun ate his snack and finished Albie's cleanup duties
as Albie built a science lab (and found a cure for cooties!)

The bright red used as a canvas for the matching dust jacket and book case spreads cheer to all who see it.  Albie looks like someone you want to know.  All the gadgets and gizmos surrounding him peak your curiosity.  Who are the cat and red-haired girl?  What is the significance of the watch?  Portions of the front of the jacket are varnished.

To the left, on the back, text further invites us to open the book.  Images of Albie, his drawings and new friends have us wondering what will happen next.  On the opening and closing endpapers all kinds of tools, scientific experiments, drawings and pictures, placed on a green background, hint at what is to come and what happens.  The two sets of endpapers are different.

Illustrator Ester Garay rendered the illustrations digitally.  On the title page the text is fashioned from tools Albie might use in his inventions.  Each image, sometimes two on a page, full-page, or double-page, is lively and filled with fun-loving details.  The hamster in the classroom is also singing to Albie on his first day at his new school.  The pictures and posters on the classroom wall make you wish you were a student there, too.

One of my many favorite pictures spans two pages.  On the left, Shirley, the red-haired girl is peeking around a barricade of blue storage crates.  She watches Albie hard at work on his invention.  Albie has built a lab from other furniture in the classroom.  He, wearing special glasses, is totally focused on his latest project.  There are lots of pieces of objects around him.

When I think of Albie Newton written by Josh Funk with illustrations by Ester Garay I know there are children who can readily identify with him from personal experience.  This book shows readers there isn't a single right path to friendship.  This is an excellent choice for a theme on friendship, inventions and determination.  To learn more about Josh Funk and Ester Garay, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Josh is interviewed at Jena Benton's website.  The cover for this title is revealed at educator Pernille Ripp's website.  The book trailer is premiered at KidLit TV.  Josh has accounts on Twitter and Instagram.  Ester has an account on Instagram.

Oh, the comfort many find in a treasured toy.  Stuffed animals make wonderful friends.  They can go wherever you go.  They listen to your out-loud-thoughts, wishes, dreams, happiness and sadness.  Their silence absorbs everything and provides constant reassurance.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if they could talk and walk?  Brave Enough for Two (A Hoot & Olive Story) (Henry Holt and Company, June 12, 2018) written and illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss is about a girl and her toy owl and their remarkable adventures.  Courage comes in many forms.

Hoot was Olive's very best friend in the whole wide world.  But as you know, best friends don't always like the same things.

Their definition of adventure was one of their differences.  Olive liked to read about them.  Hoot preferred the action of experiencing them in real life.  Hoot decided he was going to change Olive's outlook.

One day he took her to something he made, hoping to make her braver.  It was a basket big enough for two, topped with a huge bundle of balloons.  Olive worried about the heights they would climb.  Hoot told her it would go up but not scary up.  They went so high everything appeared in miniature below them.  It was amazing but for Olive it was a bit frightening.

It started to rain.  It started to storm.  Olive was afraid they would get lost.  As suddenly as it appeared, the thunder, lighting and rain left.  (Whew!)  Hoot got them safely to the ground, one balloon at a time.

Full of ideas, Hoot had another plan.  They took that basket and used it like a boat on a river.  It was going much too fast.  They barely made it to shore.  When they did, Hoot went quiet.  He had a tear.  His stuffing was coming out.  In a beautiful reversal of roles, Olive knew exactly what they needed to do.  And they did.

With gentleness and truth Jonathan D. Voss pens a story of friendship all would welcome.  Each character recognizes their insecurities, but the other is there to bolster them.  They do this with confidence, shown in the repetition of certain phrases.  In a marvelous blend of narrative and conversations these characters find a special place in our hearts.  Here are two passages.

"I've never been in a boat before,"
 said Olive.

"Then it will be the first time for
both of us," said Hoot.

"Will we go fast?" asked Olive.

""Maybe just a little," said Hoot,
tying a flag to their new ship's mast.

The boat bobbed and spun like a carnival ride.

"What do you think?" asked Hoot.

"I think we are going faster than
just a little!" said Olive.

The view on the front of the dust jacket moves across the spine to the back.  It's a peaceful pastoral scene with gorgeous clouds and birds which you can almost hear singing.  Although Olive likes her adventure in books, she certainly looks determined in our introduction of her.  Placing Hoot riding in the red wagon allows us to be surprised when he comes alive in the story.  The single yellow balloon is a delightful bit of foreshadowing. The title text is varnished.

On the book case a wide, rich red (the shade seen on the dust jacket) creates a cover for the spine.  To the left a single balloon floats in the air.  On the right Olive is still pulling Hoot in the wagon but her stride has changed.  The hues for these images are like old photographs, sepia-toned, in an album.

The pattern on the opening and closing endpapers is in two shades of green.  It looks like wallpaper.  A closer examination shows Olive holding Hoot's hand as they walk away from us.  This is in the center of a leafy frame.  On the verso page entwined leaves form a corner border.  Olive and Hoot peek at each other around the trunk of a tree in the opposite corner.  The basket and two balloons, in full color, are under the text on the title page.

The artist used watercolor with pen and ink on Arches Hot Press Watercolor Board and added color digitally to create the illustrations for this book.

Each picture is brimming with whimsy.  Jonathan D. Voss shifts his perspective and image sizes.  He often extends the illustration over the gutter to make a column for text.  A smaller image in brown accompanies the narrative.  Sometimes we are right next to the characters, other times it's as if we are birds watching them from the sky.  And we often feel out breath catch when a double-page illustration is spread before us.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a double-page visual.  From left to right a vista of rolling hills, plowed fields and hedgerows are spread before us.  A clearing sky still holds stormy clouds, but a wide rainbow extends from the left, over the gutter and disappears to the top right.  Just off center to the right, on the right, Olive and Hoot ride in the basket with the colorful balloons keeping them afloat.  Their backs are to us.  Readers will long to join them.

Tender and loving, this story, Brave Enough for Two (A Hoot & Olive Story) written by Jonathan D. Voss, is like having a best friend you can keep on your bookshelf to help you whenever you need it (of even if you don't).  We would count ourselves very fortunate to have either of these two for a friend.  Read this aloud often and share it widely, please.  This is Jonathan D. Voss's author/illustrator debut.
To learn more about Jonathan D. Voss, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  At his site and the publisher' website, you can view interior illustrations.  Jonathan maintains an account on Twitter.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Countdown To 2019 #2 Night

Last night, or rather very early this morning, a yip split the air outside the house.  It was followed by a melodic, soulful howling of at least one coyote.  It was breathtakingly beautiful and a reminder of a world that exists for many when others are sleeping.

There are animals whose lives function best when darkness changes the landscape into a multitude of shadows and shapes not seen during daylight.  There are people who work tirelessly during the night to ensure safety and stability for many individuals. Published in 2018 there are two lovely titles presenting those whose tasks take them from their homes while the rest of the community sleeps.

Night Job (Candlewick Press, September 11, 2018) written by Karen Hesse with illustrations by G. Brian Karas invites readers to join a father and his son for one night.  In that one night we are introduced to a lasting love.  We understand the precious nature of memories acting as the glue for an unbreakable bond.

On Friday nights, when the sun goes down,
I snap the clips shut on Dad's lunch box
and climb onto the back of his bike.

The boy, hands and arms clasped around his father's body, roar down the highway on a motorcycle.  After passing the bay, they arrive at their destination, a school.  The odor of the air has shifted from fish to lilacs.

After unlocking the door to the building, the two enter and start to work.  In the gym, they begin, one dusting the floor and the other shooting baskets.  As they clean the cafeteria and stage, a radio momentarily takes them to a baseball game.  Together they sweep one hallway after another hallway.

Two hours before midnight they stop and eat their packed meal in the courtyard. Later when they move to the library, one polishes and another one reads aloud until he falls asleep.  With dawn less than two hours away, the dad and his son get ready to leave, riding the bike back home.

They pass wildlife and fishermen getting ready to work.  Quietly they enter their neighborhood.  A regular routine guides them to rest and dreams.

When Karen Hesse writes this story, she chooses to direct our attention to very specific details.  Her poetic depictions of these elements lure and lull us into the magic found in this night.  She takes what is normal and ordinary and lifts it up.  We realize the priceless nature of this job and this relationship.  Here is a passage.

We pull into our space.
Dad hauls out a ring of keys
as big as the rising moon.
He opens the door
and the building sighs.
Come, it whispers to us.

There is something special and welcoming about the fine lines forming eyebrows, eyes, noses and mouths and creating soft scenes in the artwork of G. Brian Karas.  On the front of the matching dust jacket and book case, as the dad and his son work, we see a fondness for their tasks and for each other.  To the left, on the back, we join them in the courtyard as they eat their nighttime meal.  They are cozy in the darkness with light from the hallway shining on them.

A deep muted blue covers the opening and closing endpapers.  G. Brian Karas begins his pictorial interpretation on the initial title page giving us a view of the apartment where the dad and son live.  All other windows are dark except for their window. In four horizontal squares spread across two pages the preparations and leaving of the duo are placed beneath the title text on the formal page.

The dark muted colors shown in small square images, full-page and double-page pictures, and illustrations moving over the gutter to create columns for text beckon to readers.  At another point G. Brian Karas uses three vertical panels over two pages to provide the passage of time.  It's as if we have stepped into another realm, one of comfort and consistency.

One of my many favorite illustrations is the third panel of those vertical illustrations.  In this one as our eyes move from left to right, we understand the floor polishing is completed and the dad is now dusting book shelves.  Off to the right in a corner made by higher book cases sits a green sofa with a single light shining on it.  The boy has fallen asleep.  He has taken off his red sneakers.  He is still holding the book he was reading in one hand, but it is now resting on the floor.  Bliss.

You want to hug this book.  You want to put it next to your bed, at the very least, or maybe under your pillow.  You want to share Night Job written by Karen Hesse with illustrations by G. Brian Karas with everyone.  You certainly will want a copy on your personal and professional book shelves.
To learn more about Karen Hess and G. Brian Karas follow the links attached to their names to access their websites. At Candlewick Press and Penguin Random House you can view interior images.  Candlewick Press has an author's note about the journey to publication.  In a beautiful post, author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson, speaks about this title on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  G. Brian Karas has an account on Twitter.

Sometimes during the night beings who normally hide, reveal themselves.  Their need for connections overcomes their fear.  Kitten and the Night Watchman (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, September 25, 2018) written by John Sullivan with illustrations by Taeeun Yoo is a story about one of those connections.

The night watchman hugs
his wife and children . . .

and drives to work. 

As the sky turns red and orange and gold, he takes his solitary walks.  Every aspect, doors, windows and workshops, in buildings are checked.  He strolls through yards full of equipment.  A startled bird shrieks into the dusk.

Pausing for a moment the night watchman sees a full moon and stars bathe the city in light.  A soft sound gets his attention.  A kitten has returned.  Now the man is not alone as he creates a path with his flashlight.

Machines look like monsters or insects.  A jet travels overhead.  A dinner is shared as the companions rest.  Wherever he goes, the kitten follows, until she vanishes.

Where did she go?  A dog barks.  Travelers in cars and on trains make other night noises.  The night watchman can't stop thinking about the kitten.  Hours tick-tock past until the sky lightens.  A man leaves his workplace in his car, heading home with a gift.

In simple declarative sentences by John Sullivan, this story unfolds.  Through this technique we are able to walk side-by-side with the night watchman.  His descriptions of sights and sounds disclose the changes night brings.  Here are some sentences.

An excavator bows
like a strange giraffe.

A backhoe rises 
like a giant insect.

A jet glows in the night sky.
And all is quiet again.

The open and matching dust jacket and book case, front and back, are symbolic of a discovery and continuation of a lasting friendship.  On the former the watchman finds his feline friend has returned again.  On the later, what was lost is found.  The moon and flashlight beam on the jacket are varnished.

The color palette used by Taeeun Yoo is rich and bold making use of blues and purples with complementary splashes of yellow and red.  She eases into the night hues by starting with close-of-the-day shades.  The opening and closing endpapers in contrast are a pale robin's egg blue.  On the initial title page, the words are placed on a canvas of a slightly darker blue with golden colors.  This continues to the verso and title pages with deeper and warmer hues of gold.

Each illustration rendered using digital and hand-printed textures is on full pages, double pages or loosely framed circles.  Even in the shadows encountered on the night watchman's walk, there is a warmth.  When light intrudes it does so in sync with the night.  Taeeun Yoo alters her perspective to intensify the emotional impact of the story.

One of my many favorite pictures is on a single page.  We are close to the night watchman viewing only the upper portion of his body.  In his hands he is holding the kitten close to his face.  Both have a look of pure contentment on their expressions.  Thick lines of light outline elements on their bodies.

Here is yet another book you want to hug and share with the world.  Kitten and the Night Watchman written by John Sullivan with illustrations by Taeeun Yoo is this man's author debut.  It is based upon a true story, his story.  I can't imagine a collection, personal or professional, without a copy of this book.  To learn more about Taeeun Yoo follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  She maintains an account on Instagram.  John Sullivan is interviewed at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.  Taeeun Yoo is interviewed at Let's Talk Picture Books.  Both interviews focus mainly on this title.  At Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson, talks about this title.  It's a treat to see all this artwork.

Countdown To 2019 #3 Bears

There are eight surviving species.  Of these eight, six are in trouble and facing possible extinction.  One of them can smell prey more than one-half mile away and more than three feet under the snow.  Another spends half their time in trees, even building platforms on which to rest. A third can exist for at least six months without eating or drinking or eliminating body waste. They have been known to run at least forty miles per hour.  They are clever enough to wipe away their trail to evade hunters and can spring a trap without hurting themselves to eat the bait.

When formed into toys they've comforted countless children for generations. They are beloved characters in classic and current children's literature.  We humans have an affinity for bears.

Little Bear's Big House (Chronicle Books, October 9, 2018) written and illustrated by Benjamin Chaud is the fourth companion title in a delightfully detailed series (The Bear's Song, The Bear's Sea Escape, and The Bear's Surprise).  This small guy is off and running on another adventure.

The sun streams through the pines, melting the snow and warming Teeny Tiny Bear as he naps.  Mama and Papa Bear are careful not to disturb their slumbering cub.  They don't see the frown on Little Bear's face or the restless twitch of his tail.

Little Bear is bored with life in the forest.  He seeks excitement other than among the trees.  He wonders what a little boy would do.  As he passes by other animals in his search, they all want him to stop and play or eat or hunt.  He keeps on walking until sunset.

Before him is a clearing he has never seen.  A tall many-windowed, many-floored estate rises in front of his eyes.  The open front door is an invitation he can't resist.

Running from room to room Little Bear sings, plays and explores galore.  He loves doing what he wants to do when he wants to do it.  In the middle of all this fun, a loud


freezes him.

It must be monsters, lots of monsters.  He wonders what a little boy would do.  He bravely walks toward the sound, whispering a mantra to give himself courage.  He stops. Terrified.  It IS a monster, a three-headed monster!  There are roars.  There is running.  There are tales to tell in the morning.  

Amid the elaborate descriptions of setting and actions by Benjamin Chaud runs an impish thread of humor.  He inserts just enough dialogue in his story to give us a better idea of Little Bear's thoughts.  Piece by piece the anticipation grows until Little Bear knows he is not alone.  What readers know, and Little Bear does not, is a perfect hilarious twist.  Here are two passages.

Monsters!  Little Bear hides under the covers.  And, just like a little boy, his imagination takes flight.  The monsters probably have long fangs and large claws and black eyes, not to mention grumbling stomachs!

Thump, CRASH, thu-thump, CRASH! What should a little boy do?  What should a little bear do?

When readers open the matching dust jacket and book case the night scene before them is brimming with questions.  Why is Little Bear running and carrying a floor lamp?  Why is he wearing that polka-dotted frock?  Where is he?  

To the left, on the back the image extends to show his family walking toward the clearing.  Teeny Tiny Bear is followed by Mama Bear and Papa Bear.  The local animals are on high alert.  The red opening and closing endpapers are patterned in a repeat of three plants found in the forest.  Beneath the text on the title page stands Little Bear posing like a hero attired in a cap, cape and stockings.  

With the exception of five pages all the images are double-page pictures.  With intricate details every single one tells an ever-expanding story of its own.  The smaller images on single pages accentuate the pacing and increase the comedy.  Readers will be unable to contain their laughter when Little Bear is visiting every room or playing in a series of eighteen small visuals.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  It is a cut-away of the large red house in the clearing.  It shows us three floors of rooms and stairways.  In each room we can see what Little Bear is doing.  It's funnier than funny at how much he is enjoying all this freedom.  

Little Bear's Big House written and illustrated by Benjamin Chaud is another fabulous title in this set of books.  I highly recommend it for your professional and personal collections.  At this link the publisher gives us an inside view of Benjamin Chaud's studio.  Here is an interview with Benjamin Chaud at PictureBook Makers.

One of children's literature's favorite bears is back. In the season of winter it's a widely known fact, certain species of bears engage in a form of hibernation but a beloved bear is having problems.  Bear Can't Sleep (Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, October 23, 2018) written by Karma Wilson with illustrations by Jane Chapman is a precious presentation of exemplary friendship.

In his home in the forest,
while the cold wind blows,
Bear snuggles in his quilt
from his nose to his toes.  

We all have those nights when falling asleep is a struggle.  With snow falling and drifts getting deeper and deeper, Bear should be having sweet thoughts of summer honey.  Instead he flips from side to side under his cozy quilt.  He is wide awake!

His friend Mouse scampers inside to make sure Bear's fire is going.  He's shocked to see Bear not sleeping.  Even a cup of fresh mint tea does not help Bear drift into dreamland.  Badger and Hare stroll into Bear's den, each doing their best to help him sleep but nothing works.

Other animal friends, Mole, Gopher, Wren, Owl and Raven check on Bear.  A soothing lullaby might work.  It does not.  Finally Bear roars the truth.  He's awake and completely bored so he decides to entertain his best pals.  

As he tells a tale, they lean in, comfortable and warm.  It's a new one, never heard by any of them.  Just as he gets to the end . . .

When Karma Wilson weaves words together in this book, she fashions a gentle fabric to envelope her readers in peace and calm.  A beat is formed by the entrance of Bear's friends, their attempts to help him rest and the repeating phrase of

And the bear can't sleep. 

Lines two and four of each group of sentences rhyme like a soothing song.  Here is a passage.

"Ho, Mouse!" says Hare.
"We were just out walking.
Bear should be asleep,
but we both heard talking!"

The image on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case extends over the spine to reveal more of Bear's den.  Even though we understand by the title he is unable to sleep, he is also surrounded by all his friends.  Their concern is obvious as is his frustration.  The colors used in this illustration, throughout the book, radiate congeniality.  

The opening and closing endpapers show us the wintry woods as snow falls and wind blows.  A small opening in a drift reveals Bear in his glowing den.  There is a distinct difference in his face between the first and second double-page visuals.

Rendered in acrylic paint Jane Chapman's pictures alternate in size from small spot illustrations, to full-page images to double-page visuals.  She gives us a variety of inside views of Bear, his cave and his friends.  The size of the pictures pairs beautifully with the cadence of the story.

One of my favorite illustrations spans two pages.  On the left we can see the snowy woods through the opening in Bear's abode.  He is stretched across the center covered in his patchwork quilt.  Badger and Hare are standing on either side of him.  Mouse is placed in front of his nose, deep in mint leaves.  In the right-hand corner, the fire burns with a tea kettle hanging over it.

Readers will come to understand this story, Bear Can't Sleep written by Karma Wilson with illustrations by Jane Chapman, ties in marvelously with another of Bear's books.  It is a must-have title for those who enjoy the series, for those who love a good story and for those who need to fall fast asleep.  Links are attached to both Karma Wilson's and Jane Chapman's names for accessing their websites.  Karma Wilson maintains an account on Twitter.

A friend in need is a friend indeed.

When a call for help is answered, it's a sign of friendship or friendship in the making.  Got to Get to BEARS! (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 30, 2018) written and illustrated by Brian Lies is an action-packed adventure of forest friends intent on reaching someone in need. Nothing will stop them.

When Izzy read the note, she knew she had to go.

Izzy was a chipmunk.  The sky looked like bad weather was coming but if Bear asked her to come as soon as possible, that was all she needed to know.  It started to snow.  Soon it was so deep, she was stuck.

Scritch, a squirrel, asked where Izzy was going.  He offered to help her by leaping from tree top to tree top with her on his back. They finally reached a point where they were unable to keep going.  Bingle, a duck, was more than willing to fly the duo.

The snow storm turned into a blizzard and Bingle was blinded.  They tumbled onto a snow-covered roof.  They each decided walking should be tried again.  The duck was moving slower and slower.  When a raccoon came along, they were more than ready to ride on his back.  Snaffie kept going.  Soon only Izzy was above the snow now, guiding the raccoon.

A glow in the distance gives them hope.  Are they too late?  What Bear and all her friends do next is the very best kind of surprise.

As a storyteller Brian Lies has a gift for engaging his readers immediately.  With the note Izzy receives from Bear, a mystery begins.  To have this call for assistance come at the same time as the beginning of the snow storm heightens the tension.  We become further involved as each animal makes an appearance and offers support.  This tension and tempo increase in tandem with the depth of the snow and intensity of the blizzard.  This is why the surprise is pure perfection.  Here is a passage.

As they went, the sky darkened, the wind grew
wild, and snow stung their faces like tiny bees.
"Can't see!" Bingle screeched.  "Can't see!"

Rendered in acrylic paint on Strathmore paper the illustrations reach out to readers as soon as we see the double-page picture featured on the matching and open dust jacket and book case.  Tall trees and the forest floor are fully blanketed in snow.  A huge mound provides a placeholder for the ISBN on the back.  A lantern glows above it.  The four friends lean into the wind, determination etched on their faces.  The text and friends are varnished on the jacket.

The same shade of red in the title text is used to cover the opening and closing endpapers.  On the initial title page Bear is leaning against her window looking out into the snow.  On the formal title and verso pages, a note is delivered to Izzy with a bear paw print sealing it closed.  It flutters down from a retreating bird who seems to be carrying a mail bag on its back.  (These are the kind of wonderful details Brian includes in his artwork.)

Each illustration speaks to and enhances the narrative.  Some of the pictures are full-page, others are small loosely framed circles.  A series of four horizontal panels extend over a double-page visual.  And then we are treated to a large image over two pages.  Brian also has four vertical panels on two pages.  Layer by layer, image by image we become more a part of this story.  You will cherish the realistic portraits of the animals and their facial expressions.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when Bingle is flying straight into the blizzard.  All around the duck is dark blue and snow.  She is streaking toward us on the right side of a double-page picture.  Her right wing crosses the gutter.  The squirrel and chipmunk are hanging on for their lives with their eyes closed.  

Without a doubt readers are going to love Got to Get to BEARS! written and illustrated by Brian Lies.  They will be captivated by the mystery and adventure . . . and shocked at the surprise.  I know they will ask to have the story read to them again.  If you follow the link attached to Brian Lies' name, you can access his website.  Brian has an account on Twitter and Instagram.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Countdown To 2019 #4 Humor

Laughter is frequently mentioned on this blog.  Its benefits are numerous; reducing stress, providing a physical and mental release, exercising specific areas of our bodies, and changing our mind set and perspective.  Perhaps the best benefit is the connections we make, some lasting, with shared laughter.  Humans and animals do respond favorably to humor.

Once you've read a book aloud to a group of children with laughter erupting again and again, the experience, the story and the title of the book remain.  The memory of how an individual felt in your presence is lasting.  With this in mind here are five books, previously not discussed here, guaranteed to generate laughter and requests of "read it again."

Mrs. Mole, I'm Home (Candlewick Press, June 7, 2018) written and illustrated by Jarivs is a journey in the absurd.  When a character cannot see what readers can, the results are rip-roaring guffaws. What is lost is found but was it ever lost?

It had been a very long day
at work for Morris Mole.
His feet were aching,
and his eyes were
so tired.

This mole could hardly wait to leave the restaurant and spend time with his wife and children.  There was one problem.  Morris Mole could not find his glasses anywhere.  He assumed because he had made the trip so many times, getting home without his glasses would be easy.

After burrowing a bit, he rose up from the tunnel announcing his presence with a happy greeting.  He was not at his abode but the home of Mrs. Bunny and a bunch of baby bunnies.  After an apology, he left burrowing.

Morris Mole popped up repeatedly with one joyous declaration after another.  He arrived at a tree loaded with owls, an iceberg in Antarctica (It was dreadfully chilly there.), and a crocodile swampy haven.  How was he ever going to get home without his glasses?  Suddenly his sniffer caught a whiff of something he knew well.   Morris Mole makes a promise, but a final page reveals the difficulty in keeping it.

With a hilarious blend of text and dialogue, Jarvis steers readers through a tunnel worth traveling.  Repetition of key phrases before and after each mistake provides a continued connection. There is an inviting rhythm supplied with his appearance, his greeting, the discovery of his error and his leaving.  Here is a passage.

Up he popped.

"I'm home,
my darlings.
And how marvelous!
You've run me a bath!"
said Morris.

"This is our swamp.
NOT a bath!" snapped
Crocodile.  "And you
better skedaddle
before we have you
for dinner!"

Surely by the look of the front of the matching dust jacket and book case, Mole has arrived exactly where he wants to be, but as readers discover it takes multiple attempts for success.  The two hat-wearing worms shown here are Morris's companions on every portion of his trip which is a bit funny when you consider the favorite food of Morris.  To the left, on the back, with a shift in canvas color from pink to teal the Mole family are shown in all their bespectacled wonder dancing at Morris's place of work.

The opening and closing endpapers are in deep shades of blue showing what Morris tunnels through to get home.  Rendered in pencil, chalk, and paint and colored digitally the illustrations by Jarvis are full of comedy.  Nearly all the pictures span two pages.  His attention to detail is certain to have readers pausing at every page turn; carrots are everywhere in the bunny burrow, nearly all the owls are reading books, and some of the penguins are wearing ice skates.

Careful readers will notice the different hats the worms wear from place to place.  When Jarvis shows Morris thinking, the additional dialogue in these scenes is funnier than funny.  These are framed like a gallery as his mind moves from incident to incident.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when Morris arrives at Antarctica.  As he pops through the ice penguins gather from their  cave, some attired in scarfs, hats and one is carrying an umbrella.  Another one is eating a popsicle.  One is walking and using a cane.  A full sun causes a bright light but it's still bitter cold.  A penguin is balanced on the top of sign reading SOUTH POLE.

For those readers needing glasses they will easily identify with Morris.  Who among us has not misplaced their eyeglasses?  Mrs. Mole, I'm Home! written and illustrated by Jarvis is a story time winner.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  The link attached to Jarvis's name takes you to his website.  Jarvis has an account on Twitter.

For those of you who love the roar of engines, this next title will get your heart racing.  The Princess And The Pit Stop (Abrams Books For Young Readers, July 10, 2018) written by Tom Angleberger with illustrations by Dan Santat is an unprecedented contest in an other-worldly realm.  Fasten your seat belts!

Once upon a time, there was a Princess who made a pit stop.  While the Birds and Beasts changed her tires, her Fairy Godmother told her she was in last place!

With only one lap left, most drivers would not have finished.  This was no ordinary princess.  She put the pedal to the metal.

The announcer could hardly keep up with all the cars and drivers she was passing.  Humpty Dumpty and his nursery crew were left in the dust.  The Three Bears were forced off the track.  A trio of Wicked Witches became specks in the distance.

Drivers, normally found in fairy tales and nursery rhymes, were no match for this determined female champion behind the wheel.  No curve was too tight.  No hill and dale could stop her speed.  No Jack or Jill or Big Bad Wolf or Three Little Pigs could best her.

The end of the race, the finish line, was getting closer and closer.

And the Gingerbread Man admitted.
She CAN catch me!

Soon it was the Ugly Stepsisters and The Princess streaming down the final stretch.  The crowd stands!  The announcer croaks!  Will this Princess and her Prince live happily ever after?

Every concise sentence builds tension page by page as author Tom Angleberger combines terms from automobile racing expertly with known names from fairy tales and nursery rhymes.  His word choices reflect the use of alliteration creating an upbeat cadence; roared, running and road.  We can hardly sit still.  We want to cheer out loud for this princess driving with purpose. Here are several passages.


MOPSY, and

One look at the open dust jacket is all you need to know about this Princess and the pit stop she makes.  Her body stance and facial expression are truly worth more than words can say.  The faded background of the frog announcer, her fairy godmother (pit boss), the castle and black and white checkered flags foreshadow events to come.  To the left, on the back, a huge question is answered.  Readers in the know will understand the meaning of every detail as the Princess stands, arms on her hips, in front of her stopped car.  (I love the crown element on her helmet and the car's hood.)

On the book case readers get a real sense of this Princess's attitude.  On a nearly white canvas with a slight wash of blue, she strides toward her car.  The car is facing the spine and her back is to us.  To the left, the back of the case, she faces to the left.  It's a portrait of her head done in shades of red and purple.  Her facial features form a look of pure determination.  Above her head reads:

"I am not afraid of storms, for
I am learning how to sail my ship."
     ---Louisa May Alcott

On a background of white for the opening and closing endpapers illustrator Dan Santat displays all the race cars, forty-six in total.  With a page turn we see a rainbow streak across white on two pages.  It is the track of the Princess.  A series of six panels follows showing the Princess racing.  In the final one her gas gauge is nearly on empty.  With a third turn, she is slowing into the pit as the title is being introduced to readers.  As she zooms into her spot the text zooms with her on the title page.

In a blend of panels, full-page pictures, and double-page images Dan Santat introduces one humorous moment after the other.  Readers won't want to miss a single element included in any of his scenes.  The number on the Three Bears car is 3.  One of the wicked witches is driving a broom.  The dwarfs from Snow White are riding in mining cars.

One of my many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  An enormous green truck with humongous wheels is speeding toward readers.  There is enough room between the wheels for the Princess to race under and past the Giant.  Beneath her the tiny car of Tom Thumb is left behind.

This is a fantastic introduction to fairy tales and nursery rhymes!  The Princess And The Pit Stop written by Tom Angleberger with illustrations by Dan Santat will be enjoyed for its sheer entertainment but is sure to start a multitude of questions and a race for research.  Links are attached to Tom Angleberger's and Dan Santat's names to access their websites.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Both Tom and Dan are on Twitter and Instagram here and here.

Are you ready to leap into more laughter?  A frog who never fails to entertain (I Don't Want To Be A Frog, I Don't Want To Be Big and There's Nothing To Do!) is back.  In this book, I Don't Want To Go To Sleep (Doubleday Books For Young Readers, October 16, 2018) written by Dev Petty with illustrations by Mike Boldt, Frog refuses to do what frogs do in winter.

I can't wait


The snow!
The fun!
Pig told me all about it!

Frog is beyond excited about all the wintry activities like skating, drinking warm drinks and of course, the snow.  When Owl points out that Frog can't do any of these things because he's a frog and frogs hibernate, he is indignant and confused.  What is hibernate?

When Owl further offers an explanation with the statement Frog's dad is already hibernating, Frog starts to understand but he is not giving up yet.  Can he get toasty by the fire like Cat?  Can he get comfy like Pig in a plaid blanket?  No and no, according to Owl.  After another question with a less than ideal answer, Owl instructs the reluctant amphibian.

Frog is aghast! How can he have fun when he's buried in mud?  He does not want to be like Bear who hibernates.  Frog is frustrated, totally and completely.  His friends try to help.  They want to help but Frog's suggestion is not what they are expecting.  Not. At. All. How many days is it until spring?

The happy-go-lucky, persistent-to-a-fault Frog and his quest to stay awake during winter is presented with wit by author Dev Petty.  With a story told entirely in dialogue, readers are intimately involved in every aspect.  Owl's dry but amusing and truthful replies give us a hint at his personality.  In fact, the voices of the other animals, Pig, Cat and Rabbit, give us clear insight into their characteristics.  All this input supplies us with comedy. Here is a passage between Frog and Owl.

I want to 
be like Pig.

Pig sleeps in a fluffy plaid

You can't 
do that.

Why not?

First of all, you could
get lost in here.
Also, plaid isn't
your color.

Mostly, though, I'm taking his blanket. 

How can you look at the front of the matching dust jacket and book case without laughing?  The truth is, you can't.  How many times have you uttered those exact words or heard them?  I'll wager it's too many times to count.  Readers identify with Frog.  His owl toy is always with him for comfort.

To the left, on the back, Frog exclaims he will go to bed if we read him the three previous books.  (Clever with a capital C)  Mike Boldt begins and ends his visual interpretation on the opening and closing endpapers.  On the first Frog is shouting out


as he strides toward the right edge.  In the second set we see Frog as he is meant to be in winter.

Mike Boldt's illustrations rendered in vibrant colors make a bold statement as they extend the narrative and heighten the comedic drama.  Speech bubbles in alternating colors hold the conversations.  One of the double-page pictures with a single word on it will have readers rolling on the floor, laughing.

One of my many favorite pictures shows Frog sitting inside an ice skate and wearing a striped scarf.  He is holding a red mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows floating in it.  This image nearly fills the entire page.  This is what Mike Boldt does very well; changing point of view to accentuate the story.

I Don't Want To Go To Sleep written by Dev Petty with illustrations by Mike Boldt is a charming and lively look at yet another aspect of this lovable frog and his animal companions.  This would make a marvelous addition to a story time on frogs, hibernation, winter and bedtime.  Links are attached to Dev Petty's and Mike Boldt's names to access their websites.  The book trailer premiered at Watch. Connect. Read., the website of Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher.  You will enjoy the chat.  At PictureBookBuilders Mike Boldt speaks about this book.  Dev Petty has an account on Twitter and Instagram.  Mike Boldt also has accounts on Twitter and Instagram.

Misconceptions play a large role in Horse Meets Dog (Balzer + Bray, October 30, 2018) written by Elliott Kalan with illustrations by Tim Miller.  This is a classic case of what you see is not always what you get.  As the argument escalates who do you think will win?


You're very big.

In response to dog's statement Horse counters with his vision of the truth.  He's not big, he is a regular-sized horse. He also says he was going to tell Dog how small he is for a horse.  Believing dog is a baby, Horse cuddling him in his arms, tries to feed him a bottle of hay.

That does not go over well with Dog.  He points out the problem with Horse's feet.  Has he lost his paws? Horse wonders what is wrong with Dog's hair and his tail.  

Deciding to start their relationship over, they exchange presents but it goes from bad to worse when Horse gives Dog a miniature saddle and Dog gifts Horse with a ball for playing fetch.  When they expand on the reasons for these items, it gets funnier and funnier. 

The conversation escalates with each believing the other is a weird version of themselves.  Horse can't figure out what is wrong with Dog.  His whinny is off key.  Dog does not understand why Horse is such a huge dog.  They get louder and louder and more insistent until the arrival of a small bird.  Everything changes with the bird's first full sentence.

This meeting of "what-if" between a horse and a dog challenges how human (and animal) perception functions.  Elliott Kalan supplies us with hilarity as these two characters try to convince the other of their truth.  The story is told through dialogue apart from a few sound effects.  This technique involves readers on a more personal level.  Here is a passage.

It's a saddle.
In case a tiny person
wants to ride you.  Will
you try on your new 
saddle?  Or would you
rather be rude?
(The saddle is now on Dog.)
Now what happens?

Someone sits on you, and
you take them wherever 
they want to go.  Fun!

That doesn't sound 
like fun to me. 

Rendered using brush and ink and digital hocus-pocus the signature illustrations of Tim Miller greet readers on the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  By the smiles on the faces of Horse and Dog, readers have no idea what is about to follow.  To the left, on the back, Dog is holding a mirror and puzzling over his face.  Endorsements are written over this smaller picture.  Bright sunny yellow covers the opening and closing endpapers.  

On the title page the two characters' heads are positioned on either side looking at each other.  On the verso page Horse is blow drying his mane.  Dog is leaping with a ball in his mouth on the dedication page.  

Thick black lines outline the comical Horse and Dog.  Their wide-eyed looks heighten the laughter factor and increase the emphasis on what they are saying.  Sometimes Tim Miller brings us close to the duo and other times we see their entire bodies.  Some of the visuals extend page edge to page edge and others are framed in thick black lines.  

One of my many favorite illustrations is after Dog has been fed the hay in the bottle.  On a white canvas he is exclaiming 


His eyes are huge.  His mouth is wide open with his tongue hanging out.  He is 
spitting out the hay.  The baby bottle is in his right hand. 

Readers of all ages will greatly enjoy the exaggerated absurdity of this exchange between these two animals.  Horse Meets Dog written by Elliott Kalan with illustrations by Tim Miller is a fabulous addition to any humorous story collection.  It is certain to be a hit at story times.  The link attached to Tim Miller's name takes you to his website.  Both Elliott and Tim have Twitter accounts.  For the book trailer premiere Elliot Kalan is a guest writer at Watch. Connect. Read., the site of Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher.

We first met a funny fowl in Duck In The FridgeHe and his friends supply one little boy (now a father) with a nighttime memory he will never forget.  In a companion title, Duck On A Disco Ball (Two Lions, November 1, 2018) written and illustrated by Jeff Mack, readers again get to enjoy the crazy antics of not only Duck but his two best friends, a mom and a dad!

Every night, it's the same old story.

Why can't 
I stay up
late like


guys need

The little boy does not want to go to bed.  He's afraid he will miss something fun, something important.  All his complaints and excuses don't delay the inevitable.  It's good night and sleep tight time.  The problem for this child is every morning there are little things out of place.  He wants to know what happens.

He speculates.  Does his toy duck come alive?  Does he paint with his parents?  Do they have action adventures in the bath tub? One night he follows sounds and spies.  He can't believe what he is seeing.

His parents and his duck are using the sofa for a diving exhibition.  The living room is invaded by animals; a dog, cow, pony, elephant, sheep and other ducks.  They are consuming mass quantities of food.  It is a party beyond his most imaginative dreams.  A loud disruptive crash fills the air and then . . . his parents and his duck are defying gravity.

Suddenly silence descends.  In the morning the child wonders if it was all a dream.  A discovery and a hilarious comment will have readers exploding with laughter.

Oh, the word play and puns are wondrous.  You'll hardly be able to keep from continuously laughing (or groaning) once the shenanigans begin.  Jeff Mack clearly has a masterful knack for arranging language to tell a humorous story.  His combination of narrative by the child plus dialogue is excellent.  Here are several passages.


I just 
a pizza.

Will it
be long?

It'll be

Care for a cookie?
stuffed. (says the boy's duck)

All readers will want to do is dance when they see Duck swinging on the disco ball on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case.  His sheer happiness and the glittering ball tell a tale all their own.  Similar vibrant colors are used to the left, on the back.  Amid pastel rays, a spotted cow is raising her hoof in the air and posing like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.  (When an author/illustrator makes these references, it expands the enjoyment to cover a larger age group.  I burst out in laughter.)

The opening and closing endpapers are filled with rays and dots as if a disco ball is casting light on walls.  Beneath the text on the title page the child, boy, is being swung between his mom and dad.  Each illustration rendered in digital media is brimming with details asking readers to pause.  They make reference to events to come and when the party starts each page is packed.

Varying in size the images are highly animated.  Some span double pages, single pages or look like panels on a single page.  The conversations appear in speech bubbles.

One of my many favorite pictures spans two pages.  The background is bright yellow.  Across the bottom the flower-patterned print sofa is placed with two red-feather pillows.  Jumping and somersaulting in the air are the boy's parents and Duck.  They are laughing and yelling


Peeking unseen over one of the arms is the boy, wide-eyed with amazement.

Every reader will be wishing for a duck like this duck.  Duck On A Disco Ball written and illustrated by Jeff Mack is loads of fun.  You might want to have some late seventies music on hand to play before or after reading this title.  It's a perfect companion to the first title.  To learn more about Jeff Mack and his other work, follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Jeff has accounts on Twitter and Instagram.  Jeff Mack wrote an article for The Children's Book Review about his writing and reading life.


Thursday, December 27, 2018

Countdown To 2019 #5 Snow

Winter is in full swing in northern Michigan.  Prior to Christmas five inches of freshly-fallen snow coated our landscape.  Although currently switching between rain, snow and freezing rain, by tomorrow night there's supposed to be a temperature drop into the teens.  Waking up each morning in this season is full of surprises.

Winter and snow are heartily embraced by some and utterly avoided by others, humans and animals alike.  Good Morning, Snowplow! (Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., October 30, 2018) written by Deborah Bruss with art by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson depicts a dedicated man and his canine companion hard at work while the rest of the community nestles in for the night.  The duo work their magic in the middle of a storm. 

Good night, homes, and good night, cars.
Clouds move in to hide the stars.

Seeing the snow start to fall, the man and his dog take the snowplow to get ready for its job.  As the snow gets deeper and deeper, they push through the city streets moving snow and dropping sand and salt.  All through the night they work, sometimes listening to the radio and singing to a tune.

A car driving without regard for the weather is towed.  The plow keeps going.  A sound and a sight caution the driver.  The snowplow stops.  A train creating billows of snow, chugs past the crossing and down the track.  After hours and hours morning light begins to shine.  It's a snow day!  It's time for partners in plowing to rest.

The rhythmic writing of Deborah Bruss rings with realism and warmth.  Every aspect of the man and the snowplow's labor during the storm from dusk to dawn is beautifully represented with four-line stanzas. The first two lines and second two lines ending with words that rhyme.  It's a lovely flawless flow.  Here is a stanza.

Waves of white curl off the blade.
In its wake, a trail is laid.
How's the road?  A little slick?
Salt and sand mix does the trick.

The artwork of Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson rendered using acrylic paint, colored pencil, pen, and collage is first given to readers on the splendiferous front and back of the open dust jacket.  The solitary aspect of the driver and his dog using the snowplow brings us into an important moment.  Certain elements are varnished, snowflakes, the windshield, snowdrifts and text.  The title text is raised to the touch.

To the left on the back as the morning begins, we see children sledding, and building snowmen.  Homes are in the background and along the lower left-hand corner is the plowed roadway.  On the book case we see the plowed roadway extending from the back (left) to the front (right) with the snowplow, lights glowing out in front, driving off the upper right-hand corner.  A royal purple covers the opening and closing endpapers.

Each two-page image is a stunning depiction, a pictorial interpretation and extension of the author's words.  The illustrators alter their perspective to bring readers into the story.  It's a rewarding participatory experience.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a close-up of inside the cab of the snowplow.  The man is holding the steering wheel with both hands.  His dog is next to his right side.  Both are staring intently through the windshield as the snow swirls outside.

This title, Good Morning, Snowplow! written by Deborah Bruss with art by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson, is a perfect book for one on one reading or during a snow/winter theme for story time.  At the publisher's website are extra materials to use with the book. You can also get some information about the illustrators here.  Deborah's website is linked to her name.  Deborah Bruss and Lou Fancher are interviewed by author Deborah Kalb about this title.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson talks about this title on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Interior images are included.  Arthur A. Levine chats about the title in the video below.

In their fourth title together (Goodnight Already!, I Love You Already!, and Come Home Already!) Duck and Bear are still at odds.  Their wants and desires never seem to coincide, thus supplying readers with non-stop laughter.  In All Right Already! A Snowy Story (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, November 13, 2018) written by Jory John with illustrations by Benji Davies, the duo tackle whether playing in the snow is a good thing or a horrible idea.

"Ah, another magnificent day.  I love my morning routine."

Looking out his window Duck discovers everything is coated in white.  It has snowed . . . a lot.  Duck can hardly wait to tell Bear.

Duck interrupts Bear taking his bath.  There is no way Bear is going outside.  It's too cold.  It's too bright.  For every idea purposed by Duck, Bear replies in the negative.

Duck finally convinces Bear to make snow angels.  Duck is not satisfied and wants to have a snowball fight, but Bear is cold and . . . ACHOO!  Bear is sick.

For every cure mentioned by Duck, Bear says no.  Finally Bear agrees to let Duck help him get well.  (With Duck, that's a mistake.) Duck just keeps asking and Bear is too sick to argue.  Not able to stand another second of Duck's chatter, Bear orders him home.  In a hilarious twist Duck needs care from Bear.  Bear issues his signature statement

I must get some new neighbors.

It's the contrast generated by the conversations between Duck and Bear by Jory John which consistently connect with readers.  With dialogue telling the entire story we can readily identify with both characters.  It's like watching a ping-pong ball tournament with hilarity as the main event.  Here is an exchange between the two characters.

"Do you want to play freeze tag?"
"Build a fort?"
"Make a snowbear?"
"Sled over here?"
"Sled over there?"
"Play freeze tag?"
"You already
said that."

One look at the open dust jacket will have readers giggling and grinning.  You know Duck has finagled Bear into a situation in which he has no desire to participate.  And why is his yellow rubber ducky present?  To the left, on the back, Duck and Bear are racing down a hill on a toboggan.  Bear is wearing his shower cap and his towel has flown off the back.  Duck looks sporty in his red hat and scarf.  Everything but the blue background is varnished.

On the book case an intricate diamond and square pattern in varying shades of blue covers the front and back.  To the left on the back Duck is balancing a huge snowball, ready to throw.  On the front, right, Bear is sitting in the snow, wearing a hat and scarf.  The opening and closing endpapers are a rusty red.

Benji Davies begins the story, visually, with Duck snuggled in bed on the title page under the text.  On the verso and dedication pages we are shown both houses at night with the snow falling in earnest.  A candle glows in Duck's window.  With each page turn the canvas changes from yellow to orange, winter blue in various hues, pink, red and white.  The illustration sizes differ from double-page pictures to full-page visuals and a group of images sharing a page.  Some of the illustrations are framed in white and others span page edge to page edge.

One of my favorite illustrations spans two pages.  Bear is in the middle of a huge sneeze.  His cap has blown off.  He is standing in his towel only.  The force of the sneeze has Duck off his feet, scarf trailing behind him.  Snow is scattered with the breeze of breath.  To the left of Bear, who is on the left, is the edge of his house.  A giant drift of snow is about ready to fall off the roof.  Anticipation builds as readers get ready to turn the page.

Whether you are acquainted with Duck and Bear or not, you will find yourself smiling from beginning to end of All Right Already! A Snowy Story written by Jory John with illustrations by Benji Davies.  This is a great title for a theme on winter/snow or a group of humorous books.  It would be wonderful with a bear theme unit.  There is a chat with Jory John at Brightly. There are links to both the author and illustrator websites attached to their names.

Instinctive behaviors found in nature do appear in domesticated relatives.  When walking in the deep snow, my canine companion will freeze.  Then she jumps, pounces and sticks her head as far into the snow as possible.  During these few seconds, it's as if I am watching a fox in action.

Little Fox In The Snow (Candlewick Press, November 13, 2018) written by Jonathan London with illustrations by Daniel Miyares is a journey in the life of a young red fox on a single day.  Through descriptive text and marvelous illustrations, we shadow this wondrous creature.  A season alters a lifestyle.

Little foxling, little fox,
asleep in your hole,
in your halo of warmth---
it's time to wake up!

Raising its nose into the air, the fox walks out into the wintry world.  The youngster is hungry.  It hears something under the snow.  Mouse in mouth, the fox knows this will not suffice.

Over fields blanketed in thick snow, the fox travels, a nearly empty belly as a motive.  A snowshoe hare grabs the fox's attention.  With practiced leaps it tries to get away.  The fox is faster.

With a full stomach and thirst quenched, the fox continues.  He catches what he believes is the scent of a vixen.  It is not!  Run fox run!  The hunter becomes the hunted.  Quickly, the fox flees to his hole.  As a crescent moon rises what are the dreams whirling in a sleeping fox's mind?

With a precise choice of words Jonathan London invites us to accompany this young red fox.  It's as if we are one with this beautiful being.  He depicts not only the actions of the fox but the other woodland animals he encounters; all within a setting in the wild.  The unseen narrator observes and questions.  A repetition of a key phrase ties moments together.  Here is a passage.

Little foxling, belly full,
you make your way down
   to the snow-patched stream,
lap tiny tongue-curls of icy cold water.

Upon opening the matching dust jacket and book case, readers are greeted with a gorgeous double-page image of a woodland in winter with the bright red fox striking a contrast in the snow.  Shades of dawn are breaking in the distance.  You can sense the silence except for the soft sound of paws on snow.

The opening and closing endpapers focus on a close-up of a snow-covered field.  Each is different reflecting the time of day and movement of the fox as he leaves (or not) a trail.  A turn to the verso and titles pages gives readers a breathtaking vista of the sky, forest, sunrise and snowy expanse at the bottom.

Each picture rendered by Daniel Miyares in ink and watercolor on paper heightens and extends the narrative.  All of them span two pages but the passage of time measured in mere seconds or minutes is sometimes shown from left to right.  The play of light and shadow is fabulous.

In one setting the fox's shadow, to his left, is huge.  It enriches the words but asks readers to spring toward a possible future.  Within some of the illustrations the point of view changes from one side to the other side; the fox in the distance and the snowshoe hare ready to leap toward us.  We are keenly aware of the time of day through the changing hues in the sky.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when the fox stops, leaps and dives into the snow to capture the mouse.  Daniel Miyares, from left to right, gives us four images of the fox in one picture.  Only the front of the fox leads in from the left.  He springs front paws up and back legs steady.  His entire body flies through the air and then near the right corner, head and upper body are buried in the snow.  Back, back legs and tail extend above the ground.  It's a highly animated and realistic portrait.

We become one with this young red fox through the blend of words and illustrations.  Little Fox In The Snow written by Jonathan London with illustrations by Daniel Miyares is an excellent collaboration.  This would be a stellar selection for a study of winter, animal behavior or foxes.  At Candlewick Press and Penguin Random House you can view interior illustrations. Please follow the links attached to the author and illustrator names to access their websites.  Jonathan London is interviewed at The Children's Book Council. Daniel Miyares has accounts on Twitter and Instagram.
Enjoy the book trailer.