Quote of the Month

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

Friday, March 30, 2018

On A Farm

Life on a farm is not easy.  Regardless of the type of farm, there is an endless list of chores.  There is also a knack to performing each and every task.  These skills are perfected with practice and time . . . lots of time.  Each day begins and ends with a familiar rhythmic routine.

The land, buildings and home tend to pass from one generation to the next with the word retirement rarely spoken.  Farmers may not do as much as they get older but it's nearly impossible to take farming away from a farmer.  Of course, with that being said, there are exceptions.  George the Hero Hound (Two Lions, March 20, 2018) written and illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler follows a canine capable of unquestionable loyalty to a particular farm and all who reside there.

George was a good old hound dog.

At the crack of dawn, and sometimes earlier, George followed Farmer Fritz helping keep the nearly dead tractor running and making sure the sneakier-than-sneaky cows did not escape into the corn field.  George loved all the work on the farm as long as he could take a much-deserved midday nap.  Life was good until Farmer Fritz decided to retire.  Dogs were not allowed where Farmer Fritz was to spend his days.  George was destined to stay on the farm.

Now, just in case, you may be wondering how George would survive alone, a new family, the Gladstones, arrived from the city.  George was readily accepted as a welcome part of the farm but they had no clue as to his name.  First on George's list of things to do was to help Mr. Gladstone fix the beat-up old tractor.  Unfortunately, Mr. Gladstone fixed it incorrectly.  There went the tractor!

Cows happily scattered with the tractor on the rampage.  Ever vigilant George kept them out of the corn field but tracked in a whole bunch of dust when he went to get a drink in the house.  Plumb pooped out George meandered toward his special space outside but something blue caught his attention.

Owen, the Gladstone son, had not been paying attention to Olive, the Gladstone younger daughter. It was up to George using the scent from her ribbon to find the little girl.  George was certain he could finally take his nap but an epic accident stopped all thoughts of rest.  Life on the farm was never going to be the same.

Like the first line in your favorite country western song, Jeffrey Ebbeler has penned a first sentence destined to having you humming a tune as you read the story.  The next thing you'll do, even if you are alone, is read it aloud.  The choice of words Jeffrey uses calls to mind life on a farm with extra attention to the humor in the variety of situations.  There are also speech bubbles with dialogue enhancing the narrative. These contain another bit of comedy as everyone seems to have a name for George except for the correct one.  Here is a passage.

Then Owen came running over.

I was supposed to be watching my baby sister, Olive.  Can you help me find her, boy?

George took a good sniff of Olive's ribbon---he was a hound dog, after all---and off they went.

When you read the title on the opened, matching dust jacket and book case, it's easy to see by his stance George looks the part of hero. (The title text is varnished.)  What you have to do is take a good second look at that image.  Notice Mrs. Gladstone and Owen, each looking in opposite directions.  Olive is chasing that poor chicken which she will not leave alone.  Mr. Gladstone is racing after the tractor with a mind of its own.  And take a look at those cows.  It looks like they've hatched another escape plan.

To the left, on the back, within a circle of white on a teal background the hero of the farm is standing with his new farmer friend.  This is one of the more hilarious nods to the American Gothic.  The opening and closing endpapers take the darker shade of teal from the front of the jacket and case as their canvas.

Rendered in acrylic, ink, and pencil on Fabriano hot press watercolor paper the pictures further generate laugh-out-loud moments on the title page with the clever cows climbing out from the loft window on the roof of the barn as George runs after Olive who is running after the frantic chicken.  The verso and first pages create another scene sure to bring on giggles as George and Farmer Fritz carry buckets to begin the daily chores.  (You won't believe what the cows are doing.)

Jeffrey Ebbeler shifts his image sizes to emphasize his story pacing.  Double pages change to single pages and then there might be two illustrations on one page.  You will find yourself stopping to notice all the details in every single visual.  There is usually more than one thing happening.  These details and the facial expressions on the characters increase the laughter.

One of my many favorite illustrations is one of two on a single page.  The story has Owen and George searching high and low for Olive.  In the second picture George is holding his nose high in the air as they cross a tiny stream on protruding rocks.  Owen is bent over on one of the rocks looking into the water.  Behind them in the woods a tent has been set up for camping.  Over a crackling fire two cows are toasting marshmallows.

Without a doubt George the Hero Hound written and illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler is certain to be a story time winner.  As all readers know shared laughter is better laughter and this story with its words and illustrations is jam-packed with humor.  You could use it for a theme on farm life, dogs or different kinds of heroes.  Be sure to place a copy of this title in your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Jeffrey Ebbeler and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name.  More information can be found in this post at Writing and Illustrating, Kathleen Temean and at MBartists.  Enjoy the book trailer.

George The Hero Hound from Jeffrey Ebbeler on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Back To The Place Called Home

Now, after two weeks, when pressing my face into her fur it triggers new sensations.  There are odors of sunshine, evergreens, lake breezes and wild.  Her soul is new too, her spirit soaring as we traverse paths and roadways through northern Michigan woods.  Startled deer leap in front of us.  At any given moment my canine companion will freeze, listening and sniffing the air.

Today in the very early hours of the morning after finishing, for the second time, The Wild Robot Escapes (Little, Brown and Company, March 13 2018) written and illustrated by Peter Brown, later, during our first walk, my mind wandered in different directions.  It was wonderful to compare the second title with the first, The Wild Robot (Little, Brown and Company, April 5, 2016).  Using my senses to take in these pristine surroundings and all they offer, it was easy to think of ROZZUM unit 7134 affectionately known as Roz.  It was easy to imagine her walking along beside us or appearing in the woods when she believed we meant her and her friends no harm.

Without divulging too much, at the end of the first title, Roz is forced to leave those and that which she loves most.  I know what you are thinking.  How can a robot love? Roz is an extraordinary being.

Chapter 1
Our story begins in a city, with buildings and streets and bridges and parks.  Humans were strolling, automobiles were driving, airships were flying, robots were hard at work.
Weaving through the city streets was a delivery truck.

Picking up speed this truck zooms away from the city and past vast stretches of country landscape until it reaches one specific farm, Hilltop Farm.  It stops and drops out a crate.  Inside is a ROZZUM unit.  It is number 7134.  Roz.

What the farmer, Mr. Shareef, his dog Curly, and his children a daughter, Jaya, and a son, Jad, do not know and cannot know, is Roz will exceed the required work needed to be done on the dairy farm.  (After the death of his wife and an injury, Mr. Shareef, is desperate to save this family land.)  That first night, the cows in the barn, like the animals on the island, discover Roz's mind does not function as the technology in other robots does.  She speaks their language.

Day after day a routine forms as Roz repairs the other automated equipment and maintains every aspect of this farm.  She is as content as one can be when living two lives and longing for home. As the seasons shift, flocks of geese stop at the pond on the property. Conversing with them, she gets a promise.  She starts to plan . . . her escape.

It does not miss the attention of the children that their robot has special qualities.  Storytelling sessions begin.  There are stories of a wild robot on an island and her son, a goose named Brightbill.  Jaya and Jad are completely captivated.

A pack of wolves, a wild tornado, a summer night around a campfire, the existence of an old barn, the arrival of a special flock of geese and a startling revelation alter relationships.  More secrets are kept and an expanded plan is put into action.  Spring brings renewed hope as well as increased fears.

Readers' hearts will race as surely as the heart of Brightbill and the survival mode wired into Roz as they attempt to reach a goal.  Danger is a constant companion.  At any moment they realize they might never see each other again.  At any moment they realize one of them could die.  Expect the unexpected as this breathtaking companion title thrills us until the final word is read.  That word will sound in every soul.

When a book starts with

Our story begins

readers are immediately drawn into the plot.  We step into this narrative as if it's our own.  From time to time throughout the story, this unseen narrator will carry on casual conversations with us.  This technique is brilliantly employed by Peter Brown and it is as successful here as it was in the first title.

Short chapters with short definitive titles propel us forward as quickly as we can turn the pages.  The end of each one connects flawlessly with the following chapter.  A blend of conversations and narrative text give us insight into the characters thoughts, moods and motives.  Vivid descriptions of setting further envelope us as we move from one landscape to another.  Here are some passages.

Nobody knew quite what to think of the strange creature in their midst. And soon all the cows were voicing their thoughts.
"I think the monster is harmless."
"I think the monster is unnatural."
"I think the monster is moving!" 
The herd fell silent as the monster marched out from the shadows and into the middle of the barn.  And then she did the impossible.  She did the unthinkable.  She spoke to the cows in the language of the animals.
"I am not a monster, I am a robot.  My name is Roz."

The cows and the humans spent hot days indoors.
Only when the sun finally set and the air began to cool would they venture outside.  The herd strolled out to graze under the stars, the children ran out to chase fireflies, sometimes even Mr. Shareef stepped out to stretch his stiff legs.
Leaves rustled in the evening breeze.
Heat lightning flickered on the horizon.
Cicadas sang from tree branches.

"Running away might be easy for you, but not for me," said Roz.  "Your father can track my movements.  If he sees me trying to escape he will think I am defective, and he will send me away to be destroyed."
An uncomfortable question popped into Jaya's mind.  
"Roz, don't take this the wrong way," she began, "but is it possible that you are defective?"
"Don't say that, Jaya!" cried her brother.
"No, it is okay," said the robot.  "I have asked myself that same question.  I do not feel defective.  I feel . . . different.  Is being different the same as being defective?"
"I hope not," said Jaya.  "Otherwise we're all a little defective."

Even way out there in the wilderness, she wanted to go unseen.  What Roz didn't realize was that she was already being watched.

Having read an ARC generously supplied by the publisher, I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of a completed book to see the illustrations Peter Brown provides.  The cover (The cover reveal is at School Library Journal, A Fuse #8 Production, by Elizabeth Bird.) gives readers a huge hint.  Where is Roz and why is she there?  Let me simply say prepare to be on a roller coaster ride of emotions.

This title, The Wild Robot Escapes, written and illustrated by Peter Brown is, like the first title, a classic.  It addresses the issues of our interconnectedness with all animals, domestic and wild. It asks us to seek peaceful solutions to every question.  It promotes discussions on the part technology plays in our lives.  Think about the fact that with all the advancements available to those children, the storytelling with Roz was their favorite thing.  I can't imagine a professional or personal collection without several copies of this title.  It's spectacular!

To learn more about Peter Brown and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  I know you will enjoy this post by Peter dedicated to the work in creating this book.  At Little, Brown and Company, you can listen to a podcast where Peter talks about The Wild Robot Escapes.  Here is a link to a Book Club Guide for the first title.  Author, reviewer, and blogger at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast Julie Danielson writes about this book at Chapter 16.  Peter Brown is interviewed by songwriter and singer Emily Arrow at Musing, a laid-back lit journal.  Enjoy the audio book excerpt.

Ingenious Animal Architects

It can happen in any season but more often than not, it escalates in the spring.  There is a flurry of activity in the animal kingdom.  Designs honed after decades of trial and error, most the key to their survival, are seen in all kinds of habitats.  Each of them serves a specific purpose.

The structures constructed by one or many individuals reveal the marvels of their skills.  In A Place To Start A Family: Poems About Creatures That Build (Charlesbridge, January 16, 2018) written by David L. Harrison with illustrations by Giles Laroche tribute is given to those abilities. These accomplishments are astounding.

Creatures That Build
For thousands of years people have built shelters to live in and protect their families. We use wood, cloth, brick, concrete, steel, glass, and more to create safe and unique homes.  Many animals are builders, too.

Twelve poems grouped by location begin with those that shape homes underground.  Several feet below the surface black-tailed prairie dogs tunnel entire towns.  A special chamber is dedicated to the nursery.  Another critter known for tunnels uses its nose to find the perfect dry spot for its children although it prefers a more moist setting for other activities.  A wily spider hides beneath a cleverly conceived door which springs open to snare prey.

One of the deadliest reptiles is the only one to make a nest, without benefit of arms or legs, for its eggs.  For a queen who can lay eggs by the thousands per day, workers build a tower for protection.  Even the smallest when working with others can erect a castle fit for royalty.  Another arachnid weaves a web, a snare for unlucky others, in order to eat.

A hopeful male under the ocean fashions a tunnel from plant life to attract a female to lay her eggs within its walls.  Another does the same in creating a large artistic motif on the sandy floor.  One of these males wins the dad of the year award and the other abandons the young as soon as the eggs hatch.  Another of the builders in water cuts trees and constructs dams.  Mounded sticks provide safe homes for the young inside.

Winged wonders of the air work tirelessly to form homes round and rare.  Babies are tucked tight inside and out of sight.  Did you know the nests of white storks are sometimes used for generations?  Paper hides a busy queen and her buzzing family. A surprise awaits those who turn the final page. 

Each carefully worded poem by David L. Harrison employs a different poetic style.  Of four lines, the final three may end with rhyming words, or perhaps every other line will rhyme.  Sometimes three rhyming lines are framed above and below by other rhyming words.  Each one supplies a rhythm in keeping with the creature.  A concrete verse creates a slithering body.  Repeated phrases will have readers and listeners tapping their toes and snapping their fingers.  Here are the first five lines from Yellow Garden Spider.

You throw a line of silken thread
   and let it flutter where it will,
   to catch on limb or windowsill,
   then use your ancient weaver's skill
to make it hold you when you tread.

A marvelous image spanning flap edge to flap edge covers the matching dust jacket and book case.  Artist Giles Laroche extends the sky, homes and wall.  On the back, to the left, a stork is flying with twigs toward another standing on a nest.  Two other nests are perched on chimneys.  There is an animated symmetry to this first illustration.  It asks us to open the book.  The title letters in red are varnished and raised.

A golden orange-yellow covers the opening and closing endpapers.  A European paper wasp nest is placed on a sky blue canvas.  The insects work around the letters of the text on the title page.  The verso and introduction pages show two red ovenbirds constructing their nest on a leafy branch.

For each poem Giles Laroche designs and builds a two-page picture.  His cut-paper relief illustrations on a variety of hand-painted papers are realistically detailed.  There is texture and three-dimensionality to this type of artwork which will have readers reaching to touch the pages.  On several of the visuals we are given cross-section views of the homes. Some of the pictures are a more panoramic view and others bring us close to the animals.

One of my many favorite pictures is for the white-spotted pufferfish.  The male fish forms a unique pattern in the sand which can be forty times his size, sometimes using shells. In this picture several shades of sand in concentric circles spread out from the gutter as a center.  They reach to the left and right edges and to the bottom of the two pages.  A male and female pufferfish glide over the pattern, waiting.

Wonderful as a read aloud to a group or for sharing one-on-one, A Place To Start A Family: Poems About Creatures That Build written by David L. Harrison with illustrations by Giles Laroche is an excellent choice.  Each poem is a study in writing style as well as providing information.  Readers will be captivated by the painstaking, piece-by-piece images.  You will want to add this gem to your professional and personal collections.  At the close of the book, before the surprise, more facts about each creature are given in separate paragraphs with additional reading suggestions.

To learn more about David L. Harrison and Giles Laroche and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  David L. Harrison has a blog.  At this publisher's website (Penguin Random House) you can view an excerpt.

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the other choices selected by those participating in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Reach For It!

It's a hot, dusty summer evening.  Parents, siblings and friends linger, lounge and watch from the sidelines.  Your knees are bent and your feet are poised for action.  Your eyes move from the pitcher to the plate and then to a runner at second base.  Your left hand rests easily near your left knee before you bring it up to your right hand wearing the mitt.  The pitcher winds up and releases the ball.  It flies toward home plate in perfection.  The batter taunt with anticipation swings and drives the ball just inside the line toward you.  Heart pounding, breath quickening and legs and feet moving, you reach for it!

Those moments after a pitch, a swing and a hit are nearly frozen for an immeasurable amount of time before the entire ball diamond bursts into action.  If that ball comes toward you, no matter your position, there is only one thought on your mind.  You have to snag that ball as if it's metal and your mitt is a magnet.  I Got It! (Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 3, 2018) conceived and illustrated by David Wiesner cleverly captures, without benefit of more than three words, the thoughts of one ball player intent on making a catch.

After the endpapers and the turn of a page, we see a boy dressed in a red t-shirt, khaki shorts and red tennis shoes standing behind a fence as other players gather on a ball diamond.  His arms are crossed behind him.  On one hand, his left, he wears a mitt.  Gathering his courage he moves inside to the field.

After speaking with one of the leaders, he is assigned a position in the outfield.  The first batter swings and hits the ball toward him.  He runs, reaching upward and calls

I got it!

What follows is a series of scenarios where catching the ball seems impossible.  It's the stuff of ball player nightmares.  Birds watch as tree roots appear in the field, tripping the boy.  The results are decidedly not good.  Suddenly the strength of those roots is magnified and trees grow where there were none.  It's hard to catch a ball when you've run into a tree trunk.

Even more bizarre possibilities unfold as the sizes of elements in the illustrations are altered.  Tension mounts as readers wonder at the outcome.  Will the ball fall into the mitt?  Will the boy's endeavors be rewarded?  The birds know the answer.

Rendered in acrylic, gouache and watercolor the enchantment David Wiesner creates through his art begins on the dust jacket.  The arm of the boy outstretched, aligned to catch the ball will have you holding your breath whether you intend to or not.  The blue sky and clouds extend over the spine to the left on the back.  There in the upper left-hand corner three birds fly toward the ball, the glove and the boy.  The title, the ball, the mitt and arm are varnished.

On a canvas of shiny white the book case tells a story not seen in the book.  It presents another potential problem for the boy.  His hat has fallen to the ground and is a nest for three sparrows.  So many birds have gathered they are able to lift the boy into the air.  And the ball . . . you'll have to read the book to see where it lands.

The opening and closing endpapers are a bright golden yellow.  David Wiesner wastes not one opportunity to tell this story.  Beginning with a single page image, he then portrays a double-page spread for the verso and title pages and then a series of five horizontal pictures divided in panels over two pages continue the tale.  Each illustration size enhances the pacing. 

When the boy begins to imagine the potential outcomes, full pages and double-page visuals reveal his worst fears.  Emotion is etched on his faces and the faces of the other players.  The presence of the birds will promote discussion (as all of David's books do).  Readers will be fascinated by the attention to detail, the masterful brush strokes and the use of shadow and light.  There will be more than one instance of gasps after a page turn.

One of my many favorite pictures is the second one showing three of the ball players including the boy.  He is placed in the foreground.  All of them are reaching for the ball.  The concentration and intense desire is highly visible on all their faces.  The tension in this moment is palpable.  David Wiesner only shows the upper portion of their bodies, faces and outstretched arms.  He has placed them as if they are running from the lower, left-hand corner reaching toward the upper, right-hand corner on this single page.  The background is blue sky with white clouds.

You don't have to be a fan of the game to appreciate the imaginative seconds suggested in this nearly wordless wonder, I Got It!, by David Wiesner.  You can literally feel the rise and fall of action as each inventive alternative is presented.  This title is certain to enhance an author illustrator study, an exploration of wordless books, a baseball-themed story time or a swing into spring and summer sports display.  I highly recommend this for your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about David Wiesner and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  There is a link there to his blog.  The publisher has a site devoted to David Wiesner and his titles.  I think you'll enjoy a page honoring David Wiesner created by the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.  David Wiesner is interviewed by students at Kid Scoop News.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Teaming Toward Triumph

As a human fortunate to have shared her life with four canine companions, it is without reservation I declare they save lives.  When my beloved Xena passed away on November 30, 2015, she took a part of my heart but left behind a larger portion filled with unconditional love and loyalty which humbled me.  Today another dog, a wild child of one year and six months, is softly snoring at my feet as I write.

Almost five years ago on April 15, 2013 during the Boston Marathon a bombing injured more than two hundred people and three individuals lost their lives.  No one is the same after an event like this.  It scars you on the inside and for those more than two hundred people; it scars you on the outside.  Authors Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes were injured.  Jessica is a double amputee and Patrick is an amputee.  Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship (Candlewick Press, April 3, 2018) with illustrations by Scott Magoon is the story of a girl named Jessica, a younger version of adult Jessica Kensky based upon her truths.  It speaks of the unbreakable bond formed with a service dog named Rescue.

On a special farm in the countryside, a pup named Rescue was in training.  He was learning to help people who could not see.  But he was worried.

This pup was worried because he had been told he was better suited to be a service dog.

"Service dogs work beside their partners, instead of in front of them."

Rescue wanted to be the best he could be.

A girl in a nearby hospital was also worried.  She had lost one leg and was in danger of losing her right leg.  How was she going to be the best she could be?

On the farm Rescue trained and worked hard.  At the hospital Jessica was adjusting to life with a prosthetic leg.  Although they both made huge gains, Rescue and Jessica were still uncertain about their future.  All this changed on the day they met.

They taught each other what they had learned on the farm.  Back in the city, they were a team with Rescue providing assistance and Jessica making sure Rescue got to be a dog.  One night Jessica was not at home but she was back in the hospital.  Rescue never left her side as she slept.  Now Jessica needed to adjust to life with two prosthetic legs.

Every step of the way Rescue served Jessica as she invented a new normal.  They were inseparable (and still are). Dogs are sent here to deliver happiness.  Jessica knows this to be true.  So does Rescue.

An appealing technique used by authors Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes is to tell the story of Rescue and Jessica separately for the first portion of the book.  This allows readers to develop a strong relationship with both Rescue and Jessica.  We feel a deep kinship with each of them.  As their individual narratives unfold, we begin to secretly cheer for them to form a partnership.  When this happens we know these two beings will bond for life.

Using a blend of narrative and dialogue makes this story more realistic.  Also key phrases are repeated when speaking of Rescue and Jessica prior to them meeting. The number of sentences and paragraphs used create a natural storytelling rhythm from page turn to page turn.  Here is a passage.

Rescue was proud of all he had accomplished,
but he still worried.

He was named in honor of a brave firefighter.

He had big shoes to fill.

Rescue wanted to help people, just like his

Using a pale background with familiar images of the Boston cityscape, illustrator Scott Magoon is able to highlight Rescue and Jessica using bolder colors with pops of red in them and in the title text.  It's clear to see them as a team with their eye contact and heads tilted toward each other.  This image is certain to generate discussion even before the story is read.  Children are curious, having a need to know.

To the left, on the back, Rescue is featured in his dog house.  A tennis ball rests between his paws.  Leaning against the house are a pair of crutches.  (I am working with an F & G from the publisher.)  On the title page Rescue as a pup is trotting toward the reader beneath the text.

Rendered digitally each image is textured, timely, animated and brimming with emotion capturing the moods of Rescue and Jessica.  Rescue is so perfectly portrayed you expect him to leap into your lap for a snuggle.  Jessica in and out of the hospital is featured exactly as you would expect anyone to be in her situation.  Her facial expressions denote worry, uncertainty, happiness and victory.  (According to an illustrator's note the brother of young Jessica shown in most of the pictures is based upon Patrick Downes.)

The image sizes and perspectives vary in sync with the rhythm of the narrative.  Some of them cover more than a page and others are much smaller and grouped on a single page.  Readers will pause on pages to notice the details such as the inclusion of a particular constellation in the surrounding dark in the hospital room after Jessica's right leg was removed.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when Rescue is still on the farm in training.  It spans a single page.  Set in a meadow with a forest behind it is a house for ducks.  Heading up the ramp is a mother duck followed by five ducklings.  On the outside of the house a sign reads:


Rescue's trainer is leaning against the left side of the home.  Rescue is pulling a rope to open the door of the house for the ducks.  He is wearing his blue training cape, collar and muzzle.

No reader will remain unmoved after reading Rescue & Jessica:  A Life-Changing Friendship written by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes with illustrations by Scott Magoon.  Your admiration for the skills acquired by both the dog and his human (and Patrick) will grow page by page.  In the face of seemingly unsurmountable odds these two prevail like the champions they are.  This book will indeed serve to inform readers about persons with disabilities and their service dogs.  I highly recommend this title for both your professional and personal collections.  At the close of the book is an author's note and acknowledgments.

To learn more about Jessica Kensky, Patrick Downes and Rescue follow @rescueboston on Twitter.  They are also on Instagram.  Please follow the link attached to Scott Magoon's name to access his website.  Scott highlights this title on more than one page at his site.  He is also running in the 2018 Boston Marathon to raise money for Rescue's Racers.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior imageCandlewick Press also has a teacher's guide and nine pages of questions and answers with Jessica Kensky, Patrick Downes and Scott Magoon which are a must read.  At another publisher's website, Penguin Random House, you can view additional pictures.  At Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's site, Watch. Connect. Read.you will enjoy the discussion with Scott Magoon.  Also there are three videos you need to watch.  They will further endear you to this title. 

UPDATE:  Please read this article in the Boston Globe on March 30, 2018.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Begin At The Beginning

For several weeks now whenever you walk into a grocery or home improvement store or a local nursery signs of spring are featured in displays.  Rows of packets of fruit, vegetable and flower seeds invite you with their pictures promising plentiful edibles and bouquets.  Bins full of bags of summer bulbs entice you with their colorful varieties.  If the ground and air were warmer, many would be digging in the dirt with abandon.

 Sometimes it's hard to comprehend how much bounty and beauty can come from something so small.  In A seed is the start (National Geographic, February 13, 2018) written by Melissa Stewart readers are given the inside story on seeds.  Your appreciation for them will grow as large as the results they produce.

A seed is the start of a new plant life.
Bury it in soil, and watch it grow,



Step by step through words and a cross-section of earth we watch and understand how a planted corn seed splits, shoots a root down and a bit of green up.  That green in turn reaches for the sun until leaves unfurl soaking up the sun they seek.  From the sunlight this corn plant makes food to nourish itself.  

Plants travel to private spaces so they can grow strong.  If you've ever seen a milkweed pod open or a dandelion head shed, you know seeds have a way to fly.  Did you know a maple seed can glide the length of two American football fields?

If you look closely at the top of a poppy plant after the petals are gone the fruit sits alone.  Like a salt or pepper shaker seeds spill from its holes if breezes blow.  Have you ever wandered among the wetlands in the spring?  Marsh marigolds grow there announcing spring.  After the flowers finish blooming pods form and snap open.  Rains cause the seeds to splash into the surrounding water.

Page by page you read about seeds on the move.  They float, drift, pop, hop, creep, hook and cling.  Their specific characteristics designed according to their habitats help perpetuate their existence. If seeds can't get about through their own locomotion, they are known to hitch a ride inside or outside another living creature.  Seeds are a glorious circle of life; seed to plant, then to flower and fruit and then more seeds. 

Every time Melissa Stewart writes we readers are winners.  Her love of science and the natural world drives her curiosity and research.  When she learns she passes this on to us.  In this newest title she begins by explaining six words to readers; berry, burr, fruit, nut, seed and seedpod.  From this point her factual, fascinating story of seeds sprouts and grows.  By explaining a seed's need for space, she not only acquaints us with their methods of travel but we learn of plants throughout the world.  Some are familiar to us but others will cause us to exclaim out loud.  Here is an example of her writing style in this title.

Look at these Asian climbing gourds!
These fruits are the size of basketballs. They grow
on vines in the rain forests of Southeast Asia.

When a gourd cracks open,
hundreds of seeds take flight.  They
glide through the trees.  After a seed lands, its
wings slowly rot away.  Then a new vine sprouts.  

Realistic photographs by a variety of artists (named in the credits on the verso page) grace each page beginning with the matching dust jacket and book case.  Notice how the smaller photographs are placed in circles (like the circle of life).  This particular design is carried throughout the book.

On the page defining those initial six terms a small pictorial example is placed at the end of the phrase.  It will be interesting to see if readers can name all of them.  It also provides an impetus for further research. On many of the pages the circles provide a place for important text describing a particular image.

Shades of green and yellow with faint outlines of plants supply a textured canvas for pictures and text.  Rounded fonts in different sizes generate accents in contrast to more traditional fonts.  Font colors are yellow, white and black.  The larger words have green shadows outlining each letter.  This lettering with this particular color palette and the selected photographs create a stunning visual effect.  

One of my favorite of many photographs is for the discussion of Seeds splash.  On the background of green and yellow leaves, a large three-quarter circle extends from the lower left-hand corner of the page.  In it is a close-up of a cluster of marsh marigolds with a rushing stream blurred behind them.  To the right of this image is a smaller complete circle.  In it is a magnified group of seedpods opened and filled with tiny seeds.  (For someone who has enjoyed the beauty of marsh marigolds for decades, this is truly a gift to see.)

For a unit on seeds, spring, to celebrate Earth Day or to simply enjoy the wonder of our planet, A seed is the start written by Melissa Stewart is a book for all to enjoy.  It is certain to be popular with one-on-one sharing or with a group during story time.  I highly recommend this title for all professional and personal collections.  An index, selected sources and books and online resources for more information conclude this title. 

To learn more about Melissa Stewart, her body of work and this title, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Melissa has created blog posts on how to use this title with grades K, 1, 2 and 3.  She promises to continue with ideas for grades 4 and 5.  This is a link to a Pinterest board which helped to inspire this title.  At Penguin Random House you can view an interior image from this book.  Here is a National Geographic Kids Educator's Guide for this title.  All of Melissa Stewart's ideas are in this single publication.   

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to enjoy the titles selected by others participating in this week's 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

New Season, New Life, New Challenges

It's here!  Today (March 20, 2018) is officially the first day of spring.  It's hard to believe it when you look at the National Weather Service map picturing a nasty winter storm for the east coast or when you recently return home from walking your dog through ice and snow in northern Michigan.  Mother Nature does things in her own time.

It's as if she is the maestro standing in front of the members of a great symphony orchestra.  As soon as she lifts her baton, everything begins anew.  I'm a Duck (Candlewick Press, March 13, 2018) written by Eve Bunting with illustrations by Will Hillenbrand follows a newborn uncomfortable with what should come naturally.

When I was just an egg, I'm told,
I left my nest and rolled and rolled.

The wayward egg splashed right into the pond.  Mother duck wasted not a second and dove into the water.  Once nestled in the nest again, the egg, in due time, cracked and revealed one of four baby ducks.

Unlike its siblings this duck did not want to swim in the pond or lake.  No amount of encouragement from its three brothers convinced the frightened creature to join them.  Drowning was a very real worry.

Friendly Big Frog made it very clear the fearful youngster simply needed to get in the water as quickly as possible.  Owl's advice was similar.

" . . .You're a duck.  Use common sense
and try to get some confidence."

Perhaps this duck needed to ease into the water.  Puddle practice and an understanding mother certainly helped but the water terrified this little being.  A friend offered a helping hand but a determined spirit made another decision.  New wondrous sounds rang out over the pond.

With the heart of a child and the wisdom of an ancient mentor, Eve Bunting reveals profound truths in the words she writes in each and every story.  In this book, her most recent release, with a soothing rhythm of rhyming phrases, focus is directed at a fear but solutions are lovingly offered.  By giving the duck the role of narrator, readers can identify more intimately with the challenge and rejoice in the resolution.  Here is a four-line passage.

The pond is waiting there below.
It's whispering, "Come on!  Let's go."
But even though I'm well prepared.
I'm really, really, really scared.

Within the soft hues of blue, green, yellow and brown readers are introduced to the duck.  The quiet setting of the pond shown on the front and back of the matching dust jacket and book case sets the tone for the entire book.  Who can resist loving this adorable child?  With the curve of a wing, the set of webbed feet, large dark eyes and a bill easily conveying emotion, we find ourselves drawn to his story.

A darker shade of his downy feathers covers the opening and closing endpapers.  The initial title page begins the story with an egg splashing and sinking into the pond.  On a background of crisp white the same image as shown on the front of the jacket and case is replicated beneath the text on the formal title page.

Most of the illustrations rendered by Will Hillenbrand using mixed media span two pages. They shift from peaceful panoramic water settings to close-ups of the duck in a variety of scenarios.  Each picture, regardless of the time of day, creates a sense of calm even in the noisier moments.  Each choice by Will Hillenbrand, the color palette, the elements in each image, his use of materials and his lines and details contributes to enhancing the words of Eve Bunting.

One of my many favorite illustrations covers two pages.  It accompanies the text already noted.  From left to right a pale cream canvas extends.  On the far right edge reeds fill the upper corner.  Beneath them the pond is placed from the right, across the gutter and into the lower right corner on the left side.  The duck is standing on the edge of the shore, looking at its reflection.  This visual, like all of them in this title, is brimming with charm.

Winsome in words and pictures, I'm a Duck written by Eve Bunting with illustrations by Will Hillenbrand is certain to resonate with readers of all ages.  Who among us has not been afraid to do one important thing?  With the encouragement and love of family and friends, the impossible becomes a reality.  This title would work wonderfully with the themes of courage, spring or ducks.  I highly recommend it for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Will Hillenbrand, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  An older video interview of Eve Bunting at Reading Rockets provides background information.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  At this publisher's website you can see some of the first pages in the book.  In this video Will Hillenbrand chats about his process for this title.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Pushing The Boundaries

For as long as there have been teachers and learners, each has challenged the other to be their best.  While the former may prompt and promote, the later sometimes responds in unexpected ways.  This in turn expands the mind of the teacher while growing confidence in the learner. This is how joy is generated in the classroom, wherever it is.

Where there is joy, learning will never end.  The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection (Little, Brown and Company, March 13, 2018) edited by Colby Sharp, ideas & stories by Sherman Alexie, Tom Angleberger, Jessixa Bagley, Tracey Baptiste, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Peter Brown, Lauren Castillo, Kate DiCamillo, Margarita Engle, Deborah Freedman, Adam Gidwitz, Chris Grabenstein, Jennifer L. Holm, Victoria Jamieson, Travis Jonker, Jess Keating, Laurie Keller, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Kirby Larson, Minh Le, Grace Lin, Kate Messner, Daniel Nayeri, Naomi Shihab Nye, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, R. J. Palacio, Linda Sue Park, Dav Pilkey, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Dan Santat, Gary D. Schmidt, John Schu, Colby Sharp, Bob Shea, Liesl Shurtliff, Lemony Snicket, Laurel Snyder, Javaka Steptoe, Mariko Tamaki, Linda Urban, Frank Viva and Kat Yeh and YOU! seeks to empower readers.  There are stories everywhere waiting to be told and there are more ways than we can count to tell them.

The book you hold in your hands is filled with ideas and stories created by some of my favorite authors and illustrators.  Here you will find talking hats, a magic elevator, a hefty cat, and advice from beyond the grave.  Each time I read through the collection, my mind is blown.  

Editor and author Colby Sharp asked each of the participants to send two prompts.  These prompts could literally be anything.  Then two prompts were chosen and sent back to the authors and illustrators.  They needed to select one and respond.

From a three line poem by Cuban American author and Young People's Poet Laureate Margarita Engle, author and illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi fashions a five page graphic short story.  The text and panels (some are wordless) are a perfect reply.  This serves to show possibilities to those more inclined to express themselves visually.  Teacher librarian, author, blogger at 100 Scope Notes and part of The Yarn podcast team, Travis Jonker submitted a visual prompt.  It's a coat rack with four different hats hanging on the hooks titled The Meeting.  Author and illustrator Laurie Keller responds in kind with hilarity. What if inanimate objects could speak?

You will read about a request for turning a favorite author's name into a title of a book they might write.  A frustrated mouse ends up riding away on a motorcycle.  (Minh Le writes and Victoria Jamieson draws)  A former student writes a letter to a teacher who brought a book into her classroom which connected to him.  To this day this student gives away books with joy and gratitude. (Victoria Jamieson writes and John Schu writes)

A single sentence by Linda Sue Park results in a two image reply by Sophie Blackall. Here is the sentence.

She threw it off the bridge into the river, and watched it disappear downstream.

What do you think Sophie drew?  It's a response most would not imagine.  Deborah Freedman's reply to Linda Urban's request having to do with folklore and being late will charm readers with her signature illustrative style.  My furry friend (and I) loves the visual answer given by Javaka Steptoe to author Kat Yeh's written invitation.  This is for all of you who have ever wished your dogs could talk.

We visit spaces through a portal created from a glow in a forest. (Lauren Castillo, image and Tracey Baptiste writes)  Four words by Mariko Tamaki will change the way you look at your neighbors after reading Dan Santat's graphic short story response. Author Jess Keating describes an item with a note of warning attached.  Peter Brown's illustration as an answer is sure to produce giggles and grins.

One of my many favorite combinations is illustrative.  Jennifer L. Holm inspires Minh Le to tie vegetables to Shakespeare.  You have to see this to believe it.  Then you'll laugh yourself silly.

No matter how many times you read these prompts and responses you will be inspired anew by the ingenuity of the participants.  You have to wonder how Colby Sharp decided which prompts to send to which participants. (I believe this is answered in a chat he has with Corrina Allen at Books Between Podcast.)  At the close of the title the authors and illustrators provide further prompts for readers.  Short biographies are also included.  (This post is written using an initial ARC of the book.)  This title will enhance your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Colby Sharp and those contributors mentioned here and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites or blogs.  Colby has another site here and a Facebook page here.  At the publisher's website you can read an excerpt. Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, reveals the cover on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  Participants Debbie Ridpath Ohi and Deborah Freedman talk about this title on their websites.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Friends In Deed

The tips of tulips are poking up through the soil.  Some days there is a hint of warmth in the wind.  The next day snow covers everything before noon but vanishes within several hours.  There are new notes in the birdsong. The robins are here.

Ever since 1931 the American robin has been the state bird of Michigan.  Their presence after winter, rather than the calendar, is a sure sign spring is arriving.  This Is the NEST That ROBIN Built (with a little help from her friends) (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, March 6, 2018) written and illustrated by Denise Fleming commemorates the season and animals of the forest, field and farm in her creative take on a familiar rhythm and rhyme.

This is the SQUIRREL
who trimmed the twigs, not too big,
that anchor the nest that Robin built.

For anyone with a dog, young and ready for action, no one will be surprised to notice its presence in the next line unraveling the string in a stolen weaving.  In a more quiet moment we are taken to the horse, gladly giving straw.  Can you guess the contribution of the Pig?

Moving into the meadow, a tiny creature collects.  One with longer legs and ears selects the choicest greenery.  A shelter for welcoming new life is shaped.

Delicate ovals with a distinguishing color are nestled in their new home.  Soon open mouths and downy heads poke above the rim.  Where is their meal?  Where is their mama?

As the days of spring grow in number, the young robins increase in size.  Fluff turns into feathers.  A proud parent watches wings spread.

You can't help reading this narrative penned by Denise Fleming aloud.  As each of the six animals play a part in assisting Robin to build her nest, the items are described with words which extend the musical quality of the text.  The verbs are full of action, trimmed, anchor, brought, wraps, shared and covers.  Once Robin lays her eggs, Denise takes the story's focus to the inside of the nest.  In a wonderful original conclusion gratitude is given and a salutation is sung.  Here is a partial passage.

This is the HORSE
who shared his straw, rough and tough,
that covers the string, long and strong, . . .

Happiness fills your heart when first looking at the matching dust jacket and book case created by Denise Fleming.  It announces the beginning of new life and a shift in the seasons.  For this most recent title Denise experimented with a new illustrative style; combining print-making techniques with collage bringing to readers her signature attention to detail.  You notice the layers used by Robin in constructing her nest and the attentive ladybugs and beetle among the materials.  What will readers think of Robin's eye?

To the left, on the back, is a blend of shades of green and shapes of leaves signifying boughs on the tree.  A pale spring green covers the opening and closing endpapers.  With a page turn at the beginning (and the end) we see a layer of grass along the bottom of a brilliant blue sky dotted with clouds. With another page turn, at the front, Robin is placed in the sky on the left with the book's dedication on the right.  The title and verso pages are a rich and vibrant depiction of leaves and ladybugs.  (At the close of the book, those same two pages of grass and sky are replicated but extend the ending.)

Each image is a two-page picture brimming with texture and animation.  The six animals are not always alone on their pages.  They share the space with ladybugs, a rooster, mice, insects, and a hungry frog.  A praying mantis peeks over the edge of the nest.  (When Denise illustrates it's a tribute to Mother Nature.)

To increase interest the point of view alternates.  We are close to the squirrel and dog but for the horse we are very close as he bows to look at a mouse.  As the narrative draws toward the ending a beautiful gatefold displays the combined efforts of the animals and Robin.

One of my many favorite illustrations is of the rabbit.  Denise has captured this creature mid hop and stopping and bending to munch on some choice grass.  The animal's body extends from the left across the gutter to the right.  An array of grass and weeds fills the left side and moves to the right.  Readers will be looking for the ladybugs shown here.  The texture on the rabbit's body will surely have readers reaching to touch the pages.  You expect the nose to twitch.

As soon as the matching dust jacket and book case are shown and the title is read, readers and listeners will feel the beat growing inside them.  This Is the NEST That ROBIN Built (with a little help from her friends) written and illustrated by Denise Fleming is sure to have everyone smiling and singing by the book's end.  It's a wonderful title to use in comparison to the original cumulative tale, during a study of the seasons or an exploration of birds and other animals working together.  You could pair this with Robins! How They Grow Up (Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, February 7, 2017) written and illustrated by Eileen Christelow.  I highly recommend this book for your professional and personal collections.

To discover more about Denise Fleming and her considerable work in children's literature, please follow the link attached to her name.  For activities extending this title, you'll want to visit this link.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson, features Denise Fleming and this title on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Enjoy the book trailer and additional video.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Creative Destinations

Even thinking about it makes individuals smile.  It can be a day or a month.  It's welcome any time of the year.  It's a shift in the established routine.  It's a vacation!

Sometimes a shift in the established routine does not signal a vacation.  Sometimes grownups need to leave for a few days without their children.  Mama's Business Trip Bunny's Staycation (Scholastic Press, January 30, 2018) written and illustrated by Lori Richmond is about a little guy and his very inventive papa.

Mama is going away
on a business trip . . .
and Bunny doesn't like it one bit.

He knows daily rituals simply won't be the same without her.  Looking at her packed suitcase, Bunny has an idea.  Without the suitcase Mama can't go.  Although his six possible plans to make the suitcase disappear might work, a more brilliant thought comes to mind.  What if he goes with Mama?

With his very own suitcase packed he is ready but disappointment quickly follows. Mama can't bring Bunny.  She assures him she will return in five days.  Unable to stop crying during story time at bedtime, his papa tells him they are going to go someplace little bunnies can go.  They'll leave first thing tomorrow.

In the morning Bunny and Papa get to work.  With a large box, paper, scissors, tape, crayons, cardboard tubes, and ribbon they design a means for seeking and having one adventure after another. For the following three days the duo enjoy fun in a variety of specific spaces found around the world until on the last day, Bunny can't handle his missing mama.

Papa makes a suggestion but Bunny has another brilliant thought.  Father and son create through the rest of the day and into the night.  It's finally Friday!  Mama is happily surprised when she walks into the house.  Life really is one adventure after another.

From beginning to end readers of all ages can identify with the characters in this story.  Through Bunny's thoughts and voice (plus Mama and Papa), Lori Richmond speaks to the loss children feel when their parents have to leave and also to the mixed emotions of those parents leaving home and those parents staying behind with their children.  There is a simple truth in Bunny's words and brilliant thoughts which make us want to reach out and give him a hug.  When Lori Richmond introduces the calendar given to Bunny by his mama and when Papa hatches the plan for their trips, you know this is a loving family.  Here is a passage from the book.

That night, Bunny sniffles all the way through bedtime stories.
"Papa, I wish we could go somewhere little bunnies can go, too."

"Let's do it," said Papa.  "We'll leave in the morning."

That happy-go-lucky grin on Bunny's face on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case is sure to get reader's attention.  You have to wonder what has his attention.  Is it the jumping goldfish?  Is it the picture of Mama hanging above the tub?  Is it his handiwork using the red crayon?  The splash of red for the book title matches Bunny's clothing but also a significant element in many of the images throughout the title.

To the left, on the back, the trio, Bunny, Mama and Papa, are standing together within a lighter circle placed over the washed turquoise background.  Mama's suitcase sits next to her.  On the dust jacket certain portions of the illustrations are varnished.

The opening and closing endpapers in shades of purple are different.  In the first Bunny's drawings are taped to the canvas.  They feature all of his favorite things.  The closing endpapers are a mixture of photographs and parts of the adventures.  Both sets are sure to make readers grin.

Rendered in ink and watercolor and composited digitally Lori Richmond begins her visual interpretation of the story on the title page.  Bunny is happily making the creations featured on his bedroom wall.  The verso and first page show Papa working on his computer as Mama packs for her trip.  Bunny is looking gloomy.

The sizes of the images shift to enhance the flow of the narrative.  Two-page pictures change to single page illustrations or a series of smaller pictures are grouped on two pages.  Lori Richmond tends to make her characters bolder in the pictures, fading other items somewhat.  The most important details reach out to the reader initially.

You will find yourself pausing to look at the little extra touches in the visuals.  Bunny is always wearing a yellow cape and the homemade purple crown.  On the backs of all the electronic devices is a carrot with its leafy top.  A Bun Voyage sticker is on Mama's suitcase.  Bunny has bunny slippers on the floor in his bedroom.  Humor comes in the imaginary attempts of Bunny to make Mama's suitcase vanish or when the family goldfish is leaping into the toilet.

A favorite of many pictures spans two pages.  It's a close up of Bunny and Papa ready for their first adventure.  The cardboard car fills nearly all the right side, crosses the gutter and into the left side.  Papa is pushing the back of the car on the left. This vehicle is brimming with all types of materials needed to fashion their fantastical spaces, their staycations.  Bunny, as is Papa, is smiling.  He holds the calendar given to him by his mama.  These two are ready for action.

You will find yourself smiling as you close the cover of Mama's Business Trip Bunny's Staycation written and illustrated by Lori Richmond.  Each of these characters is genuine in their love for each other and in their willingness to make the best of a less than ideal situation.  And I guarantee after reading this book, you have to have, at the very least, materials ready for creative hands.  A box large enough to hold a passenger would be perfect.  Get ready for requests of repeat reading of this title you will want to have in your professional and personal collections.

If you desire to know more about Lori Richmond and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  At this website on the page for this book, Lori has another link you will want to follow. Lori maintains an account at Instagram.  Lori is highlighted at Your Creative PushOn Our Minds, Scholastic's blog about books and the joy of reading, has a post about this title and other ideas for parents needing to be away from home.  Enjoy the videos.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Under Its Light

By one definition a blue moon is a second full moon in a single calendar month.  February 2018 was a month without a full moon, giving us this March with a second full moon.  On March 31, 2018 a full moon, a blue moon, will light the sky.  It is the second one we've had this year.  It is the last time we will have two blue moons of this type (January and March) until the year 2037. 

With this event occurring only every nineteen years, folklore contains references to superstitions and beliefs attached to blue moons.  Regardless of scientific evidence, educators and parents of children and pets know these individuals are affected by a full moon.  When there are two in a single calendar month, the unexpected is to be expected.  The Boy And The Blue Moon (Godwin Books, Henry Holt and Company, February 13, 2018) written by Sara O'Leary with illustrations by Ashley Crowley follows two companions taking an enchanting nighttime journey.

On the night of the blue moon, a boy and his cat went for a walk.  
Inside their house the light was warm and yellow, but outside it was blue and magical. 

As they are walking the boy pauses and turns to his cat advising him of the special significance of a blue moon.  Their path through a field filled with flowers leads them ever closer to the woods.  As they enter the trees a song rings out from the branches.  What is making this music?

Although the boy explores this trail frequently, it is not the same on this night.  A lake appears in front of them.  Along this shore never seen before is a boat.  Both the boy and his cat climb into the boat. 

A reflection of the blue moon on the water beckons to the boy and his cat in the boat.  Many nights the boy has wished to visit the moon but tonight he puts his whole soul into that same wish. (The cat wishes, too.)  These two friends find themselves transported.  On a blue moon night wishes can come true.

Their exploration of this celestial body is exactly as imagined.  As they rest, the boy holding his cat sees a tiny glow from down below on Earth.  It calls to them as the blue moon on the lake did.  In the morning an assumption is reaffirmed.

From beginning to end, the sentences penned by Sara O'Leary sing like the song heard by the boy and his cat in the book.  They flow like notes strung together in a line of music.  They supply a hushed atmosphere; one where anything is possible.  As the duo gets farther into the woods, you know something is going to happen, something extraordinary.  It builds inside you like hopeful anticipation. Here is a passage.

The trees of the forest
were blue as well, and
somewhere high in the branches,
something was singing.  It might have
been birds or it might have been dragons.

If you open the dust jacket, the path along the fence stretches to the left on the back.  Above the fence on a hill sits the home of the boy and his cat.  Lights glimmer in the windows on both floors.  The starry sky provides a backdrop.  The many layers and hues of blue cast, like the light of the moon, a deep sense of calm and a spell filled with promise.  On the book case a deep, deep blue sky with a few stars spans the front and the back, trees like black lace line the bottom.  On the right the full blue moon lights the center.  From one side to the other a bridge allows the boy and his cat to continue on their journey.  They like the trees are in black.

On the opening and closing endpapers seventeen different small images with shining borders of blue light feature elements from the story like the boy and his cat, a telescope, books on the moon and a pair of boots.  They are placed on a star-studded sky.  The field of bluebells covers the lower third of the verso and title pages.  The cat is standing among them on the right.  A canvas of white above the flowers provides space for the text on both pages.

Rendered in blue inks applied using a water brush pen, gouache paint, graphite sticks, pastels, colored pencils, and Adobe Photoshop the illustrations of Ashley Crowley envelope the reader in the sensory marvel of this blue moon night.  The hues of blue contrast with the white in a stunning display.  The affection between the boy and his cat is evident in their body postures and facial expressions.  Aren't the highlighted cheeks on the boy wonderful? 

Spots of red appear in significant elements in some of the pictures.  The image sizes vary in keeping with the pacing of the story.  Ashley Crowley gives us many breathtaking panoramic views.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when the boy and his cat are paused during their travels.  It covers two pages.  They are standing in the field of bluebells.  A fence goes from the left to the edge of a row of trees spanning toward the moon which rises large and blue above the horizon on the right. Tree silhouettes cover the rolling hill on the right.  Between the trees the white path winds.  You can feel the stillness.

Perfect for anytime but especially wonderful on a full moon night, The Boy And The Blue Moon written by Sara O'Leary with illustrations by Ashley Crowley is sure to be a beloved bedtime or story time treat.  Readers and listeners will be captivated first by the walk taken by the boy and his cat but will be thrilled when their wish is fulfilled.  Get cozy and get comfortable and wander into the magic of this night.  You will want to include this title in your professional and personal collections. 

To discover more about Sara O'Leary and Ashley Crowley and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Both Sara and Ashley maintain Instagram accounts.  Sara chats on a podcast at CBC about this title.

Champions . . . Every Single One

You want to stand up and cheer.  It's as if everything you are taught to believe, everything you feel in your heart, is true.  Their accomplishments are an inspiration.  Their accomplishments changed and continue to alter conventional thought one woman at a time; bringing hope to other women then and now.

They dared to be different fueled by their knowledge and faith in themselves.  Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed The World (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, January 23, 2018) written by Susan Hood with illustrations by Selina Alko, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Hadley Hooper, Emily Winfield Martin, Oge Mora, Julie Morstad, Sara Palacios, LeUyen Pham, Erin K. Robinson, Isabel Roxas, Shadra Strickland and Melissa Sweet is a poetic and artistic tribute to young women of distinction.  As you read the final poem graced by distinguished artwork, you might, as I did, wonder about a dinner with all these women in attendance.  Can you imagine the conversations? 

Women and girls have been shaking things up for a long time, resisting those who would box them in.  Here are fourteen inspiring young rebels (one just six years old, another only thirteen) who broke down walls to pursue their interests, talents, and rights.

After the introduction a table of contents lists the women by name in chronological order with one of thirteen different female illustrators paired with them.  First a timeline features the women beginning in the early 1780s with Molly Williams and closing in 2014 with Malala Yousafzai.  Included are World War I, the 19th Amendment, World War II, the United States Supreme Court decision finding public school segregation unconstitutional, and Title IX. 

Molly Williams, a servant of a volunteer firefighter, took it upon herself to battle a blaze in New York City.  It's shocking how long it took for another female to win the right to join the fire department.  Stricken by poverty at the death of her father another young woman at the age of thirteen discovered the bones of an ichthyosaur.  This woman defied the title of a novel, even meeting the author, to set a record for traveling around the world.  

A woman was arrested for her scandalous swimwear but went on to win awards.  Another broke barriers in public libraries inviting Spanish-speaking patrons through her story times and celebrations of their customs.  Repeated physical tragedies did not deter this Mexican artist from achieving worldwide fame.

The Nearne sisters, Jacqueline and Eileen, entered by parachute and plane war-torn France occupied by the Germans to assist the resistance.  She was only twenty-seven but her book, Diet for a Small Planet, altered thinking and is as relevant today as it was in 1971.  Many readers will know about Ruby Bridges but will they know she never missed a day of school with the same teacher in a classroom for one.

How many astronauts have a medical degree?  How many of them were the first female African American astronaut?  Mae Jemison does and she was.  Her vision, made into a reality, is seen by millions of visitors each year.  At seventeen her invention won her a coveted prize.  Fighting back after an assassination attempt on her life, Malala Yousafzai, like the other thirteen women, knows one person, one woman, can alter history for the better.

There are poems with rhyming words on lines two and four.  Others form the shape of an element in the poem (concrete).  Another one is composed of alternating four and two lines, rhyming in a rhythm.  A special cadence is created with two lines rhyming, the next two rhyming and the fifth rhyming with the first two.  To showcase Pura Belpre, author Susan Hood describes her using the letters of the alphabet, top to bottom.  Carefully chosen, each poetic style is a reflection of the woman.  Susan Hood presents a small factual paragraph at the bottom of each page including the birth and death dates.  Six of the women are still alive.  Here is the first verse from the poem about Annette Kellerman, Champion Athlete and Inventor of the Modern Swimsuit.

Turning The Tide
There was once a mermaid queen,
lovely and lithesome and lean,
who swam afternoons
without pantaloons---
her swimsuit was deemed obscene!

Each illustrator brings her remarkable and notable technique to this title.  On the opened dust jacket, the art of Oge Mora depicts a small child, Ruby Bridges, bravely entering school.  To the left, on the back, on a canvas of white, a delicate portion of one of the images for Pura Belpre by Sara Palacios is placed.  A songbird is carrying a flower in its beak, one of many on and floating above the pages of a book. (Those same flowers are part of a pattern on Pura Belpre's dress she wears during an animated story time.) The book case is a beautiful pattern consisting of tiny replicas of the full page pictures for each woman by these illustrators.  The opening and closing endpapers are a light shade of turquoise.

The illustration by Oge Mora seen on the dust jacket front is extended for the verso and title pages.  Shadra Strickland boldly portrays Molly Williams working along with the other firefighters in the dead of winter, including historical details.  Mary Anning is shown digging up bones in a color palette of blues, black, white, and tan by Hadley Hooper.  Fine lines are etching out the elements.  Nellie Bly stands on the bow of a ship, valise next to her.  Lisa Brown has placed the monkey she brought home from her travels on her extended arm.  There is an air of determination in Nellie's stature and on her face.

The soft and delicate texture and brush strokes of Emily Winfield Martin give readers the right atmosphere for Annette Kellerman, swimmer extraordinaire.   Frida Kahlo appears to be looking right at the reader as she stands tall, paint brush in hand with monkeys keeping her company.  Erin K. Robinson brings Frida Kahlo to life with her bold hues and textured art.

Sophie Blackall cleverly inserts the items carried by Jacqueline Nearne in a picture showing her floating toward a patchwork landscape in France.  Her hues are tans, browns and grays.  In her signature collage Melissa Sweet features Frances Moore Lappe driving a truck.  In the bed rests the planet covered in fruits, flowers and vegetables.  The innocence of a brilliant girl with a vision is embodied in the work of Isabel Roxas.  She shows Mae Jemison standing in front of a blackboard drawing her dreams.

By showing Maya Lin standing in front of the Vietnam War Memorial, snow falling on the already snow-covered ground, we get a true feeling for the sensory experience she designed through the art of Julie Morstad.  A row of footprints line the length of the memorial to where she stands. (This is one of my many favorite illustrations.)  LeUyen Pham enhances the poem about Angela Zhang giving us a view of her youthful face, happy and holding a book.  Above her are representations of chemical structures along with a computer screen and keyboard as other elements.  For the final illustration Selina Alko uses shades of red to indicate warmth and boldness of her subject Malala Yousafzai.  Around Malala, centered on the page, are the faces of women from around the world.

For each of these fourteen women each artist includes, in addition to the main single page picture, smaller images on the facing page with the poem.  Many of them enhance the words of the poem.  Others serve to further highlight specifics about the women.

Your spirit will be lifted and your heart will be full after reading Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed The World written by Susan Hood with illustrations by 13 extraordinary women, Selina Alko, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Hadley Hooper, Emily Winfield Martin, Oge Mora, Julie Morstad, Sara Palacios, LeUyen Pham, Erin K. Robinson, Isabel Roxas, Shadra Strickland and Melissa Sweet.  This blend of poetry and stunning artwork should be a part of every professional and personal collection.  It invites all readers to explore their lives further.  At the close of the book are an author's note, sources, books, websites and more and acknowledgements.  

To learn more about Susan Hood and each of the illustrator's and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  At the publisher's website you can read an excerpt. At Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read., the book trailer is revealed.  The interview is a must read before you read this book and before you booktalk it.  Teacher librarian Matthew Winner invites Susan Hood to chat with him at All The Wonders, Episode 420.

Please take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the titles selected this week by others participating in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.