Quote of the Month

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

Monday, April 30, 2018

Nighttime Numbers

Like a beloved lullaby there are favorite bedtime books.  The combination of words and illustrations sing to a sleepy soul.  Each phrase is a melody gently wrapping around the reader or listener.  These books are as important to a good night's sleep as a fluffed pillow, a cuddly stuffed toy or a soft blanket.

If you walk into a bedroom, next to the bed on a shelf or nightstand, they will be stacked in a place of honor.  Sleep Train (Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, April 3, 2018) written by Jonathan London with illustrations by Lauren Eldridge is one of those special titles.  As an engine pulls the cars down the track, a reader begins a ritual sure to lead to slumber.

Sleep Train
Jiggling down that track.

Ten sleepy cars
going clickety-clack.

Our narrator, a boy reading this book, states with the assurance of someone who has read these lines multiple times; one of the cars is his car.  One by one he names the cars and gives them a number.  First and second are the tender and the boxcar.  They are attached to cars numbering three and four.  Each of them has a specific use.

As the train rolls through the countryside the sounds of cows mingling with the sounds of the train make a tune all their own.  Two more cars, a hopper and a gondola, are recognized by the reader.  One has a color so brilliant, it's worth noting.

With eagerness numbers seven, eight and nine are listed.  All those sleepy cars are followed by the caboose,

a moonlit red.

Where is the reader?  Is he in number ten? Yes, he is!

He's in a particular place for those numbering the cars of a Sleep Train.  He counts and he counts, getting sleepier and sleepier.  Good night.

No stranger to appealing text for the intended audience, Jonathan London (the Froggy series) sends a soothing note to readers with his first three phrases.  His rhyming rhythm recreates the swaying of a train as it moves down a track.  It gently lulls us.  The repetition of key words enhances the peaceful cadence.  He also gives readers practice in counting from one to ten as well as acquainting them with the names of cars which can be found between the engine and caboose.  Here is a passage.

There's a flatbed car (that makes seven!)
and a coach with seats.
And there's a dining car
where everybody eats.

Now so far . . .
that makes nine---
nine sleepy cars 
rocking down that line.

When readers open the matching dust jacket and book case on Sleep Train they see spread before them a glorious nighttime sky replete with stars, a shimmering cloud of smoke from the engine's stack highlighting the dimensional title text.  When your eyes move to the left, on the back, the remainder of the cars and the caboose stretch behind.  A full moon hangs in the sky to light the tracks, train and waving prairie grasses.  The color palette here, and throughout the book, is rich with hues of blue, purple and red as the sun sets, dusk begins and darkness descends.

The opening and closing endpapers are a muted rose in two shades.  A pattern of tiny stars cover the background. The title page features the narrator, a boy, snuggled with his toy rabbit on his bed and holding this book.  Through his window we can see city buildings.  The dedication and verso pages showcase an image stepping back, giving us a larger view of his room.  Lauren Eldridge, illustrator, has tucked some wonderful Easter eggs in this scene.  Be sure to look at the child's bookshelf.

In an informative paragraph Lauren talks about how the illustrations were meticulously created by hand using such materials such as cardboard, paper, plaster cloth, acrylic paint, polymer clay, wire, wood, and acrylic eyeballs.  The boy's pajamas were hand sewn. She goes on to say:

Each environment is composed largely of household items, including an upside-down patio table, faux fur, Dixie cups, and washers.  The images were shot with a Nikon D7200 35mm and 10-24mm wide angle, and digitally manipulated.

All the illustrators span two pages, page edge to page edge.  We, like the boy and the train, are on a journey.  Each setting is photographic in detail. Birds fly across a sky gorgeous with the setting sun.  Cows rest and graze next to the train tracks.  A station master lifts a hand as the train travels past.  Each of the cars bears their correct number.  When we see the child in his car on the train, it's a blend of reality and a dream world.  The final single page image is like a sigh.

One of my many favorite pictures is of the train passing by an old grain elevator.  The elevator is set slightly to the left of the center on the right side.  The perspective moves closer to the engine on the left with cars numbering one, two, three, four and five getting smaller and smaller as they pass by the elevator.  A group of birds soars in the sky as if following the train as it makes its nightly trip.  The sky is shown in shades of blue, pale purple, pink and orange.  It literally glows.

Whether used with other counting books, titles about trains or a treasure to be tucked among other bedtime books, Sleep Train written by Jonathan London with illustrations created by Lauren Eldridge is a marvelous ode for all those seeking sleep.  The illustrations elevate the lilt of the text; together they are a tune to remember.  I can't imagine a professional or personal collection without this title.

To learn more about Jonathan London and Lauren Eldridge and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  You will want to read the interview of Lauren at Brightly.  It contains information about her process.  She also chats about this book and her art at Publishers Weekly.  Lauren has an account on Twitter and Instagram.

Friday, April 27, 2018

From The Sea

When you get into the groove of a daily routine, you usually fail to notice some worthy sights in the scenery of your world.  We tend to focus our thoughts on the past or the upcoming future instead of living in the present. We also are not looking for anything out of the ordinary.

We would never expect to see a giraffe loping along the side of the road in the northern Michigan woods.  It would be a rare happening to see an alligator strolling down the street in Times Square, New York City.  The debut children's book of author Lucy Branam with illustrations by Brazilian artist Rogerio Coelho, Roof Octopus (Sleeping Bear Press, March 1, 2018), is a marvelous, imaginative exploration in the unexpected.

It started with a tap at the window that woke Nora up.  Out she looked and there it sat.

It was not a pigeon.  It was not a bald eagle.  It could not fly.  It was not anything anyone would normally see on the roof of an apartment building in the middle of a city.  It was a HUGE octopus!

She rushed into the kitchen to tell her parents.  At first they did not believe her but then a tentacle came into view outside the window.  Down at street level all the neighbors and Nora's family were looking up and offering a variety of opinions as to the reasoning behind an octopus occupying the apartment building roof.

Nora, unlike the others, befriended the octopus.  It's liked Nora too.  Ignoring the octopus did not cause it to leave.  It was there all day and all night.  It started to help the neighbors with their daily chores.

The thing it did which the children loved the most was when a tentacle would curve in the air and provide them with a swing.  One day, filled with joy and affection for the octopus, Nora asked it to come to her school for a visit on the following Friday.  Can you wonder how she felt when it said yes? Can you understand how shocked she was when the octopus was gone the next day?  Would she ever see the roof dweller again?

There is nothing so welcoming to readers as the beginning of a narrative which quickly leads them to a stunning situation. Author Lucy Branam does this with complete ease taking us into the story with her realistic descriptions and perfectly normal dialogue.  Readers will readily identify with Nora's acceptance of an octopus on her apartment roof.  Adults will knowingly nod at the adult characters' assessments of the current state of affairs.  Here is a passage.

Nora cleared her throat.  "Excuse me, there's an octopus on our apartment."

Her father stopped pouring batter and looked out the 
window. "An octopus ON our apartment?"

Her mother looked out too.  "I don't see anything."  Then a 
tentacle dropped down from above and wrapped itself
around the fire escape railing.

If you don't gasp when you look at the matching opened dust jacket and book case, you're not looking closely enough to the intricate artwork and excellent design and layout.  The placement of the other buildings, the arches in the windows on Nora's apartment building, the curled tentacles on the octopus and the crescent moon all contribute to a glorious first look at this book.

To the left, on the back, on dark blue is an interior image.  It's a more panoramic view of the building with the octopus on the roof.  The neighbors are attempting to ignore it.  The opening and closing endpapers are a pristine white.  On a white background the text on the title page is a shade of purple.  Beneath the words are a row of rooftops in a variety of colors with the sun touching the tops, giving them a glow.  On the book's final page those buildings continue along the bottom.  Above them is the publication information.  There are three tentacles curled down from the top.

All of the illustrations span two pages.  Readers will stop at every page turn, astonished at all the tiny elements in each image replete with elaborate details.  Everything inside and outside the apartment building is colorful, reflecting a beautiful and stylistic architecture.  Rogerio Coelho alters his perspective giving us a more far-reaching view and then bringing us close to the characters.  Both of these approaches bring us deeper into the story.

There is a special uniqueness to the shapes of the people heads and their facial features.  It does not detract but enhances the narrative.  Rogerio Coelho presents us with people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.  It enriches the telling of this tale.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when the octopus stays on top of the apartment roof all day and all night when it first appears.  Rogerio Coelho gives us a bird's eye view of the cityscape with the buildings, streets and cars.  Birds glide through the air during the day on the left.  At night the crescent moon hangs in the sky on the right.  Nora's apartment building begins in the middle of the page on the left, crosses the gutter and continues about a third of the way on the right.  The octopus is sitting on roof, covering it completely with tentacles dropping over the edges and curling.  With a smile on its face the octopus is sleeping.  The colors shift from left to right from day to night.  It's a very clever way to portray the passage of time.

There won't be a single child reader who will not believe this story is the absolute truth.  They have a gift of suspending reality in the best possible manner. (And adults will wish it would happen, too.)  Roof Octopus written by Lucy Branam with illustrations by Rogerio Coelho is sheer delight.  At the very least you'll be checking your roof more often.  And you will be much more aware of living in the moment.  Otherwise you might miss something extraordinary.  You will want to have a copy of this on both your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Lucy Branam and Rogerio Coelho and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their website and blog respectively.  Lucy maintains an Instagram account. Rogerio Coelho has several interior images on his blog.  At the publisher's website you can view the first eight pages.  Lucy Branam is interviewed at Chapter 16, a community of Tennessee writers, readers & passersby.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Girl Power Graphic Novels---The Blog Tour

Being asked to participate in the First Second week long event showcasing graphic novels championing female characters is indeed an honor.  During this five day tour twenty sites are offering posts about one or more individual titles or new titles in a current series.  All readers will find something to like about these stories and the lively individuals coming to life within the pages.

Machine parts, candles, Jell-O and desserts are made using molds.  This does not work well when applied to people.  In fact the idiom, they broke the mold, implies uniqueness in characteristics.  Certainly when one follows their passion, building on their gifts, and loves doing this, they have probably stepped outside any predetermined role for them.

In the spring of 2012 readers were introduced to a young girl, a character, who most definitely does not conform to expectations.  She, her brother and best friend burst on the children's literature scene in Giants Beware! (First Second, April 10) written by Jorge Aguirre with illustrations by Rafael Rosado.  The entire crew plus royalty numbering seven returned in Dragons Beware! (First Second, May 12, 2015) written by Jorge Aguirre, illustrations by Rafael Rosado, story by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado and color by John Novak.

The third book, Monsters Beware! (First Second, March 13, 2018) written by Jorge Aguirre, art by Rafael Rosado, story by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado and color by John Novak continues The Chronicles of Claudette with a powerful edge-of-your-seat adventure.  Claudette, her brother Gaston, who loves almost nothing more than cooking and Marie, the daughter of the Marquis who does not want to go to finishing school, are selected to represent Mont Petit Pierre in the Warrior Games due to Claudette's clever and quick thinking.  No one at this time is aware of the extreme danger the entire kingdom is facing.

A long time ago,
in a town not too 
far away . . .
A young girl from the Mountain Citadel
moved to Mont Petit Pierre.

Because of her undeniable battle skills . . .
. . . she was chosen to represent the town
in the elite WARRIOR GAMES, along with a
boy named Augustine and a young marquis.

Gaston is reciting this story of his mother who through saving the lives of the two boys gets Mont Petit Pierre banned from the Warrior Games until now.  What the reader will learn is she married Augustine, Claudette's and Gaston's father, but later was lost.  Eight teams are competing in the games.  All the members of the teams appear to be ready, willing and able except for Gaston and Marie.  Claudette, on the other hand, is brimming with confidence, enough for all three.

Hilarity begins on the first day when instead of battling monsters the event is butter churning. The Marquis's wife has persuaded him to change the events due to their daughter's participation.  As the day closes the mystery begins.  It seems the team from The Great Lakes Kingdom has vanished.  That night Gaston (and readers) witnesses a horror.

The next day during truffle hunting the danger to everyone escalates at top speed.  No one, not even Claudette, believes what Gaston and now Marie have seen.  Evil is lurking under disguise.

A final competition changes everything for the trio after Claudette makes a hard choice.  But oh, readers this is not the end.  The captivating conclusion will leave you breathless and cheering.

From beginning to end, every single conversation, every piece of dialogue, crackles with excitement, humor and the strength of friendship and family (good and evil).  Jorge Aguirre writes with the sure knowledge of his audience weaving his story to reach as many readers (and listeners) as possible.  You can't help but feel as though you have been invited to participate in the tale.  This third book, full of unexpected twists and turns, will find a special place in your heart.  Here is a passage.

Can't you convince the Marquis to pick me for the Warrior Team?
Please, Poppa! Please!!!
I could win the games
for our town.
I'm a winner.
Winning is my 
There are more
important things than
winning, Claudette.

There's also
honor, glory,
and bashing
monsters for
the fun of it.
But winning is 
my main thing.

There's no doubt about the personality of Claudette and her determination to be a champion when you view the front of the cover.  We know evil is lurking in the foreground but we're not sure what (or who) is there yet.  Marie, Gaston and Valiant, the dog, let us know whatever it is; we might want to think about running.  This is what illustrator Rafael Rosado conveys with excellence.

The panels range in size to depict superb pacing.  Sometimes smaller images are placed within a larger picture.  Speech bubbles contribute to the emotions of the characters in each sequence.  Point of view enhances those moods.  We move from humorous to absolute fear in seconds.

One of my favorite illustrations of many is a small panel among four on a single page.  Claudette is looking completely aghast at the fact they are looking for truffles instead of battling monsters.  She is wide-eyed and downcast sitting next to an overturned wooden bucket.  She is leaning on the top.  Valiant is on top next to her arm.  It's her expression which will have readers laughing out loud.  Rafael Rosado is a genius with facial features.

Once you start Monsters Beware! written by Jorge Aguirre with art by Rafael Rosado, story by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado and color by John Novak you won't be able to stop.  These characters and their adventures are like family.  I highly recommend this title and this series for both your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado please visit the series website by following the link embedded in Jorge Aguirre's name.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pages. There are many others links in the blog post about the second book referenced above but this interview at The Beat Comics Culture is not included.

If you thought you might be through with monsters, you are most certainly not. Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter (First Second, April 3, 2018) written by Marcus Sedgwick with art by Thomas Taylor is about an orphan girl whose famous monster hunter parents were killed in action.  Her problem is she is not allowed by decree of the Royal Academy for the Pursuit and Eradication of Zoological Eccentricities to hunt for monsters.  She is too young.

Midnight . . .
The Academy has announced that another monster is on the loose.

I really think you ought to put your seat belt on, Miss Hart.

Scarlett is riding in a car affectionately called Dorothy with her butler named Napoleon.  He resides with her and Mrs. White the housekeeper and cook at Ravenwood Hall.  They do indeed encounter a monster who favors gulping down humans but before they can nab it and claim the reward, their nemesis, The Count, gets a picture of the monster claiming the kill.  Why didn't Scarlett get it first?  She saves a human child at the scene.

If Scarlett is caught hunting by the Watch (police) they could lose everything.  Does that stop her from hunting or Napoleon from going to T. R. A. P. E. Z. E to get word on the next monster?  It does not.  Each time they track down a monster, they know it could be their last time.

One evening Napoleon mentions a secret book called The Codex Monstrorum which explains why the monsters came.  The story hints it might offer an explanation about Scarlett's parents' deaths.  What Scarlett discovers about the book and the dastardly person who possess it, could spell disaster for their entire city.  There's more than one kind of monster.

Marcus Sedgwick does not disappoint as a graphic novelist.  At his website, a link which is attached to his name, you can access a micro-site for Scarlett Hart Monster Hunter which is wonderful.  Don't miss the site of illustrator Thomas Taylor.  He has lots of links relative to the artwork for this title.  You will be leaping from your seat at seeing some of the scenes.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images. 

This title is full of non-stop action from the first page as a monster gulps down an unsuspecting sailor on the docks and it rarely stops until the surprising ending.  You will read the final word and smile and hope there is a sequel being written.  Readers are going to gobble this up like monsters.

More than half way through The City on the Other Side (First Second, April 24, 2018) written by Mairghread Scott with art by Robin Robinson I can safely say I might stay up all night to finish it.  The time is not long after the huge earthquake in San Francisco on April 18, 1906.  We humans attribute it to scientific causes BUT . . .

There is a war being fought in the land of fairies between the Seelie and the Unseelie Courts.  It is quickly easy to understand why one side needs to win over the other.  It is the timeless battle between good and evil.

A girl, a human, discovers she has the ability to pass through the veil from her world into the realm of fairy.  She is the key to stopping the war.  She has a quest to complete.  She has allies, one unexpected but she also has powerful enemies.

Readers won't want to miss this title.

Please follow the links embedded in the creators' names to access their websites.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Mairghread Scott and Robin Robinson are interviewed at Book Riot, Comicosity, and The Beat Comics Culture

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Multi-Talented Terrific Tongues! Blog Tour

It assists us in speaking.  For sensing bitter, sweet, salty, sour and umami (savory), it is essential.  It has between 3,000 to 10, 000 taste buds.  Without it food consumption is difficult; it is necessary for chewing and swallowing.  Some people stick it out when concentrating.  Others use it to blow a raspberry or give someone a raspberry.  There are even people who can touch their nose with the tip of it.  The human tongue is unique to each individual, like fingerprints.

In the animal kingdom, the tongue is even more versatile.  Author Maria Gianferrari in collaboration with illustrator Jia Liu presents Terrific Tongues! (Boyds Mills Press, an imprint of Highlights, April 3, 2018).  You'll be fascinated by the facts and entertained by the narrative assistant.

It's a sword.
It's a straw.
It's a nose.
It's a mop.
It's a . . . TONGUE.

If your tongue is truly as sharp as a sword, the narrator pauses and reveals you might be a red-bellied woodpecker.  Their tongues pierce beetle larvae beneath bark.  Did you know there's an insect with a long tongue like a tube?  They use it to drink nectar from flowers.  You won't believe what they do with this tongue when it's not in use.

Do you remember the last time you attended a party?  There's an animal with a tongue like a party blower horn.  Insects need to be wary in its presence.

Some tongues are long enough to act as a washcloth for the animals' ears and eyes.  Acting like a whip, the anteater uses its tongue to flick in and out of insect homes.  An anteater can flick 160 times in a single minute.

Replicating the action of a windshield wiper, the suction on the tip of a toy arrow, or the circulation of an air conditioner, tongues clean, feed and cool the animals they serve.  The lengths of tongues, no matter the size of the animal, are astounding.  One is so long; this insect is the only one on this planet that can pollinate the star-shaped comet orchid.  Tongues are indeed TERRIFIC.

Readers' curiosity is piqued as soon as tongues are referred to as different implements and even another body part.  Author Maria Gianferrari knows her audience.  A narrative rhythm is created when she states:

If you had a tongue like a ________ you might be a . . .

for the description of each animal's tongue.  After the disclosure of the correct animal, Maria continues with a short paragraph supplying further information about that particular tongue.  Using humans' tongues as the final tongue to discuss involves readers more deeply in the book.  Like a poet Maria finishes with rhyming descriptive verbs to review the previous text.  Knowing child readers and listeners, this will probably generate approval in the form of laughter and applause.  Here is a passage.

If you had a tongue like a mop,
you might be a . . . 


When the Pallas's long-tongued bat sticks
its tongue out for drinking, hairs on its
surface pop out to absorb the nectar, like
the fibers on a string mop.

Using an F & G generously supplied by the publisher, the digital artwork of Jia Liu, as seen on the front of the dust jacket and matching book case, has the appearance of collage.  Each element is carefully placed, adding texture, dimension and realism to each image.  Meticulous attention has been given to depicting each animal in their natural setting.  To the back, on the left, the same backgroud is used to show a bat and a gecko in action, tongues extended.

A pale green covers the opening and closing endpapers.  The frog seen on the front of the dust jacket makes a reappearance on the title page on a canvas of white.  On the first page we are introduced to the narrative assistant, a monkey.  Readers will share in the range of emotions he experiences as a variety of tongues emerge from his mouth.  They will enjoy, as he does, the tongue like a party blower horn but they will be equally horrified at the nose emerging from his mouth.

Jia Liu tucks the monkey into each of the scenes showcasing the animals in their habitats.  Most of the pictures span a single page with the exception of two double-page pictures.  Sometimes a portion of an item in a visual will cross the gutter.  Depending on the animal, the monkey's point of view shifts as does his size.  He swims underwater with a snorkel when the frog is highlighted.  He stays hidden with his hands over his mouth as the snake slithers past him.  Like an explorer he's positioned on his belly in the grass with binoculars spying on the anteater.  This playful fellow adds the right amount of humor to the illustrations.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the Darwin hawkmoth.  On a dark background darker leaves are placed.  At the top of the page on a large leaf one of the moths is at rest, a blend of pink and brown on green.  Peering up from the bottom of the page, larger than life, is the top of the monkey's head and his eyes raised to the top.  Above his head is a white orchid leaning from a cluster of leaves.  Across the gutter a Darwin hawkmoth has extended its tongue to suck the nectar from the flower.

The next time you speak, eat or focus your attention, you're certain to be more mindful of your own tongue after reading Terrific Tongues! written by Maria Gianferrari with illustrations by Jia Liu.  It's a wonderful work of nonfiction designed to actively engage readers in the text and pictures.  They will be eagerly looking for the monkey and wondering what new facts they will learn about each animal.  At the close of the book, Maria Gianferrari includes more captivating information about each animal as well as other fun tongues on a final page.

To learn more about Maria Gianferrari and Jia Liu, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  This title is highlighted at Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher with an interview with Maria Gianferrari.  Jia Liu is the featured illustrator at author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, at KidLit411 and at young adult and children's author Joanna Marple at Miss Marple's Musings.

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A Night Visitor

Day in and day out, week after week, month after month and year after year, the business of life can become a burden.  The stress of always having something to do and never getting everything done is difficult to bear.  You can't help but wonder what it would be like to be relieved of the have-to requirements.

To regain the ability to do as you choose is a tantalizing prospect.  Moon (Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 17, 2018) authorial debut of illustrator Alison Oliver explores the idea of rediscovering that which is lost.  We all have an essential part of us longing to be free.

Every day, Moon walked home
from school and thought about
the day.

Moon always had a to-do list and she always did everything on that list but she did think about not doing everything on that list.  There was a part of her that wanted to abandon those tasks.  There was a part of her wanting to run wild.  The problem was Moon didn't know how to run wild.

During the night Moon looked out her window as a shooting star arced across the darkened sky.  She left the comfort of her room to find more shooting stars.  To her surprise a mystery lay at her feet.  It was paw prints.  They belonged to a wolf!

The wolf invited Moon to climb on its back.  They swiftly moved through the night toward the Great Forest. There, in a clearing, was Wolf's pack.  Moon knew she had found those who could teach her to run wild.

With each instruction Moon felt herself changing.  As the final lesson is observed Moon knew peace.  She was one with Wolf, the forest creatures, the Great Forest and the night.  A howl, not from a wolf, broke the silence.  When Moon went to school the next day, her transformation was evident.  It was contagious.

Students (and adults as well) will be readily able to identify with Moon's thoughts as Alison Oliver begins this story.  Her short contemplative sentences and questions connect to us. When Moon encounters the paw prints, Alison heightens the suspense with three single words.  You can feel the tension mounting which makes the next two page turns even more exciting.  As Moon learns from the wolves, the single phrases allow readers to imagine they are participating with Moon in the Great Forest.  We are altered too.  Here is a passage.

The breeze blew through Moon's hair.
The chirping of the insects seemed to grow quiet.
The ocean of stars felt not so far away.

What readers notice first on the opened dust jacket is the color palette.  The swirl of nighttime blue, purple and black with the dusting of stars provides a tranquil background.  This background on the front crosses the spine to the back to complete the scene.  The text for the title is yet another shade of blue with the first letter o cleverly shown as a sliver of the moon.  The nighttime sky allows for the white and gray of Wolf, the white of Moon's attire and her purple skin to stand apart.  The title text, Moon and Wolf are varnished.

The book case is the same shade of purple as Moon's skin.  The texture is rough to the touch.  On the front a black outline of Moon kneeling next to Wolf and Wolf sitting next to Moon conveys their relationship.  Wolf is resting his chin on Moon's head.  The opening and closing endpapers are done in the same shade of blue (teal) as used for the title text.  Paw prints stretch along the bottom from one edge to the other.

On the initial title page, on a canvas of white, the word Moon is entwined in delicate leaves and tiny purple flowers.  The formal title page spans across two pages.  Moon is enlarged.  Along the bottom exquisite leaves and flowers provide a wide border.

Rendered in watercolor, brush pen, charcoal, and potato stamp, and assembled digitally the illustrations are a soothing blend of soft and bold.  Some of the pictures are placed on single pages others span two pages and smaller visuals are grouped together on a single page.  Alison Oliver alters her point of view to accentuate her text.  Moon's large eyes and other facial features as well as those on the wolves convey every mood. 

One of my many favorite pictures covers two pages.  The canvas is a mix of night sky, grass and flowers in the clearing.  A crescent moon hangs in the upper left-hand corner.  The four wolves in the pack in darker gray are placed toward the top of the two pages with the smallest wolf toward the edge of the right side in the middle.  Wolf is in the center of the left side.  Moon is toward the bottom in the center of the right side.  All of them have their faces raised and are howling.  You can't help but wish you were there with them.

This marvelous book is an invitation for us to look to nature to remember who we are and to realize the best life has to offer us.  Moon written and illustrated by Alison Oliver will have readers howling during and after story time.  I believe this would pair wonderfully with Matthew Cordell's Caldecott Medal title, Wolf In The Snow (Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, January 3, 2017).  You will want to have a copy of Moon on both your professional and personal book shelves. 

To learn more about Alison Oliver and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  She maintains an account on Instagram.  The cover reveal for this book was hosted by author and teacher librarian Carter Higgins on her site, Design Of The Picture Book.  Alison wrote a post, Stay Wild, at the Nerdy Book Club.  Yesterday on Twitter using the hashtag #howtowolf @HMHKids announced they are giving away ten signed posters promoting Moon until May 1, 2018 for those in the United States only.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Mission Defrostable (Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast #3) Cover Reveal

It's one of those evenings at the end of a day when nothing seems to go according to plan.  In fact, the word plan has completely left your vocabulary.  On days such as these there is only one thing to do.  There is only one surefire cure; breakfast for dinner.  Those three words have a magical effect.  It's time to whip up a batch of waffles, pancakes or French toast or all three!

As you gather ingredients, utensils, and cookware, lightness fills your spirit.  You can easily imagine the wondrous odors swirling around you chasing away the woes of the day.  It's like having a warm, comforting blanket wrapped around you.  JUST A SECOND!  Why is it so cold in here?  Did someone leave the freezer door open?

It's hard to believe more than three years ago on March 9, 2015 readers were introduced to two delectable food friends, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast.  The cover reveal for Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast (Sterling Children's Books, September 1 2015) written by Josh Funk with illustrations by Brendan Kearney caused quite a stir among the refrigerator crowd.  The release of the title caused an even greater sensation among the ranks of racers.  It's surprising (or not) what someone will do for the last drop of maple syrup.

By December 13, 2016 the book trailer premiere for The Case Of The Stinky Stench (Lady Pancake Sir French Toast) had people toe-tapping and hand-clapping as they awaited the release date of the companion title, a malodorous mystery.  The Case Of The Stinky Stench (Lake Pancake Sir French Toast) (Sterling Children's Books, May 2, 2017) written by Josh Funk with illustrations by Brendan Kearney had people guessing and gathering clues until the final whiff was taken.

I am happy to welcome author Josh Funk back to Librarian's Quest.  In this third escapade by the breakfast buddies, Mission Defrostable, a chilly chill is permeating the entire refrigerator realm.  What can you tell us, Josh, about this dangerous situation?  Will the duo be racers or sleuths?

If Book #1 was a race, and Book #2 was a mystery, then Book #3 is an action adventure full of twists, surprises, revenge and double-and triple-crosses.  In Mission Defrostable, the fridge is inexplicably freezing over, and Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are recruited to help get to the bottom of things.

You have brought to this daring duo's deeds yet another new character.  How would you describe this character to readers?

Agent Asparagus of the F. B. I. (Fridge Bureau of Investigation) leads the charge to determine the cause of the big freeze.  Frankly, when Asparagus shows up, not much is known about her or the F. B. I. - but as Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are counted on as leaders in the fridge, they quickly offer to help.

I believe you are a fan of fairy tales, Josh.  Is this story based upon a particular fairy tale?

I don't believe so-so if you notice something, it certainly wasn't intentional.  Mission Defrostable was based on some of my favorite action adventure movies like Indiana Jones and Mission: Impossible

In this story the theme of friendship seems to be stronger than ever.  Do you care to comment on this, Josh?

Truthfully, I don't think I went into writing any of the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast adventures with any themes in mind.

In Book 1, there's definitely the 'don't waste time bickering and arguing - or everyone loses' theme.  In Book 2, it ended up with a 'don't judge a character who's down on his luck by his appearance (and odor)' theme.

Or in other words, you're right; the theme of both is friendship.

In Book 3, it's ... well, yes - friendship again.  But this time it might be more with a twist of 'give people a chance to befriend you - don't assume they don't want to be friends'.

Now you've got me wondering why the theme of friendship is so prevalent in this series.  What might this say about the relationship I have with food? Hmmmm . . .

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers before we reveal the exciting new cover for Mission Defrostable?

Well, I'm pretty psyched about this book.  It's probably the best one yet.  And so is the cover!  I think it's brilliant - it works both as a winter book (cold theme) - but also as a summer book (see the popsicles).  Illustrator Brendan Kearney has done it again!

And thank you, Margie, for hosting this cover reveal!  You're the best! 

Thank YOU, Josh, for visiting here again and for the honor of revealing this frosty fabulous cover. 

It seems our fearless adventurers are ready to spring into action when dastardly deeds have upset the status quo for the inhabitants of the refrigerator.  Obviously the popsicles are happier than happy at the turn of the temperature but others are shivering with the chilly chills.  Brendan Kearney has managed to give us the feeling of an icy atmosphere but our heroes maintain warmth with their true hearts.  I have to admit that looking at the ice cream carton in the center has me dreaming about my next hot fudge sundae.  

To discover more about Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Both Josh and Brendan maintain blogs which are linked at their websites.  You can find them on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks and @brendandraws

Friday, April 20, 2018

One Puppy, Two Puppies, Three Puppies, Four

When you put a puppy in a room full of children regardless of their ages, it's an instant lovefest.  Most of the children, if not all of them, want to touch the furry bundle of energy.  And the puppy wants to give every single one of them a big, sloppy hello kiss.

As the puppy bounds around the room from person to person, an observer will see their nose in constant motion, taking in all the various smells.  It's the ultimate way in which they solve their curiosity.  Pippa & Percival Pancake & Poppy: Four Peppy Puppies (Sleeping Bear Press, March 15, 2018) written by Deborah Diesen with illustrations by Grace Zong is the joyful journey of playful puppies. 

A puppy named Poppy
Went out for a run,
Tumbling, rumbling,
Looking for fun.

Stopping at a fence she heard

a big sound.

Nothing was going to stop this pooch, so she dug a hole to investigate.  She found another puppy.  Pancake and Poppy scampered and explored until they came to a large stump.  Guess what they heard?

When they climbed on top, they spied another furry fellow on the other side.  Percival, Pancake and Poppy romped down the road until they came to a big pile of leaves.  They listened.  They had to find out what was causing the commotion.  It was a cute canine youngster.

Puppies numbering four, Pippa, Percival, Pancake and Poppy, wandered and searched until they came to unfamiliar territory.  It was dark and dingy in the alley.  It was a dead end.

A horrible sight met their eyes.  Puppies numbering four ran and ran and ran.  They used their superior sniffers to find what all puppies want at the end of an exciting escapade. 

Toe-tapping, finger-snapping and knee-slapping will begin as soon as the first four words written by Deborah Diesen are read.  Her superb command of word selection creates a rhyming rhythm as spirited and comical as the puppies.  The repetition of key phrases and pauses invite audience participation.  Here are two passages.

Pancake and Poppy
Paraded along.
Gleeful and playful,
Their puppy legs strong.

They came to a stump.
They heard a big sound.
They clambered up over,
And that's when they found . . . 

No one will be able to look at the four puppies happily running down the road without smiling.  Their exhibited joy is contagious.  The road extends over the spine on the matching dust jacket and book case revealing a grove of trees turning colors for autumn and lining a fence.  In the foreground two late blooming coneflowers add to the fall splendor. 

Vibrant colors are displayed at every page turn.  Not a single bit of space is wasted.  One bright green endpaper is opposite the title page featuring the puppies still running down the road in single file.  Butterflies are following them.  Percival has a flower in his mouth now.  At the close of the book the endpapers feature a full two page image with the publication information on the left.

All of the illustrations span two pages or are placed on a single page opposite a white page with two words of text.  Grace Zong shifts her perspective to enhance the text. It's the looks on the dog's faces and their body postures which will endear readers to the four pups.  They are very expressive and simply adorable.

One of my many favorite pictures is when the fourth pup, Pippa is discovered.  Four tree trunks are lined up in the background.  A colorful pile of leaves nearly spans the single page.  The three other dogs with heads raised are looking at Pippa who popped out of the pile of leaves.  All their mouths are open in greeting.  Pippa looks overjoyed.

If you are looking for a title guaranteed to delight the story time crowd (and anyone else young at heart) or a fantastic book to close the day at bedtime, Pippa & Percival Pancake & Poppy:  Four Peppy Puppies written by Deborah Diesen and illustrated by Grace Zong is an excellent choice.  As reader's theater or for creative drama, it would be fun with a capital F.  I haven't stopped smiling since I opened the cover and neither will your readers.  You'll want a copy for your professional and personal book shelves.

To learn more about Deborah Diesen and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  Here is a link to Deborah Diesen's blog, Jumping The Candlestick.  Deborah is interviewed at HENRYHERZ.COM.  Grace Zong is showcased at Studio Goodwin SturgesAt the publisher's website you can read an excerpt.  

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Curiousity In A New Setting

Once you've lived in northern Michigan, hiked through the woods, walked meadow pathways, strolled along one of the many beaches, canoed in the rivers and gazed at the night sky brimming with stars, the conveniences of life in a city downstate do not compare to the beauty one can see every single day in the tip of the mitt.  Recently returning to this area has offered the opportunity to see some of Mother Nature's gorgeous displays when walking with my furry friend through the woods and along Lake Charlevoix.  You notice the oddly shaped tree, the lichen growing on rocks along the road and the work of woodpeckers.  The play of sunlight and shadow is breathtaking.

Author illustrator Philip Stead, who gave children's literature the wonderfully creative Ideas Are All Around (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, March 1, 2016) through observations when walking with his dog Wednesday, brings another reflective book about taking note of your surroundings as well as how the past blends with the present. All the Animals Where I Live (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, March 20, 2018) acquaints us with the area in which the Steads and Wednesday now reside.  They have moved from the city to an old farmhouse in the country.

past the family of wild turkeys that roost on the wooden fence,
you'll find a ninety-year-old woman who lives all by herself.

It is no surprise a bear was looking through the old woman's window one day.  With no fear, she went outside and chased it away.  Philip, on the other hand, has never seen a bear in the city or the country. He does have a special bear sitting near him when he works. It is Frederick, a gift from his Grandma Jane.

I loved my Grandma Jane.

He remembers a room in her home always smelling of maple syrup.  He remembers a wool blanket made from squares with chickens in the center.  He remembers how he slept beneath that blanket.

He imagines his grandmother as an animal, a hummingbird.  All the other animals would consider her a friend before she flew to Philip's old farmhouse in the country.  Wednesday, of all the places she has lived, loves this place best.

Wednesday watches the coming and going of all kinds of animals; dragonflies, cranes and a lazy toad.  Wednesday sees a turtle drop from the sky.  At night a whole new crew of creatures makes sounds in the darkness.

Summer passes into autumn.  Wednesday still watches but she plays a game with the deer that come to feast on the fallen apples.  Soon snow covers everything in sight.  Everyone is tucked up tight except for brave birds coming to feed on the seed.  One other thing lingers.  It's a sweet, sweet memory.

Like the master teller of stories he is, Philip Stead, sends readers an invitation with his opening two sentences.  He paints pictures as eloquently with words as he does with his art.  He invites us to walk down a familiar road.  We feel like we know the elderly woman who encounters the bear.

We become more intimately involved when Philip shares memories of his past with us.  With enchanting imagery he ties his grandmother to the present and Wednesday and their old farmhouse in the county.  With his use of language we are transported.  Here is a passage.

Then the coyote howls, and nothing moves.
Except for Wednesday.
She runs to the window and barks, barks, barks.
Wednesday echoes through the dark field,
over the apple trees,
and into the woods where the coyote disappears for a while.


entirely by hand using a combination of techniques including oil ink monoprinting, printing from found objects, and drawing with China marker, bamboo calligraphy brushes, and Sumi ink

all of the art beginning with the opened dust jacket are signature Philip Stead supplying readers with atmospheric settings.  The red used in the title text and on the old farmhouse add extra warmth to the countryside scene.  To the left, on the back, of the jacket, the shades of green and rustic golden yellow for ground and sky continue across the spine.  They provide a canvas for a crane with one leg lifted, head raised and beak open in a call.  The painstaking care given to the placement of each element gives readers insight into the love of the artist for his work.  Each detail is exquisite.

On the book case the red used on the jacket is replicated as a background for the front and the back.  Embossed on the front in the lower, right-hand corner in black is a chicken.  A pale mint green covers the opening and closing endpapers.  The initial title page contains a hummingbird at rest on a branch with two delicate leaves in the same color as the hummingbird.  The verso and formal title page contain a more panoramic view of the farm, a cluster of birch trees and the apple trees.  It is done in black on cream with the only color the red of the title text.

With each page turn readers will find themselves pausing to enter each illustration.  We are drawn into the moments presented to us.  We are in the room looking at the bear looking at us.  We feel the love flowing from the image of the teddy bear given by Grandma Jane.  We're warm from sleeping under the chicken blanket.  We easily follow Wednesday as he travels around the farm day to day, season to season.

Of my many favorite illustrations in this title which finds a place in my heart spans two pages (as they all do except for the final picture).  On cream, red and golden birch leaves are pressed along the top on both pages with one drifting down.  Along the bottom are grasses in shades of autumn.  On the left a large hollow stump is the residence of a chipmunk family.  One is sitting in the doorway at the base.  Two others have left; one is seated and the other is running.  They are wary because Wednesday is on her hind legs, paws resting on the edge of the stump.  Her head is bowed as she peers inside.

This book, All the Animals Where I Live written and illustrated by Philip Stead, is an exploration not only of his and Wednesday's worlds but of how we can view the world in which we live.  It allows us to appreciate every aspect of our past and present.  It asks us to live in each moment valuing it for what it can teach us.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections. 

To learn more about Philip Stead and his other accomplished works, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  At The Stead Collection website you can follow links titled books, authors, resources and contact.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Here is a link to an activity kit.  I believe you will enjoy this older interview with Philip C. and Erin E. Stead at MackinVIACommunity.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bound By The Beat

It is a mild evening in October of 2003.  Crowds of people, expectations elevated, are streaming from the parking lots to The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan.  It is their first major concert tour since 1983.  It is (it was) going to be a night of nights, a lasting memory.  Two old friends, two best friends, are reunited.

This friendship begins decades earlier in the Jewish suburbs of Queens.  When Paul Met Artie: The Story of Simon & Garfunkel (Candlewick Press, March 20, 2018) written by G. Neri with illustrations by David Litchfield chronicles the relationship of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel from the time of their first meeting until 1966 with a highlight in 1981.  It is a tribute to this musical duo; a duo who sang of what collective souls were feeling then and still feel now.

Old Friends September 19, 1981
At dawn,
people hit the streets
all over New York City,
making their way
into the heart
of the weary metropolis---
Central Park.
Despite the gray skies
and morning drizzle,
the city comes to life---
horns blaring,
drivers shouting,
subway trains rumbling
a symphony
of noise.

This is the introductory paragraph to the piece on the neighborhood concert in Central Park where more than 500,000 people were in attendance.  People came to hear the well-loved voices and the words they sang.  It had been far too long a wait.

The year is now 1951. Two boys who have never met live a few blocks from each other in Kew Garden Hills. They are nothing alike in stature.  They are nothing alike in their dreams of a future.  One prefers singing.  He is called The Voice by the neighborhood mothers.  His name is Artie.  The other has dreams of becoming a star on the baseball diamond.  His brother calls him Slugger.  His name is Paul.

A school talent show when they are in the fourth grade changes Paul's dreams.  When he listens to Artie sing, he wonders and he hopes he can capture an audience's attention like Artie does.  Two more years pass before Paul and Artie, both with parts in Alice in Wonderland, truly connect.

Listening to the radio and hearing Elvis and other rock and roll hit singers like the Everly Brothers inspires the duo.  The gift of a guitar on his thirteenth birthday is exactly what Paul and Artie need to further fuel the fire burning in their souls for rock and roll.  Bravely they debut at a school dance.  They try doo-wop writing and recording The Girl for Me.  Music is firmly running in their veins. 

At fifteen they are singing Hey Schoolgirl on American Bandstand.  Within three years, their dreams dwindle.  They go their separate ways, each pursuing a different career but neither can forget the music.  It's now the early sixties and folk songs speak of social injustice and civil rights issues.  While in Europe Paul writes He Was My Brother after learning of the death of a Freedom Rider.

A chance meeting reunites the two old friends, best friends, in 1963.  Another American tragedy prompts Paul to write a song which does not initially become a hit but fifteen months later, it's climbed to the top of the charts.  It's the beginning and a continuation of a historic musical partnership resulting in a Lifetime Achievement Award and the induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

Each of the nineteen portions of this narrative is headed with a title song by Simon & Garfunkel.  Carefully chosen by G. Neri they are a reflection of the contents he discloses in his informative but poetic writing.  The meticulous research employed by G. Neri is evident in every single line.  His paragraphs have a cadence to them; each one linked to the other like verses in a song.  With each reading the words resonate in a richer and more meaningful manner.  Here are several passages from the beginning of The Only Living Boy in New York.

Paul has seen Artie
around the neighborhood,
wearing a red Phillies cap
or shaking boxes of Good & Plenty
in the candy store.
But until he sees Artie
standing nervously onstage
at the fourth-grade talent show,
Paul hasn't given him
a second thought.
But then again,
neither has anyone else
at school.

That is, until
Artie opens his mouth
and out pours
The Voice:
and sounding

just like the unforgettable
Nat King Cole himself.
Paul can't believe
what he's hearing.
He's spent plenty of time
down at the Roseland Ballroom,
listening to his dad,
a bass player and leader
of a big-time band,
so he knows talent
when he sees it.
This kid Artie is like
a human jukebox,
his voice casting a spell
over the entire school auditorium.
When he hits the final note,
it hangs in the air,
sucking the breath
out of everyone in attendance.
There is a moment of silence---
then the crowd of grade-schoolers
erupts with cheers. 

Readers will find themselves pausing as soon as they see the front of the dust jacket.  Notice the intricate details in the cityscape, the trees, and the blowing leaves of the background.  It is a wonderful backdrop for the older Simon and Garfunkel staring into their future and with them as teenagers in the foreground.  David Litchfield includes elements from their earlier musical endeavors on the wooden stage.  Each one has significance.

To the left, on the back, a rustic red supplies a canvas for oval portraits of the boys facing each other.  Between them are the words:

How two best friends
from Queens
became teen rock
lost it all,
and grew up
to become
Voices of their generation.

The book case shows Artie on the left and Paul on the right.  They are placed in scenes during one of their separations.  These full page illustrations are larger enhancements of interior images for the portion titled Homeward Bound. Artie is strolling down a sidewalk in the city at night with a few stars sparkling in streams of light and Paul is walking through a village in Europe as the sun shines behind him in hues of pink and yellow.  This book case, like all the illustrations, in a word is gorgeous.

The blue used in the title text on the dust jacket covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page the recorder the boys used in Artie's basement is featured.  Rendered digitally each illustration looks like an exquisite painting.  The size and shapes of the pictures enhance the text superbly.

The single page for the concert in Central Park is an invitation for you to join the crowd.  As the boys are introduced a horizontal image, nearly half the height of the pages, stretching from page edge to page edge, gives readers an idea of their neighborhood and their place in it. David Litchfield extends his visuals across the gutter, many are on single pages, others have pictures within pictures, or panels like a graphic novel.  Great care is given to each element including the architecture and clothing for each of the time periods.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when Artie and Paul bravely play at their last dance in junior high.  Behind them at the top of the page is the cityscape in black with a few lights.  A crowd of classmates in muted tones of black, white, gray and brown surround the duo.  A spotlight shines on them as Artie sings and Paul joins him.  Paul's guitar is their only accompaniment.  The wonder of this evening is perfectly captured.  You can feel the excitement.

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were indeed the Voices of their generation but their music and their friendship has endured and will continue to endure.  This title, When Paul Met Artie: The Story of Simon & Garfunkel written by G. Neri with illustrations by David Litchfield, serves as an incentive for a new generation to raise your voice in song or to pursue another creative endeavor which serves the souls of many.  At the conclusion of the title is an afterword by the author, a discography, a bibliography and musical connections in chronological order for Simon's and Garfunkel's careers.  You will want to add this book to your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about G. Neri and David Litchfield and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  David Litchfield also has another site linked here.  At the publisher's website you can view the beautiful interior image for Bookends.  They also have an article where G. Neri chats about the inspiration behind this book.  Other interior illustrations are shown at Penguin Random House.  Author Cynthia Leitich Smith interviews G. Neri on her blog, Cynsations.  Author, illustrator, teacher and speaker Elizabeth Dulemba interviews David Litchfield on her site.  At The Children's Book Review we get a peek inside David Litchfield's studio.  If you go to Twitter and search using When Paul Met Artie you can see even more artwork.

Please be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by Alyson Beecher to view the other titles selected this week by those participating in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Bedtime Bedlam

One of life's annoying problems is attempting to fall asleep and failing.  You've tried every trick in the book; wearing your comfiest jammies, wrapping up in your favorite blanket, plumping your prized pillow, and drinking warm milk. Nothing works.

One of the most recommended methods of inducing sleep is to count sheep.  You imagine an endless line of sheep, all looking nearly alike, jumping over a fence.  You number them until you drift off into dreamland.  Sheep 101 (Little, Brown And Company, March 13, 2018) written by Richard T. Morris (This Is a Moose Little, Brown And Company with illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld) with art by LeUyen Pham is about a little boy trying to sleep using this age-old method.


With Sheep 102 following close behind, it's evident Sheep 101 has taken a tumble leaping over the fence.  In the course of their conversation, Sheep 101 reveals being stuck on the fence.  An unseen narrator (the boy) interrupts.  Sheep 101 encourages the friendly flock member to continue.  The boy needs to sleep.

Bounding over the fence and counted, a cow now waltzes into the scene claiming to be Sheep 103.  There are no more sheep so the cow, usually jumping over the moon, is ready for this assignment.  You'll never guess (or maybe you can) who comes

Weee Weee Weee

from the edge of the page.

A cloud burst of tears ensues as one of the Three Blind Mice comes tapping along with his cane.  He's Sheep 105.  If you're not laughing yet you will be as the next "Sheep" saunters in after surviving a fall off a wall.

Before another leap, jump or bound happens, a loud voice issues a Code Red.  A famous man and his crew from a well-known land zoom overhead.  Their actions disclose a sought-after outcome.  Good night.  Sleep tight.

Your attention to the story is immediate when the narrative begins with two numbers and two sound effects.  When Richard T. Morris follows this with a conversation between two of the sheep and the unseen narrator, the hilarity level is heightened.  His word choices in the subsequent conversations communicate the attitude of the characters, serving to further increase the laughter factor.  Here is a passage.

You guys aren't supposed to talk to each other, you know.
Do you see we've got a sheep down?
Go on without me, 102!  We have to get him to sleep.
Ten-four, 101.
But I've got my eyes on you, sleepyhead.

Not having a finished copy in hand but working from an F & G graciously supplied by the publisher, I have seen two different jackets and book case covers.  In this one, the expressions on the faces of the sheep are guaranteed to have readers laughing before they even open the cover.  What LeUyen Pham is able to convey with eyes and noses is brilliant.  One thing certain to prompt a comment from readers is Sheep 101.  Sheep 101 is not like the other sheep.  Along the spine in purple tiny characters from the story are shown; the blind mouse, Humpty Dumpty, the cow, and one very vocal sheep.

To the left, on the back, among the backsides of the sheep shown on the front, characters from the book are facing the reader.  The looks on their faces will also cause many giggles and grins.  A decision to begin and conclude the book using the endpapers is sheer genius.

On the opening endpapers the boy is staring at the sheep clock on his dresser.  A stuffed sheep toy is on his bed.  An assortment of books, a copy of Mother Goose and Three Blind Mice among them, Lego type toys, a megaphone and a Humpty Dumpty lamp are placed on the dresser, too.  All these elements are contained in the closing endpapers but their positions have been altered.  On the verso and title pages Sheep 100 is trotting in from the left and Sheep 99 is gracefully leaping over the fence.  The fence is stretched across the quilt on the boy's bed.

With each page turn the illustrations rendered in crayon and pencil and completed in Adobe Photoshop span from page edge to page edge across two pages.  The color palette for the canvas is in hues of purple and blue with a sprinkling of stars, mirroring nighttime and bedtime.  The characters are in full vibrant color.  When the unseen narrator is speaking his words are in white.  The other dialogue is shown in speech bubbles.  The sound effects are bold and elevate the mood.

What readers will appreciate the most are the body positions and facial expressions on the characters.  They are humorous with a capital H!  Meticulous care has been given by LeUyen Pham to the details.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for a portion of the noted passage.  For this image LeUyen brings Sheep 102 close to the reader.  He fills most of the right side, crossing the gutter, and a large portion of the left side.  He is not happy and is staring directly at the reader (the boy).  His foot is raised to his eyes, conveying he will be watching the boy.  LeUyen has drawn dotted lines from his eyes to his foot.  In the background on the right, Sheep 101, stuck in the fence, is looking rather . . . well . . . sheepish.

If you are looking for a rollicking romp of a read for story time with a group or one-on-one at bedtime, Sheep 101 written by Richard T. Morris with art by LeUyen Pham is a first rate choice.  We all know there is nothing better than shared laughter with children.  They will be begging you to read it again.  You'll want to have a copy of this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about LeUyen Pham and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  LeUyen Pham is featured at The Author Village. Enjoy the video chat.
Book Chat with the Illustrator: LeUyen Pham from LB School on Vimeo.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Notions Of Nobility

Their willingness to tap into their creative resources is one of the most enchanting things about children.  You can give them the tiniest hint of possibility and they will fashion a whole new world view. They are continuously in pursuit of stories, real and imagined.  If anything is non-existent they can bring it to life.

One of the most talented fictional characters in this respect, a heroine to her readers, is Judy Moody.  This eight-year-old bundle of limitless energy is celebrating a new look for her first thirteen books.  Her signature tiger print surrounds her in a variety of poses.  These vibrant designs were released in paperback on April 10, 2018.

Becoming acquainted with Judy Moody is a rich and rare experience.  All her readers, new and old alike, will be thrilled to know book fourteen, Judy Moody And The Right Royal Tea Party (Candlewick Press, September 11, 2018) written by Megan McDonald with illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds presents this charming personality in all her beloved glory.

Judy Moody had been Doctor Judy, M. D.  She had been Judy Monarch Moody and Madame M-for-Moody.  She had been a Girl Detective and a Mood Martian.  She had even gotten a picture of her famous elbow in the newspaper.
But she, Judy Moody, had never been a queen.

Not being a queen is about to change for this irrepressible girl.  Her Grandmother Lou impresses her with stories of  a relative who saved the lives of others aboard the Titanic before perishing and another relative who saved someone from the Tower of London during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.  (The current project for Judy and her classmates is to create a family tree.)  With this latest information, before you can even think gobsmacked, Judy is certain she comes from royalty.  With hope in her heart, she writes a letter to the current Queen of England, including questions.

During one of the library times given to Class 3T to work on their projects, Judy fascinates her friends with her Queen of England connections but she's also a bit annoyed at Jessica Know-It-All Finch who seems to know a bit too much about British terms and royalty.  Grandma Lou stops in again giving Judy and her brother, Stink, a peacock pin now known as the Royal Moody Sapphire.  Is that Judy digging a moat around the infamous Toad Pee tent?  When her attempts at placing a royal fish in the puddle fail, a lure for swans results in an unexpected surprise.

A family field trip yields more than fascinating fun for the Moody family.  Judy is shocked by what her spying reveals.  If you think that's the end of shocks for our intrepid gal, you're wrong.  Family tree reports on the following Friday have her trembling with disbelief.  A pinky swear and a promise seal a new deal.

Party invitations in secret code translate into a new attitude for Judy Moody.  Responsibility comes with being a royal, placing friends first.  And one final arrival will have readers standing up and cheering for this gusty girl.

Grinning from ear to ear from page one to page one hundred forty-two is easy when you read Megan McDonald's latest installment in the escapades of Judy Moody.  Her ability to portray the heart of an eight-year-old, her classmates, and family is masterful.  Judy's point of view will have readers laughing out loud.  The conversations between all the characters are wonderfully realistic.  The inclusion of British sayings is the crowning touch.  Here are several passages.

"Queens got their heads chopped off.  No thanks."
"For your information, a queen gets to live in a castle and drink tea and play Monopoly all day and boss people and own as many dogs as she wants.  And she doesn't have to do homework.  Ever."
"Well if you're royal, then I am, too."
"Yeah, a royal pain."
"Hardee-har-har," said Stink.
"I wish I had a lucky sixpence for every time you said that, Stinkerbell."

"You better go to the loo and check," said Jessica.  "Just in case."
"The loo?" asked Rocky.
"The who?"asked Frank.
"The bathroom," Judy whispered.
Judy looked in the mirror, front and back.  Phew! No sign of undies.  She brushed eraser crumbs off of her KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON shirt.  Wait just a Big Ben minute.  How did Jessica A. Finch know so much British stuff?

Using an ARC generously supplied by the publisher much of the artwork of Peter H. Reynolds is softly sketched and placed among the narrative. There are plenty of full page pictures, small insets and one fabulous two-page image.  The details in each illustration will have readers pausing to enjoy the moments being depicted.  Light-hearted and true-to-life, the portrayals of the characters will further endear readers to these fictional people which seem as real as your next door neighbors.

Readers will be counting the days until the release of Judy Moody And The Right Royal Tea Party written by Megan McDonald with illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds.  This courageous and confident girl will further secure a place in readers' hearts with this fourteenth title.  You will want to have multiple copies in your professional collections and a copy for your personal collections.

To learn more about Megan McDonald and Peter H. Reynolds, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Be sure to visit a special website dedicated to Judy Moody.  Here is a link to a behind-the-scenes look with the Judy Moody creators.  Here is a link to a Judy Moody Day activity kit.  Many of the thirteen titles have additional resources specifically for each title such as an activity kit and teacher's guide.  Here is the Publishers Weekly article, A Makeover for Judy MoodyShelf Awareness dedicates space to the relaunch.  The cover reveal for book fourteen was hosted by the Nerdy Book ClubReading Rockets conducted video interviews with Megan McDonald.  Megan McDonald chats with teacher librarian Matthew C. Winner on The Children's Book Podcast #432.  Peter H. Reynolds is a guest on KidLit TV StoryMakers.