Quote of the Month

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

Monday, April 2, 2018

Mind Magic

Our minds are pulsing with power.  A multitude of ideas, potential in every single one, are waiting to be released.  Every minute of our lives our sensory perceptions are connecting to those possibilities.  From those links beauty emerges.

As soon as we take our first breath, our lives as makers begin.  If we choose to give our minds the freedom they need, our making of miracles will continue until our final breath.  What If . . . (Little, Brown and Company, April 10, 2018) written by Samantha Berger with illustrations by Mike Curato raises up and reveals the power found in the mind of a child.  The beauty will leave you breathless.

With pencil and paper, I write and draw art to create many stories that come from my heart.

If that pencil vanishes, does the making of stories stop?  Indeed it does not.  Tales are waiting to be told from the shapes formed from the paper.  What if the paper is no longer there?  Eyes and a heart full of art know what to do with a chair.

As each item is removed from this inventive girl's presence, she looks outward.  She observes her surroundings noting what can be used to begin or continue her creations.  With walls and floors gone, the land provides opportunities.  What can be made of leaves, snow or sand?  What can grow from the earth?

In the absence of land, there is light.  Like a true creator she knows what can be shaped in shadows.  Finally she, alone, without benefit of other elements becomes a vehicle for her stories.  She lifts her voice and moves her body. 

She knows she will continue to go.  She knows she will continue to grow.  She knows.

The enthusiasm exhibited by her protagonist, a whirlwind of discover, design, wonder making and shaping, bursts forth in the words penned by Samantha Berger.  The repetition of the two title words, what if, initially supplies a rhythm which is sustained through the use of similar phrases.  Readers will feel a joyous tension building until the final two proclamations which are like fireworks shooting forth from the child's soul and straight into your creative heart.  Here is a passage.

If there was no light,
I would still use my voice
to sing out my stories---
to chant and rejoice!

When you first glance at the opened dust jacket (I'm reading an F & G generously given by the publisher.) you feel something ignite inside you.  It's like the sound of a matching striking and new flame sending out light.  The girl's face, a warm soft brown with her purple hair like a halo, crosses over the spine with a marvelous symmetry.  The elements in the purple are later found within the pages of the book.  This dust jacket is also a hint of a breathtaking illustrative event inside the book.

On the opening and closing endpapers illustrator Mike Curato shows a row of windows with arches set in a brick wall.  In the first set it's daylight.  In the fourth of five windows the child is seated at the table working.  In the arch of her window a crescent moon is placed.  Nighttime has fallen in the second set.  Our view of the windows has shifted.  We see four and one half windows, all darkened.  In the second window, the child's window, story dust glows and sparkles from the place where she was sitting.  On the right side the publication information is included.

For the dedication and title pages we see the child working on her creation (on the left) as if we are watching above her.  Yellow lined paper contains the title text written in a variety of colored crayons.  What follows is an extravaganza of double-page illustrations done in

pencil, paper, collage, ink, acrylic, colored pencil, linocut, and digital techniques.

With each page turn we are privy to the playful, inspired talent of Mike Curato as he interprets the imaginative creations of the girl.  To name a few, there is origami, a paper airplane made of wood, a sunburst where there was wallpaper and a dragon made of colored leaves.  Some of the illustrations are reminiscent of colorful scratchboard art. These all lead us toward a stunning gatefold certain to leave all readers gasping and smiling.

One of my many favorite illustrations uses a black canvas.  On the left in thick purple outline is the side of the face of the girl, eyes closed and mouth open.  Lines indicating song in teal and then shifting to purple as they cross the gutter spread from her mouth.  These lines end in an opened birdcage set among the brilliant-hued image of a bird in flight which spans off the edges of the right side.  The mouth of the bird is open, too, in song.  Set among the wing span and body of the bird are elements of story in black.  There are other birds, musical notes, a piano keyboard, a sea shell, Saturn, a cloud with rain drops, a glowing light bulb and much more.  This makes you want to sing your own story.

We all have the ability to create; some of us being more compelled than others.  In What If . . . written by Samantha Berger with illustrations by Mike Curato the imagination of a child leading her to create her own kind of stories is celebrated with supreme eloquence.  You need to have multiple copies of this title available in your professional and personal collections.  At the close of the book Samantha and Mike talk about the process for bringing this book to readers.  I can't wait to hold a finished copy in my hands.  I can't wait to read this aloud to a group of children.  I know they will want to touch all the pages.

To learn more about Samantha Berger and Mike Curato and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Mike highlights interior images from the book.  Mike has a blog here with updates about this book.  Mike is featured at Andrea Skyberg's site and Samantha is featured at Inkygirl, the site of author illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi.  To showcase the publication of this title a book tour was held last week.  Be sure to visit the Nerdy Book Club, What If. . .We Told You The Story Behind The Story?, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, the blog of author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson to read What If. . .Mike Curato Used Mixed-Media to Make a Book?, What If. . .We Used Our Creativity To Overcome Obstacles? hosted at Mia Wenjen's Pragmatic Mom, Kid Lit Frenzy, the blog of educator Alyson Beecher to read What If. . .Two Best Friends Made a Book and for the book trailer premiere followed by his classic sentence starters visit Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  On March 30, 2018 teacher librarian Matthew Winner chatted with Samantha Berger and Mike Curato on The Children's Book Podcast #431.

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