Quote of the Month

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

Friday, June 29, 2018

Leaving And Staying, Staying And Leaving

As an educator, as a school (and public) librarian, you have goals to accomplish with your students (and young patrons) every day of every week throughout the year.  The most rewarding thing about these plans is that they can change significantly from paper to practice.  Responses given to you by the children necessitate alterations.  They may think, speak and act far differently than you envision.  And that is a thing of beauty.

Their ability to assess a situation and imagine an unexpected outcome is why children are our greatest hope.  Mabel and Sam at Home: One Brave Journey In Three Adventures (Chronicle Books, June 5, 2018) written by Linda Urban with illustrations by Hadley Hooper is a joyful display of words and images.  It is a great day of change for these siblings but they are looking beyond the four walls of their new home.

At the new house, there were movers and shouting and boxes and blankets.

There were chairs where chairs did not go
and sofas where sofas could not stay.

With all this hustle and bustle happening Mabel and Sam had to locate a protected place.  A box, a big blue rug, a starfish-shaped sponge, a mop and a curtain were all these children needed to set sail.  The Handle With Care ship took them over wild waves, near pirates and through a sea full of creatures.

It was determined after a sister and brother-sort of discussion worry and being scared were best prevented by keeping busy.  During one of his tasks Sam spied an island.  Another verbal exchange had the duo staying aboard rather than going ashore.  In the end, the "inhabitants" of the new land lured the captain and her first mate from their ship with a time-honored trick.

In a new house "before" furniture looked out of place.  The surroundings have shifted.  Mabel decided Sam had to visit the New House Museum.  Familiar objects were given new names.  Familiar objects became artifacts of importance.  Finally Sam discovered an artifact of great value.  It was the only one of its variety remaining.  Now he got to demonstrate its use.

As early evening descends there was a final voyage.  Mabel and Sam blasted into space as astronauts.  Using the covers, red, from her bed as a line Mabel lets Sam explore.

Astronaut Mabel pulled Astronaut Sam back inside the ship.
"Did you see anything out there?" she asked.

"I saw lots of things out there," said Astronaut Sam.
"Out there is where everything is."

The voyagers continued chatting about their destination, Planet Perfecto, being bold and having enough space to think.  It got darker and darker until a light brightened their path.  Parental permission was granted for a landing and special bedtime accommodations.  As sleep took the adventurers to dreamland, they knew tomorrow promised to be another day of discovery.

If Linda Urban were sitting in front of me at this moment, I would reach out and give her a hug.  Whether we are reading her lively narrative or "listening" to a chat between Mabel and Sam, we feel pure happiness bubbling up inside our hearts.  Her descriptions of the move; what is happening outside of the three adventures (On The High Seas, At The Museum and In Space) is nearly poetic, creating a cadence.

When the children are imagining they are somewhere other than their new home every thought is in keeping with their perspective of this particular place.  On the seas terminology such as ahoy, first mate, swab the deck and all ashore are seamlessly part of the story.  At the museum Sam becomes acquainted with proper museum etiquette, the meaning of artifact and the Ancient Chicken of Cleveland.  As astronauts in space they muse about the move by thinking of being bold and the necessity of space.  Of course, their companion in these three adventures, Mr. Woofie, the family dog, is a necessary and important character.  Here is another passage.

Tour Guide Mabel led Sam to the next exhibit.
"Do you know what this is?" asked Mabel.
"My Bunny Wubby," said Sam.
"It is a Mississippi Wishing Rabbit.  They are very rare."
"Oh," said Sam.
"Petting its ears brings seven years' good luck," said Mabel.
"Really?" asked Sam.

When my copy of this book arrived, the first thing I did was smile and laugh when I saw the matching dust jacket and book case.  Just as the children do in their adventures, Hadley Hooper does in her illustrations.  She takes the ordinary, the table, stack of boxes and chair, and forms one into a rocket ship.  The design on the front is wonderful!  Notice how the top of the rocket crosses the "o" in home with the star pointing to the "and".

To the left, on the back, a great deal of white space becomes the canvas for the display of the trickery used by the "inhabitants" to get Captain Mabel and First Mate Sam off the Handle With Care.  Hadley Hooper's color palette here and throughout the book leans toward primary colors.  (She assigns a thematic color to each adventure.)  On the opening endpapers is a deep spring green.  A rich blue covers the closing endpapers.

Rendered in tradition printmaking techniques and finished in Photoshop the images, most spanning two pages, are sheer delight.  The children's expressions and body postures (and Mr. Woofie's too) endear all three of them to readers.  The attention to detail, Mr. Woofie's swimming in the lines of the rug as if they are waves, the blend of reality (the sofa and pillow) with walls of a potential museum with paintings and statues, and the interior of the rocket ship as the duo are blasting through space, is exquisite.

Of the many illustrations (the entire book to be truthful) one of my favorite pictures spans two pages.  From left to right the water parts and swirls of white wave and point to mostly blue on the right.  The text is cleverly placed in the white portions.  Fish swim in the middle of the blue.  As our eyes move to the right a three-masted ship glides off the edge of the page.  Mabel and Sam are shown in three separate places on the right.  In each of them Mabel is acting as captain.  Sam swabs the Handle With Care, fishes and keeps a lookout.

Mabel and Same at Home: One Brave Journey In Three Adventures written by Linda Urban with illustrations by Hadley Hooper is brilliant!  The blend of narrative and art invites us to join Mabel and Sam.  And we want to be there with them.  Children will be asking you to read this one over and over.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Linda Urban and Hadley Hooper and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Author Kate Messner chats with Linda Urban about this book on her website.  Hadley also has some art on Tumblr pages.  Hadley Hooper visits Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, the blog of author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson.  Julie also has more artwork from this book in this post. If you want to see the right side of the illustration I note, follow this link to the publisher's blog.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

More Than You Ever Know

To begin, focus on what you are doing at this exact moment and scan the area where you are.  Then start to assign numbers to everything.  There are three devices, a phone, a tablet and a laptop, on two surfaces.  There are one hundred keys on the keyboard of that laptop. Of the seven lights in the room eleven light bulbs are needed.  A single roasted almond, great for snacks, needs to be chewed eighteen times before swallowing.  There is one dog chewing on one bone.

It's fun, mind-blowing and a little crazy to use mathematics to define your surroundings but it gives your world a more interesting perspective.  A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, October  3, 2017) written by Seth Fishman with illustrations by Isabel Greenberg explores our world one number at a time.  Once you read this, nothing will ever be the same.

Let me tell you a secret.
The sun is just a star.

The next statement is the title of the book with a (maybe) tacked to the declaration.  As we move away from the sun we encounter the planets.  One of them is where we live. It's colored blue and green for a reason.  Do you know how many gallons of water cover the Earth?  Do you know how many trees are standing on this planet?

If we go to the dark side of the planet, twinkling lights signify the places where people are living.  Count them; the number is astonishing.  In those places with twinkling lights people are reading books; even a book with the title A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars.  Did you know the weight of all those people who live there is about the

same as ten quadrillion ants.

(The ten quadrillion ants live there, too.)

Of course, the weight of the ants and the people is woefully less than the weight of our planet.  This weight keeps our moon in its orbit around us.  This weight also allows us to have gravity.  We are then told the distance from earth to the moon in miles which is approximately the same as the distance from zooming around our planet ten times.  A comparison of linking readers head to foot or an assortment of living things or objects end to end is the same as that distance.  Wow!

After talking about seconds and the amount needed to add another year to our lives, the counting starts.  An abundant amount of raindrops (1,620 trillion) fall in an average thunderstorm.  How is it possible to

eat up to 70 pounds of bugs . . . or more

in our lifetime?  You won't believe how many rabbits are in the world.  One of the most astonishing facts is that these numbers are constantly changing.  The final secret disclosed by the author will leave every reader smiling.

What author Seth Fishman accomplishes with his writing, is to inform and inspire. Choosing which numbers to disclose and connecting them in a seamless pattern fully engages readers.  His technique of not simply revealing the numerical amounts but making them personally relevant to each reader increases our interest.  Each sentence is a discovery made with enthusiasm in an easy conversational manner.  How can we not be more excited about the vastness of the world in which we live? Here is another passage.

Now take a deep breath
and hold it for five seconds.

Just do that another
6,307,200 times,
and you'll be a year older!

The opened and matching dust jacket and book case supply readers with lots of hints about what they will find inside.  It also will have them asking what rabbits, ants and a shark have in common.  The title text and spirited image on the bottom of the front are varnished.  To the left, on the back, swirling about our planet is a collection of people (and one rabbit) and other objects. A group of questions challenge us to think.

On the opening and closing endpapers among a sky filled with stars are people from places around the world, sitting in their beds, looking at us.  Many of them have books and have paused their reading.  This, like the jacket and case, is a suggestion of moments to come.

All the illustrations, in full color, were prepared digitally by Isabel Greenberg.  Many of the pages include skies replete with stars of all sizes and whirling objects.  Even when we journey inside those same forms appear as patterns or as other elements in a picture. The fabric on a child's bedspread is covered in stars.  A crescent moon hangs in the sky as the child bounces on a trampoline.  The swirls in a swimming pool are like those in the sky.

The inclusion of numerous items in each illustration, whether they span two pages or a single page, encourages us to pause.  We study the pictures knowing each one is extending the narrative and telling its own story.  The children featured in these visuals are from around the world and mirror the marvelous diversity to be found.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  It's the interior of a bathroom.  On the left is a window with a potted cactus on the sill.  A navy shade decorated with yellow stars and a crescent moon is partially pulled down.  A claw footed bathtub sits on a large black and white tiled floor.  A rubber ducky floats in the water.  On a mat next to the tub the family cat, on its back with tucked paws, is gazing upward with apprehension.  To the right is the toilet.  In the middle of the floor a child, standing on a scale, holds up planet Earth as if she is Atlas.  The planet covers much of the right side, crosses the gutter and spreads to the left.

This title, A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars written by Seth Fishman with illustrations by Isabel Greenberg, is an honoree of The Boston Globe-Horn Book Award announced May 31, 2018.  It also garnered a Mathical Award.  At the close of the book, in an author's note, Seth chats about the numbers used in this book.  This would be a stellar addition to your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Seth Fishman and Isabel Greenberg, follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pages.  There are links to an activity guide and a teacher's guide.  Educator Alyson Beecher, host of Kid Lit Frenzy, interviews Seth Fishman on December 6, 2017 about this title.

Be sure to visit Alyson Beecher's Kid Lit Frenzy this week to see what other titles are featured by participants in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

To See Your Beliefs Reflected All Around You

Each morning as the first pale rays of dawn light touch the sky we wake knowing today is an opportunity to be our best selves.  As the sun drops below the horizon and evening descends, we can evaluate what was done or not done and what was said or not said.  As an educator, a librarian, it's our sacred task to learn and grow so the patrons, children and adults, who enter the library see, use and read materials which provide the whole world.  Everything we do should be in an effort to build connections through understanding whether through factual information or fiction titles.

Our lives are enriched by the increase in our knowledge about others and every living thing on this planet.  (We cannot ignore the events in our communities, our home states, the United States and around the world.)  For today, June 26, 2018, Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes (Chronicle Books, April 10, 2018) written by Hena Khan with illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini rose to the top of a group of recently purchased books.  It supplies to readers a mirror, a window and a door. 

Cone is the tip 
of the minaret so tall.
I hear soft echoes 
of the prayer call.

As the pages are turned in this narrative and as we travel around the world visiting places with people observing Muslim beliefs and traditions, our hearts expand with compassion.  We learn to look for figures and patterns.  Each one has significance and value.

A door opening into a mosque is a rectangle. A fountain providing water for washing before prayers is an octagon.  A drum played during celebrations is a circle.  If you seek shapes, they are there.

Three more shapes represent structures used for sermons, prayers, and a sacred site.  Another is seen in gardens of great beauty.  A decorative tile holds a place for an affirmative verse.

A family gathering, a special article of clothing and a greeting reveal the outlines of forms. Tying these together are people.  People who begin and end their days with hope.  We are more alike than we are different.

To read the words written by Hena Khan silently is to feel peace.  To read them aloud is to release the joy. Each two sentence pair rhymes with the final word.  The first sentence includes the shape.  It may also introduce us to a meaningful word in the Muslim beliefs and traditions.  This technique of supplying readers with a repeating pattern fully engages us in the narrative.  Prior to the page turn we are wondering where in the world we will go, the shape we will see and how our awareness will strengthen.  Here is another couplet.

Square is a garden
with sweet orange trees,
a hint of jannah
on its fragrant breeze.

When opened, the matching dust jacket and book case depict the intricacy of the design elements in Islamic art and its architecture.  Several of the shapes mentioned within the book are shown on the front illustration.  It's a beautiful blend of interior images.  To the left, on the back, is an exquisite layered and vertical pattern in rows. 

On the opening and closing endpapers a combination of squares, rectangles, and triangles woven together is further representation.  Illustrator Mehrdokht Amini selects shades of red, orange and yellow to color the first set of pages.  At the back hues of blue, purple and green are used.  On the verso and title pages the top of the tower and minaret are shown with a rising sun behind them.

Each picture, spanning two pages and rendered in mixed media, enhances the couplets.  We travel from country to country and within various parts of a given community.  Colorful clothing and marvelous buildings, on the outside and on the inside, envelope us in this world.  We are explorers and guests and for others, this takes them into the known.

Mehrdokht Amini shifts the point of view allowing us to get an overview when it's important and bringing us close to the people so we can respectfully observe or participate.  Her people, adults and children, have large expressive eyes.  They suggest the mood within the moment.

One of my favorite of many illustrations is for circle.  Two daffs, large round drums, are being held and played by women.  Another woman is blowing on a small horn.  These four adult women frame the entire image.  Beginning on the left and crossing the gutter, children, holding hands, dance in a circle.  The clothing on everyone but especially the women is lovely.

With each reading your respect intensifies and your perceptions sharpen.  Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes written by Hena Khan with illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini gives readers a stunning portrait in rhythmic, informative words and vibrant illustrations of Muslim beliefs and traditions. It is a vitally important title you will want to have on your personal and professional bookshelves.  There is a glossary and an author's note at the conclusion.

To learn more about Hena Khan and Mehrdokht Amini and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Hena has a blog linked to her site.  Mehrdokht has many illustrations for you to see on her site including the one I mentioned.  Hena has accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  Both Hena and Mehrdokht are showcased at Book Q & As with Deborah Kalb.  Hena chats about her work at 88 Cups Of Tea in a podcast.  She also talks in a video at Colorin colorado!  Mehrdokht is highlighted at Let's Talk Picture BooksAt the publisher's website you can download a printable poster.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Feeling Those Groovy Vibrations

At times (or maybe all the time) people prefer to write in silence. For others the subject matter demands the playing and listening of a particular type of music or a collection of songs.  Perhaps these melodies awaken, inspire or enhance our imaginations and inventiveness.

Words given to us or words which enter our minds connect to our past experiences and the tunes bound to those moments.  It's as if there is a beat running through our blood waiting to be beckoned.  Rock 'N' Roll Soul (Abrams Books For Young Readers, May 15, 2018) written by Susan Verde (I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness Abrams Books for Young Readers, September 26, 2017) with illustrations by Matthew Cordell (The Only Fish In The Sea A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, August 15, 2017 and Caldecott Medal title Wolf In The Snow Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, January 3, 2017) introduces readers to a character who feels and finds a rhythm everywhere she goes.

I may not own a drum kit
or an electric guitar.

I might not have a keyboard
or a mic like a rock 'n' roll star.

This bundle of musical energy is always moving.  She is ready, willing and more than able to participate in the school talent show and she declares:

I've got a
Rock 'n' Roll

As she makes her way home at the end of the day, items discovered along the way become instruments to play.

When she walks through the door, a one-string guitar and a bowl and wooden spoon help her invent a tune.  Even the rain drops on the roof pulse with a special pitter-patter.  Which form of this tuneful art finds a special place in this gal's heart?

Her nighttime dreams are brimming with hip-hop, classical, blues and jazz crooning to her moods.  She can be as wild and loud as a rocker or as calm and quiet as a folk musician.  Every combination of notes vibrates within her.

Early morning tasks set the stage for the show.  Out the door she dances.  Walking down the hall to the auditorium she goes.  What will she do?  Only she knows because this girl has a . . .   

It's guaranteed you'll be dancing, singing, clapping or toe-tapping by the time you finish reading this rhyming poetic tale penned by Susan VerdeEach couplet creates a cadence building toward a crescendo as the girl takes the stage.  (Using her as the narrator provides a more intimate atmosphere for all of us.) She is confident.  She is creative.  She knows exactly what to do and Susan Verde wants each reader to know, too.  Here are another two lines.

Keep it down?  Keep it quiet?
Oh, I can keep it soft . . .
but the music in my world NEVER shuts off.

Upon removing the dust jacket from the book and unfolding it, you can't stop yourself from smiling.  The exuberance of the girl portrayed on the front lets us know she is ready to, no; she is leaping into song and dance.  (The text and the girl are varnished.)  The use of primary colors (plus green) adds a special spark to the musical depictions.  To the left, on the back, one of the interior images is used.  The girl, left leg lifted and arms raised over her head, looks like a ballerina ready to twirl.  With eyes closed she is moving to the music heard through her headset.  A group of students are enjoying her performance.  The placement of the ISBN is pure perfection.

The book case is nearly identical to a different interior image.  More hues of red in the curtains are used for added warmth.  In front of a cheering student body the girl is bowing on the stage.  Eyes closed and smiling, her arms are outstretched.

The opening and closing endpapers are a shade of green seen in the title text.  Rendered in pen and ink and watercolor throughout, Matthew Cordell begins his illustrative story with the first page turn.  The girl is calmly strolling along listening to her music.  The notes in red, blue and yellow pour forth like a path around and in front of her.  Another two pages have the notes increasing as she is shown in six different poses grooving to the tunes.  Across the verso and title pages the trail of notes continues as she quietly walks beneath the title text.

Loosely framed in wide borders of white space Matthew Cordell uses single page, smaller images grouped together on a single page and bold, vibrant double-page pictures to present another layer of the narrative.  There is a lively quality to the students and the school in general.  On one of the walls is a large READ sign above the lockers.  On the inside of the main doors the words SCHOOL IS COOL are written.

Matthew adds sound effects to his illustrations as the girl makes her way through the day and evening and the next morning.  Several times he shifts the point of view bringing us close to her.  When she is dreaming about the various musical genres, black, white and gray are used except for her within the scene.  She is in full color as an orchestra conductor, blues singer alone on a stage within a spotlight, saxophone player strolling down a street with a band or as a folk singer.  Every single time you read this you will notice more of the intricate details included in each visual.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when the girl is walking home from school.  On a single page Matthew has placed skyscrapers in the background on a sunny day.  We are close to the girl with her face in the foreground.  She is looking at us.  Her closed fist is moving quickly from left to right across her lower face.  Inside she holds pebbles making a Chikk-a, Chikk-a, Chikk-a sound.  We can't see her mouth but from her eyes we realize she must be smiling.

All readers will want to do after reading Rock 'N' Roll Soul written by Susan Verde with illustrations by Matthew Cordell is to read it again and again and then they will want to sing or dance or sing and dance.  Exhilaration radiates from the pages.  This book shouts out about being who you want to be.  This title would be wonderful to use in those numerous libraries participating in the Collaborative Summer Library Program 2018 whose theme is Libraries Rock!  You'll want to have a copy of this book on your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Susan Verde and Matthew Cordell and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  You can get to Susan's blog through a link at her website.  Matthew's blog link is attached to his name.  Both Susan and Matthew have accounts on Twitter.  The book trailer premiered on (Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries) John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  You'll enjoy the interview questions and answers.  Susan is featured on Behind the BookI also had the distinct privilege to interview Susan in another post here.  Matthew is showcased on The Author Village and 24 Carrot WritingEnjoy the KitLit TV videos. 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Defending Your Passion

Some people demonstrate a talent early in their lives for what will become their life's work, though it's rarely a straight path.  For too many the trail is fraught with major obstructions, obstructions sometimes decades in the making.  Whether it's of their own choosing or not, a detour is offered and taken.

In fact, this detour seems to be in direct opposition to the earlier displayed ability.  Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, January 28, 2018) written by Sandra Neil Wallace with illustrations by Bryan Collier (Hey Black Child Little, Brown And Company, November 14, 2017) describes the remarkable story of a childhood longing realized through perseverance.  If you hold onto a dream with both hands, you'll have a better chance of making it come true.  This is what Ernie Barnes did.

He waited for the backyard to turn into mud.
Painting mud.  Then Ernest found a stick and painted in the slippery soil.

Believe me, this grabbed ahold of his neighbors' curiosity.  It also garnered the attention of his mother.  She worked as a housekeeper for Mr. Fuller, an attorney in Durham's white section.  When Ernest saw the artwork on the walls of Mr. Fuller's library he knew painting was what he wanted to do.

By the time he was thirteen Ernest was carrying a sketchbook and drawing what he saw in the neighborhood.  Even though the coach at Hillside High wanted him to play football, Ernest wanted to use his hands for making art.  This coach got his way and Ernest became a star player earning him scholarships to more than twenty colleges.  At North Carolina College near Hillside High Ernest studied football and art.

When he wondered what to paint his teacher helped him to focus.

"Art is all around you," Mr. Wilson told Ernest.  "Use what you see.  You catch my drift?"

Ernest was drafted to play professional football in 1959.  After watching the Baltimore Colts play, Ernest went home and painted.  He named it The Bench. Ernest was named Ernie by a news reporter after seeing The Bench which he carried everywhere.  Ernie moved from the Colts to the New American Football League that first year but was cut due to an injury.

Ernie kept his desire to paint alive by working as a door to door salesman and chatting with his customers.  When his hand healed he started to play again but this time he took a sketch pad (small) and pencil with him.  The coach did not appreciate this and fined him.  Did Ernie stop sketching? No, he did not.

By 1964 Ernie knew football needed to be replaced with painting full time.  Ernie's plan for success was a marvel.  He never forgot where he started as evidenced by how he framed his work.  His accomplishments are a beacon and an inspiration for us all but certainly for the children who view his work and read this book.

Sharing pertinent details with readers found through her painstaking research, Sandra Neil Wallace takes us into the world of Ernie Barnes's childhood, teen years, college and adulthood.  With each page turn, by selecting and placing direct quotations within her narrative, Sandra Neil Wallace increases our understanding of this man.  Her carefully chosen words breathe life into every depicted situation.  It's as if we are there with Ernie Barnes.  Here is a passage.

Back home the sideline images still swirled in Ernest's mind.  Jersey numbers, bruising cobalt blue.  Referee calls, roaring crimson red.  Sharp shoulders draped in goalpost white.  Everything was so clear that Ernest didn't draw it in his sketchbook.  He stretched out a canvas, reached for a palette knife, and painted.  Quickly. Before the image had disappeared from his mind, he'd created his first football painting.  He called it The Bench.  Ernest decided that he'd never part with it.

Those piercing, sincere eyes of Ernie Barnes looking right at readers surely get your attention.  Upon closer inspection of the matching, opened dust jacket and book case, you can see portions of his life and his framed art above his left and right shoulders.  To the left, on the back, framed in wooden fencing on the top and bottom is a close-up of Ernie's hands holding paint brushes in front of stretched canvases.  In the right-hand, lower corner is a yellow football helmet resting on its top.

The opening and closing endpapers are a lively, spring green.  With the first turn of the pages we come to the initial title page.  Now those paint brushes are being held together inside the helmet.  The fencing is used as a background here and on the formal title and verso pages for the text.

Eighteen moving, stunning illustrations spanning two pages each, rendered in watercolor and collage by Bryan Collierenvelope you in the life of Ernie Barnes.  It's like walking through a gallery, hushed voices speaking in admiration at what is revealed.  Bryan Collier's color choices and his perspectives represent and elevate each scene described by Sandra Neil Wallace.  With his placement of the elements in his illustrations we are drawn to a focal point.

Mr. Collier's use of light and shadow is excellent, especially in the facial features of the people.  Each picture is emotionally charged.  We feel longing, desire, acceptance, determination, understanding and victory.  We are uplifted.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when Ernest returns home after viewing the Colts game prior to the beginning of training.  It is a brilliant blend of the stadium filled with people, players moving and bending with each play like ballet dancers, and a referee standing guard.  Within this collage Bryan Collier has put Ernest on the right, his hands outstretched holding a canvas and palette.  His right elbow crosses the gutter.  It's a mix of artistic calm and measured tumult.

You will be unable to read Between the Lines:  How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery written by Sandra Neil Wallace with illustrations by Bryan Collier only once.  It invites you to revisit each page absorbing the truth of the words and the beauty of the illustrations.  I highly recommend this outstanding picture book biography for your professional and personal collections.  At the close of the book are an author's note, an illustrator's note, an extensive bibliography, quote sources and additional resources.

To learn more about Sandra Neil Wallace and Bryan Collier and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  At the publisher's website you can view six interior illustrations. Please enjoy this video with Bryan Collier speaking about the process for this book.

Don't miss visiting Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher, this past week.  There you can view the other titles selected by those participating in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Dwelling In Questions

If you drive the country roads, especially those less traveled and paved with dirt and gravel, you will see remnants of previous buildings.  There are large square or rectangular areas with broken stone foundations. Some portions are entirely missing.  Other rocks are cemented in place and a foot high.  Standing fence posts designate the existence of former barnyards.  Nearby there are similar but smaller foundations for the houses.

A clearer sign of human occupation are the carefully placed lilac bushes and bunches of iris still highly visible. You can't help but wonder who called these places home.  What were their lives like?  For A House That Once Was (Roaring Brook Press, May 1, 2018) author Julie Fogliano (When's My Birthday? A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, September 5, 2017) and author illustrator Lane Smith (A Perfect Day Roaring Brook Press, February 14, 2017) combine their marvelous talents to ask and propose possibilities about such a place.

Deep in the woods
is a house
that once was
but now isn't
a home.

This house is situated at the top of the hill.  There are signs it was previously blue on the outside.  The current visitors move slowly and silently on a path hardly visible toward the house on the hill.

As they look at the front, a door shows signs of being painted white.  It's not completely open or closed.  They decide to climb carefully through a window with the glass now missing.  Inside there is silence but also sighs given by an vacant house.

An empty bean can, a fireplace, a mirror, a bed, books, pictures on the wall, a chair and the kitchen have the explorers imagining who walked through these rooms.  Did a woman or a man or both who wished wild, wonderful wishes spend their days here?  Were there children who dreamed big dreams?

As they ponder these potential scenarios, they wonder why the people left and where they are now. They start to think of the house as another being, longing for the comfort of companionship or relishing the solitude. As the adventure draws to a close, two wanderers leave the woods taking memories with them.

With the first sentence a sense of mystery is supplied to readers.  The air is filled with questions waiting to be answered.  Julie Fogliano with atmospheric descriptions of place and the outside and inside of the home beckons to readers inviting participation.  We find ourselves drawn into speculation with the visitors through her poetry.  She uses repetition masterfully writing a melody with her words. Here is a passage.

Tiptoe creep
up the path
up the path that is hiding.
A path that once welcomed.
A path that is winding.
A path that's now covered in weeds.

Looking at the opened and matching dust jacket and book case readers are curious as to where the two children have wandered.  Upon closer examination you can't help but speculate on how long the home has been vacant.  And why is there a whale weather vane on the top of the house?

To the left, on the back, among the flowers and weeds on the overgrown path, a bluebird perches on a sturdy stem.  The opening and closing endpapers are awash in black stems covered with rusty-colored leaves.  Bits of purple, blue and green fill the space in-between them.  With a page turn these leaves continue until a textured, cream canvas provides the background for the blue bird standing beneath the title text.  Another group of leaves is in the upper, right-hand corner of the two pages.

Each of the following two page images were rendered

in two different techniques.  The "present day" illustrations were made with India ink, drawn on vellum with a crow quill pen, then pressed while wet onto watercolor paper creating a blotted line effect.  The colors were painted in oil over gesso then scanned and added digitally under the ink-line.  The "imagine" scenes were painted in oil paint on hot press board and scanned along with paper collage elements that were combined digitally.

By introducing the blue bird on the jacket, case and title page we realize this creature is going to have another story to tell.  We watch for its tale to unfold.  Lane Smith uses this extra element to excellent effect.

He alters his point of view in keeping with the lyrical narrative, giving us landscape displays, showing us only the feet and lower legs or the top portion of the faces of the children as they look at the house or he brings us close when a discovery is made.  On more than one page real photographs are inserted.  We find ourselves looking for all the tiny details Lane Smith includes; dragonflies, butterflies, lady bugs, a little mouse, words on the cans and jars, record labels and the name on the pet dish.

As stated in his explanation of his illustrative process, the "imagined" depictions have an entirely unique appearance.  You know if you reach out and touch them they will feel differently.  It's a fabulous representation of reality versus what-if.

There are many illustrations in this title which I consider favorites.  One of them is when the children, a boy and a girl, are climbing through the window into the house.  On the left side of the picture is a splendid array of sunflowers, black-eyed Susans, and lupines.  We are close to them.  In the center is a worn cement bird bath.  The blue bird is watching the children with a worm dangling from its mouth.  More distant from us on the right the boy is stepping up on boxes or stumps of wood to reach the window sill.  Already inside the girl is reaching to help him.  Not just in this image but throughout the book, the manner in which the children relate to one another is endearing.

Imaginative, soothing and reflective are words which come to mind when reading A House That Once Was written by Julie Fogliano with illustrations by Lane Smith.  Certain to promote discussions but also to make us more aware of our surroundings, this book is a highly recommended choice for your personal and professional collections.  You simply can't read it once.  It's remarkable.

To discover more about Julie Fogliano and Lane Smith and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their online presence.  Julie has a page on Facebook.  Lane has a website.  If you stop by the publisher's website you can view interior pages.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson showcase Julie Fogliano and Lane Smith on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfat.  Julie is featured on Today's Little Ditty.  Lane Smith and Molly Leach (his wife) chat about this book (and others) at Let's Talk Picture Books. It's a great interview. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

In Gratitude For Grandfathers

Yesterday, June 17, 2018, the third Sunday in June, was celebrated as Father's Day around the world.  It is a time to honor and remember those who have figured prominently in our lives.  Of my dad the memories are abundant. Not a day passes without something he said or did coming to mind.  Of my two grandfathers I have much less. These two necklaces, more than one hundred years old, and a rattle he made for my mom are all I have to remember my mother's father.  Mom believed he might have been Native American but he died from an accident when she was four. I have words from my dad's dad which have sustained me on more than one occasion.  Barely one when he was in the hospital, having suffered a heart attack, I was outside in the hall putting up a fuss because I could not see him. He said, "You can't keep Margie down."  He never came home.

These men in our lives, whether they are living or have died, have and will influence us. In our youth we may feel as though they can't possibly understand us.  Sometimes it seems like we have no common ground. Drawn Together (Disney Hyperion, June 5, 2018) written by Minh Le (Let Me Finish! Disney Hyperion, June 7, 2016) with illustrations by Dan Santat (After The Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again Roaring Brook Press, October 3, 2017) is a moving, truthful journey taken by a grandfather and his grandson.  Love always finds a way.

A daughter, a mother, drops her son off at his grandfather's home.  The grandfather happily greets his less-than-enthusiastic grandson. At dinner the grandfather eats a traditional meal but lovingly provides his grandson with an American meal. When the grandson asks his grandfather

So . . . what's
new, Grandpa?,

the elderly gentleman replies in his native language.  The meal is finished in silence.

After dinner the grandfather is watching one of his favorite television shows in a language the boy cannot understand.  Bored, he leaves the sofa going to his backpack.  He takes out a box of markers and begins to draw.  Leaning over his shoulder the grandfather is amazed at what he sees.

When he returns to the room he's carrying a sketch book, a bottle of ink and a brush.  What the grandfather does next amazes the boy.  They share a passion for art; one new and colorful and the other masterful in fine, detailed lines of black on white.  They are a magician and a warrior existing in a realm of their own making.

When the dragon of doubt threatens to rise up, the duo conquers it with courage.  They are content in the knowledge of their shared inventiveness and talent.  They know they've discovered a new language; a language without words.

We quickly realize the boy, while being polite, is not as happy as his grandfather about the visit.  With his first two sentences Minh Le allows us to understand the reason.  They do not speak the same language.

We sense the frustration of both until the boy begins to draw and the grandfather reveals his sketch book.  Minh's carefully chosen words at the boy's surprise send a surge of excitement into the story.  As his narration continues we know it's a discovery born of love for one another and love of making art.  The final sentence will leave you breathless, if not in tears.  Here is one of Minh's other partial sentences.

All the things we could never say come pouring out . . .

When first looking at the unfolded dust jacket ablaze in magnificent art, extending flap edge to flap edge, you know the child and the older man share more than affection.  You are filled with wonder and questions about the story waiting to be read.  The collage of techniques, the use of circles (no beginning and no end), and the combinations of color leave you astounded and brimming with joy.

The book case, a weathered and worn dark color, has the word SKETCH in chalk on the front.  The opening and closing endpapers represent the work of the boy and the work of the grandfather.  In the first a young wizard is leaping over a vibrant, bold landscape.  In the second a meticulous painting of an ornate fish swimming among the waves is presented in black on white.

Dan Santat does not waste any space in telling his visual interpretation of the story.  On the dedication (verso) and title pages the mother has stopped the car and is standing by the open driver's door.  Her son is slowly making his way to his grandfather's house. The first six panels are wordless but we are well aware of the situation.

Rendered in traditional mixed media and composited on the computer each illustration brings you deeper and deeper into the narrative. Using panels of varying sizes two, three or four to a page, Dan Santat fashions a pacing which is building tension that will burst forth with a dynamic two-page picture; their combined art with each other in a stance of action.  It's the beginning of one "oh my goodness" double-page image after another.  The details, the color and black and white elements, the title font, the Thai writing (by Dan Santat's mother) and the facial expressions and body postures will have you gasping.  Which the switch comes, you will be cheering out loud.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the text quoted above.  Along the top of the two pages is an intricate and eloquent fish moving from right to left. Beneath it on the left is the grandfather dressed in traditional warrior clothing brandishing a paintbrush as if it's a spear. He is facing left.  On the right and facing right is the grandson, holding his wand and extending it to create his own special kind of magic.  He is colorful as are the circles around and below him.

No matter how many times you read Drawn Together written by Minh Le with illustrations by Dan Santat two words will continuously come to mind--timeless classic. We need books which tell us how to bridge generations.  Both have much to offer the other.  One has the wisdom of experience and the other has the zest of new discovery. The blend is a thing of beauty. I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Minh Le and Dan Santat and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Minh Le visits the blog of Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's Watch. Connect. Read.  You will enjoy the video created by Dan Santat about this title and the conversation between Minh and John.  Both Minh Le and Dan Santat talk about this title at Publishers Weekly and at The Horn Book with Roger Sutton.  Minh Le is interviewed at author Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog Cynsations by author Traci Sorell and on NPR, All Things Considered.

UPDATE:  Dan Santat visits Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, the blog of author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson.  You will really enjoy the shared process art.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Barnyard Buddies

Spring has been in full swing for many weeks now.  The word weeks instead of months (the spring equinox in 2018 was March 20th) is used because in northern Michigan the worst snow storm of the 2017-2018 winter season was April 13th to April 17th.  It's only been two months since there was two feet of snow on the ground in many places.

Mother Nature has been busy catching up; the wild buttercups and daisies are blooming, an abundance of birdsong begins each day and hordes of insects are hatching. In more domesticated scenes, farms, babies are being born.  Pip & Pup (Godwin Books, Henry Holt and Company, April 24, 2018) written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin introduces readers to two newborns who aren't quite sure what to think about each other.

As this wordless delight begins an egg cracks open.  With a lot of effort, a tiny chick emerges and hardly believes the shell was its home.  Finding a perch on the barn roof, the fluffy bundle of yellow fashions binoculars with its feathered wings.  It spies a puppy, sleeping deeply.

The puppy is curled next to the large wheel of a tractor.  In order to get the dozing canine's attention, the chick decides to give its nose a quick peck.  It works splendidly with the pup barking at the now alarmed chick.  Scurrying in frantic circles among the other animals, the chick makes it safely back to the two-part shell.

All of sudden at thunderstorm blows over the farm.  Inside the shell the chick is safe using the smaller piece as a cap.  The pup is not as fortunate.  It is frightened and wet.  In a series of scenes the chick arrives, assesses the situation and offers the only form of comfort available.  It's perfect for the pup.

As the storm diminishes and blue sky and sunshine appear, the relationship between the two barnyard buddies gets stronger.  There are comical antics and laughter until disaster strikes.  Of course, the puppy has a solution even if it's not an exact match.

Beautifully conceived by Eugene Yelchin this tale of springtime camaraderie will connect with a variety of readers.  The idea of new life seeking out other new life certainly strikes a chord with readers finding themselves in completely new situations.  The introduction of the inclement weather provides a venue for kindness to build a bridge between the two.

Beginning with the dust jacket, the illustrations rendered in colored pencils, oil pastels, and digital painting are an open invitation to hug this book.  That chick and that puppy on the front of the jacket are adorable with a capital A.  Behind them to the left, on the back, the grass extends with a fence and barn buildings above it.  A bright sun is peeking from a cloud.  The text is varnished as are the puppy and chick on the flaps.

The book case is covered in yellow with flecks of orange, a charming duplication of downy baby chicken feathers.  On the opening and closing endpapers a delicate sky blue hints at the happy ending.  The first image, the cracking egg appears before the title page.  Opposite the title page are six comical pictures of the chick peeking and seeking from the broken shell.

Each wordless illustration is brimming with mood and emotion.  We feel curiosity, wonder, surprise, humor, kindness and the love of friendship.  The manner in which Eugene Yelchin places the elements on each page has us filling in the words in our minds.  He has chosen to make some parts of the picture more prominent (darker) than others, giving us a true sense of perspective which shifts from page to page providing pacing.  There is a special quality to his technique which draws us into each moment.

Most of his illustrations are single page with a fine red line framing them.  To celebrate the end of one thing and the beginning of another six vertical panels span two pages. You will laugh out loud at the final image at the close of the book.  It appears above the dedication and publication information.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is actually two on opposite pages.  On the first one, on the left, the chick nearly fills the page.  It is standing on the peak of the barn roof. A few clouds are drifting by in the background.  The chick is lifting its wings to its eyes forming binoculars.  It is looking right at the reader.  On the next page within two circles is the sleeping puppy.  It's as if we are seeing this canine cutie through binoculars.  Around the two circles is a brushed green shade.

Without a doubt this book, Pip & Pup written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin, will become a story time and bedtime favorite.  This is an excellent story without words singing its way into our hearts. When it's read aloud, I know you will hear sounds of laughter.  I know you will hear sighs.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Eugene Yelchin and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  He includes several interior images on his site.  Eugene Yelchin also maintains a Facebook page.  At the publisher's website you can view additional images including the two favorites I mentioned here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

To Be Of Courage

When you think of the word brave, other synonymous meanings come to mind like courageous, heroic, bold or fearless.  If you were to ask a group of children what brave means to them, I wonder what they would say.  Would they be able to think of an individual who has exhibited the condition of being fearless?  Most of them would not think of the combined efforts of an engineer and an explorer as being particularly heroic.

Perhaps they have never heard of two bold souls who saw life in the darkest part of the sea before any others.  Otis And Will Discover The Deep: The Record-Setting Dive Of The Bathysphere (Little, Brown And Company, June 5, 2018) written by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Katherine Roy features two men who dared to defy the watery depths.  Their determination changed the course of our understanding of the oceans.

Otis Barton discovered the ocean early.

He splashed in the Atlantic on summer vacations, sailed Vineyard Sound.

Will Beebe discovered the ocean later.

First, he hiked northern forests on summer vacations.  He tracked woodland animals, studied snakes in his bedroom, and raised an orphaned owl.

Otis wanted to dive deeper than the sand sharks he watched.  He tried to use a garden hose to breathe.  He tried a washtub over his head to hold air.  His final invention (with the help of friends) worked!

Will was older when he first discovered the beauty of sea life on a reef near the Galapagos Islands.  This was his beginning of wanting to know what was farther below in the oceans.  Will started planning and creating a diving tank.  Otis saw the plans and knew Will needed his help but it was months before Will would agree to meet him.

Once Will saw Otis's ideas he believed a like-minded person was standing before him.  They both wanted the same thing, to go as deep as possible.  The Bathysphere was becoming a reality.  There was detail after detail which needed to be considered, being safely lifted off the deck, oxygen levels, seals and the overall design.

The 5,000-pound unit was only four and a half feet in diameter.  It was a tight squeeze for two men measuring six feet tall.  The hatch weighed 400 pounds!  Can you imagine this?!

On the day of the launch they dropped 100 feet, 200 feet, 300 feet and 400 feet.  It was getting colder and darker.  A momentary fright was resolved.  They kept going.  On this date, June 6, 1930, they reached 803 feet.  These two bold souls made unprecedented scientific history.

By supplying us with specific moments in the early years of both men's lives, Barb Rosenstock gives us an idea of the passion which fueled their desires.  She uses repeating phrases to link them together then and again when they finally meet, dive and reach their destination. Her descriptions of the physical Bathysphere start to intensify the suspense of the dive.  She builds on this with particular pieces of information.  By telling us what happens at each one hundred foot drop, the tension builds.  Her repeated use of the word stop and the phrase breathe in and breathe out helps us to experience what Otis and Will might have felt.  Here is a passage.

700 feet. Stop.
The dark ocean glowed!  Their eyes played tricks
in the mysterious inky gleam.  Will tried to read---
print disappeared on the page.  Otis examined
color charts---saw only black and white.


When you open the dust jacket of this book it's as if you are

the deep.

The dark blue hues speckled with dots of light extend over the spine and to the ends of each flap.  The light shining from the Bathysphere continues to the lower, right-hand corner of the flap.  Sea creatures are evident on the front flap, the front and the back.  The style used for the fonts and framing of Otis, Will, Barbara and Katherine replicates the edges of the windows and the hatch on the Bathysphere.

To the left, on the back, outlines of details found on the blueprints for the vessel are lightly etched in white drifting around an interior view of Otis and Will inside the Bathysphere.  The book case canvas is darker blue hues with spots of light.  The only additional element is on the front.  It's the Bathysphere suspended with the cables, looking small in the largeness of the ocean.

On the opening and closing endpapers, each set different, illustrator Katherine Roy showcases animal life found at different depths.  They are placed on a background of watercolor washes looking like sand. The twenty animals are labeled.

Exquisitely rendered using pencil, watercolor, gouache, and ink the illustrations draw you back in time into this narrative.  Extensive research brings authenticity to every image.  Perspective, the shifts in picture sizes and their placement on one or two pages (and a breathtaking four page gatefold) elevate and extend the text to the point where the visual story wraps around us.  We are jumping off a dock into the ocean. We are climbing a tree to observe birds.  We are crammed inside a vessel diving hundreds of feet below the surface wondering if we will live through this day but also exhilarated by the sights we see.

One of my many favorite pictures is when we are inside the Bathysphere with Otis and Will prior to the drop.  Neither of them is looking at us. They are focused to the left and right of the gutter.  Otis is ensuring the telephone headset is operative and checking the oxygen levels.  Will makes certain he can see at all angles through the window.  He wants to record everything he sees.  There is intensity and tension in this moment. It is perfectly depicted.

Readers will savor every word and image of Otis And Will Discover The Deep: The Record-Setting Dive Of The Bathysphere written by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Katherine Roy.  It's an adventure filled with mystery, anxiety and excitement and it's true!  At the close of the book there are an informative author's note, an illustrator's note, and a note from Constance Carter, Former Head, Science Reference, Library of Congress who was mentored by William Beebe.  Sources are listed, too.  As a read aloud this book is fantastic.  I highly recommend it for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Barb Rosenstock and Katherine Roy and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names. Barb Rosenstock includes a five page educator's guide.  Katherine Roy has a link to her blog. Both Barb and Katherine maintain accounts on Twitter. Please enjoy this video with Barb and Katherine unboxing their book.  It's highly informative and fun.


UPDATE:  Barbara talks with Katherine at Picture Book Builders, A Deep Conversation with Illustrator and Author Katherine Roy.

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Wide-Eyed And Wide Awake

We all know children are the last people to admit they are sleepy.  Even if they can hardly sit or stand upright, they would rather give up dessert for a year than admit they are tired.  They live life to the fullest and simply don't want to end any of their days.  You have to love their energy and attitude, even if you long for them go to bed and fall asleep.

Give a child a game especially with a challenge and it's an invitation they can't refuse.  DON'T BLINK! (Random House, April 3, 2018) written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal with illustrations by David Roberts openly asks for reader participation.  It's the best kind of dare.

Here's how it works.
If you can avoid getting to the end of this book, you can avoid bedtime, simple as that.
(It's a pretty sweet deal, actually.) 

The true test is the tricky part.  Every time you blink you have to turn a page.  You don't want to turn pages, so you definitely can't blink.

Now we all know as soon as you've been told not to do something, you have a difficult time not doing it.  It's as if all of a sudden you have to do the thing you are not supposed to do. Of course, readers will be unable to stop from going to the next page.  The narrator, the owl, is flabbergasted that a page is turned.  He believes you blinked.  You are warned again.


As each page is turned (you can't help it), the owl continues to issue his statement.  You are getting closer and closer to completing the book.  We know what that means.  Game over.  Bedtime.

In his infinite wisdom the owl suggests you do the opposite of blinking which is staring.  A variety of subjects are presented for your attempt at staring.  With each new tactic (and there are many), the reader is getting nearer to the end of the book.  With a final exclamation

Holy pillow puffs!

an entirely new approach is suggested.  This clever twist will have readers wondering, smiling and requesting "read it again" unless they are already on their way to dreamland.

For those of you familiar with the writing of Amy Krouse Rosenthal (or even if this is the first of her books you read), you will be astounded at the way in which she finds the universality in any given area.  She has an innate manner in reaching out to all readers creating a genuine and shared experience.  In this particular title she involves readers through the dialogue of the owl.  He talks directly to us on every page guiding us to avoid bedtime with ample doses of humor.  Here is a passage.

You BLINKED again.
I thought you wanted to stay awake!
You do realize that each BLINK
gets you closer to you-know-what?!

Look at the front of the dust jacket.  Look at those large eyes.  Despite the words of the title, don't you want to blink?  This owl is a definite attention-grabber.  The limited color palette used in this first image is maintained throughout the book.  If you look closely, the tag on the body of the owl is the illustrator's name, David Roberts.  To the left, on the back of the dust jacket, the owl is starring at a toy zebra, trying not to blink. 

The opened book case is on a canvas of black.  The illustration on the back is identical to the dust jacket but on the front there is a distinctive difference.  It hints at the book's conclusion.  The opening endpapers are bright yellow and the closing endpapers are black.  These are other indications at the twist the story will take.

On the title page the text, DON'T BLINK!, appears within the owl's eyes.  The liberal use of white space accentuates the words, expressions and body language of the owl.  A slight change in his arms and eyelids conveys the exact mood being depicted.  It also will have you laughing out loud.  An ingenious technique employed toward the end of the book has the elements in the visuals shown as if they are within an eye, an eye slowly closing in sleep.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when the owl (Is he a beloved stuffed animal?) is asking the reader to

STARE at the person next to you.

That person happens to be a toy zebra, casually sitting upright.  The chunky body, stripes, rounded-ears, large nose and wide eyes are guaranteed to make you smile.  This picture (all the pictures) is surrounded by white.  It is on a single page. 

No matter how many times this book, DON'T BLINK! written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal with illustrations by David Roberts, is read laughter is sure to be part of the story.  Readers will be commenting in response to everything the owl says.  You might want to pair this with Good Night Owl (Disney Hyperion, April 19, 2016) written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli.  This is a surefire winner for story times and bedtimes.  I hope you place a copy on your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about the late Amy Krouse Rosenthal and David Roberts and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their sites. David Roberts maintains an Instagram account.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Soaring, Seeking And Seeing

Over the past few days a brisk, gusty wind has kept the bugs at bay and the temperatures more moderate.  If you look to the sky you are more than likely to be rewarded with the sight of a red-tailed hawk riding the aerial highway.  Even though science tells how they can soar, glide or fly, to watch them do this feels like we are privy to a miracle.

As other animals have done and fortunately for us, these beautiful birds of prey have adapted to living near and among humans.  Hawk Rising (Roaring Brook Press, June 5, 2018) written by Maria Gianferrari (Coyote Moon Roaring Brook Press, July 19, 2016) with illustrations by Brian Floca (Locomotive A Richard Jackson Book, Atheneum Book for Young Readers, September 3, 2013) is a majestic tribute in words and pictures to survival.  From the perspective of the bird and observant humans, we spend a day soaring, seeking and seeing.

Father Hawk stretches wide his wings.

He is not the only one stretching.  In a home nearby a girl and her younger sister awaken.  The oldest looks high for the hawk.  He sits high on a pole, hoping to catch some food for the chicks in the nest protected by Mother Hawk.  Rosy rays of sun paint the morning sky.

As the child leaves her home, carrying binoculars, Father Hawk notices the quick movements of a chipmunk.  He speedily leaves his perch, intent on capturing the meal.  The crafty chipmunk scurries under a nearby porch.  Up the red-tailed hawk climbs into the sky.

The girl watches the hawk.  The hawk watches from lofty heights.  A group of crows gather and chase him from their area.  He finds sanctuary in the tree tops and spots sparrows on the ground.  He plunges toward them but they scatter to safety.

The girl and her sister are still watching and waiting. The hawk does not deter from his task. With instinctive patience and sense of responsibility, he too watches and waits as the sun lowers in the sky. A squirrel dashes toward security but Father Hawk has a family to feed.  Night descends on two families until tomorrow.

By moving the narrative between Father Hawk and the girl, Maria Gianferrari allows us to be a part of both worlds. She shows us how to observe the splendor living among us.  She masterfully describes the movements of the hunter.

Short sentences with repetition align the two worlds, bird and human.  Alliteration and rhyming supply a welcoming cadence.  Word choices bring the time of day like a blanket to wrap around us.  We are there with Father Hawk.  We are there with the girl and her sister.  Here is one of the passages.

Father Hawk lands on a light-pole.
Dandelions ripple.
Oaks tremble.

Father Hawk perches
and searches.
Sun sinking.
Daylight blinking.
Chicks waiting.

You fading.

When you open the cover of an F & G (or look at the front image) and momentarily stop breathing, you know when you hold the finished book, it will be stunning. The red-tailed hawk, wings spread and ready to take flight will assuredly have readers wondering if Father Hawk will come to life.  The details in this scene, the fine lines, brush strokes and color palette, are found in each and every illustration rendered by Brian Floca.  The authenticity is fabulous!

To the left, on the back, we zoom in to see the hawk perched on top of a pole, ready to dive.  The lighting is paler, suggesting the sun is higher in the sky.  On the title page a small, loosely framed picture of the girl's house and the nearby nest depicts the breaking day.  With a page turn the publication information on the left and the first sentence on the right are set in a spectacular two-page picture of both hawk parents in the nest with the chicks.  They fill the entire visual.

Brian alters his image sizes to enhance the pacing, small pictures with uneven shapes, single page pictures and breathtaking two-page visuals.  He takes us close to the action (You don't know whether to cheer for the hawk or his prey.) and then gives us a panoramic outlook.  When you look at those landscape vistas, you can't help but feel as though you are flying side by side with Father Hawk.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  Father Hawk has just missed getting the chipmunk.  He takes flight, rising higher and higher.  Brian has pictured him turning so we see the underside of his body, legs tucked back by his red tail.  Beneath him are neighborhood homes and the street.  On the right the girl stands in her backyard watching the hawk.  Her sister stands on the porch.  The hawk in the foreground takes up half of each page on either side of the gutter.  The homes are much smaller to his left and right.  

Today (Sunday) as I worked in the yard and even later as the sun was setting, I kept looking to the sky hoping to see the elegance described so eloquently in Hawk Rising written by Maria Gianferrari with illustrations by Brian Floca.  The more we and our children look to those animals sharing this planet with us, the more our lives are enriched.  I highly recommend the placement of this title in your personal and professional collections.  

To learn more about Maria Gianferrari and Brian Floca and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  Both Maria and Brian have Facebook accounts.  They (Maria and Brian) also have Instagram accounts.  Brian Floca does have a blog and can be found on Twitter.  Two other places where Hawk Rising is being celebrated are Miss Marple's Musings and PictureBookBuilders.  Maria Gianferrari is interviewed at both spots.  At As The Eraser Burns Maria chats about her craft and all kinds of other things in a Q & A.  Maria is showcased at Reading for Research featuring ReFoReMoTo view interior images please visit the publisher's website


UPDATE:  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson features Brian and his art on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.