Quote of the Month

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

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. 

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