Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


As you think, look or travel from one point to another point, do you ever consider all those items contained in this space?  Depending on the distance from one point to the other, you could have a single element or a multitude.  Between my laptop and dining room table there is a layer of stain.  No, wait!  There are plastic, metal, and computer innards; all types of boards.  Oh, no!  There's more.  There's a serial number, a model number and a battery.  There's also a CD and DVD player.  There's a camera and video recorder.  Yikes! There are speakers and all kinds of slots for additional components.  And there's a mouse.

Your perspective changes everything.  Your ability to search for details enhances your experience.  In-Between Things (Candlewick Press, May 22, 2018) written and illustrated by debut picture book author Priscilla Tey is a wondrous exploration of being our most observant selves.  Once you start thinking about the possibilities, you won't be able to stop.

An in-between thing is a thing in the middle.

A confident cat, a wary, tolerant and disgusted dog and sometimes one, two or three merry mice visually assist readers as we traverse the concept of

a thing in the middle.

We start with the obvious, one or a few things between two other things.  Next we leave the floor, the surface of the room, venturing to the area between the floor and the ground. We could be naming all the things found here for days.

We are challenged to look to the left and then to the right.  What do we see?  We are asked to expand our musings by considering the in-between as a protection such as the glass on a fish bowl saving the fish from the cat.  Going abstract, imagine what light can do for you.

Doors, windows and walls have a spot in-between.  Have you ever thought of roads, creeks or pathways as in-between places?  When you mix one thing with another thing, you get a middle thing, a new thing like when blue and yellow are blended.  Voila!  It's green.

When you think about it (and believe me you will), you can design all kinds of in-between.  You can combine clothing, utensils, dances, sounds and words. There are times in any given twenty-four hour period when it's simply not a specific time of day.  It's in-between.

The allure of stories in rhyme is during the read aloud.  If the rhymes are well-written, it's like singing a song.  Priscilla Tey has selected words with care reflecting a variety of concepts for

a thing in the middle

and we happily "sing" along.

She begins slowly, gradually asking us to expand our minds beyond where our eyes can see.  We travel from our homes to places far away and return.  When Priscilla finishes with the book, we realize in-between is everywhere.  Here is a passage.

You can walk down the in-between coal-colored street
that's in between this house and the house that has feet.

And if you meet an in-between
stream or a creek,

cross an in-between bridge
for dry paws and dry feet.

The illustrations rendered in mixed media first seen on the matching dust jacket and book case are a joyful blend of elements, an animated collage.  Our eyes go from one detail to the next noting the antics of the mice, the cat and the dog.  You expect movement at any moment.  To the left, on the back, a stairway, painted green fills most of the canvas.  Bright yellow steps and a blue handrail, grab our attention.  The cat scampers off on the top step.  Readers will giggle to see a mouse lifting the corner of the ISBN.  What's it going to do next?

The matching opening and closing endpapers are patterned with geometric shapes, colorful rugs.  The cat and dog are positioned to come and go behind these as if they are doors.  Clearly the dog is trying to avoid the cat.

With every page turn we are presented with a colorful array of possible in-between things.  You have to stop and look carefully at every image. You need to look at the items in each scene.  You have to notice the expressions on the animals' faces and their body postures.  They are hilarious.

Priscilla combines multiple happenings brilliantly in a single illustration.  She shifts the perspective to supply pacing in keeping with her rhythmic narrative.  By the time you get to the end of the book you know this house, everything in it and everyone in it are loved.

One of my many favorite illustrations is showing a train track winding through the house.  On the left, it is close to us, ready to go under the green table.  The dog is on top of the table crouched and looking underneath it.  A blue book has been placed under an orange chair to act as a tunnel.  Crossing the gutter, from left to right, is a window to the outside.  The cat is strolling up a path.  The dog is watching this approach carefully.  The train in this scene on the right has three passengers sitting on top of the brightly-colored cars.  They are the white mice.  A painting of a bridge hangs on the wall.

No matter how many times you gaze at these illustrations and read the words aloud, the appeal of In-Between Things written and illustrated by Priscilla Tey will continually increase.  The playful animals amid the vivid artwork will have readers requesting repeat readings.  You will want to have this imaginative title on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Priscilla Tey and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Priscilla maintains an account on Twitter and Instagram.  At Candlewick Press and Penguin Random House you can view interior illustrations.  Candlewick Press has a special four pages devoted to this title and Priscilla.  Enjoy the video.

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